Sunday, February 18, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: For veterans' sake, end wait list games

New evidence that veterans hospitals manipulated wait lists underscores the deep problems in the entire system, including in the Tampa Bay area. The Veterans Affairs Department wasn't just keeping secret lists of patients waiting for appointments. It relied on a method for reducing established waiting lists that did not involve getting treatment faster for more veterans. Instead of providing quicker care, it changed the rules to reduce the number of names on the list. It's time to end the games and invest whatever it takes to get veterans the prompt care they deserve.

Here's how the wait list works: When the VA adopted a computer scheduling system in 2002, it gave priority treatment to veterans with severe medical disabilities who had been waiting for more than 30 days for an appointment. These veterans were identified and placed on a list so they could receive faster care. But in 2010, VA hospitals were allowed to lengthen the wait list minimum from 30 days to 120, effectively cutting thousands of veterans from the list, according to a Tampa Bay Times review of records and interviews. The time frame is now 90 days.

The biggest impact of this change was that the VA appeared to reduce the waiting lists. The fewer veterans waiting for care, the more efficient and accessible the agency looked. Yet when veterans are in chronic pain from service-related injuries, 30 days to wait for treatment is difficult. And 120 days or more is unimaginable.

These problems were found locally. At the James A. Haley VA Medical Center in Tampa, the waiting list dropped from 4,981 veterans to 1,800 after the hospital started cutting patients from the list, according to the Times review. And at the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center in Seminole, the wait list dropped from 1,408 in December 2010 to 269 in April 2010. Last month, the VA's inspector general found the wait list was 173 in Tampa and 103 in Seminole.

The VA has been primarily blaming individual employees or hospitals for making their performances look better by keeping different sets of lists of patients awaiting care. But the time frame change was sanctioned by VA officials, suggesting that those at the top knew there was a serious service problem all along.

Regardless of the intentions of the VA's leadership, one thing is clear: The government needs to provide the resources needed to ensure that veterans receive timely, high-quality care. Secret wait lists need to be thrown out and replaced with a system that is transparent, efficient — and cuts waiting times with real service instead of new rules.

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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