interesting that Politicians & Political Appointees
can simply quit or resign but the troops are in
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Calls to VA Suicide Hotline Went to Voicemail
A suicide hotline operated by the Department of Veterans Affairs allowed crisis calls to go into voicemail, and callers did not always receive immediate assistance, according to a report by the agency's internal watchdog.
The report by the VA's office of inspector general says calls to the suicide hotline have increased dramatically in recent years, as veterans increasingly seek services following prolonged wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the aging of Vietnam-era veterans.
The crisis hotline -- the subject of an Oscar-winning documentary -- received more than 450,000 calls in 2014, a 40 percent increase over the previous year.
About 1 in 6 calls are redirected to backup centers when the crisis line is overloaded, the report said. Calls went to voicemail at some backup centers, including least one where staffers apparently were unaware there was a voicemail system, the report said.
Hotline callers "made numerous complaints of long wait times for responders, being put 'on hold' or calls 'not being put through' to a responder," the report said.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said he was deeply saddened and disappointed by the IG report.
"The VA's failure to help our most vulnerable veterans is not only unacceptable, but it is shameful," McCain said. "The VA's inability to run a call center and deal with increasing demand has put our nation's veterans at greater risk."
Deputy VA Secretary Sloan Gibson said the agency agrees with the report's recommendations and is working to modernize the crisis hotline, located in Canandaigua, New York, to better serve veterans. The VA is hiring more staff and has implemented staggered shifts to increase staffing during peak call times from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Gibson said.
"We are improving our ability to be more available when our veterans need help the most," said Gibson, who visited the hotline center twice last year.
Upgrades are planned in the next year to provide state-of-the art phone systems and greater work space for staff who answer crisis calls, Gibson said.
About one-fifth of all suicides in the United States are committed by veterans, and the VA has highlighted suicide prevention as a crucial area of concern. A law signed by President Barack Obama year requires the Pentagon and VA to submit to independent reviews of their suicide prevention programs and make information on prevention more easily available.
The law also offers financial incentives to psychiatrists and other mental health professionals who agree to work for the VA and assists military members as they transition from active duty to veteran status.
An HBO documentary highlighting the life-and-death drama of the VA suicide hotline won an Oscar last year. The film, "Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1" won for best documentary, short subject.
Paul Rieckhoff, CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, an advocacy group that works with the call center, said he was disappointed by the IG's report.
"As the number of service members, veterans and their families reaching out to the Veterans Crisis Line continues to grow, the need for additional resources becomes more apparent," Rieckhoff said.
'Outraged' Congress intervene as Guardsmen ordered to pay back bonuses
Almost 10,000 California National Guard troops have been ordered to repay their recruitment bonuses after an investigation discovered that many of them were ineligible, despite being told otherwise. Lawmakers are trying to block the "disgraceful and insulting" move.
Thousands of guardsmen will have to return at least $15,000 per person, or more, after California National Guard officials were found guilty of mismanaging the program and submitting false claims. Last month, 42 auditors completed reviewing bonus and incentive payments and found that 9,700 members had been improperly awarded the money, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Chief of federal policy for the California Guard, Andreas Mueller, emailed California’s members of Congress on Monday, reminding them that the issue of erroneous reenlistment bonuses paid to thousands of soldiers had been originally brought to the attention of federal lawmakers in 2014, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Mueller also said that California was just “the only state that audited” the payments, leaving open the likelihood that service members in all 49 other states could become impacted by these payback requests as well.
While many state officials have pleaded guilty to making fraudulent claims, it’s the service members who were unknowingly enlisted that are being required to pay back the bonuses, Military.com reported.
The former soldiers have to repay the money to the Pentagon or face interest charges or tax liens. Members of Congress hope to convince the Pentagon to waive the debts, however.
“I am outraged that our servicemembers and veterans are being asked to repay bonuses and benefits promised to them when they answered the call to serve our nation,” Representative Julia Brownley, a Democrat representing the 26th District, said in a statement on Monday, adding, “I intend to introduce legislation as soon as Congress returns to waive repayment, and will work with my colleagues to ensure a full accounting of how this mismanagement occurred.”
Brownley is not the only California congressperson with hopes to bring this issue to officials’ attention. Duncan Hunter, a Republican who represents the 50th District, wrote a letter to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, saying, “It remains my firm belief that even the simple request of asking soldiers to repay money contingent on reenlistment is disgraceful and insulting.”
“In fact, I find it difficult to believe that either you or your leadership team was aware that such a boneheaded decision was made to demand repayment -- and I ask that you utilize your authority to influence a solution, including a possible legislative fix if determined necessary, that's in the best interest of the individuals and families impacted,” Hunter added.
