Friday, June 08, 2012

Dear Congress



If you think the Medicare Rescue that is coming due in a few years is a critical issue that needs a resolution soon, you have not been paying attention to the Department of Veterans Affairs. 

While you have been squabbling across the aisle at each other over Medicare, and Obamacare, your Department of Veterans Affairs went down the tubes. 

Gone. 

Broken.  

Corrupt. 

An abject failure for General Shinseki.  And it is not his fault.  It is the fault of a Congress that failed to pay attention to what the people in the DVA were doing.   

We want to tell you that going by the old rule of thumb that ‘politics is the art of delaying a decision on an issue until the issue is no longer relevant’, is no longer possible.  At least not in the case of the DVA.  You’ve done that, for example, with the Blue Water Navy-Agent Orange Exposure issue.  Some of their claims are a decade old or older.  Apparently, we are taking too long to die for your rule of thumb. 

Congress, you have not been paying attention to what the DVA has been doing.  First, they have been amassing an enormous amount of real estate holdings that require ever increasing amounts of cash to purchase, and even more to maintain.  The bulk of these holdings are empty and have been for years.  They serve no purpose.  There is no reason to acquire more, and certainly no reason to keep [and maintain] the huge empire of empty real estate they now own.  This is nothing more than a testament to the monumentally stupid mentality in DVA management.   And lest anyone thinks that this is a partisan issue, it is not…it has been going on for decades, through the administrations of several presidents from either party. 

Congress, you have not been paying attention.  Every time you voted to pass an appropriation for military spending to support the wars we’ve been fighting for the past decade, you have neglected to pass proper proportional increases in spending for the care of those who placed themselves VOLUNTARILY in harm’s way for their country, and suffered wounding, injury, psychological trauma, or death.  That includes appropriations for the increase of staff necessary to deal with the enormous number of those Veterans included in that group, and the additional ones seeking their GI Bill benefits.

Congress, you have not been paying attention while the DVA acquires land and builds “rural” health care clinics across the country, ostensibly to make it easier for veterans to reach care provided by the DVA.  This is a fraud.  Those Veterans served by the “Rural” Health Clinics received treatment at their local health care provider at the same cost the VA charges [to the tax payer, not to the Veteran!] in its hospitals and clinics.  THE DIFFERENCE IS IN OVERHEAD!  The DVA pays no overhead costs for the visits a Veteran makes to a private physician.  For its own “rural” health care centers the DVA pays to acquire or rent the property, construct a new, or remodel an existing structure, equip it, staff it, and maintain it.  The difference is that the DVA pays for a Veteran to travel to a VA Regional Hospital in non-emergency cases, or to transport a stabilized patient in emergency situations where admission to a hospital is required – and that difference is enormously weighted more heavily to the acquisition of the new rural health care centers and their ongoing costs.  The “rural” health care system is a wasteful fraud.

Congress, you have not been paying attention to the growing backlog of claims.  The backlog has stood for a number of years at about a million.  Now, with 45% of troops coming out of the military as the Global War on Terror goes dormant, the claims backlog will reach two million very quickly, perhaps by the end of the year.  The end of any war means the return of troops to the job market.  Many will return to their old jobs, while many [a large portion of that 45% figure] will take advantage of the GI Bill benefits and go to school, keeping them out of the job market for a year or longer.  But the bulk will come home and take off their uniform for the last time, and try to find work.  It boggles the mind that the DVA does not have a program that dedicates jobs for Veterans within the DVA.  Why are returning Veterans not actively recruited to work in the Veterans Affairs Regional Offices [VARO or RO]?  We mean heavily recruited, like having someone from the DVA do recruiting and initial screening as part of the Armed Forces separation process?  They are by law entitled to Veterans Preference in Civil Service hiring, so give them an advantage and help many of them avoid the job market altogether.  What you get is a person who is disciplined, mature, shows initiative and innovation, and who knows the Armed Forces, is likely IT savvy, and is eager to stay out of the job market. 

