During the years of the Bush presidency, Democrats and the mainstream media delighted in finding flaws with the administration’s handling of veterans affairs. Recall the justifiable outrage over conditions at Walter Reed Hospital.
The issue conferred at least three big advantages on the left. First, it embarrassed Bush. Second, it provided a means of appealing for the votes of both veterans and current members of the military, normally sources of support for Republicans. Third, it purported to convert veterans into another victim group requiring succor from the Democrats.
After President Obama’s election, the Democrats continued to work the military vote through veterans issues. As I noted at the time, this was a theme during the 2012 Democratic National Convention.
Meanwhile, albeit largely ignored by the mainstream media, Obama’s own veterans affairs “scandal” was unfolding — an enormous backlog of veterans claims. In 2011, the claims backlog ballooned by 155 percent.
To its credit, the Washington Post is now covering this matter. And the more it probes, the worse the matter looks.
In 2011, the same year in which the backlog of claims rose so rapidly, more than two-thirds of the VA’s claims administrators shared $5.5 million in bonus money. Moreover, according to the Post, some of the worst performing offices in terms of backlog received the most bonus pay.
To enhance their chances of receiving bonuses by processing a large number claims, processors often set aside complex files and handled the easy ones. This only lengthened the waiting period for many with unresolved claims. Those with claims involving complexity, such as ones involving post-traumatic stress disorder, tend to be adversely affected by these efforts by government employees to “game” the system.
No well-run business would create perverse incentives to ignore the difficult stuff. But we’re talking about the federal government here.
Quantity isn’t the only problem. According to the Post, in 2012 an appeals board reversed three-quarters of the appealed claims as either wrongly decided or based on incomplete information. This occurred after the Obama administration changed VA procedures to discourage claims processors from gathering additional documents that might support complicated claims.
It’s enough to make you wonder who is running the Veterans Administration. The answer is Gen. Eric Shinseki.
He became something of a hero among leftists during the aforementioned Bush presidency because he recommended sending significantly more troops to Iraq than Bush decided to deploy. Critics of the Bush administration claimed that Shinseki was forced into early retirement as Army Chief of staff because of his public comments on troop levels. In fact, however, his retirement had been announced nearly a year before those comments.
The Dems trotted out Gen. Shinseki at their National Convention last year as part of their attempt to win over veterans and members of the military. He dutifully boasted about all the Obama administration allegedly has done for vets.
Gen. Shinseki’s name does not appear in the lengthy Post article about the VA backlog.