The way benefits are handled by the Department of Veterans Affairs can tell us something about government health care.

Charles Skipper is an American hero. A retired member of the United States Army, he served in Vietnam from 1967 to 1968. A battlefield injury cut short his tour of duty — a tour which earned him two Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star, and a lifelong battle with post traumatic stress disorder.

But you wouldn’t know that he’s a hero by the way he’s been treated by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Six years after filing a disability claim, he’s still waiting for resolution. Those years have been filled with paperwork, unfulfilled promises and a bureaucratic mess that makes Charles fight back tears.

Now he has a warning for America: “If you really want to know what Obamacare is going to be like, just look at the VA system.”

His experience is not unique. Too many of America’s veterans have suffered at the hands of the VA, where the federal government is both the middleman and the manager of their care. Their experiences thus provide a unique window into Obamacare’s future.

That future is bleak. VA’s biggest problem is its inability to process disability claims payments. VA has roughly 700,000 pending claims in the system right now. Of that number, some 400,000 have been backlogged for over 125 days. Some, like Charles, have been backlogged for over two years.

VA’s best attempts to fix this problem have not yet worked. While the backlog of first-time claims has slightly declined since April, the number of appealed claims has shot up. The chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs now fears the department is “simply moving some backlogged cases from queue to another” to artificially depress the backlog.

Overall, the agency has processed 100,000 fewer claims than it promised for fiscal year 2013. The similarity to the various broken Obamacare promises is too much to overlook.

Elsewhere, the VA suffers from the same problem as Healthcare.gov: Technological ineptitude. The VA still handles the vast majority of its claim process via paper, leading to inefficiency and delays. Attempts to modernize their system have also faced the bureaucracy’s steadfast opposition to change.

VA’s dysfunction can even mean the difference between life and death. Over a third of veterans in need of mental health services wait more than two weeks for mental health exams, while 22 veterans commit suicide every day. Even scheduling a mental health appointment via phone can be a hassle. This summer, the VA hospital in Portland, Oregon had queues of 50 people and hour-long holds.

Every year, too many veterans also die of cancer and other diseases because VA waited too long to diagnose and/or treat them. Some describe the multiple VA processes as “Delay, deny, wait till I die.”

It’s important to note that the VA, for all its faults, serves a necessary purpose. Many veterans praise the care they receive, even if it can be inconsistent. But as any veteran will tell you, the government’s promises are empty until they’re fulfilled.

Now veterans aren’t alone in that sentiment; over 5 million Americans who have lost their health insurance despite the president’s promises to the contrary.

Washington should take note. Whereas VA’s problems simply need to be fixed, larger attempts to impose government-run healthcare system on the entire country are a fool’s errand. Veterans know this all too well — and besides, we just need the government to fix our own health care system before it breaks everyone else’s.

Pete Hegseth is the CEO of Concerned Veterans for America and an Army veteran of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantanamo Bay.