Showing posts with label Paul Sullivan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Paul Sullivan. Show all posts

Saturday, August 5, 2017

"The VA has betrayed our veterans" But members of Congress did it first

OMG! I need to stay out of social media. Yet again I was reading about someone ignoring the fact that all the problems the OEF and OIF veterans have with their claims and treatment from the VA is new. 

"The VA has betrayed our veterans." Paul Sullivan Veterans For Common Sense said after his group filed a lawsuit because veteran were waiting too long for medical care and compensation. Here is a little history lesson, because if we ignore it, nothing will change. 

Injured Iraq War Vets Sue VA

Frustrated by delays in health care, injured Iraq war veterans accused VA Secretary Jim Nicholson in a lawsuit of breaking the law by denying them disability pay and mental health treatment. 
The class-action lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, filed Monday in federal court in San Francisco, seeks broad changes in the agency as it struggles to meet growing demands from veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Suing on behalf of hundreds of thousands of veterans, it charges that the VA has failed warriors on numerous fronts. It contends the VA failed to provide prompt disability benefits, failed to add staff to reduce wait times for medical care and failed to boost services for post-traumatic stress disorder. 
The lawsuit also accuses the VA of deliberately cheating some veterans by allegedly working with the Pentagon to misclassify PTSD claims as pre-existing personality disorders to avoid paying benefits. The VA and Pentagon have generally denied such charges.
"When one of our combat veterans walks into a VA hospital, then they must see a doctor that day," said Paul Sullivan, executive director of Veterans for Common Sense, which filed the lawsuit. "When a war veteran needs disability benefits because he or she can't work, then they must get a disability check in a few weeks."
You may think that just happened. You need to think again because if you just started to pay attention to all of this, you're wrong. That report came out July 23, 2007. There was a budget crisis.
Yet, the lawsuit says, Nicholson and other officials still insisted on a budget in 2005 that fell $1 billion short, and they made "a mockery of the rule of law" by awarding senior officials $3.8 million in bonuses despite their role in the budget foul-up.
And while our veterans and families were suffering after decades of promises from members of Congress, they never once apologized for any of it.

"The performance of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs has contributed substantially to our sense of national shame," the opinion from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals read.Nicholson abruptly announced last week he would step down by Oct. 1 to return to the private sector. 
He has repeatedly defended the agency during his 2½-year tenure while acknowledging there was room for improvement.More recently, following high-profile suicide incidents in which families of veterans say the VA did not provide adequate care, Nicholson pledged to add mental health services and hire more suicide-prevention coordinators.

A year later the VA Budget was $3 Billion short! Paul Sullivan continued the fight and was demanding some accountability when more veterans were committing suicide while waiting in a backlog of 600,000. Veterans were telling employees they were suicidal and were put on a waiting list.  

Now that may seem as if that was new but it happened to Vietnam veterans in the 80's and 90's. Not that it mattered since Congress did nothing about it. After all, when it reached the point where President Bush had to fight against veterans in court, no one put the blame on Congress.
During an interview given in November for the original CBS story, Dr. Katz told reporter Armen Keteyian that "There is no epidemic in suicide in the VA, but suicide is a major problem." When pressed for an answer to explain the VA's inability to come up with any suicide statistics among veterans, Katz replied "That research is ongoing." 
However, "After a public records request, the VA provided CBS News with data that showed there were a total of 790 attempted suicides by VA patients in the entire year of 2007." This number does not match up at all with a private email sent by Dr. Katz to a colleague in which he states that the VA has identified "about 1000 suicide attempts a month in patients we see at are medical facilities," a far cry from his public estimate of 790 a year.
PS, that really hasn't changed either. As you can see, not much has changed.

Monday, March 18, 2013

For millions who served in the last decade, scars are lifelong

For millions who served in the last decade, scars are lifelong
By Chris Adams
McClatchy Newspapers
Published: March 17, 2013

WASHINGTON - Ten years after the United States went to war in Iraq, one of the most common numbers associated with the conflict is the tally of Americans killed: nearly 4,500. Add in the twin war in Afghanistan, and the tally goes to more than 6,600.

But for the men and women who served in America’s war on terrorism, the number of people affected is far larger. And for many of those people, the impact of the war will last a lifetime.

"I give presentations all over the country, and audiences are routinely shocked and surprised at the numbers," said Paul Sullivan, a former senior analyst at the Department of Veterans Affairs who handles veteran outreach for Bergmann and Moore, a Washington-area law firm that specializes in disability issues. "Quite often they will challenge me."

Since the U.S. went to war in Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003, about 2.5 million members of the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard and related Reserve and National Guard units have been deployed in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, according to Department of Defense data. Of those, more than a third were deployed more than once.

In fact, as of last year nearly 37,000 Americans had been deployed more than five times, among them 10,000 members of guard or Reserve units. Records also show that 400,000 service members have done three or more deployments.
read more here

Thursday, January 24, 2013

OEF OIF veterans show Gulf War Illness

Report: New vets show Gulf War illness symptoms
By Kelly Kennedy
USA Today
Posted : Wednesday Jan 23, 2013

About one-third of Gulf War veterans — or 175,000 to 250,000 people — have Gulf War illness.

WASHINGTON — Veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may be suffering from the 20-year-old set of symptoms known as Gulf War Illness, according to a new report released Wednesday by the federal Institute of Medicine.

“Preliminary data suggest that (chronic multisymptom illness) is occurring in veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars as well,” the report says.

This may be the first time that the symptoms suffered by veterans of the 1991 Gulf War have been linked to veterans of the current wars, which started in 2001 and 2003, said Paul Rieckhoff, CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

It also means the Department of Veterans Affairs’ definition of who qualifies for Gulf War veterans’ benefits should include those who served in Afghanistan, said Paul Sullivan, a 1991 Gulf War veteran and founder of Veterans for Common Sense.

Because Wednesday’s report associates the symptoms with deployment, Sullivan said, the VA “should expand the geographical definition of the current Gulf War to include the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

The researchers were to investigate treatments for Gulf War illness, including any existing research, to see what worked for veterans. Their research included traumatic brain injury, which is caused by blunt force to the head or proximity to an explosion; post-traumatic stress disorder, which must involve exposure to trauma; respiratory problems, fibromyalgia; and chronic pain.

Chronic multisymptom illness was formerly called Gulf War Syndrome, the Institute of Medicine report said. It includes symptoms in at least two of six categories: fatigue, mood and cognition issues, musculoskeletal problems, gastrointestinal problems, respiratory difficulties, and neurologic issues that last for at least six months.
read more here

Monday, October 22, 2012

Almost a third of OEF OIF VA Patients have PTSD

If I said "told you so" would it make a difference to the people using the 1 out of 5 rate instead of 1 out of 3? Nope. It has been 1 out of 3 since Vietnam veterans came home. Well looks like everything old is new again.