Democratic California Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein also wrote to Defense Secretary Carter to appeal to waive the debts, saying that service members were unaware that their bonuses were fraudulent and had "paid a heavy price for their service — including severe injuries sustained after reenlisting."
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton joined in, saying in a statement, “We simply cannot allow this type of mistreatment of veterans, for any reason,” NBC reported.
Even officials within the military have supported forgiving the debt. Maj. Gen. Matthew Beevers, deputy commander of the California Guard, told the Times, “We’d be more than happy to absolve these people of their debts. We just can’t do it. We’d be breaking the law.”
Many of the soldiers had no idea that they were not entitled to the payments. Christopher Van Meter, a veteran with a Purple Heart, was prepared to leave the Army after 15 years of service, but changed his mind after learning that reenlisting would net him a $15,000 bonus, he explained to CNN.
“We were in the Iraq and Afghanistan war at the time. And they wanted to keep soldiers in the military,” Van Meter said. However, he was later told that he was not eligible for the bonus that had been used to lure him back into the service.
600k veterans uninsured in 2017 - health researchers http://on.rt.com/7qqf
2:15 PM - 30 Sep 2016
68 68 Retweets 34 34 likes
An anonymous service member told Military.com that he had been given a $10,000 bonus to leave the Reserves and join the California National Guard in 2009.
“I served two years in Iraq and then came home in 2011 to find out the [California Army National Guard] did not have the correct paperwork and I was required to pay back the bonus,” he said. Adding insult to injury, the government is demanding repayment of the money it never paid out in the first place.
“They took $3,000 out for taxes but I had to pay back the full $10,000. How do I get that $3,000 back? The CA ARNG says it is not their problem. I have to work with the IRS. This does not sit well with me as they took out that money!” the service member said.
The problem appears to stem from a combination of mismanagement and fraud. Eight current or former California National Guard members, recruiters or recruiting assistants, were charged with fraudulently obtaining recruitment bonuses in 2014, Military.com reported. But even before that, there were signs that something was amiss with the California Guard’s incentives.
In 2011, retired Master Sergeant Toni Jaffe pleaded guilty to filing false claims of up to $15.2 million, according to CNN. Jaffe admitted to submitting claims for members of the California National Guard while knowing that they were ineligible for the bonuses.
Investigators have found that many of the California Guard officials participated in the fraud in order to meet enlistment targets – not unlike the recent Wells Fargo scandal – the Los Angeles Times reported.
Susan Haley, 47, spent 26 years of her life in the Army and was deployed to Afghanistan, where her oldest son lost a leg as a military medic. Since the Guard found that she was improperly awarded $20,500 in bonuses, she now has to pay a quarter of her family’s monthly income to the Pentagon.
“They’ll get their money, but I want those years back,” she told the Times.
107,000 Veterans have undiagnosed or untreated hepatitis C
With more than $2 billion appropriated for new hepatitis C drugs during the past 2 years, the Department of Veterans Affairs treated 65,000 veterans for the virus, but about 87,000 remain untreated and an additional 20,000 are undiagnosed.
VA officials are seeking $1.5 billion in the 2017 fiscal year to treat more veterans, a group in which hepatitis C is especially prevalent.
Funding for the latest drugs, which have a high cure rate, is not the biggest problem, said David Ross, director of the VA’s HIV, Hepatitis and Public Health Pathogens Programs.
Instead, its challenge is finding ways to help veterans who are unwilling or unable to be screened or treated for the contagious virus, which lives in liver cells and is the most common blood-borne disease in the U.S. Until two years ago, the disease was considered incurable.
“In some ways, the veterans already treated were the easiest to treat,” Ross said.
Ross & Tom Berger, a leader within Vietnam Veterans of America, said there are several reasons that some veterans don’t volunteer to be screened or decline treatment. Some distrust the VA, are concerned with the stigma of hepatitis C and drug use, and fear traditional drug treatment with severe side effects, they said.
Some veterans who test positive for hepatitis C suffer from mental illness or substance abuse — issues that “affect their ability to come in and take treatments reliably,” Ross said.
For those veterans, he said, the VA needs to boost its psychological or psychosocial care.
“We’re running into issues of veterans more frequently having these other issues,” Ross said. “If someone has alcohol or substance abuse issues, we want to integrate care for those conditions as well to get better outcomes. We need those support systems.”
