September 25, 2015


It's time to get rid of the VA (Jonah Goldberg, 9/25/15, AEI)

The real fix is to get rid of the VA entirely.

The United States has an absolute obligation to do right by veterans. It does not have an absolute obligation to run a lousy, wasteful, unaccountable, corrupt, and inefficient bureaucracy out of Washington. Of all those adjectives, the one that gets to the core of the problem is "unaccountable."

Elected officials are supposed to be held responsible for the actions of the government, right? Well, which politician should we fire for the endless stream of outrageous VA scandals of the last few years? The president? Leave aside the fact that he won't be on the ballot in 2016; not a lot of voters put reforming the VA bureaucracy at the top of their list of priorities.

Is there a congressman or senator who might lose an election because of the VA scandals? If there is, I can't figure out who it might be. Every representative and senator has raced to the cameras to express their outrage, and not one is accepting a scintilla of responsibility for the problem. But they are all responsible because they have simply ceded authority to the bureaucrats themselves.

There is a reason the Founding Fathers put most governmental functions at the state and local level. It's because a large nation cannot be run from the center.

Imagine that the federal government simply gave all of the VA hospitals to the states they're in. Instead of the VA budget, Congress just cut checks to states to spend on their veterans. You'd still have problems, of course. But what you would also have are local elected officials -- city councilmen, state legislators, mayors, governors, etc. -- whom voters could hold directly accountable. Moreover, these officials would be more likely to understand the nature of the problems faced by their constituents.

As a result, you would see states handling similar problems in different ways. Some techniques would be better, some would be worse, and some would just be different. Arizona is simply different than Vermont, so it may handle things differently. Still, this process would allow everyone to learn from both mistakes and successes in a way that a centralized bureaucracy cannot or will not.

Personally, I'd rather see the money spent on veterans go straight to the veterans themselves, in the form of cash payments or vouchers to be used for health care in the private sector. But my point really isn't to figure out the best way to provide for veterans; it's to highlight the best way to organize a free society.

It's a fundamentally bizarre notion that in exchange for defending the republic our vets are entitled to anti-republican benefits.  Vets should receive the same universal HSA as the rest of us and receive their health care wherever they then choose to consume it. [Except, of course, for specifically service-related conditions.]

Posted by at September 25, 2015 8:00 PM

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