Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Romano: VA health care mess is a sin not easily forgotten

The apology was long overdue. It was insincere and poorly executed.

In other words, it perfectly matched the level of competency we have come to expect from the Department of Veterans Affairs in this nation.

The VA apologized to Congress a few days ago for "inadvertently'' causing "confusion'' when it mixed and matched dates and numbers to make it appear that far fewer veterans were dying because of lengthy delays in medical care.

Here's an idea:

How about apologizing to the families of veterans who may have died needlessly?

How about apologizing for the insufficient care, the bogus bookkeeping, and the climate of intimidation that kept potential whistle-blowers from speaking up?

How about accepting responsibility?

This is not simply a scandal, it is a sin.

"I asked (an assistant in the) Inspector General's Office if you can trust the VA with their numbers, and she said no,'' said U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor. "Can you imagine that?''

There is a temptation to dismiss the lax care and lengthy delays at VA facilities as inherent problems in a large bureaucracy. And there is probably some legitimacy to that theory.

But as weeks have turned into months and maladies have turned into nightmares, it is apparent this is not simply an inefficient organizational structure. This is systemic failure.

So feel free to blame the White House. The chain of command for the VA goes straight to the Oval Office, and the president is ultimately responsible for those in charge.

Feel free to blame Congress, too. Budgets matter, and the VA was clearly understaffed. And while we're at it, blame the media for not shining a light both brighter and sooner.

Just be sure to save a healthy supply of indignation for those in the VA's fanciest offices.

If money was scarce and doctors were overbooked and heroes were dying, why weren't they screaming? Why didn't they sound the alarm?

Their entire reason for existence is providing the best care possible for veterans, yet they made conscious decisions to obscure and deceive Congress and the public to make the problems seem less pervasive.

"Enough is enough,'' said Bilirakis, who is vice chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs. "They've covered too much up. They've lost all credibility with me.

"We've got to get rid of these upper-level officials responsible for this.''

President Barack Obama began the reclamation of the VA with a change in leadership a couple of months ago. Congress took the next step with a $16 billion legislative package approved last week that will lead to more facilities and medical professionals. The new legislation will also make it easier to discipline or terminate senior VA officials.

That's a good start, but it's not a final solution. What the VA needs more than anything is a change in culture. A recommitment to its mission.

It's not like we're expecting perfection. Mistakes will happen, patients will get overlooked and policies will always get second-guessed. The key is in the intent.

What happened at the VA was an epic failure, and that was bad enough.

But it was the cover-up and lack of accountability that made it a tragedy that should not be excused or forgotten.

Romano: VA health care mess is a sin not easily forgotten 08/09/14 [Last modified: Sunday, August 10, 2014 12:28am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Comedian and activist Dick Gregory dies at 84

    Nation

    The comedian Dick Gregory rose to national prominence in the early 1960s as a black satirist whose audacious style of humor was biting, subversive and topical, mostly centered on current events, politics and above all, racial tensions. His trademark was the searing punchline.

    Dick Gregory, a comedian, activist and author, died Saturday. [Tribune News Service, 2011]
  2. Winter Haven police investigating armed robbery at Dollar General

    Crime

    WINTER HAVEN — Police are investigating an armed robbery Friday night of a Dollar General store on W Lake Ruby Drive.

  3. Rowdies settle for draw at home

    Soccer

    ST. PETERSBURG — The good news for the Rowdies is that they still haven't lost a game at Al Lang Stadium since late April. The bad news is they had to settle for a 1-1 tie against Ottawa on Saturday night in front of 6,710 sweaty fans.

  4. Bats come to life, but Rays' freefall continues (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG —The six runs seemed like a ton, just the second time the Rays had scored that many in a game during their numbing two-plus-weeks stretch of offensive impotency, and amazingly, the first time at the Trop in nearly two months.

    Lucas Duda connects for a two-run home run in the sixth, getting the Rays within 7-5. A Logan Morrison home run in the ninth made it 7-6, but Tampa Bay couldn’t complete the comeback.
  5. 'Free speech rally' cut short after massive counterprotest

    Nation

    BOSTON — Thousands of demonstrators chanting anti-Nazi slogans converged Saturday on downtown Boston in a boisterous repudiation of white nationalism, dwarfing a small group of conservatives who cut short their planned "free speech rally" a week after a gathering of hate groups led to bloodshed in Virginia.

    Thousands of people march against a “free speech rally” planned Saturday in Boston. About 40,000 people were in attendance.