Nearly 30 Percent of Vets Treated By VA Have PTSD
A new study by the Veterans Administration reveals nearly 30% of its patients who served in Iraq and Afghanistan have PTSD
Jamie Reno reports
October 21, 2012

The Department of Veterans Affairs has quietly released a new report on post- traumatic stress disorder, showing that since 9/11, nearly 30 percent of the 834,463 Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans treated at V.A. hospitals and clinics have been diagnosed with PTSD.

Veterans advocates say the new V.A. report is the most damning evidence yet of the profound impact multiple deployments have had on American service men and women since 9/11. Troops who’ve been deployed multiple times to Iraq and Afghanistan are more than three times as likely as soldiers with no previous deployments to screen positive for PTSD and major depression, according to a 2010 study published by the American Journal for Public Health.

The report, which revealed that 247,243 veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars have been diagnosed with PTSD, was buried on the V.A.’s website without fanfare. “As far as we can tell, V.A. didn’t tell anyone these numbers were made public," says veterans advocate Paul Sullivan at Bergmann and Moore, a law firm that focuses entirely on veteran disability issues. “No press release. Nothing. I actually found the report while searching for new data. I simply changed the V.A.’s web address from second quarter to third quarter by altering one digit, and the new numbers appeared. Magic, eh?”
click link above for more
This was released in February by the CBO
The Veterans Health Administration’s Treatment of PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury Among Recent Combat Veterans February 2012.
Occurrence and Prevalence of PTSD and TBI

In the VHA data provided to CBO regarding 496,800 OCO veterans treated by VHA between 2004 and 2009, veterans with a diagnosis of PTSD (but not TBI) accounted for 21 percent (103,500) of the total, and those with a diagnosis of TBI (but not PTSD) accounted for 2 percent (8,700).

In addition, veterans with diagnoses of both PTSD and TBI accounted for about 5 percent (26,600). Thus, three out of four OCO veterans with a diagnosis of TBI had a concurrent PTSD diagnosis.32 In total, approximately 26 percent (130,100) had at least one diagnosis of PTSD, and 7 percent (35,300) had at least one diagnosis of TBI.

33 More than 70 percent (358,000) of OCO veterans treated by VHA were not diagnosed with either PTSD or TBI. Other mental health conditions besides PTSD are common within the OCO veteran population. (For a brief description of other mental health conditions and suicide in that popu- lation, see Box 2.)

31. VHA computes costs on the basis of its internal reporting systems. Costs for treating PTSD and TBI in the civilian population and veterans treated at VHA are unlikely to be comparable because of differences in cost allocation methodologies, the populations treated, and the mechanisms of injury. Also, while VHA data mea- sure the costs of care, private-sector estimates are often based on insurance reimbursements to private providers, which are not identical to costs.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Disabled veterans suffered needlessly for 14 years

Disabled veterans suffered needlessly for 14 years
Chaplain Kathie

The idea that medical records should be linked between the DOD and the VA seemed like a great one. After all, if they are wounded while in the service, it would only make sense to have it documented by the Department of Defense so that after they are discharged the VA would have their records a lot faster. That's what a lot of people think. The news reports have left the impression this is something new. Aside from the fact it has not been done, the backlog of claims rises and veterans wait months, even years, to have their claims approved, the systems are still not joined.

DoD's Struggle to Streamline with VA
September 8, 2010

As you can see this video was uploaded September 2010. With Iraq and Afghanistan producing over 2 million more veterans, Vietnam veterans also sought claim approvals for Agent Orange and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as the rules to file these claims were changed.

What do they live off of when they can't work due to a true "service connected disability" that has not been approved due to backlog of claims and lack of records? They have heard every excuse used over and over again along with hearing that the problem is being addressed. What good does it do to set rules if no one is enforcing them?

This outrageous situation has been allowed to continue because as members of congress change what has been done is all forgotten about.

The need to connect the DOD and the VA was addressed 14 years ago before troops were sent into Afghanistan and Iraq, long before the rule changes to file claims for Vietnam Veterans and still they wait while all of this could have been avoided.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
News Release

No. 658-97
December 04, 1997

Under an agreement between the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Defense (DoD), active duty military personnel should have an easier process for and get faster decisions on their disability compensation claims as well as their eligibility for VA health care.

When fully implemented, the new national policy calls for separating or retiring servicemembers expecting to file a claim for VA disability compensation to undergo a single physical exam prior to discharge. The exam will meet VA requirements for claims determinations, as well as DoD needs for a separation medical examination. The new policy will be phased in as expeditiously as possible as details are worked out at the local level.

Previous procedures required two separate examinations several months apart. Until now, military personnel have first had to get a DoD physical exam prior to discharge from active duty. These personnel then usually have to undergo a second exam by VA after filing claims for disability compensation because of differences between VA and DoD protocols. The results of these examinations are a determining factor in eligibility for VA health care.

The new national policy was spearheaded by VA Under Secretary for Health Dr. Kenneth W. Kizer and DoD Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Dr. Edward D. Martin following months of work on this and other matters of joint interest.

Kizer said, "This change will help us avoid unnecessary or redundant physical exams, improve the quality of the examination process, and improve service for separating servicemembers by eliminating lengthy delays in claims decisions and health-care eligibility determinations. We are hopeful the new policy also will enhance ongoing efforts to reduce the time it takes to process compensation claims and, further, it should reduce costs."

Martin said, "By reengineering the system to require only one physical, we are making life easier for our beneficiaries. This is a good news story."

In pilot tests of the dual-purpose exam at VA and Army facilities, claims processing time was reduced to less than one-third of national levels under the existing system. The current national average for processing an original compensation claim is 133 days.

Under the new policy, VA physicians generally will conduct the pre-discharge exams. In areas where VA physicians are not available, DoD physicians will conduct the exams according to VA protocols.

Imagine if this was done 14 years ago there wouldn't be so many veterans waiting for what they were in fact owed for their disabilities caused by service to this country.

Paul Sullivan of Veterans For Common Sense sent an email to let me know that back when this started, he was part of getting it done.

In 1997, while I was executive director of the National Gulf War Resource Center in Washington, DC, I worked with Rep. Lane Evans to pass the Force Health Protection Act that mandated the records and exams.

After prompting by VCS, in 2009, one of President Obama's first actions for VA and DoD was to push forward with the single record.

In my VCS Congressional testimony since 2007, I repeatedly asked for the records and exams.

Then, surprise, in late 2010, DoD confirmed they are doing more of the exams. DoD did a test to see if exams and more doctors improved the health of the troops. And they did, according to a New York Times article published in October 2010.

