Thursday, July 24, 2014

Blame Congress...


...this is what they do...this is why we have spent $17 trillion more than we have in the treasury. 
Copyright 2014 Ed Gamble, King Features Syndicate.


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 © 2005-2014: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Tenth 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.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Congress Blows another Chance

Perfectly predictable.  That is the description of the incoherent, and inept US Congress's attempt to fix the VA problems.  Their solution: Throw money at it, the same as they have always done.

Then the Congressional Budget office throws the proverbial monkey wrench into the works: the current VA fix bill will cost a cool $50 BILLION!!!  Let's write that out: $50,000,000,000.

The response from Congress?  Also perfectly predictable: That can't be right!  Do it again CBO and get it right this time!  More wasted money from the over-taxed taxpayers!

Here we have Congress abrogating their responsibility to budget and appropriate money for the operation of the Federal government.

Congress doesn't get it.  

The answer, as we outlined in a previous post [ VSOs and S. 2450 - McCain-Sanders Bill to Improve VA Healthcare  ], is LESS, NOT MORE!

It is pretty much obvious to most of the American people that the VA has grown too large to be managed properly.  We say most, because also obviously, Congress does not get it, and neither do the Veterans Service Orgnizations. 
  • Hire only Veterans.  Exclusively!  
  • Eliminate all bonuses. Totally!
  • Close the treatment clinics.  Completely!
  • Lay off the doctors, technicians and nurses currently employed by the VA [including Psychiatrists, Psycholigists, Specialists, Pharmacists, Eye Doctors, Dentists, and so on.  Most of them.  
  • Fire the administrators of the VA Hospitals, and if there was malfeasance found in any of their actions, charge them in criminal court. 
  • Divest the VA of all of its unused real estate and office space.  Immediately.  
  • Turn the VA Medical Centers into long term care and rehab facilities.
  • Hire homeless Veterans to staff and care for the long term care and rehab facilities.  Train them and pay them for it, and charge them rent if they are housed on site. 
  • Issue all Veterans a Photo ID card which covers them for all medical, pharmaceutical, and lab costs at full medicare rates with NO Deductable.  
 Laid off physicians technicians and nurses will quickly find good paying jobs in he civilian market, as there is a shortage for all of them.  This will also reduce the cost of healthcare throughout the country.

The Veterans of this country deserve no less: Get more of the money applied to the Veterans as directly as possible, and place health care decisions in the hands of those Veterans. 

It does not require $50,000,000,000 dollars!  It can be done for 2% of that, and with the money realized by the divestiture of the real estate holdings, and stoppage of the rural health clinic construction, it can be done for less than that. 

But then, Congress knows no solutions to problems in government other than to throw more money at those problems.

Maybe what needs to be thrown is their butts out of office.

And perhaps it is time for the Veterans Service Organizations to have a wholesale change of heart, and stop playing the Government game.  They represent Veterans.  Not taxpayers, not lobbyists, not special interest groups, but Veterans who put  their butts on the line when it really counts.  Veterans deserve better from their organizations!

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 © 2005-2014: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Tenth 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.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

All should take this FRA Survey!

The good folks at the Fleet Reserve Association are asking for your opinion about your VA experiences:

FRA Wants your Views and Experiences with VA
FRA shipmates can be part of the VA scandal solution by participating in efforts to improve care for our nation’s veterans. Sharing your views, experiences and time can all make a difference in handling this crisis. The best way to start is to participate in FRA’s online survey: www.fra.org/survey.

FRA is conducting this online survey to gather data about shipmates’ experiences with the VA healthcare system. Please take our five minute survey today to share your perspective on seeking and receiving care at VA medical facilities. The results will help focus our legislative efforts on fixing and/or reforming those aspects of the VA that present the greatest challenge to the people who need it most.
We urge all of you readers to take the short survey, which should take no more than five minutes of your time.

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 © 2005-2014: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Tenth 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.

Friday, June 13, 2014

VSOs and S. 2450 - McCain-Sanders Bill to Improve VA Healthcare

We have received several emails from various Veterans Organizations asking for support to contact Congress to pass S.2450, the McCain-Sanders Bill that is designed to fix the VA's current scandal growing from the situation of 40 deaths of Veterans waiting for appointments at the Phoenix, Arizona VA Medical Center. 

