Nobody is capable of fixing this mess

We can get overly focused on the man in charge.  Yes, they’re the face of an organization and the one calling the shots.  But many times, a department’s performance is beyond the capabilities and judgment of one man.

The focus now shifts to who the new boss will be.  Well, I’ve got news for you folks, it’s irrelevant.  Whoever’s next, the result is the same.  If Eric Shinseki can’t fix the VA, nobody can.  You will never find a more experienced, mature leader guided by such integrity.  The problem isn’t Shinseki, the problem is the VA.

Consider some numbers that illustrate the level of the problem:


$153B for 312K employees caring for 9M patients

National Health Service

$183B for 1.7M employees caring for 63M patients

Now somebody smarter than I could probably explain why this comparison is not equivalent.  There’s probably some concept I’m missing.  But at the base level these numbers still tell the core story.  The VA is a bloated dysfunctional bureaucracy.

Just changing the person at the top won’t alter things.  Pumping more money into the budget won’t either.  Only two things can correct this situation:

a)  Completely change the VA’s organization, mandate, budget into something different

b)  Completely change the way government employees are managed

In any reasonable world the VA is a bankrupt entity that should have died and been rebuilt into something better decades ago.  But this is government and government can’t go bankrupt.  Yet without creative destruction this mess will just go on.  Kill it and then rebuild it.

Or you have to start treating government employees differently.  The folks who have ruined the VA lack integrity, efficiency, and value because they exist in a system that does not reward talent, merit, and performance.  That so many senior VA officials have turned out as corrupt, incompetent fools should not surprise anybody.  You get the people your organization generates.

Will Congress and the public even consider options (a) and (b)?  Probably not.  They’re too hard and controversial.  So don’t be surprised in a decade when everything’s the same.


This man has to go back to the VA next month for his checkup

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