Showing posts with label House Veterans Affairs Committee. Show all posts
Showing posts with label House Veterans Affairs Committee. Show all posts

Monday, May 27, 2019

Lawmakers and administration officials remember fallen on Memorial Day

Remembering the fallen: 12 former service members to honor this Memorial Day

Military Times
Leo Shane III
May 26, 2019

Soldiers from the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) march off after supporting military funeral honors in Section 60 at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia on May 8, 2019. ((Elizabeth Fraser/Army)

In honor of Memorial Day, Military Times asked several lawmakers and administration officials to talk about who they will be remembering on the holiday. Here are their reflections:

** Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie, a Navy Reserve and Air Force Reserve veteran

“On Memorial Day we often forget Americans who gave the last full measure offering a helping hand to those whose own world had disappeared.

“On panel 1W Line 121 of the Vietnam Wall is the name of just such a man: Master Sgt. Denning Cicero Johnson. He was 36, a husband, father, medic. He was one of the last Americans to fall in Vietnam, on April 4, 1975.

“He was rescuing orphans whose lives were in danger as the North Vietnamese approached Saigon. Operation Baby Lift rescued 2,000 children on the orders of President Gerald Ford. While Johnson was tending to the children in his care, the C-5 he was on crashed into a rice paddy outside of Saigon.

** Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., an Army veteran and ranking member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee

“There are many incredible men and women that come to mind when I think of our fallen servicemembers, but this Memorial Day I want to especially recognize the life and service of 1st Sgt Thomas E. Thayer from Louisville, Ky.

“Sgt Thayer was a tremendous man that I knew growing up in the Boy Scouts. He was my scoutmaster and taught me so much about leadership and responsibility. Sgt. Thayer died while serving with the Army’s 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam. He received a Silver Star in 1965. I will never forget his courage and bravery. Rest in peace, scoutmaster.”
read more here

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Veterans College Bills part of the broken deal still

UPDATE 11/20, 2018

Veterans Affairs unexpectedly canceled overtime work to address GI Bill claim backlog

UPDATE: Can someone please update POTUS on what has happened to the GI Bill? This is from Stars and Stripes
Trump also said his administration has improved access to education benefits for veterans. 
Read the rest for yourself. It is too depressing to know the rest of the story.

It appears that reporters forgot how to LOOK UP WHAT THEY ALREADY REPORTED ON!

Veterans Affairs official reassigned after House hearing over delayed GI Bill benefits

NBC News
By Phil McCausland
November 14, 2018

A House committee will hear testimony Thursday from Department of Veterans Affairs officials over delayed GI Bill payments potentially affecting hundreds of thousands of veterans. NBC News reported Sunday that computer problems at VA have caused GI Bill benefit payments covering education and housing to be delayed for months or never be delivered, forcing some veterans to face debt or even homelessness.

On Wednesday, one of the key witnesses called to testify from VA was reassigned by the federal agency to a regional office in Houston, multiple officials told NBC News.

Robert Worley, executive director of Education Service of the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), based in Washington, has been appointed to serve as the executive director of the VBA’s Houston regional office, according to two sources close to the VA and an email reviewed by NBC News.

Molly Jenkins, a spokeswoman for Republicans on the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, confirmed Thursday that Worley would be departing his current position to lead the VBA office in Houston.
read more here


Well, that is the way NBC reported it.  It turns out that way back in 2008, there was another report about President Bush signing the GI Bill too. In that report the "overhaul" was a long time coming.
"And, for the first time since the Vietnam War, there will be a completely free veterans' education benefit program that pay enough to fully cover the cost of getting a four-year college degree."

According to followup reports, it was going to cost and additional $100 billion over the following ten years. There were reports that "state by state benefits"were not consistent. 

By 2009, a famous student named Clay Hunt, was among those waiting for checks to pay tuition and housing, so while attending Loyola, he used $4,000 on his credit card, while the school was owed $6,000 for tuition and he owed $1,700 for housing and books.

You may remember the name Clay Hunt because Congress passed a bill in his name. The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention Act, because that is how his story ended. President Obama signed that one in 2015.

Back to the GI Bill, in 2009, the VA was looking for a contractor to help process claims. In 2011, 55,000 veterans were waiting for their claims, and history was repeated all over again. And in 2012, more of the same.

Senator Bernie Sanders was trying to get answers on if anyone bothered to figure out how to pay for the benefits they voted to deliver on.

Just as reporters seem think that forgiveness of Student Loans for totally disabled veterans is something new, it isn't, they seem to have forgotten that nothing that veterans face is new at all, even though it may be "new news" to reporters.

In 2015, benefits were cut for a disabled veteran in Denver, and then he was given a list of homeless shelters in the area. Why? Because he was attending gunsmith classes. No one told that before he moved into Denver to start school.

Oh, but it got worse because in 2016, the Senate voted to cut the benefits, they were still having a hard time paying out in the first place.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

What would Joshua Omvig think of us now?

WTF then what the hell is all of this about?
Combat PTSD Wounded Times
Kathie Costos
July 11, 2018

For all the time we have spent "raising awareness" that veterans and the troops are committing suicide, the result of all the "effort" and funding, speeches and stunts, prove it has been a miserable failure.

I've been tracking these reports for so long now, that it is hard to forget these men and women were never just numbers for someone to use, but people with families, friends and dedicated their lives to serving others.  

One of them has been on my mind a lot lately. His name was Joshua Omvig. He was the catalyst for the first Suicide Prevention Act.

What would Joshua Omvig think of us now? After all, the suicide prevention act in his name was signed by President Bush back in 2007.

