VA Hospitals are not Disneyland – It’s time to privatize the VA now!

By Ray Starmann


Yesterday, VA Secretary, Robert MacDonald set off a firestorm in the media when he compared long lines at Disneyland to the wait times veterans experience for health care, an analogy that riled veterans groups and lawmakers alike.

MacDonald of all people should know better. He is a graduate of West Point and served with the famous All-American Division, the 82nd Airborne, before out-processing to greener pastures, namely Procter and Gamble, where he rose to CEO of the company before retiring from the private sector.

Apparently, it doesn’t take too long to go from a free enterprise rainmaker to a federal bureaucratic buffoon.

MacDonald was attempting to convey that even though families have to wait in long lines to enter Disneyland, the wait is worth it because you’ll eventually have a Brady Bunch experience of a lifetime with Mickey Mouse.

Unfortunately, for veterans, waiting in line is just the beginning of the VA experience, which is touch and go at best, and crash and burn at worst.

Some of the vets who use the VA system are poor and believe that the VA is their best shot for health care. But, not all are economically downtrodden.  For vets, coming to the VA might be their only chance to interact with other vets, in a society that has a hard time relating to military personnel, past and present. Others, particularly amputees, may find that the VA is their only option, as private health care companies will deny claims from injuries incurred in a war zone.

Some of the veterans who use the system are in between jobs and may have lost access to private health care. For others, who are self-employed, Obama Care may be too expensive.

At the Westwood VA in Los Angeles, there are many Vietnam vets who use the facility, people who didn’t have a rich father like Mitt Romney, who got him a job tutoring Mormons in France, to avoid the killing fields of Southeast Asia.

I’ve seen young women who look like they should be in a sorority house, but instead are hobbling around the corridors of the VA with artificial limbs, their natural limbs having been decimated by IEDs in Iraq.

I’ve seen an old man wearing a Bataan Death March Survivor cap, who, when he entered a clinic brought a hush of reverence by other vets, as if the Angel of God himself had just walked into the room.

MacDonald’s comments are the latest in a litany of issues and debacles involving the whole VA hospital system; from veterans dying while waiting to see a doctor in Phoenix to cockroaches in the food at the Chicago VA Hospital, the problems seem endless and insurmountable.

While the VA’s main issues seem to emanate from the bureaucrats at the top in Washington and the administrators throughout the country, the staffs and workers at VA hospitals are usually friendly and go out of their way to assist you.

The people at the Westwood VA are one heck of a lot nicer than the snippy snobs that man the phones and desks in Los Angeles doctors’ offices. Unfortunately, as nice as they are at the VA, they still can’t compensate for a system that is overwhelmed and inefficient and dangerous to the patient.

Last year, I walked into the ENT clinic at the Westwood VA. As millions of dollars’ worth of equipment hummed in the background and staff darted in between offices, I was told that they would call me with an appointment and I would be able to come back in 14 days. I walked out, called my private ENT doctor in Los Angeles and his receptionist told me to come over within the hour. My life and death situation; ear wax: the VA couldn’t even handle that and there was no one in the ENT clinic when I walked in, except for one man reading Popular Mechanics.

The other problems VA hospitals have are a lack of continuity. You can visit one clinic that looks like Johns Hopkins and then travel down the hall to another clinic that reminds you of a medical office in 1959 Cuba.

All vets deserve better, a hell of a lot better from a country that they served so selflessly. But, nothing is ever done to fix the endless problems. We’ve watched as VA officials have been fired, demoted and reshuffled like a pack of cards with five aces. Many VA officials are paid well and seemingly don’t care about the people they’re supposed to be helping, the vets.

Vets are finding out that their worst enemy is the member of Congress who never served and therefore doesn’t have a clue to what a vet experiences. The clueless civilians are fully stocked in Congress now, like packages of cheap cookies at Aldi.

In a nutshell, the federal government is incapable of running the VA hospital system and the VA’s internal administrators are incompetent as well. The VA hospitals are nothing more than a really bad HMO on a continual train wreck.

