VA Hospitals and Detroit

So, Obama convened a task force in September 2013.  150 people (including volunteers) surveyed the 377,000 properties in Detroit.  That is, they went around and physically examined each property, and made a determination as to its fitness for use (not blighted, blighted, partial demolition required, or total demolition required seem to be the categories).  They released their report today, 9 months later.  New York Times report here.

As of 2008, the Veterans Health Administration had over 247,000 employees.  There are currently over 572,000 claims in process.  Of that, more than 292,000 have been in process for more than 125 days.  More than 3 million claims were processed in the last 3 fiscal years.  Which would be 750,000 in 9 months.  To be fair, it looks like the VA has 1900 people working on this, not 247,000.

So, the 1,900 VA employees are processing claims at roughly twice the rate as the 150 volunteers who evaluated ALL the real estate of Detroit.

One view of government, as a service providing organization, is that as its operations are made more permanent and people find themselves depending on it for their livelihoods (that is, the service providers and administrators), it becomes less efficient and less able to deliver the services.  So a task force, with no anticipation of being appointed to something else after this, is able to do the job quickly and effectively in Detroit.  And be done and go home, and go back to whatever else they have to do.  Meanwhile, the huge (and guaranteed to be ongoing) VA is just looking more and more incompetent.  And that’s the most generous adjective to use.  And they will just keep on going, and the people there will just keep being employed there.  They probably will need to expand to get caught up, don’t you think?

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