02 Jul 2014 VA Scandal Will Happen Again as Long as Bureaucracy Runs Veterans’ Health Care
Bureaucrats at VA Face Incentives to Manipulate Wait-Time Data
Wait-Time Scandal Was Not Caused By Veterans Moving to ‘Sun Belt’ Areas
Washington, D.C. – “There have been a lot of explanations for the wait-times scandal at the Veterans Administration, but it all comes down to the incentives that bureaucrats face,” says Dr. David Hogberg, senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research. “Veterans will eventually suffer like this again as long as a bureaucracy is in charge.”
Dr. Hogberg’s new National Policy Analysis paper, “Veterans Will Suffer Another Scandal As Long As Bureaucracy Runs Their Health Care,” begins by examining Phillip Longman’s explanation for the scandal. Longman, whose book Best Care Anywhere: Why VA Health Care Is Better Than Yours is partially to blame for the scandal, argues that VA facilities in the Sun Belt states were too overwhelmed due to heavy migration of veterans to those states.
“The evidence doesn’t support that explanation,” says Dr. Hogberg. “The fact is there were just as many facilities outside the Sun Belt that had wait-time problems.”
The root of the problem lies in the incentives faced by bureaucrats at the VA.
“The VA faces no financial consequence for poor treatment of veterans,” said Dr. Hogberg. “The VA’s funding comes from Congress and the Administration, not the veterans themselves. If veterans controlled the money directly and could take it elsewhere, the VA would treat veterans much better.”
Hogberg notes that there is also no consequence for employees at the VA if they manipulate the data on wait-times to make it look better than it is. Most employees at the VA have civil service protections that make firing them very difficult.
“I’m sure many employees at the VA are honest, but like any institution there are always folks who will cheat,” he said. “When it is almost impossible to fire such people, the result will be greater dishonesty, regardless of whether veterans suffer.”
A version of the paper is scheduled to be published by The Federalist on July 2.
David Hogberg, Ph.D., is a health care policy analyst for the National Center for Public Policy Research. Previously, Dr. Hogberg was a Washington Correspondent for Investor’s Business Daily, specializing in health care and Medicare. Prior to his employment at IBD, he worked as a policy analyst studying health care and other issues for various think-tanks, including the National Center for Public Policy Research, and for the office of U.S. Representative Jeff Fortenberry. Dr. Hogberg holds a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Iowa. He is currently working on a book entitled “Medicare’s Victims: How the U.S. Government’s Largest Health Care System Harms Patients and Impairs Physicians.”
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