- - Monday, March 21, 2016

700 days. That’s roughly how long it has taken the Department of Veterans Affairs to seek the firing of three senior officials at the Phoenix VA who oversaw the systematic falsification of wait times for appointments. And that’s how long they could continue to receive full pay before the VA actually succeeds in firing them.

It has been almost two years since President Obama promised swift action and accountability for those who tried to hide the abysmally long waits by keeping fraudulent records. Since those revelations, the trickle of horror stories out of the VA—of the thousands who may have died waiting for care, for instance—has become a sadly familiar fixture of newscasts.

Yet that does not make it any less outrageous that it took the VA until last week—two years after the stories of corruption at the Phoenix VA came to public attention—for the agency to finally hold the senior officials responsible.


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“These executives will no longer serve in those positions,” the Arizona Republic reported, “but may fight their removals under a federal appeals process.” That could take an additional two years.

Federal civil service law gives the officials the chance to appeal the attempt to remove them from their jobs—and during that time they may continue to be paid at taxpayer expense. At least one of the officials earns a salary of nearly $250,000 a year, according to the report. This means taxpayers are likely to pay half a million dollars to a person they’re trying to fire for cause.



The crushing fact, of course, is that the real problem is much bigger than three employees at the Phoenix VA. The system that shaped them remains just as incompetent and corrupt as ever.

Consider, for example, that between 2006 and 2013, the number of full-time employees jumped more than 40 percent, from 220,000 to 314,000. Yet with 94,000 additional government employees, the VA still has not developed a system to transfer a veteran’s medical records from the Defense Department to the VA faster than 175 days.

The two giant bureaucracies recently spent $1.3 billion to build a joint medical record system for their health care services—before the two secretaries announced that they were abandoning the effort because they couldn’t get it to work. (That $1.3 billion is on top of the more than $2 billion the Defense Department spent on a failed upgrade of its own system of electronic medical records.)

But to single out the VA for its failures makes just a little more sense than pointing to the employees in Phoenix. Because in addition to a Veterans Health Service that is dangerous to veterans’ health, we have an Internal Revenue Service that attempts to police political speech, a defense bureaucracy that can’t keep track of its money or its equipment, an Environmental Protection Agency that spills millions of gallons of toxic water into the Colorado River, and an immigration bureaucracy that ignores immigration law as a matter of policy.

No wonder, then, that the public is “angry” and of a mind to vote against anyone associated with Washington. It’s the only rational response to incompetence and corruption of this scale.

And no wonder, then, that the slogan “Make America Great Again” resonates with voters. At least it signals an understanding that something fundamental has to change.

And no wonder, then, that we are witnessing the left wing react with outrage and violence. They understand the stakes. Bureaucratic socialism itself is at risk. A government that worked would mean the end of their world.

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