Thursday, August 13, 2009

Restructuring the DVA Part 3: IT Data Sharing

One of the complaints placed before an apparently gullible Congress is the inability over the decades to marry the Information Technology [IT - meaning computer systems and networks] systems of the Department of Veterans Affairs [DVA] and the Department of Defense [DoD] for medical and service records for troops transitioning from Active Military to Veteran status after wounding or injury in combat or in routine service.

Government Departments tend to stovepipe, blowing their smoke straight up. As a result, since the dawn of the computer age, each government department tended to order their own equipment, their own layouts for networking and their own software versions of what is on the market. So the DoD, with System A on network 1 can't talk directly with System B on the DVA's network 2. At least that is what they tell Congress.

It is pure horse puckey. IT departments in business and in Government get complacent in their uniqueness, and in some cases think they own and operate the department they serve. They jealously guard their terriory, just like the rhino that craps in the corners of his territory. [See Territorial Imperative by Robert Ardrey.] Accordingly, they jealously guard their systems under the pretext of system and network security and do not allow data to either come in, or go out except by authorized users. Authorized users from other departments do not cross departmental lines. Therefore, data are seldom shared without jackhammers and an occasional stick of blasting dynamite.

The solution is simple. Networking has progressed today to the point that two networks can communicate with each other securely simply by easily written software code that allows two machines to talk to each other. It is like adding someone else's computer to your home network.

As for the computer language differences, the solution is also simple. Two small workgroups decide on the definitions of each data element to be shared. Data elements would be such things as Last Name, Age, Date of Birth, Service Number, Social Security Number, medical condition one, medical condfition two, home address, date of wound, date of injury, combat related yes, combat related no, and so on.

Once these small work groups from DVA and DoD agree on the definitions of all the data elements, mapping begins. Mapping simply is matching up one string of data elements to another, so that the data is shifted to the appropriate database and table. Once the mapping is done, data exchange can occur.

DoD then sends their entire database of medical and service records for individuals transferring from active military to Veteran status.

Data exchange has occurred at this point. All DVA needs to do is run a match to find previous data that matches, and only update where new data comes in.

The new [non-matched] individuals are automatically assigned claim numbers [a separate database would hold ID data that matches claim number, service number, and social security number for a three part validation system to eliminate ID errors] and their cases are assigned to claims processors who now no longer have to establish who they are dealing with and how they came to be wounded or injured Veterans. Now they only need to deal with the severity of the problem, where they will receive treatment, and authorize their compensation checks.

Done on a nightly basis so new data arrives fresh every morning, this system of data exchange will eliminate long backlogs of unprocessed claims for those transitioning from active military to disabled Veteran status.

Think about how simple this is. If Google can tap into millions of databases around the world to find websites and match those websites to your search criteria, and do it in many different languages, why should it be so difficult for DoD and DVA to share their medical and service record data?

Next: Tackling the older Veterans claims backlog.

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 Bush 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 © 2005-2009: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Fifth Year of Service to Veterans; All Rights Reserved.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Target: The Senate of the United States

To date, no US Senator has had the intestinal fortitude to step up and do the right thing for Vietnam Veteran Sailors, and Airmen. It is time to change that abysmal record.

Congress is now going home for a month, returning to session in September, after Labor Day. [Don't you wish your work had a schedule like theirs? All that money for a part time job!]

Here is the strategy for targeting the Senate on behalf of HR 2254.

Come Monday morning hit the phones. Contact both your Senators' local offices and make appointments to meet with them and/or their Chief of Staff and/or Veterans Aide. Not the military affairs officer, but the Veterans Affairs person.

Take with you the "Pertinent Citations from the IOM Veterans and Agent Orange Update 2008" [click on title to get a copy to download and save and print out]. It explains the science and the Australian precedent behind being "right" on this bill. Leave several copies and promise them a link to the entire report of over 600 pages if they so wish to see it.
  • Inform them that the IOM Veterans and Agent Orange Update 2008 contains the ONLY science that pertains to Agent Orange and Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans ever put before the DVA.
  • Refer them to HR 2254.
  • Remind them this transcends partisan politics.
  • Inform them this bill will be an excellent economic stimulus.
  • Inform them there are more than a dozen state legislatures with resolutions in the works calling on them to fully support and fund the Agent Orange Equity Act of 2009.
  • Remind them this bill restores benefits illegally taken from Veterans by the DVA without adherence to the Administrative Procedures Act.
  • Inform them they will not only be restoring benefits to the Veterans, but their legacy, too, as the DVA's actions stripped us of official recognition of our role in the Vietnam War.
  • Remind them that passing this bill is the politically, ethically and morally right thing to do.
What exactly do you want from your Senators?

You want them to introduce and fully support the passage and funding of the Senate Version of HR 2254. If they agree, please have them contact Congressman Bob Filner's staff to coordinate.

If they will not introduce [sponsor] the bill, ask them to co-sponsor and fully support the passage and funding of the Senate version of HR 2254.

Please, use reason, not emotion, calm, not anger, and persuasion, not threats.

Please make notes during your meeting, if possible, or immediately afterwards, and please email us ASAP with the results and specifics [use the "Email Me" link near the top of the left sidebar here].

Thank you, and good luck!

You did wonders with the House of Representatives, now re-work your magic with the Senate.

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 Bush 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 © 2005-2009: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Fifth Year of Service to Veterans; All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

News and Strategy

As of today, Thomas is showing 116 co-sponsors for HR 2254, the Agent Orange Equity Act of 2009, while GovTrack is showing 117!

Bravo Zulu to all VASVW members and our readers for all the hard work and a job well done.

Congress goes home this coming weekend for a whole month.

Let's go get those Senators!

We need 1 to introduce, and 50 to co-sponsor.

Get them while they are home. Come Monday morning contact both of your Senators and request a meeting with each of them at their regional office closest to you during the recess, and ask them to introduce the bill in the Senate, or co-sponsor.

Remember, a face to face is the best thing. If you can find their chief of staff, and their Veterans staffer, get them on your side, too.

We suggest to you that the recent surge of co-sponsors in the House was in no small part due to your efforts, and the IOM report that was released a week ago. So take advantage of that and go get those Senators! Make sure when you meet with someone you take along several copies of the Pertinent Citations from the IOM report. There is a file in the files section by that name you can download and print, if you are a VASVW member. If not, you can visit the regular VASVW website and dowload the form and document by clicking on the links below.

You will be armed, then, with the ONLY scientific evidence before the DVA regarding Blue Water Navy Veterans and Agent Orange exposure.

Those of you with pending claims, and those of you with recent denials, and those of you with pending appeals, download this VA Form [Statement in Support of Claim], a .pdf form that you can fill out with your keyboard and then print out [but you cannot save it filled out, so print extra copies after you have filled it out]. Then, download the "Pertinent Citations from the IOM Veterans and Agent Orange Update 2008" and attach that to the Statement in Support of Claim. In the body of the Statement in Support of Claim write something like this:

The attached citations from the "Veterans and Agent Orange Update 2008" provide scientific evidence to support the likelihood that the claimant was exposed to dioxins from the administration of herbicide spraying in the Republic of Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and Cambodia, and said dioxin was exposed to U.S. Naval, Coast Guard, and Fleet Marine Force personnel serving at sea off the coast of Vietnam.
Submit that to the appropriate VA Agency [Regional Office for claims, Board of Veterans Appeals or the US Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, wherever your claim or appeal resides.]

Good luck.

Now, let's go get those Senators!

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 Bush 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 © 2005-2009: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Fifth Year of Service to Veterans; All Rights Reserved.