Rep. Braley on Joshua Omvig Veterans Suicide Prevention Act
The House debates the Joshua Omvig Veterans Suicide Prevention Act, which directs the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to develop and implement a comprehensive program to reduce the incidence of suicide among veterans. The bill is named for an Iraq veteran who took his own life, and recognizes the special needs of veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and elderly veterans who are at high risk for depression and experience high rates of suicide.

The bill follows hearings in the Oversight and Veterans Affairs committees seeking to address the tragic mental anguish experienced by many veterans, and is part of ongoing, comprehensive efforts by the new Congress to make veterans a top priority. Rep. Bruce Braley speaks in favor.

The response I get from people when I try to get them to stop using the number of "22 a day" is that they cannot defend themselves, so they snap back with "it's just a number" and it is important to get people aware veterans are committing suicide. One other statement that makes me clinch my fists is "it doesn't matter how many because one is too much."

Just a number? It doesn't matter how many? Seriously? Then what the hell is all the awareness for? If people are that clueless, that heartless, that ignorant, then losing veterans like Joshua Omvig meant nothing at all to them.

While the VA puts out extensive reports on the known suicides, reporters got lazy and grabbed a headline. They continue to use the number when all across the country they cover their feel good stories of groups pulling stunts to have fun while making people aware of a number.

While we lost about 5 million veterans since 1999 due to age and other factors, the VA puts the "number" as exactly what it was back then.

You know, back before all the awareness, bills, speeches, money, funding and everything else.
While the VA reports stopped at 2015 in the latest one, the DOD reports every Quarter. Those numbers should have stunned everyone, but no one is talking about them.

The first quarter of 2018, 121 Active and Reserve and National Guards members committed suicide. It has been repeated every year since 2012 averaging 500 per year. Care to guess how many died in combat this year?

According to ICasualties it is 14. But yet again, no one is talking about any of that.

The thing is, no one wants to cover the bad results when they can cover stunts and smiling people having fun.

Too bad though that they have not figured out their lack of attention has had such deadly results. Oh well, considering they people read about them as if they are nothing more than "an easy number to remember" they didn't matter anyway! Guess it has all been a oversight that Congress never really found what they were seeking. 

Anyone's guess why they stopped looking!

WTF then what the hell is all of this about?

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Homeless Veterans Faced Deeper Cuts Instead of Help

VA tried to reallocate $460 million earmarked for homeless veterans. Now it says that won’t happen.
The Washington Post
Emily Wax-Thibodeaux
December 6, 2017
“It’s just unconscionable to take this action without consulting HUD or the many mayors who have been working so hard on this. The former troops who used these vouchers are the most likely to die on American streets.”
Elisha Harig-Blaine 

Flags are hoisted at the Los Angeles encampment of homeless veteran Kendrick Bailey on Nov. 10, 2017. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)
The Department of Veterans Affairs appears to be backtracking on its divisive plan to reallocate nearly a half-billion dollars from a successful program to reduce homelessness among former military personnel, bowing to pressure from lawmakers and advocacy groups who criticized the effort as cruel and counterproductive.
The about-face, announced in a statement Wednesday night from VA Secretary David Shulkin, followed a Washington Post inquiry about the Trump administration’s effort to divert the funding — totaling $460 million — instead to local VA hospitals for discretionary use. As Politico first reported, that money had been set aside specifically for a voucher program, run by VA and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, that provides long-term living accommodations for the country’s most vulnerable military veterans, many of whom suffer from mental illness.
read more here

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Company Overcharged VA $89 Million From 28 States

Reminder:Congress has had control over how our veterans are treated, or mistreated, since 1946. Ask them why they never fixed it instead of doing this to our veterans! BTW, veterans pre-paid for their healthcare the day they joined the military!

Arizona-based VA contractor collected 'tens of millions' in over payments, federal audit says
The Republic
Dennis Wagner
November 13, 2017

"Veterans Choice, which has already cost taxpayers more than $12 billion, was created as an emergency stopgap to serve patients who were waiting weeks or months to see doctors in a backlogged VA healthcare system."

A Phoenix-based company that oversees about half of the private medical care for America's veterans is looking to extend its contract even as documents reveal it overbilled the government by tens of millions of dollars.

In addition: It's the target of a federal grand jury investigation.

The company, TriWest Healthcare Alliance, has multi-billion-dollar contracts with the Department of Veterans Affairs to administer private health-care appointments for ex-military personnel in Arizona and 27 other states.

The VA Office of Inspector General recently reported to Congress that TriWest and another company, Health Net Federal Services — which oversees private VA care for the remainder of the nation — collected at least $89 million more than they should have, sometimes by billing the government at improper rates or collecting twice for the same treatment.

That, lawmakers allege, means money that could have been spent on veterans' health care was instead taken by the two companies.
read more here

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

VA Tried to Get Refund from Veteran, News Crew Stepped In

7 On Your Side: VA wrongfully claims veteran owes thousands

Nathan Baca
November 1, 2017
“When I was diagnosed with PTSD, it took me almost 10 years to submit myself to the VA and say look, can you help me?’ Not until my wife said, ‘if you don’t ask for help, I’m going to take the children and I’m out,’” recalled Sabino. “More than once or twice… the thought process of killing myself – it’s always there.”

Photo of Petty Officer Zaldy Sabino in Bosnia. Thursday, Nov. 1, 2017. (Nathan Baca, ABC7) 
Seven On Your Side intervened in the case of one Maryland Navy veteran, leading the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) to reverse claims that veterans owed the government more than $22,000. 

