Roosevelt Institute | Cornell University

The Disaster of Veterans Affairs

By Crispinus LeePublished February 25, 2016

The United States Department of Veteran Affairs is among the most poorly run of all U.S. bureaucratic organs. The reasons of such problems may have sociological indicators, but the worse problems may actually lie in the political organization of government assistance for veterans.

    For all the public rhetoric discussing the values that Americans hold dear, not many virtues can trump the art of respect for veterans. The United States is unique among many powers in the world for having all-volunteer armed forces, which increases the respectability of those who volunteer to fight for our freedoms. Unfortunately, there are several discrepancies to this perspective in the United States. Veterans have the most skewered of all statistics found in any demographic in the U.S. The underlying reasons of many of the issues exist in the realm of social difficulties that Veterans face. Veterans have relatively higher rates of suicide and poverty than civilians. This may suggest that wartime experience may have some effect upon reintegration, which has merit. However, the direst of all situations for veterans is a bureaucratic affair.

    The Department of Veteran Affairs is the primary organization that is delegated the responsibility to oversee veteran affairs.   Mired with political and technical issues, the Department has been at the center of multiple scandals that have resulted in the abhorrent mistreatment of desperately needed veteran services. Cases of misused funds and poor service guarantees are rampant across multiple Veterans Affairs affiliated organizations. The Inspector General of the VA reported that there were prolonged delays for treating veterans in Alaska, Illinois, and California. A specific case study in Los Angeles found that a delayed diagnosis ended in the death of a veteran who required medical attention. The case also revealed that there had been several case consults open for an overly long time: 90 days. This resulted in the inability to consult additional cases for other veterans that needed care. The second case study in Illinois revealed that several alleged professionals were not trained or equipped properly to carry out their functions. The report pointed out that there were no surgeons designed to function on call at all times. The final case reported that in addition to the lack of proper training, the VA Center in Alaska engaged in poor practices such as storing dirty medical support alongside clean ones. In addition, the VA was further criticized for its deficient suicide hotline practices.  Further investigation of the issue revealed that nearly 1 out of 6 calls were relegated to the voicemail. Many of which were not ordained with a return call at all.

    Insofar as the situation goes, the Veterans Affairs Department has garnered enough attention to have watchdog organizations following its activities. The House of Committee on Veterans Affairs has continued activities to prevent the misguided expenditures. Unfortunately, the damage has already been done. The veteran community expresses, rightfully, a severe mistrust of the existing bureaucracy to be an effective platform of support for American veterans. Many have sought the assistance of alternatives to the Department of Veterans Affairs. Inevitably, the lack of funds from more grassroots organizations is not as capable as the VA in bringing the resources to alleviate veterans' issues. Furthermore, the VA is currently continuing to struggle in acquiring the proper funds in order to manage its functions. This only serves to contribute to the general degeneration of the VA's credibility to the very people it was designed to serve.

    Despite these problems, the majority of the solutions proposed to fix this situation has largely been premised on dismissing those held responsible, rather than substantively changing the means of assuring funds allocation.. The critical results that the infamous VA waiting list usually resulted in bipartisan efforts to fix the issue.   Even so, the VA is in need of a desperate overhauls in order to refurbish their standing in the eyes of the American citizenry. The loss of trust from the veteran and military communities mean that the Department of Veteran Affairs has an uphill battle facing it in order to reestablish their credibility.