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Every month since June 2009, Tad Steckler has received a disability benefits check from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Steckler retired from the Army at age 40 as a master sergeant with a Soldier’s Medal for heroism, and he’d built a new life on the foundation of his checks.
The money covered rent on a three-bedroom home in Nebraska that he shared with his wife and her two daughters and the lease on the family’s Nissan Leaf electric car. It was all part of the agreement he’d made with the government when he enlisted out of high school: In exchange for his service, he’d be taken care of.
Last June, Steckler’s wife, Robyn Loveland, opened what she thought was just another envelope from the VA. Except this one wasn’t a check — it was a bill for more than $10,000. A letter stated that Steckler had received thousands of dollars in disability compensation in error, and the VA was going to withhold future payment until the debt was paid.
A VICE News investigation has revealed that the VA sent nearly 187,000 of these overpayment notices last year. That represents just under 2 percent of those receiving benefits.
Other cases we’ve identified show overpayment claims similar in size to Steckler’s, with the potential to send veterans into crippling debt.
A former Army combat medic from Idaho who served two tours in Iraq was told he owed the VA $9,831.93.
A former Army sniper from Colorado who was shot in the head in the line of duty in Iraq got an overpayment notice for $11,119.41. These veterans were told their benefits would be withheld until they repaid the unexpected bills.
Finally doing something about the massive appeals backlog…Now if they would stop the 80% rejection rate that gets Vets into the appeals process and adds massively to the backlog in the first place…Just saying…
[WASHINGTON, DC] – Today, U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Jon Tester (D-MT), Angus King (I-ME), Tom Udall (D-NM), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-PA), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Patty Murray (D-WA) introduced legislation to reform the appeals process for veterans benefits. Because of redundancies and inefficiencies in the current process, most veterans wait years for a decision on their appeals.
The Department of Veterans Affairs Appeals Modernization Act of 2016 would replace the current appeals process – which today stands at over 450,000 appeals awaiting a decision – with one that is simple, fair, and transparent.
“The current appeals process for veterans benefits is a quagmire that no longer serves veterans and their families. Without reform, thousands of our nation’s veterans will continue to languish for years without receiving a fair and just consideration of their appeal, and denied access to the benefits they need and deserve,”
Blumenthal said. “Today, I am proud to introduce legislation that is the product of true collaboration between all stakeholders – with this kind of rare consensus, I am confident that we can send a clean appeals reform bill to the President’s desk this year.”
“Veterans are waiting in limbo too long for the benefits that they earned,” Tester said. “This bipartisan bill was built through collaboration and gives veterans different options to best fit their needs. I am confident this reform will streamline the disability appeals process, protect veterans due process, and save taxpayers money.”
“A disabled veteran deserves more than a place on a waiting list or getting caught up in a VA backlog. But, too often, Maine veterans are paying the price for bureaucratic failures,” King said. “Veterans deserve a full, fair, and timely review of their appeals and this legislation will help accomplish that.”
Here’s a story about a news station intervening on behalf of an Army Vet… need to get more news media involved in out fight for deserved benefits…
BRANDON, Fla. (WFLA) – A Brandon Army veteran was denied V.A. benefits to which he was entitled. He asked for help from Target 8 and the battle he waged for nearly a year ended within two days.
Carver Taitt joined the U.S. Army in 1978.
He was a paratrooper and worked in chemical warfare.
Disabilities that he developed in the Army ended his military career in 1990. Following his retirement, he received a small V.A. disability check each month.
“I didn’t put that uniform on for any special credit. I put it on because I believe,” said Taitt.
At the V.A. last April, an employee advised Taitt, that since he was married, he was entitled to spousal benefits.
“I says ‘well that’s the first I’ve heard of it,’” he explained.
Not long after applying, someone identifying himself as a supervisor from the V.A. regional office in St. Petersburg told Taitt there was no record that he was married. Taitt explained he was married to his wife, Gemma, for more than 40 years.
“He says, ‘well I’m in charge and at this point, I make the decisions and I’m not going to give it to you,’” Taitt remembered.
The harsh treatment didn’t sit well.
“When someone tells me, in essence, that he doesn’t care about me as a soldier, it bothers me,” said Taitt.
V.A. paperwork from 2007 shows that not only was Taitt married, he also had a son. So, he filed paperwork with the Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington, D.C. and waited.
Around Thanksgiving, Taitt watched a Target 8 report about another veteran, Keith Addis. Addis had tried unsuccessfully for nine years to convince the V.A. that he had been married to his wife for more than 30 years.
Addis forwarded his paperwork to Target 8. We forwarded it on to the V.A. The next day, a letter was sent out, approving his spousal benefits.
“You helped immensely,” he said.
“They did the same thing to him, telling him ‘basically, your wife doesn’t exist,’” Taitt observed. “So, I said, ‘you know, let me call Mr. Andrews.’”
Taitt forwarded his documentation to Target 8. We forwarded it to the V.A.
Two days later, the V.A. approved his spousal benefits.
“I said wow, this is really fast. 8 was On My Side.”
Not only that, the V.A. also provided dependent benefits for his son. All the benefits are retroactive to 2002.
“This is what results is all about, and I feel that we need more people like you guys out there to make a difference,” said Taitt.
Bruce Clisby from the V.A. regional office told us that he couldn’t comment on the case, because of privacy issues, but the review and assistance came from the St. Petersburg office.
Trump Weighs Letting Veterans Opt Out of V.A. Medical Care…
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — President-elect Donald J. Trump is considering a plan to allow military veterans to opt out of medical care at Veterans Affairs hospitals and instead see private doctors of their choosing, a senior transition official told reporters here on Wednesday.
WASHINGTON — Department of Veterans Affairs Chief of Staff Robert Snyder announced his retirement this week after just more than one year of overseeing day-to-day operations at the agency, the VA confirmed Friday.
Many veterans sounded off yesterday over a leaked email from Diana Rubens to staff lauding her award of VA bonuses to employees despite a backlog “slip up.”
Prior to discussing last month’s disability backlog “slip up,” Rubens congratulated bonus recipients, “you should have seen that monetary thank you in last week’s check.” She promised to continue doling out bonuses throughout the year to recognize “contributions.”
At least partially true…If the VA didn’t waste billions on cost over-runs at Aurora, millions for media spin doctors, millions for solar panels over parking lots of all things, millions on “art” to decorate VA buildings and MORE millions on unjustified bonuses, the VA would have MORE than enough to fulfill it’s core function…PROVIDING CARE AND BENEFITS TO VETERANS. Anything that is not directly involved in that mission is wasted…
Except a lot of the art is bought at low cost from amateur veteran artists. Solar panels lower electricity bills for the building and pat for themselves in a,few years. And Doctors and med staff make well below private sector. The salary studies are only done every 10 years. Cemetery Administration which is part of the VA, is,the leanest run of any federal agencies with hardly any overhead. So…. I think you’re looking in the wrong place. When I worked in PT at VA, I saw integrated care, caring staff and lots of no shows and last minute canceled appointments dur to older population wh…See More
Janya Orfeyeva: While I partially agree with you, I disagree with several points…RE: “a lot of the art is bought at low cost from amateur veteran artists”
I’ll need to some reference for this…I’ve read several articles regarding the art purchased for the VA and none mentioned Veteran artists…
RE: “Solar panels lower electricity bills for the building and pat for themselves in a,few years.
Builidng solar panels and saving the environment is NOT the VA’s mission…These expenditures and efforts detract from the primary mission of caring for Vets and the projects almost never come in on…See More
I can’t comment on Aurora as I have not done any real research. Each VA region and even facility is run a little differently so what you see at one, you may not see at another. I have seen nice newere facilities and ones definetly in need of updating in every way.
The art I’ve personally seen at DOD and VA buildings and when I worked with Wounded Warriors, we had art therapy as part of the recreational therapy programs, they were always submitting for contests, where if won art would be on display at VA or DOD. Purchasing is preferred from Vet owned business and over 25% of VA is staffed by veterans.
I’m in no way defending incompetance, however not all bonsuses are tied to performance metrics. Some are sign on, some are given for tenure, or other deparmental reasons. And every head should roll for those Jackasses that shredded patient lists.
However….Our building at WW was LEEDS platinum, (not a VA building but built by govt to new standards) saving lots of $ on operational costs for water an energy, both $$$ here in CA. So yes, it sucks when projects are not well managed as happens on occasion, it should not be the norm. Anything that saves on long term operations IS a worthwhile undertaking. That $ can ease tax payer burden and be used for other things like new equipment.
From what I see (and I’m married to a vet with combat disability), most of the frustration comes from very long waits for claims processing and wait times for some providers at some of the busier locations. Also the hiring process is insane, almost 6 months for physical therapy. If there is waste, it’s not likely in solar but beaurocracy. Why can a regular hospital hire me in a week? also VA is subject to tons more reporting and disclosure than private sector hospitals. And they are the largest medical system in the country by several million.
They also negotiate prescription prices which helps save $. Most med systems dont’t do that.
I did my clinical internship at the VA for physical therapy there and saw amazing things with amputees and other things that were very expensive but needed given the amount of amputees this war has generated. I hope the guys in that dept got their bonuses, they certainly earned them. One of the other things I know they have done recently is updated their medical records system and storage. And THAT is not cheap. But it was awesome because it allowed an integrated whole patient approach that allows the providers to communicate with each other easily (even some providers outside the VA), so psych, PT, primary, oncology could all talke to each other. It allows better care delivery, and that system is not avaialbe in every public sector (some still used paper records!). So in many ways the VA adopts things that then become standard practice for the rest of the field, such as advances in prosthetics. I’m sure there IS waste but I’m not sure its as much as people thik, it just sounds like a good sound bite for “cutting govt spending,” using a snap shot of one layer of a huge onion. Hacking and chopping just to get a better number by legislators who have never used the system, been a provider, or every managed a health care company is not necessarily going to help. This needs to be done carefully by managed care experts, vets and providers.
RE: “I did my clinical internship at the VA for physical therapy” Thank you, from a Nam Vet…You seem to be the caring person
Vets need. Just curious, why did you leave (if you did)?
RE: “From what I see (and I’m married to a vet with combat disability), most of the frustration comes from very long waits for claims processing and wait times for some providers at some of the busier locations.”
VERY true…but from where I sit, that’s just the tip of the iceberg…The wait list scandals brought a previously unheard-of scrutiny to the VA and latter investigations revealed SOOOO much more. There seems to be a new scandal every month and even the old scandals are not addressed properly. Wait times at Phoenix are still almost as bad or even worse in some areas as when the scandal broke…
The causes are many: An overburdened system that’s not keeping up with increased demand. ( Gulf war that’s still going on and producing new casualties) A concerted push from The Right to keep costs down and continued resistence to increased funding. Millions spent on stuff that is not essential to the core mission (Caring for Vets) and a continued effort by both upper and middle VA mangement to hide the truth about how money is spent…I could go on but but I can feel my BP rising just thinking about it…
The VA motto is “To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan” (Abraham Lincoln)
POTUS, Congress and the VA needs to step up and fulfull this mission…Instead the VA has become a huge pile of money surrounded by everybody and his brother with their hand out…
A steady drum beat of new scandals and nothing changes…
News articles are written and nothing changes…
Congressional meetings are held and and nothing changes…
Direction is given from Congress and the President and nothing improves…
New laws are written and nothing changes…
VA issues proposal after proposal and vies to change and improve and nothing changes…
VA WILL NOT CHANGE UNTIL FORCED
It’s becoming increasingly obvious that the VA WILL NOT CHANGE UNTIL IT IS FORCED TO DO SO..
Even with scandals breaking out all over the place, numerous reports on TV and in newspapers, and congressional hearings, and VA is lying, Vets are dying billboards going up around the country, the VA continues to lie, delay and deny, stonewalling, and squirming furiously to hide the truth and maintain the status quo…
Only congress has the power to effect real change at the VA…they control the money…
And there’s only one way to control congress.