The problem identified by ABC7 News affects an unknown number of veterans nationwide, according to veterans support organizations. The House Veterans Affairs Committee recently held a hearing on the subject of VA errors in benefits adjustments.
read more here

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Florida Corrine Brown Off Leadership House Veterans Affairs Committee

Congresswoman forced to vacate key veterans affairs post amid scandal
Military Times
Leo Shane III
July 8, 2016

Veterans groups lobbied for other candidates for the post in late 2013, but members of the Congressional Black Caucus bristled when colleagues suggested passing over the senior Democrat.
Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla., was indicted after a federal investigation into a fraudulent charity. She has called the allegations "politically motivated."
(Photo: Mark Wallheiser/AP)
The top Democrat on the House Veterans Affairs Committee stepped down from that post on Friday, just a day after being indicted in an alleged charity fraud scheme.

Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla., said in a statement late Friday that the move is temporary while she works to “vigorously defend myself in court against these politically motivated allegations.”

House rules require any committee chairman or ranking member to temporarily step aside from leadership posts if they are indicted in connection with alleged crimes. Brown and her chief of staff pleaded not guilty earlier in the day to multiple fraud charges.
read more here

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Oh Happy Day! Jeff Miller Retirement Announced

Considering how long he has been in office, can't say I'm sad to see him retire especially when he doesn't seem to feel obligated to explain how all these years of hearing what has been happening to our veterans has been repeated over and over and over again!
Statement from Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald on the Announced Retirement of House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller
03/10/2016 03:25 PM EST

WASHINGTON – Today Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald announced the following on the retirement of House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller.

“Today I called Chairman Miller to congratulate and thank him for his 15 years of distinguished service as a Member of Congress, and his five years of determined leadership as Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

“We talked about how much we can accomplish through the end of this year to leave in place necessary changes that will improve the delivery of care and benefits from VA to Veterans and their families. I look forward to that joint effort.

“Over the past two years, working together, I feel we have made a positive difference in the lives of millions of Veterans. I’m proud to be his partner in this effort and to call him a friend. I wish Jeff, his wife Vicki and their entire family all the best.”

He must have forgotten that Congress has jurisdiction over the VA,,,,but then again, they all forgot that part.

Fla. GOP Rep. Jeff Miller to Retire After 8 Terms
Mar 10, 2016

Eight-term Florida Republican Rep. Jeff Miller, chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, on Thursday announced his retirement from the House at the end of the current term.

"We knew there would come a day when it would be time to pass the torch," Miller said in a statement. "That day has come."

Miller has generally avoided the limelight during his House career, but he was catapulted two years ago into a high-pressure negotiation with Sen. Bernie Sanders over legislation to improve the veterans' health care system in the wake of a scandal over dangerously long wait times for patients and falsified records that covered up those delays.

The odd couple of Miller, who represents a conservative district in Florida's Panhandle, and the liberal Sanders ultimately produced a $16 billion agreement after weeks of sometimes testy talks. Sanders, then-chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, is running an unexpectedly strong race for the Democratic presidential nomination.
read more here

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Why Do Reporters Forget Other Veterans?

Veterans VA "Minefield" Nothing New
Wounded Times
Kathie Costos
March 5, 2016

Davich: Veterans new battlefield – VA's healthcare minefield is the headline on the Chicago Tribune from Jerry Davich. The trouble is, there isn't anything "new" about any of this! Go the VA someday and see what I mean. 

The majority of the veterans there are from all the other wars that left disabled veteran feeling unable to contemplate what the words "grateful nation" really mean. 

The story is about the new generation of veterans coming home, facing what hasn't been fixed for all the other veterans before them.
Carlos Villarreal did his best to curb his frustration while talking on the phone with the representative from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

"Sir, I've already had this same conversation with five million other VA reps," Villarreal said as politely as possible. "Yes, sir, I've already had this talk for my consultation and I'm still waiting and waiting for my appointment."

Villarreal, 31, of Hobart, is a former U.S. Marines sergeant who was seriously wounded in combat while serving in Iraq in 2005. Mortar fire caused severe hearing loss, lingering wounds to his mouth and, later, post-traumatic stress disorder.

Nothing new about any of this, but why bother to actually report what has been going on all along? Here's some history reporters don't bother with. Until they do, nothing will change.

Department of Veterans Affairs
The United States has the most comprehensive system of assistance for Veterans of any nation in the world, with roots that can be traced back to 1636, when the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony were at war with the Pequot Indians. The Pilgrims passed a law that stated that disabled soldiers would be supported by the colony.

Later, the Continental Congress of 1776 encouraged enlistments during the Revolutionary War, providing pensions to disabled soldiers. In the early days of the Republic, individual states and communities provided direct medical and hospital care to Veterans. In 1811, the federal government authorized the first domiciliary and medical facility for Veterans. Also in the 19th century, the nation's Veterans assistance program was expanded to include benefits and pensions not only for Veterans, but for their widows and dependents. Following the Civil War, many state Veterans homes were established. Since domiciliary care was available at all state Veterans homes, incidental medical and hospital treatment was provided for all injuries and diseases, whether or not of service origin. Indigent and disabled Veterans of the Civil War, Indian Wars, Spanish-American War, and Mexican Border period, as well as the discharged regular members of the Armed Forces, received care at these homes.

As the U.S. entered World War I in 1917, Congress established a new system of Veterans benefits, including programs for disability compensation, insurance for service personnel and Veterans, and vocational rehabilitation for the disabled. By the 1920s, three different federal agencies administered the various benefits: the Veterans Bureau, the Bureau of Pensions of the Interior Department, and the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers.

The first consolidation of federal Veterans programs took place August 9, 1921, when Congress combined all World War I Veterans programs to create the Veterans Bureau. Public Health Service Veterans’ hospitals were transferred to the bureau, and an ambitious hospital construction program for World War I Veterans commenced.
Oh, but why remember all of those generations since they're all dead now? Because what they went through mattered enough to the rest of this country and the government promised to take care of them. 

House Veterans Affairs Committee, seated in 1946 and given jurisdiction over everything veterans were promised for risking their lives for the rest of this "grateful nation" they returned to.

