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Memorial Day – A Reminder to Provide Better Care for Living Veterans

Today is Memorial Day, a U.S. holiday. It's a day to honor those who have given their lives in military service.

Lately, the news has had many reminders about our need to provide better care to our living veterans through the overburdened Veterans Administration (VA) medical system.

Thanks to medical advances, more of our wounded troops are surviving injuries that would have been fatal in the past. Recently, I had a chance to visit the Center for the Intrepid, at Fort Sam Houston, in San Antonio. which provides rehabilitation services for service members who have suffered “amputation, burns, or functional limb loss.” This specialized facility is a big advance from what I saw back in 2005 or so, when I visited BAMC and saw wounded troops learning to walk on artificial limbs in hallways and out in front of the hospital. 

Memorial Day Ceremony - North Africa American Cemetery and Memorial - May 31, 2010

The recent VA scandals (which I'll blog more about sooon) make me think:

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  • This shouldn't be a partisan issue.
  • The real scandal is not the cheating and the “gaming of the system” but the long waiting times in and of themselves.
  • These are not medical problems caused by “bad apples,” but rather are very systemic problems for which  top leaders should be held responsible (I support the bi-partisan calls for VA Secretary Shinseki to resign).
  • When individuals are put into a bad position where it's easier to cheat the numbers with “secret waiting lists” than it is to actually fix the underlying system… people will game the system. Senior leaders must be held responsible for this, not the individuals who cheat.

Oh, and it's not a new problem, either. I've been blogging about VA delays for years – delays in mental health care, delays in getting into the system:

Today is a day for remembering the sacrifice of those who have given their lives for our country. It's also a day, hopefully, to reflect on how we can provide the best care (and the most timely care) for our surviving troops and veterans.

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Mark Graban's passion is creating a better, safer, more cost effective healthcare system for patients and better workplaces for all. Mark is a consultant, author, and speaker in the "Lean healthcare" methodology. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. His most recent project is an book titled Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also the VP of Improvement & Innovation Services for the technology company KaiNexus.

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