Every once and a while, somebody says something so outrageous you have to double check to make sure you heard them correctly. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Bob McDonald did just that last week. The VA Secretary said that
When you go to Disney, do they measure the number of hours you wait in line? Or what’s important? What’s important is what’s your satisfaction with the experience?
Aside from the fact that long wait times are generally synonymous with unpleasantness and inferior service, the comparison of caring for the nation’s veterans to an amusement park ride is disgraceful. For their part, Disney said that McDonald was wrong about their company:
What the Secretary said was financially untrue. We take our wait times very seriously. We continually push the boundaries to give our guests the best experience possible. A large team of highly trained industrial engineers are tasked with improving our guest’s experiences, from transportation, to guest flow, to ride comfort and certainly wait times.
There you have it: an amusement park seems to care more about its customer’s wait lines then the Secretary of Veterans Affairs does about the times that sick and injured veterans’ have to wait for treatment.
When people sign up for military service, they should expect that the country they swore to defend will treat them with the utmost respect and care when they come home. Some of those who served sacrificed limbs, or now suffer from PTSD. All who served overseas sacrificed time away from their loved ones to serve their country.
The VA’s mission statement includes a quote from President Lincoln: “To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan.” Long lines for necessary medical treatments should never be compared to long lines for a roller coaster. Nobody ever died waiting in line at an amusement park, but they have died waiting for treatment at the VA.
The Secretary’s comments, made a week before Memorial Day, illustrate the classic problem with bureaucracies. There is little to no accountability in the public sector. When problems arise–such as they did when Eric Shinseki was in charge of the VA–one of two things generally happen. One possibility is that high ranking figures resign, but the problems persist because the problem is bigger then just one person. The second possibility is the left’s solution for everything: more spending.
For things to change at the VA, a couple of things need to happen. First, there needs to be a change in the culture at the VA. There can not be secret waiting lists, and it is unacceptable for the man responsible for the department that oversees the health of the nation’s veterans to flippantly disregard the long waits that have plagued the department for years. Second, health care needs to be opened up to competition for veterans. Given how badly the VA has carried out its mission, there is no reason why those who served their country should not be a able to get treatment wherever they want.
As the head of the VA, McDonald’s comments will make headlines for obvious reasons. But if McDonald actually resigned as result of his comments, would anything change at the VA? The likely answer is “no.” While McDonald’s comments were disgraceful, the institutional rot at the VA is the biggest disgrace of all.