"Why do I never hear any Republican political candidate, or the editorial page of the Journal for that matter, openly advocate the abolition and privatization of the VA health system? Why are even the staunchest American conservatives, and the veterans themselves, so protective of the VA health system, if socialized medicine is so bad?"
One explanation may be that the VA health system is generally viewed among health-policy experts as the cutting edge in the smart use of electronic information technology and of quality control in health care. The Journal itself featured an article on this point on its front page some time ago. In a peer-reviewed research paper published in the Annals of Internal Medicine (December 21, 2004), researchers of the RAND Corp. reported that the quality of care received by VA patients scored significantly higher overall than did comparable metrics for patients in the rest of the U.S. health system."
Again with the 2004 study (which by the way did not compare metrics with rest of the country, only a couple of other HMOs)
Perhaps Reinhardt hasn't read about the excellent care the VA is delivery to vets with mental illness and PTSD:
"The VA has seen its backlog of disability claims swell to 600,000 as soldiers return from ongoing wars, a logjam blamed for financial dislocation, despair and even suicides of vets. The suit says the claims system is "riddled with inconsistent and irrational procedures" that violate the due process rights of injured vets seeking care and compensation. For example, the VA employs the same officials both to challenge and judge claims.
"According to the suit, the biggest casualties of this bureaucratic morass are the unprecedented number of troops returning with PTSD, a mental disorder especially prevalent in soldiers stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan, where they're faced with multiple tours of duty, invisible battle lines and the "moral ambiguity of killing combatants dressed as civilians." The military says more than a third of the 1.6 million men and women who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan report mental health issues ranging from PTSD to brain injuries, yet only 27 of the nation's 1,400 VA hospitals have programs dedicated to treating PTSD. Worse yet, the complex process of applying for disability payments is especially daunting for these patients, who often experience memory lapses and disorientation."