This was reported by Gregg Carlstom for Federal Times on February 25, 2008 showing the years of veterans waiting for members of Congress to do their jobs.
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.

But then the nation went to war.

“VA was kind of cruising right along with a certain volume of claims until the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Then the volume of claims increased,” said Belinda Finn, VA’s assistant inspector general for auditing. “We still had the same processes for handling a lower workload, and the system just hasn’t been able to handle the increase in claims.”

And so the backlog started creeping up. By 2008, VA once again has more than 400,000 pending claims for a disability rating. About 25 percent of those are officially considered backlogged, meaning they have been pending longer than six months.

“The number of claims that we receive each year has been going up pretty steadily,” said Michael Walcoff, VA’s associate deputy undersecretary for field operations. “In 2000, we got 578,000 claims, and last year got 838,000. That’s a pretty significant increase, and certainly some of that can be attributed to the soldiers coming back from [the wars].”

In June of 2008 the VA claim backlog stood at 879,291 within President Bush's second term.

President Obama took office with a backlog of claims at 803,000 on January 5, 2009.  By May it was 915,000.

So if reporters keep trying to pretend that any of this is new, it will keep getting worse for older veterans after they waited longer, suffered longer and have been forgotten about.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Will Congress Notice Neglect of Veterans Began With Congress

Neglect of Veterans Began With Congress!
Wounded Times
Kathie Costos
November 29, 2015

"Gus Bilirakis represents Florida's 12th congressional district" wants to hold the VA accountable. Sounds good however veterans are wondering when members of Congress will hold themselves accountable in the first place. It isn't as if he hasn't known about all these problems.

He heard them just last year. Veterans tell Bilirakis about heath care complaints

Holding the VA accountable
Washington Examiner

Our veterans have bravely fought for our country. They have sacrificed so much for the freedoms we enjoy on a daily basis, and I am forever grateful for their service.

As vice chair of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, I have the privilege to work with my colleagues in the House to serve our nation's heroes. This is not a job I take lightly. This is my top priority – to ensure our veterans receive the support and care they deserve.

Unfortunately, as the committee has seen firsthand through many reports, hearings and meetings, our veterans often face unnecessary barriers when it comes to accessing quality care.

Earlier this year, a Department of Veterans Affairs Inspector General report found "serious" problems with enrollment data for veterans seeking healthcare. The VA's inspector general confirmed that nearly 900,000 military veterans have officially pending applications for healthcare. Of those 900,000, an estimated 307,000 veterans listed died before their applications for care were processed.
read more here
Why not mention that a VA Claim does not go away until the veteran gives up? They can keep a claim in appeals for as long as they have the will to fight in them. Even when they pass away, the family can keep the claim in the system. Justice for veterans does not end when their lives do.

Why not mention the simple fact that veterans have been living on a rollercoaster of claims going way up over and over again as the line gets longer? While we're on the subject, how about mentioning the fact that Congress approved of the VA paying contractors to process claims as well as provide substandard care members of Congress always blame the VA employees for?
Not that he hadn't heard about all these problems going back to when he was first elected.
Congressman Gus M. Bilirakis is a Republican from Palm Harbor, representing Florida’s 12th Congressional District, which includes all of Pasco and northern parts of Pinellas and Hillsborough counties. He was first elected to Congress on November 7, 2006, and is currently serving his fifth term in the United States House of Representatives.
But this part sums it all up!
Vice-Chairman, House Committee on Veterans' Affairs
Subcommittee on Health: Legislative, oversight, and investigative jurisdiction over the Veterans Health Administration, including medical services, medical support and compliance, medical facilities, medical and prosthetic research, and major and minor construction.

Bilirakis wrote,
They are depending on us to ensure the commitments made to them are upheld, as they have honored their commitment through service and sacrifice.
And he's right on that but what he is wrong about is the fact they blame members of Congress since they have jurisdiction over the VA. They heard all the speeches, read all the claims members have made since 1946 and they are fed up. Tied of promises delivered over and over again only to discover their pockets have been picked as they are pushed to the back of the line past sessions of Congress promised to fix.

Here's a few links to what they already know.

VA is buried in a backlog of never-ending veterans disability appeals

History Repeated on Veterans Waiting for the VA and Congress!

Veterans Crisis Proves the Devil is in the Details

Daily Show Jon Stewart credited for clueing in Congress?

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Vietnam Veteran Takes Debate Stage Tonight

Jim Webb, wild card candidate, steps into the spotlight
Washington Post
By Rachel Weiner
October 13, 2015

Former Virginia senator Jim Webb launched his presidential campaign in July, but it's understandable if you didn't know that: for the past four months, he's kept a low profile, and the polls have reflected it. Tuesday's debate offers his first, best chance to break out of the very low single digits.

Webb is hoping to appeal to Democrats who may feel alienated by both former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders -- in particular, working-class white male voters; he wrote an entire book about the Scots-Irish roots of rural Appalachia. The former Republican's own background is in the military and the Reagan administration; he is far more focused on foreign policy than many of his Democratic rivals -- and the only Democratic candidate opposing President Obama's nuclear agreement with Iran.

read more here

Jim Webb,
Former Senator from Virginia, has been a combat Marine, a counsel in the Congress, an assistant secretary of defense and Secretary of the Navy, an Emmy-award winning journalist, a film-maker, and the author of ten books.
Mr. Webb graduated from the Naval Academy in 1968, receiving a special commendation for his leadership contributions. First in his class of 243 at the Marine Corps Officer’s Basic School, he served as a rifle platoon and company commander in Vietnam and was awarded the Navy Cross, the Silver Star Medal, two Bronze Star Medals, and two Purple Hearts. He graduated from the Georgetown University Law Center in 1975.

