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Opening Arguments

The VA mess

The commentariat is wetting its pants because the Senate was able to cross that evil, old partisan divide and reach a bipartisan agreement to help the VA:

After six weeks of contentious, closed-door negotiations, the House and Senate have reached a deal to overhaul the Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system — just in time for senators to vote on a bill before they leave Washington for a monthlong break.

The compromise bill will include $17 billion in spending, with $12 billion of that as entirely new funding. Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Jeff Miller, Democratic and Republican chairmen of the Senate and House Veterans Affairs Committees, respectively, worked through the weekend to come to an agreement.

Yeah, well, goody for them, but money isn't the problem, and if it were, $17 billion wouldn't be enough considering the VA budget for 2015 is already at almost $164 billion. The problem is the same one endemic to all giant bureaucracies - systemwide flaws, corruption, inertia . . .

There is one bright spot in the proposal, money to give vouchers to veterans who've been on a waiting list a long time and live far away from a VA facility. They can use the vouchers to get treatment in non-VA facilities, i.e., the existing medical system all the rest of us use. Consider eliminating the vast VA infrastructure, and just go completely to a voucher system, and you've got something worth debating.

But, hey, just throw more money at the problem and hope it goes away. That's SOP for Washington, whether you're a Democrat or a Republican, right? A form of the expression computer folks use -- "If you automate a mess, all you get is a faster mess" -- is appropriate here: If you throw more money at a mess, all you get is a more expensive mess.