Monday, February 19, 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: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Itís not popular in Washington or virtually anywhere else these days to express concern about the rising federal deficit. Congressional Republicans who used to be deficit hawks first voted to cut taxes by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, then rais...
Published: 02/17/18
Editorial: Buckhorn should not appeal verdict in firefighterís case

Editorial: Buckhorn should not appeal verdict in firefighterís case

The city of Tampa should have taken Tanja Vidovic seriously from the start when the Tampa firefighter complained about her treatment in the workplace. Now that a jury and judge have spoken, itís time for City Hall to cut its losses, learn from its mi...
Published: 02/15/18
Updated: 02/16/18
Editorial: CareerSource troubles mount as public trust drops

Editorial: CareerSource troubles mount as public trust drops

The dark cloud enveloping Tampa Bayís job placement centers keeps growing. There are accusations of forged documents, evidence of nepotism and concerns about grossly inflated performance numbers that could be tied to receiving more public money and b...
Published: 02/15/18
Updated: 02/16/18
Editorials: Prayers and platitudes after shootings arenít enough

Editorials: Prayers and platitudes after shootings arenít enough

Even before the victims of another mass shooting at another public school were identified, Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, state legislators and members of Congress rushed to South Florida or to social media to offer their thoughts and p...
Published: 02/15/18
Editorial: DCF review should get to the bottom of Hillsborough foster care issues

Editorial: DCF review should get to the bottom of Hillsborough foster care issues

The Florida Department of Children and Families is right to call for a timely and "comprehensive" review of Hillsborough Countyís foster care system. Though the probe is a reaction to a recent case involving a child who was left unattended, the revie...
Published: 02/14/18

A Washington Post editorial: Modernize 911 calling before it becomes an emergency

This Friday marks the 50th anniversary of the first 911 emergency call placed in the United States. Since then, uncounted lives have been saved and people helped. It has been a great accomplishment of government.But even as an estimated 240 million 9...
Published: 02/13/18
Updated: 02/14/18
Editorial: Scott, Cabinet cannot be trusted on felonsí voting rights

Editorial: Scott, Cabinet cannot be trusted on felonsí voting rights

Gov. Rick Scott always has been grudging and imperious about restoring the voting rights of felons, requiring them to wait for years before begging the governor and Cabinet to be recognized again as citizens. That arrogance is on full display in a le...
Published: 02/13/18
Another voice: ĎDreamersí donít know whom to trust on immigration

Another voice: ĎDreamersí donít know whom to trust on immigration

Immigrants brought into this country illegally as children by their parents may be wondering whom to trust. The political theater being played out in Washington hasnít settled the status of either the "Dreamers" or the estimated 11 million other undo...
Published: 02/13/18
Editorial: Promising Tampa stadium site for Rays

Editorial: Promising Tampa stadium site for Rays

While it came as little surprise, the Tampa Bay Raysí selection of an Ybor City site near Tampaís Channel District as the best spot for a new stadium is an important milestone in the effort to keep Major League Baseball. Now comes the hard work of de...
Published: 02/09/18
Editorial: Senate should reject Houseís attack on public schools

Editorial: Senate should reject Houseís attack on public schools

After pummeling public education so soundly last year, itís little surprise Republican state legislators are mounting another attack on public schools, teachers and local districts. The mammoth education bill passed by the House last week is loaded w...
Published: 02/08/18
Updated: 02/13/18