This Movie Foretold The VA Scandal–22 Years Ago

Sometimes that sinking feeling turns out to be well-founded. In the case of the similarities between a little remembered movie about the dangers of bureaucratic policy making in the VA hospital system and today’s VA scandal, it is well founded indeed.

In 1992, Hollywood produced a movie called “Article 99,” which was set in a Kansas City, VA hospital. The film dealt with the struggles of a maverick surgeon who was undoubtedly modeled after Dr. Hawkeye Pierce of “MASH”–the still very popular series that was winding down at the time.

The surgeon, played by Ray Liotta, has contempt for VA rules that threaten the well-being of his patients; so he strikes back by leading a band of renegade staff members who break the rules to help veterans, whether they have been “properly” registered or not.

The movie features the “war” between Liotta’s group and the VA’s administrators. Eventually, a band of frustrated, wheelchair-bound veterans confront the system, with the renegades encouraging them; and the “right thing” is done for all.

Since “Article 99″ was a comedy, no mass deaths are depicted; and no sinister death-panel like double lists are featured. But the similarities between a film made twenty two years ago and today’s headlines are inescapable.

The movie was shot in a VA hospital that may very well be at the center of the scandal that is sweeping across America. What is known so far is that the number of VA hospitals under investigation has more than doubled from 10 to 26 in a week and a half. Since the same Kansas City, VA hospital used in the movie was cited for two violations last year, there is no telling whether they are the end of concerns at that facility–or just the beginning.

What seems to be the constant over the years is that the VA hospital system has had problems to one degree or another for a long time. Nevertheless, over the past five years, the system has changed–from bureaucratic bumbling by those who have been promoted beyond their ability to reckless endangerment of patients’ lives by people willing to commit crimes to serve an agenda.

Photo credit: Digital Magic Photography (Flickr)

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Informing And Equipping Americans Who Love Freedom

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