The thing EVERY congressman cares about most?…Getting Re-elected.
Here’s what I’m proposing…
THE NATIONAL VETERAN’S ACTION COMMITTEE.. NVAC
I’m not talking about a traditional PAC that gathers together billions of dollars and then uses that money to bribe politicians with junkets and campaign contributions and promises of future consulting jobs and exorbitant speaker fees…
We would only do four things…Organize….Provide information to politicians on matters that concern us (no campaign contribution, no information junket to Bermuda, not even lunch) Watch what they do…and VOTE…
With a new Presidency and a host of new Congressmen it’s more urgent than ever that VETS concerns and needs are represented …Here’s the solution:
I wanted to tell you about a small project that I’ve been working on to help veterans with their VA Healthcare.
For the past five years, I have been receiving healthcare through the VA and have been to close to 20 different hospitals and outpatient clinics throughout the country. One thing that I’ve noticed is that the quality of care is all across the board. I have been to clinics in some places where it’s very clear that my quality of life, as a vet, is their number one interest.
On the other hand, I have been to other clinics where, from my perspective, I am nothing more than a number. For obvious reasons, I try my hardest to avoid those clinics. That said, I can’t find any sort of central location where I have a heads up of what to expect when going to a new clinic.
From this, I built a website called VAreview.net. Basically, I researched and created a page for every single VA hospital and clinic in the United States (a little over 1,000 locations). From there, veterans can rate their experience at that particular location. Think Yelp but specifically for the VA.
My hope is that as more and more users provide feedback, some trends may be begin to emerge. We, as veterans, can then take this information and provide the collective feedback to the leadership of the VA so that they can allocate resources to the areas of weakness and also learn from the areas of strength.
Also, while in the military, I was always taught that asking for help is considered to be a sign of weakness. It took me many years to realize that getting help for my physical and mental ailments wasn’t me being weak but was the only way I was going to get better. I have hope that other veterans sharing their experiences with the VA will provide the needed courage to get the treatment they need.
The big hurdle here is gathering feedback. I suspect that almost everyone reading this has likely spent some time at one or more VA’s in the country. All I ask is that you stop by the website and write a few sentences about your experience so that we, as a community, can find out what’s working and what’s not.
I should mention that I spent a good amount of time building this website and have no ulterior motives here other than building a voice for the veteran population in the hopes that we can improve upon our system. I intentionally creating this website as a place that can be built upon and maintained as a community so there’s no individual bias involved.
I think it’s a great idea…What do you think? You can check out his site here: VAreview.net
The VA has time and again demonstrated its’ ability to shrug off congressional attempts to control its’ bad behavior. The only way to correct bad behavior is SWIFT AND TERRIBLE RETRIBUTION, in a word, ACCOUNTABILITY…
And that’s not going to happen as long as the VA continues to shield clinicians and other employees from their mistakes with the ridiculous idea that a VA facility is a sovereign state within a state and state laws do not apply within its’ boundaries.
Drs and other care providers must meet the requirement for practice in the state they are practicing in…
They must have proper certification, not third world licenses from third world diploma mills. They must have sufficient training to work in the field they are attempting to practice in…AS DETERMINED BY THE STATE IN WHICH THEY PRACTICE IN…and not be allowed to render judgment in fields where they aren’t qualified. Those that harm Veterans in their care, as well as their superiors, must be made to pay severe penalties.
As in the world outside the VA bubble, they must be held accountable (there’s that word again) for the harm they do. Either they or the VA must carry liability insurance. They must face strict peer reviews. If they commit harm either through incompetence or malice, the Veteran must be compensated for the harm done him or her and the provider must be severely punished. Fire them, prosecute them, make them repay the Veteran for the harm they’ve caused
THAT isn’t going happen as long as AFGE and civil service protections remain. Simply put AFGE exists only to protect its’ members from accountability. It must be stripped of its’ power to shield members from the results of their incompetence. AND the VA must be stripped of its’ ability to shield itself and its’ employees from wrongdoing by whatever means.
THERE ARE LAWS IN PLACE ALREADY to prevent this type of behavior, They’re just not being enforced…
We need to FORCE CONGRESS to lead the push to FORCE the VA to follow the law…not just in word, but in intent also.
After 17 years working as a registered nurse in the Tucson VA system, Diane Suter says she was taken aback when a manager first pressured her to falsely record patient wait times in 2014.
Suter, 62, had just started a new job scheduling patients at a Southern Arizona VA Health Care System primary care clinic on South Sixth Avenue. Wait times were often one to three months long, but revealing the true wait times in the computer system meant the doctor missed out on bonus pay, Suter’s nurse manager told her.
“She said, ‘Your appointments are over two weeks out and you’re costing your doctor money,’ ” Suter said. The manager showed her how to “zero out” wait times on their computerized scheduling system: Suter was told to input a patient’s desired appointment date as the same day as the scheduled appointment date, so it would appear there was no wait time, she said.
Suter complied after her manager strongly implied she’d be fired if she refused. But her dogged whistleblower complaints to VA regulators and legislators contributed to the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General’s decision to investigate the Tucson VA starting in April.
Sound familiar? These things just keep popping up…
Tucson VA spokesman Luke Johnson said in an email the practices described in the report “are inappropriate and are not consistent with our … core values of integrity, commitment, advocacy, respect and excellence.”
Does this also sound familiar?
Don Avant ·
Webmaster at Donavantwebsites.com
RE: “Doctors’ and nurses’ performance pay is no longer tied to wait times, Johnson said.”
I have no problem with performance pay being tied to wait times provided the wait times are HONESTLY REPORTED. By delinking performance times and performance pay you are actually removing any incentive DRs and Nurses have to work harder and reduce the wait times honestly…
RE: “Johnson encourages VA staff to speak up if unethical practices are still happening.”
I’ll believe that when I see elephants fly (outside of a Disney movie that is.). If you want to see how much the VA “encourages employees to come forward,” look at what happened to Suter. “After Suter objected to unethical scheduling practices, she suffered retaliation and a hostile work environment, leading her to leave the VA in August 2014 and seek treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, she said.” ( quote from the story )
RE: “The nurse manager who compelled her to falsify wait times still works at the Tucson VA, Suter said.”
Well, that’s hitting the nail right on the head. The perfect explanation for why these problems keep
reoccurring at the VA..NO ACCOUNTABILITY… The best cure for bad behavior is STR ( Swift and Terrible Retribution ) The problem was investigated and substantiated by the OIG. What happened? The perpetrator still works for the VA and the whistleblower has been hounded out of a job.
JUST PUBLISHED—JUST PUBLISHED—JUST PUBLISHED
Sign up for VA REPORT NEWSLETTER and get the newly published guide: Steps to a FULLY DEVELOPED CLAIM…
BRUSSELS — Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter said Wednesday that he has ordered the Pentagon to suspend its efforts to collect payments from California Army National Guard soldiers who were told to return their enlistment bonuses.
Carter announced steps to resolve the cases of thousands of soldiers who collectively received millions of dollars in bonuses at the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but then were told years later that the money had to be repaid.
In a statement, Carter said he had ordered the Pentagon’s financial department to stop the payment collection until measures can be put in place to provide the affected service members with the support they need to appeal the process.
“There is no more important responsibility for the Department of Defense than keeping faith with our people. That means treating them fairly and equitably, honoring their service and sacrifice, and keeping our word,” Carter said in a statement. “Hundreds of affected Guard members in California have sought and been granted relief. But that process has simply moved too slowly and in some cases imposed unreasonable burdens on service members. That is unacceptable.”
While the Pentagon has said that up to 10,000 California National Guard soldiers may have been affected, dozens of other National Guard soldiers throughout the country received similar payments. The instances affecting the California National Guard were first reported by the Los Angeles Times on Saturday. Some of the cases have been subject to a criminal investigation that started when recruiters promised bonuses to soldiers, even though they were not authorized to do so.
Carter’s announcement comes after several days of members of Congress calling on him to act. On Monday, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform opened an investigation and requested all documents associated with the California cases. The panel also asked senior officers with the California Army National Guard and the National Guard Bureau to brief committee members by Nov. 17.
Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter arrives for a meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)
Carter has assigned Peter Levine, the top personnel official at the Pentagon, to assess the situation and to create a process that can resolve all of the payment cases by July 2017.
He added that he hadn’t ruled out that some of the service members might still have to repay their bonuses, saying that “under the law, we have to keep that option open.”
Levine, speaking to reporters at the Pentagon, said the Defense Department’s intent is to jump-start the review process to taking months, not years. The Pentagon will “surge” additional personnel to review cases, but doesn’t intend to change anything permanent in how it reviews collection cases.
“Once we’re doing working through this California block of cases, we will presumably revert to the existing processes,” Levine said.
Levine said that about 14,000 soldiers in California were initially cited as potentially receiving inappropriate payments. The Guard in California ultimately cleared about 4,000 of those cases, leaving about 10,000 more who could be affected. The Pentagon has been withholding payment from about 2,000 of those soldiers.
Affected service members can receive refunds, but the Defense Department does not have the ability to assist them with other effects that may have occurred, such as bankruptcy and credit loss. The Pentagon also is searching for how to reach Guard members who have left the force and have changed addresses, Levine said.
Maj. Gen. Matthew Beevers, the No. 2 officer in the California Army National Guard, said Monday that by law, the Guard does not have the ability to stop the collection effort and sought help from Congress two years ago to provide relief to affected soldiers. That effort stalled, in part because the Congressional Budget Office deemed it expensive, Beevers said.
But Capitol Hill officials have questioned how well the Guard communicated the problem. One House official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that the problem was brought up in an email to congressional staff, but never was raised in person.
“If this was such an urgent matter they should have known more outreach was needed,” the official said.
Lawmakers were quick to address Carter’s remarks Wednesday. Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) called Carter’s new measures “not good enough” and said there was “no middle ground” on the issue.
“The Pentagon needs to tell veterans it will permanently — not temporarily — end its obscene effort to collect enlistment bonuses from a decade ago,” he said.
Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) said that Carter made the right call in suspending collection efforts, but that more needs to be done, beginning with the passage of legislation that waives the debts and provides financial relief to soldiers who have already repaid some or all of what the Pentagon said they owed.
“It should not fall on the shoulders of those who serve our country to pay for the mistakes of others that offered these incentives improperly or allowed the error to go undiscovered for so many years,” Schiff said. “I continue to work on drafting legislation that will accomplish these goals, and hope to introduce it in the coming weeks before Congress comes back into session.”
Rep. Duncan D. Hunter (R-Calif.) said that Carter’s decision was the “only action to take,” but questioned why it took so long.
“It shouldn’t be lost on anyone that the secretary is taking this action through existing authority and that same authority could have been exercised at any point since the size and scope of the situation was realized,” he said.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is expected to host a bipartisan conference call with Deputy Defense Secretary Robert O. Work on Wednesday night to address long-term plans to fix the problem. Levine said that the Pentagon does not believe it needs legislation to address the issues.
This story was initially published at 10:16 a.m. and updated with reporting from the Pentagon.
Thomas Gibbons-Neff reported from Brussels. Lamothe reported from Washington.
Thomas Gibbons-Neff is a staff writer and a former Marine infantryman.
So what do you think…This action was only taken after it hit the major news outlets.
“Maj. Gen. Matthew Beevers, the No. 2 officer in the California Army National Guard, said Monday that by law, the Guard does not have the ability to stop the collection effort and sought help from Congress two years ago to provide relief to affected soldiers. That effort stalled, in part because the Congressional Budget Office deemed it expensive, Beevers said.”
