Veterans Health Care System in Shambles

This is a rush transcript from "Glenn Beck," July 21, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GLENN BECK, HOST: Continuing our medical series tonight — the media often misses major connections because it doesn't see how all the stories of the day are all tied together. So, we're going to tie them together for them. We're breaking things down tonight.


BECK (voice-over): Veterans' health care in a nutshell.

Whoever says public health care works is ignoring that the V.A. medical system is in shambles — with reports of botched radiation treatments to nearly 100 vets and exposed another 10,000 of our heroes to HIV and hepatitis viruses. The doctors were immediately fired but how did it happen so many times in the first place?

Federal laws let V.A. doctors work with little outside scrutiny — a practice that one congressman calls an "institutional breakdown." Not only are the facilities four times older than the private sector appears, and less than half capable of passing a random inspection, but also the wait times are about twice as long within those walls.

Once inside, a claim at a V.A. center can take up to 177 days to process — versus the industry average of 89.5. Worse, if you want to appeal, it takes a mind-boggling 657 days — bad enough for the Government Accountability Office to say the V.A. is near a breaking point.

So, what can be done to fix the crisis?

Well, earlier this month, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a bill providing $45.1 billion to the Veterans Health Administration, which is roughly 10 percent more than this year's budget. That amount matches the president's request.

But considering all of the problems, will even that be enough?

And that's Veterans' health care in a nutshell.


BECK: Here is my — here's my crazy guess: No, that's not going to be enough.

Former Army Major Matt Burden, he is chairman of the Warrior Legacy Foundation, an organization whose mission is to protect and promote the reputations of veterans.

Sir, thank you very much for your service, in the past and also now.

Video: Watch Beck's interview

This is — when you look at the Veterans Administration, you look at anything that's happening with our service personnel, this is "hero care." This is how we treat the best of the best. They know in the government, if anybody on television takes these guys down, you're in big, big trouble. So, it's got to be absolutely the best because these are our heroes, right?

MATT BURDEN, WARRIOR LEGACY FOUNDATION: Well, it's the best if you want to wait 180 days just to see a doctor.

BECK: It is — it is.

BURDEN: We polled our membership at the Warrior Legacy Foundation today, just to ask about how everybody felt about it. And one of our members came forward and said he had to wait two months for an emergency MRI.

BECK: Two months for...

BURDEN: It doesn't sound like the best care to me.

BECK: Two months for an MRI. Yet, this is the same government...

BURDEN: An emergency MRI.

BECK: An emergency MRI — wow.

BURDEN: That's right, Glenn.

BECK: This is the same government that says that they're streamlining
— you know, that they're going to cut out the nonsense, because nobody cares about profit with the government system. So, they're going to streamline it so the paperwork — paperwork has to be easy in this — in this scenario, right?

BURDEN: Well, no. And that is the problem, is the paperwork. They, at any one time, have 80,000 cases that are open, and they're waiting six months to see a doctor. And you can track this on the V.A.'s own Web site. They know they've got a problem.

And in some cases, the paperwork is so difficult that veterans can't figure it out on their own. There's veteran service organizations that exist just to help people figure out the paperwork.

BECK: No, hang on just a second. I was just reading — I was just reading — this is the — this is the health care bill right here. I mean, who couldn't figure this stuff out? What do you mean you're going to have a hard time with paperwork? That's ridiculous.

But, the good news is, is because it's government, they never ever have a problem. you know, hospitals will close down or whatever, but in the public sector, you know, when it's — when it's there with the federal government, they never — let's say something crazy like shut down services except for, like, emergency services. That would never happen, would it?

BURDEN: Well, it does happen on an annual basis with the V.A. I think 19 out of the last 23 years, their budget wasn't passed on time. And there's a few times where it took a few months for the Congress to pass the budget and the president to approve.

And so, what happens is essential services are the only thing that happens. You know, if you need open-heart surgery, that's going to happen, but if you're waiting in line for, you know, a regular service, you're going to wait a lot longer because...


BECK: Like an emergency MRI.

BURDEN: Like an emergency MRI, yes. And so — and so, what's happening right now is the government is trying to pass — it's the Senate right now and it probably will pass — but they're trying to fund it two years in advance.


BURDEN: So, basically, instead of solving the problem they're going to put a budget together...

BECK: And those budgets never change. Two years down the road, those things never change.

Hey, listen. But here — I'm just looking for a ray of sunshine. The good news is, is that in this particular case, this is the — this is hero care. This is what we give our heroes, not the schlubs everywhere else. These are our heroes.

So, this is the best care and you know that there is not a two-tier system, like, for instance, something for, you know, the regular veterans and then the people in Congress or anything like that. There's — this is the same kind of care that they get, right?

BURDEN: No, it's not. And you would — you know, our veterans and soldiers deserve better care, I think, than Congress. That's just my opinion.

BECK: I'm wondering if they even deserve care at all, quite frankly.

Matt, I appreciate it. Thank you very much. Keep up the hard work, sir.

BURDEN: Thanks, Glenn.

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