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Donald Trump's Policies - Part 4, Veteran's Administration Reforms

Today’s review, though perhaps I don’t know everything about the VA, is an area that I feel I know a bit more from a personal standpoint. My father served in the Navy, and for a time I received medical care through Navy doctors. Granted, much has changed – for the worse – since I was last treated at a Navy clinic – and it wasn’t good then either. Mr. Trump is right, both statistically and practically, that the VA system is a disaster.  Mind you, the VA system alone should be a microcosm of how hideously poor Government medicine will or would be. Trump wants to fix it, but will his plan fix this backward governmental system?

His plan starts out by telling us the fatal issue, more than 300,000 died while waiting for VA care. Though this is awful, and it truly is, Trump blames the politicians for being too slow to right the wrongs. But he wants to use more government to correct a governmentally plagued system. This is the first mistake. The government IS the reason why the program doesn’t work. Going back to government to find solutions will just keep the wheels spinning with no forward momentum.

Yet, Trump’s position becomes somewhat contradictory. The summary of the next 6 paragraphs introduces a competitive option. If the VA is too far away, or subpar, or there is a better option period, then the serviceman will be given the option to choose another medical outlet – if it qualifies for Medicare. I believe that this is at least an attempt at a step in the right direction. If that step is allowed to be fully taken, then the VA as a governmental department will cease to exist, and rightly so. Competition is always good in that it will drive down cost while raising standards. The reason why I think this is just an attempt at a step is that the option does have a qualification – Medicare. That is, the possible choice still has to be approved by the government, which still somehow keeps Uncle Sam involved in the choice. Forgive my cynicism, but weren’t we all told that we’d be able to keep our current choices under the Affordable Care Act? How’d that work out?

Trump then outlines four specific steps in the first of two lists.

1.       More funding will be set aside for treating PTSD. PTSD is no doubt a serious scourge affecting servicemen. While I believe that the best way to treat PTSD is to end or seriously hamper the cause, namely going to unnecessary wars, that does not completely answer the concern. I have some experience working with PTSD survivors, and without exception all of them have decried the steps taken to treat their personal symptoms. One issue that they often mention is that no one treats them as a person. Perhaps this is too simplistic, but often PTSD survivors solely need caring people to spend quality time with them. As far as fiscal concerns, the government does indeed spend a substantial amount of money on PTSD. Maybe spending another 3 billion dollars is the answer, but I won’t hold my breath on it. That being the case, there seems to be a serious market for private PTSD care, which I’m quite confident would work better than the government’s being involved more than they already are. Further, one may want to consider how the PTSD suffering veteran views going to the VA for help. It’s not pretty.

2.       Veteran employment has been a topic of concern for many. In my local economy it is not. Veteran’s preference launches former servicemen to the top of most employment lists, but that’s not the case everywhere. The government certainly has done much to help veterans find employment, both monetarily and practically, but the vast majority of vets do struggle to find work after leaving the service. Many enter the military with two goals in mind, learning a trade, while also receiving federal money for college after their time has been served. That being the case, shouldn’t veterans exit the military with a leg up on employment competition?  That’s what conventional wisdom would have one believe. So, why isn’t this the case?

Aside from the unusual affects that military stress has on young minds, the military has essentially one goal in mind, destroy opposition. That mindset does not translate well into the civilian world. At the very least, if one feels compelled to serve in the armed forces, the military could offer civilian oriented training that will carry over into life post-military, while helping the serviceman see the difference between military and civilian. More money doesn’t need to be spent. The military simply needs to shift priorities slightly.

But I still feel something is amiss. Perhaps I’ve not lived in an area that does not hire veterans, but everywhere I’ve lived, both large city and rural town America, military personnel receive special attention by potential employers. But after time, employers seem to find better employees than what veterans prove to be. A business does not look for the poorest option. He looks for the best option, and if a veteran isn’t the best option, he is not hired. This comes down to individual, not governmental concern, and no matter how much money is thrown at the problem, it is up to the veteran to prove his worth, or he either won’t be hired, or will lose his job due to lack of performance.

Otherwise, if the government under Trump’s plan enforces some sort of subsidy or kick-back to employers, the workforce would become flawed. It would hinder good business, and encourage poor decision making. Eventually, in the long term, the economy could suffer as other potentially better candidates languish in unemployment. This is all not to mention that government vocational services have a proven track record, and it’s poor. Why would anyone think that the outcome would be different under a different government program?

3.       I’m really not sure what this point is saying. It claims that the VA needs to transform to meet 21st century needs. What needs? Then it mentions women. Why? It’s all irrelevant; however, because if the VA has competition, then the VA will go out of business. That or the government will continue to prop up a failed system at the expense of tax payers, who have no say in the matter.

