Painfully Bad Taste: ABC Developing Sitcom About VA Hospital

Know what’s really funny? VA hospitals. Real fertile territory for sitcom wackiness, what with the amputees and PTSD and the needless suffering of veterans at the hands of an incompetent and callous bureaucracy.

At least, ABC seems to think it a laugh riot. The network has committed to produce a pilot of a sitcom called Lakeside VA. The Hollywood Reporter calls the project “a comedy with heart.” Here’s THR’s description:

Inspired by writer Shelly Gossman's (Raising HopeSNL) experience working at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Lakeside VA follows a C-plus team of VA hospital employees who are underfunded, understaffed and who stopped overworking themselves to make up for it years ago — until a new hotshot female chief of surgery steps in to turn them into an A team.

Perhaps that would be a great storyline if the real VA weren’t “underfunded, understaffed” with C-team personnel. (Only at a government agency could you have 400,000 employees and still be understaffed.) What’s more, the VA is currently a sink of corruption with no more accountability than Obama’s IRS or Justice Department.

Last spring – two years after the VA scandal broke – stories were still reporting that the VA was denying benefits to hundreds of thousands of vets, dead veterans were padding hospital appointment schedules, and one veteran burned himself to death outside a New Jersey VA clinic. Whistleblowers say self-serving bureaucrats manipulate scheduling to show shorter wait times. As of last spring, the wait times for first-time applicants was averaging 389 days. In the meantime, veteran suicides are averaging 20+ per day.

THR says “Gossman's father is a Vietnam veteran, and in her early 20s, she worked at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. The comedy will draw on her experience as well as first-hand accounts from veterans and VA staff across the country.” But probably not from whistleblowers or reform-minded legislators or veterans’ groups who know the VA is dysfunctional bureaucracy.

It’s been a long time since anybody expected Hollywood to exhibit good taste, but to exploit the shameful treatment of some of our bravest for a laugh? Nothing funny about it.



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