Is it time to dismantle the VA medical system?

May 28, 2014

Veterans Affairs HospitalReports emanating from Washington regarding the mess at the Veterans Affairs healthcare system keep coming. Late Tuesday, the Veterans Affairs department announced that it launched a program last Friday “where staffers will try at least three times to reach new VA patients and ask how soon they want to be seen. If the patients cannot be seen a quickly as the patient would like, the VA will send the veteran to a private doctor.”

In addition, “staffers will do the same with patients on electronic waiting lists — lists of patients who are supposed to return for follow-up appointments and who should be reminded to do so.”

The question that comes to my mind is this: Why not just dismantle the VA health system and start all over? Notice I didn’t say abandon our veterans. Just dismantle a system filled with bureaucracy that has an inherent system incapable of fully achieving its purpose.

Why dump the VA medical system?

Here’s why. After all is said and done, the VA medical administration will set up overarching policies in a shotgun approach to fix the problems. This is the nature of bureaucracy. They create a complex set of rules and regulations that limit the use of common sense and prevent people from truly being accountable for their work (see the current head of the VA).

Shotgun approaches to fixing problems rarely work. They only add to the rules and regulations that people must follow, which only lead to delays and inefficiencies. In addition, there is a resistance to change.

The best thing to do, and the most effective thing to do, in situations like these is to blow the system up. Just start over. Changing organizational culture does not happen on this scale. The continual re-invention of Microsoft is an example of cultural change that doesn’t work.

The Veterans Affairs medical system, according to USA Today, so far this fiscal year, “has sent more than 900,000 of its patients to doctors outside of its health care system at a cost of nearly $3.4 billion — almost as many patients as were referred to non-VA care all of last year.”

Instead of having the government run our veteran’s health care, why not offer our veterans vouchers that enable them to see the doctor of their choice? Assuming the doctor will take what the government is willing to pay, let the veteran see a private doctor.

The system that is supposed to take care of our wounded warriors and our military veterans is broken and it needs to be rebuilt. It’s time we do that for the future of our military as well as our current service men and women in need.

?4U: What do you think? What should be done?

David has been a systems thinker most of his life. He has started three businesses as well as designed and developed systems and processes in existing organizations. He has a Doctorate in Leadership and has also done additional post-graduate work in communications.

W. David Phillips © 2018
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