The Agenda

NRO’s domestic-policy blog, by Reihan Salam.

Re: Vox-splaining the VA


A few weeks ago, I criticized Vox for doing a poor job of reporting on the Veterans Affairs scandal — not explaining that the issues were clearly systemic and missing the point that the clear problem with the VA, the crucial context, is that it’s very hard to align incentives in a government bureaucracy and avoid a situation where patients’ needs are ignored in favor of bureaucratic interests. I do think their coverage of the scandal remained woeful for a while — which is a big disappointment, since this was a perfect example of a complicated story where people need help understanding the underlying issues and policy details so they don’t have to rely on politicians’ posturing comments — but reporter German Lopez finally has explained that, yes, the problems with the VA are system (as was obvious from the very first investigative reporting on the topic) and they can largely be blamed on bad incentives (as was obvious immediately to anyone with an understanding of public-choice economics). 

How did Vox finally figure this out? Well, the conclusion became inescapable when the department’s audit of itself, a new version of which was released Monday, reached it. Thousands of vets, with victims almost everywhere in the system, are kept waiting for care because the department, rather than responding to their needs, invented ways to game its metrics and make it harder for vets to access or even schedule care.


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