Americans have been given yet another example of systemic failure and bureaucratic corruption within our government, further justifying skepticism of it.
Katherine Mitchell, a doctor with nearly 16 years’ experience at the Phoenix VA hospital, exposed allegations of criminal misconduct by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ management team in Phoenix, Ariz. The Phoenix VA executives were said to have manipulated records, making veterans wait up to two weeks for care. In fact, some veterans waited anywhere from up to six to 12 months in order to set up an appointment with a primary physician. Evidence implicates that at least 40 veterans may have died because of the broken system.
These delays signal a major breach of trust between our government and its citizens. It continues to eat away at the public’s faith in the government, too. This scandal continues to illuminate self-interest as the chief focus for many federal officials, far outweighing their concern for the people.
In an interview with the Arizona Republic, a Phoenix newspaper, Mitchell stated that a colleague had told her that the records revealing these intended delays were going to be destroyed. In order to prevent the corruption’s permanent disappearance, Mitchell hid these printed documents, which she eventually gave to the Office of Inspector General. What has manifested in the VA reflects just how deep problems go within a government made up of self-interested bureaucratic workers whose interest lies in received personal pay and benefits from the system. And so, they exploit it.
Representatives have called for someone to take the blame for this situation. But the VA scandal is not the result of one individual. It is the result of growing selfishness permeating a government that is not serving its people. Our entire system of governance is broken, not just the people working in it. Even though this particular scandal happened in Phoenix, corruption of this sort is likely to be more widespread. The Associated Press said the VA’s Office of Inspector General is investigating 26 other VA facilities, too. At least some investigation is being done, though.
The Department of Veteran Affairs website says that it employs more than 300,000 people. The VA budget has grown from $73 billion in 2006 to $163 billion in the 2015 fiscal year. Some believe that increasing a department’s budget will bring better service and yield positivity. As this issue shows, however, pouring money into unscrupulous hands is not going to bring the change people are looking for. If people are unable to see this scandal as evidence of moral decay, it is a testament in and of itself. Because of loud discontent over the scandal, President Barack Obama stated, “If these allegations prove to be true, it is dishonorable, it is disgraceful, and I will not tolerate it, period.” Even if Obama follows through on his statement that he will not tolerate deceptive practices, the problem is still beyond his control. The problem is built into the fabric of our government and requires public awareness if things are actually going to change.
When dishonesty breaks the public’s trust in the government, the citizenry has to ultimately bring justice on the people responsible. If judgment is going to be passed, people must understand that the source of the problem is not simply political. It is the product of a system that has failed to constrain the self-interest of the people running it. The Framers of the Constitution understood that the potential for abuse and corruption was present in a constitutional democracy, so they tailored the system to limit power.
But what they couldn’t stop was the transformation of American culture, which is driven by increasingly materialistic and self-serving motivation. The link between the pursuit of happiness and the public good has never been so far apart than it is now. The VA scandal demonstrates the cover-up of ongoing dysfunction at the cost of people’s lives, especially by the people who risked their lives in order to retain our system of governance.
Graham Landies is an undeclared freshman.