Sunday, May 20, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Get to bottom of VA delays in care

The Department of Veterans Affairs should move quickly to restore public confidence in the wake of disturbing reports that patients have died because of delays in getting treatment at the nation's veterans hospitals. The House Committee on Veterans' Affairs did the right thing last week by sending a strong message to Secretary Eric Shinseki that the bureaucracy has long been immovable and that he has not shown the urgency in airing the facts that this situation demands. While the calls for President Barack Obama to fire him are premature, the coming weeks will show whether Shinseki is best suited to clean up this mess.

The House committee voted unanimously Thursday to subpoena all emails and other correspondence between top VA officials related to a waiting list at the agency's Phoenix medical center, where up to 40 patients reportedly died awaiting medical treatment. It shouldn't take a subpoena to get VA officials to be candid and open about how they do their jobs. The committee wants to know whether there was an effort by the VA to falsify its performance in treating patients in a timely manner. Earlier this month, Shinseki placed three officials at the Phoenix facility on leave, and on Thursday the VA announced it would undertake a national audit to ensure that patients had adequate access to care.

These steps are helpful, but it will take follow-through by the administration and Congress to get an accurate picture of the quality of a health care system that treats 6.5 million veterans in nearly 1,300 medical facilities. Phoenix is not the only problem; similar allegations about patient backlogs have been leveled at VA medical centers in Georgia, South Carolina and Colorado. None of the reported deaths have occurred in the Tampa Bay area.

Florida Republican Rep. Jeff Miller, who chairs the House committee, has not joined the calls by the American Legion and some in Congress for Shinseki to be replaced. Now's the time for action, not distraction; the focus should be on examining how the VA handled its caseload and whether records were falsified or destroyed to cover up persistent management problems.

The 85 million appointments the VA system managed last year certainly speak to the many moving parts of this operation. But as Miller, veterans groups and others have long noted, the VA is an opaque bureaucracy that moves at its own plodding pace and rarely responds except in a crisis. The late Rep. C.W. Bill Young was about the only official in this area who could make department officials jump when he called. The agency needs a culture change, and the coming weeks will demonstrate whether it also needs a change in leadership. Congress and the White House need to stay on Shinseki and insist on a full and candid accounting to these charges. Veterans deserve the care they have earned, and taxpayers deserve to have an efficient, functional health care system in place for serving those who served their country.

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Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Big Sugar remains king in Florida. Just three of the stateís 27 House members voted for an amendment to the farm bill late Thursday that would have started unwinding the needless government supports for sugar that gouge taxpayers. Predictably, the am...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondiís lawsuit against the nationís largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the stateís battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestraís violin program for at-risk kids

Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestraís violin program for at-risk kids

This is music to the ears. Members of the Florida Orchestra will introduce at-risk students to the violin this summer at some Hillsborough recreation centers. For free.An $80,000 grant to the University Area Community Development Corp. will pay for s...
Published: 05/17/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

In barely six weeks, President Donald Trump has gone from threatening to impose $150 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods to extending a lifeline to ZTE, a Chinese cell phone company that violated U.S. sanctions by doing business with Iran and North K...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Lots of teenagers are walking together this week in Hillsborough County, a practice theyíve grown accustomed to during this remarkable school year.We can only hope they keep walking for the rest of their lives.Tens of thousands of them this week are ...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondiís lawsuit against the nationís largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the stateís battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: Johns Hopkins All Childrenís should be more open about mistakes

Editorial: Johns Hopkins All Childrenís should be more open about mistakes

A state investigation raises even more concern about medical errors at Johns Hopkins All Childrenís Hospital and the venerable St. Petersburg institutionís lack of candor to the community. Regulators have determined the hospital broke Florida law by ...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/17/18
Editorial: St. Petersburg recycling worth the effort despite cost issues

Editorial: St. Petersburg recycling worth the effort despite cost issues

St. Petersburgís 3-year-old recycling program has reached an undesirable tipping point, with operating costs exceeding the income from selling the recyclable materials. The shift is driven by falling commodity prices and new policies in China that cu...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: HUDís flawed plan to raise rents on poor people

Editorial: HUDís flawed plan to raise rents on poor people

Housing Secretary Ben Carson has a surefire way to reduce the waiting lists for public housing: Charge more to people who already live there. Hitting a family living in poverty with rent increases of $100 or more a month would force more people onto ...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: Voters should decide whether legal sports betting comes to Florida

Editorial: Voters should decide whether legal sports betting comes to Florida

It’s a safe bet Florida will get caught up in the frenzy to legalize wagering on sports following the U.S. Supreme Court opinion this week that lifted a federal ban. Struggling horse and dog tracks would love a new line of business, and state l...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/16/18