When I heard at least 40 veterans had lost their lives waiting for care on a “secret list” at the Phoenix Veterans Administration (VA) Hospital, I was absolutely shocked.
Since then, no action has been taken to reduce the backlog or reverse the policies which placed veterans in harm’s way. Care is not improving for veterans. I know, because my husband and I are veterans and the wait and runaround at Phoenix VA are just as long-standing this week as they have been. Instead, Congress keeps “studying” the problem and bureaucrats keep pointing the finger.
The United States of America has sunk to its lowest ebb by treating veterans this way.
As in any emergency, we must apply triage while fixing the long-term problem. The top priority is to care for veterans NOW.
- The VA should transfer primary care providers from northern tier VA facilities with adequate staff, in order to treat Phoenix VA’s backlog.
- Concurrently, Phoenix VA should immediately hire 20 additional primary care providers, expediting the federal background investigation process from six weeks down to one week.
- State licensed local primary care providers should be allowed to volunteer their services at Phoenix VA to ensure timely treatment for veterans.
Phoenix VA represents the perfect storm. Over the years, northern tier veterans increasingly have moved south to use the Phoenix VA. However, today’s patient load is based on a 2-year look-back funding model which is seriously flawed. Phoenix VA’s rolls also have increased due to a sagging economy, as well as flight from Medicare and Obamacare. Every one of these trends presented red flags, yet the leadership ignored them. Consequently, brave veterans have died due to broken promises.
“Relieved of Command” is the phrase which best describes what should happen to the Secretary of the VA down to the multi-department leadership at the Phoenix VA Hospital. Being responsible for the lives of others means the person in charge bears full accountability for lost lives. We in the military operate under that principle, as must the leadership of the VA. This in fact is why the American Legion, with whom I agree, has called for the Secretary of the VA to resign.
With quick, decisive action, we can fix the problems with the Phoenix VA to ensure our veterans have access to healthcare. Over time, we can make long-term fixes. This is what we do, because we are America.
Lt Col Wendy Rogers (ret) is the Republican candidate for Congress from AZ-09. She is a 5th-generation career veteran and was one of the first 100 women pilots in today’s Air Force.