The ineptitude and corruption at the VA were examined last night at congressional hearings and the revelations were dismaying but not necessarily shocking. It is no longer news that the VA is broken so the details of how bonuses were paid to senior bureaucrats for covering up the problems and whistleblowers were punished for reporting them have begun to lose their shock value.
There was an apology from a senior VA official. But what else could he do? Defend the agency and those bonuses?
There was one small bit of news that emerged from the hearings that might serve to illuminate a deep and even incurable problem with governmental behemoths like the VA. Namely, a spirit of politicization. The bureaucracies pursue self interest – survival, expansion, etc. – and, thus, will recognize the political parties and factions that will advance their goals and find ways to support them.
So the VA, while it was busy neglecting the patients in its care, found time and resources to advance the political agenda of the administration. As Matthew Daly of the Associated Press reports:
Scott Davis, a program specialist at the VA's Health Eligibility Center in Atlanta, said he was placed on involuntary leave after reporting that officials were "wasting millions of dollars" on a direct mail marketing campaign to promote the health care overhaul signed by President Barack Obama. Davis also reported the possible purging and deletion of at least 10,000 veterans' health records at the Atlanta center. More records and documents could be deleted or manipulated to mask a major backlog and mismanagement, Davis said. Those records would be hard to identify because of computer-system integrity issues, he said.
The primary objective of every bureaucracy is a larger budget in the next fiscal year.