The VA hospitals must be shut down and replaced by private health care for vets. The federal government could mandate a so-called Vets Care that would work the same as Medicare. Veterans would be able to go to any private doctor that they wanted. All they would have to do is show their VA card. The system would function on an income means system. Vets with incomes under a certain level wouldn’t have to pay a dime. Veterans who earn higher incomes would have to fork out minimal copays for doctor’s visits and prescriptions.

This Vets Care system would be more efficient than the broken, disgraceful VA hospital system in place today. Changes are needed, cataclysmic changes to finally fix a system that has failed the nation’s veterans for decades.

It’s high time for the veterans in Congress to get off their collective duffs and finally start the wheels moving to end the VA hospital system and create a private health care system for veterans.

10 comments on “VA Hospitals are not Disneyland – It’s time to privatize the VA now!
  1. I am a volunteer driver of a van for Disabled American Veterans (DAV) at the VA Medical Center in San Diego, transporting vets to the hospital and home. For the most part, they get good service, but there’s a lot of vets in this area (San Diego County) and they don’t all get the best but I think the people at San Diego VAMC are hard working and try to give the best possible treatment all who come there. We have a lot of homeless and low income vets which is typical for a large city but they all get the same treatment irrespective of financial status. I am sure that in the L.A. area there are so many vets that the system may get overloaded. Tell congress that we need more money in the system to pay good doctors and maintain good facilities.

  2. @Jean White,
    No mamn. What is needed is the elimination of whatever Union these people work for.
    Being a Vet that just came through an ‘episode’, and, an ex-manager at a fortune 100 ‘big pharma’ company, I assure you, the layer of bureucracy above the doctors, nurses, pharacists and technicians, is THE PROBLEM.
    They manufacture one thing above all other things…
    the increase of the BureaucraZY.
    Whatever pot of money CONgress gives them is wasted on pet BS and the ‘Appearance of Healthcare’, and by accident or luck, some Vets get good service. But mostly because they know how to manipulate The System.

    I just came through an episode of having to go to the local emergency room because of extreme (EXTREME) pain(sacroiliosis), and, was told in no uncertain terms(by an operator with an attitude), that I would have to wait 72 hours for a call back by my ‘provider'(aka nurse) otherwise known as an MSA(Medical Support Assistant), but then, she was off that day so I had to wait an additional 24 hours… I called the crisis line, and was given authorization to go to the ER because the VA Emergency room has an entrance, a door, but nobody behind it…
    Then, I had to go BACK to the emergency room just to get the pain meds I had to have, again, because the VA had to have their diagnosis paperwork FAXED to them, AGAIN, after I hand delivered it (I might be, gasp, LYING, and manufacturing it myself…) So, I then had to wait ANOTHER 24 hours, to get the VA MSA, to APPROVE the prescriptions by this unknown ER(which is across the street). THEN, they would not approve all the meds, because of, gasp, their war on drugs and pain killers, which, is becoming a War on Pain for those who need the damn things…
    I was only glad, that the CONgress demanded that the VA be forced to allow me to go to the ER, and that all I had to do was show my VA ID card. But then, I’m told, they will not pay it, after they authorized it, or they would negotiate the bill, so the ER, really, REALLY, hates doing business with those people… so, in the ER, I waited 4 hours for a bed to come up, while writhing in that damn transport chair.
    The solution is simple, get rid of the common denominator in all government ‘service’ programs’… the Civil Service Unions. Then we return to the previous system, which was, spoils to the winner of elections, all government jobs were service jobs, no BONUSES, and at the end of your patron’s term, you were FIRED. It was called the Spoils System, and that extended to ALL government jobs. People could get their jobs back, or keep them, if, they did them.
    Kinda like, oh, the private system?
    I know there are those who would argue with this thesis, but they haven’t had a foot in both worlds…
    God Bless.

  3. Bingo sir! I have been in the V.A. system for 41 years and i have been saying this for most of those years. It is the only Government healthcare system where they don’t get to pick their own doctors as well. Even Champ V.A. my wife gets to choose her doctor but not me or any Vet. It has always been about controlling the veterans.

  4. The only problem with the “Privatizing” of ANYTHING is that it will be “Privatized” by one of the UN GLOBAL CORPORATE ENTITIES that now control the US Government and can only get worse rather than better.

