Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin is the only Trump cabinet member who was confirmed unanimously, and he's been hard at work since his confirmation five months ago. The VA is one of the most reviled entities in government, after becoming one of the most disappointing, bureaucratic quagmires ever. Let's just revisit a few of their many offenses:
1. Veterans have had to wait so long for care that they have literally died while waiting for their appointments. To add insult to injury, a former Secretary compared the long wait times for medical care to waiting for rides at Disneyland.
2. During President Obama's administration, the budget for the VA was well over $160 billion... and still was unable to do basic things efficiently. Plus at one new hospital, the government bragged about spending $6 million on... art.
3. To cover up long wait times, the VA simply lied about improvements. Instead of calculating how many days the patient actually has to wait, they calculated how many days transpired when the staffer actually call the veteran back and made an appointment.
And honestly, this is just the tip of the iceberg. The way a nation treats its veterans says a great deal about the country. And we should all be shamed at how awful the VA has become. President Donald Trump is changing that through Secretary Shulkin, and he's getting no credit for that. Jim Geraghty reports in National Review about the rapid improvements to the agency:
- The department announced last week that between President Trump’s inauguration and July 3, it had fired 526 employees, demoted another 27, and temporarily suspended another 194 for longer than two weeks.
- In April, the department launched a new website that lets veterans compare the wait times at its facilities and view Yelp-style reviews of each facility written by previous patients.
- Veterans Health Administration’s Veterans Crisis Line — designed for those struggling with PTSD, thoughts of suicide, and other forms of mental stress — is now answering “more than 90 percent of calls within 8 seconds, and only about one percent of calls are being rerouted to a backup call center.” A year ago, an inspector general report noted that “more than a third of calls were being shunted to backup call centers, some calls were taking more than a half hour to be answered and other callers were being given only an option to leave messages on voicemail.”
- At the end of June, Shulkin unveiled the world’s most advanced commercial prosthetic limb — the Life Under Kinetic Evolution (LUKE) arm — during a visit to a VA facility in New York. Veteran amputees demonstrated the technology, a collaboration among the VA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and the private sector. (The name alludes to the lifelike robotic hand that Luke Skywalker is fitted with in The Empire Strikes Back.)
- In May, Shulkin said the department had identified more than 430 vacant buildings and 735 underutilized ones that cost the federal government $25 million a year. He said that most of the buildings are not treatment facilities and could profitably be closed or consolidated. Of course, if he actually attempted to close or consolidate some of the buildings, he might face a controversy along the lines of those touched off by military-base-closing announcements in recent decades.
Of course, the mainstream media hasn't mentioned this, because they are too busy combing through Trump's Twitter account looking for collusion clues to care about our veterans. However, the rest of America notices... and is thankful.
Image Credit: Gene Russell - United States Department of Veterans Affairs