One of our biggest gripes about the federal government is its proclivity for throwing money at a problem without accompanying accountability.
Continuing problems, including excessive wait times for veterans in need of medical care, within the Department of Veterans Affairs provide fresh evidence of this troubling reality.
Two years ago, a national scandal erupted over waits at VA hospitals, including stories about veterans who died waiting to see a doctor. The scandal resulted in the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and passage by Congress of a $15 billion VA reform bill.
What did veterans and American taxpayers get for $15 billion? Not nearly enough, it appears.
At an Aug. 16 meeting on the campus of the University of Northern Iowa, veterans shared with Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, a variety of VA criticisms, including familiar concerns about long wait times for medical care, according to an Associated Press story published in The Journal.
According to an Aug. 5 New York Times story, the VA reform bill signed into law by President Obama two years ago this month - the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act - is falling short of expectations in a number of ways.
"Nowhere is the shortfall more clear than in the wait for appointments: Veterans are waiting longer to see doctors than they were two years ago, and more are languishing with extreme waiting times," The Times reported.
Since 2014, The Times reported, the number of veterans waiting longer than 30 days increased by nearly 50 percent and the number who must wait more than three months more than doubled.
"According to the agency’s most recent data, 526,000 veterans are waiting more than a month for care. And about 88,000 of them are waiting more than three months," according to the story.
A 15-member Commission on Care formed by Congress as part of the reform law to study the VA health care system issued its report in July, identifying "many profound deficiencies" requiring "urgent reform."
"America's veterans deserve a better-organized, high-performing health care system," the commission's report concludes.
Simply put, this is unacceptable. Veterans should get more from the nation they served in uniform.
Again today, we stress the fact we do not indict all of the VA. As we have said before, we respect those dedicated VA employees who each day approach their duties - and the fundamental obligation we have as a country - with a full measure of honesty and integrity and who properly honor America's veterans with the high quality of service they deserve.
Still, it's clear systemic problems persist and more work, including improved accountability, within the VA is necessary to elevate the level of overall care for veterans.
For Congress, the outgoing Obama administration and the incoming administration of a new president, this must be an issue moved to near the top of the priority list.