Mr. Webb served in Congress as counsel to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs from 1977 to 1981. In 1982 he led the fight to include an African American soldier in the Vietnam Veterans memorial on the National Mall. In 1984 he was appointed Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs, and in 1987 became Secretary of the Navy.

I Heard My Country Calling (2014)
Fields of Fire (1978)
A Sense of Honor (1981)
A Country Such as This (1983)
Something to Die For (1991)
The Emperor’s General (1999)
Lost Soldiers (2001)
Born Fighting (2004)
A Time to Fight (2008)

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Mike Huckabee No Longer Ashamed He Wants To Kill VA

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee on Wednesday said the government does a poor job of caring for U.S. veterans and should get out of the business of providing health and medical care for those who served their country.
The Veterans Health Administration – the part of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs that handles medical care – should be "put out of its misery and most importantly, put it out of the government's" reach, said Huckabee, who is seeking the Republican nomination for president
Des Moines Register
Stunning! Simply stunning how someone wanting to hold the office of Commander-in-Chief has just admitted that he wants to kill the VA. Imagine that! No plans to fix it and make sure the politicians live up to their obligation to care for those who serve this country with their lives. No grandiose speeches of how much veterans deserve from us.

The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee cares so much they haven't even updated their website even though this is over 6 months after Repubicans took control.
The Finance Committee was the Senate standing committee most responsible for veterans programs from 1917 to 1946. After World War II, the Finance Committee handled the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, the "GI Bill of Rights," which extended to servicemen and their families, a number of benefits including unemployment assistance, education, vocational training, housing and business loan guarantees, as well as the traditional medical and pension benefits of previous times. Many experts believe this law was one of the most important elements in the expansion of the middle class following World War II.

The Veterans Affairs Committee had nine members in its initial congress, the 92nd Congress (1971-73). It now has a total of 14 members with Chairman Bernard Sanders and Ranking Member Richard Burr in leadership roles during the 113th Congress.

The new Chairman is Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia.

As for the House, they have had almost 70 years,
The Committee on Veterans' Affairs of the House of Representatives was authorized by enactment of Public Law 601, 79th Congress, which was entitled "Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946." Section 121(a) of this Act provides: "there shall be elected by the House at the commencement of each Congress the following standing committees": Nineteen Committees are listed and No. 18 quotes: "Committee on Veterans' Affairs, to consist of 27 Members." This Act has since been amended so that there are now 22 Standing Committees in the House of Representatives. The number of Members (Representatives) authorized to serve on each Committee has been changed from time to time. There are currently 29 members of the Committee on Veterans' Affairs.

If they haven't been able to fix all the problems the VA has had over all these years then they should be ashamed of themselves!

Turning veterans over to for profit companies means their loyalty is for the companies and not the veterans.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

VA Has No Contracts With Outside Hospitals?

VA admits it has no contracts in place for billions of dollars spent on veterans’ medical care
Washington Post
By Lisa Rein
June 2, 2015
But VA officials said they would need to hire at least 600 employees to write and oversee contracts for private care, an expense they cannot afford. They also said that in rural areas in particular, many physicians are nervous about doing business with the government and are wary of the paperwork involved in a contract with VA.

Top officials at the Department of Veterans Affairs acknowledged to House lawmakers Tuesday that they have been spending billions of dollars a year on private medical care for veterans without contracts, and said it would be too costly and cumbersome to put them in place.

“VA acknowledges that our long-standing procurement processes for care in the community need improvement,” Edward Murray, VA’s acting secretary for management and interim chief financial officer, testified, referring to what’s called non-VA care. Murray said that “serious legal questions” have arisen over medical care veterans get outside VA hospitals and clinics, a growing cost that’s expected to reach more than $10 billion this fiscal year.

The hearing before the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs’s investigations panel was the second of three scheduled for the spring to address allegations of billions of dollars in misspending flagged by Jan R. Frye, VA’s deputy assistant secretary for acquisition and logistics, about contracting practices. The Washington Post reported in May that Frye had sent a 35-page memo to VA Secretary Robert McDonald in March accusing agency leaders of making a “mockery” of federal acquisition laws and spending at least $6 billion a year in violation of contracting rules.
read more here

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Miller Forgets History Has A Long Memory on Veterans Issues

Ok, so the story goes like this. Congress decides to fund construction for VA hospitals, then slams the VA. Oh, wait, they only do it when the head of the VA is appointed by the opposing party.

The latest boatload of BS is about the Denver VA Hospital going over budget.

Cost of New Denver-Area VA Hospital Swells Fivefold to $1.73 Billion
Here are a couple of quotes from the AP report.
"The VA couldn't lead starving troops to a chow hall when it comes to managing a construction project," U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, a Republican from Aurora, said Tuesday. "The VA's mismanagement of this project is beyond belief and brings into question the competence of their leadership at every level."

On Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller -- a Florida Republican and chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs -- called the Aurora project "the biggest construction failure in VA history."

Here is Florida we have our own mess to deal with. Back in 2008 I attended the groundbreaking shindag complete with a high price caterer and best part was they handed out engraved shovels with the date on it, 10/24/08 a month before the election, but they thought no one would notice that. We sure noticed the shovel and there were a lot of jokes about that since they were not even planning to start construction until 2010.

The Orlando Sentinel reported this way back in 2007.
Veterans hospital comes to Lake Nona
An agreement brings the $553 million facility to Orlando's new medical campus.
Harry Wessel Sentinel Staff Writer
December 19, 2007

The two-decadelong dream of a VA hospital in Central Florida took a big step toward reality Tuesday when the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Tavistock Group signed an agreement to bring the long-awaited facility to a planned "medical city" in the southeast corner of Orlando.

"Finally, the largest metropolitan area not serviced by a VA medical center will now have a facility at Lake Nona," said U.S. Rep. Tom Feeney, R-Oviedo, who said he would push for full funding of the VA hospital in the federal government's fiscal 2008 budget.