  5. No,we don’t need more money,Jean. There is entirely too much dead weight at the top in the administration level. For instance,why are they getting bonuses? For what? Eight years in the Army and I nor anyone else ever received a bonus for anything. Too many administrators,that is the problem I see

  6. The SF Va is one of the best in the country. It is where some of the foremost treatments for PTSD were developed (EDMR, for example).
    Now who has cut back funding for the VA over the years? The Republican congress who scream the loudest about supporting our guys.
    I work with vets who have been in the Sand Box as a therapist for a major hospital group. Their brains are silly putty after being in 3 or 4 tours there. Viet Naim was only one tour and still there are patients I work with who are still a mess because of it. And this is what 50 years later! There are 3-4 returning marines at Paris Island committing suicide a week after coming back according to a friend who is a career Marine. This is the price we are paying for Bush/Chaney’s war.

    Wave the flags all you want, sit down with one of these wounded soldiers and talk about their experiences, and your attitude toward sending our kids into any war will change and you will see true courage and bravery beyond any you have ever experienced.
    As one of my patients told a young gun nut who thought he was so macho, “You can carry all the guns you want and think you’re a brave man, but its a whole different story when you have people shooting back at you, when your buddies die next to you, and you’re under constant stress in trying to fight a war where you don’t know where the enemy is or when they may attack. I was in the first Gulf war and 3 tours in Iraq as a marine and I wound up being a drug addict because I couldn’t cope.”
    That’s the real story and these guys deserve all the support we can give them. Stop blaming the VA for being overworked when the guys you elected keep cutting the funding. That’s our fault, not theirs.

  7. My heart breaks for any and ALL military service men and women and their families! The UTTER DISGRACE FOR THE WAY THEY ARE TREATED IS ON ALL OF U.S. CITIZENS! ALL 300 million plus of us should have been camping on the front steps/porches/doors of our so-called elected officials for years ! The atrocious treatment our active duty and non-active service men and women has gone on for decades! For generations! My father was a “guinea pig” when he was sick during WWII. The “appropriate medicines for what was diagnosed as rheumatic fever were withheld and replaced with who know what! He tried to tell my mother and others but they could not believe the Army would do that! HA! After developing arthritis in his hands, feet and back the VA decided he had a minimal amount of disability and as I remember, sent him about $25=$27 a month! Later supposidly “treating” the depression he fought ( wonder why?) they used insulin shock “therapy” – – more experimentation! NOW thoroughly repudiated.

    All I can say for all who are still suffering at the hands of the US military machine – – I, one citizen, am so terribly sorry! I know the “powers that be” on every level want only one thing for you – that you DIE! NOW! They know you are the only people in this country who know how to take care of yourselves, how to defend the defenseless, and are WILLING to do whatever it takes and THEY ARE AFRAID OF YOU!

    I pray for all of you, that you come to know the Only True Healer – YESHUA, (some of us call him the Greek/Latinized name, ‘Iesus), the Son of the Only TRUE and LIVING CREATOR of all, YHWH, and HEAVENLY FATHER, Abba. HE had HIS prophet Isaiah, foretell 600+ years in advance – of HIS chosen Servant, Who would Pay for All of our Sins and for Our Healing of the mind, spirit and body, which YESHUA did by the sacrifice of HIMSELF on the cross, on the hill outside of Jerusalem almost two thousand years ago! I also pray, in the name of YESHUA, that our Heavenly Father, will bless you and your loved ones with HIS love and peace in more ways and in an abundance that you cannot imagine.

  8. “The Character of a nation is measured by the way it treats it’s veterans” John F Kennedy

  9. Incredible our VETS are treated this way. Too bad I can’t run for president because they would get priority treatment.

    All current VA staff would be removed and replaced.

  10. Once you are in the “system” things generally work out pretty good. The problem lies in getting into the system. I first went to the VA at Lake City, Florida for what was diagnosed as skin cancer. They said they did not have the facilities there, so they made an appointment for me at the Gainesville VA. ONE YEAR LATER. After that year, they took one look at the skin cancer and immediately put me on the ward . The cancer required serious surgery. After that everything went pretty smoothly with appointments etc.

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