The FRA, for example, sent this request out:
The Senate passed (93-3) the “Veterans' Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act” (S. 2450), sponsored by Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Senator Bernie Sanders (Vt.), and Senator John McCain (Ariz.) that intends to provide veterans with quicker access to health care by allowing VA enrolled veterans that have been on waiting lists or enrolled veterans that live more than 40 miles from a VA facility to receive a “Choice Card” that allow them to go to Medicare providers, Military Treatment Facilities (MTF) and any federally qualified health care center. The bill further provides:

•     An additional $500 million to the VA to hire more doctors and nurses;
•    Authorizes 26 new VA medical facility leases;
•    Enhances authority for VA Secretary to fire senior VA executives;
•    Creates a new independent commission to review patient scheduling problems;
•    In-state tuition for veterans using GI Bill benefits; and
•    GI Bill benefits transfer to spouses of fallen troops.

 The bill now goes to the House for further consideration. Members are urged to use the Action Center to urge their Representative to support this important legislation.
We have, in response to this request, sent the following letter to most of the Veterans Service Organizations:
I urge the Veterans Service Organizations to choose another path.  First, much of the responsibility for the current state of affairs in the VA must be laid at the feet of every person who served as a member of Congress and every administration for the past 40 years.   Congress kept throwing money at the VA instead of helping to structure  and guide it.  The Presidents and their Cabinet Heads have turned a blind eye while the VA grew too big to provide the services it took on at Congressional bequest.  No one, repeat, no one was minding the store. 

Now Congress is doing it again.  They are growing a Department that is already too large to be effective. 

The VA will never, ever, be large enough, have enough staff, and be management-competent enough to care for our Veterans in the numbers we create with our military personnel requirements, no matter how much money Congress throws at it. Even if it were to become that large, how could it competently provide the requisite care and access to care?  It cannot, and never will.

The most sensible path is the simplest – issue a Veterans ID card that is the equal of Medicare’s coverage and rates…it will cover medical diagnosis and  treatment, pharmacy and lab work, and hospitalization, dental and eye care to the degree of the disability rating.  Start selling off all the superfluous real estate the VA owns, and shed most of the leases for space, most of which are bloated to several times what they should be paying.  The VA doesn’t need more doctors and nurses if this path is taken, and frankly, there are simply not enough doctors and nurses available to fill all those positions.  Please do not include the “40 mile” limit!  That is absurd.  Who will measure that distance, and how much will that cost? 

Let the VA work to care for Veterans in long term care, rehab, and prosthetics.  Allow them to also perform the C&P exams, and follow ups for periodic reviews of ratings.  Let the VA take in the homeless Vets and ask those who are unemployed to assist in the long term care of other Veterans, and to assist in the upkeep of the VA facilities!  Put them to work! 

This bill fixes nothing, and in fact, sets the stage for more problems, more scandals, and more mistreatment of Veterans – and taxpayers! 

Veterans deserve better than what the VA, Congress, and four decades of Presidents have done and not done.  And this bill is simply more of the same.  At best, it is a knee-jerk, rush to judgment. 

We should be getting  these bi-partisan legislators together and tell them to stop the needless waste of money and stop the laissez-faire approach to oversight. 

Let’s get those VA doctors and nurses out of the VA system and into the mainstream where their presence should help lower the cost of medical care for everyone.  Along with that benefit is the fact that it would mean those who administered those doctors and nurses would no long be needed, and no longer in a position to do harm to Veterans.  They do not deserve to work for the Government, or in the health care industry. 

I am a life member of many Veterans' Organizations, and I have supported them as much as possible.  I have worked with Veterans for over a decade, being actively involved in the effort to restore Blue Water Navy benefits the way Admiral Zumwalt envisioned it to be.  
And then there is the claims situation, and policy interpretation. 

I doubt that one voice will prevail upon the Veterans' Organizations to change their approach, but I would hope that others would also protest against this legislation. 

I appreciate all that the Veterans' Organizations have done for Veterans.  My shipmates are well aware of all they have done. 

I hope you can do more by working to find a saner solution than what this bill presents. 

I will be forwarding the bulk of this letter to most of the other Veterans Service Organizations national offices.  

