Showing posts with label Veterans Administration. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Veterans Administration. Show all posts

Sunday, September 19, 2010

VA Honors Veterans on POW/MIA National Recognition Day

VA Honors Veterans on POW/MIA National Recognition Day

Special Benefits Available to Former POWs

WASHINGTON (September 20, 2010)- Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K.
Shinseki wants former American prisoners of war (POWs) to be aware of
the benefits and services available to them as Americans across the
nation show respect and appreciation for this special group of men and
women during POW/MIA National Recognition Day.

"These Veterans made great sacrifices for their country in time of war,
and it is our Nation's turn to honor them by reinforcing to them the
full range of compensation, health care and benefits they have earned,"
said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has expanded policies to cover
increasing numbers of former prisoners of war.

Special benefits for former POWs include enrollment in medical care for
treatment at VA hospitals and clinics without copayments, as well as
disability compensation for injuries and diseases that are associated
with internment.

Former POWs are also generally entitled to a presumption of
service-connection for certain diseases, based on the length of
captivity and the severity of their conditions.

Free dental treatment for any dental condition is also available to
former POWs. These benefits are in addition to regular Veterans'
benefits and services to which they are already entitled.

A major benefit for survivors of former POWs include Dependency and
Indemnity Compensation (DIC), which is a monthly benefit which may be
payable to the surviving spouse, children and, in some cases, parents.

Currently, more than 15,000 POWs are receiving VA benefits for
service-connected injuries, diseases, or illnesses. VA is asking former
POWs not currently utilizing VA benefits to contact the agency at
1-800-827-1000 to find out if they may be eligible for disability
compensation and other services.

Veterans can also apply online at or contact their
coordinator for former POWs located at each VA regional office.

More information about VA services for former POWs is available at

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Shocking New VA Scandal Uncovered by VAWatchDog

Like most Vietnam vets, after years of no help at all, they have to go to see their VA doctors on a regular basis to stay stabilized yet when they need to be sure they have a stable support force behind them, they are told their appointments need to be cut back. Just too many new veterans flooding the system to have time for all of them. So they are given medication enough to last about three months until they can find the time to see them again. It's not the doctors fault they don't have enough of them to fill the needs but it is however the fault of the people in charge to properly plan and staff based on the needs of the future.

It is not just mental health that is an issue for disabled veterans. They get sent to another part of their state or to a different state to receive the medical care they need. Appointments are canceled or changed without notice and for those seen on a regular basis, they are spread out too far in between.

The VA has to meet "standards" of care and apparently thanks to Jim Strickland reporting, we now know they found a way to make it look as if they have met the standard by hiding the facts. What they cannot hide is the damage they are doing to the veterans feeling betrayed yet again. For Vietnam veterans with PTSD, they overcame the stigma and lost years but can they overcome this?

VCS Salutes VA Watch Dog;
VCS Urges Congress to Fix VA

Shocking New VA Scandal Uncovered by VAWatchDog - -

VA Staff Manipulate Appointment System, Delay Care

This week, the web site posted an internal VA memo where a top VA leader confirmed the existence of 24 ways to "game" VA's appointment computer system. VA's staff manipulate the computer system to conceal delays in setting medical appointments. Veterans are justifiably outraged.

Deputy Under Secretary for Health William Schoenhard's memo confirms a key point VCS and VA's Inspector General have made for years: VA intentionally misleads veterans and Congress about how VA routinely delays and denies medical care for our veterans. VA leaders now know VA's medical appointment system is broken. We are pleased VA's Schoenhard said the improper practices will not be tolerated.

Schoenhard's memo forces a key leadership test upon VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. Will VA reveal how many veterans over the years were harmed by VA's improper practices? What other ways are used to hide VA's problems scheduling appointments? Will VA re-train staff on the proper use of the appointment system? Will VA leaders hold accountable those VA employees and leaders who delay and deny medical care? We want more facts, more training, and more accountability.

Lists 24 ways that VA employees are "gaming" the dates on medical appointments to make themselves look more efficient while veterans wait for health care.

NOTE from Larry Scott, VA Watchdog dot Org ... I have been writing about the waiting list issue since 2004, and VA employees have only gotten better at "gaming" the figures to make it look like they are meeting appointment schedules ... when in reality, veterans are waiting for health care.

I detailed the use of log books for waiting lists before veterans could get on the electronic waiting list. That way, the original date requesting an appointment was not entered into the system. VA employees would wait until an appointment opened up (within 30 days) and then take the vet out of the log book and put them into the system, using that date as the date of request. This made it look like the VA had fulfilled their 30-day appointment commitment to the veteran.

The Games People Play
by Jim Strickland
Has it ever happened to you? Have you shown up for an appointment at your VA Clinic or Medical Center only to be told that you don't have an appointment? Tried to make a convenient appointment 2 months away and were told that the rules don't allow that? Is your appointment scheduled in an old fashioned log book rather than the computerized system VA uses? These are the games that are played with your appointment schedule.