Are VA and DoD going in the correct direction? Yes. Are they going fast enough? Hell no. Troops still need their pre- and post-deployment medical exams, and our troops and veterans need the electronic lifetime medical record so toxic exposures, exams, and prescriptions are all documented.

As you can see, while Paul has been a "go to guy" for reporters over the last few years, he's been working hard for veterans for a very, very long time.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Urgent Appeal to Stop Attacks On Our Veterans and VA Funding

Will we allow this to become a nation that no longer honors the men and women risking their lives to protect it? Will we forget the survivors of combat wounded for their valor? If people like Michele Bachmann get their way, that is exactly what we will become. Veterans were the target of the enemy forces they were sent to defeat. Now they are targets of politicians no longer believing they are worth whatever it takes to repay the debt owed them. After all, all they had to give this nation was their lives, but politicians give speeches.

From Veterans For Common Sense
In 2002, VCS warned Americans against President George W. Bush and his disastrous Iraq War. History proves we veterans were correct.

Today there is a new and very serious danger on the horizon in Washington.

Starting in January 2011, the newly elected House of Representatives took a sinister turn against veterans. Instead of trying to find ways to assist our nation's 23 million living veterans, the new Congress wants to cut funding for our Department of Veterans Affairs.

Exhibit One: Veterans for Common Sense led the "vigorous" national effort to kill U.S. Represenative Michele Bachmann's (R-Minnesota) terrible plan to slash VA spending by $4.5 billion. The stakes are higher because Bachmann is now running for President, and she is a leading contender. Imagine the damage she would do in the White House.

Fortunately for veterans, we have strong allies on The Hill and in the White House. Senator Patty Murray (D-Washington), Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, will be the co-chair of the new "super" Congressional Committee charged with matching our nation's values to our government's spending and taxes. She recently defeated a proposal by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma) to gut Agent Orange benefits for Vietnam War veterans.

Your support of $50 today keeps our experienced veteran advocates in Washington meeting with legislators and reporters to ensure our progressive vision of caring for our veterans remains on their radar.

Our choices are clear. The new "super" committee can do the right thing and end the tax breaks for the rich and corporations and thus make sure our veterans get prompt and high quality care and benefits. As the enormous success of the GI Bill shows, social programs cost money now, yet they create millions of jobs - jobs where people buy houses, go shopping and pay many times more in taxes for several decades. The GI Bill is a fantastic investment in Americans.

The "super" committee might do the wrong thing and leave our veterans twisting in the wind. They could do nothing or even slash VA spending at a time when 10,000 new Iraq and Afghanistan war casualties flood into VA hospitals each month. Abandoning our veterans means sharp rises in unemployment, homelessness, and other serious problems among our veterans.

VCS will fight for our veterans and against cuts in veterans' healthcare and benefits. We believe spending on veterans helps our economy with jobs and prosperity. Please help VCS make sure veterans win in Washington.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

James A. Haley VA paid big bonuses in tight 2009 budget

Haley VA paid big bonuses in tight 2009 budget

By William R. Levesque, Times Staff Writer
In Print: Saturday, August 6, 2011

About 87,000 patients get treatment at Haley, ranked 9th among VA facilities nationally. Haley boasts what may be the premier polytrauma unit in the nation, where the most severely wounded veterans are treated.

TAMPA — One of the nation's busiest veteran hospitals found itself in a money crunch in 2009.

Leaders at the James A. Haley VA Medical Center worked frantically to find funds to offset a deficit that, at one point, was projected at more than $25 million, financial records show.

Travel costs were curtailed. Overtime scrutinized. Potential hires prioritized.

But amid the cuts, one budget item nearly tripled:

Employee bonuses.

Haley paid its 175 business office employees $553,000 in fiscal 2009 bonuses, up from $196,000 the year before, according to Haley and budget records. Bonuses largely went up, Haley officials say, because of a new hospital program that rewarded workers who exceeded goals collecting money owed by insurers and veterans.

Collections went up 14 percent that year to $82 million compared to 2008. Bonuses shot up 181 percent. As bonuses climbed, so, too, did billing refunds.

Refunds of veteran co-pays climbed from $426,525 in fiscal 2007 to $1.5 million in 2010, Haley confirmed.

Haley officials describe the refunds as routine for any Department of Veterans Affairs hospital and said they do not point to flawed billing.

Some say the VA needs to be more forthcoming about bonuses in trying financial times.

Haley's 2009 bonuses "stand out like a search beacon in the desert," said Paul Sullivan, a veterans advocate who is the executive director of Veterans for Common Sense in Washington, D.C.
read more here
Haley VA paid big bonuses in tight 2009 budget

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Ex-Senator Simpson doesn't think Vietnam Vets are worth taking care of

I was watching Countdown last night because I heard a friend of mine and of all veterans, Paul Sullivan was going to be on the show. Low and behold, I was stunned to hear what Senator Simpson had to say about Vietnam veterans and Agent Orange. When veterans are treated like this behind their backs, the whole nation should be outraged!

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

OLBERMANN: On Monday, the secretary of Veterans Affairs, Eric Shinseki, announced what he called a long overdue rule delivering justice to some of America's veterans-- long overdue in the sense, meaning, since the Vietnam War.

But in our fourth story: a top Republican is unhappy about the rule and he's blaming the veterans. Secretary Shinseki's announcement was about Agent Orange. Agent Orange-- the toxic defoliant which America dumped on Vietnam to kill the growth of plants that were used as cover by the Viet Cong. More than 19 million gallons of herbicides were sprayed during the war. Most of it, Agent Orange, sprayed on inland forests near Vietnam's borders, north of Saigon, and on a mangrove forest lining Saigon's shipping channels -- meaning it was not just killing trees. It was being breathed in by American soldiers. Soldiers who did not know exposure would later be linked to potentially fatal conditions such a Hodgkin's disease, soft tissue cancers and non- Hodgkin's lymphoma. So, in 1991, Congress passed a law to get treatment to Vietnam vets suffering from any of 12 diseases did have to prove they were caused by Agent Orange. On Monday, Shinseki wrote, quote, "The president and I are proud," unquote, to provide additional treatment under the 1991 law. It has been extended to cover Parkinson's, some leukemias and some heart disease. Enter former Republican Senator Simpson.

read more here

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Advocacy comes with a price tag

Advocacy comes with a price tag

Asking for donations is one of the least favorite things to do for advocates. It is not just that it is hard to ask people for money, but it is more the idea they have to do it at all. When you work as hard as an advocate does, it should be assumed by others they need financial support to keep going. But this does not happen.