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 © 2005-2014: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Tenth 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.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

On the VA’s Growing Crisis

We won't say we told you so.

But we have this to say about the VA's systemic problems across the nation [as the VA's own Office of Inspector General puts it]:

We have on many occasions, both here, and in the offices of Congressional Representatives and Senators, called for the issuance of a Veterans Medical Card issued to ALL Veterans, that would be lawfully backed for mandatory acceptance around the country the same as a Medicare card, but with no deductibles. 

Why would we call for such a broad based program?  Simple: the practical side of things is that, generally, a Veteran does not know, at least initially, that what is wrong with him or her is service-connected.  So rather than take the chance that it might be a serious complication, the card will give him the opportunity to seek immediate treatment locally, from civilian medical facilities, rather than get caught up in a waiting line for appointments like we are hearing on the new about the VA.

Why would we force our Veterans to wait for care at a facility that is overwhelmed by the numbers coming through the door, and why would we force our Veterans to receive a less than thorough examination because it is 3 PM and the physician still has a dozen patients to see?

The VA will never, ever, be large enough, have enough staff, and be management-competent enough to care for our Veterans in the numbers we create with our wars, no matter how much money Congress throws at it. Even if it were to become that large, how could it competently provide the requisite care and access to care?  It cannot, and never will.

Congress should have realized this decades ago.  They knew.  It is why we have said more than once that the problems in the VA, the ones appearing now, and others that will emerge as investigations continue, should be laid at the feet of everyone who has served as a member of the US Congress over the past thirty years. 

The Veterans Medical Card will be much less expensive than ambitious building projects and incrementally expensive staffing and equipping if the VA would content itself medically to providing long term care for the aged and infirm Veterans who require such care, and work with patients in rehabilitation, as well as providing regular eye care, dental and prosthetics and orthotics care and rehabilitation.

Some in Congress and nearly all the national Veterans Organizations are calling for a medical card approach, but none so far have advocated for the total coverage for all Veterans.  It begs only one question:

Do we owe our Veterans anything less than this?  Did not these same Veterans agree to put their lives in harm's way at the command of the US government?  It may not seem like it at the time, but that decision to enlist is an extremely weighty one.  It is usually not until later in life that one realizes fully what that enlistment oath really meant.  Your life is totally in the hands of the US military, to be used in any way it sees fit. 

In preparation for this, the military trains you, hones you to a fine level of readiness, and gives you the best equipment it can, and its leaders are trained to put you in the best position possible to prevail, and survive.

Do we not owe our Veterans as much?

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 © 2005-2014: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Tenth 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.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

A Common Sense Idea from VVA

From the good folks at the VVA comes this excellent idea for the Phoenix [and other] VA Hospital in the form of a press release about the resignation of the VA Secretary, Eric Shinseki:
May 30, 2014

VVA On the Resignation of Eric K. Shinseki

(Washington, D.C.)—"Eric K. Shinseki has tendered his resignation as Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, and Sloan D. Gibson, Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs, will serve as Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs," said VVA National President John Rowan. "However, this change in leadership does not fix the terrible situation at VA medical centers. The need for dramatic action is still pressing and apparent."

Said Rowan, "VVA urges the President to mobilize Reserve and National Guard units, as well as FEMA medical services, to supplement the uniformed units, to serve, for the next 30 to 90 days, as screening/triage units for all veterans currently on waiting lists at all VA Medical facilities. All veterans found to have urgent medical conditions are to be seen by a qualified VA clinician within three days of their screening. If the VA facility is unable to see the veteran within three days, the VA staff must arrange--and pay for--immediate care outside of the VA. Veterans not found in need of urgent care, who cannot be seen by the VA within 21 days, shall be assisted by VA staff to access an outside clinician under the VA fee-for-services program."

For a more complete list of vitally needed actions that can – and must – be taken by the President and Acting Secretary Gibson, see http://www.vva.org/VA_Phoenix.html

In a noon briefing, the President announced Shinseki's resignation. The President noted that Shinseki has acknowledged that the misconduct at the Phoenix VA is not limited to a few facilities but is rampant across the system, and he has accepted full responsibility for the conduct of those facilities. Further, reported the President, Shinseki acknowledged his continuation in office would serve as a distraction, interfering with his top priority of delivering care to our veterans who have served our nation.

