Sunday, April 22, 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: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Not too many people took then-candidate Donald Trump seriously when he famously campaigned to "drain the swamp" as president. But that shouldn’t give this administration a free pass to excuse the behavior of Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Env...
Published: 04/22/18
Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Air’s safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrier’s high rate of mid-flight brea...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Women’s work undervalued in bay area

Even a strong economy and low unemployment cannot overcome the persistent pay gap affecting full-time working women in Florida. A new report shows women in Florida earned 12.5 percent less on average than their male counterparts, and the disparities ...
Published: 04/21/18
Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castro’s handoff of the Cuban presidency this week amounts to less than meets the eye even if his handpicked successor, the Communist Party functionary Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, is the first person not named Castro to le...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Published: 04/20/18
Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

The Hillsborough school district planted a fruitful seed with the opening of Nature’s Classroom five decades ago on the cypress-lined banks of the Hillsborough River northeast of Tampa. • The lessons taught there to some 17,000 sixth graders each yea...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: Equality pays off on Southwest Flight 1380

The passengers of Southwest Flight 1380 can be thankful that, 33 years ago, the U.S. Navy took the lead on equal opportunity.Capt. Tammie Jo Shults was piloting the flight from New York to Dallas on Tuesday when an engine exploded, blowing out a wind...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Anyone looking to make Hillsborough County government bigger, costlier, more dysfunctional and less of a regional force should love the idea that Commissioner Sandy Murman rolled out this week. She proposes enlarging the seven-member board to nine, e...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

A new foster care provider in Hillsborough County is poised to take over operations in May, only months after its predecessor was fired for what was alleged to be a pattern of failing to supervise at-risk children in its care. Many of the case manage...
Published: 04/18/18

Another voice: Back to postal reform

President Donald Trump is angry at Amazon for, in his tweeted words, "costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy." Yet in more recent days, Trump has at least channeled his feelings in what could prove...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18