I used to put in 70 hours a week on this blog alone, plus volunteer work with the emails and phone calls, training and meetings. Now I do about 40 hours and I can tell you it is getting harder and harder to justify doing that emotionally. I can't pay my own bills and no matter how many times I ask for donations that are tax deductible, no one pitches in to support the work I do. I have a free online book that hundreds of people have read and thanked me for but no one feels it is worth kicking in any money for. I used to travel a lot going wherever I was asked to go and paying the cost of it by myself. When I asked for the trip to be funded, the requests stopped coming in. I worked countless hours on making over 30 videos to provide a great understanding of what PTSD is and to support the troops, but few seem to find them of monetary value. Now while I am sure this is what God wants me to do, and I will keep doing it as long as I can, I wonder why I do more often than just knowing why I do it. The price to pay is just too high when I have to suffer emotionally and financially. When an advocate is not supported, they go away for this reason more than any other. It is not that the love or commitment ends, but they just can't carry the burden alone anymore.

I wanted to share that with you for a reason. I am one person and if I am going through this much hardship, I want you to think about the need for financial support a large organization has. They fight for others, reporting what is happening to them and coming up with solutions. They provide awareness to things few others know about but touch the lives of thousands of people. When it comes to advocates for veterans, often it is the only voice that can be heard for the sake of over 24 million veterans and their families. If their voice goes away because they cannot find financial support, who will fight for the veterans?

There are many fine groups out there fighting for veterans but they do not try to fight for all veterans. Veterans for Common Sense fights for the troops serving today and all of our veterans. The advocacy work of the entire group has managed to raise awareness on the suffering of millions, gaining media attention and thus, the attention of congress to create bills and come up with the funds to take care of veterans. They keep pushing and will keep pushing until this nation finally gets it right. The American public would have no clue what was happening if their voice was not heard.

Paul Sullivan has been a great champion in all of this. He has traveled across the country, been interviewed by news organizations and has been a voice for veterans. He is also a friend of mine. I don't know what I would do without his hard work on many of the issues you read about here all the time. What I often wonder is, what this nation would do if Veterans for Common Sense went away. We know that their work is important but what we don't think about is how they need support to do their work and yes, encouragement knowing their work is valued. While it is wonderful to say thank you to them, it does not pay their bills. Please read the following and then think of the work they do but don't stop there. Wonder what it would be like if they cannot find financial support to keep doing it.

Special Summer Message from VCS Executive Director

Dear VCS Supporter:

Thank you for working with us as we continue to win several important, new policy victories for our veterans. Together, we advocate for the needs of our veterans with Congress, VA, and reporters.

If you like what we're doing, then VCS asks you to please make a special one-time Summer 2010 donation of $50 today.

We need your help because next month Veterans for Common Sense, along with other advocates, will testify before Congress about how the military continues improperly discharging thousands of our service members -- in some cases our new Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans are losing vital VA benefits.

In the past month, here are two solid victories for our veterans - -

Government Relations:

* VCS succeeded in advocating on behalf of veterans to have VA's disability claim form shortened from 26 pages to 6 pages, a very important improvement for our veterans who suffer from TBI and/or PTSD.

* VCS successfully advocated for streamlining how VA processes PTSD benefit claims, making it easier and faster for our veterans to receive needed care and compensation.

Public Relations:

* VCS was interviewed live on CNN after President Barack Obama's Saturday morning radio and video broadcast about veterans and PTSD claims. VCS supports the President's strong anti-stigma message encouraging veterans who need care to seek help.

* VCS was interviewed by McClatchy News about the military's tragic and escalating suicide epidemic, a story VCS helped publicize for the past three years on CBS Evening News and on PBS News Hour. We continue pressing for more doctors and post-deployment exams so our veterans get prompt and high-quality care.

VCS Asks for Your Help:

VCS keeps the heat on VA to continue overhauling the agency so our veterans don't wait to see doctors or get disability benefits.

That's why VCS asks you to please make a special, one-time Summer 2010 donation of $50.

VCS is a 501(c)(3) non-profit formed by war veterans in 2002, and we focus on improving VA policies so our veterans receive prompt and high-quality medical care and disability benefits.

You've seen our advocacy in action - before Congress, working with VA, and raising veterans' needs in the press so Americans know about and support our veterans.

Please take the time and ask your friends assist VCS with a donation at our secure web site.

We are able do this because of your generous support !


Paul SullivanExecutive Director
Veterans for Common Sense

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Fallen soldiers' families ripped off by Prudential Financial?

A Fallen Hero: How an Insurance Company Profited
Katie Couric Reports on One Family's Experience with Dead Soldier Benefits and a Giant Insurance Firm
By Katie Couric

(CBS) In nearly a decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq, 5,620 Americans have died. Survivors of these fallen heroes are entitled to a life-insurance payment and the government uses a private company to handle it. What happened to the mother of 24-year-old Ryan Baumann of Great Mills, Maryland when she tried to collect serves as a lesson to every military family.

According to a Bloomberg Markets Magazine investigation, insurance companies have been profiting off of the death-benefits of fallen heroes.

"Ryan was a neat kid," said Cindy Lohman - Ryan's mother. "He really wanted to join the Army after 9/11 because he saw that, you know, there were things he could do."

CBS Evening News Anchor Katie Couric reports Sgt. Ryan Baumann was as proud of his mission in Afghanistan as his mother is of him. A soldier with the 101st Airborne, he was stationed in eastern Afghanistan - protecting villagers from the Taliban and providing critical services - like repairing pumps supplying water.

"One of the things that he said to me," Lohman said, "he said 'if anything happens to me, just let the world know we're making a difference over here.'"

But on August 1, 2008, Ryan was riding in a Humvee when he spotted an improvised explosive device, an IED.

"He told his driver, 'go left,' and that placed the IED directly under him," Lohman said.

Baumann was killed instantly. The driver, gunner and medic with him all survived.
read more here

How an Insurance Company Profited

VCS in the News: Fallen Soldiers' Families Denied Cash as Insurance Companies Profit
Written by David Evans
Wednesday, 28 July 2010 09:52
Top VA Officials Unaware of Scam; VCS Blasts "Secret Profits" for Prudential and MetLife

July 28, 2010 (Bloomberg News) - The package arrived at Cindy Lohman’s home in Great Mills, Maryland, just two weeks after she learned that her son, Ryan, a 24-year-old Army sergeant, had been killed by a bomb in Afghanistan. It was a thick, 9-inch-by- 12-inch envelope from Prudential Financial Inc., which handles life insurance for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Inside was a letter from Prudential about Ryan’s $400,000 policy. And there was something else, which looked like a checkbook. The letter told Lohman that the full amount of her payout would be placed in a convenient interest-bearing account, allowing her time to decide how to use the benefit.

“You can hold the money in the account for safekeeping for as long as you like,” the letter said. In tiny print, in a disclaimer that Lohman says she didn’t notice, Prudential disclosed that what it called its Alliance Account was not guaranteed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its September issue. Lohman, 52, left the money untouched for six months after her son’s August 2008 death.

