Back in 2011, the liberal Nobel Laureate in economics Paul Krugman argued that the Veteran’s Administration is a “huge policy success story, which offers important lessons for future health reform.” As a proponent of socialized medicine, when Krugman saw the VA, he saw what he wanted to be implemented nationwide.
He probably should have consulted with some veterans first, who would’ve told him that the VA is a cautionary tale of why we don’t want socialized medicine. After the VA scandal broke, we now know that over 300,000 veterans have died waiting for care. Another twenty-two veterans kill themselves each day. Many of those in the “22 a day” statistic are above the age of fifty, so you might surmise they’re committing suicide for reasons unrelated to trauma from war, but in at least one recent case, the VA’s incompetence was to blame.
Via the New York Times
A 76-year-old veteran committed suicide on Sunday in the parking lot of the Northport Veterans Affairs Medical Center on Long Island, New York, where he had been a patient, according to the Suffolk County Police Department.
Peter A. Kaisen, of Islip, was pronounced dead after he shot himself outside Building 92, the nursing home at the medical center.
The hospital is part of the Veterans Affairs medical system, the nation’s largest integrated health care organization, which has been under scrutiny since 2014, when the department confirmed that numerous patients had died awaiting treatment at a VA hospital in Phoenix. Officials there had tried to cover up long waiting times for 1,700 veterans seeking medical care. A study released by the Government Accountability Office in April indicated that the system had yet to fix its scheduling problems.
Why Kaisen decided to end his life was not immediately known, but two people connected to the hospital who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss his death said that he had been frustrated that he was unable to see an emergency-room physician for reasons related to his mental health. “He went to the ER and was denied service,” said one of the people, who works at the hospital. “And then he went to his car and shot himself.”
The worker questioned why Kaisen had not been referred to the hospital’s Building 64, its mental health center. The staff member said that while there was normally no psychologist at the ready in the ER, one was always on call, and that the mental health building was open “24/7.”
“Someone dropped the ball,” the worker said. “They should not have turned him away.”
This is hardly the only time this has happened. Last year, a 53-year-old veteran committed suicide outside a VA hospital in Phoenix, AZ.
If only the VA’s problems could be actually explained away by someone “dropping the ball.” If that’s the case, the ball has been dropped a few hundred thousand times — with tragic results.
[Note: This post was written by The Analytical Economist]