Now the Right is trying to pump problems in VA medical care into an Obama scandal. For background into who and what are really to blame, I recommend a couple of articles:
For starters, there is the matter of funding. If thereâ€™s been one side pushing for greater resources for the Veterans Administration in the age of austerity these past five years, it hasnâ€™t been the Republicans. It was the much-maligned economic stimulus package of 2009 that included $1 billion for the V.A. While the V.A. itself was protected from the budget sequestration that Republican fought to keep in place last year, many other veterans programsâ€”providing mental health services and housing, among other thingsâ€”were hit hard by the sequestration cuts. And when the Senate was poised to pass a $24 billion bill for federal healthcare an education programs for veterans three months ago, Senate Republicans, led by McConnell, blocked it in a filibuster, saying the bill would bust the budget and complaining that Senate Democrats had refused to allow an amendment on Iran sanctions to be attached to the bill.
But there is a whole other level of context to consider here as well. There is a pretty basic reason for backlogs at V.A. facilities and in the disability claims process, the other ongoing V.A. mess. Put simply: when you go to war, you get more wounded veterans, and in a country without a universal health care system, they are all funneled into this one agency with limited capacity. Every one of the Republican leaders quoted above attacking Obama for the V.A. backlogs strongly supported launching the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that resulted in nearly 7,000 fatalities and a huge surge in medical needs and disability claims. …
… Something, it appears, happened around 2003 that caused the rate of traumatic brain injuries in the U.S. military to spike. Now what could that have been? Whatever it was, it happened while Barack Obama was in the Illinois state Senate, giving an obscure speech against invading Iraq.
The other article is by Jordain Carney and Stacy Kaper, Who Really Broke Veterans Affairs?. It all boils down to several administrations, from the current one going back to John Kennedy and every administration in between, Democratic and Republican, that in one way or another either added to the VA’s burdens or made policies that made it harder for the VA to function. This is a bipartisan malfunction.
And then there is Congress:
The VA could be overhauled to better address the needs of modern veterans, including reforms to the way it processes claims, assesses the performance of its employees, and measures its overall performance. But putting many of those reforms in place would require an act of Congressâ€”and thus far those haven’t happened.
Instead, Congress has taken a more reactive approach. When incidentsâ€”such as the recent hospital deathsâ€”capture public attention, lawmakers hold hearings where they berate VA officials with juicy sound bites they can later play back for their constituents. It’s good political theater, but it’s unclear that the payoff is anything other than political.
So, blame where blame is due.