VA failed to provide adequate care to female veterans

Granted, this story is nowhere near as bad as the Walter Reed scandal from two years ago, and especially not as bad as the Indian Health Service.   However, it shows again that the single-payer medical-care system for our veterans continues to be plagued with bureaucratic sclerosis, lack of planning, and failure to meet the needs of its captive market:

The Department of Veterans Affairs often fails to provide adequate medical care to female military veterans, five of them told the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Tuesday.

A Veterans Affairs official agreed.

“At the root is a system that has not been responsive to the needs of women veterans,” said Patricia Hayes, the department’s national director of women’s health care.

Of course, that could be harsh; after having women in the military service for more than 60 years, who could have foreseen the need to offer Pap smears and mammograms?

Department representatives acknowledged Tuesday that they’re struggling to adapt to the unique needs of female veterans. The idea that the military should provide pap smears and mammograms is still somewhat new, they said.

Women have served in the nation’s military in significant numbers since at least World War II.  Since 1973, the percentage of women in the military has increased from 1.3% to 8.5% in 1980, and about 20% today.  In 36 years of the all-volunteer military, the geniuses at the VA didn’t think about basic gynecology until just recently?  If a private-sector clinic refused to provide those services, it would make headlines — and would be out of business in short order.

And Walter Reed may not be the only VA facility needing a mop, some brushes, and a boatload of ammonia.  One woman testified about the facility where she unsuccessfully sought treatment for combat-related PTSD.  Sound familiar?

“The facility did not smell clean and was crowded with veterans who seemed to have poorly managed mental health concerns,” she said. “I was not given clear information about what services were available to me.”

Recall this assessment from last month:

Amid growing controversy over procedures that exposed 10,000 veterans to the AIDS and hepatitis viruses, the Department of Veterans Affairs is now bracing against news that one of its facilities in Pennsylvania gave botched radiation treatments to nearly 100 cancer patients.

Veterans groups and lawmakers say VA hospitals have permitted these violations because federal regulations allow doctors to work with little outside scrutiny. They say the VA health system, with its under-funded hospitals and overworked doctors, is showing signs of an “institutional breakdown,” in the words of one congressman.

An official with the American Legion who visits and inspects VA health centers said complacency, poor funding and little oversight led to the violations that failed the cancer patients in Philadelphia and possibly infected 53 veterans with hepatitis and HIV from unsterilized equipment at three VA health centers in Florida, Tennessee and Georgia.

“Lack of inspections, lack of transparency” were likely to blame, said Joe Wilson, deputy director of the Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Commission for the American Legion, who testified before Congress this month on transparency problems in a budgeting arm of the VA.

The US government operates three single-payer systems for large markets of consumers: Medicare/Medicaid, the VA, and the Indian Health Service.  None of them run properly.  Medicare pays doctors so poorly that many providers have stopped accepting new Medicare patients, and many others have to balance the losses they take on Medicare patients by overcharging other patients.  The IHS, as the AP reported yesterday, doesn’t even make a pretense of providing anything but emergency care under the most dire of circumstances, and contribute to the already-poor life expectancy among Native Americans on reservations.  The VA provides this nation’s most courageous citizens — those who volunteered to serve their nation in war and peace — with substandard care, a lack of accountability, and enough cluelessness that they can’t even anticipate that female veterans will need Pap smears and mammograms.

Is it too much to ask that Congress and the White House fix the broken single-payer systems they already run before attempting to overhaul private-sector health care, which may have its problems but outperforms GovernmentCare in just about every possible measure?