According to Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter…
“There is no more important responsibility for the Department of Defense than keeping faith with our people. That means treating them fairly and equitably, honoring their service and sacrifice, and keeping our word,” “Hundreds of affected Guard members in California have sought and been granted relief. But that process has simply moved too slowly and in some cases imposed unreasonable burdens on service members. That is unacceptable.”
So…The CA National Guard, Through its’ legal representatives, IE recruiters, DEFRAUDS Ten of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of American Citizens who only wanted to serve and defend their country….And the Pentagon’s response is to blame and penalize the victims of the fraud? I say if the Pentagon needs it’s money back it should recover it from the perpetrator of the fraud, The state of California and the CA National Gaurd…The Guardsmen, in good faith, signed a legally binding contract…and it’s up to the USA to live up to that contract…
I decided I would ask a Professional Nurse what they thought about it.
My niece is a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner at Princeton Baptist Medical Center and a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner at UAB Critical Care Transport.
Here’s a transcript of my comment and our interaction:
I’m all FOR increased access but NOT AT THE COST OF REDUCED QUALITY OF CARE…No Pharmacist has the training of an MD. That’s why they have a
No Pharmacist has the training of an MD. That’s why they have a PHD after their name instead of an MD…
I love nurses…
They’re great people and those that go into the field usually do so from the standpoint of caring for their patients.
My niece is a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner at Princeton Baptist Medical Center and Neonatal Nurse Practitioner at UAB Critical Care Transport.
She transports critical care infants (usually in a helicopter ) and is eminently qualified for her job (getting critical infants to a place where they can be better treated than where they are..)
As a matter of fact, I would bet that most of the MDs that she is transporting kids too would flounder in the high-pressure atmosphere she operates in…(no pun intended ) She’s GREAT at keeping kids alive till they get where they need to be…HOWEVER, She’s still not an MD…
When she gets the kids to UAB Hospital, their care is turned over to an MD who specializes in Pediatric care ( probably assisted by other Pediatric Nurses that specialize in in-house care…) I sent her a link to this discussion and here was our interaction…
According to this article in USA Today, the VA, despite legal requirements to do so, has stopped sending info regarding it’s performance as compared to nearby hospitals, thus taking away Vets ability to compare that performance and make an informed decision about where to seek health care…
Is it any surprise that the VA is AGAIN breaking the law and AGAIN refusing to be transparent to Vets and the public?
From the article: “In a separate move, the VA also took down its own site in February that provided side-by-side quality comparisons of its hospitals. That page, hospitalcompare.va.gov,is now simply blank.”
I wonder what the VA is trying to hide now…Could it be that VA hospitals are trying to hide the fact that they just don’t stack up to civilian hospitals when it comes to the number of deaths and and re-admissions?
The VA seems to be trying to lay the blame on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) claiming that HHS, claiming ” lawyers at HHS advised the VA to pull the plug until the two agencies could work out a new deal governing the sharing of information.” The HSS ain’t talking…saying only “HHS declined to provide answers to a list of questions from USA TODAY but issued a statement from CMS spokesman Aaron Albright saying the agency is committed to providing additional health care information to consumers.”
Sounds to me that the HHS has been taking lessons from the VA in gobbledegook…
What’s your take on it? Hit the link above and read the article, then feel free to comment below.
Truth be told, I could continue posting stories forever…The stories are coming out faster than I can write about them. I concentrated on Phoenix because it was the start of the scandal. It’s two years in now and nothing has changed, despite news articles, congressional hearings, even new laws passed in an effort to force the VA to change it’s ways…The VA continues to obstruct and obfuscate, wiggling and struggling at every turn to maintain the status quo and protect it’s hold on the huge pile of money the VA controls…
VA WILL NOT CHANGE UNTIL FORCED
We need an organization to bring our concerns directly to congress. Here’s a link to my page that explains it;
Miller Statement on Senate Veterans Omnibus Legislation
On April 28, following reports of a deal in the Senate regarding an omnibus package of veterans’ legislation, Jeff Miller, chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, released the following statement: “News of this deal is a positive development. If what Sens. Isakson and Blumenthal are working on passes the Senate, I look forward to immediately engaging in conference committee negotiations in order to move a VA reform package to the president’s desk.”
You can start a VAC in your state or county…Contact me here…
I can show you how to start raising funds…
It was first designed for artists, musicians and Youtubers. Artists set up a page on the Patreon website, where patrons can pledge to donate a given amount of money to an artist every time they create a piece of art, optionally setting a monthly maximum. Alternatively a fixed monthly amount can be pledged. This is different from other crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter, where artists obtain a single sum after a successful campaign and typically have to start over for every new piece. Similar to other platforms however, artists will often provide rewards for their patrons. Patreon takes a 5%commission on pledges.
Patreon is adaptable to fundraising also…It provides a stable ongoing cash flow and can eventually lead to a situation where no more fundraising activity is needed, saving the fundraising time and expense…
Here’s my patreon page…You can support this website by pledging $1, $5, $10 or whatever you feel comfortable with…
Two years after the Wait List Scandal broke in Phoenix and after umpteem hearings and much media attention, the VA still doesn’t have it’s act together.
According to this article in USA Today, the GAO, the VA’s own watchdog has found that “Ongoing scheduling problems continue to affect the reliability of wait-time data”
The GAO said the VA has taken a “piecemeal approach” to addressing the problems since the wait-time scandal broke in 2014 in Phoenix, where schedulers falsified wait times and at least 40 veterans died awaiting care. But the agency needs to take comprehensive action, the GAO concluded in its audit, which stretched from January 2015 through last month.
Auditors found schedulers at three of the six medical centers they reviewed had improperly changed dates so the VA system falsely showed shorter or zero wait times. In a review of scheduling records for 60 individual veterans at those three centers, they found improper scheduling in 15 — or 25% — of the appointments.
So…two years later…it’s business as usual. The VA continues to stonewall congress and Veterans with excuses and VA babeleese and still wiggles furiously to maintain the status quo…even stooping to the most audacious tactic of all…using the wait list scandal to beg congress for more money…
The cure to the wait list problem is simple…
Fire any employee who is found to be manipulating wait lists in any way…
And…fire their boss….
Fire any supervisor who has allowed OR engaged in the manipulation…
Fire the supervisors bosses too…
Any Hospital Administrator at a hospital where wait list manipulating has happened is either incompetent or complicit…and should also lose their job…
I firmly believe the manipulation will CONTINUE until this action is taken and VA employees realize that if they fiddle with wait lists THEY WILL LOSE THEIR JOBS
If the VA can’t fire employees that are incompetent or won’t follow the clear direction from congress to do it right because of civil service protections or the union then…REMOVE THAT PROTECTION AND THE UNION because they don’t deserve the protection…With proper whistleblower protection the unions aren’t needed…
To replace them, hire and train Veterans who need jobs, including Homeless Vets…who better to know how important it is for Vets to receive timely and correct appointments…
How much training does it take to sit at a computer, answer a phone and enter an appointment in a computer… CORRECTLY?…What takes training time is to teach them how to manipulate the system…
Do you agree that the system needs to be changed? Please comment below…
I think that the only the VA will change is to be forced…and the only people that can do that is the people that hole the purse strings…congress…
My name is Barry Lynn Coates and due to the inadequate and lack of follow up care I received through the VA system, I stand before you terminally ill today. I joined the Army in February of 1991 anxious to serve my country. Near the end of basic training an injury to my back derailed those plans and I was discharged around the first of May that same year.
After a five year fight to obtain service connection status for my injury and the treatment and pain management required as a result of it, I finally became eligible for medical treatment through the VA system. That was the start of the long, painful, emotional, and unnecessary journey that brings me to you.
On November 22, 2010 severe abdominal pain sent me to Carolina Pines Regional Medical Center in Hartsville SC, where a spinal CT showed that my lungs were clear and my liver were normal however, there was blood seen in the stool so a follow-up was recommended and consideration of a colonoscopy was suggested. That follow-up recommendation was completed at the Rock Hill Clinic with Dr. Anuradha Verma on January 20, 2011. No rectal exam was done, I was basically told to continue taking my medications previously prescribed and to come back if things did not improve or things got worse.
Due to increased pain and constipation, on February 25, 2011 I requested to be seen by a doctor or to be referred to a GI Specialist. I saw Dr. Verma again on March 3, 2011 because of increased pain and rectal bleeding. I reminded her of the suggestion made by the ER doctor that a colonoscopy might be needed. I was sent home with hemorrhoidal suppositories and the promise that a colonoscopy might be done at some point. I was not seen until May of 2011 and the results were the same.
I had relocated in October 2010 but had to continued to be seen at the Rock Hill, SC Clinic due to the back log at the Florence, SC Clinic. I was first seen by Dr. Eric Naumann at the Florence Clinic in June 2011. He started by putting me on 100 mg of the stool softener “Docusate” in order to counteract the constipation caused by narcotics necessary to treat the ongoing back pain to my previous injury. He also expressed dismay that this had not be done previously. Most importantly, he agreed that a colonoscopy needed to be done.
However my first GI consult did not occur until August 2011 with Dr. Sylvia Kim. I informed Dr. Kim of the ongoing pain, constipation, and bloody stools that I had been dealing with for over a year only to repeatedly have it dismissed as hemorrhoids. I was simply told to return in two months, still no referral for colonoscopy despite my request. In a conversation with Andy Pigge, Rn at the Florence Clinic, I made it known that my requests were being ignored and I felt it was jeopardizing my health.
On September 1, 2011 after ample time on the Docusate I sent Dr. Naumann a message via my healthyvet.com informing him that I was still bleeding every bowel movement and still experiencing pain. As of September 15, 2011 I began having trouble urinating in addition to the other problems and only found some relief sitting in warm water. Dr. Naumann was informed of these new symptoms at this time. He stated that I may need to see a surgeon and may need to be considered for a colonoscopy. Dr. Naumann requested for the second time a colonoscopy October 4, 2011.
I saw Dr. Kim October 12, 2011 and told her that the pain was now constant as well as the rectal bleeding and that my stools have become smaller and bright red in color. I was finally scheduled to have a colonoscopy consultation in April of 2012, which would be approximately a year and a half after the beginning of this journey.
Tired of living in constant pain and knowing that my problems were bigger than hemorrhoids, I persistently called on the chance that there might be an earlier opening or cancellation. I was able to secure an opening for consultation appointment for November 30, 2011 and finally had the colonoscopy done December 9, 2011. The procedure was done at the Fort Jackson Hospital by Dr. Steedman Sarbah which found that I had a 5.5 mm nodule located six to eight centimeters from the anal verge with almost total luminal obstruction. I was diagnosed with stage four colon rectal cancer. Further tests revealed metastatic nodules on the right lung in the upper lobe along with liver lesions. It was stated that because of the post proximity of the nodules to anal verge a proper rectal exam would have easily found it and prompted treatment sooner.
I saw Dr. Kim days later on the 14 of December 2012 and expressed to her sentiments of the doctor that performed the colonoscopy along with my own that a doctor should take time to listen to her patients as they know their bodies and can often sense when something is wrong. After “supposedly” not being able to feel the tumor during prior exam after seeing the images she was suddenly able to locate it easily.
I had surgery on December 16, 2012 for a post diverting loop colostomy and started chemotherapy in January of 2012 followed by 26 radiation treatments. The tumor was removed July 22, 2012 with a total anal recession. I have since had to endure a permanent colostomy which requires multiple bag changes per day along with catherization several times daily because of the bladder nerves being severed in order to remove the tumor. I am totally and permanently impotent as well as incontinent. The extensive chemotherapy has resulted in permanent neuropathy in both my hands and feet causing constant discomfort and pain.
A follow up exam on April 2, 2014 has shown even further spreading of cancer with new lesions on my liver, multiple new lesions on both lungs, plus growth of the existing lesions and a referral for a MRI as the doctor fears it may have spread to my brain. Another round of Chemotherapy would have been started immediately but was postponed so I would be able to come and speak to all of you.
