Thursday, April 26, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: VA records mess requires quick action to help veterans

The spreading allegations of shoddy and deceitful management at the nation's veterans hospitals are hitting closer to home. There are reports of secret waiting lists for patients at a VA hospital in Gainesville, and the record keeping is such a mess at a VA regional office in St. Petersburg it's questionable whether it keeps any priority care list at all, public or private. The Obama administration has a mess to clean up that has been years in the making, and it needs to move quickly to ensure the nation's veterans are receiving the prompt medical care they deserve.

The reaction from Washington is not encouraging. The administration's high-profile firing of a senior administrator who had already announced his retirement is more about public relations than addressing the serious problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs. The announcement Friday came one day after Secretary Eric Shinseki's underwhelming performance before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. The agency is reeling after reports that dozens of veterans may have died while awaiting care at VA health care facilities. Whistle-blowers have reported that VA staff maintained secret waiting lists at some facilities to hide routine delays in receiving an appointment. Congress is examining whether the practice was widespread, and some members of Congress and veterans' groups are demanding that Shinseki be replaced.

Shinseki says he takes the allegations seriously, and Obama has appointed a top aide to monitor the department. Obama is "madder than hell" about the reports, his chief of staff, Denis McDonough, said Sunday on CBS's Face the Nation, adding that the president had assigned additional personnel to assess whether the problems require "wholesale reform." While none of the cases made public involve Tampa Bay's two VA hospitals, Sen. Marco Rubio asked Shinseki last week to respond to reports that secret lists were kept at the VA hospital in Gainesville.

The concerns over timely access to care come as a new report says lost and misfiled records were a "major issue" at the VA's regional office in Pinellas County. A VA inspector general's report released last week painted chaos at an agency branch office in St. Petersburg: Records were not stamped appropriately in the mail room, files were jammed with records and a tracking log for cases was accidentally lost. Sorting records took weeks, and officials had to "rebuild" more than two dozen claims because the original documents could not be found.

The common denominator in all of these cases is a bureaucracy that cannot keep pace with the volume of demands for service. Yet VA leaders have turned a blind eye to systemic shortcomings throughout the whole operation. Now the president is mad and the secretary is shocked.

The public deserves a frank accounting of the scope of this mess, and the administration must propose a fix that ensures veterans have timely access to health care and other benefits they have earned. For Shinseki, time is short and the clock is ticking.

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Editorial: It’s up to Florida’s voters to restore felons’ civil rights now

The disappointing ruling Wednesday by a federal appeals court should erase any doubt that the decision on restoring voting rights for felons rests solely on the conscience of Florida voters. A tortured ruling by the minimum majority of a three-judge ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Editorial: St. Petersburg’s waste-to-energy to wastefulness project

Editorial: St. Petersburg’s waste-to-energy to wastefulness project

A St. Petersburg waste-to-energy plant now under construction has been billed for years as an environmentally friendly money saver. Now it looks more like a boondoggle, with the cost and mission changing on the fly. It’s yet another example of a city...
Published: 04/25/18
Updated: 04/26/18

‘Happy hour’ tax cuts may result in hangovers

Evidence is mounting that the $1.5 trillion tax-cut package enacted in December by congressional Republicans and President Donald Trump was a bad idea, not only for the long-run health of the economy but for the short-term political prospects of the ...
Published: 04/25/18
Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Writing a new law that phases out separate accreditation for the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and folds it back into the major research university was the easy part. The hard work starts today when a new consolidation task force holds i...
Published: 04/23/18
Updated: 04/25/18

Correction

CorrectionCircuit Judge John Stargel of Lakeland is a member of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission who voted against a proposed amendment that would have stopped write-in candidates from closing primary elections. An editorial Saturday inco...
Published: 04/23/18
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
Updated: 04/23/18
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: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Florida lawmakers may never take the death penalty off the books, but stronger forces are steadily eroding this inhumane, outdated tool of injustice. Court rulings, subsequent changes to law and waning public support have significantly suppressed the...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/24/18

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
Updated: 04/23/18