Congress, you have not been paying attention while you throw billions of dollars at the Department of Defense [DoD] and the DVA in an effort to have the computer systems of each department be able to talk to the other, and transmit data and data requests back and forth.  Each effort failed because of both departments playing the “turf war game.”  This is gross incompetence and negligence.  It is a simple process of matching data elements from each side and having each side create new data elements for those that do not match.  Then each side agrees on a common computer language in which to transmit data.  It is called ‘standardization’.  Placing threats of sanctions on both departments if the next effort fails would work only if those sanctions were real and had teeth…along the lines of suspension, investigations for fraud, corruption, negligence or malfeasance, and likely firing with a forfeiture of pension and benefits after being found guilty.  Failure is not an option. 

Congress, you have not been paying attention while the DVA pays out hundreds of millions of dollars in bonuses.  You should be asking why anyone well compensated for their work would require a bonus!  And for a department disintegrating before your very eyes, it hardly seems likely that ANYONE in the DVA deserves a bonus at all. 

Congress, you have not been paying attention.  The DVA has no standardized claims rating system.  A claim in Sacramento, California for Traumatic Brain Injury rated at 80% disability will see a 30% disability in Milwaukee, and a denied claim in Miami.  In Dallas or Denver, it might never even see the light of day, having been lost.  The best thing the DVA ever did was to put up the Veterans Online Application [VONAPP] system on the Internet where the Veteran, or someone helping the Veterans can data enter an entire claim, get a Claim number and a receipt for the claim, and wait for the Regional Office to contact them with a request for documentation.  It starts the claim process rolling, and in the event of a claim being lost, it provides a point and date to restart the claim.  If the DVA can do that, they can also very easily standardize the claims and rating systems [Two separate entities—you must be determined to have an eligible claim in all respects except medical to get a rating, which is done by way of a physical examination called a Compensation & Pension [C&P] Exam.  The result of the C&P Exam determines the rating, or level of disability].   

Congress, you have not been paying attention to the fact that because of the claims backlog and the anti-Veteran attitude in the DVA, many Veterans die before they should because of a lack of medical care for which they are eligible but not approved, and many Veterans die in poverty and leaving their widows and survivors in poverty because they die before their claims for compensation are approved, and many Veterans languish in pain and despair while waiting as long as a decade or longer for benefit approval that they have earned. 

Congress, there is no great fix for this.  More money, vastly more money is required to fix it, but money alone will not fix this.  Unless you tie accountability and real penalties for failure and fraud and negligence to the increases required to fix this, and make such waste and fraud as the Rural Health Care system and the employee bonuses illegal, you will only get more of the same.  Unless you instill upon every employee of the DVA that the care of the Veteran is a higher priority than the taxpayer’s dollar, your fix will fail, for that priority must also be embraced by Congress. 

Your inattentiveness over the past decades has created a monster, and it may eat us all alive faster than anything Social Security will do.  And that monster is already upon us.


Dear Congress, think what this all will mean to future generations of potential recruits.  What message does your inattentiveness send to them? 

VNVets


”It is a stain on this nation's honor that the Department of Veterans Affairs has become a deadlier and more difficult adversary to the American veteran than any they have ever faced on a battlefield."-- VNVets


"The concept that Agent Orange, and its effects, stopped dead in its tracks at the shoreline is simply too illogical, and too ludicrous to accept. What does that say about the Obama Administration and his Department of Veterans Affairs?"--VNVets


"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations." --President Abraham Lincoln


"It follows then as certain as that night succeeds the day, that without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious."--President George Washington


Copyright © 2005-2012: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Eighth Year of Service to Veterans; All Rights Reserved. Reprinting or copying of the contents of this blog without the express permission of the author is unlawful.

1 comment:

  1. femele4603@aol.com08:03

    Gentleman:

    This is an esceptional article that depicts the state of deterioration in one Gov't agency with detailed notations. My two claims for throat cancer were denied from the phil office and I was never even called in for a physical. This cancer can lay dorment for 30 yrs. Just another example. Thank You! Frank Emele BWN VNV ( not era) NGS North Vietnam 3 tours....

    ReplyDelete