The VA says that it takes pride in your care. The truth be known, VA takes even more pride in keeping score so that everyone looks good on paper. Thus, the system that keeps track of the performance of clinics and hospitals is "gamed" in ways that seem to annoy Mr. Schoenhard. "These (gaming) practices will not be tolerated." he tells his troops, "This is not patient centered care."

read the rest here

Friday, March 19, 2010

Tell Gov. Jindal veterans are not there to glorify him

If Gov. Jindal really wanted to honor the men and women veterans, he would do what is right and fitting for them and not subject them to having to wait for when he can get to them. After all, he doesn't have to be the one delivering the medals in person, so this is all about him and his ego. What else can it be? He wants to have his picture taken doing something for the veterans but when you think of them having to wait until he can fit them into his "busy" schedule, it speaks loudly of the importance he places on veterans. They come after him. This is disgraceful! This is not honoring them. It is insulting them.

Veterans are waiting for their medals
March 18, 2010

Louisiana lawmakers are asking the Veterans Administration Director Lane Carson why is it taking so long for the Louisiana Veterans Honor Medal to be delivered. Members of a joint House and Senate committee urged the state Department of Veterans Affairs to step up its delivery of the medals and stop waiting for Gov. Bobby Jindal, who has traveled across the state in a series of events to hand out the medals.

"We literally have World War II veterans who are dying before they get to this jubilee with the governor. They want the medals," said state Senator Robert Adley, a Marine, who sponsored the bill that created the Veterans Honor Medal Program in 2008. Lawmakers said they have received calls from veterans who have waited months for their medals and and have had offers from veterans organizations who offered to make distribution of the medals but were told they had to wait for the governor to be there.
read more here
Veterans are waiting for their medals

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

VA fails local vet: Soldotna Alaska man languishes due to snafu

VA fails local vet: Soldotna man languishes due to snafu
Kenai Peninsula Online - Kenai,AK,USA
By Phil Hermanek Peninsula Clarion
For more than 20 years, when the U.S. Air Force called, Richard Creary reported for duty.

Now, about 20 years after being honorably discharged, Creary is calling back, and his calls are not heard.

On Jan. 9, Creary suffered a stroke in his Soldotna home and was rushed to the hospital.

When the medical staff at Central Peninsula Hospital learned he was a retired Air Force veteran, they decided to have him flown up to the hospital on Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage for further care.

That's where he remains today, a month later, while his significant other is being run around the system trying to get him the rehabilitation therapy everyone agrees he must have, but no one wants to pay.

"They referred him to a short-term facility in Seattle, but they denied his admittance because he did not have an exit plan," said Scharlott Thomas, who has been Creary's partner since around 2001.

The short-term facility is a Veterans Administration facility, and even though Creary has not started a rehabilitation regimen anywhere, Thomas said the facility wants him to have an exit plan -- a specific date when his rehabilitation is to end.
click link for more

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Shinseki confirmed as new VA secretary

Shinseki confirmed as new VA secretary
By Rick Maze - Staff writer
Posted : Tuesday Jan 20, 2009 16:29:22 EST

Retired Army Gen. Eric Shinseki was confirmed Tuesday to be secretary of veterans’ affairs in President Obama’s Cabinet.

The Senate confirmed Shinseki by voice vote and without debate just hours after Obama was sworn in as the 44th president. The Senate also approved the Cabinet appointments for the energy, education, interior, agriculture and education departments and Obama’s choice to head the White House Office of Management and Budget.

click link for more

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Honoring our veterans takes more than words

JOHN MURTHA Honoring our veterans takes more than words

The Tribune-Democrat

Veterans Day is a time to honor those Americans who answered the call to service and who proudly fought to defend our freedoms.

America owes an immeasurable debt to each of the 23.4 million veterans alive today, including the tens-of-thousands living right here in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Honoring our veterans means more than just words and speeches.

For Congress, it means putting our money where our mouth is and fully funding the Veterans Administration. It means ensuring that our veterans have first-class health care and providing them with access to jobs and higher education.

For too long, the Veterans Administration was under-funded and unable to adequately meet the needs of our veterans. We’ve changed that over the past few years.

The Democratic Congress has made an unprecedented commitment to our nation’s veterans by passing the largest spending increase in the 77-year history of the Veterans Administration – a record $16 billion increase in just two years.

For the 5.8 million veterans in the VA health-care system, this increase provides for the hiring of an additional 15,000 VA health-care workers, including 1,700 new doctors and 6,450 nurses.

This means better care, more services, and shorter wait times.

The Veterans Administration will also hire more than 5,200 new caseworkers to reduce the significant backlog in the claims processing system, which will help our veterans get their earned benefits faster.

For the first time since 1979, when gasoline cost less than $1 per gallon, Congress increased the veterans’ mileage reimbursement rate from 11 cents to 41.5 cents per mile.

Veterans in our area who are forced to travel to Pittsburgh or Altoona for care will now be more fairly reimbursed for their travel.

Congress also provided significant research, treatment, and counseling funds for Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

It is estimated that more than 300,000 of our returning troops will suffer from these mental-health problems, and we provided over $1.2 billion in just the past two years to take care of these injuries.

We have seen a dramatic increase in suicides in the wake of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Congress passed legislation directing the Veterans Administration to develop a comprehensive suicide prevention program which includes access to mental-health staff and a 24-hour toll-free suicide prevention hotline.

