Wasted Money and the VA

Only this time, it’s not the VA’s fault.

Veterans Administration hospitals have spent at least $420 million on solar panels and windmills while vets wait months—or even lay dying—to see a doctor.

In total, VA hospitals reported 23 deaths due to 76 instances of delayed care, an April 2014 VA fact sheet said. Then on June 5, Acting Veteran Affairs Secretary Sloan Gibson revealed that at least 18 Phoenix patients died while waiting for treatment on a secret list kept off the books. It is not clear if that number is in addition to the 23 deaths reported earlier.

In truth, though, this failure, appalling as it is, isn’t the VA’s fault. This failure relates to the color of money: money appropriated for this purpose (physical plant improvements, for instance) cannot be redirected for that purpose (an HR move toward increasing numbers and availability of medical personnel, say) by the VA (in this case); such a redirection requires a change to the specific budget law that appropriated the two sets of funds.

The fault here lies in the misallocation of those $420 million—and that’s in the hands, ultimately, of Congress (both parties’ worth), even if “informed” by “environmentalists” and the VA management who assembled the original budget request.

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