It is likely too late for me, the gross negligence of my ongoing problems and crippling back log epidemic of the VA medical system has not only handed me a death sentence but ruined the quality of my life I have for the meantime. I am not here today for me, I am here to speak for those to come so that they might be spared the pain I have already endured and know that I have yet to face.
( Emphasis added by me)
My situation is made even more unnecessary knowing that a 1.2 million dollar grant was given to the Dorn VA Center to reduce backlog and improve care and treatment of veterans only to learn that the money was misallocated by diverting it to other uses instead of using it for the intended purpose. Only 1/3 of those funds were used properly.
Men and women across this country volunteer every day to serve in the armed forces. The fact that our military stays well-manned and strong solely on the willingness of those volunteers to risk to lives for the protection of the nation as a whole is truly awe-inspiring. Other nations have to force service in order to maintain a strong military.
( Emphasis added by me)
The very least this country should do is to ensure that those volunteers are taken care of after they have made sacrifices to take care of our country.
( Emphasis added by me)
I am not a unique case in the VA health care system as 19 others have already died and 60 more are in the same terminal status I am here because proper care was not given exams were not performed properly, and diagnostic tests were either postponed or not done at all.
In the civilian world, these doctors would face malpractice suits and medical review boards. As the saying goes “heads would roll.” In the VA system oversight is not as clear cut and complaints are often either lost or covered up by bureaucracy. So I ask you today, how many more vets will be allowed to suffer and die before someone is held accountable?
Coates, who became the human face of the Veterans Affairs scandal over delays in care in 2014, died on Saturday of the cancer that wracked his body after waits for medical care at a VA facility. He was 46.
The CNN investigation that included Coates was the first national story about delays in care across the country that year. It led to a national controversy resulting in the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, and ultimately a law that provided $16 billion to overhaul the Department of Veterans Affairs, passed by Congress and signed by President Obama.
After the CNN story about him, Coates was asked to testify before Congress about the delays in his medical care. When he got to Washington, Coates told lawmakers he had suffered for months, waiting for a simple medical procedure that might have saved his life.
Coates testified he was dying of cancer because the procedure was delayed at several VA facilities, including the William Jennings Bryan Dorn VA Medical Center in Columbia, South Carolina.
Leaving some lawmakers in tears and making national news again, Coates described in detail how he waited months, even begging for an appointment to have a colonoscopy. But he found himself on a growing list of veterans also waiting for appointments and procedures.
About a year after first complaining to his doctors of pain, Coates said, he was able to get a colonoscopy. Doctors discovered a cancerous tumor the size of a baseball. By then he had Stage 4 cancer, and it was only a matter of time before he was overtaken by the illness, he told lawmakers.
From his first interview, Coates, a simple but articulate man from rural South Carolina, spoke eloquently about how veterans should be treated better, and deserved more after all the sacrifices they had made for their country.
“Due to the inadequate and lack of follow-up care I received through the VA system, I stand before you terminally ill today,” Coates told members of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.
The lawmakers who heard him testify were shaken by his description, and about the numerous deaths of other veterans outlined in CNN’s investigation.
“This is an outrage! This is an American disaster!” Rep. Jackie Walorski, an Indiana Republican, nearly screamed, her voice quavering, during that congressional hearing, in April 2014. “My dad was a veteran. He died of colon cancer,” she said, crying softly. “This is so personal to me.”
Coates remained friendly and kind, was never hostile, and even kept his humor as his illness progressed. Speaking with his down-home and polite country manner, the Army veteran had a remarkable ability to touch many people with his story.
Coates’ family said he died Saturday from the cancer that had been left untreated by the VA for so long. After his time in the national spotlight, Coates continued to rail against the VA and fight for veterans to get better treatment, continuing to speak with reporters and helping them understand the VA crisis and scandal as it unfolded.
Coates’ son, Shane, 23, on Wednesday described his father’s fight and how he remained committed to helping other veterans to the end.
“Everything they did at the VA was dragged out, it was never a quick appointment for anything,” Shane Coates said. “He had to wait so long to get any treatment. After what happened to him, he just wanted to fight for other veterans.”
“He wanted to show the world that when you go fight for your country, it’s not right that you come home and then you have to fight just to get basic medical treatment,” Shane Coates said. “The way they treated him, and other veterans, it’s just not the way any veteran should ever be treated. It’s just not right.”
Coates was buried Wednesday in Timrod, South Carolina, after a service at the Timrod Baptist Church. In addition to Shane, Coates is survived by his father, Barry Coates Sr.; his wife, Donna; his brother Randall; his sister Dawanna; and by four other children: Scotty, 25; Breanna, 24; Troy, 22; and Tyler, 16.
1. Share this post with every Vet, Vet family member, ALL your Facebook friends and other social media…
2. Sign up for the newsletter and encourage those you share with to do the same…( Newsletter is in infancy stage…I’m still learning to use it..)
3. Begin thinking of ways you personally would be willing to do to help ( Would you be willing to make a donation to the fund, be a recruiter, hold meetings at your house, put up a poster at your local VFW or DVA, Be a county , state or national officer? )
I’ve said time and time again that the only way to reform the VA is to get rid of civil service protections and fire the incompetent middle and upper managers…and anyone who has anything to do with shredding of documents or hidden wait lists. If those left can’t do the job then fire them too and train and hire unemployed Vets to replace them…
If congress doesn’t have the balls then we need to hire a new congress…
Time for a Veteran’s Political Action Committee….
If you’re fed up and actually want to do something go to this page…
Most of you who have read my posts before realize that I don’t usually add a LOT of comment. I prefer to just present the stories and let you make up your own mind…This one’s a little different…I will add some of my own thoughts…
An eighth grader in Oregon wanted to honor his older brother, a Marine who had successfully served in Iraq and safely returned home. His tribute took the form of wearing a t-shirt… For some reason, the principal decided that this t-shirt wan “inappropriate” and demanded that he take it off…When the student refused, he was sent home.
Here’s the e-mail I sent to the school district supervisor:
First, I’m a Viet Nam Vet and so am active in many Orgs and websites supporting Vets and Patriotism…As such, I’m appalled at the actions of your school in response to a young man who sought not to disrupt at your school but only to honor the many Veterans who have fought and died for our country…
Second, It would seem, from the stories that I’ve read, that the t-shirt concerned was not in direct conflict of your dress code, only offending in the perception of the principal at the school. I am here to inform you that not only have you stepped on this young man’s civil rights, but you have offended ME and a large number of Veterans with your actions…
I intend to follow this story closely and report your actions to ALL my constituents…If your actions against this principal are not Immediate and an apology to the young man is not quickly forthcoming…YOU AND ALL YOUR BOSSES WILL HEAR FROM US..
And here’s his response:
Oct 12 (7 days ago)
I recently received your email expressing your concerns, and wanted to share some background.
As you may know, recently a middle school student in the Gresham-Barlow School District wore a t-shirt to school that had a rifle on it. Some news reports state the student was suspended. This was not the case. The administration did talk with the student about the appropriateness of the image on his shirt. The parent of the student agreed to allow the student to go home after the student refused other options such as changing into a different t-shirt.
We are aware the rifle on the student’s t-shirt featured a Fallen Soldier Battle Cross, which is a symbol used to show respect for fallen troops. The message of the t-shirt, showing support for our country’s military, and their many sacrifices, is a positive one that we fully support. What called into question the appropriateness of the t-shirt in a middle school setting was the rifle included in the image.
While the district’s dress code does not allow clothing with images of weapons, in light of this situation, we will take a closer look at our policy. This is an opportunity to engage the community in a conversation about school safety and the age appropriate ways to express support for our military veterans in a school setting.
The Gresham-Barlow School District greatly appreciates the service provided to our country by the members of the United States military and the many sacrifices made by veterans and their families to defend our country.
My e-mail back:
Oct 13 (6 days ago)
Just wanted to remind you while taking a closer look at your policy that the student in question has already had his Right to Free Speech infringed upon and continuing that infringement is unconstitutional…
If you would like to contact Mr Schlacter and add your own comment to the mix, Here’s his e-mail address:
Please let him know how you feel about his stepping on this students Constitutional Right… AND refusing to allow him to honor his brother…
Now on to Phoenix…
The Arizona Republic a Tucson publication put out by Gannet Publishing, has continued to cover the Phoenix VA scandal and t doesn’t seem to be getting any better..
We see that the VA is banning Vets from bringing their personal iPhones to exams and meetings to record the same…Does this mean that the VA is being a little disingenuous when it says it’s being transparent and honest? I think they’re just trying to stop Vets from gathering evidence of fraud and incompetance…
Beginning at about 9;30 am, 9/22/2015, The U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs began a hearing…
Improving VA Accountability: Examining First-Hand Accounts of Department of Veterans Affairs Whistleblowers
Sean Kirkpatrick, Brandon Coleman, Ph.D. (c), LISAC, Joseph Colon and Shea Wilkes testified…( Sean’s brother committed suicide after being fired in retaliation for raising concerns about over-medication at Tomah…Brandon, Joseph and Shea spoke of their own experience after coming forward…)
Their testimony was powerful…Questions asked them by the committee were thoughtful and pertinent…The Committee members expressed concern and seemed to say that something would finally be done about the continuing illegal harassment and retaliation the is suffered by those who come forward to report VA wrongdoing…
However, The committee chairman, Senator Ron Johnson, made it clear that this was supposedly a first step in a long drawn out process, at least for him. It certainly is not a first step for Vets and others who have been screaming for reforms for years. The evidence is there…why isn’t it being used?
Senator Johnson did say that any person who felt uncomfortable going to their superiors or the VAOIG could go to a website set up by his office…
This bill extends for two years the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) presumption of service connection for diseases associated with exposure to certain herbicides, including Agent Orange, with respect to veterans who served in the Republic of Vietnam between January 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975.
The Agent Orange Act of 1991 is amended to extend for two years the authority of the VA to enter into an agreement with the National Academy of Sciences to evaluate the scientific evidence regarding associations between diseases and exposure to dioxin and other chemical compounds in herbicides, including the association between exposure to a herbicide used in U.S. and allied military operations in the Republic of Vietnam during the Vietnam era and each disease suspected to be associated with such exposure.
THIS EXTENSION OF THE BILL THAT OPENED THE DOOR FOR AGENT ORANGE COMPENSATION IS UP FOR RENEWAL…
Contact your congressional reps. IMMEDIATELY and let them know that …you vote…this is important to you…and that you are watching to see what action they will take…
Let them know that you feel that it is IMPERATIVE the bill pass immediately and your next vote will depend on their action or inaction…
CALL TO ACTION
All that is necessary for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing…
Starting with today’s post, I’m going to go back and rehash some of the VA scandal story. If you have questions or would like to find out about certain instances please comment…Also PLEASE LIKE AND FORWARD THIS POST to all your friends that are Vets or have family members that are vets…
I’ve made 5 calls to the Birmingham VA this morning and aside from operators, I haven’t spoken to a single human being…
Call 1…Operator transferred me to Cardiology …Rang for 4 full minutes and then line went dead…
Call 2…Operator transferred me to Cardiology …Rang for 2-3 minutes and then line went dead…
Call 3…asked for PA she transferred me to PA line…left message…no return call
Call 3…Again transferred to PA …left message…no return call
Call 4…Asked for Directors office…Again transferred to PA… left message…no return call
There are times at the Bham VA that you can’t even get to an operator (Monday, especially after holiday. Friday, anytime they don’t want to answer the phone…)without a 10 -15 minute wait…
So…Here’s my question…How does the VA expect to be able to care for Vets…when they can’t even answer the phone?