Already some 30,000 veterans, family members and friends have used the hotline, and it has helped to prevent more than 1,200 suicides.

Also this year, Congress passed a new 21st Century GI Education Bill to benefit our service members who have served since Sept. 11, 2001.

The new GI Bill funds a full, four-year public university tuition, provides a monthly living expense, and allows service members to transfer unused educational benefits to their spouse and children.

I was given the opportunity to attend college under the G.I. Bill, and I believe it is our responsibility to ensure that America’s next generation of veterans receives the same higher educational benefits.

Over the past two years, the Democratic Congress has put its money where its mouth is.

The new Congress and President Obama will continue to provide our veterans with the services and benefits worthy of their courage and sacrifice.

On this Veterans Day, let us remember the sacrifices of millions of Americans who answered our nation’s call to service.

While we can never fully repay the debt of gratitude we owe to the men and women who put on the uniform, we can and will work to fulfill our promise of taking care of each and every veteran.

We owe them no less.

U.S. Rep. John Murtha,

D-Johnstown, is chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense.

Monday, October 20, 2008


CONGRESSIONAL REPORT: FORMER VA CHIEF NICHOLSON CAMPAIGNED ON JOB AND TAXPAYERS PAID (10-16-08) Report shows White House billed taxpayers for trips to get Republicans elected during 2006 election cycle.

White House Billed Taxpayers for Trips to Get Republicans Elected
By Jason Leopold
The Public Record
A draft report released Wednesday by Congressman Henry Waxman, the Democratic chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, found that in the months prior to the 2006 midterm elections, the White House Office of Political Affairs, formerly headed by Karl Rove, “enlisted agency heads across government in a coordinated effort to elect Republican candidates to Congress,” directing them “to make hundreds of trips – most at taxpayer expense – for the purpose of increasing the electability of Republicans.”"The White House used its Office of Political Affairs office to orchestrate an aggressive strategy to use taxpayer-funded trips to help elect Republican candidates for public office," the report says.

"From January 1, 2006, until the mid-term elections on November 7, 2006, cabinet secretaries and other senior officials traveled to over 300 events recommended by the political affairs office.

All of these events were held with Republican candidates, and in most cases, the travel costs were paid for with federal funds."The report recommends that the Office of Political Affairs be eliminated and that the federal law known as a the Hatch Act, which prohibits the use of government resources for political purposes, be amended to further restrict political activity by federal officials.
go here for more

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Miami Veterans Affairs Examiner

Miami Veterans Affairs Examiner
Hi I'm the Examiner for Veterans Affairs
POSTED September 16, 6:47 PM
Harmon Biehl - Miami Veterans Affairs Examiner

Hi, I’m Harmon David Biehl. Everyone calls me Harm. I’m a Viet Nam Veteran. I’ve been interacting with the V.A since 1968 and I feel like a defacto expert on it.

I know there are a lot of classifications as a vet: I myself am classified as a combat veteran. Sometimes I think that means I’m able to do combat with the V.A.

On a more serious note, I would like to be your servant in helping you along the way if you are a veteran and want to get started at the V.A. Maybe you are a seasoned regular such as myself and have run into roadblocks, or “bumps” in your journey with the V.A.. If so I would like to hear from you also.

In future articles I’d like to tell you about my battle with PTSD and other issues that I have stemming from my service in Viet Nam.

Let’s discuss diabetes, hearing loss, Tinitus, on-going disabling headaches, anger management and Agent Orange issues or whatever else you want to talk about that is V.A. related.

Fellow veterans, please allow me to be a voice for you for V.A. issues; calling in the desert, as it were. You will be surprised to find out who reads this stuff. It makes no difference what your status is with them, Let me know what’s going on, maybe what we do here will be helpful to you and me and possibly to others as well. Maybe I can help!

Simply address your correspondence to Harm a Voice of the Veteran, care of The Examiner in Miami. The URL is

Be Blessed. Harm

Monday, August 4, 2008

Vietnam Veteran takes his own life over VA error

For all the tales of how we are a "grateful nation" this happens all the time when they are treated as if they are the ones who should be grateful just to have come home alive. They should be thankful they were allowed to serve this nation and they are the ones who owe us. "You can pay by cash, check or credit card" because you didn't pay with your life, is basically what he was told. The majority of claims are finally awarded, with a fight from the veteran, but there are some who are denied and never honored. There are Vietnam veterans still fighting to have their claims honored who never set foot in Vietnam but suffered because of what they were exposed to with Agent Orange, sexual assaults and accidents. There were Vietnam veterans dealing with events that happened after most people assume Vietnam ended in 1973 but the lives were still being claimed in 1975.

