The explosive interim report on the socialized medical system administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs is devastating – just devastating.

It’s devastating for military veterans and their families, who rely on VA facilities for health care.

It’s devastating for proponents of socialized medicine, who once considered the VA system a paragon.

And it’s devastating for U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, who, for 12 long years, has been responsible for providing congressional oversight of a system now embroiled in deadly corruption.

ORGANIZED MALFEASANCE

What happened at the VA is no mere scandal. Corrupt federal workers systematically defrauded transparency protocols to slake their greed. As a result, U.S. military veterans perished. This is nothing short of a tragedy.

It’s difficult to overstate how severe the malfeasance is. Hundreds of unionized federal employees conspired to fraudulently manipulate wait-time data – all so some bureaucrats could collect cash bonuses.

The interim Inspector General report proves the problem is systemic throughout two-thirds of the country’s 216 VA care facilities. Forty-two facilities are under federal investigation. The VA’s own report says at least 23 veterans are dead due to unnecessary delays in care, but the true number is unknowable.

To function for as long as it did – Congress has received more than 18 warnings since 2005 – the scheme would have to involve everyone from receptionists and schedulers to doctors and senior-level administrators.

In a more just world, the Department of Justice would vigorously investigate and harshly punish this deadly corruption. But given the antipathy for justice in that department under Attorney General Eric Holder, I’m not holding my breath.

OVERSIGHT FAILED

The government employees who engaged in this fraud are responsible for their actions, but our elected officials are called on to be watchdogs for the people.

If you were to compile a list of officials responsible for the failed oversight, it would include equal measures of Republicans and Democrats: two presidents, three VA secretaries and Congress. Specifically, it would include those members of Congress tasked with oversight of the VA health system. Which brings us to Mr. Michaud.

He’s been on the Veterans Affairs Committee for 12 years, has served as chairman of its Subcommittee on Health and is now the ranking Democrat.

He is incontestably among the top 10 elected officials responsible for this spectacular failure of oversight. What was once his only memorable legislative accomplishment has suddenly become his greatest vulnerability.

The corruption was caused by unprincipled greed, but lazy career politicians let it fester.

Knowing what we know now, Michaud’s singular work on veterans’ issues is an even greater indictment of his obscure and ineffective tenure in Congress.

Team Michaud is mostly flabbergasted by the early October surprise that threatens to derail his campaign for governor.

In an email to reporters, Michaud’s office detailed his work on behalf of veterans, bragging that he’s backed 506 bills pertaining to veterans and that 81 percent of them were bipartisan.

But no one questioned whether he tagged his name on a lot of feel-good bills, and no one questioned that he did so with Republicans. The question is, what good did it do?

Michaud told me this week it’s “unfortunate” people are politicizing a veterans’ issue.

Oh – like he’s done for the past 12 years? You’d be hard pressed to find a single ad from Michaud that doesn’t show him using veterans as campaign props.

Regardless, Michaud’s failure to provide adequate oversight enabled corruption within the VA system, and this is entirely germane to his current candidacy, especially as he pledges to purge Maine’s welfare system of waste, fraud and abuse.

FLAWS OF SINGLE-PAYER EXPOSED

There’s a pernicious lie floating around that the wait list problem was caused by a lack of funding. This is absurd.

The VA is expected to carry more than $450 million in extra medical-care funding this year. In 2005, when Michaud first learned about the problem, the VA’s budget authority was roughly $80 billion. In 2012, it was $125.3 billion – the sharpest increase in the post-Vietnam War era.

A centrally planned, command-and-control health care system, such as the VA, does not permit patient choice and thus thwarts competition between providers. Conversely, a voucher-based system, such as the one Gov. Paul LePage and other Republican governors have proposed, would allow veterans to escape wait lists and get care from nonsocialized providers.

The conservative solution stands in stark contrast to Michaud’s plan, which doubles down on the failed “more government” approach that let corruption flourish on his watch.

Steven E. Robinson is editor of TheMaineWire.Com and a policy analyst for the Maine Heritage Policy Center. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @Stevie_Rob