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A Federalist idea for fixing for the VA

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Anyone who watches the news has seen the years long scandals at the Veterans Administration- appointment wait times falsified, sloppy surgical procedures, and over prescription of pain killers among them.  Veterans who sacrificed for America were, in many cases, given sub-standard care and in some cases, lost their lives because of it.  The VA is the best example of why bureaucracy is the enemy of any successful government program.  Though the majority of VA employees share a calling to practice medicine and care for Veterans, they are confounded by the fact that the leadership of the VA values progress reports over actual progress.  Many post 9/11 Veterans, myself included, have given up on the VA as a source of medical care due to the chaos.

The VA scandals are not a partisan issue; the problems started under Pres Bush, worsened under Pres Obama, and persist under Pres Trump.  The root cause, of course, is the length of the War of Terror; seven years spent in Iraq (and now adding more) and the 16 years and counting in Afghanistan.  The decision to go to war usually includes an estimate of the cost for military operations, but the cost to care for our warriors after they return home is not included.  Pres Obama passed VA ‘fixes’ through Congress designed to alleviate the backlog of disability claims from the wars, and there were some modest improvements.  Pres Trump has pushed reform through executive as well as Congressional action, with an emphasis on protecting whistle-blowers, but faces push back from the entrenched federal employee unions.

Early America never had a coherent plan for dealing with war veterans.  After the Revolutionary War, individual states authorized pensions for those wounded or disabled by their service.  As the states coalesced into the United States, the federal government began paying benefits to soldiers and their widows, though the states still took the lead in establishing Veteran’s homes to care for those who had served.  The aftermath of the Civil War still saw Veterans mostly tended to by the states they enlisted with.  The turning point for the federal government to take over care of veterans from the states came a decade after World War One as the Great Depression set in- when a large assembly of Veterans descended on Washington DC to demand the bonuses they had been promised by Congress.  In 1930 the Veterans Administration was established, and in 1989 it became a cabinet level agency.  Today, the VA Health Administration employs about 300,000 employees, and the VA overall has another 75,000 in the areas of disability claims, GI bill benefits and transition assistance.  The VA is the largest federal department other than the Department of Defense itself.

And there lies the solution to the problems at the VA and a way to streamline the federal government.  The Veterans Administration should be folded into the Department of Defense.  The cost of providing health care and benefits to our Veterans is directly tied to the size of our military and the wars that our congress chooses to authorize.  The separation of the Department of Defense from the department that will care for the men and women it sends to war is an artificial one that makes no logistical sense.

Bringing the VA under the DOD would present numerous advantages.  While the VA suffers from an employee union that prevents the firing of employees charged with felony theft and falsification of records, the DOD is actively considering changing its policies to remove collective bargaining.  Uniting the military and Veterans into one care system would allow greater flexibility- Soldiers getting care at a VA facility and Veterans at a military hospital.  Moreover, medical assets- from doctors and nurses to equipment- could be shifted from military to Veteran care facilities based on patient volume and need.  There is currently no ability for the VA and military to share medical resources.  Combined with allowing routine medical care at civilian clinics, this streamlining offers a huge potential for cost savings while improving service.

The biggest unintended benefit of joining the war fighters with the Veterans would be a single format for medical records.  Many of the problems at the VA over the last decade have stemmed from one computer system at the Pentagon, and a different, incompatible system at the VA.  A Marine discharged after a tour in Afghanistan has to see all of his military medical records transcribed into the VA system before he/she can be diagnosed properly.  This is bureaucracy at its complete worst.

The last two advantages of moving the VA under the DOD are subtle but important.  First, the Veterans Administration has long been the shield that progressives hide under when conservatives ask what part of the Constitution justifies ridiculous federal spending programs.  “What part of the Constitution is the VA covered under?” they respond.  This is a valid point, and one that conservatives lack an answer to, since we are support Veterans by our patriotic nature.  Positioning the VA as part of the military removes that shield, and opens up the departments of Education, Housing and Urban Development, Energy and the EPA to the rightful criticism they deserve.  Any federalist effort to downsize the scope and role of the federal government will always hit the roadblock of the VA, so let’s take this arrow out of the opposition’s quiver.