Capture and Release of SS Mayaguez by Kmer Rouge forces in M...
Mariner Heroes from Military Sealift Command ship participate in rescue attempt of SS Mayaguez which was caputured by Kmer Rouge Cambodia forces in May

Some of these veterans are still having their claims denied and they are also being treated as if they are not even "combat veterans" by other veterans. All because they were not in Vietnam itself. Do we owe them anything for their service or the fact they were involved in such a horrific event? How can the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans ever think they will be taken care of when we can't even take care of Vietnam veterans or Gulf War veterans still seeking justice?
Veteran takes his own life over VA error
By Sharon Woods Harris
Published: Friday, August 1, 2008 10:29 AM CDT
Times staff writer

PEKIN - The walls of Thomas Dale Harrison's meager apartment on Sheridan Road in Pekin were covered with reminders of the years he spent as a Green Beret with the U.S. Army in the Panama Canal region during the Vietnam War era.

Pekin Police detective Rick Von Rohr said Harrison was very proud of his service to his country. His living room was covered in memorabilia and prized possessions from his service.

Times had been tough for Harrison over the past several years. Often, he could barely afford to put food on the table with the small Veteran's Administration benefits he received. He had no other income. Harrison was a diabetic who suffered from high blood pressure, so he could not work.

Even with all that, Harrison, 59, was living a happy life until the first letter came, said Tazewell County Coroner Dennis Conover said, recounting an earlier conversation with Harrison's sister.

The VA letter demanded the repayment of $43,000 from Harrison that the VA alleged he was overpaid. Ironically, the letter told the man (who spent part of his life defending the nation) that he could pay by cash, check or credit card.

Eventually the VA cut off his veteran's benefits, said Conover, but the letters kept coming.

That, said Harrison's brother-in-law, Bill Maquet of Manito, was the “last straw” for Harrison.

Harrison spent his last moments of his life writing three notes - one to his sister, and two to the Veterans Administration on the back of two letters from the VA demanding payment.

The notes were found next to his body June 3.

“(Expletive) you, you can't get money from a dead man,” said one of the notes to the VA.
go here for more

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Despite all that evidence, the VA denied his claim.

Despite all that evidence, the VA denied his claim.
"I feel nothing but frustration and betrayal from them," said Reyes.

To his psychologist Dr. Clancy, the VA's decision "was jaw-dropping."

Retired soldier: 'I feel nothing but frustration and betrayal'
By Tracy Vedder
Watch the story
STANWOOD, Wash. -- Thousands of local vets currently suffering from injury and illness are in a kind of limbo. The Veterans Administration has denied them benefits, and many feel betrayed by a VA appeals process that can take years.

Twice a week, Keith Reyes tries to perform the simplest tests of balance for his physical therapist. It's a struggle. He's been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and a traumatic brain injury.

"Not only does he have some issues with his brain and the way it reads balance, but he's got some inner-ear problems as well from the blast," said physical therapist Sarah Ridley.

Reyes wobbles and trembles through a simple course where the obstacles are three inch-high squishy domes and a foam walkway. On his first try, his foot knocks over a foot and a half-high bar he's supposed to step over.

This is a man who spent 20 years as a Navy diver and was part of the elite Special Warfare Combat Crew team. He worked hand in hand with Navy SEALs. Reyes bleeds red, white and blue.

"I'd die for my country over and over," he said.
go here for more

Not only do I hear this all the time, it's also personal experience. When we hear about claims being denied, appeals being filed for denials as well as the backlog of claims, there are lives on the line. It would be great to just blame this administration for the torture these veterans have to go through, but that would be denying the problem has been in existence since after WWII. There very well could have been a problem back then, but very little has been reported on it.

It took years for the government to acknowledge what experts were already clanging alarm bells over when it came to PTSD and Agent Orange. While the veterans were suffering, the VA was the last to be brought up to speed. Claims denied no matter what evidence was produced, no matter what their own doctors found and no matter what letters of support veterans had in hand. Vietnam veterans are still waiting to have their claims approved, which in itself is a disgrace, but now they have to stand in line behind the newer veterans because the pressure is on to take care of them. Why can't they all be taken care of at the same time?

A recent report pointed part of the problem at Lockheed Martin. How a contractor got involved in this instead of government employees at the VA is puzzling and very troubling. They have not alleviated the pressures of veterans waiting years for compensation, but they added to the problem.

While we read about the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans suffering with their wounds and waiting for compensation to pay their bills and survive, we also need to acknowledge the older veterans who are waiting even longer, seeing their claims being denied as well. For them, time is the enemy. Unless they have an approved VA rating they have to pay for their care if they turn to the VA. It has taken over 30 years to reach them, make them aware of what's wrong with them and then they feel betrayed because the VA was not ready for any of them. They did not suddenly discover there is something wrong. They knew that all along. Outreach work has gotten them to understand what the "wrong" actually is. Now the wrong has been complicated with all that is wrong with the VA system itself.

Again, reminder here, the issue is not with the employees of the VA. Keep in mind most of them could be making a lot more money working in the private sector. Most of them are either connected to veterans because of family members or are veterans themselves. The anger needs to be directed to the top of the food chain but we also have to keep in mind this problem is not something new and has been going on for a very long time. We have a golden opportunity to fix the system once and for all now that the media is finally paying attention to all of this. We can and we must take care of all the veterans or none of them are really being honored at all.

