WASHINGTON — House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is blaming former President George W. Bush for the Veterans Administration scandal, but, according to the VA’s own numbers, she has the facts wrong.
Pelosi never mentioned Bush by name at a press briefing Thursday, but she left no doubt as to whom she was talking about.
She referred to “the ramifications of some seeds that were sown a long time ago, when you have two wars over a long period of time and many, many more, millions more veterans.”
Pelosi then blamed the VA scandal on an increase in veterans due to recent wars.
“[W]e go in a war in Afghanistan, leave Afghanistan for Iraq with unfinished business in Afghanistan. Ten years later, we have all of these additional veterans. In the past five years, two million more veterans needing benefits from the VA. That’s a huge, huge increase.”
Actually, according to government statistics, there are far fewer veterans in the VA.
According to the VA, the number of vets declined by 4.3 million from 2000 to 2013.
Democrats such as Pelosi claim more money is the solution.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said, “If the VA does not have enough doctors to see these patients, then these problems are a result of a lack of funding.”
John Merline at Investor’s Business Daily crunched the numbers and found the VA’s budget has been exploding, even as the number of veterans steadily declines.
Even more telling, wounded warriors coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan are not increasing treatment costs.
Those vets are actually far cheaper to treat than aging vets.
In fact, the costs of treating veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is almost half of what it cost to treat other vets.
A Congressional Budget Office report found that the younger vets cost $4,800, on average, in 2010 compared with $8,800 for other veterans who used the system.
It also found, while the Iraq and Afghan vets account for 7 percent of patients treated, they were responsible for only 4 percent of health costs.
Iraq and Afghan vets, the report found, “are typically younger and healthier than the average VHA patient and as a result are less expensive to treat.”
A problem that Democrats such as Pelosi face in trying to blame Bush for the scandal is Obama’s long history of declaring the VA needed fixing and claiming he was working on the problems.
In a 2007 speech, then-Sen. Obama said: “Keeping faith with those who serve must always be a core American value and a cornerstone of American patriotism. Because America’s commitment to its servicemen and women begins at enlistment, and it must never end.”
During his transition into the White House in 2008-09, Obama even proposed in his “Obama-Biden” plan to “make the VA a leader of national health care reform so that veterans get the best care possible.”
Obama was also warned of severe problems at the VA repeatedly over the years, even before he became president.
- WND discovered that Obama was briefed on problems at the VA as far back as 2005, when he was a senator and a member of the Veterans Affairs committee.
- The Washington Times reported Monday that the Obama administration received notice more than five years ago that VA medical facilities were reporting inaccurate waiting times and experiencing scheduling failures that threatened to deny veterans timely health care.
- VA officials reportedly warned the Obama-Biden transition team in the weeks after the 2008 presidential election that the wait times the facilities were reporting were not trustworthy.
- More recently, House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., wrote a letter to Obama on May 21, 2013, that warned of “an alarming pattern of serious and significant patient care issues at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers (VAMCs) across the country … (including) failures, deceptions, and lack of accountability permeating VA’s healthcare system. Miller concluded: “I believe your direct involvement and leadership is required.”
- WND reported last week that Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., reminded VA Secretary Eric Shinseki that Congress had been informed two years ago that gaming the system at the VA was so widespread, employees would look to get around regulations as soon as the rules were implemented.
Pelosi even had the temerity to suggest Obamacare might be the key to fixing the VA scandal, stating, “We have the Affordable Care Act that is out there that is providing resources for more federally-qualified health clinics around the country.”
Critics such as Rush Limbaugh have pointed out just the opposite, warning that the immense problems with government-run healthcare at the VA are a preview of such horrors as death panels under the Affordable Care Act.
Similarly, John Fund wrote in National Review that the VA scandal was “a warning sign of what could happen as the pressure to ration, inherent in all government-managed health care, is applied to the general population.”
However, Pelosi did make a suggestion favored by advocates of free-market reforms of the health-care system.
She implied it might be better to treat vets in private clinics rather than at VA facilities.
“Maybe we should take a look at how we deal with our veterans’ needs in a way that says let’s help them closer to home, whether that’s a federally qualified health clinic or in some other institution that provides health care closer to home. [It's] especially important for our veterans who live in rural areas.”
Many Republican critics have said recently that having the federal government provide vouchers to allow vets to see private doctors would be a humane way to get them help and an efficient method to deal with the tremendous backlog in the VA system.
When Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., floated the idea, even the editorial board of his home-state paper, the left-of-center Arizona Republic, said “that might make sense.”
In the video below, Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., who served as a physician at the prestigious Johns Hopkins Hospital and as a medical officer in the Naval Reserve, makes the case for health-care vouchers so vets can opt out of the VA health system, calling it “the real free-market solution for helping our veterans.”
Follow Garth Kant on Twitter @DCgarth