Grim headlines this spring that American veterans were losing lives not on the battlefield, but in waiting rooms of hospitals run by the Department of Veterans Affairs dominated the headlines, and likely angered Florida's 1.5 million vets.
Allegations of health-care delays, falsified records, and incompetence helped push former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki out the door . It also stoked new calls for overhauling the VA through privatization.
House Speaker John Boehner and other leading Republicans backed the concept, which would subsidize in part or wholly health care veterans sought from private providers — something Congress did in a limited fashion last month, passing a bill that includes funds for vets who face VA backlogs to seek private care.
That jibes with the stance of one of today's columnists. He backs arming vets with vouchers that can be used at private providers, giving them access to an app-based doctor rating/locator system, and allowing the private sector to develop a sophisticated apparatus that war-torn veterans need to improve their lives.
On the other hand, others argue that blowing up the current system with privatization is the wrong approach. Today's second Front Burner columnist, for instance, argues that rather than an extreme privatization makeover, a nip and tuck of better oversight and management reform will enliven for veterans care that already is largely exemplary.
By the numbers
•Approximately 8.8 million veterans used at least one VA benefit or service in FY 2012.
•Over 90 percent of disabled veterans were enrolled in VA health care in 2012.
•VA operates more than 1,700 hospitals, clinics, community living centers, domiciliaries, readjustment counseling centers, and other facilities.