Earlier today, while addressing the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, Shinseki announced actions he had taken after reviewing the Interim IG Report regarding the Phoenix VA Health Care System. He reported that he had fired those responsible at the Phoenix VA and at other VA facilities; that no VHA senior executive will receive performance bonuses in 2014; that wait times will be deleted as measures of success; and that outreach to the veterans on the "secret" waiting lists is underway. Further, Shinseki called on Congress to fill the vacant positions at the VA. Said Rowan, "While we approve of these measures, there is much more that needs to be done."

In his tenure as seventh Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Shinseki's achievements on behalf of veterans include enrolling an additional 2 million veterans in the VA system; expanding benefits of Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange; improving access and care for Mental Health by ordering the hiring of 1,600 mental health staff; improving care for Women veterans; reducing homelessness; and helping millions access education benefits. "We thank him for his efforts, and wish him well in his future endeavors," said Rowan."
We think it an expedient and necessary thing to mobilize the Guard, Reserve and FEMA Medical services to help with the triage of some 1700 Veterans who were never scheduled for appointments at the Phoenix VA. 

Let's hope the President agrees and acts swiftly. 

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 © 2005-2014: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Tenth 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.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Elegy: Bill Miltenberger, On Final Deployment

Farewell, shipmate.  The world has lost a valiant sailor, a fine leader, a solid family man, and a friend to all Veterans.  And we have all lost a friend.

In Psalm 107, at verse 23, we read:
They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters;
These see the works of the LORD, and his wonders in the deep.
For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof.
They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble.
They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits' end.
Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses.
He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still.
Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven.
He was, at times, friendly, gregarious, opinionated, curmudgeonly, but always, always, first in line to work for any Veteran or Veterans' rights.  He was a husband, father, and grandfather, friend, loyal shipmate, and one of the hardest working men I've ever known.  When there was a problem, he would be the first to step up.

When we could no longer work VASVW, we turned it over to Bill at his request because he believed it was work that needed to continue.   His time at the helm has run out. 

At a sailor's passing we sing the Navy Hymn, which reads:
Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bidd'st the mighty ocean deep,
Its own appointed limits keep.

Oh hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea! Amen.

Eternal Father, lend Thy grace To
those with wings who fly thro' space,
Thro wind and storm, thro' sun and rain,
Oh bring them safely home again.

Oh Father, hear an humble prayer,
For those in peril in the air! Amen.

Oh Trinity of love and pow'r,
Our brethren shield in danger's hour,
From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
Protect them where so e'er they go.

Thus evermore shall rise to Thee
Glad hymns of praise from land and sea! Amen.
Bill was a leader.  His hard work in the face of the adversity of his cancer simply was awe-inspiring.  And quite simply, we could not have accomplished what we did without his Herculean efforts. 

In Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Act I, Scene ii, we read this song, sung by the character Ariel:
Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes;
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell: Ding-dong.
Hark! now I hear them — Ding-dong, bell.
Bill served almost four years on the USS Passumpsic AO 107.  During his years of active service on Passumpsic, the Fleet Oiler made 4 deployments to Vietnam.  By rights, he should have been granted exposure to Agent Orange.  It is a fight that still must be fought, and must be won. 

We ask that you  visit the following link to a website that will accept donations to help defray the costs of Bill's care: 

LINK TO DONATIONS PAGE  http://www.gofundme.com/95067c

In closing, we ask that you offer a prayer for Bill.

Ship’s Company: Attention on Deck!

Hand Salute!
   
Two!

Ding-dong.  Hark!  Now I hear them – Ding-dong, bell.

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 © 2005-2014: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Tenth 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.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Legion Op-Ed: Shinseki Must Go

Here is National Commander of the American Legion Dan Dellinger's OP-Ed Piece which should appear in most newspaers in the coming days:

As national commander of the nation’s largest veterans service organization, it is with great sadness that I call for the resignations of Secretary Shinseki, Under Secretary  of Health Robert Petzel and Under Secretary of Benefits Allison Hickey.

The disturbing reports coming from the Phoenix VA Medical Center are just one of what appears to be a pattern of scandals that have infected the entire system. It has been more than 20 years since The American Legion has called for the resignation of a public official. It’s not something we do lightly.

