I was astounded to read that some veterans groups opposed the renomination of Kenneth Kizer, M.D., as head of the Department of Veterans Affairs medical system ("Kizer likely to return, but questions might cause reconfirmation delay," Sept. 21, p. 44). That's a sad commentary on the state of politics within the veterans community-and on how our most deserving public servants are treated.
As the former deputy assistant to the president for policy and as the associate director of the Office of Management and Budget in the Bush administration, I was responsible for the budget of the VA health system from 1989 to 1993. More recently, I spent six months as a member of the Healthcare Advisory Group to the Congressional Commission on Service Members and Veterans Transition Assistance; the challenge was to recommend to Congress reforms in the Department of Defense and VA health systems.
The VA system provides tremendous care in some areas. But in other areas it would shock an educated observer with its misdirection of health dollars. Change is a word that is missing from the vocabulary of many of the veterans service organizations and much of the incredibly entrenched VA bureaucracy.
Kizer is slowly starting to modernize VA operations and to improve care in ways that none of his predecessors have been able to. He has begun meeting the true needs of an aging population of veterans. He has shown that meaningful change is possible.
Federation of American Health Systems