VA and VA Healthcare – April 2018 My Thoughts on VA HEALTHCARE and Potential Problems.

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Dr Waters

All I can say now is “I guess my Crystal Ball is working after all” since we now have a new VA Secretary designee. With Dr. Shulkin gone, our “cover” to prevent PRIVATIZATION of the VA Healthcare System is also GONE.

I’m sure you remember that EVERY Veteran organization has spoken out against PRIVATIZATION of the VA Healthcare System and it is MY hope that the President will finally listen to the people that he has promised to protect … Our United States Military Veterans.

While PRIVATIZATION isn’t always a bad decision, it hasn’t had positive results in the military and I predict that it will be a “Bad Deal” for us if it happens to the VA Healthcare System. Let me share a ‘real life’ experience with you.

While I was on active duty as a Lieutenant Colonel, I saw a 4-Star General direct privatization of an Air Force Training Program. The 1-Star who was in charge confided to me that he thought “it was a dumb thing to do.” So he said he couldn’t do that in good conscience and chose to retire. A Colonel was placed in the 1-Star billet to carry out the order but after one week, he too chose to retire. We went through two more Full Colonels (four good officers) before the 4-Star found a Colonel who would carry out the ‘direction’ of the General. I had a chance to sit down with the Colonel (who became my reporting official) who confided to me that he was NOT ready to retire and he was given an ultimatum.

I need to add here that after the 4-Star retired a year later, the Air Force worked to reinstate the Training Program that was privatized. It took the Air Force FIVE years to get a similar program reinstated but, because of Federal Law, once the program was privatized it could not remove the civilian workers and return to a military program using military expertise.

I used that incident to relate to what I believe is happening within the VA by the President. In his selection of Dr. (Rear Admiral) Ronny Jackson, a medical doctor with NO experience in running anything close to a department that employs 370,000 people and operates 1, 243 health facilities, I believe this is a grave mistake in the making. This will be a very STEEP ‘Learning Curve’ because his previous experience “appears” to be overseeing a team of about 20 doctors, nurses, and physician assistants in the White House medical office. He will now be asked (if confirmed by the US Senate) to oversee the VA Health care System for the nation’s military veterans.

As I look at this from a Veteran’s point of view, I ask myself, “Is President Trump setting up his new VA Secretary (if confirmed) to fail?” My answer to myself (regardless of the President’s intent), is, “You betcha.” If confirmed, and that’s questionable right now, I’ll give him ONE year or less before the overwhelming task forces him to leave or to be relieved of duty. And, of course this ends his Active Duty career.

I hope you remember that Candidate Trump’s key theme during his 2016 campaign was taking better care of military veterans. He touted the fact that his first order of business would be to name a new VA Secretary with a “personal mission” to fix the VA Healthcare System. He also added, “This person, man or woman, will be outstanding with an outstanding track record.”

For his first year as President, Mr. Trump thought that person was Dr. Dr. Shulkin who was the Department’s undersecretary for health under his predecessor, President Obama. But, Dr. Shulkin listened to Veterans and soon became a staunch opponent of PRIVATIZATION of the VA Healthcare System as opposed to his boss, the President. That’s NOT a good place to be.

Regardless of military service, professional background, or political party, once a President feels they can no longer work effectively with a Cabinet Secretary, that Secretary’s days are numbered. That’s why I was able to predict in my last article that Dr. Shulkin could be replaced “any day now.”

Yes, I admit that I was leery about the President’s selection of a non-Veteran (Dr. Shulkin) but I was converted to support Dr. Shulkin after I listened to his confirmation hearing. Now, the President has selected an “Active Duty” Admiral who has NO experience in understanding the VA System since he is currently a “Non-Veteran” with good intentions. I’m sure that you’ve heard the saying, “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.” I’m sure Dr. Jackson is an excellent medical doctor but let me say this as clearly as I can as a former Unit Commander; I have more experience to run the VA than Dr. Jackson and it would be a TALL TASK for me.

This constant “turnover” at the leadership level of the VA is NOT a good thing. This should NOT be treated as a community experiment or a novel idea to be played with on a “trial and error” basis. My advice to the President is, “Please listen to your Military Veterans, ask our advice, get all the facts, then make an informed decision.” And, once the decision is made, leave the Secretary alone to do the job that they were hired to do while understanding that they have spoken to “real Veterans” and are knee deep in the situation “where the rubber meets the road.”

As I stated earlier, I have questions about Dr. Ronnie Jackson, who currently oversees fewer than 30 people in the White House medical office. Is he really up to the task of leading an agency that employs 370,000 people and operates 1, 243 health facilities? As I understand it from the news media (Fox, CNN, MSNBC, Internet, etc.) the President made a ‘snap call’ and didn’t alert his staff – which does a great disservice to both, Dr. Jackson and the 9 million Veterans who rely on the VA for their healthcare.

Okay, let’s follow the confirmation hearing and see if my Crystal Ball can remain an accurate predictor of optimism or ‘gloom and doom” for the VA Healthcare System.

If you missed any of my earlier articles you can go to the Veterans Reporter News webpage at <https://www.veteransreporternews.com/> to review any Back Issues.

I hear from MANY readers about my articles (most are positive) and I thank you for your positive or challenging “constructive” comments. Feel free to contact me if you believe any of the information provided is inaccurate or if you have additional information that I can share with our readers.

By: Thomas (Tom) Waters, Lt. Colonel, USAF (Ret), Ed.D. / twaters2015@gmail.com