The Department of Veterans Affairs created 40,000 new positions from 2012 to 2015, but only one-in-11 were actually for doctors.
In other words, the VA added just 3,591 medical officers out of 39,454 positions, according to a new report released by Open The Books.
As many as 1,000 veterans died while languishing on wait lists for care in 2014. Since then, VA Secretary Robert McDonald has pledged to turn the beleaguered agency around and focus on improving veteran satisfaction. Yet on Monday, McDonald stated that because Disneyland doesn’t primarily focus on wait times for rides and instead focuses on overall satisfaction, the VA should follow suit.
His comments weren’t well-received, given that nearly 500,000 veterans are still waiting to see a doctor, and some legislators have called for his resignation.
But given the VA’s priorities, it’s unsurprising how much money it’s spent on improving veteran experience, instead of simply hiring more doctors and reducing wait times.
The VA has spent $1.7 million on “employee engagement” from 2010 to 2014. The agency spent $303 million on painters, interior designers and gardeners from 2012 to 2015.
The VA spent $751.1 million on furniture, curtains and carpets from 2010 to 2015. Many of these items came from luxury manufacturers.
The VA also decided it would be a good idea to hire 175 more lawyers and spend $99 million on public relations firms since 2012.
Employees are taking home very healthy salaries. Spending on annual salaries increased by 18.7 percent since 2012, which is 168 percent over the Consumer Price Index. The number of employees since 2012 has also increased by 12.5 percent.
A total of 19 percent of VA employees pull in more than $100,000 per year.
Yet wait times are still a disaster and an embarrassment for the VA. The inspector general found there’s a serious problem with nationwide wait time manipulation. Additionally, management and staff have hardly been punished for blatant participation in the scheme to make it appear as though veterans aren’t waiting at all for appointments.
The idea that wait times are not as important as the overall veteran experience merited major backlash. Waiting for a ride in Disneyland, known as “The Happiest Place On Earth,” is not quite the same as waiting for a doctor’s appointment.
“The American Legion agrees that the VA secretary’s analogy between Disneyland and VA wait times was an unfortunate comparison because people don’t die while waiting to go on Space Mountain,” The American Legion National Commander Dale Barnett said, according to CNN.
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