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.