Fixing the US Department of Veterans Affairs: Prospects for reform
About This Event



Event Summary

As corruption and inefficiencies continue to plague the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the public is calling for large-scale improvements. On Thursday at AEI, Dr. Sally Satel hosted a discussion on the future of the VA, in which panelists identified key problems and outlined opportunities for improving how the VA promotes veteran welfare.
Yale University's Peter Schuck opened the discussion by illustrating how the VA resembles other large service programs, including the fact that it has an ever-increasing budget, a large workforce, and an antiquated informational system, which collectively point to deep structural flaws in the VA.

Richard V. Burkhauser, of AEI and Cornell University, drew from his experience with the management of Social Security to highlight how the VA could most appropriately use its assets. He stressed that the VA is too quick to surmise what veterans — especially young veterans — cannot do, instead of focusing on what they could do through education and vocational rehabilitation.

Joseph Antos, also of AEI, weighed in on the VA's health care system, noting that veterans are not "customers" in the current system, as they are limited to VA health care options. Antos proposed broadening the pool of options available to veterans and privatizing veteran health care in light of the culture of perverse financial incentives within the VA.
--Kelly Funderburk

Event Description

Recent scandals at medical centers for veterans have trained a spotlight on longstanding inefficiencies and new revelations of corruption within the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). In the case of the VA's disability system, a nearly century-old approach to wounded veterans still prevails. The widespread consensus is that the problem goes much deeper than falsified waiting lists and delayed access to care, and necessitates a global overhaul.

What would a renewed vision of veteran care look like, and how should we clarify the objectives of the VA's disability system? In the interim, what short-term reforms are practical?

Please join AEI as House Committee on Veterans' Affairs Chairman Jeff Miller presents a blueprint for reform, followed by a discussion with experts in health care, disability, and public administration.

Full video will be posted within 24 hours. This event will not be available live.


9:45 AM
Registration and Breakfast

10:00 AM
Jeff Miller, US House of Representatives

10:30 AM
Joseph Antos, AEI
Richard V. Burkhauser, Cornell University and AEI
Peter Schuck, Yale University

Sally Satel, AEI

11:30 AM

Event Contact Information

For more information, please contact Kelly Funderburk at [email protected], 202.862.5920.

Media Contact Information

For media inquiries, please contact [email protected], 202.862.5829.

Speaker Biographies

Joseph Antos is the Wilson H. Taylor Scholar in Health Care and Retirement Policy at AEI. He recently completed a seven-year term as health adviser to the Congressional Budget Office, and two terms as a commissioner of the Maryland Health Services Cost Review Commission. In 2013, he was also named adjunct associate professor of emergency medicine at George Washington University. His research focuses on the economics of health policy, including Medicare and broader health system reform, health care financing and the budget, health insurance regulation, and the uninsured.

Richard V. Burkhauser is the Sarah Gibson Blanding Professor of Public Policy in the Department of Policy Analysis and Management at Cornell University and a professorial research fellow in the Melbourne Institute at the University of Melbourne. He is also an AEI adjunct scholar. His research focuses on how public policies affect the economic behavior and well-being of vulnerable populations — older workers, workers with disabilities, and low-skilled workers. He has published widely on these topics. He coauthored a book with Mary C. Daly, The Declining Work and Welfare of People with Disabilities: What Went Wrong and a Strategy for Change (AEI Press, 2011). His most recent paper, “Disability Benefit Growth and Disability Reform in the United States: Lessons from Other OECD Nations,” was published in 2014 in the IZA Journal of Labor Policy.

Jeff Miller serves as chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and on the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Since coming to Congress, Rep. Miller has championed numerous tax relief and veterans' measures and fought for less government, less taxes, and more personal freedom. As chairman of Veterans’ Affairs, Rep. Miller is responsible for authorization and oversight of the Department of Veterans Affairs, the second-largest department in the federal government, with a budget of more than $150 billion. As a senior member of HASC, Rep. Miller has proven to be a strong advocate for our men and women in uniform, and he is one of the leading proponents of naval aviation; special operations; and research, development, test, and evaluation. Rep. Miller also serves on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Parliamentary Assembly, where he serves as vice chairman of the subcommittee on Transatlantic Defense and Security Cooperation.

Sally Satel is a resident scholar at AEI and the staff psychiatrist at Partners in Drug Abuse and Rehabilitation Counseling. Dr. Satel was an assistant professor of psychiatry at Yale University from 1988 to 1993. From 1993 to 1994, she was a Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Fellow with the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee. She has written widely in academic journals on topics in psychiatry and medicine, and has published articles on cultural aspects of medicine and science in numerous magazines and journals. Her essays have appeared in the 2003 and 2008 editions of “Best American Science Writing.” She has testified before Congress on veterans’ mental health and disability, federal funding for mental health, and substance abuse. Dr. Satel is author of “Drug Treatment: The Case for Coercion” (AEI Press, 1999) and “PC, M.D.: How Political Correctness Is Corrupting Medicine” (Basic Books, 2001). She is the coauthor of “One Nation under Therapy” (St. Martin's Press, 2005) and “The Health Disparity Myth” (AEI Press, 2006), and editor of “When Altruism Isn’t Enough: The Case for Compensating Organ Donors” (AEI Press, 2009). She most recently coauthored “Brainwashed: The Seductive Appeal of Mindless Neuroscience” (Basic Books, 2013).

Peter Schuck is the Simeon E. Baldwin Professor of Law Emeritus at Yale University. He has held the Baldwin professorship since 1984 and also served as deputy dean of the law school. Before joining the Yale faculty in 1979, Schuck was principal deputy assistant secretary for planning and evaluation in the US Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (1977–79); director of the Washington Office of Consumers Union (1972–77); and consultant to the Center for Study of Responsive Law (1971–72). He also practiced law in New York City (1965–68). His major fields of teaching and research are tort law; immigration, citizenship, and refugee law; groups, diversity, and law; and administrative law. He has published hundreds of articles on these and a broad range of other public policy topics in a wide variety of scholarly and popular journals. Schuck’s newest book is “Why Government Fails So Often: and How It Can Do Better” (Princeton University Press, 2014). Earlier books include “Understanding America: The Anatomy of an Exceptional Nation” (PublicAffairs, 2008), “Targeting in Social Programs: Avoiding Bad Bets, Removing Bad Apples” (Brookings Institution Press, 2006), “Meditations of a Militant Moderate: Cool Views on Hot Topics” (Rowman & Littlefield, 2006), “Immigration Stories” (Foundation Press, 2005), “Foundations of Administrative Law” (LexisNexis, 2004), “Diversity in America: Keeping Government at a Safe Distance” (Harvard/Belknap, 2003), and “The Limits of Law: Essays on Democratic Governance” (Westview Press, 2000). He is a contributing editor of The American Lawyer.

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