Vulnerable Vietnam Veterans
The VA and Vietnam Veterans of America are specifically targeting Vietnam War-era veterans born between 1945 and 1965. In that group, 8% of veterans screened have tested positive for the virus. In comparison, about 1.6% of the general U.S. population is estimated to have it.
The average cost per patient to receive the 12-week Sovaldi treatment now is $41,460, a discount of 47% from the wholesale price, according to the VA.
The VA has screened 73% of Vietnam War-era veterans enrolled in the VA system. There are about 700,000 veterans born between 1945 and 1965 who still must be screened, and the department is estimating about 20,000 of them have undiagnosed hepatitis C.
Some blame the virus on unsterilized medical syringes used by the military during the Vietnam War to inject vaccines. While that is “possible,” Ross said, there hasn't been a documented case. Blood exposure during combat is another concern, since transfusions were used in great number during the war. The virus also can be sexually transmitted or through intravenous drug use, which was common in Vietnam.
The VA has started to reach out to veterans with hepatitis C to inform them that they have the resources to test and treat them, Ross said.
“Facilities have for months now been taking lists and just calling people and saying, ‘Would you like to come in?’ ” he said. “We’re trying to let people know we’re very committed to doing this, and we have the resources to do it.”
At one point, hepatitis C care was about money. When a new drug called Sovaldi came on the scene in 2013, it was called a “miracle” said to work nearly 90% of the time with few side effects. But it came at a cost: $1,000 a pill. Insurance companies balked at the price; doctors were encouraged to reserve the drug for the most dire hepatitis C patients.
Until last spring, only VA patients with a progressed stage of hepatitis C were prescribed the drug. People who didn't meet the criteria were redirected to Veterans Choice, an often-criticized program in which veterans see non-VA health care providers at the VA’s expense.
At the time, Berger faulted the VA for choosing which veterans received treatments, saying it was rationing care.
“The VA claimed it was not prepared financially to start wholesale treatments,” said Berger, who leads the Vietnam Veterans of America heath council. “When I found out that they were prioritizing the treatments, that’s when I said they were death panels.”
In March, the VA announced it would start treating all hepatitis C patients with Sovaldi, regardless of a veteran’s age or the progression of the virus, because of increased funding from Congress and discounted drug prices.
The average cost per patient to receive the 12-week treatment now is $41,460, a discount of 47% from the wholesale price, VA spokeswoman Sabrina Owen said.
“I know that’s been a very, very controversial topic,” Ross said. “Because of funding Congress provided, we said we want to treat everybody in-house.”
About 92 percent of veterans treated since 2014 have been cured. That includes Vietnam War veteran Dick Southern of Sonoma, Calif.
Southern, now 72, was diagnosed with hepatitis C in 2002, when the VA used a drug that Ross said caused “extremely serious” and “horrible” side effects. Southern went through 48 weeks of treatment and experienced irritability and hair and weight loss with no results.
After Sovaldi was approved and Congress allocated billions to make it widely available for veterans, Southern went through the new treatment two years ago.
“After 12 weeks, they said I looked pretty good,” he said. “3 months later, they said I was cleared.”
Southern now travels to meetings of Vietnam Veterans of America, talking to groups about the improved drugs and encouraging others to get screened and treated.
“It worked for me,” he said. “It’s worked for a lot of other folks, too. If you don’t know if you have it, why not find out?”
In order to continue treatments, continued funding is essential, Ross said. According to the VA’s budget request, $1.5 billion in fiscal 2017 would provide treatments to approximately 35,000 veterans.
But at the current price per treatment, it would cost more than $4.4 billion in taxpayer dollars to treat the 107,000 veterans who are untreated or undiagnosed.
Funding was the “3rd ingredient” needed to boost the number of treatments behind the new drug & new, regional systems that Ross helped put in place to treat patients in an organized way, he said.
“These things don’t happen by themselves, so that really was the third ingredient that was needed,” Ross said. “I think we’re very proud so far. But we have a lot more work to do.”
Vietnam Veterans of America has lobbied since 1998 for the VA to provide more hepatitis C treatments. The group plans to advocate for more funding for 2017 and in subsequent years.
“If we get funds for 2018 and 2019, that will make a big dent,” Berger said. “Provided that we can get folks to go in and get treated.”
Despite Obama Decision, House Seeking 2.1% Military Pay Raise
Troops will see yet another low pay raise next year if President Barack Obama has his way, but the president's decision to limit an increase to 1.6% is not necessarily a done deal.
The House is still pushing for a higher 2.1% raise, enough to keep service member pay in step with the private sector. This week, the House resumes what are likely to be hard-fought negotiations with the Senate, which backs the lower Obama raise.