“It’s like you’re paying me off because my child was killed,” she says. “It was a consolation prize that I didn’t want.”

*** Stephen Wurtz, deputy assistant director for insurance at the VA, who has overseen the insurance program for 25 years, has been kept in the dark by Prudential. ***

*** “It’s shameful that an insurance company is stealing money from the families of our fallen servicemen,” says Paul Sullivan, who served in the 1991 Gulf War as an Army cavalry scout and is now executive director of Veterans for Common Sense, a nonprofit advocacy group based in Washington. “I’m outraged.” ***

read more here
Fallen Soldiers Families Denied Cash

Thursday, July 8, 2010

PTSD: VCS In the New York Times

PTSD: VCS In the New York Times

Today's New York Times features Veterans for Common Sense discussing VA's new (and hopefully better) PTSD benefit regulations. VCS advocated for this science-based change starting in 2007. VCS encourages veterans with mental health conditions to seek VA care and benefits. Earlier treatment, we believe, can mitigate long-term adverse social consequences such as unemployment, drug and alcohol abuse, divorce, homelesness, and suicide.

VCS thanks President Barack Obama and VA Secretary Shinseki for their leadership on this vital issue. We thank our members for your support for our advocacy. VCS advocacy hopes to ensure VA is ready, willing, and able to provide prompt and high-quality care and benefits.

However . . .

Here is very distressing news about VA's continuing failure to handle PTSD claims properly and quickly.

St. Petersburg Times reporter William Levesque tells the story of a World War II veteran who has been waiting for proper PTSD benefits from VA for more than 65 years now.

No veteran should ever fight for 65 years for a valid claim ! Times have changed since 1945. Today, veterans discharged from active duty with PTSD automatically receive a 50 percent VA disability rating. VCS plans to closely review VA's new PTSD regulations, and we plan to monitor how VA implements the new regulations.

VCS Urges You to Attend Two VCS Events
On July 27, VCS will testify before Congress about Gulf War Illness. Based on your input, we will be demanding action from VA so our veterans obtain the healthcare and benefits we need based on scientific research. Please attend and show Congress you support our Gulf War veterans.

On August 5 - 8, VCS will be attending at the Gulf War Health Fair in Dallas, Texas, sponsored by the National Gulf War Resource Center. Key speakers include VA Chief of Staff John Gingrich, Texas philanthropist Ross Perot, and Gulf War illness Researcher Robert Haley. VCS strongly urges you to attend both events. These are our rare public opportunities to raise our voices to Congress, top VA officials, top researchers, and the press.
The more voices calling for improvements in research, healthcare, and benefits, then the more VA must listen and act for our veterans.
National Security News - Military Suicides Remain a Crisis

Kelly Kennedy of Army Times reports that
despite prevention efforts, the suicide rate among troops and veterans continues to rise.

The sad failure of the military to prevent soldier suicide is reflected in the tragic account of a young army veteran, as reported by Hal Bernton for the Seattle Times.

Fighting two wars with no end in sight and with repeated re-deployments undermines soldier morale. A biting op-ed piece by Bob Herbert for the New York Times puts into words the feelings many of us have about the hopeless Afghanistan war:
The difference between [the Afghanistan War] and a nightmare is that when you wake up from a nightmare it's over. This is all too tragically real.

VA to Issue Science-Based PTSD Regulations

This woman is not a friend of veterans and has been wrong on PTSD for so long that we really need to wonder why on earth anyone asks her anything at all.

“I can’t imagine anyone more worthy of public largess than a veteran,” said Dr. Sally Satel, a psychiatrist and fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative policy group, who has written on P.T.S.D. “But as a clinician, it is destructive to give someone total and permanent disability when they are in fact capable of working, even if it is not at full capacity. A job is the most therapeutic thing there is.”

Common sense proves her wrong. Look at it this way. Would you join the military thinking that if there is a war, all you have to do is risk your life to end up with a check from the VA every month? If you survive at all? Hell no. If you are granted 100% disability from the VA you are making less money than if you were able to work. Aside from the turmoil you go through with PTSD, the ravages on your personal life with everyone you know, nightmares, flashbacks, anxiety, panic attacks, short term memory loss plus a long list of others, you also have to face being on medication that comes with their own set of problems.

This is what it breaks down to.

Dependent Status
Veteran Alone (Per Month)
30% $376
40% $541
50% $770
60% $974
70% $1,228
80% $1,427
90% $1,604
100% $2,673
go here for more
Dependent Status

Would you want to go through combat to end up with $192.50 a week with a 50% disability rating? How about $668.25 for 100%? If you end up with 100% you have to be suffering a lot and watch your life fall apart. Some may say that kind of money a week is good but they forget that a lot of people make more than that, especially trades people, and the VA doesn't pay overtime or give merit raises. Take a heavy equipment operator in a state where it snows. They make most of their yearly income plowing snow for days on end and they make overtime. Take them off their jobs because of medications they have to be on and there goes that money, plus the difference they would have made just on a regular paycheck alone.

But we're not talking about 100% disability rating for the most part because the percentages awarded at usually 50% or lower. Would you risk your life and end up with PTSD to make less than you could make at your local grocery store?

This ruling does not make it easier to live with PTSD but only takes out having to prove which time your life was on the line ended up being the straw that broke your life.

When work finally started to happen on PTSD, veterans were sent to the VA because they had the best programs and resources. Veterans had to file a claim just to be able to have PTSD covered so they wouldn't have to pay for it.

But Rick Weidman, executive director for policy and government affairs at Vietnam Veterans of America, said most veterans applied for disability not for the monthly checks but because they wanted access to free health care.

“I know guys who are rated 100 percent disabled who keep coming back for treatment not because they are worried about losing their compensation, but because they want their life back,” Mr. Weidman said.

Private health insurance companies refused to cover the treatments because the diagnosis was connected to military service. Once this happened, mental health care coverage would not cover anything to do with PTSD. If the veteran still had an income, they had to pay for their care without a disability rating from the VA. So they filed claims. A service connected disability rating assured them of being taken care of. Medications and therapy were taken care of.

More than two million service members have deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan since 2001, and by some estimates 20 percent or more of them will develop P.T.S.D.

More than 150,000 cases of P.T.S.D. have been diagnosed by the veterans health system among veterans of the two wars, while thousands more have received diagnoses from private doctors, said Paul Sullivan, executive director of Veterans for Common Sense, an advocacy group.

But Mr. Sullivan said records showed that the veterans department had approved P.T.S.D. disability claims for only 78,000 veterans. That suggests, he said, that many veterans with the disorder are having their compensation claims rejected by claims processors. “Those statistics show a very serious problem in how V.A. handles P.T.S.D. claims,” Mr. Sullivan said.

