He saw action in Fallujah in Anbar Province and other hot spots in the Middle East and Africa. He served his country with bravery and honor and rose to the rank of captain. He left the Marines with a recurring ankle injury. Sometimes it still hobbles him for a month or two.
He needs physical therapy so he called the United States Department of Veteran Affairs to book an appointment. After hundreds of tries over a couple of weeks, he finally heard a human voice. It told the former Marine to go to the VA website and book an appointment online.
But the website didn’t work. It never let him book an appointment. So he tried calling the VA again.
When he finally reached someone, the former Marine explained that he needed an appointment for a physio evaluation. The person from the VA didn’t listen and instead read from a script.
“Please book your appointment through the VA website. If you do not have access to the internet, or are unable to use a computer or cannot afford one, please ask a friend or neighbor to assist you, or visit your local public library. Those people will be happy to help you because you are a veteran. . . .”
The former Marine, who graduated from one of America’s finest universities and has risen to a prominent place in his civilian profession, tried to interrupt the script. But the person from the VA said, “Sir, please book your appointment with the VA on our website. If you do not have access to the internet, or are unable to use a computer or cannot afford one, please ask a friend or neighbor to assist you, or visit your local public library. . . . .”
Marines always keep moving forward. That’s what they do. Still, the former Marine wasn’t hopeful.
“I guess I’ll talk to my Congressman,” he told us. “Isn’t this the kind of thing our representatives are supposed to help with?”
The VA spends $150 billion a year of taxpayer money. It employs 280,000 people. The former Marine thinks it’s time to shut the agency down.
“The bureaucracy cannot do the job,” he said. “Give the market a try.”
The former Marine wants all veterans to have insurance cards that would let them call doctors and make their own appointments, with the federal government as the payer.
* * *
Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald said Monday he’s reforming the agency and complying with the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act that Congress passed in July. The new law increased the VA budget, made it easier to fire VA employees, and gave some veterans more access to private health care through Choice Cards.
The Choice Card program was a response to allegations earlier this year that veterans died or deteriorated while waiting for appointments. It allows veterans waiting more than 30 days for an appointment or living more than 40 miles from a VA facility to seek care outside the VA health care system.
How’s Secretary McDonald doing?
There have been 40 disciplinary actions at the VA since early June.
The agency missed its November 5 deadline set by Congress to send out Choice Cards. A small number were mailed to veterans last week but the rest will go out next year, the agency said.
Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.