The outcome of the pay fight could come within weeks but may stretch into the winter as Congress grapples with a defense spending plan during a presidential election year.
The House effort might be a longshot. It lost the fight last year for a 2.3% pay hike amid Senate opposition and an order last summer by Obama to limit the increase to 1.3%.
"Our men and women in uniform deserve a full pay raise," Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., said in a statement. "The global security environment is not getting any safer and deployments aren't getting any easier, yet our military families are constantly asked to do more with less."
Heck called Obama's pay raise order late last month "unacceptable" and said he is fighting for the higher amount. He is a key player because he chairs the military personnel subcommittee that deals with pay issues and also is one of the House negotiators trying to hammer out an agreement with the Senate.
Troop raises have been capped at 1.7% or below since 2010, reining in big boosts during the post 9/11 period and earlier Iraq War when annual paychecks surged from 3 to nearly 7%. By law, military pay is usually supposed to increase by at least 2.1% to keep up with private-sector wage growth, but the president has the power to set it at other levels.
The difference in Obama's pay decision and the House plan is about $11 per month for an E4 with over three years of service and nearly $28 for an O3 with more than 6 years of service, according to the Armed Services Committee.
That has rankled Heck and Republican hawks in the House such as Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, who is spearheading higher pay as part of a controversial $18-billion increase in defense spending for the coming year. The money would come from the Islamic State war budget and cause operations in Iraq and Syria to run out of funding at the end of April, requiring new spending legislation then.
The Pentagon has called the $18-billion hike that includes the pay hike a gimmick and a gamble. But the full House passed the plan earlier this year as part of its annual defense policy bill, the National Defense Authorization Act.
This week, Thornberry, Heck and other House members, including Democrats, resumed conference negotiations with senators on a final NDAA. A finished bill must go back to each chamber for a vote.
"The House-passed NDAA provides the full raise our troops are entitled to, while blocking the president's ability to reduce troop pay again," Thornberry said earlier this month. "I hope this provision becomes law when the conference bill comes to the House and Senate floor."
But the Senate has rejected the higher pay raise. In May, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee military personnel subcommittee and crafted the chamber's pay raise policy, said he would have liked to dole out a higher increase but was doubtful the money could be found to support it.
The defense budget is subject to annual spending caps, making a simple increase in spending impossible without a bipartisan deal in Congress. With no deal in sight, House Republicans are looking to raid the war budget for the money while the Senate has been more cautious about staying within the spending limits.
Obama announced in late August that he was again setting raises low to save money during the tight fiscal times.
"As our country continues to recover from serious economic conditions affecting the general welfare, however, we must maintain efforts to keep our nation on a sustainable fiscal course," Obama said in a statement. "This effort requires tough choices, especially in light of budget constraints."
African American Female Sailor In Trouble Refusing To Stand For Colors
A sailor who filmed herself refusing to stand for morning colors is now facing administrative action.
Lt. Cmdr. Kate Meadows, a spokeswoman for Naval Education and Training Command, said actions were ongoing regarding the sailor, but declined to specify what they were.
The sailor, who has not been publicly identified, is assigned to Naval Air Technical Training Center in Pensacola, FL, Meadows confirmed, and is allowed to continue training.
The command became aware of the filmed protest Aug. 31, Meadows said.
At issue is an 8 min 30 second video posted to Facebook in which the sailor sat through morning colors in protest of the 3rd stanza of the National Anthem, which she described as racist.
The video has been widely shared and was viewed more than 13,000 times after being re-posted to a military humor page, US Army Military Police WTF Moments.
The sailor referred to San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who made headlines in August when he opted to take a knee for the anthem, saying he was not going to “show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”
“The stanza basically says land of the free, home of the brave, except for hirelings and slaves and I just can’t support anything like that,” the sailor said. “I think Colin had a really good point when he said we had bodies in the streets.”
In the video, the sailor, who is dressed in civilian workout clothing near a Pensacola barracks building, expresses anxiety that other Marines or sailors will notice her filmed protest and confront her about it.
Military regulations require troops to stop in place, stand and salute during the brief ceremony.
“My heart is racing. This is not an easy thing,” she said.
While the anthem is played, the sailor sits on a picnic bench with a raised fist, a symbol of solidarity in the Black Power movement. When the anthem concludes, she expresses relief and pride in her protest.
“Today I actually did something, and it was small but significant for me,” she said. “Until this country shows they’ve got my back as a black woman … I can’t, and I won’t and I won’t be forced to stand.”