This will also encourage a combat veteran to seek help in healing PTSD. That is what the goal is supposed to be. Isn't it? We want them to recover from what happened to them while they were risking their lives. Right? We want them to seek help as soon as they show signs of PTSD so they get better. Right? Isn't that the part that is missing from all this debate?

Look at all the different programs going on across the country. Are they trying them to heal? Yoga? Martial Arts? Group therapy? Reaching out on their computers to find support and help to heal? If given a choice between recovering their lives or getting a check worth less than $200 a week, the would take healing any day. The goal has not been reached because too many have had their claims denied, which is like a knife in their backs after being told by a VA psychologist their condition is related to their service in combat but the claim has been denied over paperwork issues.

Do we want to stop them from ending up homeless? This helps in that area because when you have a veteran with PTSD and they cannot work, with no income at all, they can't pay to keep that roof over their heads. We talk a lot about homeless veterans but we hardly ever mention the "couch homeless" sleeping on the couch in a friend's home because they have nowhere else to go. Families have kicked them out of the house they used to live in, usually because they just didn't understand what was going on. When the VA is denying their claim, the family ends up doubting the suffering of the veteran. After all, the American public has been conditioned to believe the VA takes care of veterans injured in combat. They don't want to believe any veteran is being turned away.

Bing search Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and you get 5,190,000 results. Bing PTSD and you find 1,840,000 results. Google Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and you find 2,400,000. For PTSD the result is 1,110,000. These results are there for a reason. People want to learn so they understand but above that, they want to heal.

Encouraging them to seek help leads them to healing. Making them fight to prove a claim, adding more stress to their lives, discourages them allowing mild cases of PTSD to get progressively worse to the point where when they are finally helped, they are only stabilized instead of healed.

PTSD still has to be proven but this is a step in the right direction.

VCS in the New York Times: VA to Issue Science Based PTSD Regulations
Written by James Dao
Wednesday, 07 July 2010 20:01
Veterans Affairs to Ease Claim Process for Disability

July 7, 2010 (New York Times) - The Federal government is preparing to issue new rules that will make it substantially easier for veterans who have been found to have post-traumatic stress disorder to receive disability benefits for the illness, a change [based on scientific research] that could affect hundreds of thousands of veterans from the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam.

The regulations from the Department of Veterans Affairs, which will take effect as early as Monday and cost as much as $5 billion over several years according to Congressional analysts, will essentially eliminate a requirement that veterans document specific events like bomb blasts, firefights or mortar attacks that might have caused P.T.S.D., an illness characterized by emotional numbness, irritability and flashbacks.

For decades, veterans have complained that finding such records was extremely time consuming and sometimes impossible. And in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, veterans groups assert that the current rules discriminate against tens of thousands of service members — many of them women — who did not serve in combat roles but nevertheless suffered traumatic experiences.

Under the new rule, which applies to veterans of all wars, the department will grant compensation to those with P.T.S.D. if they can simply show that they served in a war zone and in a job consistent with the events that they say caused their conditions. They would not have to prove, for instance, that they came under fire, served in a front-line unit or saw a friend killed.

The new rule would also allow compensation for service members who had good reason to fear traumatic events, known as stressors, even if they did not actually experience them.

There are concerns that the change will open the door to a flood of fraudulent claims. But supporters of the rule say the veterans department will still review all claims and thus be able to weed out the baseless ones.

“This nation has a solemn obligation to the men and women who have honorably served this country and suffer from the emotional and often devastating hidden wounds of war,” the secretary of veterans affairs, Eric K. Shinseki, said in a statement to The New York Times. “This final regulation goes a long way to ensure that veterans receive the benefits and services they need.”
read more here
VA to Issue Science Based PTSD Regulations

Saturday, July 3, 2010

WWII vet waiting 65 years to have VA claim honored!

When innocent people are locked up but it is later found they were innocent, society demands they be paid for the injustice they received. Millions of dollars are paid to them because they didn't deserve to suffer or have their freedom taken away from them. It is the right thing to do.

So how is it that when a veteran seeks help and compensation for being wounded in service to this nation we send them away and make them fight for what society simply assumes is a debt we owe them? 65 years!

A soldier's 65-year fight with the VA
By William R. Levesque
In Print: Saturday, July 3, 2010

It was 1945 when Tampa native Marty Redding Jr. first asked the Veterans Administration for a pension and treatment for the psychological trauma he suffered fighting in World War II.

He was 20 years old.

On Sunday, Redding will celebrate his 85th birthday — and he's still seeking benefits. "Kind of hard to believe, isn't it?" he says.

In what might be one of the longest-running benefits cases at what is now the Department of Veterans Affairs, Redding has enjoyed some measure of victory in his on-again, off-again battle. After half a century, the VA agreed to pay him a pension for post-traumatic stress starting in 1997. With other ailments, that brings his total monthly pension today to $2,800.

Now the contest is over retroactive benefits dating to 1947.

The Lakeland resident's struggle has outlasted four of his marriages and 11 U.S. presidents. VA Secretary Eric Shinseki was just 3 years old when Redding first filed a VA claim.

Delayed or improperly rejected claims at the VA "are a catastrophic problem," says Paul Sullivan, executive director of Veterans for Common Sense. "Marty should be labeled a hero for never giving up."

Redding's discharge papers show that he spent more than 10 months in combat from 1944 to 1945 in Italy. He earned a Bronze Star for meritorious service.

He found that war held no romance. Forty of the 200 men in his company were killed in action, and another 45 were severely wounded, military records show.

read more here
A soldier 65 year fight with the VA

Friday, July 2, 2010

VA Scandal - VA Manipulates Appointment Scheduling

Thanks to Larry Scott over at this became a story in the first place. Then Paul Sullivan over at Veterans For Common jumped on it to get the word out to even more people. These are the heroes who track what is really happening to veterans day in and day out. Want to know how we really care, or should I say, don't really care about our veterans, read some of the work they do and then you'll know what are fairytales and what is their worst nightmare. We cannot go blindly day to day and just assume all is well with our veterans because it isn't and it won't be until the American people actually do pay attention as much as they pay attention to them coming home to their hometowns in flag draped coffins.

VA Scandal - VA Manipulates Appointment Scheduling

On June 23, 2010, veteran
Larry Scott at VA Watchdog uncovered a huge VA scandal. Larry posted VA's memo descrbing 24 "tricks" or "gaming strategies" so VA would appear to help veterans get appointments fast. In fact, VA was delaying and denying medical care.

VA failed to fulfill the agency's promise to provide our veterans with prompt medical care. Instead of taking responsibility and actually improving access to care, VA is cooking the books and hoping no one will dig deeper.

VA cheated, and our veterans suffered.

