Unless you recently disembarked from the USS Mayflower late at night (shortly after birth), you probably are aware of VA Secretary Bob’s observation that Veterans are not concerned with wait times at VAMCs across our globally warmed plain. I assure you based on talking to numerous Veterans, that we, of all cohorts, are the most experienced at long wait times. The very phrase “Hurry up and wait” was a time-worn synopsis of much of our service careers.
Over the decades since modern media communications began saturating us with extraneous information, one unique thing VA does has evolved into a science in its own right. I speak of statistics. This exciting new field drives VA’s hierarchy to focus myopically on the “total experience”. Sec. Bob ineptly phrased it several days ago at the expense of the Veteran population with boots on the ground. Apparently, we don’t see eye to eye with Sec Bob.
As a disabled Veteran, I’m a stakeholder in this conversation (with laryngitis, apparently) and what I gather from many of you is that we couldn’t give a damn about the “process” or total experience as long as the wait time was minor and the quality of care was above average. Since we rarely get in to see doctors in a timely manner and the quality of care is extremely debatable, what possible statistic is ClownBob alluding to that confirms his misguided belief system?
Over the years, VA has squandered mass quantities of George Washington coupons on studying this phenomenon. Statistics, as we all know, can be bent to the task at hand. VA seems to decypher these mysteries at great research cost and then attempt to justify their rationale for their actions predicated solely on the faulty results. Bonus awards to SES VISN bigwigs in the tens of thousands of dollars were a product of this statistical misinterpretation. Anyone who engages in prognostications of “trends” at VA is suspect like the VAOIG. Interviewing the foxes to get their take on why henhouse egg production is down or, for that matter, a discourse on why missing hen reports have not been timely filed, often yields a discussion on something entirely off subject. Nevertheless, it’s statistically annotated and published to support VA’s theory of what we all “feel”.
VA statistics are far off the mark on patient wait times, patient mortality due to the wait times as well as obscured by VAOIG collusion as in “We were unable to substantiate that delay of medical care was responsible for 3,800 Veterans’ deaths. Our statistics show quite the opposite and by the way did you all know 89.9% of Vets are just pleased as punch at the care they receive?” Unacknowledged is the fact the statistics were based on interviewing 100 Vets at one above-average VAMC on one sunny day and then touted as being representative of the whole VA universe.
Sec Bob is now guilty of that which he promised to correct. Ric Shinseki fell victim to this ploy when he blindly accepted the statistics proffered by his underlings that everything was hunky dory and the skies were not cloudy all day. With ClownBob’s background, we seriously expected a new dawn of glasnost and transparency at VA. Petty squabbles would abate and we’d roll up our sleeves to work together to insure progress. Now it is clear this is not going to be forthcoming. As some of us are wont to observe, same old shit-different day. We should have figured something was amiss when SecBob told the homeless Vet he was in Special Forces.
I always try to stress to folks I help to buckle on a new philosophy when dealing with VA. Give them no more than the Presumption of Stupidity. Assume their statistics are self-serving. Presume that 67% of the time they are wrong using CAVC statistics which are immutable and independently corroborated. Remember that Under Secretary Allison Hickey promised 125 day/98% accuracy by 2015. Remember further that she had to walk that back and say “I didn’t specify what day in 2015 that would occur.” As it turns out, that statistic and her prognostications were far off the mark.
Secretary Bob does Veterans (and Disneyland) a major disservice by speaking in our stead with no statistics in this case to back it up. Veterans are very much concerned by wait times as would be anyone with a medical condition requiring prompt treatment. Insinuating that Veterans are not perturbed by this is tantamount to heresy. It also indicates he has been infected with the Marie Antoinette disease that leads him to opine “Let them eat cake”. As Veterans, we have a wonderful agency dedicated to doing one thing-taking care of America’s fallen to insure they get a good deal-be it in the field of medicine or compensation. That such an inordinate amount of time is devoted to gathering worthless statistics to support the unsupportable smacks of indifference to our plight. Add to that the hubris of believing everything you are told is the truth and you have the perfect storm of statistics to support shoddy medical care and more bonuses.
I hear many demand his head on a spear but that defeats our cause. Anyone nominated and approved to the post will still be faced with an impenetrable wall of indifference brought on by the presumption that while SecBob will only be there for several years, they (SES) will be there for 20 years and need only pay him lip service and little else. In the long run, nothing will change and the status quo will remain static. Change at VA will be hard to enforce. Ennui is emblazoned on their flag.
Until we change the metric by which we measure success in outcomes for Veterans, we’re all just pissing into the wind. SecBob reaffirmed that when he suggested Vets are interested in the bigger VA picture and not the reality of everyday life. He has the right to remain stupid. He’s the boss. If Mr. Trump prevails this fall, one of the hardest tasks he faces is finding a VA Secretary that will do his job and not become beholden to any political interests or philosophies. It might help if he fires the whole VA PR machine that creates these fantasy statistics, too. Hell, that might give them enough extra shekels to finish the Denver VAMC boondoggle next year without asking for more funding.