Acton Institute Powerblog

Government Run Health Care is Killing American Veterans

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Back in 2009, I wrote a commentary titled “Veterans First on Health Care.” I argued the government must prove it can handle existing obligations before proposing any further takeover of the health care industry. I interviewed former Congressman Gene Taylor (D-Miss), who I once worked for, and among other things, assisted with Veterans Affairs claims and other military constituent services. Taylor made the point then that “We [government] can’t pay for the promises we’ve already made on health care, and it only gets worse for the next fifty years.”

I posed the logical question, “If it cannot handle the challenge of caring for 8 million veterans, how will a government bureaucracy manage a system dealing with 300 million Americans?”

Unfortunately, according to CNN, things have become even worse for American veterans who use VA hospitals:

Military veterans are dying needlessly because of long waits and delayed care at U.S. veterans hospitals, a CNN investigation has found.

What’s worse, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is aware of the problems and has done almost nothing to effectively prevent veterans dying from delays in care, according to documents obtained by CNN and interviews with numerous experts.

The problem has been especially dire at the Williams Jennings Bryan Dorn Veterans Medical Center in Columbia, South Carolina. There, veterans waiting months for simple gastrointestinal procedures — such as a colonoscopy or endoscopy — have been dying because their cancers aren’t caught in time.

The entire piece at CNN is worth reading. It’s a scary glimpse on a smaller scale of just how destructive single-payer health care is and how it leads to rationing of care and death.

Ray Nothstine is opinion editor of the the North State Journal in Raleigh, North Carolina. Previously, he was managing editor of Acton Institute's Religion & Liberty quarterly. In 2005 Ray graduated with a Master of Divinity (M.Div) degree from Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Ky. He also holds a B.A. in Political Science from The University of Mississippi in Oxford.


  • Bill Hickman

    I think the VA gets a bad rap, but I’ll stipulate that it’s a government agency providing sub-optimal care. Can you demonstrate that it is providing sub-standard care *because* it’s a government system? In other words, is it having difficulties a private system would necessarily avoid? Or is it having problems that any large system, private or public, would have?

    Also, we’d be hard-pressed to set up any system that didn’t “ration” care. Pre O’care, our private system did it through cost increases, preexisting conditions, and recission. I think a single-payer system that doesn’t contain incentives to ration care away from the sick is probably the most humane one we can set up.

    • RayNothstine

      Most people working for the VA are excellent people who care deeply about our veterans. And the care is usually okay – good when you can receive care. The greater issue Bill, is the rationing of care. We don’t have to have a government takeover of healthcare to deal with preexisting conditions, which I think is an essential concern, and one admittedly the market can’t solve alone. There are lots of things that can be done to strengthen private insurance and find alternative ways to address access issues without a government takeover. I’d certainly admit conservative leaders have not done a good enough job putting forward or articulating proposals.

    • Rusty Dancer

      VA health care is horrible. I can personally name hundreds of incidences of bad health care. the vast majority of Veterans I speak with have the same complaints.

  • Rusty Dancer

    Once qualified, Veterans have limited access to the worst health care in the USA.

    The VA targets for recruitment the worst doctors. Deliberately hiring malpractice and ill trained third world doctors to abuse our Honorable Veterans. The vast majority of the VA’s incompetent medical minions are sycophants who can only work for the government.

    Contact General Shinseki in Washington to speak for Veterans.

    810 Vermont Ave NW
    Washington, District of Columbia
    (800) 827-1000

    Rabble Rousing Patriot

    • Tydye

      As a veteran who has 27 medical conditions that are permanent and possibly fatal, I agree. The doctors ignore everything you have to say and won’t do requested tests, but instead wipe their hands free of you. Even when your body shows signs that it is shutting down and there is evidence in the labs and various other tests they tell you nothing is wrong.