Thanks go out to the investigative journalist who wrote the first news article about the VA scandal, Nora Eisenberg at AlterNet. Additional commendation goes to Kyra Phillips at CNN for making this national news. The CNN article contains a VCS statement about VA's outrageous "Cooked Appointment Books" scandal.

Vets' care hurt by bureaucratic games, memo says
By the CNN Wire Staff
July 2, 2010 12:25 p.m. EDT

Paul Sullivan, from the group Veterans for Common Sense, told CNN the memo is "absolutely" symptomatic of a nationwide problem with the VA. "It's tragic (and) beyond unacceptable," he said. If VA employees are "cooking the books, (they) need to find another job."

Memo: Veterans being denied care due to improper scheduling practices
VA employees using "gaming strategies" for better performance scores
Top VA official promises to stop denial of care
Advocate for veterans says practice is "tragic" and "unacceptable"

(CNN) -- Military veterans are being denied health care due to "inappropriate scheduling practices" at VA facilities, according to an internal memo from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The memo, written on April 26, says employees at various VA facilities often canceled veterans' appointments with doctors in order to generate better performance scores in reports to supervisors.

"In order to improve scores on assorted access measures, certain facilities have adopted use of inappropriate scheduling practices sometimes referred to as 'gaming strategies,'" the memo says.

"Example: as a way to combat Missed Opportunity rates some medical centers cancel appointments for patients not checked in 10 or 15 minutes prior to their scheduled appointment time. Patients are informed that it is medical center policy that they must check in early and if they fail to do so, it is the medical center's right to cancel that appointment."
read more here
Vets care hurt by bureaucratic games, memo says

Sunday, June 27, 2010

How did we get to PTSD awareness day?

Maybe you thought it was strange that this is PTSD Awareness Day, but a PTSD blog has been silent. I've been busy editing a video I shot yesterday about a fantastic group out of Orlando, Semper Fidelis and how they are getting ready to go to the Orlando VA to have a 4th of July Cookout with over 200 patients and employees there.

We seem to always forget how we get to where we are simply because while the media may report on the bad stuff, and usually it ends up helping as with PTSD, but in the process, they ignore a lot of good work being done. This country is full of regular people stepping up to make this country a better place but you'd never know most of them. What you do end up knowing is the results of their hard work when things change for the better. As with Semper Fidelis, no one knew who they were or what they've been doing all this time. I was even shocked to find out as much as I did. (Check back tomorrow for the videos on this interview.)

The best part about being involved in working toward helping the veterans, aside for meeting the veterans themselves, are the people who worked so hard to get us to a day set aside to raise awareness for PTSD.

One of the reasons we got here is Lily Casura. She has worked so hard without recognition but had it not been for people like her, this day wouldn't have happened. What you don't know about Lily is that reporters have used her worked and never bothered to even thank her or mention her. Other people jumped on stories she worked for hours on just so they could claim it for themselves. Over the years, she's wondered why she has worked so hard but will never give up because her heart is dedicated to helping our veterans. She's simply an amazing woman and I've very proud to call her my friend. Well, it looks as if Lily had finally gotten some big time support from the Founder of Craigslist with a post on the Huffington Post.

When you read it, understand that had it not been for people like Lilly and my other friend Paul Sullivan over at Veterans for Common Sense, and a lot of other groups pushing to make change happen, there wouldn't be a day to mention at all. Just a lot more endless hopeless days for a lot more veterans and their families.

Bravo Lily! I adore you even more!

Craig Newmark
Founder of Craigslist
Posted: June 26, 2010 04:51 PM
"Healing combat trauma" and "The Brain at War"
Okay, people are supporting the troops in ways that are deeply important, in ways that as a country, we got a lot of work to do. There are physical injuries that even I can understand, but beyond that, there's traumatic brain injury (TBI) and the invisible damage to troops, like post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD.)

Recently the NCIRE and The Veterans Health Research Institute, ran the "The Brain at War" conference, which I attended briefly. (I'm not very tough, and this stuff is hard to hear.) This was all about helping vets deal with these real problem. I don't really understand a lot, so I'll get out of the way, and hear from someone with real expertise.

Check out Healing Combat Trauma and specifically, "The Brain at War" Conference in San Francisco:click link for the rest of this

Or you could go to my friend Lily's site and read the great work she's been doing.

June 27, 2010 is "National PTSD Awareness Day"
Amazingly enough -- and suddenly, because the U.S. Senate just passed it -- tomorrow is "National PTSD Awareness Day." Even MORE amazingly, the text of the resolution is very veteran-focused (yippee!).
Here's the full text of the bill. Enjoy! My only quibble is that the numbers seem a little on the low side, but mebbe not. (Actually, the advocacy group Veterans for Common Sense, led by veteran and former VA bureaucrat, Paul Sullivan, lists the numbers as much higher. See link here for current information.)
And, of course, a focus on treatment through integrative medicine would also be nice. It alludes to, but does not mention directly MST (military sexual trauma), which plagues women and men in the Armed Forces AND which unfortunately also leads directly to PTSD. The combination is often too much to bear. With all those caveats, it's still a great bill, and we appreciate any and all emphasis on the topic, as beneficial to veterans, their loved ones, their caregivers, decision-makers, and the general larger community of humankind.

click the link above for more

Thursday, June 10, 2010

New VA benefits claim form: Just 6 pages

New VA benefits claim form: Just 6 pages

By Kelly Kennedy - Staff writer
Posted : Wednesday Jun 9, 2010 21:07:19 EDT

After years of complaints from veterans about having to fill out a 26-page-long benefits claims form for the Veterans Affairs Department, the Office of Management and Budget has approved VA’s new six-page form.

As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have progressed, the 26-page application became particularly troublesome for veterans dealing with traumatic brain injuries or post-traumatic stress disorder, both of which can cause short-term memory loss and other cognitive issues.

“It’s a good thing and we’re pleased,” said Paul Sullivan, executive director of Veterans for Common Sense. “In our view, the current form is burdensome. It’s too long.”

VA spokesman Steve Westerfeld confirmed in a voicemail that VA had shortened VA Form 21-526, as well as creating a new “express claim” form, or 21-526EZ, which is six pages long and requires that the veteran provide his own medical and military records, rather than waiting for VA to gather them.
read more here
New VA benefits claim form

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A lot to be ashamed of on Memorial Day

A lot to be ashamed of on Memorial Day

Chaplain Kathie

When we think about Memorial Day it's easy to honor the fallen because they ask no more of us. We think if we visit a cemetery, go to a parade and wave a flag, we've done our part to honor the men and women who gave their lives for the rest of us. The truth is, I bet most of them in heaven are disgusted with us and wonder what their sacrifice really meant to us when we fail to care for the survivors of combat. After all when it comes to serving in a war, they fight for each other and are willing to die so that someone else can make it back home.

