Monday, June 25, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Bill a solid step toward VA turnaround

The nearly $17 billion federal plan to overhaul the Department of Veteran's Affairs that President Barack Obama signed into law last week is a solid step toward turning around an agency plagued by scandal and inadequate treatment of veterans. The effort is designed to reduce patient wait times, hire more doctors and nurses and open additional VA medical facilities around the county. Along with the unanimous confirmation of new VA Secretary Robert McDonald, the deal puts veterans first and begins the long process of providing efficient service to patients and restoring accountability to the troubled agency.

The Veterans Access Choice and Accountability Act allocates $10 billion to ensure that veterans are seen quickly by doctors. It allows veterans who live more than 40 miles away from a VA medical center or who have been on a waiting list for longer than 30 days to seek treatment from a non-VA facility. The bill also set aside $5 billion to hire more doctors and nurses and another $1.5 billion to open 27 major medical centers throughout the country, including up to $11.9 million for a facility in New Port Richey.

The legislation was created in response to a scandal that rocked the VA last spring when records revealed that the agency failed to provide doctor's appointments to veterans in a timely fashion. Nationwide some 57,000 veterans waited more than 90 days to see a doctor. Some died before being seen. To conceal slipshod practices and lengthy waiting lists, VA workers created fake appointments for veterans. When veterans didn't show up, their appointments were rescheduled and the waiting began again.

The compromise is not perfect, and there is plenty of room for improvement down the road. But for now, VA leaders should ensure that patients who need specialty care from VA doctors are not shunted off to private physicians who lack the expertise to treat complex military service-related conditions. They must make sure veterans don't get lost in a private system meant to serve as a temporary stopgap measure while the VA increases its offerings. The legislation also doesn't address the antiquated computer scheduling system at the heart of the waiting list scandal. And it institutes a provision that makes it easier to fire senior level executives for poor performance that offers possibilities for both reforms and abuses.

Congress acted in a bipartisan way to address the VA's systemic problems, but its work is not done. The compromise agreement is $1 billion short of what VA leadership said was needed to revamp the agency. Congress should find the money to close the gap and remain committed to closely monitoring the VA as it implements the new legislation. Veterans, who have earned their government health benefits because of their service to the nation, deserve nothing less.

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Editorial: Handing out gift cards like candy at CareerSource

Editorial: Handing out gift cards like candy at CareerSource

Itís hard to pick the biggest outrage in the financial and ethical swamp that has swallowed Tampa Bayís two primary job placement agencies, CareerSource Pinellas and CareerSource Tampa Bay. Is it the boiler room atmosphere where CareerSource recruite...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18

Family separation crisis is not over

The family-separation crisis that President Donald Trump created is not over. The executive order Trump signed Wednesday purporting to end the routine tearing of children from their undocumented parents stands on uncertain legal ground. U.S. border a...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: State help needed to staff hotlines with veterans helping veterans

Editorial: State help needed to staff hotlines with veterans helping veterans

Veterans can help veterans deal with trauma resulting from military service in a way no one else can. Thatís the theory behind a special hotline set up in the Tampa Bay area that proponents are hoping to take statewide.The expansion would cost some $...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

It turns out the U.S. Supreme Court has a better grasp of the economic realities of the 21st century than Congress or the Florida Legislature. The court ruled Thursday that states can require online retailers to collect sales taxes even if the retail...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

The shocking scenes of immigrant children crying after being taken from their parents at the border exposed a new level of cruelty by the Trump administration, and though the president reversed course Wednesday, Congress needs to end the shameful pra...
Published: 06/21/18

Editorial: Florida needs to explain its own price gouging

In the wake of Hurricane Irma last fall, Attorney General Pam Bondi vowed to scour Florida to prevent businesses from exploiting consumers by price gouging. It turns out she could have just looked down the hall in the state capitol. Based on reportin...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Good job, Jeff Sessions! It seems the attorney generalís misguided attempts to revive the unpopular and unjust federal war on marijuana may be having the exact opposite effect ó prompting a new bipartisan effort in Congress to allow states to legaliz...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/21/18
Editorial: A court victory for protecting Floridaís environment

Editorial: A court victory for protecting Floridaís environment

A Tallahassee judge has affirmed the overwhelming intent of Florida voters by ruling that state lawmakers have failed to comply with a constitutional amendment that is supposed to provide a specific pot of money to buy and preserve endangered lands. ...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/20/18
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/19/18

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18