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Posts Tagged ‘congressional hearings’

V.A. health care debacle is nothing new

In Health, National News, News Media, Opinion, Politics, Senior Lifestyle, Uncategorized on May 27, 2014 at 8:06 am

DIH LOGOAs an organization that serves more than 9 million, it would be difficult to imagine a more complicated system than the United States office of Veterans Affairs (V.A.). Recent allegations of wrong doing within the V.A. health care system has erupted in congressional investigations and strong admonishment from President Obama, one of a half-dozen occupants of the Oval Office under whom this system has thoroughly failed its distinguished beneficiaries.

Naturally, the White House spin doctors tried to express the president’s astonishment and outrage over this issue with their typical press room song and dance. When he finally spoke about the matter publically last Wednesday, Mr. Obama said, “I will not stand for it. There must be consequences.”

Of course there was absolutely no mention of exactly what kinds of consequences.  Even more insulting was the way the administration has fained ignorance about one of the worst kept secrets in America – that there is a mind-blowing level of back-door politics and bureaucracy grinding away below the V.A.’s spit and polished façade.

In the 1992 movie, "Article 99," Kiefer Sutherland struggles to adapt to a broken V.A. system.

In the 1992 movie, “Article 99,” Kiefer Sutherland struggles to adapt to a broken V.A. system.

Critics of the administration are also using this crisis to, once again, lambaste Democrats over Obamacare, to which they compare the crippled V.A. medical system. Some of them have even suggested that the problems deep in the core of the V.A. health care system will eventually overwhelm Obamacare in a similar manner.

Plagued with technical issues and lackluster participation, the “Affordable Care Act” has not been the overwhelming success once envisioned. Legislating mandated health care coverage for all is one thing, but managing patient care based on politics is quite another.

But if you think it’s a stretch to compare the V.A. problems with eventual Obamacare snags, consider this.  Once the Affordable Care Act became law, the U.S. Government suddenly turned into a middle man for selling health insurance and controlling the care received by the patients. Keep in mind this isn’t a “Conservative vs. Liberal” problem. The simple lesson to be learned here is that the government should stay out of the health care business.

As for the existing V.A. problems, the congressional hearings so far have managed to do little more than humiliate the head honcho, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, a guy who, while maybe turning a blind eye to these concerns, most certainly inherited the majority of them.

Way back in 1992 director Howard Deutch released a dramatic comedy  called, “Article 99,” which followed a V.A. hospital intern played by Kiefer Sutherland who struggled to acclimate in ridiculously bureaucratic and money-driven system where patients are either denied treatment or made to wait months for life-saving procedures until it’s too late. In a style similar to Robert Altman’s original 1970 film, “MASH,” the main characters are dedicated doctors who regularly defy government rules to help get their veteran patients urgently needed care.

Set in present day – 1992, during the Clinton administration – “Article 99” exposes only a few known problems within the veterans’ health care system. Apparently, things grew increasingly worse.

Oddly enough, government’s treatment of veterans (of all ages) can often mirror the way in which American society deals with the elderly; by putting them off a few more times until they eventually die and the problem solves itself. Shameful.

Perhaps it’s time for the V.A.’s executives, congress and the president, maybe even Supreme Court justices, to be forced to wait a ridiculous amount of time for care. It’s a foregone conclusion that a solution would rapidly appear if the Obama daughters had to wait six months to get their tonsils out, or if John Boehner knew that coverage for some future tanning-induced skin cancer would be denied because it wasn’t a work-related condition. Instead, they enjoy free, top-of-the-line medical care, all on the dime of hard-working Americans, including veterans.

So what to do? Well making a blustering speech on TV is a start, but it’s also an overture to a lack of any real action. Firing the head guy is a gesture to appease the public but it’ll last about 12 seconds. Instead, the entire system needs a full shakedown. That’ll take time and money. Meanwhile, more veterans are waiting for treatment. Drop the bureaucracy and treat the patients, regardless of the paperwork and expense.


The Jamestown Comet editor, Gery L. Deer, is an independent columnist and business writer based in Jamestown, Ohio. More at http://www.gerydeer.com.




Is Big Brother watching too closely?

In National News, Opinion, Politics on June 19, 2013 at 2:06 pm


In his book, “1984,” author George Orwell noted, “If you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself.” Even though he published his most famous work in 1949, Orwell seems to have had a sixth sense about the future of government scrutiny.

Orwell’s dystopian society may seem too dark and ominous to be believable, but given the recent events surrounding the National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance operations, it may be more reality than fiction. As more information is revealed about these activities, congressional hearings are turning up little in the way of explanations by those in charge.

So why is it so offensive that the government would eaves drop on phone calls and emails to help prevent another 9-11 disaster? According to officials, hundreds of potential threats have been thwarted thanks to the tireless efforts of those who invade the privacy of law-abiding Americans. Unfortunately, since all of that information is classified, there is no evidence to show the public that corroborates their claim.

Civil liberties watchdog groups pounced on this story as soon as the information was leaked to the press. The question begs asking, however – under which rock were the leaders of these groups living where they didn’t think this was going on already? To the bigger point, who cares?

Modern society is full of surveillance cameras, listening devices and internet-based tracking systems, only a tiny fraction of which are used by government agencies. Most of them are operated privately to collect marketing or usage information or provide security. And people just accept it. It’s there, there’s nothing that can be done about it and just part of life in a technologically advancing society.

ringyIn the early 1900’s, “party lines” were the main method for which residential customers were provided with telephone service. Everyone on the same circuit would have to wait their turn to use the telephone and simply agree not to listen in on each other’s conversations. Of course, this was a source of great amusement in early radio and television comedy sketches. Today, it would be viewed as a huge invasion of privacy and thoroughly unacceptable.

Barreling through continually updated technology requires that people must adapt at a faster pace. Users of that technology should be aware that anything posted on the internet or passed through an electronic broadcast system (i.e.: cell phones, Wi-Fi, etc.) could be intercepted without their permission or knowledge. There’s no telling who is listening or reading any of it or what will become of that information.

If the NSA or other government agencies are tracking information, the assumption should be that there is something worth listening to. If they’re violating the law based on having no just cause for acting on that information then it’s probably best to let the courts iron it out, not congress. The last thing anyone wants is for the one group in America with the most detrimental secrets – and with the hardest time keeping them – to be in control of everyone else’s.

Whether there is legitimate cause for any branch of the U.S. government to spy on its own people is still debatable. As it is, President Obama now finds himself in defense of an administration whose platform for election included condemnation of the previous one for the same kinds of anti-privacy actions.

In a post-9/11 America, the Bush administration was constantly under fire for what liberals saw as a violation of privacy and infringement of civil liberties all in the name of national security. As it turns out, what’s good for the goose really does appear to be good for the gander. The truth is, Democrat or Republican, as long as terrorists threaten the free nations of the world there will always be some loss of personal privacy in the name of security.

In “1984,” Orwell presented a future devoid of personal freedoms and independent thought, not protected from terror but from free choice. America’s leaders have a choice – to be diligent or let history repeat itself in the name of popular opinion. In the meantime, the citizenry will have choices to make as well – in the next elections.

Gery L. Deer is an independent journalist and business writer from Jamestown, Ohio. More at the new website, http://www.deerinheadlines.com.