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Paul Giorgio: Is Obamacare the solution to the VA Crisis?

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

 

Retired 4-star General Eric Shinseki resigned this week as Secretary of Veterans Affairs. He fell on his sword like any good soldier, but the sad truth is that he was not the problem. The problem is systemic and apparently widespread. The VA does get high marks from the veterans it serves once they get into the system. The problem seems to be getting in.

It also appears that the problem was created at the same time the VA instituted a bonus system for hospital managers based on how well they did. So you see money is the evil here and some of these local administrators should go to jail for defrauding the system or at the very least pay back the bonus.

This crisis comes at an interesting time, as we have just past Memorial Day and we are about to observe the 70th anniversary of D-Day this coming Friday June 6th. It is hard to think that an 18 year old boy who landed on the Beaches of Normandy will be 88 now, and those Veterans are dying in large numbers every week.

These elderly veterans plus those from our ill-fated adventures started during President Bush’s term are causing massive delays in care from the Veterans Administration.

Weekend News shows focused on the VA

The news shows were full of talking heads this past weekend pontificating about the VA. I caught both Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) Chairman of the Veterans Committee and uber Vet-Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) talking about this issue.

The dovish liberal Sanders has been fighting to reform the VA for a number of years but has had to face opposition from the Republicans who keep voting against reforms in the Veterans Administration. It appears that Republican Senators have never met a war they didn’t like or a Veteran they actually care about. Sanders’ bill to expand VA clinics and hospitals was defeated because almost every Republican voted against it.

The VA mess seems to be centered in Phoenix Arizona-John McCain’s state.  I find it startling that McCain did not receive one constituent complaint about this. Maybe he needs to fire someone in his Phoenix office.

Is Obamacare the answer?

But McCain has hit upon a unique solution to the problem of backlogs. He proposed letting the Veterans go to local hospitals or Health Clinics.

The solution he proposed goes by another name-Universal Health Care or as the Republicans call it-Obamacare. That is correct Obamacare may be the answer. Why not have the vets go to their local hospital?

Healthcare in the rest of the country is different than Massachusetts. We have a hospital on every corner. In some states, vets have to pile into a van and drive 3 hours to the nearest VA health facility literally passing several hospitals along the way.

Why not contract with these local hospitals to serve the veterans who aren’t being seen in VA hospitals? We could do it at least until the backlog is cleared up. With contracted Medicare, Medicaid and Obamacare rates, we may actually save money.

Higher Standard of Care

I will also bet that the quality of care may be higher at a Community hospital than it is at a VA hospital. Not because the staff don’t care, but because local hospitals have many more specialists. Think about it for a second in a realistic way. If your veteran father has cancer are you bringing him to UMASS, St. Vincent or Dana Farber or are you driving him up to the VA Clinic on Lincoln Street? We all know the answer to that.

So as we treat Veterans of our wars of the 20th Century, let us look at 21st Century solutions to the crisis. The current system was created long ago. Let’s use the crisis to fix and improve healthcare for all our vets. They deserve nothing less.

John McCain may have unwittingly solved the problem. The solution is Obamacare.

Paul Giorgio is a longtime Democratic Party Activist who has worked on numerous campaigns. He was a Lead Advance Person for President Clinton & Vice President Gore. He was Deputy Director of Special Events for President Clinton’s first Inauguration. He has been elected a delegate to numerous Democratic National Conventions and recently served as one of President Obama’s representatives on the Platform Committee. In 2013 he was chosen as a Presidential Elector. He is the President of Pagio, Inc., publishers of Pulse Magazine, Vitality Magazine and Worcester Medicine.

 

Related Slideshow: 16 Questions for President Obama

With the announcement that President Barack Obama will be giving the commencement address at Worcester Technical High School's graduation in June, GoLocal asked elected officials and community leaders in Worcester if they had the opportunity to ask the President one question -- what would it be, and why?  

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Tim Murray

"Mr. President, you're here to highlight a successful vocational tech high school -- what can you do as President to lead to more voc-tech opportunities for students across the country, and help bring the resources to help make that happen?"

 
Why:  "As Lieutenant Governor, I focused on these issues.  Oftentimes, vocational schools are overlooked.  I visited all 64 of the schools, and was able to convince the Governor to reestablish an Associate Commissioner position for vocational tech and workforce development.  It's an important issue to me."
 
Tim Murray, Greater Worcester Chamber of Commerce President
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Tom Finneran

"Mr. President, Democratic and Republican Senators and Congressman describe you as aloof and dis-engaged, more interested in "The View" than in their views. Are you aloof and disengaged?

