- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 13, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

A director at the Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington, D.C., was just removed from his post after a government watchdog blasted the facility for unsanitary conditions.

But the director wasn’t fired — only demoted. And he wasn’t even named in the VA’s announcement of his demotion — as if we’re still trying to protect those who can’t even protect our nation’s most honorable. This is why we still have a VA problem, folks.

Here’s how Stars and Stripes reported it: “Quickly after the [watchdog] report came out, VA officials relieved the Washington hospital’s medical director and named an interim director, Charles Faselis. The VA did not name the demoted medical director in its announcement, but the medical center’s website lists Brian Hawkins as holding the position since 2011.”

VA Inspector General Michael Missal said the investigation, which opened last month and is ongoing, found the facility was putting veterans at “unnecessary risk” by failing to sterilize areas of the clinic, and by failing to stock necessary medical equipment.

The IG also said senior leadership at the administration level of the VA knew of these problems “for some time,” but failed to properly address the matter.

Meanwhile, the entire United States of America has known about the problems at the VA “for some time” as well — though little has changed over the years. President Donald Trump made a campaign mantra out of fixing the subpar medical system for veterans, while Barack Obama, in his final few months, gave at least lip service to recognizing the military was being short-shafted on its VA care.

So why are we still reading and hearing reports of our military not receiving what was promised them — heck, not even receiving, in some cases, services on par with a pampered pooch from a veterinarian office?

Well, the reasons are obvious and blunt: VA reform is not a top U.S. policy.

It’s not.

“During visits as recent as last week, inspectors found the hospital had run out of oxygen tubing, bone cement for prosthetics and devices placed on patients to prevent blood clots during surgery, among other things,” Stars and Stripes wrote. “When the medical center ran out of bloodlines from dialysis patients, it had to borrow them from a private hospital.”

These issues have been ongoing since 2014, the IG found.

That’s simply unforgivable.

But once again, this is how this story will play out. The VA facility will express sincere sorrow and regret, while promising reform is on its speedy way — and really, this time for sure. Various political voices will come forward to express shock — shock! — and dismay, while promising reform is on its speedy way. And really, this time for sure.

And nothing will change. Then, over the course of the next few months, another story at another VA facility will made the media waves, speaking of subpar care or unsanitary conditions — and the same shock, awe and promises will be expressed.

And so on and so on.

Know why this cynical outlook is true?

Because the VA, in announcing its reactions to the watchdog findings, could not even publicly name the guy responsible for the subpar care — the guy who’s still employed by the VA. It’s a classic case of self-protection trumping accountability and reform.

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