Senior Chaplain Kathie Costos
"The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive veterans of early wars were treated and appreciated by our nation." - George Washington

Thursday, July 17, 2008

More injured vets could get insurance payouts

More injured vets could get insurance payouts

By Rick Maze - Staff writer
Posted : Thursday Jul 17, 2008 14:50:32 EDT

More than 1,600 severely disabled veterans could receive retroactive traumatic injury insurance payments as a result of a newly released review of how benefits have been paid under the 3 1/2-year-old supplemental benefits program.

The payments, ranging between $25,000 and $100,000, could be paid as early as this fall as a result of discussions between the Department of Veterans Affairs, which runs the program, and doctors who are treating severely wounded combat veterans. The average retroactive payment would be $32,000, according to the review, dated July 2008.

About 4,400 people have received traumatic injury insurance payments since the program was created in 2005. The estimated 1,640 people who would receive retroactive benefits as a result of the review include some who did not previously qualify and some who received payments but would now get more, according to VA officials.

Officials said the report has 11 recommendations to expand definitions of traumatic injury for insurance purposes, and all are expected to be included in a revised regulation likely to be issued by VA this fall.
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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Veterans Adversary

You can always tell when people have just begun to discover what our veterans go through as soon as they use the word "advocacy" when talking about the administration end of the VA. To hear of claims approved years after filing is nothing new. To hear claims denied that obviously should have been approved is nothing new either. None of this is new and that's the most infuriating part of all. Old timers like me will say the VA is more Veterans adversary than anything else until the claim is approved. Then they cannot do enough for the veterans needing to have their wounds treated. Getting from wound to treatment however, is like trying to be admitted into an exclusive club where membership is regarded as a privilege instead of a debt owed. We still have veterans trying to fight to have their Agent Orange claims approved and they are still trying to find out how many illnesses are actually attributable to AO. It's almost as if every claim filed is automatically suspected of being a false claim until they finally honor it.

While claims may be worthy of a total rating of 100%, they will approve 50% and then make the veteran fight for the increase instead of just awarding it fully in the first place and this only comes when there has been many years of fighting to have it honored. Ask the Vietnam veterans who came home fighting to have PTSD treated, which had been around since the beginning of time and they will tell you horror stories of getting claims approved.

The following story is just more of the same and will break your heart.

Main Entry: ad·ver·sary
Function: noun
Pronunciation: 'ad-v&(r)-"ser-e
Inflected Form(s): plural -sar·ies
: one that contends with, opposes, or resists : ENEMY
- ad·ver·sari·ness noun

VA or Veteran's advocacy?
Submitted by SHNS on Tue, 07/08/2008 - 17:11.
By MARTIN SCHRAM, Scripps Howard News Service editorials and opinion
When it comes to war and peace, we indeed are two Americas. One fights our nation's wars. The other pays those who go to war so the rest of us, our children and our grandchildren, won't have to.

At least, that is the way it is supposed to work. But a new book, written by this columnist, details scores of shameful ways in which our nation is failing the men and women who volunteer to fight our wars in distant lands -- and especially when they return home and discover they must battle anew, this time with their own government, just to get treatment and benefits earned long ago.

"Vets Under Siege: How America Deceives and Dishonors Those Who Fight Our Battles" (Thomas Dunne Books) chronicles more than a half century of tragic tales of veterans who have been wronged, stacks of dust-gathering studies of delays and denials, official studies followed by official inaction, as problems festered and veterans suffered.

There is the sad story of Gulf War Army veteran Bill Florey, who developed a rare cancer after being exposed to Iraqi chemical weapons that the U.S. Army mistakenly detonated at Khamisiyah, Iraq. A series of horrendous failures and treatment delays left him horribly disfigured and cancer-ridden.

Then the VA coldly rejected his modest request for service-related disability compensation -- without even checking its own data that would have proven the merits of his request. The VA case adjudicator simply asserted in adversarial language that it was "less likely than not" that Florey's chemical exposure caused his cancer. Florey died of his brain cancer on New Year's Day, 2005. Six months later, a government study discovered that actually it was twice as likely as not that Florey's chemical weapons contamination caused the cancer that killed him.

There is the tale of Eric Adams, a military policeman from Tampa, Fla., who served in both the Gulf War and the Iraq War. His job in Iraq included leading truck convoys through dangerous territory. A roadside bomb exploded in front of his convoy and when he braked, a truck smashed into the rear of his rented van, which had no seat belts. Back home, a VA adjudicator initially felt there was inadequate proof that his service even constituted combat conditions!
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Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Did Nicholson's departure from VA really matter?

From 2007 and not much has changed but this is an important voice that should be re-heard. I get Google Alerts so this must have come from someone hitting on this piece from last year before Peake replaced Nicholson.

Changing of the Guard
Does VA Secretary Jim Nicholson's departure matter to the men and women fighting the Iraq war? A veteran's view.
By David Botti Newsweek Web Exclusive
Jul 19, 2007
Botti, a former Marine Corps reservist, served as a rifleman in Iraq in 2003. He is now a freelance writer in New York.
On my first trip to a Veterans Affairs hospital for a post-deployment evaluation after returning from Iraq, the doctor said he didn't have time to screen me. He asked a nurse to do it instead.
Halfway through the interview, she suggested I change one of my answers, or I would be spending all day waiting to speak with doctors in the psych department.

