Veterans Health Failure

This study explored why there is so much failure and mismanagement in the federal government. Federal agencies lack incentives for efficiency and quality, and the environment in some workplaces seems to breed unethical behavior. The government has also become far too large to manage effectively and for Congress to oversee adequately.

A new investigation by USA TODAY reveals a pattern of rather disgraceful mismanagement in the Department of Veterans Affairs:

… the VA—the nation’s largest employer of health care workers—has for years concealed mistakes and misdeeds by staff members entrusted with the care of veterans.

In some cases, agency managers do not report troubled practitioners to the National Practitioner Data Bank, making it easier for them to keep working with patients elsewhere. The agency also failed to ensure VA hospitals reported disciplined providers to state licensing boards.

In other cases, veterans’ hospitals signed secret settlement deals with dozens of doctors, nurses and health care workers that included promises to conceal serious mistakes—from inappropriate relationships and breakdowns in supervision to dangerous medical errors–even after forcing them out of the VA.

USA TODAY reviewed hundreds of confidential VA records, including about 230 secret settlement deals never before seen by the public … In at least 126 cases, the VA initially found the workers’ mistakes or misdeeds were so serious that they should be fired. In nearly three-quarters of those settlements, the VA agreed to purge negative records from personnel files or give neutral or positive references to prospective employers.

This study on privatization discussed how the “public” sector is often less transparent than the “private” sector. The VA is certainly not transparent:

The secret settlements obtained by USA TODAY represent a fraction of the problem doctors and other employees the VA has discovered over the past 10 years.

Each year, the agency fires hundreds of medical workers and pays out hundreds of malpractice claims.

The providers’ names remain secret. USA TODAY asked to inspect the records for thousands of those cases, but the VA blacked out or would not release the identities of the providers or the details of what took place.

You may think that we have “government of the people, by the people, for the people” in America, but it does not seem that way when federal agencies behave like this.

For more on federal government failure, see here, here, and here.

For ideas on reforming the VA, see here.