Or is this part of the VA’s cost cutting measures…JUST..DON’T… ANSWER… THE… PHONE…
I wonder if this is not a major contributor to the frustration that many Vets feel when dealing with the VA…I know that right now. I’m furious…and I haven’t even spoken to a nurse or doctor or clerk…
When I first started dealing with the VA in Tucson in 2010…I was a reasonable, calm person…It wasn’t too long before I became very frustrated…I finally got to the point that almost every contact ended in chosing between exploding with anger and frustration or disengaging…neither of which is very productive…
I eventually voluntarily went to the Psych unit and asking for help dealing with the situation…I’ve been under treatment by them ever since…
But the problem still remains…Every time I try to do the simplest things, like making an appointment, sometimes even getting a refill, or in this case even getting through to a human being on the phone, The total incompetance of the VA gets in the way…
I have two calls in, one to each of my Representatives…I wonder if they will have an easier time getting through…I’ll let you know what happens..
Had similar problems with your VA? Leave your story in comments below…
I was having trouble with swelling because of my heart and tried to get in touch Wed. with my cardiologist at the Bham VA…4 calls and I wasn’t able to talk to a human other than an operator…Finally got fed up and called Both Senators from AL offices…At 5:45 pm Wed. (most VA offices close at 4:00 pm) I got a call from a Nurse Practitioner saying she had a note to call me…Now since I hadn’t talked to anyone other than an operator at the VA…You know they had heard from one of the Senator’s office…Upshot is I had an appt with my doctor in Gunt. yesterday and have another next Thurs…Did labs and adjusted my both heart meds and diuretics…AND I now have the name and extention # for the nurse and she said call her directly any time I’m having problems getting through…Sad that it takes an act of congess to get something done at the VA…
The congress, The President, McDonald and everyone else but the VA has tried. The VA continues to fight tooth and nail against any meaningful reform…Delay, deny and lie is built into the culture and fabric of the VA’s management…
As far as I can see, there is only one solution…the promise of SWIFT AND TERRIBLE RETRIBUTION for not performing your job correctly…
If OIG finds a department deficient…the department head should be suspended immediately, without pay, and an interim director appointed. A full investigation into the department should be initiated and ALL found responsible should be fired…
Investigation results should be made public as the investigation is ongoing and a final report should made to the President, VA director , congress and the public. Anyone who fails to co-operate with the investigation should also be suspended without pay.
Whistle blowers must be STRENUOUSLY protected..
.Any claim of retribution should be immediately published, investigated, and punished by suspension, leading to a dismissal hearing. Retribution to a whistle blower should be punished by law.
If that’s not enough, CRIMINAL PROSECUTION should be used. Accepting money to do a job and then not doing it is, after all, Fraud. Covering up malfeasance is Conspiracy to Commit Fraud. Do RICO laws apply to a huge conspiracy like this?
What about Civil Suits to recover any and all funds paid to those who took money by fraud?
Legal clinics are helping servicemen and women get their veterans benefits faster. These pro bono legal clinics are run by law students, and they help veterans substantiate their claims and get the disability compensation they need. Schools like the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va., have helped vets file hundreds of claims which could help vets get free legal advice and reduce the growing backlog of disability compensation in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Because of the success of the clinic at the College of William & Mary, U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Chris Murphy, D-Conn., introduced a bill on May 28 that would help other clinics get funding to help with veterans’ claims. Called The Veterans Legal Support Act of 2013 , the bill would allow VA to give up to $1 million per year to help these types of programs by giving them the financial support needed to continue to offer their services. According to the AP, 30 law schools in 18 states have developed these kinds of programs in the past five years.
“We have a responsibility to take care of our veterans and the VA isn’t currently doing enough,” Sen. Shaheen said in a statement. “The claims backlog is unacceptable and we still have too many veterans out on the streets. “Some of our nation’s law schools are greatly reducing processing times for the most difficult benefits claims and expanding access to legal services, both of which are key to preventing homelessness. Our bill would authorize the VA to work more closely with these programs and lower barriers for additional schools to develop their own. Our goal is to have a veterans legal clinic in each state.”
Because of the success of the program at the College of William & Mary, students there have written a guidebook for other schools interested in starting a program like this. According to the AP, Congress has deemed this program an inexpensive way to speed up the VA system of benefits processing.
“At 50 clients you’re directly representing at a time, that’s certainly not going to impact the backlog in a way that It needs to be,” Patty Roberts, director of clinical programs at William & Mary’s law school, told the AP. “But if you get more law schools across the country to do this work then you’re exponentially leveraging the passion and the experience of law students across the country to help with that backlog.”
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (AP) — A year after Americans recoiled at new revelations that sick veterans were getting sicker while languishing on waiting lists — and months after the Department of Veterans Affairs instituted major reforms costing billions of dollars — government data shows that the number of patients facing long waits at VA facilities has not dropped at all. No one expected that the VA mess could be fixed overnight. But The Associated Press has found that since the summer, the number of vets waiting more than 30 or 60 days for non-emergency care has largely stayed flat. The number of medical appointments that take longer than 90 days to complete has nearly doubled.Nearly 894,000 appointments completed at VA medical facilities from Aug. 1 to Feb. 28 failed to meet the health system’s timeliness goal, which calls for patients to be seen within 30 days.That means roughly one in 36 patient visits to a caregiver involved a delay of at least a month. Nearly 232,000 of those appointments involved a delay of longer than 60 days — a figure that doesn’t include cancellations, patient no-shows, or instances where veterans gave up and sought care elsewhere.
A closer look reveals deep geographic disparities.
Many delay-prone facilities are clustered within a few hours’ drive of each other in a handful of Southern states, often in areas with a strong military presence, a partly rural population and patient growth that has outpaced the VA’s sluggish planning process.
Of the 75 clinics and hospitals with the highest percentage of patients waiting more than 30 days for care, 12 are in Tennessee or Kentucky, 11 are in eastern North Carolina and the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, 11 more are in Georgia and southern Alabama, and six are in north Florida.
Seven more were clustered in the region between Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Those 47 clinics and hospitals represent just a fraction of the more than 1,000 VA facilities nationwide, but they were responsible for more than one in five of the appointments that took longer than 60 days to complete, even though they accounted for less than 6 percent of patient visits.
That has meant big headaches for veterans like Rosie Noel, a retired Marine gunnery sergeant who was awarded the Purple Heart in Iraq after rocket shrapnel slashed open her cheek and broke her jaw.
Noel, 47, said it took 10 months for the VA to successfully schedule her for a follow-up exam and biopsy after an abnormal cervical cancer screening test in June 2013.
First, she said, her physician failed to mention she needed the exam at all. Then, her first scheduled appointment in February 2014 was postponed due to another medical provider’s “family emergency.” She said her make up appointment at the VA hospital in Fayetteville, one of the most backed-up facilities in the country, was abruptly canceled when she was nearly two hours into the drive from her home in Sneads Ferry on the coast.
Noel said she was so enraged, she warned the caller that she had post-traumatic stress disorder, she wasn’t going to turn around — and they better have security meet her in the lobby.
“I served my country. I’m combat wounded. And to be treated like I’m nothing is unconscionable,” she said.
The AP examined wait times at 940 individual VA facilities from Sept. 1 through Feb 28 to gauge any changes since a scandal over delays and attempts to cover them up led to the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki in May and prompted lawmakers to pass the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act in August. The analysis included all VA hospitals and outpatient clinics for which consistent wait time data was available. It excluded residential treatment centers, homeless dormitories and disability evaluation centers. Data for individual facilities were not available for August.
It is difficult to quantify exactly how things have changed because the VA introduced a new method for measuring wait times at the end of the summer. VA officials say the new methodology is more accurate, but its adoption also meant that about half of all patient appointments previously considered delayed are now being classified as meeting VA timeliness standards. That means published wait times now can’t be directly compared with data the VA released last spring.
The trend, however, is clear: Under the VA’s old method for calculating delays, the percentage of appointments that took longer than 30 days to complete had been steadily ticking up, from 4.2 percent in May to nearly 5 percent in September. Under the new method — the one that counts half as many appointments as delayed — the percentage went from 2.4 percent in August to 2.9 percent in February.
The number of appointments delayed by more than 90 days abruptly jumped to nearly 13,000 in January and more than 10,000 in February, compared to an average of around 5,900 the previous five months. That’s not a change that can simply be blamed on bad winter weather; many of the places reporting the largest gains are warm year-round.
VA officials say they are aware of the trouble spots in the system. They cite numerous efforts to ramp up capacity by building new health centers and hiring more staff; between April and December, the system added a net 8,000 employees, including 800 physicians and nearly 2,000 nurses.
And they say that in at least one statistical category, the VA has improved: The number of appointments handled by VA facilities between May and February was up about 4.5 percent compared to the same period a year earlier.
But they also readily acknowledge that in some parts of the country, the VA is perpetually a step behind rising demand.
“I think what we are seeing is that as we improve access, more veterans are coming,” Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs Sloan Gibson told the AP.
He also acknowledged that the VA has historically been “not very adroit as a bureaucracy” in responding to those changes. It takes too long to plan and build new clinics when they are needed, he said, and the VA isn’t flexible in its ability to reallocate resources to places that need them most.
“We are doing a whole series of things — the right things, I believe — to deal with the immediate issue,” Gibson said. “But we need an intermediate term plan that moves us ahead a quantum leap, so that we don’t continue over the next three or four years just trying to stay up. We’ve got to get ahead of demand.”
He also asked for patience. President Barack Obama signed legislation in August giving the VA an additional $16.3 billion to hire doctors, open more clinics and build the new Choice program that allows vets facing long delays or long drives to get care from a private-sector doctor.
It will take time to get some of those initiatives expanded to the point where they “move the needle,” Gibson said.
Between Nov. 5 and March 17, according to VA officials, only about 46,000 patients had made appointments for private-sector care through Choice — a drop in the bucket for a system that averages about 4.7 million appointments per month.
In many parts of the country, the VA can boast of being able to deliver care that is just as fast, or even faster, than patients would get in the private sector. Relatively few VA facilities in the Northeast, Midwest and Pacific Coast states reported having significant numbers of patients waiting extended periods for care.
Of the 940 hospitals and outpatient centers included in the AP analysis, 376 met the VA’s timeliness standard better than 99 percent of the time. A little less than half of all VA hospitals and clinics reported averaging fewer than two appointments per month that involved a wait of more than 60 days.
The difference between the haves and have-nots can be stark.
The Minneapolis VA, one of the system’s busiest medical centers, completed 276,094 medical appointments between Sept. 1 and Feb. 28. Only 424 of them involved a wait of more than 60 days.
At the VA’s outpatient clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, a facility handling a third of the volume, 7,117 appointments involved a wait of more than 60 days.
That means there were more vets experiencing extended delays at that one clinic than in the entire states of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut combined.
Equally surprising: The Jacksonville clinic is practically brand new. It opened in 2013 with the express intent of improving access to care in a fast-growing city with a lot of military retirees and a close relationship with three U.S. Navy bases: Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Naval Station Mayport and the Kings Bay Naval Base.
But like other VA facilities built recently in spots now struggling with long waits, the clinic took so long to plan and build — 12 years — that it was too small the day it opened, despite late design changes that added significantly more space.
“Even our best demographic models didn’t anticipate the rate at which the growth would occur,” said Nick Ross, the assistant director for outpatient clinics at the VA’s North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System.
In recent months, the clinic has been enrolling another 25 new patients per day — a growth rate that would require the VA to hire another doctor, nurse and medical support assistant every 10 weeks to keep up with demand, said Thomas Wisnieski, the health system’s director.
Officials are hoping to lease 20,000 square feet of additional clinic space while they begin the planning process for yet another new building.