Congress has previously authorized money for the Orlando VA hospital, including $35 million to purchase the property. Terms of the agreement Tuesday were not disclosed, though Feeney's office noted the authorization amount had not changed and that the total amount for the VA hospital "will be over $377 million."

It should be well over that. The total bill for the VA-hospital project will be an estimated $553 million, according to a letter sent Tuesday from U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez to Veterans Affairs Secretary Dr. James Peake.

These guys actually think we believe them?

The House approved $220 million in August of 2008. But a month later the information from just a year before turned into this.
The 65-acre parcel in southeast Orlando will house the $656 million, 314-bed VA facility, one of the crown jewels in a 600-acre "medical city" at Lake Nona being pieced together by the Tavistock Group. The purchase price for the property was about $39 million, said Barry Stanley, spokesman for the Orlando VA Medical Center.

Construction is set to begin next year, and the state-of-the art facility would open its doors to Central Florida's 400,000 veterans in 2012.

Guess we were right to make fun of the shovel. Here it is 2015 and we still don't have a VA hospital.

In 2012 they were saying it would happen in 2013.
Construction delays and design errors have pushed the opening of the new $665 million medical center from October to the summer of 2013 — at the earliest, VA officials told the Sentinel on Tuesday.

The best part of all of this is what Representative Jeff Miller said about this back in 2012 in his press release as Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee. (Yep he had the job back then too)
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, issued the following statement regarding the construction of the new Orlando Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center, which will serve approximately 300,000 veterans and is already two years behind schedule:

“VA has painted a rosy picture for the public and the veterans of Florida for the past two years regarding the construction of the long-overdue Orlando Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center. VA’s confidence in the timely and on-budget completion of this project was so great that it devoted ‘bid savings’ from this project for use elsewhere around the country. Needless to say, that confidence has given way to a somber reckoning of serious delays and potential cost-overruns.

“A Contract Cure Notice issued today by the Department of Veterans Affairs has the potential to stop construction at the Orlando site and increase the costs moving forward exponentially, if a resolution is not reached. The Committee was assured by VA officials on March 27, and again on May 18 of this year, that VA was working collaboratively with the contractor to ensure issues surrounding the construction of the facility would be resolved and the new timeline set forth by VA would be met. That was clearly not the case.

“This project has been a multi-million dollar debacle, and a failure of this magnitude deserves accountability at the highest level. Unfortunately, we have seen this pattern before. VA management and oversight of large construction and IT projects across the country has been sorely lacking and fraught with incompetence.

“The current situation in Orlando is inexcusable. Pointing fingers and laying blame will not build the medical center the veterans of Central Florida deserve. I expect answers immediately from VA on the status and cost of this project, and the implication of today’s decision on the delivery of care and services to our veterans.”

This is 2015 so who did he think was going to be fixing this? All this would really be funny unless you're a veteran waiting to be able to get the care you were promised when you served the country and ended up paying for it with your health. But it isn't funny at all to the 400,000+ veterans and family members in Central Florida.

The rest of the hospital isn't opened but already in September of 2014 there was this report.
The Orlando Veterans Affairs Community Center opened in December, and it's the only part of the behind-schedule hospital project that's finished.

"It's isolated to this facility. Good news of it is two patients did recover. Unfortunately one person did pass away, but that person had underlying health conditions," said Dain Weister, with the Orange County Health Department.

Guess Miller has forgotten a few things. Like it was President Bush in the chair when this started and Democrats controlled the House and the Senate. They were not happy with James Peake, the then head of the VA after James Nicholson and Anthony Principi.

Their control ended in 2011 after losing the House in the 2010 election. Ever since then the Republicans have controlled the House and yes, the Veterans Affairs Committee. Do you think they could have fixed all this by now if they wanted to? This is how veterans get screwed all the time. They remember risking their lives but politicians can't remember what they were supposed to fix before it got even worse!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Major changes to VA and DOD not right ones or fast enough

Wounded Times
Kathie Costos
December 20, 2014
House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller, Florida

For over six decades veterans and families have been waiting for sound judgement instead of sound bites out of the Veterans Affairs Committees in the House and the Senate. With each session of congress we've been moved around, twisted and toppled by excuse after excuse following too many promises they didn't live up to.

How many hearings do members of Congress need to hold before they actually listen? We've heard all the testimonies from families after one of their own returned from combat and committed suicide yet the bills coming out of our politicians are repeats of what already failed. The numbers show an increase after decades of using the wrong address to reduce them.

The easy answers have been palatable for the uninformed while the rest of us are gagging from acid reflux. Every issue we deal with everyday have been reported for decades with generation after generation of veterans waiting for someone to finally figure out the right thing to do instead of repeating what has already failed us.

We waited after hard fought battles to have PTSD associated with combat treated properly but what we ended up with were "better than nothing" bills funded into pockets of fat researchers and corporations hell bent on securing their own futures instead of ours. What works best on PTSD is peer support but we see those programs cut. We're promised that the military has been informing families about PTSD but after the funerals too many families sat in front of members of congress and told them point blank no one told them anything at all.

We were told the DOD has been "training" soldiers to be "resilient" yet they come home and tell us how they didn't feel they could turn to anyone since they were all told if they trained their brains to be tough enough they'd come home "normal" to their families.

In the Warrior Transition Units that thought was reinforced to perfection. While we were told that they were being treated with dignity and respect, they were being abused and after the reporting the Army had to issues orders to stop doing it. It was not until the Dallas Morning News and NBC reporting clued members of Congress in on what soldiers had been talking about for years. The latest bullshit has been about yet another suicide prevention bill not being passed but no one seems to be wondering where the trouble originated from. The answer was clear. Well, at least to most of us living in the real world.