I walked out as soon as the evaluation was over, and I never went back. If Ineeded help, I wasn't going to get it there.
It seems little has changed between then and now, except perhaps for the severity of soldiers' injuries inflicted by a more adept and resourceful enemy.

Nicholson's announcement on Tuesday that he would resign as Secretary of Veterans Affairs came as a surprise to most. The political spin storm still managed to get off the ground in no time. Illinois Sen. Barack Obama released a statement saying Nicholson left the VA worse than he found it. White House Press Secretary Tony Snow said the president was grateful forMr. Nicholson's service.

It seemed that those with the most to say were the least affected.

This was in 2004, six months before James Nicholson inherited a Department of Veterans Affairs already strained by the nearly two-year-old war. As a Marine among the first wave of veterans to return from Iraq, I simply figured it was going to take a little while longer for the VA to get its wartime footing.
go here for more

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

VA Can Help Veterans Avoid Foreclosure

VA Can Help Veterans Avoid Foreclosure
Wednesday June 25, 2008
The Veterans Administration (VA) is making a special effort to assist veterans who are having trouble making their home mortgage payments.

"VA is reaching out to veterans -- both those who use our home-loan guaranty program and those who don’t take advantage of our guaranties -- to keep people in their homes," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. James B. Peake in a press release. "I’m proud of our solid record of success in helping veterans and active-duty personnel deal with financial crises."

By beefing up the staff at its regional loan centers, VA can now provide financial counselors to personally offer advice and even work out special financing arrangements to help veterans and active duty personnel with VA-guarantied loans avoid foreclosure.

The VA can work directly with the lenders on the veteran’s behalf to establish repayment plans, forbearance, and loan modifications that can help veterans keep their homes.

To obtain help from a VA financial counselor, veterans can call VA toll-free at 1-877-827-3702 or visit the VA's home loan guaranty program Web site.
Also See:
VA Releases 2008 Veterans Benefits Booklet
Veteran's Suicide Prevention Hotline Begins Operation

Sunday, June 1, 2008

"The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few"

From Bible Gateway

Matthew 9

12 On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.

13 But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.'[a] For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

The Workers Are Few
35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.
36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
37 Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.
38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field."

Luke 10
Jesus Sends Out the Seventytwo
1 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two[a] others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go.
2 He told them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.
3 Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.
4 Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.
5 "When you enter a house, first say, 'Peace to this house.'
6 If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you.
7 Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.
8 "When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you.
9 Heal the sick who are there and tell them, 'The kingdom of God is near you.'
10 But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say,
11 'Even the dust of your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God is near.'
12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.

As with the time of Jesus walking upon the earth, too many get it wrong. They think the mission of "workers" for Christ is to force faith upon them, but it isn't. You can see clearly what the thoughts of Jesus was when he gave instructions to his disciples. Their mission was to heal them to show the love of God and the mercy of Christ who sent them. The harvest was plenty because there were some many people hurting and in need of comfort, compassion, love, hope and healing. The workers were those who made the choice to follow Christ, but there were too few of them at the time to reach everyone in need.

Today we see that being repeated yet again. The workers in this case are the people who work for the VA. The vast majority of them are fine people who were willing to work for a lot less money in order to help the veterans as a way of paying them back in their own way. Yet today, even still, there are less workers in the VA than there were following the Gulf War. There are less psychiatrist and psychologist, less mental health nurses and not enough Chaplains. 20% of the facilities use Chaplains. This fact I found devastating when I posted it the other day on this blog. The needs of them many cannot be filled by the few.

While there is a problem with the fact there are people more interested in getting more members into their own branch of Christianity and evangelizing more than they are serving the needs of people as Christ commanded, I do not have a problem with Chaplains serving. Big difference. As a Chaplain I am required to take care of the spiritual needs of all people no matter which branch they belong to and no matter what faith they have. This means that if they have no faith at all, I am still required to serve them equally as one of God's children. I am not there to condemn them, embarrass them or walk away from them if they lack faith. Just as Christ sent out the 72, if they want my help, I have to give it. If they do not, then that's up to them.

Working with veterans, the first thing is to get them to understand that PTSD is a wound, has nothing to do with their bravery or courage, their patriotism or anything other than the fact they are normal people exposed to abnormal events and having a normal reaction to what most people never see. It's my job to get them to understand what comes with PTSD and it is also my duty to get them to stop feeling as if God abandoned them or condemned them. I am there to support them no matter if they agree with what they did serving or not, no matter if they are practicing Christians, or any other faith or of no faith at all. They are wounded people who need help and if they see the compassion of Christ within me and the love of God, then I am doing my job. Where they go and what they do after is up to them but they will walk away knowing a side of God they may not have known before. Too many remember the parts of the Old Testament and know very little from the New Testament. It's very hard for them to understand all the love there is within the pages of the Bible.

When Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan, the wounded man did not say what he believed, did not say he was a member of any faith at all. The Samaritan was helping someone in need and took care of a stranger everyone else just avoided. In this is love. In this is mercy. In this is compassion. When Christ said that we were to treat others as we would want to be treated, he added nothing to that. It was not commanded we first ascertain their faith base before we help them. This again is the mission and the duty of a Chaplain. Yet some will condemn the "heathens" with no faith, will condemn the homeless and the poor and the needy as if they have no right to live at all.