Clinic construction is also underway in an attempt to ease chronic delays in care on the Florida panhandle. A new outpatient VA clinic is scheduled to open in Tallahassee in 2016, and a groundbreaking ceremony was held in August for a new clinic in Panama City.
A SLOW PACE OF CHANGE
The Fayetteville VA hopes to celebrate its 75th anniversary this fall with the opening of a huge new outpatient health care center that could ease the types of chronic delays that caused Rosie Noel so much anxiety. (After her canceled exam, the VA paid for Noel to get care at a private-sector clinic; she doesn’t have cervical cancer.)
With 250,000 square feet of usable space, the center will be almost as large as the main hospital building itself. The new campus will have 1,800 parking spots, a women’s clinic and scores of new treatment rooms. It is sorely needed for a region that is home to two of America’s largest military bases, the Army’s Fort Bragg and the Marines’ Camp Lejeune, and one of the highest concentrations of vets in the country. In two core counties, one in five adults is a veteran.
Yet the new building is also emblematic of the slow pace of change at the VA.
Planning for the facility began in 2008, and Congress approved funding the next year. Construction hadn’t even begun when the first target completion date came and went in June 2012. The VA’s Office of Inspector General said in a 2013 report that the VA’s management of the “timeliness and costs” of seven planned health care centers, including the one in Fayetteville, had “not been effective.”
The hospital’s director since 2010, Elizabeth Goolsby, cited the VA’s failure to expand quickly as a primary reason for why eastern North Carolina now has some of the longest waits for care in the country.
“The contracting and building time in the Department of Veterans Affairs is a lengthy process,” she said.
During her tenure in Fayetteville, Goolsby has opened new outpatient clinics in Wilmington, Goldsboro, Pembroke and Hamlet. All now rank among the VA locations with the highest percentage of appointments that fail to meet timeliness standards.
At the VA’s clinic in Jacksonville— a small medical office built in a shopping plaza near Camp Lejeune’s main gate in 2008 — nearly one in nine appointments completed between Sept. 1 and Feb. 28 involved a wait of longer than 60 days.
“It’s not big enough to accommodate the number of veterans we are seeing or the number of providers we need,” Goolsby acknowledged.
One solution, she said, has been to keep building.
A new 15,000-square-foot clinic is under construction to serve the area around Camp Lejeune. The VA also is trying to develop a clinic in Sanford, north of Fort Bragg. And there have been stopgap measures, like the construction of modular buildings at the Fayetteville hospital this winter to host mental health clinics, and an emergency lease for a temporary medical office that allowed it to bolster staff in Jacksonville.
Some vets whose doctors were moved over to the new Jacksonville space said things improved immediately, even if that has not yet been reflected in the statistics.
“It used to take me six months to a year to get a doctor’s appointment,” Jim Davis, a retired Marine who fought in the first Gulf War and now has Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Since he transferred to the temporary clinic, he said, “I’ve called, and within three or four days I can get in to see the doctor.”
He called the change a relief, because he preferred to stay within the VA system for care if he could.
“There’s not a pharmacist at Wal-Mart calling me at home and asking me if the latest change in medicine made me feel sick. But that is happening in the VA,” Davis said. “They are so much more respectful, because they know you served.”
RURAL RECRUITING CHALLENGES
After years of planning, a large, new outpatient center also is scheduled to open this fall to expand care offered at the VA medical center in Montgomery, Alabama.
That expansion also is long overdue. Among the VA’s full-service medical centers, the Montgomery VA had the highest percentage of appointments that took longer than 30 days to complete. More than one in 11 appointments completed between September and February failed to meet timeliness standards. A sister hospital, a short drive to the east in Tuskegee, was No. 2.
There’s no guarantee, though, that a new building will help the Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System solve one of its other longstanding problems — a difficulty recruiting enough doctors and specialists needed to handle demand.
Both hospitals are surrounded by largely poor, rural counties designated by the government as having severe physician shortages.
“They are on the frontier of some of the most medically underserved areas of the country,” said Dr. William Curry, associate dean for primary care and rural health at University of Alabama School of Medicine.
That could mean that veterans who might otherwise get care in the private sector are more reliant on the VA. It also has historically meant big challenges recruiting physicians, who can make more money in metropolitan areas.
“Not a lot of medical students want to go work for the VA in a rural community medical clinic,” said Dr. Kevin Dellsperger, chief medical officer at the Georgia Regents Medical Center and former chief of staff at the VA medical center in Iowa City, Iowa.
Dr. Srinivas Ginjupalli, acting chief of staff for the Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System, confirmed that recruiting is a challenge, but he said the VA has been boosting salaries since the summer in an attempt to be more competitive in attracting staff.
Goolsby cited similar rural recruiting problems in her enterprise, which serves a sprawling region of hog farms and tobacco fields. Other VA officials said difficulty attracting health care providers to remote or poor parts of the country was an issue throughout the system.
NO EASY FIX
A few places struggling the most with long waits did report improvements.
At the VA in Montgomery, Alabama, the percentage of appointments that take longer than 30 days to complete has fallen from 12.6 percent in September to 6.4 percent in February. That’s still a bad number compared to other VA hospitals but, looking at performance only in February, it would be enough improvement to take the hospital from worst to third in terms of the percentage of delays.
The VA’s most chronically delayed outpatient clinic throughout the summer and fall, located in Virginia Beach, Virginia, reported improvement, too. In September, 24 percent of its patient visits were delayed by at least 30 days. By February, that had fallen to 11 percent — still terrible, but much better.
The VA site that had the most trouble meeting the VA’s timeliness standard during the whole six-month period reviewed by the AP was a small clinic near Fort Campbell in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. One in five appointments took longer than 30 days to complete, and the rate has gotten steadily worse over time.
The centerpiece of the legislation signed over the summer was a plan to expand the number of veterans who are approved to get care outside of VA facilities. Yet the Choice program has barely gotten off the ground.
ID cards for the program were mailed starting in November, but many vets still don’t understand how it works. It theoretically is open to patients who can’t been seen within 30 days, or who have to drive longer distances for care, but enrollees still have to get VA approval to see a private-sector doctor and only some physicians participate in the payment system.
“It’s not working the way it needs to work,” said Gibson, the deputy VA secretary, though he added that he was enthusiastic about its potential. He said some consultants advising the VA said it might take 18 months to build the program.
In a meeting with congressional aides and state veterans service officials in March, Goolsby gave some figures to illustrate how the program was working in southeastern North Carolina: Of the 640 patients offered an opportunity for outside care through mid-March, only four were ultimately seen a private-sector doctor.
“We’re finding that a lot don’t want an outside appointment,” she said.
Reasons vary, she said, but one factor is that switching to a new doctor can be disruptive for someone with an ongoing medical issue.
In March, officials loosened the eligibility rules for the program slightly so it would cover more vets who have to drive longer distances for care.
The VA also has been trying to tackle long wait times in other ways.
The Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System, Ginjupalli said, has been promoting the use of “telehealth” systems that allow patients in rural or backed-up areas to see doctors elsewhere via video conferencing.
It also has reached an agreement with the Defense Department to help reduce long delays for care at its clinic in Columbus, Georgia, by moving some staff to a 19,000-square-foot building at the military’s medical center at Fort Benning.
Dr. Daniel Dahl, psychiatrist and associate chief of staff for mental health at the Central Alabama VA, said the new space will triple the VA’s capacity for mental health care in the area. In February, the average delay for a mental health appointment at the Columbus clinic was 25 days — seven times the national average.
Obama’s secretary of Veterans Affairs, Robert McDonald, has cautioned that it will take time for reforms to make a difference.
He also warned in recent testimony to Congress that the system may still be decades away from seeing peak usage by the generation of servicemen and servicewomen who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Total enrollees in the VA system have ballooned from 6.8 million in 2002 to 8.9 million in 2013. During that same period, outpatient visits have soared from 46.5 million to 86.4 million annually; patient spending has grown from $19.9 billion to $44.8 billion; the number of patients served annually has grown from 4.5 million to 6 million.
McDonald told Congress the number of mental health outpatient visits alone is up 72 percent from 2005.
“Today, we serve a population that is older, with more chronic conditions, and less able to afford private sector care,” McDonald said.
That could mean that without further change, waits will only grow.
Came across this article and thought y’all might be interested…
This article reprinted with permission
December 8, 2014 Oliver B. Mitchell III
As a result of Marine Veteran Mitchell’s complaint about radiology issues and the recent VA Scandal of 2014 we decided to look into the world of VA Radiology Clinics to see what we’d discover. Our series begins with the Bay Pines VA Medical Center.
On March 24, 2009, Marine Veteran Oliver Mitchell filed a complaint with the VA OIG alleging the destruction of documents to include radiology backlogs that consisted of significant wait times, productivity issues, wait list and wait times for outpatient care and services.
During our cursory investigation we discovered that “fraud is rampant in VA Radiology clinics around the country.”
On June 12, 2006 the VA OIG issued a report titled “Healthcare Inspection; Follow up evaluation of clinical and administrative issues Bay Pines Healthcare System.”
The purpose of the inspection was to “assess the overall quality of care…” Additionally, the OIG had received “new allegations of alleged mismanagement, alleged corruption and incompetence of Bay Pines management, and an alleged budget deficit.” At the request of Senator Bill Nelson the OIG had conducted this investigation as a follow up inspection.
The OIG had visited the healthcare center 3 times during the month of March ’06. They noted that “management had implemented corrective actions that fully resolved or had improved a majority of the deficiencies” from a prior OIG report from 2004. The OIG continued saying “despite significant progress and achievements they found that actions taken in some areas were not completely effective in resolving the conditions or that further action was needed.”
In usual double talk, the OIG initially claimed “the facility had improved since 2004, but despite significant progress they found that further action was needed.”
Therefore, one must ask, did the Bay Pines facility improve or digress in their actions?
The OIG continued their report saying “we found no evidence of mismanagement resulting in inadequate patient care, nor did we identify any examples of mismanagement corruption or incompetence.”
Despite the fact that they noted:
Mammograms were not interpreted in a timely manner.
Immediate and urgent radiological examinations continue to be ordered inappropriately.
Managers did not adequately monitor radiology productivity.
Again, the OIG uses double talk. Their report highlights untimeliness and inappropriate ordering of exams, yet, there’s no impact towards patient care.
Earlier we noted that this report was a follow up inspection from a prior OIG report in 2004. In both February and March of 2004 at the request of the Secretary and multiple members of Congress the OIG had visited Bay Pines to evaluate their effect on patient care.
Among other issues, their evaluation identified:
The effectiveness of management and leadership.
Wait times and productivity.
Wait times for outpatient care and services.
In that 2004 report the OIG had “confirmed many of the allegations and made recommendations.”
From the issues the OIG had found, the following deficiencies had existed:
Inadequate management that resulted in a dysfunctional Clinical and Administrative operation.
Medical Care in selected clinical services was not adequate.
VA’s management did not protect the interests of the government.
The medical facility wasn’t adequately prepared.
Security weaknesses placed programs and data at risk.
Senior leadership failed to respond.
Out of the 6 issues the OIG noted:
Turnover in key leadership positions was excessive.
A lack of trust in senior management led to low physician and employee morale.
A culture of safety and accountability was not present.
Out of fear of reprisals, patient safety was not discussed.
Audiology appointments were manipulated by management to meet performance goals.
Waiting lists were understated by more than 1,000 veterans.
Service connected veterans were not receiving appointments within the 30 day requirement.
Non-service connected veterans had their appointments cancelled with some waiting in excess of 800 days.
The Radiology Service was not able to schedule or interpret x-ray images within acceptable time frames.
On February 24, 2004, there were 1,099 unread x-rays, over 750 of which were Computerized Tomography scans and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) films. The delays contributed to delays in diagnosing patients with lung cancer.
The delay in a MRI interpretation and the diagnosis of a tumor, contributed to a veteran’s spinal cord injury.
