Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Hypocrisy of Secretary Nicholson

In the header of a recent press release by the Department of Veterans Affairs, Secretary of the department, Jim Nicholson is quoted as saying, Vets "Shouldn't Fight For Benefits Earned".

Does this mean he gets the point? Absolutely not. It simply shows how much of a hypocrite he is. Several posts back we wrote:

"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."
We are going to discuss a couple of points here that may be crossing the line, but they need to be said, to get people thinking in the right direction.

Point number one
We believe there is a very strong possibility that the DVA has structured itself to maximize the avoidance of claim payments, and medical services. What does this mean? It means that we think there may be a deliberate policy to “delay, deny, and let them die”. The result of this policy is that many Veterans get discouraged and give up on their claims out of frustration with the complex, and ponderous path to claim completion. Or, they die while waiting the long months for the VA to decide [usually a denial] of their claim.

Nicholson is quoted in the press release as telling the National Press Club that,
"The federal government must be responsive and efficient in delivering our benefits and services to these heroes. They should not have to fight bureaucratic red tape for benefits earned by their courageous service."

Well, we agree. But that, unfortunately, is not the case. Backlogs in claim processing, which may also be manipulated to keep their number high, are horrendous, making most claims take a year or more to reach a decision that all too often is a denial because, in fact, the DVA employee that processes the claim does not go nearly far enough in assisting the Veteran with his claim, as the law requires. Most claim processors would gladly provide that extra service if their supervisors would not only allow them, but demand that they do so. Ergo, we think it is a silent policy which has drifted down from the top.

Soldiers with wounds, even amputations from the current War on Terror have been denied benefits, ostensibly because there is no service connection! How can this be? How inept can a system get that allows situations like that…even once!

The transition between Wounded Warrior [those still under military care] and the DVA for benefits and care is an ugly, demented, boggle because two cabinet departments cannot negotiate a commonality between their IT systems to facilitate an exchange of data. If such an exchange has not been mandated by Congress, with a deadline, it should have been over a decade ago. We got off casualty-cheap in Gulf War I because few wanted to fight for Saddam. In our current war, the determined enemy is not fighting for Saddam, they are fighting to kill, maim, and torture enough Allied troops to force the removal of our presence in the region. In the more than ten years between those two wars, such a transitional data exchange could have easily been achieved, and should have been.

Obviously, both the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs had no desire to achieve a common solution to their data exchange shortcomings. Military medical records can easily be translated into another data format to fit the DVA’s IT requirements. It is not an insurmountable task. In fact, it is relatively easy since they already are both set up for the same data, just in different formats.

We believe such a shortcoming is intentional. We believe the DVA is attempting to delay and deny benefits to our Wounded Warriors that should be transitioned from military care to the care of Department of Veterans Affairs. In doing so, Wounded Warriors are instead going to private facilities for treatment, and in many cases, going without their much needed VA benefits.

We believe this to be deliberate and criminal, and ask that Congress, and the United States Attorney General investigate both departments for at worst, criminal negligence, and at best, major ethics violations. They may, if indeed Congress did ever mandate the exchange of data between the DoD and the DVA, be in contempt of Congress for non-compliance.

We believe the major actor in all of this to be the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Point number two
Recently, plans were announced for a new VA Hospital in the Denver Area. The plans involve a rather intricate deal involving the sale, by the Department of the Army, of the grounds on which Fitzsimmons Army Medical Center was located. The Army sold the land to a developer at a rock bottom price, knowing that the DVA was looking to build a new VA Hospital to service the Colorado area. And were sure the DVA knew of the Army’s plan to divest itself of the property.

Now, the VA will be constructing a $658 million facility on 31 acres of that site that it had to purchase from the developers who bought it from the Army. Don’t you wish you knew how much those developers made on the deal?

Here is a link to a VA Watchdog article about this earlier this month:

It seems to us that sooner, rather than later, would be a marvelous time to send in the auditors and find out who made out with this deal. What adds an odorous aura of feces to it is the fact that Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs was a rather large Real Estate Developer in Colorado before coming to Washington [to oversee the destruction of the VA system].

It will be interesting to see what happens to Nicholson after he leaves government, as sometimes the return on a gift does not appear until later. Either way, Nicholson definitely needs to be the target of an ethics investigation.

We have called for Nicholson to step down before. We believe there is likely enough legitimate reason for him to do so now, and to be thoroughly investigated for criminal, civil, and ethical violations.

Write your Congressman and your Senator, and get them moving on this. It is time to retake the Department of Veterans Affairs and get it working efficiently for the Veterans of this nation, and not for the fat cats in DC or back home.

VN Vets

"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

"Without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious." --
President George Washington

Copyright © 2007: VNVets Blog; All Rights Reserved.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous10:52

    well stated. We are necessary for war, and forgotten in peace. Hass v Nicholson and its appeal shows mr. Nicholson's mindset.