There has been a plethora of bills coming out of Congress but while we hear "peer support" we've all assumed that the peers knew more than the others only to discover they were mostly misinformed. Resilience leaders didn't even understand the basics of PTSD but were expect to take hours of training on the wrong material to lead others out of the valley of death.

Pretty ironic considering that as each family member traveled to tell their stories no one figured out that listening to family members already failed wouldn't do much good. If members of Congress didn't already know how much pain they caused then the bitter tears had little chance of causing any worthy change. The report of "major changes" comes too little and far, far too late for far too many.
2014 Major Changes for Veterans, Military
Bobbie O'Brien
December 26, 2014

Florida state lawmakers granted in-state tuition to all veteran students using their Post 9-11 VA education benefits.

After national reports of long waiting lists linked to some veterans deaths, Gov. Rick Scott ordered Florida regulators to inspect records at the state’s federally run VA hospitals. State inspectors were denied access to the patient records, so the governor sued.

Several local members of congress, including U.S. Rep. David Jolly (R-FL) and U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL), held local “veteran intakes” to help expedite their VA claims and appointments.

Congress held hearings looking at the VA health care system and reports of secret waiting lists that led to veteran deaths and poor quality of care. Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL), continues to spearhead those investigations.

During his first 100 days in office, the new Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert “Bob” McDonald visited VA facilities in the Tampa Bay area.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel resigned, but he remains on the job until his successor is approved. At Tampa’s MacDill Air Force Base: Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie took over as commander of the Marines at US Central Command; Col. Daniel Tulley is now commander of MacDill Air Force Base and the 6th Air Mobility Wing.

Army Ranger Lt. Gen. Joe Votel became commander of U.S. Special Operations Command upon the retirement of Navy SEAL Adm. William McRaven who will forever be remembered as the architect of the plan that captured Osama Bin Laden.
read more here

This is what the House Veterans Affairs Committee has been responsible for since 1946, or was supposed to be in charge of.
Legislation Within the Jurisdiction of the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs

Veterans' measures generally.
Pensions of all the wars of the U.S., general and special.
Life insurance issued by the government on account of service in the Armed Forces.
Compensation, vocational rehabilitation, and education of veterans.
Veterans' hospitals, medical care, and treatment of veterans.
Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief.
Readjustment of servicemen to civilian life.
National Cemeteries.
Complete Jurisdiction of the Committee
The Department of Veterans Affairs
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) was established March 15, 1989, with Cabinet rank, succeeding the Veterans Administration and assuming responsibility for providing federal benefits to veterans and their dependents. Led by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, VA is the second largest of the 14 Cabinet departments and operates nationwide programs of health care assistance services and national cemeteries.
"There are now 22 Standing Committees in the House of Representatives. The number of Members (Representatives) authorized to serve on each Committee has been changed from time to time. There are currently 29 members of the Committee on Veterans' Affairs."

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

House VA Committee May Block Veteran Ranking Seat?

Walz Abandons Bid for Top Veterans' Affairs Panel Slot
Time to get politics out of anything having to do with veterans. Why? Because when they were risking their lives, the only thing that mattered was each other. That is the way the elected officials responsible for ensuring they get what they need after service fix what is broken.

To put a veteran out of a seat at the table is plain wrong. This is a time when veterans need to be able to be the voices for other veterans. This isn't just any other committee. This is about our veterans!
Dem leadership fight frustrates veterans advocates
Marine Corps Times
By Leo Shane III
Staff Writer
November 19, 2014

Democratic leaders on Wednesday will vote to sideline the only Iraq War-era veteran on the House Veterans' Affairs Committee and stave off an internal power struggle, a move that has infuriated some veterans advocates.

Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., announced last week his plans to seek the ranking member seat on the committee, following the retirement of current ranking member Rep. Mike Michaud, D-Maine. Walz is a retired command sergeant major in the Army National Guard, the highest ranking enlisted soldier to ever serve in Congress.

But congressional seniority rules put Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla., in line for that post, and Walz's move has touched off behind-the-scenes fights over who will be a more credible minority party voice on the committee in the coming session.

Brown and members of the Congressional Black Caucus have bristled over suggestions that the 10-term congresswoman could be passed over for the ranking member post. But Michaud and several veterans groups have publicly backed Walz, citing his military knowledge and role as the committee's most experienced veteran.

Late Tuesday, members of the House Democratic Steering Committee moved up a vote on the issue to Wednesday morning, congressional staffers confirmed.
read more here

Monday, November 3, 2014

It doesn't matter who you vote for if you don't hold them accountable

Wounded Times
Kathie Costos
November 3, 2014

It really doesn't matter who, which party, wins the elections tomorrow because from what most of us have seen, it will be more of the same. The same distractions and pretending politicians care about any of us. Frankly, the way we act after they win, we deserve what they do once they get in. We never hold them accountable because we fall into the same trap year after year.

The best way to prove this is the way things turned out for our veterans and the uproar over what the VA was not doing. It made my head explode reading reports as if it never happened before. No one seemed interested in how it got so bad when they were screaming for heads to roll. No one was putting any blame on members of congress, who actually had the responsibility to watch what the VA was doing.

Aaron Glantz wrote about Homeless Vets Play the Waiting Game back in 2007 and spotlighted part of the problem they faced.
Veterans groups maintain that the backlog amounts to official negligence. Since the launch of the Iraq war more than four years ago, the number of people charged with reviewing and approving veterans' disability claims has actually dropped. According to the American Federation of Government Employees, the VA employed 1,392 Veterans Service Representatives in June 2007 compared to 1,516 in January 2003.
But hey, why talk about how long things have been rotten for our veterans when some get to play political games of whining now? Why should we be reminded of how long all of this has been going on? Because we are doomed to repeat all of it until the next election cycle comes around and politicians get to complain about the other side not doing anything.

