Right-wing media launched a dishonest attack on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by using reports of problems within the Veterans Affairs (VA) administration to revive claims of “death panels.”
The allegations facing the VA are serious and troubling and are largely the result of years of systemic issues. The Obama administration has worked to ease those problems, including reducing backlogged claims and beginning to transition claims away from the traditional paper-based systems that have largely been responsible for the backlogs. In 2012, the VA implemented the Veterans Benefits Management System (VBMS), “a web-based, electronic claims processing portal created to give VA the ability to process Veterans' claims paper-free.” According to the VA, the VBMS has allowed the agency to reduce the processing time from 272 days to 78 days. The Veterans Benefits Administration is now processing claims at a higher rate than ever before, although “the number of claims continues to exceed the number processed.”
The problems facing the VA have existed long before the Obama administration. The Government Accountability Office has been reporting on backlog issues for years, such as this 2005 report that warned of “long waits for decisions, large claims backlogs, and inaccurate decisions.” The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America found that “Since 2001, the number of claims received by the VA outpaced the number of claims completed” and noted that “the VA faced an increased demand because older generations of veterans continued to submit claims for injuries revealed by age, new veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan began to pour into the system, and the VA expanded the schedule of conditions covered to include PTSD and illnesses due to Agent Orange exposure.”
While concerns over the VA are legitimate, the right-wing media have exploited the situation to launch a dishonest attack on the ACA, using the reported deaths of veterans to revive the long-standing lie that Obamacare creates death panels.
On his radio show, Rush Limbaugh claimed that individuals covered by the ACA are “headed for similar potential as these deaths in the VA.” Sean Hannity similarly invoked death panels in a report on the VA on his radio show.
On Fox & Friends, guest co-host Eric Bolling claimed both health care systems are examples of “a big, bureaucratic, government-run health care system,” concluding, “whether you believe it or not, Sarah Palin and a couple other people on the right said there will be death panels. There will be people deciding who gets what treatment and when and that's just gonna put long waiting lines on certain types of treatment. Well, if the VA isn't proving that right now, nothing is”: