It’s another failure of the “Have a problem? Throw money at it!” strategy democrats know and love so well—but this time, it’s happening at the expense of veterans.

It’s been nearly a year since Eric Shinseki resigned his role as VA Secretary, and yet things are no better for veterans than they were before the embattled bureaucrat finally relented to demands from Congress that he step down. Of course, lack of leadership wasn’t (and isn’t) the agency’s only problem; reports last year unveiled not just one or two corrupt officials, but an entire network of people willing to sweep problems under the rug.

House Speaker John Boehner made a speech today shedding light on the continuing problems at the VA, and calling the Obama Administration on the carpet for allowing disgraced VA officials to be rewarded for their failure.

The number of patients facing long waits is about the same, Boehner said, while the number of patients waiting more than 90 days has nearly doubled.

The VA’s problems are so deep it can’t even build a hospital, Boehner said, referring to a half-finished project in Denver that is $1 billion over budget.

Boehner, R-Ohio, said he is especially frustrated that so few VA officials have been fired, despite evidence that at least 110 VA facilities kept secret lists to hide long wait times.

Instead, many officials have been allowed to retire with full benefits, while others have been transferred, suspended with pay or given a “slap on the wrist,” he said. “And all of them go right on collecting checks from taxpayers,” Boehner said.

“If only the VA did half as good a job taking care of our veterans as they do their own bureaucrats,” he said.

Boehner said a law passed last year by Congress should help and said more legislation to hold the VA accountable is likely. “But only the administration can change the culture from within,” he said.

You can watch his speech here:

One person fired—but “what the hell happened to the rest of ’em?” The Administration really wishes we weren’t paying attention to that small piece of information.

Highlighting the continuing problems at the VA is the ongoing disaster encompassing the construction of the new Denver VA hospital. The work is behind, and over budget by literally hundreds of millions of dollars—and now more money is needed just to get the project back on track:

Lawmakers must authorize new funds to continue work on the infamous site by the end of May and avoid another work stoppage by construction contractors. The project’s costs have ballooned from under $400 million to more than $1.7 billion in recent years through a combination of poor planning and lax management of the work.

But last week, the chairmen of the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs committees rejected plans by VA officials to shift about $800 million from money set aside for health care access expansion, putting the Denver project’s future in doubt.

“VA to this day has refused to take this project seriously,” Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., and Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., said in a joint statement. “Instead of putting forth a realistic plan … VA has essentially demanded that taxpayers subsidize the department’s incompetence.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., the Senate committee’s ranking Democrat, echoed that sentiment, noting that the Denver disaster is just one of a series of major VA construction projects currently over budget. He said the department “must go back to the drawing board” to find a new way to pay for the project.

It’s true—shouldn’t we be looking to the VA for solutions beyond another blank check? Other side of the coin: do we trust them to not stab themselves in the face with a pen whilst performing whatever complex math it takes to fix a billion dollar money pit? VA Secretary Robert McDonald wrote a letter to Congress requesting a $200 million buffer fund to get things back on track, and lists different areas of the budget that the VA can modify to help pay for the project. However, he also warned that a failure to act in Congress could lead to another contractor walk-off, which signals to anyone paying attention that no amount of creative accounting is going to help the VA fix its own mess.

Boehner is right—this isn’t just a failure of leadership. The culture at the VA cultivates nothing but failure, excuses, and waste, and nothing but a complete overhaul is going to fix that.


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