We do this because of people who have been failed by the system.

James Pert served as a Marine in Vietnam. Diagnosed with skin cancer, diabetes and Post Traumatic Stress, he died as he waited for a medical appointment at the Phoenix VA Medical Center.

“How could they treat him so badly, when he served his country so honorably?” his widow, Sandy Pert, said to the International Business Times.

The interview came on the heels of a shocking CNN report that administrators at the hospital kept a secret waiting list, which included veterans waiting more than 200 days for an appointment. Not surprisingly, more than 40 veterans may have needlessly died while waiting. The other list – the one that was not kept secret, according to  Dr. Sam Foote –included only patients that would be seen in the next 15 days, a reasonable period intended to make executives look good and earn generous bonuses for the top brass.

More disturbing is that this is not isolated to the Grand Canyon State. More reports of “fixed” scheduling are coming from places like Fort Collins, Colo., and Cheyenne, Wyoming.

During my testimony to a congressional subcommittee last month, I mentioned reports of patients’ deaths at the Pittsburgh, Atlanta and Jackson, Miss., VA Medical Centers. While unconnected to phantom waiting lists, these deaths could also be classified as negligent.

But back to Mrs. Pert. She deserves an answer, just like all affected veterans and their loved ones deserve the very best care that this nation has to offer.

I have directed The American Legion System Worth Saving Task Force to conduct a townhall meeting at American Legion Post 41 in Phoenix on May 13. All those affected by VA’s reckless bureaucracy are welcome to attend. All are welcome to tell their stories on a new platform set up at www.legion.org.

The Legion System Worth Saving Task Force will follow the townhall meeting with a visit to the Phoenix VA Medical Center on May 14-15. As national commander of The American Legion, I was able to meet with President Obama in the Oval Office a few weeks ago. I expressed The American Legion’s strong concerns about service at the VA.

I also discussed the unacceptable benefits backlog and poor access to facilities with Shinseki. My staff has met with top VA officials. We have found the meetings far less than satisfactory and the answers not very forthcoming. In fact, the secretary didn’t seem to fully appreciate the seriousness of the situation and, at the time, didn’t feel anybody needed to be replaced. If it were a private institution or  if the executives were still in the military, they would be relieved of duty.

VA’s senior leaders didn’t seem to realize that one great tragedy of these delays and needless deaths is that they undeniably besmirch the compassionate work of thousands of dedicated VA employees and the outstanding care that many facilities provide. A few years ago, The American Legion was lauding the VA for its great care and we hope to do so again. Unfortunately, we do not see VA enacting the culture change that it so desperately needs with the current leadership in place. Senior VA leaders have isolated themselves from the media and, more importantly, from answering to their shareholders, America’s veterans.

We look forward to hearing the results of the VA Inspector General’s report and The American Legion welcomes Sen. Bernie Sanders’ intention to hold hearings based on the IG’s findings.

Like the mythical bird for which the city is named, the Phoenix VAMC needs to rise from the ashes of its bureaucratic ineptitude and provide the medical care worthy of the veterans it was built to serve.

As Mr. Pert’s widow told the IB Times, “We were married for 33 years. My heart is broken. I just can’t understand.”
Neither can we.

Although putting Phoenix VA director Sharon Helman and two other senior executives on administrative leave is a step in the right direction, VA clearly has a widespread problem that goes beyond the misbehavior of three people. Moreover, VA has been dragging its feet in dealing with the backlog of disability claims and modernizing its records.  The private sector would never tolerate such inefficiency and callousness.  Neither should veterans.
Source:
http://www.legion.org/documents/word/PhoenixVAOpedREVISED%20050514.doc

Well, as anyone in any Veterans Service Organization like the American Legion already knows, US Veterans are a low priority, and this starts in Congress, with attitudes that say Veterans are only important to us at election time, and who give lip-service most of the time when Veterans needs are pointed out to them.  Very, VERY few in Congress actually give a rat's patooty about Veterans.  VERY FEW.  Count them on one hand. 

It's election year, so they'll all tell you what a great friend they are to Veterans, and  then after the lies and the elections, they go back and vote down, or ignore hundreds of bills aimed at improving Veterans care. 

