Politicians are stumbling over each other with promises to fix the Veterans Administration. It has defrauded veterans and other taxpayers with a troubling pattern of service delays and lies to cover them up. Instead of more empty promises from VA employees, and futile efforts at reform, Congress should defund the bureaucracy, close it and transfer veterans services to agencies that function better.

The latest VA atrocity involves an internal watchdog report that found falsified documents at a clinic in Colorado Springs. The dishonest records show dozens of veterans received same-day appointments. In truth, they waited 10 weeks and more. At least one reportedly died while awaiting care for a treatable condition.

Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., met at the clinic Friday. VA officials insisted the problems involve understaffing and inadequate training. Apparently, we should expect federal employees to create fraudulent records in absence of advanced training.

The underlying VA response, as usual, was the sucking sound of bureaucrats wanting more resources to correct dishonest and inadequate service to the public.

The three politicians were not impressed, and Lamborn will demand a congressional hearing.

It is time for politicians embarrassed by the VA to realize the agency cannot be repaired. It has degenerated into a culture of corruption, in which veteran care is seen as a nuisance to employees. It is, at best, a dysfunctional jobs program.

To shut it down, Congress should consider the following options:

– Sell VA hospitals and clinics to major private-sector health care systems, for whatever they are worth.

– Insure veterans under Tricare, the United States Department of Defense health system that buys civilian care for active-duty military, retirees and dependents of both.

– Transition administration of VA disabilities benefits to the Social Security Administration.

– Put VA loans under the Federal Housing Administration.

– Entrust the Department of Labor with VA vocational rehabilitation.

– Give VA educational benefits to the Department of Education.

– Put national cemeteries under the National Park Service.

– Allocate other VA services to appropriate federal agencies, or contract them out.

Dissolving the VA, and reassigning its responsibilities, would create cost-saving efficiencies. It would place important veteran services, such as home loans, in the capable hands of appropriate experts who handle similar services for civilians. Mostly, breaking up the VA would eliminate a bureaucracy so inept and corrupt it undermines our armed services and diminishes trust in the rest of our government.

The system is broken, to say the least. Other federal agencies could not possibly do worse in carrying out the VA’s important work. We cannot fix this with more hearings, investigations or rewards of additional money. It is time to go big. Shut it down and start fresh. Give our veterans the services they have earned.

The Gazette

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