Bob McDonald, a Special Forces impersonator who has no measurable respect for actual veterans, was a bad choice for Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs. That was reinforced in a recent meeting with fellow Democrats in the journalism racket, where he made excuses for the agency’s dismal performance, and planned to “solve” it with the two magic elixirs of Beltway hackdom: more money, and fewer facilities.
Veterans Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald says his department is so cash-strapped that it’s struggling to accommodate the massive number of veterans seeking treatment from the health system.
At the same time, the agency continues spending nearly $25 million a year on hundreds of vacant or underused facilities across the country. Closing or consolidating those facilities could free up millions of dollars that could otherwise be used to pay more doctors and nurses to treat the backlog of patients at medical facilities across the country, according to McDonald.
McDonald is all-in on the institutional VA vision of a few, large, industrial-age facilities concentrated in major urban areas, to which veterans for hundreds of miles around would have to travel. It’s one more example of the way that the DVA’s Veterans Health Administration is run for the comfort and convenience of the employees, not the supposed beneficiaries.
Speaking to reporters at the Association of Health Care Journalists’ annual conference in Santa Clara, California, the VA secretary suggested that doing so could allow the VA to hire at least 200 more registered nurses and pay for 144,000 primary care visits for veterans.
“We need to move forward with closing locations that are not economically sustainable and old, outdated buildings that are challenging to maintain and provide little or no value to our customers,” McDonald said.
The VA has 336 buildings across the country, covering about 10.5 million square feet, that are either sitting vacant or less than 50 percent occupied, according to McDonald’s early Congressional testimony. The secretary, who took over the troubled department last July, has urged lawmakers to close or consolidate the facilities — but his suggestion hasn’t gained much traction on Capitol Hill.
On his watch, as on that of his failed predecessor former general Rick Shinseki, VA’s headquarters has grown like Topsy while medical facilities in the peripheries are starved for attention, staff, and funds.
He hasn’t even contained the increase in the costs of the VA Taj Mahal in Denver, which is now at $1.7 Billion in construction costs and rising.