Friday, January 13, 2017

VA Hospitals...and What to do About Them...

You've no doubt noticed that the Number One Topic of discussion in Foggy Bottom these days, besides the illegitimate election of one Donald Trump, ahem, is Obamacare.

Or rather, repealing and replacing the "Patient Protection and Affordable (cough, cough) Care Act," which has derisively come to be known as "Obamacare."

Of course, the Lefties among us are doing their level best to defend it, however indefensible it was, is and forever shall be.  Even its namesake, one Almost-Ex-President and Semi-Retired Golfer-in-Chief B. Hussein Obama is begging, pleading, threatening, cajoling and whimpering to any and all who will listen to help him keep it exactly as is; overpriced, underloved, seldom-accepted, frequently lied-about, monumentally-oversold, universally despised and totally unworkable.

We'll all learn what happens with the newly-energized Republican majority in Congress as they proceed to unwind this disastrous, gargantuan mess.  But in the meantime...

Less commonly discussed, but still high on Congress' List of Things to Do, is reforming the Veterans Administration and taking better care of those who have served our Great Nation.

That would, by the way, include me, The Chuckmeister.  I have served this nation in uniform, am almost personally responsible for saving the U. S. from the perils of communism (sort of), and am currently a participant, a "customer," so to speak, in the V.A. Healthcare System. That, and the fact that I'm a graduate economist and seasoned entrepreneur, Eagle Scout, father, patriot and certifiable National Treasure, qualifies me uniquely to opine on this subject, and even offer up a couple of suggestions as to how it could be improved.  Suggestions I trust you'll find evocative, interesting, workable and reasonable.  And so, here goes...

There are 153 free-standing, fully-capable, dedicated, full-blown Veterans Administration Hospitals in America. There are also 1,221 V.A. Outpatient Treatment Sites, most often located in an office building adjacent to a community-level hospital somewhere-or-other. Each with doctors and nurses and technicians to see you and fix you up, as needed.  Or, rather they're supposed to.  

And there are 300 Veterans Service Centers, located in major cities across the Fruited Plain, which serve to provide information and assistance to returning vets and their families as regards where to gain constitutionally-proscribed services. Since its creation back in 1930 under then-Prez Herbert Hoover, and later consolidated by Prez Ron Reagan in 1988 into the Cabinet-level Department of Veterans Affairs, the Veterans Healthcare Administration (VHA) is our Country's single most expensive budgetary item, costing $182.3 Billion Dollars per year!

And yet, it is a monumental failure!  It serves a population that deserves the very best treatment we know how to provide, yet receives some of the spottiest, shoddiest, least-timely care imaginable.  Put simply, many of those vets who didn't die on the battlefield, are dying in waiting rooms of V.A. hospitals all across the Country while awaiting medical care.

It's important to note that the VHA was/is necessary because it specializes in providing care for five areas of treatment returning vets need most of all.  They are:

     -  Burn care and treatment.
     -  Lost limb treatment and replacement.
     -  Traumatic brain injury and wounds from bullets or other projectiles.
     -  Bomb physical damage and treatment.
     -  Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Yet, unlike earlier in our nation's history, when the capacity to provide treatment for these traumatic injuries did not exist in the private sector, the capability to provide top-notch care for the above listed ailments is now widely available within our private healthcare community.  So, has the VHA's time come and gone?  And what should we do about it?  

This is what, I, The Chuckmeister, say we do.

1.  My suggestion is that we sell off all the VHA hospitals and healthcare facilities. Since the hospitals and the real estate upon which they sit is owned outright by the Federal Government, the income from the sale of these properties would make a major dent in our Federal Debt. Let's look at the Wadsworth V.A. Hospital in Westwood, a tony neighborhood in the west Los Angeles area, as an example. 

This one-square mile chunk of real estate is some of the most valuable land in all of America.  It features rolling hills and meadows right across the I-5 from Westwood and is covered with modern buildings.  It is worth several billion dollars.  Multiply that rarefied figure times the total of the hospitals and you get an idea what such a sale could mean.

2.  Inventory the human resources currently ensconced within the VHA.  Those who possess the training and expertise to provide the specialized care for any of the above listed ailments and injuries should be offered assistance in gaining private-sector employment within the 6,000-plus hospitals in America.  Thus, unique treatment capabilities for burns, wounds, limb replacements and mental health restoration would not be lost.  Rather, it would be repositioned within our current health system.

3.  Then offer vets the opportunity to either, a.), join the Medicare program just like our seniors, or b.), accept vouchers enabling them to seek Government-paid healthcare from private hospitals and physicians near where they live. Although perhaps more expensive initially than continuing to be treated by the VHA System, imagine the savings if we no longer had to employ the hundreds of thousands of doctors, nurses, physcians' assistants, pharmacists, technicians and administrative and financial support personnel necessary to operate these far-flung facilities!

Computing the savings from such a two-part plan is impossible without further data. My expectation is that it would, at the very worst, be revenue-neutral.  Meaning, it should cost no more than continuing the current system. However, what is calculable is the fact that pulling the trigger on this plan (pun intended) would virtually end the shameful and unnecessary loss of life we're witnessing when vets die while awaiting VHA care. That cannot be permitted to continue.  My plan would end it immediately.

If you like my plan, write your Congressweenie and let him/her/it know.  If not, simply continue on with your cushy, privileged life and give not one more thought to your obligation to those who have written a blank check payable to the United States of America for an amount up to, and including, their lives...

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