Jesus told the doubters that if they did not believe in who he was then they should believe in the work he did. It's about time we got to work the way he intended us to do the jobs he called us to do. It's about time we returned to the original mission and let God lead them where He wants to take them after.

I am Greek Orthodox, yet was administrator of Christian Ed for a Presbyterian Church, my best friend is Methodist and I have a lot of Catholic friends as well as some family members. Do you think I would say to any of these people I care about their faith is not as worthy as mine? Do you think I would tell them they are wrong? Who am I to judge any of them? Jesus started one church and one Christian faith, not many. After all there was only one of him who died on the cross and the faith is named after him.

We need to get back to the original mission and that is to serve those in need. The VA needs to utilize these people to serve the far too many in need today, not months and years from now.

Senior Chaplain Kathie Costos

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Finler:Stop talking and start doing

This is what I've been screaming about!!!!!

“The VA can set up five commissions – yet the real problem goes unresolved. We all know that convening meetings to study an issue in order to formulate a report to offer recommendations IS NOT ACTION. I strongly encourage the VA to proactively reach out to all our returning veterans now. Veterans cannot wait – and should not have to wait – for a blue ribbon panel to come out yet again with another report.

“We KNOW what needs to be done. Each and every service member, Reservist and Guardsman must be given a thorough and mandatory medical evaluation by competent medical personnel when they separate from military service for PTSD and TBI. The VA Secretary was asked to do this weeks ago.

“The time for panels has past. I expect immediate action to address the immediate needs of our veterans.”
go here for more

Hearing after hearing, listening to one heartbreaking story after another has accomplished more heartbreaking stories following all of the ones already heard. That's it. What good does it do to already know we failed in taking care of our veterans to hear more of them we failed? Does it make the problem go away to listen to the stories of these shattered lives? How many hearings does it take before they actually do something about any of this?

There is nothing new about PTSD. Humans have not changed and war is still war. What good does it do to listen to the new kids on the block when they already have several generations of older ones who have been there and done that and lived to tell their own stories? What good did it do to call on people who just stepped into this landmine and expect solutions from any of them? It accomplished a gigantic waste of time and in the process, more lives that could have been saved if they acted on what was already known.

I apologize to some of the people who have been testifying to congress on this, but the truth is, they can only talk about the problems the new generation of veterans have but they can offer nothing in the form of answers. I've heard all the hearings. I've read the transcripts and it is just rehashing what was already known in the 80's. The names have changed but that's just about all of it. The numbers are coming in sooner than they did after Vietnam, but most of that has more to do with outreach work (thousands of us have been doing since Vietnam) and the fact the redeployments increase the risk of developing PTSD by 50%. We have the numbers in from Vietnam and they are devastating,but we need to understand that as bad as those numbers are, they will be repeated faster simply because so little has been done to deal with it. Talking about it is not dealing with it and fixing the problems, helping them heal and compensating them for their wounds. It's all just more of the same.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Senator Akaka demands answers on suicides

Senator demands exact numbers on vet suicides

By Kelly Kennedy - Staff writer
Posted : Thursday May 15, 2008 12:46:32 EDT

After several hearings spent trying to learn the exact numbers of suicides among veterans, the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee has formally requested exact data.

In a letter, Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, chairman of the committee, asked the Veterans Affairs Department for the total number of vets who have committed suicide or attempted it, the number of vets who were under VA care when they committed or attempted suicide, what VA is doing to improve outreach and care for veterans ages 30 to 64, and all VA’s health care quality assurance reviews relating to suicide over the past three years.

“We will not know the true cost of war until we know the true rate of suicide among veterans,” Akaka said in a prepared statement. “Until the VA mental health care system meets the needs of those who have served, we will continue to see the tragic consequence of veteran suicides.”
go here for more

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Veterans dept. says ex-marine owes nearly $4,000

Veterans dept. says ex-marine owes nearly $4,000
• But Carl Diekman, who served on Iwo Jima, doesn't agree.

By Jim Holt
Signal Senior Writer
661-259-1234 x527
Posted: April 28, 2008 2:14 a.m.
Updated: April 28, 2008 4:55 a.m.

Picture in your mind the iconic Iwo Jima flag-raising photograph of the Second World War.
One of the proudest moments in American history - five brave U.S. Marines and one U.S. Navy serviceman working together to erect the Stars & Stripes atop a strategic island in the West Pacific Ocean.

Now subtract one of those six flag bearers from that mental snapshot.


Yet, for a Canyon Country family of a World War II veteran, that's exactly what the Department of Veterans Affairs did when it cut off veterans checks to a highly-decorated U.S. Marine who served in Iwo Jima that flag-raising day.

Retired Staff Sergeant Carl Diekman of the U.S. Marines 5th Division was one of 110,000 Marines on one of 880 vessels sent to Iwo Jima in the closing months of the Second World War.

