Saturday, February 24, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: VA reforms will take time, money

It was only a matter of time before the political firestorm forced out Eric Shinseki, the Veterans Affairs secretary who resigned Friday. But his departure will not fix the health care scandal at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. President Barack Obama and Congress have to address the broader issues, which include determining how many VA facilities were falsifying records to hide long waiting lists and expanding the system to better meet the needs of military veterans.

While no one questioned the retired four-star Army general's concern for veterans, Shinseki had to go as investigators confirmed a rash of allegations of misconduct at VA facilities. His departure clears the way for a more robust investigation and signals that those responsible for falsifying records and other misconduct will be held accountable.

There are plenty of places to start. An interim report released Wednesday by the VA's inspector general found that 1,700 patients at the veterans medical center in Phoenix — where the scandal first erupted — were kept off a waiting list for care, which "significantly understated" the time veterans waited to get an appointment. A sampling of records also showed that veterans waited nearly five times as long for a primary care appointment as Phoenix administrators had reported, and that two times the reported number of patients were not seen within the 14-day target period.

The inspector general also announced that investigators had broadened their scope to 42 VA medical facilities. The agency has requested state records such as death certificates and autopsy results to help determine whether any delays factored into the fate of veterans who died while on a waiting list. A spokeswoman for the James A. Haley VA Medical Center in Tampa confirmed that the inspector general's office visited the hospital last week, but officials would not say why.

Many veterans complain the problem is not the quality of care but access to it. The VA has an acute shortage of doctors as veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have helped increase demands for appointments to 85 million last year. The agency needs more money for clinical care and a more effective way of removing administrators who do not perform.

Lawmakers should be wary, though, of calls to privatize health care for veterans. Given the severity and unique nature of so many battlefield injuries, there are significant benefits to providing a continuum of care in a network that includes 151 hospitals, 300 veterans centers and 820 locally based outpatient clinics. Having specialists, advanced equipment and support services all under the same house makes more sense than fanning veterans out in all directions. This is an area that Obama's deputy chief of staff should address in a broad review of the VA's health care system he will give next month.

Shinseki apologized Friday for delays in treatment and other VA issues, but there will need to be broader change. Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, suggested there will have to be a change in culture at the VA. The corruption should be rooted out quickly, but systemic change needed to meet the obligations to the nation's military will take time and money.

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Editorial: Improve school security plans with gun controls

Editorial: Improve school security plans with gun controls

Gov. Rick Scott and key members of the Florida Legislature offered ambitious proposals Friday that would plug some holes in the state’s safety net, strengthen school security and spend up to a half-billion dollars in response to last week’s massacre ...
Published: 02/23/18
Editorial: Six proposals for reasonable gun control

Editorial: Six proposals for reasonable gun control

Enough is enough. The mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has renewed conversations about gun control in Washington and Tallahassee. Young people are demanding action, and there are cracks in the National Rifle Association’s solid w...
Published: 02/23/18
Editorial: The time to act on guns is now

Editorial: The time to act on guns is now

The nation’s conversation on guns took an encouraging step this week in three essential places — South Florida, Tallahassee and Washington — as survivors, victims’ families and elected leaders searched painfully and sincerely for common ground after ...
Published: 02/22/18

Editorial: FDLE probe of state fair fiasco falls short

It should go without saying that Florida law frowns upon public officials who take freebies from vendors and whose agency throws business to their family. But that wasn’t enough to move the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to find that the ex-di...
Published: 02/21/18
Updated: 02/23/18
Editorial: They value guns, not kids

Editorial: They value guns, not kids

They value guns over kidsSix days after 17 were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High by a teen-ager firing an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, the Florida House refused to even debate a bill banning the sale of assault weapons. The vote, 71 to 36, wasn...
Published: 02/21/18

Editorial: Nursing home rule should be stronger

It shouldn’t take months or another tragedy for Florida — which is hot and full of seniors — to protect its elderly population from heat stroke in the event of an emergency. That’s why Gov. Rick Scott had the right idea last year in calling for nursi...
Published: 02/20/18
Updated: 02/23/18
Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are traveling to the state capital today and declaring "never again.’’ A prominent Florida Republican fundraiser vows he won’t raise another nickel until his party approves new gun controls. Across F...
Published: 02/19/18

Editorial: No more doubt about Russian meddling in election

The latest indictment by the Justice Department special counsel, Robert Mueller, refutes President Donald Trump’s claims that Russian interference in the 2016 election was a Democratic hoax. The indictment details the lengths Russian conspirators too...
Published: 02/19/18

Another voice: Tips should belong to workers, not their bosses

The Trump administration is under fire for proposing a Labor Department regulation that could result in hotel and restaurant employers dipping into the tips customers leave for their employees, depriving the nation’s 14 million hard-working restauran...
Published: 02/18/18
Updated: 02/20/18
Editorial: Trump’s rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Editorial: Trump’s rising deficits and misplaced priorities

It’s not popular in Washington or virtually anywhere else these days to express concern about the rising federal deficit. Congressional Republicans who used to be deficit hawks first voted to cut taxes by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, then rais...
Published: 02/17/18