VA’s Top Priority — With Zero Urgency

VA-veterans-affairsLet’s begin with a guy whose message we picked up in an SF-centric communications medium. He’s the sort of guy that gets named a Distinguished Member of the Regiment, although he hasn’t been, yet.  (What’s a Distinguished Member? We don’t have a Hall of Fame, like déclassé mobs such as the Ragnars, OCS, pro sports leagues, and rock n’ rollers. We’re more… distinguished). Anyway, like many of a certain age, he alternates between a house in a cold place in the warm months, and a house in a warm place in the cold months. Arriving at his cold months warm place at summer’s end, he’s been unable to get a VA appointment, but he’s collected a lot of lip from various scheduling bureaucrats, soi-disant “Patient Advocates,” and all the other payroll patriots that make dealing with the VA a test of one’s patience. (We said we were distinguished… not patient).

One of the excuses they use to justify non-scheduling (the reason may be bitterness over lost bonuses) is the antiquated and creaky VA scheduling system.

So they’re going to fix it, stat. Are we right?

Er, no. NextGov explains (emphasis ours):

The Department of Veterans Affairs will not install a new patient scheduling system to all of its 153 hospitals and 50,000 users until 2020, according to contract documents released last week.

"Lucky us, we're dead. At least we were spared this!"

“Lucky us, we’re dead. At least we were spared this!”

The VA views a new patient scheduling system as key to resolving problems which have consigned veterans to a waiting list limbo for months or years.  In July, acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson told the House Veterans Affairs committee the new scheduling system would be deployed in 2016.

The new timeline for the patient scheduling system, released last week, said VA expects to deploy an “Alpha” version to the first 300 users at two hospitals in 2016. That would be followed by a beta version to 700 users at five hospitals in 2018 and installation at all 153 hospitals in 2020.

Last month VA said it would issue an RFP for the patient scheduling system by the end of this month, with bids due in 30 days.

VA said it intends to buy commercial software, so why, oh, why, will it take six years to field it?

via No New VA Patient Schedule System Until 2020 – Nextgov.com.

Got it? The service will continue crappy until the vets have all died, and the bureaucrats and contractors are using gold bars as doorstops.

The balky system being replaced — on a leisurely basis — is called VistA, and just last year VA’s out of touch managers were praising it to the rafters. (Hat tip, Weekly Standard).

I know I have already talked a lot about VistA, but I cannot in good [conscience] pass up an opportunity to brag about how it plays a role in providing the quality care Veterans receive at VA.

This June, the current acting Secretary said the new system was his “top priority” in so many words, in a VA press release.

“Our top priority is getting Veterans off waitlists and in to see their doctors,” said Acting Secretary Sloan Gibson. “….We need lasting, long-term reforms, including a complete overhaul to replace the outdated technology for our scheduling system.”

So “top priority” translated from the Bureaucratese is, “we’ll get to it by 2020, heh heh.”

Gibson, meanwhile, is on record to Congress that the system will be up in ’16. But he told the contractors not to sweat it until ’20.

Of course, the problem was never the computers. It was the apathy, greed and corruption of the VA managers. But there’s been no consideration given to replacing any of them. Instead, they scapegoat the computers, hit Congress for more money (which Congress, eager in an election year to display its love of veterans, will provide), and continue providing bottom-drawer service, as the distinguished combat veteran has experienced.