Lastly, attaching the VA to the DOD has been an idea bantered around by progressives over the last few years.  Their reasoning for supporting this idea, not surprisingly, has more to do with reigning in the military and the use of it around the world than it does practicality.  Nonetheless, it’s a good likelihood that a federalist solution to the VA could be welcomed by conservatives and liberals alike, attracting more from the left side of the aisle to the federalist cause.

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Federalists

The most important thing George H. W. Bush said is a lesson for today

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The most important thing George H. W. Bush said is a lesson for today

All Presidents have their share of great quotes. Speech writers are paid to spin words in a way that is catchy, intellectual, and understandable. President George H. W. Bush said many great things in his life, but none were as important for today as his perspective on government.

The only addition I would make is that true governance under the Constitution starts at the individual level. He may not have been the biggest proponent of limited-government federalism the way his predecessor was, but that doesn’t change the importance of his message.

“The heart of our government is not here in Washington, it’s in every county office, every town, every city across this land. Wherever the people of America are, that’s where the heart of our government is.”

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Federalists

What Stacey Abrams gets right about moving forward from the Georgia election

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What Stacey Abrams gets right about moving forward from the Georgia election

Democrat Stacey Abrams possesses some pretty radical political ideologies. I completely disagree with her far-leftist rhetoric or the agenda she hoped to bring to Georgia as governor. Republican Brian Kemp is the next governor, which even Abrams admits.

But she refuses to concede that she actually lose the election. She’s clear that Kemp is the governor-elect, but she falls just short of saying that his victory is illegitimate.

That’s all political theater. Here’s what she gets right. Georgia and many states need to clean up their election practices. Laws should be passed. Other laws should be removed. Ballot access for American citizens must be protected and the process must be made as easy as possible without jeopardizing accuracy or opening the doors to fraud.

Most importantly, this must be done through a combination of the legal system and the state legislature. At no point should she or anyone else try to turn this into a federal issue.

People on both sides of the political aisle seem to be leaning towards fixing election problems at the national level. This would be a huge mistake. The states must clean their own houses. The residents of the states must be the catalyst. Keep DC out of it.

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Federalists

Be careful about calling for more national election laws

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Be careful about calling for more national election laws

We’re starting to hear rumblings, mostly from Republicans, calling for national standardization of elections. It’s understandable that people are frustrated by what’s happening in Florida. Arizona and Georgia also have some questionable happenings. But it’s imperative as conservatives that we allow the states to fix the problems no matter how bad they may seem.

The biggest reason: the more the federal government gets involved in just about anything, the easier it will be for voter fraud, counting mishaps, and election official corruption to occur. Take, for example, calls ringing out again for national voter ID. Would it make it harder for non-citizens to vote? Perhaps. But it also runs the risk of catastrophic failure when we centralize and/or digitize the voting system itself. Not only will all of our eggs be in one basket that becomes a single point of failure, but it also slows the process of adjusting against threats. Sophisticated vote manipulators in or out of the country would love nothing more than a federalized voting system.

Taking away the states’ responsibility to administer their voting protocols takes away their accountability as well. Calls for centralization of nearly every other component of administration, from education to the environment to healthcare, has resulted in horrific results that greatly overshadowed the localized problems they were intended to fix.

Some states are having major problems with elections. These states must fix their problems. When the federal government gets involved in sweeping changes that force solutions for isolated cases on the rest of the country, more problems arise. The benefits are greatly outweighed by the detriments.

Broward County Election Supervisor Brenda Snipes is incompetent, corrupt, or both. She needs to be replaced and the voting process in Florida needs to be fixed. Let Broward County and Florida replace her and fix their voting process. It may be hard to have faith in the county and state, but do we really have more faith in Washington DC? Should we be calling for more centralized voting laws and protocols because of a few persons’ gross negligence?

No.

It’s frustrating when local officials can affect national elections, but that’s why people can vote them out and force reforms. Where it’s broken, let those states fix it. Bringing in a DC solution will give us DC results, and that’s almost never a good thing.

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