Saturday, February 8, 2014

Daily Show Jon Stewart credited for clueing in Congress?

Daily Show Jon Stewart credited for clueing in Congress?
Wounded Times
Kathie Costos
February 8, 2014

Senator Richard Burr, Senate Veterans Affairs Committee talked about how bad things are for our veterans. What is even more remarkable is that he pointed to Jon Stewart of the Daily Show instead of the work of the Veterans Affairs Committee not staying on top of everything going on so that a comedian wouldn't have to do it.

Stewart has been wonderful reporting on what they have been going thru and you can watch most of the clips on veterans here. The problem is Stewart reports on what his writers know and that, that is a problem. A bigger problem when a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee didn't know more.

Burr weekly GOP address focuses on needs of veterans
News and Observer
Posted by Renee Schoof
February 8, 2014

Sen. Richard Burr delivered the weekly Republican address on Saturday. As the most senior Republican on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, the Winston-Salem senator focused on the backlog of disability claims veterans still face.

The audio of the address is available here. The video will be available here and you may download the address here. Excerpts of his address follows:

“Thankfully, over the past five years, Congress has authorized over $600 billion to VA in robust and sustained increases of government funding for veterans’ programs designed to be part of a more responsive federal support for veterans outreach and care.”

“This unprecedented level of support has been especially evident in the area of veterans’ benefits, specifically disability payments. The surge in financial support has not been matched with an equivalent surge in responsiveness from the Veterans’ Administration.”

Burr said that “incremental progress” has been made to reduce a “now infamous” backlog of claims that existed last year. There are nearly 700,000 veterans and their families “waiting for answers,” Burr said. Claims often have errors, and so veterans have to file appeals.

“More than a quarter million appeals are waiting to be resolved and the time it takes VA to act on appeals is worsening,” Burr said. “As the nation’s military stands down from its war footing, veterans should not have to wage another battle here at home, this time against government bureaucracy.”

Burr said that some veterans also have to wait too long for mental health counseling and other health services. The VA is taking steps to improve its staffing and health care delivery, “but more remains to be done.”
read more here
Sounds like a really good speech. It made it seem like all of this is new. The problem is, it is far from new and because the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee along with the House, did not stay on top of any of this. They have been historically ignorant no matter which party was running the show.

In 2008, NPR reported that Fort Drum officials told the VA to stop helping soldiers with claims.
Morning Edition, January 29, 2008 · Army officials in upstate New York instructed representatives from the Department of Veterans Affairs not to help disabled soldiers at Fort Drum Army base with their military disability paperwork last year. That paperwork can be crucial because it helps determine whether soldiers will get annual disability payments and health care after they're discharged.

The Army denied the charges so NPR had to back it up with facts. It was true.

One of the spots on the Daily Show pointed to how the DOD and the VA did not work well together however Stewart didn't know this had been going on since 2008 when Veterans Affairs Secretary James Peake announced they were going to work together on claims. What followed was a report starting that "VBA's pending compensation and claims backlog stood at 816,211 as of January 2008, up 188,781 since 2004, said Kerry Baker, associate legislative director of the Disabled Veterans of America, during a Wednesday hearing of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense."
"The fiscal 2009 IT budget request for the Veterans Benefits Administration is about 18 percent less than the fiscal 2008 proposal. The overall IT budget for the Veterans Affairs Department, VBA's parent agency, jumped 18 percent in President Bush's latest request."

All this didn't happen overnight. Gregg Carlstrom reported for Federal Times that "Poor planning by agency leaders and underfunding by Congress created these debilitating backlogs that may take years to resolve, according to federal officials, legislators and watchdog groups. At the start of the Bush administration in 2001, VA had more than 400,000 pending claims for disability ratings, which determine a service-disabled veteran’s employability and disability benefits. The department made progress reducing that number: By 2003, the backlog was down to around 250,000."

This was reported the same year.
“Since 2006, the number of claims has grown 15 percent. The amount of time it takes to make decisions on disability claims is two to three year. On an average, it takes four years to get an appeals decision.”

We have claims that have been pending for a decade, two decades and some that date back more than 50 years. We have appeals from World War II,” said David E. Autry, a spokesman for the Disabled American Veterans in Washington D.C., which represents veterans and advocates and helps them obtain their benefits."

Grover Cleveland Chapman, a WWII veteran went to the VA Outpatient Clinic in Greenville after having his claim denied yet again. He took a gun into his hand and shot himself at the age of 89. He had the letter with him when he shot himself, Harriett Chapman said.

That was also during the time when VA Doctor Ira Katz was being defended after withholding the fact the VA had 12,000 veterans a year attempting suicide. Yes, that means 1,000 a month tried to kill themselves but that was just part of the story since when you consider while there are 21,978,000 veterans the VA only has 3.7 million collecting compensation. How many veterans do you think are trying to take their own lives with that many in the VA system?

In 2008 the GAO found there was no accountability in the VA for claims processors.

"Lockheed Martin, the contractor hired in July 2006 to compute the complex retroactive pay awards, had difficulty making the computations fast enough to eliminate the backlog quickly. The complexity of the computations also hindered Lockheed Martin’s ability to develop software to automate the process." The result of this was that 8,763 veterans died before their cases could be reviewed.

It was the same year the VA announced online applications started.

The news reports tell a totally different story than what most reporters want to include in their articles. The truth is the truth no matter how much they want to forget about. The biggest issue is when members of the House and Senate on the committees controlling all of this want to forget about what they did not do.
UPDATE February 9, 2014

I was just reading an article on The Hill about this by Megan Wilson. It began with these words.
Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) took the Department of Veterans Affairs to task over the lengthy wait many veterans face for disability compensation.

In Saturday's weekly Republican address, Burr said the backlog of disability claims from wounded veterans began to improve only after frequent lambasting by The Daily Show.

I left this comment.
Burr is on the Veterans Affairs Committee and should have known that none of this is new. Clinton left 400,000 pending claims for 2001. In 2006 8,763 veterans died before their claims were approved and Lockheed Martin started working on claims. Bush left 816,211 for Obama in 2008. In 2008 the DAV stated they had claims going back 50 years they were still trying to get approved. A WWII veteran drove to VA hospital at the age of 86, pulled out a gun and shot himself with the denial letter in his hand. Burr should have known all of this and the fact that Jon Stewart had to clue him in isn't funny at all.

No comments:

Post a Comment

If it is not helpful, do not be hurtful. Spam removed so do not try putting up free ad.