4.       Women are again mentioned, especially in the case of OBGYN care. To this point the military has not focused too much attention on women’s medical needs. As the military continues to change, especially as President Obama’s new initiatives could potentially put women on the front line, OBGYN care will no doubt become an increasingly serious issue. But that’s not the main concern here. The main concern is that women are often subjected to serious abuse by their “comrades” in arms at home or abroad. Mr. Trump seems to be anti-PC. Perhaps he should step in here, and reveal the serious sexual issues of stationing men and women together in stressful situations across the globe. OBGYN care is just be the tip of the iceberg. I don’t have a problem with providing care to women. It needs to be done in a better manner than is presently being done. Otherwise, because there are statistically fewer women than men in the military, it’s not a lack of respect for women, it’s sound business sense to not have a fully staffed department with nothing to do for long periods of time. The issue is weighted more toward having men and women doing the same types of jobs together, where clearly physically different people cannot abide.

Trump then offers another list of how to fix what he perceives the problems to be.

1.       Firing one set of corrupt executives and replacing them with a fresh new set of executives seems to be a start. It’s not. The system structure is highly insulated by the government. A new list of executives will soon create ways to protect themselves. Also, putting a tattle-tale system in place is also not conducive to a sound working environment. It creates a police state that someone has to constantly manage, thus adding more stress, not less, to an already tense medical environment. Bottom line here is that the VA will expand as more government will be needed to “make it work” under Trump’s plan.

2.       Ending waste, fraud, and abuse at the VA is another political statement. I would love to believe that the government would do that, but historically, this just does not happen. Further, the effort to “clean it up” of necessity must take a bureaucratic army. Who will pay for the VA to be cleaned up by the government? We will, and at a great cost. The best plan here is to let the VA fail or improve on her own. Let it compete with other options. So doing will greatly help clean up corruption, or it will put the VA out of business, as veterans find better care elsewhere. Both the veteran and the taxpayer would benefit.

3.       Technology is great. It’s certainly great when used properly, and it is best used by innovators in the private sector. Trump’s third and fourth points acknowledge this in saying that the public sector is behind the private sector. Most on the governmental bandwagon, however, don’t see it that way. This is certainly part of the problem that Trump would like to handle. Yet I’m not sure he will find much success against a pretty sizeable bureaucracy. He at least admits that the private sector is undoubtedly better than the current VA setup. I agree. But technology is not the issue, nor is it the answer.

4.       Trump mentions the points system in his 5thpoint. This system helps put veterans higher up on the list of employment candidates. The idea is that if he served, this potential employee should receive first consideration. It’s the same system that is used across the board for all federal jobs, such as the Post Office.

I once tried to land a Post Office job in upstate New York. I knew the postmaster, who told me about the position in the first place. She desperately wanted to hire me, because the job is quite physically demanding, and I best fit the qualifications. She, however, could not hire me. At least 6 veterans were ahead of me. All of them had serious physical limitations either do to age or medical condition, but she legally had to hire those veterans first. She knew they’d not make it, thus starting the hiring process all over again. Sure enough, all 6 men were hired over the next 8 months, and none of them could handle the job. By the time I would have been considered it was too late, I couldn’t wait 8 months for a job. Not only was it too late for me, it was too late for her. The cost of hiring/firing/rehiring put her rural outpost well over budget, and it was closed.

This scenario is what happens when employers are not allowed to hire the best candidates possible for any job. I can’t help but think that, though well-intentioned, the VA will suffer more because of Trump’s plan to hire more veterans for the VA in the same way as the Post Office scenario I mentioned above.

5.       Anyone can applaud Trump for trying to help out veterans as best he possibly can. But he continually shows that he wants to use the government to effect that change, and his change will be costly. This, sixth and final, point could potentially be the costliest idea of all. He would like to build a series of rural VA locations to serve veterans who don’t live near a main VA hospital. Once again, one has to look at how such an idea hindered the postal system. After realizing that these rural outposts were not cost-efficient, the smaller post offices were closed down. All of that tax payer money used to build the now unused rural post offices was lost. The same scenario, though well-intentioned, will play out for VA outposts. Those locations will have to adhere to costly government guidelines and oversight, while maintaining artificially high salaries, though only servicing a handful of potential veterans. Multiply this situation across the nation, and then the cost becomes astronomical. That aside, where will all of the doctors come from? The best option here is once again a private sector option that allows those living in far-away places to find care from a local doctor. It would save, time, effort, and money while helping local doctors and thus local economies.

I appreciate that Trump wants to help veterans. But the best way is to exit the governmental assistance program scheme. Veterans and Civilians over time would be much better off. 

This post first appeared on Clio's Lessons, please read the originial post: here

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Donald Trump's Policies - Part 4, Veteran's Administration Reforms


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