Then we read stories about what is happening to men and women around the country when they come home and the rest of us live in fantasy land believing all is well and they are taken care of. This is so far from the truth it's pitiful. Just read the following and know one thing when you close out the page. There are countless other stories just like it so when you make plans for Memorial Day, ask yourself a question. Just how do we really honor any of them when this happens?

Disposable Soldiers

Joshua Kors: Injured veterans continue their battles at home while fighting for the healthcare treatment they deserve.

The mortar shell that wrecked Chuck Luther’s life exploded at the base of the guard tower. Luther heard the brief whistling, followed by a flash of fire, a plume of smoke and a deafening bang that shook the tower and threw him to the floor. The Army sergeant’s head slammed against the concrete, and he lay there in the Iraqi heat, his nose leaking clear fluid.

“I remember laying there in a daze, looking around, trying to figure out where I was at,” he says. “I was nauseous. My teeth hurt. My shoulder hurt. And my right ear was killing me.” Luther picked himself up and finished his shift, then took some ibuprofen to dull the pain. The sergeant was seven months into his deployment at Camp Taji, in the volatile Sunni Triangle, twenty miles north of Baghdad. He was determined, he says, to complete his mission. But the short, muscular frame that had guided him to twenty-two honors–including three Army Achievement Medals and a Combat Action Badge–was basically broken. The shoulder pain persisted, and the hearing in his right ear, which evaporated on impact, never returned, replaced by the maddening hum of tinnitus.

In July 2007 the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs called a hearing to investigate PD discharges. Barack Obama, then a senator, put forward a bill to halt all PD discharges. And before leaving office, President Bush signed a law requiring the defense secretary to conduct his own investigation of the PD discharge system. But Obama’s bill did not pass, and the Defense Department concluded that no soldiers had been wrongly discharged. The PD dismissals have continued. Since 2001 more than 22,600 soldiers have been discharged with personality disorder. That number includes soldiers who have served two and three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“This should have been resolved during the Bush administration. And it should have been stopped now by the Obama administration,” says Paul Sullivan, executive director of Veterans for Common Sense. “The fact that it hasn’t is a national disgrace.”

go here for more

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Veterans for Common Sense Power House for sake of all veterans

While there is an ever growing list of groups working for veterans, there is one that stands out above the rest. Veterans for Common Sense, under the leadership of champion advocate Paul Sullivan, has been behind most of the changes in how we treat our veterans. Admittedly, I am in awe of Paul's work as well as his humbleness.

The truth is we need Veterans for Common Sense because what politicians manage to do well is say one thing but do another. They are the watchers of what is done and when words do not translate into action, they let us know about it. These are just a few of the recent reports VCS has released.

VCS in the News

Speaking at the Coalition for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans (CIAV) conference in Washington, DC, VCS revealed how recent VA audits of eight Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) offices found an overall error rate of 28 percent among selected claims. Our presentation was covered by Kelly Kennedy at Army Times.

Also last week, VCS was featured on National Public Radio (NPR) discussing problems veterans face dealing with VBA. VCS highlighted VBA's frustrating and burdensome 23-page claim form with NPR reporter John McChesney.

In a piece of good news,VCS plans to closely monitor VBA's plans to build a new system to handle the expected hundreds of thousands of new disability claims filed by Vietnam War veterans who remain ill due to Agent Orange poisoning.
In another piece of good news, VBA plans to overhaul how VBA employees are judged for their work - the infamous and misleading work credit system
. We'll be watching this development, too.

Unfortunately, in a piece of bad news, VCS remains outraged that VBA still fights against our Vietnam War veterans seeking healthcare and benefits due to Agent Orange exposure while aboard Navy ships off the coast of Vietnam. Please read this shocking and shameful Congressional testimony by VBA's Tom Pamperin before the Senate today. Pamperin told Senators that "VA does not support" S 1939.

This means President Barack Obama and VA Secretary Eric Shinseki oppose reasonable Agent Orange benefits for blue water Vietnam War veterans. VCS asks you to contact your Representative and Senator as well as VA and voice your support for all of our Vietnam War veterans.

So how about it folks? Ready to get to work and make the call for Vietnam Veterans?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Paul Sullivan, Veterans for Common Sense tries to give VA some facts

Vets group cites errors reported by VA IG

By Kelly Kennedy - Staff writer
Posted : Wednesday May 12, 2010 15:01:20 EDT

At a conference designed to help veterans service organizations better understand the issues their clients face, Paul Sullivan of Veterans for Common Sense tried to tie it up in a one-page document of new data from the Veterans Affairs Department:

After looking at eight Veterans Benefits Administration regional offices in 2009 and 2010, VA’s inspector general found a 28 percent error rate. In fact, the San Juan, Puerto Rico, overall error rate stood at 41 percent, while the Nashville office had made errors in 52 percent of its post-traumatic stress disorder cases. In Baltimore, 55 percent of cases of diabetes in connection with Agent Orange had errors, and in Roanoke, Va., 49 percent of traumatic brain injury cases had errors.

“VA has a very significant quality problem in adjudicating their claims,” Sullivan said. “VA’s own reports indict the place. VBA is the dam that holds veterans up from getting the medical care they need.”

Sullivan spoke on a panel that detailed what roadblocks remain as service members transition from active duty to veteran status. He said Congress has focused so much on VA health care that the administrative end has gotten lost in the shuffle. “Some of their computers are older than I am,” said Sullivan, who served in the 1991 Gulf War and who used to work for VA.
read more here
Vets group cites errors reported by VA IG

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

VCS on the National Stage Providing Advocacy

VCS on the National Stage Providing Advocacy

Your support goes a long way in making sure the voices of veterans are heard throughout America.

Here are three outstanding examples of how VCS helps lead the charge to inform Congress and the public about the urgent needs and concerns of our veterans, especially delays in receiving benefits from the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA).

On Friday, April 9, VCS appeared on KPBS in San Diego, California, as they covered our VCS press conference about fixing VBA with Representative Bob Filner, the Chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee.

On Saturday, April 10, VCS was quoted in The Washington Post in an article about Gulf War illness research.
Then on Sunday, April 11, VCS was quoted in a Chicago Tribune investigation describing how badly broken VBA has become.

Please share these important news articles with your friends and let them know VCS fights for our veterans in Washington and in the national press.
VCS on the Cutting Edge Advocating for Our Veterans
In the next few weeks VCS plans to ask VA to expand benefits and healthcare for our Gulf War veterans based on new scientific evidence.

Veterans for Common Sense thanks you for your support that allows us to continue moving forward on behalf of our veterans!

Paul Sullivan
Executive Director
Veterans for Common Sense

P.S. Please visit our new web site, VCS advocates for veterans before Congress and with reporters so our veterans get faster access to VA health care and benefits.