Complaints should be investigated

Members of Congress made their bipartisan frustration with the Department of Veterans Affairs clear last week. The U.S. Senate approved a bill expanding accessibility of veterans to private health care providers as an alternative to the VA system. The vote was 92-5. Previously, the House approved the measure by a vote of 347-70.

It provides more funding for the Choice program, and – theoretically, at least – makes it easier for veterans to turn to the private sector for health care. Those victimized by intolerably long waits to see VA doctors would have the option.

There is a catch, which always seems to be the case when people seek relief from the federal bureaucracy’s inefficiencies. It is that for veterans to be approved for private-sector health care, the VA has to clear them.

Some sort of check on the program is necessary, of course. Merely telling veterans they have options could prove to be excessively costly. Only those who really need alternatives to the VA should be eligible.

That leaves enormous power in the hands of VA officials – the very people whose abuses and inefficiencies made the Choice program necessary. VA officials responsible for the wait-list outrage in the first place could find themselves with power to punish veterans complaining about it.

Members of Congress should not take the VA’s word for it that the Choice program is being handled well. If complaints from veterans turned down for it are heard, they should be investigated. And, for a change, the bureaucrats responsible should be punished.