June 6th, 2014

Last week one of two weekly newspapers we receive here in North Royalton included a Publisher’s Notebook piece entitled Why not privatize the VA?

Why not indeed. In my mind, privatization is a code-word for I want to suck at the public teat. More tax dollars have gone to corporate welfare over the past 50 years than ever were dreamed about by the most rabid social welfare advocates.

Here’s what I said to Trogdon:

Good afternoon Bruce,

I just finished reading your 31 May Editorial (I’ve had a busy week) and wanted to respond to your call for input from veterans on the recent revelations concerning care at Veterans Administration facilities.

First, I am an 11-year veteran of our armed services (1974-1986) currently on 10-percent disability related to a service-connected injury. I have received nothing but the very best care from the Veterans Administration here in Cuyahoga County and cannot heap sufficient praise upon the doctors, nurses, support staff and volunteers at the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center on the Wade Park campus and the Parma Multi-Specialty Outpatient Clinic.

Second, the system has problems. Many, however, I believe are related to the extraordinary number of wounded warriors flooding the system from 14 years of combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. In past wars, many of these men and women would never have come home, but because of leaps in battlefield care, service members who would never had made it even to an aid station 20 years ago are now saved and face, in too many cases, a life of needed care.

Constant improvement ought always to be the mindset in any organization, but I don’t think a wholesale restructuring is needed because I have yet to meet a disgruntled or concerned veteran at either of the two facilities I am familiar with. I do have second-hand information of a third facility regarding a WW II vet who was a friend of my father, who is himself a Korean-War era vet. When Jack became unable to drive himself, my dad would take him to the Columbus VA facility and again, Jack had nothing but good words to share about his experiences.

I would not favor privatizing the VA for one important reason: the profit motive skews performance. As a magazine editor I covered the automotive aftermarket for several years and one of the elements we occasionally discussed at industry functions was how, in the short run, providing mechanics with incentives by making part of the pay dependent upon commissions, drove customers away in the long run when they realized how much marginally needed or unnecessary work was being done.

The final element I would insert into the discussion is that much has been written of late about just who is holding back funding of care for veterans. I would suggest those wishing to better understand the issue investigate the Senate’s Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act of 2014 and who were among the 41 Republican Senators (including our own Sen. Rob Portman) voting against bill.

I look forward to reading the results of your investigation.

Do all you can to make today a good day,

Jeff Hess
North Royalton

I encourage more veterans to stand up and tell the world the good the VA has done you.

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