Look to Congress for allowing the VA to become to strong, and too powerful.   Look to Congress for allowing the Executive Branch to wield far too much power...yes the system of Checks and Balances is completely on its ear, with most power residing in the Executive Branch.  It will take a concerted effort on the part of the electorate, and the Judiciary, and Congress, to right that system.  Too much authority is now vested in the executive branch, and the VA is only one symptom of this much larger problem. 

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 © 2005-2014: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Tenth 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.

Dellinger calls for VA secretary, 2 others to step down

The American Legion has been way out in front on this horrific issue, and it appears to be the straw that broke the camel's back.  Here is the latest on Legion Commander Dan Dellinger and his crusade against the VA's leadership failures:

In front of local media and a live Internet audience, American Legion National Commander Daniel M. Dellinger today called for the resignations of Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, Under Secretary of Health Robert Petzel and Under Secretary of Benefits Allison Hickey.

Dellinger cited poor oversight and failed leadership as the reason for calling for the resignations – something The American Legion hasn’t done regarding a public official in more than 30 years.

“Gen. Eric Shinseki has served his country well,” Dellinger said. “His patriotism and sacrifice for this nation are above reproach. However, his record as the head of the Department of Veterans Affairs tells a different story. The existing leadership has exhibited a pattern of bureaucratic incompetence and failed leadership that has been amplified in recent weeks.”

Dellinger pointed to allegations from multiple whistleblowers of a secret waiting list at the Phoenix VA Health Care System that may have resulted in the death of approximately 40 veterans, that VA previously had acknowledged that 23 veterans throughout the health-care system have died as a result of delayed care in recent years, and a the findings of an investigation by VA’s Office of Medical Inspector that clerks at the VA clinic in Fort Collins, Colo., were instructed last year how to falsify appointment records so it appeared the small staff of doctors was seeing patients within the agency's goal of 14 days, according to the investigation.

“These disturbing reports are part of what appear to be a pattern of scandals that has infected the entire system,” said Dellinger, noting issues that have come up in Pittsburgh, Atlanta and Augusta, Ga. “Those problems need addressed at the highest level – starting with new leadership. The existing leadership has exhibited a pattern of bureaucratic incompetence and failed leadership that has been amplified in recent weeks.”

Dellinger said that the failure to disclose safety information or to cover up mistakes is unforgivable – as is fostering a culture of nondisclosure. “VA leadership has demonstrated its incompetence through preventable deaths of veterans, long wait times for medical care, a benefits claims backlog numbering in excess of 596,000, and the awarding of bonuses to senior executives who have overseen such operations,” he said. “Some veterans have waited years to have their claims decided. That same leadership has failed to provide answers to why these issues continue to occur.”

Dellinger said that while errors and lapses can occur in any system, “The American Legion expects when such errors and lapses are discovered, that they are dealt with swiftly and that the responsible parties are held accountable. This has not happened at the Department of Veterans Affairs. There needs to be a change, and that change needs to occur at the top. “

When asked by media what the Legion would do if the trio didn’t resign, Dellinger said a draft of the request was being sent to the White House. “This is a very serious situation,” he said. “The administration needs to take steps now. It’s long overdue. Whenever you’re talking about a patient’s life – a veteran’s life – in jeopardy, it’s always serious.”

Dellinger also wrote an op-ed piece calling for the resignations. Read it here.
Source:
http://www.legion.org/veteranshealthcare/221974/dellinger-calls-va-secretary-2-others-step-down 

We will post it shortly. 

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 © 2005-2014: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Tenth 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.

Friday, May 02, 2014

More News from Phoenix VAMC

More news from Phoenix, courtesy of the good folks at the National Association for Uniformed Services from their NAUS Weekly Update.

Here are their two items on the horrific news from the VAMC in Phoenix:
"Second Phoenix VA Doctor Blows Whistle Late on Sunday night, VA Dr. Katherine Mitchell said she received a phone call from a fellow employee at the Phoenix VA hospital who needed advice on how to handle a sensitive situation.