Pulmonary Service patients incurred unexplained appointment cancellations.
Medicine Service did not have a peer review process to monitor patient care.
Despite the alarming and overwhelming issues identified, the OIG concluded its 2006 report saying “We found no evidence of mismanagement resulting in inadequate patient care, nor did we identify any examples of management corruption or incompetence. Overall, it is our opinion that conditions have substantially improved at BPHCS since March 2004.”
The Radiology/ Imaging department consist of two divisions; Nuclear Medicine and Radiology. Imaging Service offers nuclear medicine, general x-rays, computerized tomography (CT) scanning, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), ultrasonography, angiography, interventional radiological procedures, and screening mammography.
According to the report “Urgent requests require the examination and interpretation within 2 hours. Routine requests require the examination within 30 days and image interpretation within 48 hours of exam completion.”
Mitchell says “he wasn’t surprised” to learn that the Bay Pines Radiology department “wasn’t scheduling exams or interpreting and verifying images in a timely manner.”
Mitchell continued saying “we had the same [exact] issues as Bay Pines. After having read that report it brought back an eerie feeling. It was like being back at work again. I can’t believe that another Radiology clinic clear across the country faced the same operational challenges and employee morale issues as we did at the Los Angeles VA.”
The OIG report cited the Bay Pines Radiology clinic saying “Radiology has made substantial improvements in access and timeliness and has also improved capacity by adding new equipment and increasing operational hours and coverage. However, we were told of some morale problems within the division, primarily related to salary and benefits. We also noted that one of the radiologists has been functioning as the Acting Chief for more than 2 years because the facility has been unable to recruit a full time Chief of Radiology.”
Mitchell told us “had the OIG conducted a real and full investigation, instead of alerting Donna Beiter to his allegations; we possibly could have improved our services and care. It’s absolutely mind boggling as to why they wouldn’t investigate, knowing there’s a pattern of misconduct within the radiology clinics across the country.”
Mitchell says he noticed one striking comment within the report. The OIG had stated “Stability within Radiology is critical to efficient operations.” Mitchell says “every provider will at some point order a test or exam from radiology. These exams are used to detect a patient’s illness. If radiology is behind the 8 ball, then healthcare in general will lag and the patient will suffer.”
This has been another post from “A Veteran Whistleblower: Exposing Corruption.”
Copyright. Oliver B. Mitchell III, 2014. All rights reserved. This article cannot be copied, re-posted, published or edited without the express permission of the author. You may link and/or embed a link to this article.
“Researchers have been unable to complete any brain research on the machine amid concerns about image quality and mechanical breakdowns.”
Since 2008, virtually nothing has been done with this $3.6 M MRI machine because it was installed so poorly that vibrations caused poor image quality …
And the VA continues to throw good money after bad…The storys’ last paragraph…
“In the past year, VA officials have hired both a new center director and a supervisor for its neuroimaging program and plan to restart research on the scanner once they reduce the vibrations they say led to its image quality problems.”
Please note: V A REPORT website is in no way affiliated with the VA, or any other government agency…
OK folks, this is a quick post to let you know what’s going on…
On the site, I’m working to get a few more state pages up and running and figure out the reporting aspect…I think I found a couple of plugins that will allow contact forms and comments to go directly to the moderator for that page…That will allow the moderator for that page to deal with them directly instead of having to route everything through me…
On that subject, I’ll be needing volunteers to moderate pages…They will need to be from the state the page is for, have a computer… and an interest in helping Vets. They will have Editor privileges for that page and hopefully access to a couple of resource pages I’ll be putting together later…
OK…NOW FOR THE NEWS…
I thought that with all the HOOPLA, being called on the carpet in congress etc that just MAYBE the VA was starting to get the idea that WE’RE MAD AS HELL AND WE’RE NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANY MORE…
He’s helping Vets that are homebound to get a separate benefit meant to help with home care…
Ok y’all… it’s time to get back to the… WE’RE MAD AS HELL AND WE’RE NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANY MORE…part…
The VA isn’t going to change until we MAKE it change…
And the way to do that is to DEMAND it from the people that were SUPPOSEDLY elected to represent us…and the only way to do that is to convince them that if they don’t fix this problem NOW, they will not be re-elected…
You may think “I’m only person…What can I do to make a difference?”
There is something that you can do that is very powerful…You can let your elected officials know that this is very important to and that you are watching them to see what they do and YOUR VOTE IS DETERMINED BY THEIR ACTIONS…
A phone call is most effective, but a letter or an email can have an impact too, especially if there are a LOT of them…Ask for a response, engage them any way you can…and KEEP engaging them until they do something…
You can also contact NEWS MEDIA in your area and let them know how you feel…
WARNING: UNABASHED SELF PROMOTION AHEAD…
Finally, you can help spread the word about this site…SHARE… SHARE… SHARE and ask your friends to share too…that’s how we get the word out…
If you think this site isimportant to help Vets get the support they need…If you think this site is important to bringing the VA’s problems into the open…If you think this site needs to continue…If you are a Vet or have a family member that is or you will become a Vet, this site is important to you. You can help support this site by making a donation here….Think how much we can help if everyone puts in $20, $10, $5 or even $1…
A Veteran that’s partially paralyzed from a stroke Is being evicted from his home because of foreclosure…
The Story itself is disturbing enough, but the comments are even more so… Comments and replies quickly deteriorated into a debate of definitions and blame, some even coming to the conclusion that the Vet didn’t deserve to live in the house because he couldn’t afford it and some blaming political parties, the banking industry, even the judge that made the decision for the eviction order…All getting farther and farther away from the point…There’s a Vet in trouble…Does he need help…
Some even went so far as to check out an entity that was raising funds for the Vet and saying the fundraiser was shady and the funds would never get to the Vet…
Others jumped on the story and used it to promote their position on the banking industry, again blaming one party or the other for the problem…
This whole thing just got more and more evil as I read along…
Go to the story, check it out, read the comments…If you feel the need, do some research on your own, on any aspect of the story …Then let me know what you think…
If you think this site is vital to help Vets get the support they need…If you think this site is vital to bringing the VA’s problems into the open…If you think this site needs to continue…If you are a Vet or have a family member that is or you will become a Vet, this site is important to you. You can help support this site by making a donation here….Think how much we can help if everyone puts in $20, $10, $5 or even $1…
Parents of military veterans who took their own lives after surviving combat told a congressional panel on Thursday how not to prevent suicide:
●Turn away a veteran of some 400 combat missions in Iraq because he’s no longer active in the National Guard.
●Then turn him away because he was previously in the Guard and refer him to a military facility where he’s promptly referred back to VA.
●Now tell him to wait for a postcard with his appointment time.
●Either don’t send that postcard, or send it to the wrong address.
●Refuse to refer him outside the Veterans Affairs health-care system.
●When he finally does get his first VA date with a psychiatrist, have that doctor inform him that he’s retiring and won’t be able to see him a second time. Emphasize that he will, however, be seen by another doctor — just as soon as one becomes available.
●Never get back in touch, and let him run up considerable debt getting what help he can in the private sector.
●And, finally, watch that veteran sprawled on the floor, crying in the corner of a VA hospital where he’s gone while having flashbacks and begging to be admitted. Refuse to see him again, but assure him he’s free to stick around until he feels well enough to drive himself home.
After all that, Daniel Somers committed suicide last summer, his parents tearfully testified before the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee on Thursday. Their son was 23.
Sitting close together, Harold and Jean Somers took turns reading their statement, peering through almost matching wire-rimmed glasses. A few times, he finished her sentence when she started to cry. Once, she did the same for him.
While they spoke, members of the committee could not have been more attentive. One said she had been close to tears herself; a couple told the grieving parents that their testimony had been hard to hear. Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.), a doctor who served in Vietnam, called their words “heartwarming.’’ He must have meant heartbreaking, because there was nothing fuzzy about it.
In 2011, Daniel Somers wrote about the crushing guilt he felt over having been “called upon to employ deadly force on a regular basis — often in situations where noncombatants ended up in the crossfire. To this day, I am unable to provide even a rough approximation as to the number of civilian deaths in which I may be complicit.”
In his final months, Somers suffered from post-traumatic stress so severe he wore a towel around his head that he said helped keep out the voices, the light and the sound.
Clay Hunt, a Marine who fought in both Iraq and Afghanistan, took his own life in 2011. His parents, Richard and Susan Selke, added more to the “what not to do” list.
●Tell someone who has at last found an antidepressant that works well that he has to change drugs because there’s no generic version available.
●Once that hurdle is cleared, tell him the VA pharmacy doesn’t stock that drug, but it will be mailed to him in seven to 10 days. Ignore all medical advice against stopping anti-depressants cold.
●Now tell him the prescription can’t be refilled because it was written in Colorado rather than Houston, where he’s just moved — and thus he must start all over in the system, and wait to be reevaluated.
●Classify him as only entitled to 30 percent disability pay even though he is so compromised by the symptoms of his post-traumatic stress that he isn’t able to work.
●Lose his paperwork for 18 months, and then five weeks after his death, finally review his appeal and conclude that he should be on full disability. Notify his survivors of the good news.
Brian Portwine’s mom, Peggy, said he should have gotten an automatic mental health evaluation after a fellow soldier he’d just switched seats with in their Humvee in Iraq was blown to bits. That didn’t happen, though.
Back home, he had such poor short-term memory that he’d frequently ask his friends, “Where are we going again?” Yet despite suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression and a traumatic brain injury, he was deployed again and killed himself in May of 2011.
“I’m begging this committee” to do something, Portwine said, in keeping with what “I promised my son at his funeral.’’
She has kept that promise, as have all the parents and loved ones who’ve been turned into advocates by the rolling tragedy of the 22 veterans a day who committed suicide in 2010, up from 18 per day in 2007, according to the latest figures from VA.
The committe’s chairman, Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), introduced a bill on Thursday called the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, which would require the National Guard and VA to work together. Sen. John Walsh (D-Mont.), a retired Army colonel and Iraq veteran, has proposed similar legislation to financially reward psychiatrists who stay in the VA system. It’s unclear what VA could offer to doctors to stay on in a place that would leave a man who fought for us, and then couldn’t forgive himself, crying on the floor.
In this case, it’s obvious that Congress is willing to act, but how? Surely, more access to and information about private care is one answer. But on days like this one, spent watching the grief of those who survived soldiers we effectively left on the battlefield, VA itself seems beyond saving.
A call is more effective but a letter or E-mail will help too…You can let your elected officials know that this is very important to and that you are watching them to see what they do and YOUR VOTE IS DETERMINED BY THEIR ACTIONS…
Check out this organization, Concerned Veterans for America…
You can look around on facebook at the FB pages for Veteran’s organizations like:
Vietnam War Photography Share…VIET NAM VETS…Vietnam Reflections – Through Their Eyes…
United States Veterans Association…
Sent a request to join their group and express your thanks…
You can BECOME INVOLVED…That’s the only way to get the word out…”THEY” are not going to do it for us so we have to do it for ourselves…
If you think this site is vital to help Vets get the support they need…If you think this site is vital to bringing the VA’s problems into the open…If you think this site needs to continue…If you are a Vet or have a family member that is or you will become a Vet, this site is important to you. You can help support this site by making a donation here…
You can also help by going to the store and purchasing Veteran related items…click here
If you’re like me and you think that congress needs some SERIOUS changes, check this out:
Congressional Reform Act
1. TERM LIMITS
12 years only, one of the possible options below.
A. Two Six-year Senate terms
B. Six Two-year House terms
C. One Six-year Senate term and three Two-Year House terms.
2. NO TENURE/NO PENSION
A Congressman collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when they are out of office.
3. CONGRESS (past, present & future) PARTICIPATES in SOCIAL SECURITY
All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security system immediately. All future funds flow into the Social Security system and Congress participates with the American people.
