There are approximately 22 million veterans of the United States Armed Forces. They are served — not always well — by the Veterans Administration, with a budget of about $182 billion a year. That’s almost $8300 per veteran per year.
Which raises the question: Why, exactly, do we have a Veterans Administration? My guess (and admittedly it’s only a guess) is that an overwhelming majority of those veterans would much prefer to lose the VA and get a check for $8300 every year instead.
Of course some veterans get end up claiming a lot more than $8300 a year in VA services due, for example, to combat-related trauma that manifests itself only years after leaving the service. But with $8300 a year, you can buy a lot of insurance against such contingencies (and with 22 million veterans each having $8300 a year to spend, there are sure to be a lot of new insurance products available).
How can it possibly be better to offer veterans medical services from just one provider — a provider facing no competitive pressure to excel — than to give them the cash that will allow them to seek out the providers they prefer — and/or to purchase something else entirely?
If you’re worried about the veteran who blows through his $8300 a year for 15 years and then suddenly develops a medical emergency related to his service, and if you’re unwilling to say “No” to that veteran, then you can at least hand out medical-care and medical-insurance vouchers instead of cash. There’s still no need for VA hospitals, or a VA at all for that matter.
I assume that the reason we nevertheless have a VA is that it facilitates corruption — it’s a way for politicians to funnel contracts to supporters and potential supporters. But has anybody even tried to muster an argument that it’s good policy?