Her co-worker explained that records were being destroyed that very moment in the Phoenix VA Health Care System.  But he had preserved evidence of what he believed were falsified wait times for medical care.  The purported "secret lists," along with accusations that up to 40 Arizona veterans died awaiting care, are the subject of national controversy and investigations by Congress and the VA Inspector General.

Mitchell was a confidante with experience — nearly 16 years at the VA hospital, first as a nurse who became supervising physician in the emergency room, then as medical director over a transition program for veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

She said her colleague explained that the documents were being destroyed that evening. Aware that the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs had issued orders for the VA to preserve documents at the medical center in Phoenix, the two agreed to protect evidence.

Mitchell said she went to the medical center and walked her co-worker to VA police headquarters, where they asked officers to secure the documentation.  Police declined, Mitchell said, but suggested they find a safe place to conceal the materials inside the hospital.
To read the entire article from the Arizona Republic newspaper click here.  The allegations in the article are shocking to say the least.  The VA will have a lot of explaining to do if in fact the allegations are proven. 

VA Secretary Places Top Staff at Phoenix VA Medical Center on Administrative Leave Growing intensity of allegations that up to 40 patients died because of delays in medical care at a Phoenix VA hospital, forced Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki on Thursday to place the hospital director and two other officials on administrative leave pending a full investigation.

Shinseki took the steps a day after his top health official told Congress there was no evidence so far that patients died awaiting care at the Phoenix facility, nor that records of delayed appointments were falsified.

Shinseki issued a statement late Thursday saying that "we take these allegations very seriously" and that pending results from a VA inspector general investigation, Phoenix hospital Director Sharon Helman, Associate Director Lance Robinson and a third hospital employee were being placed on administrative leave.

"We believe it is important to allow an independent, objective review to proceed. These allegations, if true, are absolutely unacceptable and if the inspector general's investigation substantiates these claims, swift and appropriate action will be taken," Shinseki said.

Dr. Robert Petzel, VA undersecretary for health, told the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs Wednesday that an initial review had found no basis for the allegations."

Why are we not surprised that they had "found no basis for the allegations?"

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 © 2005-2014: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Tenth 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.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Murder at the Medical Center

From the National Commander of the American Legion Dan Dellinger comes this letter of outrage over the fudged waiting lists at the San Diego VA Medical Cener. 

It should be obvious to just about everyone except Congress by now that bonuses do not equate to higher performance.  Working for the Government should be an honor, and a privilege, and not be played for money, or gain.  No one working for the government should be so devoid of ethics and morals as to kill in order to "earn" a bonus.  Those involved should be arrested, charged, and convicted for criminal negligence and negligent homicide.  Further, they should be put on unpaid leave until convicted or exonerated, and when convicted forfeit all benefits.  Their retirement benefits should be split up and given to the survivors of those who died because of this negligence. 

Here is the National Commander's letter:


Dear Legion Family Members and Friends,

I write to you today seriously troubled over what reportedly occurred at the VA Medical Center in Phoenix . It was reported that at least 40 veterans who had been placed on a “secret list” died waiting for long-delayed doctor appointments with the Phoenix VA.

This secret list – revealed by CNN – may have been a way for administrators to misrepresent the hospital’s performance about actual waiting times for patients. Also troubling is that CNN reported that the director of the Phoenix VA Health Care System knew of, and approved, the secret list, and received a $9,345 bonus last year, The Washington Times reported.

If true, these accusations are despicable. No one who served this country with honor should be left to die in such a way.

The American Legion wants answers and solutions. Among those solutions would be legislation, now in the U.S. House, that would allow the removal of senior VA employees for performance issues.

VA’s Inspector General is now conducting a full investigation, and I am dispatching an American Legion System Worth Saving Task Force team to Phoenix to assess the situation there and, most important, to get the story straight from veterans who use the hospital. 


In addition to the families we see in Phoenix, we want to hear from anyone around the nation who has received care – or been denied care due to appointment delays – at any VA facility. To share your experience, please visit the following website: www.legion.org/dyinginline/share .

As the nation’s largest organization of wartime veterans, The American Legion is committed to ensuring that each and every VA-eligible veteran receives high-quality health care in a timely fashion. And preventable deaths at facilities entrusted to provide that care will not be tolerated.


For God and Country,
Dan Dellinger
National Commander


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 © 2005-2014: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Tenth 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.