Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Obama finally takes tough action on VA

President Barack Obama finally displayed an appropriate sense of outrage and urgency Wednesday in addressing the scandal over patient care at the Department of Veterans Affairs. At a rare, midday briefing from the White House, the president ordered a report by next week on whether the VA falsified records at some facilities to hide the long wait times for patients to see a doctor. And he ordered a second review by next month examining whether the agency is meeting its broader obligations to deliver the fuller range of veterans' benefits. It took the administration too long to respond seriously to the allegations, but the process and the deadlines should be enough to focus Congress on solutions, not election-year grandstanding.

Obama's appearance marked the first time the president spoke publicly to mounting reports that dozens of veterans may have died while awaiting care at VA facilities. The agency's inspector general and Congress are examining allegations that officials in Phoenix and at other VA facilities may have kept secret waiting lists or destroyed records to conceal the long wait times for appointments at VA hospitals. Investigators have not yet tied any deaths to delays in accessing care.

The president assumed a new level of responsibility for the crisis, and he opened a door to sweeping leadership changes at the department, whose secretary, Eric Shinseki, has infuriated some members of Congress and veterans groups with his plodding response. The president said he would view it as "dishonorable" and "disgraceful" if the charges proved true; "I will not tolerate it, period," he said. This was a line in the sand the president was right to make. And he was correct to note that the VA's intransigent culture had been a problem for decades.

The agency's Office of Inspector General said this week it was examining 26 facilities nationwide — nearly three times the number from last week. Also Wednesday, Obama dispatched his deputy chief of staff to the Phoenix VA medical center as part of a wide-ranging investigation into the agency's management. The White House needs to keep the heat on this bureaucracy and establish in a public way the problems that are systemic to VA operations and its closed working culture.

Congress, though, is acting prematurely by pursuing legislation to make it easier for the executive branch to fire VA administrators. While some senior officials may need to go, there will be time to clean house after the ongoing investigations establish what went wrong, who knew about it and how veterans and the taxpaying public paid the price. The task now is not to score political points or add to the chaos of an overburdened system, but to get the facts and repair the safety net for veterans and their families. The comprehensive review of VA operations expected next month presents an appropriate opportunity for addressing statutory changes to hiring and management. The focus now should be on uncovering and ending deceitful practices and backlogs that immediately threaten patient safety.

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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 state’s 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 Bondi’s lawsuit against the nation’s largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the state’s 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 Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s 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 they’ve 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 Bondi’s lawsuit against the nation’s largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the state’s 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 Children’s should be more open about mistakes

Editorial: Johns Hopkins All Children’s should be more open about mistakes

A state investigation raises even more concern about medical errors at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and the venerable St. Petersburg institution’s 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. Petersburg’s 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: HUD’s flawed plan to raise rents on poor people

Editorial: HUD’s 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