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Leading House Dem Ludicrously Claims Veterans Affairs ‘Runs Pretty Well’

• November 19, 2013 8:42 am

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Rep. James Clyburn (D, S.C.) claimed the Department of Veterans Affairs "runs pretty well" and was an example of the government's ability to oversee large programs Tuesday on Morning Joe.

Clyburn, the Assistant Democratic Leader in the House of Representatives, could hardly have chosen a worse example of a well-run government agency to bolster his support for Obamacare, given the VA's massive backlog disability claims problem, neglect of its medical facilities and, as the Washington Post put it, its "ancient, paperbound systems."

Its budget increased 40 percent to $140 billion under President Obama, and it has a staff of 335,000 employees, yet the promise by retired Gen. Eric Shineski, VA's secretary, to eliminate the disability backlog by 2015 looks impossible to achieve. The Washington Post reported the inventory was 391,000 when Obama took office in 2009, and 879,000 by 2012.

The problems have led advocates to call for an evolution in how the VA handles such claims, given reports of multi-year delays for veterans seeking their benefits.

In addition, there was the matter of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center scandal, which embarrassed the agency in 2007 for failing to maintain the cleanliness of the facility and care of the injured veterans recuperating there. Conditions at the center were deplorable, with the Post describing scenes of sordid neglect. It also threw into relief the dense bureaucracy standing between veterans and their benefits.

Also, three patients died last year in a VA-run hospital due to neglect, according to an IG report, making it 18 preventable deaths in a VA medical facility since 2011.

The Washington Free Beacon reported the VA spent more than $6 million on a pair of conferences in Orlando, Fla., including $762,000 in what a House Oversight Committee report said was unauthorized and wasted expenses.

Yet, Clyburn cited it as an example of bureaucracy working well:

KATTY KAY: Congressman, maybe members of Congress are just in step with the American public. If you look at the new Gallup poll that's just come out, the numbers of people who think that health care is a government responsibility as we said earlier has declined significantly. Clearly, Americans just don't think government is able to run this thing. So maybe those members who voted for the Upton bill were just reflecting what their constituents are thinking.

JAMES CLYBURN Well, you know, I think that may be current thought amongst some people, but Social Security seemed to be run pretty well to me. Medicare runs pretty well. The Veteran's Administration runs pretty well. The government can, in fact, run big programs, and when the American people had an opportunity to let their feelings be known as to whether or not we should privatize social security, they said a loud resounding no, we do not want to see Social Security privatized. So they must want the government to run it. So, we're having a roll-out problem. I think it will get fixed. I think the Affordable Care Act allowing people to stay on their insurance policies once they get sick, I think the real big problem to the American people is for you to pay your premium for decades and all of a sudden something shows up on your x-ray or you go for your second treatment and you get a letter from the insurance company canceling your policies. Cancellation letters are not new. Ever since I've been in the Congress for 21 years, I've been hearing from my constituents about getting cancellation letters from insurance companies as soon as they got sick or because they've reached some limit for the year or for their lifetime. So, I think that we ought to keep plugging along, get this thing fixed and I think the American people are going to like the Affordable Care Act once they get a chance to use it.