I am a Vietnam veteran who is thankful for the help and medication that the United States government provides to me through the Veteran’s Administration. Even so in writing this blog I do worry about some retaliation for what I’m about to say. The Veterans Administration is a dysfunctional institution that needs to be changed or reinvented.
It has a systemic problem and on how it is administered. If you look at the past and present top administrators and Secretaries they all have some military background. The current Secretary used to be a four-star general. It is my opinion that a four-star general has little or no connection with the people on the front lines of the Veterans Administration. Men and women who reach such a level in the armed services were treated like some kind of royalty during their years of service. By the time they had made it past the rank of major they were surrounded by yes men and yes women. No one listed person under the rank of sergeant major could easily or directly contact the general. The chain of command was always in place and I believe the chain of command is necessary to run a military operation. Before a general ever received a report it had been filtered through many other desks. This style of management and administration is tried-and-true for the military
The bad news is that the same people who obtained very high ranks in the military are placed in charge of civilian operations. This is usually followed by the people who used to work for them in the military being hired to work with them in that civilian operation. In the military when a general speaks his or her wishes are taken like laws and are accomplished at all possible costs. The Secretary and his staff are usually busy going from meeting to meeting. Just like in the military they received briefings from their staff members. No staff member wants to give the general or the Secretary bad news.
In the last few weeks the Veterans Administration has been the object of public attention. When I, a veteran, look at the Secretary of Veterans Administration; I have no confidence that he has any real connection with the operations on the ground level of the veteran administration facilities. A general is a person to run a military operation. He or she will use those skills that they learned while going through the ranks. I do not believe they are the persons who should be in charge of a civilian type operation. Veterans are civilians who used to be in the military.
The Veterans Administration should not continue to be run like a military operation. I do not believe that the V. A. should continue with its current leadership and operations style. To begin with there should be a complete change of leadership from the local regional level to the Secretary. Please put in some professional public managers and administrators. I do not think that the positions should be held by business professionals. Rather take a look at all the public administrators in the many health care and nonprofit organizations. These individuals would be a lot more sensitive to the clientele and the workers underneath them.
Even though I only meet the people at the front desk or the ground level medical professionals. I have never gotten the feeling that they are happy to be there. The sheer number of veterans who try and use the facility appears to be overwhelming. It doesn’t take long for the people at the front desk to seem distant and uncaring. They soon seem to just want to achieve the number of veterans seen to send the numbers up to the next level. The medical professionals, many of them new to the profession are from a foreign country, seem to be overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of veterans they see.
The reality of the Veterans Administration is that it is mismanaged and overwhelmed. My experience is that if you want to use the VA you better be prepared for a long wait. Whether it is the compensation procedure, which for the majority of veterans takes over a year, or just getting an appointment to see a medical doctor. It takes months to actually get to a clinic or hospital to see a doctor. The method of trying to meet the numbers has pushed the veteran to be greeted by a person telling them to go to machine to sign in. You have to hear the call of” next”, as you wait in line, by a person behind a closed window and before you can get a full sentence out that you’re there for an appointment, you are interrupted by the person directing you to a machine. It is almost like being dismissed by the commanding officer.
I do not blame the worker at the front desk or the nurse or doctor on the front line, the problem is due to an antiquated system based upon military style leadership. I do not believe that the President of the United States and the Congress will agree on any course of action. I’m asking the Present of the United States, who has the power, to change the leadership and its methods.
The current director was hired to act like a general in his position as Secretary. And he is surrounded by so many yes men and women that he probably believes that he is doing a great job. But the average veteran continues to wait in line, like when he or she was in the service, and follow the orders of a faceless person which the veteran usually complies to without any complaints. Most of us are just thankful that someone cares and appreciates our service.
I believe that the men and women of the United States of America will always rise to the call for action. I did so and many did so without any real expectation of life after the service. Many of us veterans give up on trying working with the VA. It is too big, too complicated and unable to deliver any quality service to all veterans. I know it will be a long process but the VA needs to be changed and I believe this is one of the things that the President of the United States can do.