4. CONGRESS CAN PURCHASE THEIR OWN RETIREMENT PLAN
Just like each and every other American.
5. CONGRESS WILL NO LONGER VOTE THEMSELVES A PAY RAISE
Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 2.5%.
6. CONGRESS LOSES THEIR CURRENT HEALTH CARE SYSTEM
Congress will participate in the same health care system as the American people.
7. CONGRESS MUST EQUALLY ABIDE by ALL LAWS
No special exemptions or treatment. This includes parking in the Washington D.C. district…
8. ALL CONTRACTS WITH PAST AND PRESENT CONGRESSMEN ARE VOID
9. CONGRESSMEN ARE REQUIRED UNDER THREAT OF CENSURE AND EXPULSION AND JAIL TERMS TO ABIDE BY LOBBYING REFORM ACT
10. CONGRESSMEN ARE PROHIBITED FROM VOTING ON ANY MATTER IF INTEREST TO ANYONE WHO HAS CONTRIBUTED MORE THAN $1000.00 TO THEIR CAMPAIGN
Think of the money this will save and the problems that it will much more quickly solve! Health care, medicare, social security, IRA and pension plan reform and on and on.
The American people did not make this contract with Congressmen. Congressmen made all these contracts for themselves.
Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, so ours should serve their term(s), then go home and back to work.
LOBBYING REFORM ACT
Lobbying is to defined as: the act of attempting to influence decisions made by officials in the government, such as legislators or members of regulatory agencies or those who make purchasing
The purpose of this act is to restrict lobbying to providing information only.
Anyone who engages in the act of lobbying in any form is to register as a lobbyist and abide by this act…
Lobbying activities shall be strictly confined to providing information.
1. Lobbyists are strictly forbidden to offer any congressman or any staff member or anyone involved in purchasing anything for any branch of the government or anyone connected to them any incentive other than information, including but not limited to: campaign contributions, junkets, gifts of any kind, preferential treatment, promises of future employment, entertainment of any form, in short anything other than information.
2. A committee will be established, made up of members representing The White house (1), both houses of Congress(1 each), purchasing authority for the military (1 for the military, and all other branches of government)and (20) members from the public at large.
3. Public members will be chosen from the american public at large. The identities of public members will kept a strict secret.
4. This committee will be empowered to supervise all lobbying of all branches of government. Funding for housing, staff, office equipment and all other needs shall come equally from the White House, Congress and Purchasing authorities.
5.Lobbyists and members of the White House, Congress and Purchasing authorities, other than those on the committee are prohibited from contacting committee members in any way, regarding any committee business or function unless requested, summoned or subpoened by the committee,
6. Lobbyists who violate this act will be subject to: barring from lobbying activities, fines, jail, public flogging on the White House lawn (OK I got a little carried away. It would be effective though). Punishments decided by the comittee.
6. Members of the White House, Congress and Purchasing authorities who violate this act will be subject to: Censure, being impeached, fines, or Jail, such punishments to be decided by the committee.
AND PROBABLY MOST IMPORTANT…CAMPAIGN REFORM…
All campaign ads must be CLEARLY labeled with the name and organization placing the ad…
Any Media running such must be required to provide FREE OF CHARGE an equal amount of space for an opposing view, such space to paid for by the person or organization placing the ad…(Actually I think this should apply to any and all ads)…
If you think this site is vital to help Vets get the support they need…If you think this site is vital to bringing the VA’s problems into the open…If you think this site needs to continue…If you are a Vet or have a family member that is or you will become a Vet, this site is important to you. You can help support this site by making a donation here….
This morning, I sent a letter to the House and Senate VA Conference Committee. The letter strongly urges the committee to include four principles CVA believes must be protected in the VA reform legislation they are finalizing.
The letter is below for your reference and you can view it online here.
July 10, 2014
Dear Conference Committee Members,
As your committee meets to finalize VA reform language, CVA believes the final legislation must both aggressively address VA’s systemic problems and shield reforms from VA bureaucratic sabotage. CVA will be closely watching four key areas of concern during the coming reconciliation process. We strongly urge that any final bill closely adhere to the following provisions:
Establish clear, independent, and automatic wait time and geographic standards for seeking private care. The final conference bill must reflect clear standards-no more than 21 days or 60 or less miles-to define what constitutes excessive wait times, or excessive travel, for VA care. If wait time and/or geographic standards are not met, automatic triggers must be in place for the veteran to quickly seek private care. VA must not be permitted to set their own standard for “excessive” waits or travel, nor impose high-level approval to seek reimbursed private care.
Establish enforceable guarantees of timely reimbursement payments to private VA providers. It currently takes months, even years, for VA to reimburse private medical providers. By comparison, under Medicare or Tricare, the government pays within 30 days for most billing claims. In order to ensure private doctors accept VA patients, there must be rapid reimbursement-lest bureaucratic delays undermine choice provisions. Neither the House nor Senate bill is currently sufficient; the final bill must include enforceable guarantees of prompt and sufficient payment (at least Medicare rate) from the federal government.
Ensure additional VA spending is discretionary, limited, and paid-for. While solutions to VA’s culture problems are urgent, they should be addressed through real and systemic reforms-not emergency spending. Likewise, to ensure ongoing congressional oversight and VA accountability, any spending associated with this reform legislation should be discretionary and highly scrutinized. While the CBO score remains contested, any final bill should seek to limit spending and ensure spending offsets to prevent adding to the federal budget deficit.
Ensure real accountability is maintained. A core aspect of this reform is the ability for poor VA managers to be promptly removed for cause. Any effort to further dilute accountability measures must be resisted; and final language should hew closely to the House accountability language.
Our members remain committed to ensuring Congress delivers real reforms, not watered-down half measures. We will firmly hold this committee accountable to that clear standard.
Chief Executive Officer
Concerned Veterans for America
I think that we all can support the CVA in it’s efforts.
Call your Two Senators (S.2013) and your Congressman (HR 4031) now and tell them to co-sponsor this bill.
If you think this site is vital to help Vets get the support they need…If you think this site is vital to bringing the VA’s problems into the open…If you think this site needs to continue…If you are a Vet or have a family member that is or you will become a Vet, this site is important to you. You can help support this site by making a donation here….
Here’s an IDEA…The president is using executive orders to try and deal with the recent influx of unaccompanied children across our borders..Why not do the same thing to deal with the VA crisis?
I and many other Vets, all the Vets support groups such as The VFW and the DAV , the House and Senate have all called for immediate action…
The Senate and House bills will take time to resolve…
The problem is growing…
Why not use Executive Action to achieve Immediate results? We’re quick enough to take actions that send our troops into harms way…Why can’t we take immediate action to help them when they come home suffering from the consequences?
Sens. Bernie Sanders and John McCain introduced a far-reaching Veterans Affairs reform bill Monday
Lawmakers are beating the drums of reform to the Veterans Affairs Department, on the heels of another scathing report released by the agency Monday.
The bipartisan bill crafted by Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) would fund construction of 26 new medical facilities and set up ways to make it easier for veterans to seek private care if they do not live near a VA medical facility. The bill would also improve the access to health care for victims of military sexual assault. Democratic Senate leadership said they would like to vote on the legislation this week, an aide tells TIME.
The House Republican leadership has pushed for its own legislation, which passed on a large bipartisan vote last month. That bill would give the VA secretary greater authority to fire or demote poor-performing senior officials.
The newly-introduced Senate bill comes hours after a third Veterans Affairs Department internal audit on Monday, which announced that more than 57,000 veterans have been waiting 90 days or more for their first medical appointments. This audit of the agency’s 731 medical centers found that 13% of schedulers were told by their superiors to doctor schedules to make wait times look shorter. The agency found its 14-day scheduling target unrealistic and will scrap it from employee performance contracts.
The VA wait list scandal led its Secretary, Eric Shinseki, to step down May 30.
Congress is rushing to pass a compromise drafted by Sens. John McCain, R-Arizona, and Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, which claims to rescue vets from deadly waitlists. House and Senate leaders are conferring on a final version, congratulating themselves for bipartisanship. But in truth, the bill won’t speed up health care for vets. The fine print sabotages vets wanting to go outside the Veterans Affairs system.
Last week, the VA’s internal investigation revealed that 57,436 newly enrolled veterans are facing wait times of at least 90 days for a first appointment, and 63,869 vets who signed up with the VA in the past decade never got an appointment. At least 23 vets died waiting. Worse, three-quarters of VA facilities manipulated waiting lists or kept dummy books.
The Sanders/McCain bill will let the waiting and corruption continue. Yes, the bill creates a “Choice Card” permitting veterans to access civilian care if they live 40 miles or more from a VA hospital or can’t get an appointment within the VA’s definition of an acceptable wait time. But the devil is in the fine print.
Sanders opposed the Choice Card until the final negotiations and inserted language in the bill that would make it almost impossible to use the card. That’s deliberate. Unions have fought every program to use civilian care. Nine of Sanders’ top 10 campaign donors are unions.
Even Republican lawmakers are rushing to pass this sham bill. On Thursday, the House Committee on Veterans Affairs held a hearing, but not much hearing occurred. The reception was hostile when I testified how the bill’s actual language protects union jobs, not sick vets.
Section 301 says vets seeking civilian care have to get a letter from the VA secretary confirming that a VA appointment isn’t available. Good luck getting that letter. Some vets have called and emailed their local VA for six months or more without getting any response.
Hurdle No. 2 comes at the non-VA doctor’s office. The Choice Card tells the doctor: “Please call the Department of Veterans Affairs phone number specified on this card to ensure that treatment has been authorized.” Good luck getting that call answered.
To top it off, the bill stipulates that the choice-card program will end in two years — probably only a few hours after the VA finally gets the hotline set up and issues the cards.
In another meaningless gesture, the bill also requires the VA to publish wait times on its website. That’s a white flag, not a reform. Brits and Canadians are used to seeing hospital wait times in the newspaper. But most Americans don’t have to cope with long waits, so why should our vets?
Nothing in the Sanders/McCain bill puts vets in the driver’s seat. They still can’t escape the VA without active help from VA bureaucrats.
Guilty bureaucrats. But the bill is toothless to discipline them: Section 408 says that any employee caught falsifying data about wait times or the quality of care vets get will be subject to “a penalty the secretary considers appropriate after notice and opportunity for a hearing.” No mandatory minimums.
Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, asked top VA deputy Robert Petzel (now resigned) whether someone caught lying about wait times should be fired. Petzel replied, “I don’t know whether that’s the appropriate level of punishment or not.”And what if the secretary does try to fire someone? Current civil-service protections make that nearly impossible. The bill claims to shorten the process, but has a loophole (Section 409) that would allow it to drag on indefinitely.
VA managers are circling the wagons. Federal Managers Association President Patricia Niehaus insists that “it is unacceptable for anyone in Congress to call for a streamlining of firing high-level, or any level of federal employee, based simply on appearances or uninvestigated accusations.” Uninvestigated? There have been numerous investigations in the last decade.
Nevertheless, the McCain/Sanders bill calls for not one but two more commissions. More reports that will go unread. At Thursday’s hearing, it was obvious Veterans Affairs Committee members had not even read the bill they are hurrying to pass. But that’s what Congress does. It holds hearings. It doesn’t solve problems.
McCaughey’s June 12 testimony is available on YouTube. Betsy McCaughey has a Ph.D. in American history and has taught at Vassar and Columbia University. She is a former lieutenant governor of New York and the author of “Beating Obamacare.”
So that’s SOME of the coverage lately…What’s your opinion?
If you think this site is vital to help Vets get the support they need…If you think this site is vital to bringing the VA’s problems into the open…If you think this site needs to continue…If you are a Vet or have a family member that is or you will become a Vet, this site is important to you. You can help support this site by making a donation here….