It isn't just Republicans complaining about Democrats because back in 2007, it was the other way around. This is one massive political coverup with the media leading the charges avoiding truth. First start with the simple fact that since 2010, nothing has come out of the congress. Why? Well Republicans control the House of Representatives trying to do what they want but they also control the Senate.

Sure you may think that since Democrats are the majority of the Senate they do, but they do not hold the supermajority limiting what they can bring up for votes when Republicans refuse to allow anything they don't want. Forget about up or down votes they used to whine about when it was a Republican president in the chair.

To think the majority of voters get what they want is a delusion. Mitch McConnell vowed in 2010 it was their number one job to make Obama a one term president, so that pretty much ensured that whatever voters thought they would get wouldn't happen.
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Look up the worst congress ever and you'll find the last 4 years top the charts. None of them earned the votes they want us to give them again. Much like the years spent "addressing veterans issues" made headlines and reporters decided to give up doing investigations or even basic research to figure out what happened before to make it all this bad. The trouble is Congress controls the money spent on the whole shabang including what is done for veterans as well as what they allow to be done to veterans. Nice little game they play especially when you consider most of them were in the same chairs when shit stuck to the wall stinking up the claims coming out of their overused mouths.

Tracking all these reports all these years have left me with very little confidence and as for trust, it has turned into disdain.

I have a unique seat in all of this and remember what happened, when and why, so when you read Wounded Times, especially if you read it from the beginning, you understand the anger.

City Rallies for 300,000 Homeless Vets; VA Funds Only 12,000 Beds came out in 2008 and Obama made a promice to make things right for homeless veterans. But why talk about something that Obama pushed for making right when everyone gets to complain about what he got wrong? After all, when you read the news about two wars being started and less people working for the VA to care for them, it is easy to see a congressional coverup.

Obama made a lot of promises but the one that gets my skin crawling is the promise he made to reduce military suicides within the military and in the veterans community. Both went up but no one was held accountable and there is no indication anyone ever will be.

PTSD is tied to suicides as well as veterans living on the streets. Nothing new here despite the decades of addressing the needs of our veterans by members of congress going all the way back to 1946 when the first Veterans Affairs Committee was seated in the House. Pretty disgusting when you think about how bad it still is.

The American people are suffering from amnesia. Veterans are suffering because no one wants to remember that none of this is new to them. They came home from different wars with the same issues today's veterans have. When you consider we have military families of food stamps, what McConnell promised is equivalent to treason especially when there were two wars being fought with multiple deployments piling on hardship after hardship onto the shoulders of the military folks risking their lives while politicians got to claim they cared.

Years ago I was contacted by Dan Lohaus about his film When I Came Home. I was working for a church and figured it was the best place to let folks know about the crisis veterans were facing, much like Vietnam veterans faced when I visited the New England Shelter for Homeless Veterans years before. I was wrong.

The board had to approve showing the film, so I gave my reasons for wanting to show it then got shocked with all the rants about fake homeless veterans and the view that the real homeless veterans wanted to be that way. In other words, either they used it to get money or chose it to be that way. I wasn't ready for that reaction but the Pastor took control and supported what I was saying. Then, thank God, they were willing to listen especially when it was pointed out that Christ and his followers were also homeless wandering around to spread their message of taking care of those in need with love while depending on the kindness of strangers to take care of their own need for shelter and food.

How could anyone hold onto hope of getting help when they were beaten down too many time? How could any veteran face being sent away from the people they turned to and then find any shred of hope within them to ask one more time, believe they mattered one more time or find reason to believe they were worthy of a helping hand? They couldn't.

The homeless veterans population has been reduced but troubling numbers show a rise again at the same time all the bad stuff they have to deal with has also gone up. We have veterans courts now yet far too many end up incarcerated. We have more treatment facilities for substance abuse yet far too many are given medications for PTSD with terrible side effects so they choose not to take them seeking illegal drugs and alcohol to take the sting out of their minds.

More and more charities pop up all over the country and community after community come together to prove the claim this nation cares for those who risk their lives to retain our freedom, yet far too many never hold the people they elect accountable for anything they end up doing or not doing.

Tuesday the American people have a chance to change the way things are in this country but the trouble is, the change involves the same folks that got us into this mess already. None of them show any indication they plan on doing anything differently. Why don't we vote for patriots instead of politicians this time around? Why not look up the records of the folks wanting to be re-elected and actually know what they've done before before we give them a chance to do it again? How about we vote for facts instead of party?

The rating for members of congress remains at an all time low but how low do they have to go before they get voted out? When do they cross the line so far they end up on the unemployment line? When do we actually use the only power we have to make a difference?

When I was young I wanted to change the world. My Mom sat me down and told me I was fighting too many of them so I was doomed to lose all of fights I took on. Then I found a cause to fight for with everything I had within me. My cause is veterans. I don't care much for politicians but they make the rules and they are in control over the military as well as what happens to our veterans. To tell the truth few have lived up to the speeches they give veterans groups while seeking their support and even less actually earned it.

We can't stop doing our part just because the election is over. We let both parties fall flat on their faces as soon as they got our votes, holding none of them accountable for anything.

Most of us complain about the military reducing the number of military folks yet few remember that it was sequestration that caused it because the Republicans want the budget they wanted and the Democrats didn't, so they came up with something so reprehensible no one would let it happen. It did. They did nothing about it to increase the DOD budget to let these fine folks back to work and prevent deployed soldiers from getting layoff notices. They didn't do anything about military families on food stamps either.

We let members of congress pull a fast one on us. We can't let that happen again especially knowing that the same folks claiming they knew nothing were part of the problem. Do something more than just vote this time or we're going to let veterans suffer for what we fail to do for them.