SARGE: Some Gave All, And Deserve Better

The term “bureaucracy” is French in origin, and combines the French word bureau – desk or office – with the Greek word “Adhocracy”. The first known English-language usage of the word “bureaucrat” was in 1818.  The Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises, in 1944, noted that the term bureaucracy was “always applied with an opprobrious (scornful) connotation, and by 1957 the American sociologist Robert Merton noted that the term “bureaucrat” became an epithet (or term of contempt and hostility).  (Wikipedia and (2014)

The latest outrage developed over the Veterans Administration (VA) allegedly having “cooked the books” and developed covert lists delaying health care to certain veterans has come to the surface of the Obama administration like a festering boil further poisoning the already dying credibility of this fetid debacle. This developed from a bureaucracy going unsupervised properly.

The Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals’ secret waiting lists allegedly hid delays for veterans’ treatment. They may have led to preventable deaths. The Department of Veterans’ Affairs Inspector General said he’d found evidence of improperly reported wait times at VA facilities—and that could mean more secret lists. Now many of the heretofore dormant slugs in Congress are exhibiting the outrage they should have been showing since the VA was first established as an independent government agency in 1930, to see to the needs of World War I veterans.

In those days, FDR developed a system, though noble in intent, was soon to become the bureaucracy, more a leviathan than a streamlined porpoise coming to the aid of wayfarers endangered by the sharks service-related illnesses and injuries are for veterans. The VA became a bureaucracy consisting of over 300,000 people. This bureaucracy, as are most, is populated by pencil-pushing, keyboard pounding “Petit bureaucrats” (people more average daily workers, than “Grosse bureaucrats” such as General Eric Shinseki the VA Secretary holding a Cabinet level post)  processing paperwork and claims sent them by veterans and physicians. As is the case with many programs of this scale you have good and dedicated personnel working their tails off. But conversely, you have slugs trailing their ignominy and hiding behind civil service protections as they accomplish little to nothing during a workday. Witness the nearly 900,000 claims backlog languishing on desks across America. If this isn’t the case somebody needs to determine just what the problem is in the processing department.

“The VA reported…it has a backlog of 895,838 claims, 70% of which (629,585) have been in limbo for more than 125 days” VA Under-Secretary for Benefits Allison Hickey said. She further said: “4.1%, or roughly 37,000 claims, have been sitting for two years and that the oldest cases she knows of has been in the system for two years.” (Nextgov website 5-16-2014)

This is about supervision and accountability, two buzz-words handily thrown about with a straight face whenever a bureaucrat wants to show he’s doing something novel or new. We really had the terms slammed into our consciousness under George W. Bush with his famous program: “No Child Left Behind”. It was interesting to note people in schools formerly doing no more than checking teachers’ attendance, sick leave abuses and monitoring the hallways for bathroom passes and escaping truants; all of a sudden were sitting in classrooms observing teacher staff as they slogged their way through lesson plans with momentarily well-behaved little gremlins. Supervision became a new and/or novel approach to a problem most easily resolved earlier if the upper echelons had been doing their jobs in the first place.

Such is the problem with the VA. It is a megalithic, top heavy juggernaut doing less and less for the benefit of those it’s charged with serving. Now it’s alleged the medical staff of hospitals built with veterans’ taxes, are caching those veterans’ claims and diverting and/or delaying their treatment until the veterans become less of a problem with their demise. These bureaucrats NEVER really SEE the veterans. The veterans are claims numbers at the top of a form. They’re statistics. They’re bed-ridden personnel behind closed doors in a treatment ward. Or when they’re awaiting their appointment for treatment at home, forgotten existentially and dismissed as no more than tomorrow’s workload; a thought held in esteem less and less daily by the allegedly overworked bureaucracy.

Eric Shinseki is a “Grosse Bureaucrat”.  He sits atop a mass of desks and computers populated by people who may or may not want to be there. He works the “big picture” because he was militarily trained to be a “big picture” type of guy. He’s also a political tool like all others placed in the position before him. He’s a political appointee being paid off for good and faithful service to a monarchy. (I’m sorry. I slipped.) The federal government is a really an autocracy inhabited by the politically adept and the socially acquainted. The actual workers beneath Shinseki are the real shakers and movers when they choose to be and no more than a senseless pack when left to their own designs. Employment despair and the sure and present knowledge you’re the smallest cog in the mechanism doesn’t really engender any other attitude than to “go along to get along”.

The VA departments within departments need to be streamlined. Dead wood needs to be discarded. Non-functional employees fired. Bureaucrats supervised by people like Shinseki. This expectation all people give all they have always is simply and horribly not true.

Our VA bureaucrats need to be hauled up sharply and made to recognize they SERVE the veterans and not the other way around. Maybe they need to be reminded they enjoy their American lifestyles and lives because “all gave some” but, “some gave all” for them.

Thanks for listening.

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