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VA secretary misses the point in defense of his agency

Secretary Robert McDonald of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs defends his department against critics by reciting the VA's proud history of care to veterans and technological innovation ("VA is critical to medicine and vets," October 23).

But Mr. McDonald's defense misses the point. Those calling for reform of the VA's dysfunctional bureaucracy aren't focused on the department's past achievements, notable though they may be — we're focused on the VA's deeply troubling present record of managerial incompetence, bureaucratic abuse and mistreatment of veterans and their families.

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Based upon a steady stream of critical reports from the VA Inspector General, the Government Accountability Office and the media, the department is failing in its mission of service to veterans.

In just the last year, the public has learned how veterans suffered long delays for care while VA executives falsified records to score generous bonuses. Meanwhile, months-long waits for benefits processing, poor sanitation at VA facilities and shoddy care have harmed veterans and undermined confidence in the department.

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Veterans in need of care have little interest in what the VA did a generation ago; they care about how it's working today to deliver the quality care they earned in service to their nation. On that count, the VA continues to fail.

Mr. McDonald and the current VA leadership would do well to dispense with the self-serving history lessons and focus on the future by laying out a plan with real substance to reform the VA's broken bureaucracy.

Darin Selnick, Oceanside, Calif.

The writer is an Air Force veteran who served as special assistant to the VA secretary from 2001-2009. He is the executive director of Concerned Veterans for America's Fixing Veterans Health Care Taskforce.

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