Why: "The reason for the question is to challenge the President to become more engaged with the legislative branch. If he did so, he could forestall his inevitable slide toward lame-duck status."

Tom Finneran, Former Massachusetts Speaker of the House of Representatives 

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Jim McGovern

“I would ask the President how we can work as a community and a nation to replicate the success of Worcester Technical High School across our region, our state, and the country."

Congressman Jim McGovern

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Tim McGourthy

“What is the role of the Federal government in building an educated citizenry?” 

Why: "As states and school districts debate the adoption of national standards in K-12 education, the responsibilities, resources, and powers of the Federal government in the field of education have been challenged.  While restricted from direct involvement in student curriculum since the 1960s, the Federal government includes a U.S. Department of Education and plays a critical role in coordinating and funding educational policy.  In the President of the United States’ view, what are, and what should be, the limits of Federal jurisdiction in public education?"

Tim McGourthy, Greater Worcester Research Bureau Executive Director

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Chris Pinto

"Ask him why he is allowing the EPA to destroy the upper blackstone economy with ridiculous fines. He should reign them in, as they are behaving like jackbooted thugs."

Chris Pinto, Worcester Republican City Committee

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Tony Economou

"I don't have an ask, it's more of a statement, and it goes towards creating policy for our public schools.  If the President is asking cities and states having to do whatever to conform to education standards, see how it will be funded first, then create policy.  I would broach that respectfully."

Tony Economou, Worcester City Councilor

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Morris Bergman

"I would ask the President why there is no effort being made to look into the skyrocketing cost of private colleges and the lack of commensurate financial aid, particularly for the middle class."

Morris Bergman, Worcester City Councilor

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Gary Rosen

"What actions can the President take to restore the reputation and respect that the USA once commanded across the world?"

Gary Rosen, Worcester City Councilor

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Kate Toomey

"I would ask why he isn't doing more to create jobs."

Kate Toomey, Worcester City Councilor

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Michael Graham

“Dear Mr. President, which of your foreign policy successes makes you most proud?”

Why: "Do you really have to ask?"

Michael Graham, New England Talk Network

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John Giangregorio

"I would ask what he's doing about the economy, and jobs, especially for our inner city youth."

Why: "I don't think the unemployment numbers are a true reflection of what's going on.  There's not a lot of opportunity.  People are giving up."

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Paul Giorgio

"I would ask him the same question I asked President Clinton, which is -- can you change the height and weight charts so that I can be "thin"?

Why:  "Everyone would be asking super serious questions, I'm sure."  

Paul Giorgio, President of Pagio, Inc. 

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Carol Claros

"I would want to ask him why is he supporting Common Core and National standards, doesn't he think the local school boards know whats best for our children and their schools?"

Why:  "As a single mom whose daughter is enrolled in WPS, I am very concerned about common core and the deviation from local control into federal hands."

Carol Claros, Nurse, Former Republican Candidate for State Representative

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Jordan Berg Powers

"Why are your pushing the same failed education policies of the Bush Administration with a focus on privatization and meaningless bubble tests instead of focusing on the skills that will enable our kids to create their job of the future?"

Why: "Worcester Tech is both the best and worst parts of our education system. It shows that providing quality education is not rocket science, schools need to be well resourced, they need to be fun, relevant to what the kids themselves believe will be their future plans.  And Worcester Tech is an elitist institution that fails the promise of universal quality public education that should be available to all."

Jordan Berg Powers, Worcester activist

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David Le Boeuf

"After you leave the White House, what is the primary issue that you will continue to advocate for?""

David Le Boeuf, Initiative for Engaged Citizenship, Democratic State Committee member

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Victoria Waterman

The Girls' Inc CEO, one of GoLocal's "14 to Watch in 2014," opted to let girls in the program ask their own quetions instead.  Here is what Waterman reported for what they wanted to know:

Why is the United States in so much debt?

Do you ever wake up scared that something will happen to your family because you’re the President of the USA?

Why are you sending troops across the sea if it has nothing to do with us or is going to affect our country?

Why are people in debt and what will you do to help them?

What is your life like? Is it fun? Is it tiring?

Is being a president stressful?

Who inspired you to be what you are now?

What inspired you to be the president of the United States?

What middle school did you go to?

What do you like to do in the White House?

How do you sleep at night with everything you have to worry about?

Why did you run for President?

Do you like classical music?

Who do you want your pastry chef to be?

Can you convince my mom to give me an Ipod or a Pandora bracelet?

 
 

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