Monday, December 18, 2017
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: Warren’s smart approach on guns, domestic violence

Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren would make it safer for victims and police alike with his plan to remove firearms from defendants charged with domestic violence. These cases are toxic enough, and having guns at the ready only adds to a dang...
Published: 12/15/17
Editorial: St. Petersburg council right to reject Bayfront deal

Editorial: St. Petersburg council right to reject Bayfront deal

The St. Petersburg City Council made the difficult but correct decision this week to reject the proposed sale of a local nonprofit’s minority stake in Bayfront hospital. Despite months of negotiations, there were too many questions, a few suspicions ...
Published: 12/15/17
Editorial: Congress should fix flood insurance, children’s health insurance before Christmas

Editorial: Congress should fix flood insurance, children’s health insurance before Christmas

Here’s a snapshot of misplaced priorities in Washington. Last week, the Federal Communications Commission foolishly rushed to scrap net neutrality rules and allow internet service providers to treat different content differently despite overwhelming ...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: Scott’s smart changes to sexual harassment policy

Editorial: Scott’s smart changes to sexual harassment policy

With misconduct allegations rippling through all levels of government, Gov. Rick Scott has taken the prudent step of ordering uniform sexual harassment policies throughout state agencies. The executive order strengthens protections for victims, which...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: MOSI faces a clean slate and should give everyone a piece of chalk

Editorial: MOSI faces a clean slate and should give everyone a piece of chalk

For three years, the only news about finances at Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry was bad news: "Struggling MOSI asks Hillsborough County for $400,000 loan," one headline read, "Audit sees MOSI finances slipping," read another, and "MOSI donor ...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

For once, it would be nice to see Sen. Marco Rubio stand up as the independent leader he aspires to become. For once, the Florida Republican should hold his position rather than bow to pragmatic politics. Rubio can stick with his threat Thursday to v...
Published: 12/14/17

Another voice: A shameful anniversary

Josephine "Joey" Gay should have celebrated her 12th birthday this week. She should have been surrounded by friends and family in a place festooned with purple, her favorite color.Chase Kowalski should have been working toward a Boy Scout merit badge...
Published: 12/13/17
Updated: 12/14/17
Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Timing is everything, and Sen. Bill Nelson seized the right moment this week to call on his colleagues to pass legislation he filed earlier this year that would block the Trump administration from opening additional areas to offshore drilling. With t...
Published: 12/13/17

Another voice: Alabama picks an honorable man

THANK YOU, Alabama.In Tuesday’s special election, the state by a narrow margin chose to spare the nation the indignity of seating an accused child molester in the U.S. Senate. Though the stain of electing Republican Roy Moore would have sullied Alaba...
Published: 12/12/17
Updated: 12/13/17
Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

As congressional negotiators hammer out the details on an enormous, unnecessary tax cut, the potential negative impact on Tampa Bay and Florida is becoming clearer. The harmful consequences stretch far beyond adding more than $1.4 trillion to the fed...
Published: 12/12/17