Cutting him out of his monthly VA check this year was like cutting a Marine out of the famous Iwo Jima photograph taken by Joe Rosenthal more than a half century ago.

go here for the rest

Sunday, March 9, 2008

The VA is not a "budget deficit" it's an obligation

Tom Hayes: Congress must extend VA benefits to all combat veterans
Mar 08, 2008 @ 11:35 PM
The Herald-Dispatch
American Legion Post 93 has been working on a bill in Congress (HR 1901) to help veterans of Lebanon, Grenada, Panama and Korea. This bill will make these combat veterans eligible for the VA non-service-connected disability pension. It is only paid when a veteran becomes permanently and totally disabled and has limited or no income.

We commend Rep. Nick Rahall for introducing this bill for us. Congressman Rahall testified in support of HR 1901 on the House floor on April 19, 2007. He again testified before the House subcommittee on veterans affairs on July 31, 2007, along with representatives from the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans and the Paralyzed Veterans of America.

We asked Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, to sponsor the bipartisan bill, and her response was, "Should this bill reach the House floor, I will be sure to keep it in mind."

On more than one occasion, we asked Sen. Jay Rockefeller, a member and former chairman of the Senate Veterans Committee, to join Congressman Rahall in introducing a companion bill in the Senate. Sen. Rockefeller's responses were, "HR 1901 is currently pending with the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, and I will certainly keep your concerns in mind if it is brought before the Senate for consideration," and, "The tremendous deficits faced by our country are making it difficult to expand veterans benefits as much as we would all like to see."
go here for the rest

When I read what they say or watch them speak when they are covered by CSPAN, I cannot believe the audacity of these people. While they talk about the great debt we owe those who serve this nation with one breathe they then turn around and speak of deficits in the budget. The only deficit they should be concerned with is the morality they are lacking.

How can they say whatever money Bush asks for to continue the occupation of Iraq without any form of accountability and results, turn around and whine about the money it will cost this nation to care for the wounded they demand the right to keep producing? It makes no sense at all.

Had they not been so inclined to ignore the hundreds of millions of dollars that vanished in Iraq, the cost-plus contracts the defense contractors received or the money Bush keeps asking for aside from the budget on "emergency" spending requests, there wouldn't be such a huge deficit. The wounded are part of the costs of conducting two occupations producing more and more wounded on a daily basis. They are part of the emergency they need to pay for but they cannot see it that way. They would rather see the veterans as a burden to the tax payers while conducting the occupation no one wants has no limit to the amount of money they are willing to pay.

The veterans of today and tomorrow are no less and no more worthy than those of yesterday. They are just in addition to them. It's time to fully fund the VA so that there is no more separation of indebtedness. It cannot be one group of veterans being pushed aside to make room for another group because there is a budget deficit. Why is it that politicians seem to have little problem finding money to wage war and a gigantic problem paying for the results of those wars?

Already we have seen veterans coming back and told they have to wait as their claims fall into a huge pile so deep it depends on the day and the reporter using the data provided on that day. What happens is a report will ask about the number of backlog claims and they are told what the person answering the question wants to tell them. A report came out last month addressing the cut back in IT workers stating the backlog of claims was over 800,000, yet another article will be written days later putting that number back around 400,000. Does Congress ask what that cause of the discrepancy is coming from? Do they even notice the huge difference in what they are being told by different people?

This entire subject is not just absurd, it's disgraceful.

Kathie Costos
"The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive veterans of early wars were treated and appreciated by our nation." - George Washington

Monday, March 3, 2008

Yes Congressman Buyer we noticed what you did for seven years

Lawmakers argue for bigger veterans budget

By Rick Maze - Staff writer
Posted : Monday Mar 3, 2008 17:08:51 EST

Republican members of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee — who for seven years have defended the Bush administration’s funding requests for veterans programs — now want to add $5.8 billion to the White House request for 2009.

The budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs requested by the 12 Republicans is about $2 billion more than the VA budget recommendations from the Democratic majority.

Rep. Steve Buyer, R-Ind., the committee’s ranking minority member, said the budget requests about $2 billion to be set aside to improve GI Bill education benefits for members of the National Guard and reserve, about $2.5 billion for medical care and services, $700 million for major construction, $200 million for minor construction and $644 million for cemetery construction.

The rest of the funding would be spread among other programs, including $320 million to improve information technology, a Buyer priority.
click post title for the rest

Veterans' Affairs Committee (Ranking Member)
Energy and Commerce Committee
Subcommittee on Health
Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality
National Guard and Reserve Components Caucus, Co-Chairman

When asked about potential compensation for veterans whose personal data was compromised by the theft of a Veterans Administration computer, Rep. Buyer told the Army Times, "How many of them would have had their identities stolen anyway?"[5]

In November, 2005 Buyer announced plans to eliminate testimony from veteran's service organizations before the annual joint session of the House and Senate Veterans Service committees, a tradition going back more than 50 years. A joint letter of protest from the four major veteran’s service organizations was hand delivered members of congress in May, 2006.[6]

Yes we noticed. We noticed all of it. While you were sitting there making sure you gave Bush whatever he wanted, even if it meant soldiers and veterans would have to suffer, you made sure they came last. Even the writer of this report began with "after seven years" so yes, we all noticed.