While Kaepernick’s flag protest was provocative, the sailor’s is also against military regulations.
Navy rules state that troops must stand and face the flag when the National Anthem is played. Troops in uniform must salute, while troops not in uniform must stand at attention and place the right hand over the heart. These rules mean that her behavior could fall afoul of Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, failure to obey a lawful general order or regulation.
In 2014, at Ft Carson, another African American female, Pfc. Tariqka Sheffey, posted a photo on Instagram showing herself hiding in her car to avoid the evening flag salute. The ensuing furor prompted an Army inquiry & concluded with a formal apology from Sheffey.
Meadows said she didn’t know whether the Navy planned to publicly address the recent protest.
“We are always doing training to make sure that sailors know the pros and cons of using social media, and they must always observe appropriate conduct, and they’re always subject to the UCMJ at all times,” she said. “We’ll make sure that’s reiterated to our sailors. Anything you post on social media can go viral.”
Veterans Affairs Secretary Expresses ‘Regret’ For Disneyland Comment
President Obama’s Secretary of Veterans Affairs expressed “regret” for comparing VA hospital wait times to the lines at Disneyland — 30 hours after making the comments during a breakfast with reporters in Washington D.C.
“If my comments Monday led any Veterans to believe that I, or the dedicated workforce I am privileged to lead, don’t take that noble mission seriously, I deeply regret that,” he said. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”
Republicans immediately condemned his statement but McDonald at first refused to apologize, which only fueled the controversy.
In response, Senator Joni Ernst and Sen. Roy Blunt called for McDonald’s resignation.
A Democrat, Rep. Tammy Duckworth and Iraq war veteran who lost both of her legs in Iraq also condemned the statements.
“Comparing abhorrent wait times to a trip to Disneyland is unbelievably tone-deaf and hurtful to American heroes desperately in need of care,” Duckworth said in a statement.
But McDonald was defensive of his two years as VA Secretary, replacing Obama’s first appointee who resigned as a result of officials falsifying wait times.
“It was never my intention to suggest that I don’t take our mission of serving Veterans very seriously,” McDonald said in his statement. “In fact, improving access to care is my number one priority and the priority I have set for the entire department.”
Here are a few more comments made by Secretary McDonald.
On a February 15, 2015 airing of Meet the Press, McDonald stated that 60 Veterans Affairs employees had been fired because of the VA's wait time scandal. Later, he backtracked and clarified it was only eight employees that lost their jobs.
On February 23, 2015, McDonald admitted he misspoke trying to engage a homeless veteran on January 30, 2015 about his serving in the U.S. Army Special Forces, a conversation that was recorded by a CBS television news crew accompanying him during a nationwide count of homeless veterans. "I have no excuse, I was not in the special forces" he told The Huffington Post, which first broke the story.
The Huffington Post reported that "special operations forces" includes the Army Rangers and that McDonald "completed Army Ranger training and took courses in jungle, arctic and desert warfare. He qualified as a senior parachutist and airborne jumpmaster, and was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division until he resigned his commission in 1980. While he earned a Ranger tab designating him as a graduate of Ranger School, he never served in a Ranger battalion or any other special operations unit."
On May 13, 2016, Sec. McDonald was at the Leavenworth, Kansas VA for a Town Hall meeting. During the course of his visit, he stated that he has 'lived and worked on seven continents.' He then corrected that to 'six'.
On May 23, 2016, Sec. McDonald stated that Disney does not measure wait times at its amusement parks, arguing that VA wait times are not an important measure. This statement was viewed as both insensitive to patients and incorrect, as Disney does measure wait times.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan criticized McDonald's comments on Twitter and in a blog post, saying, "This is not make-believe, Mr. Secretary. Veterans have died waiting in those lines." He apologized the next day.
VA predicts claim tsunami if ruling is upheld
It appears that not all Veterans are NOT created equal
I recently recieved a bill for prescription medicine from the VA for $288.00. Even though I am a Camp LeJeune Marine and a Category 5 Veteran I am not considered no co-pay. So like the Category 6, 7 and 8 veterans I am required to pay the co-pay. Considering I am retired and I also have Tricare I was not too upset. I did however became upset when I contacted Tricare and discovered that the VA did not bother to bill Tricare and have part of my bill paid through my Insurance Provider.... Tricare.
I checked and found out that while the VA does bill Tricare for retired Veterans, however the VA facility in Marion, Indiana does not accept Tricare. The reason ? It appears that the VA Facility in Marion, Indiana is too small to bill Tricare. That's right as a retired military veteran I am being punished because the Marion, Indiana cannot accept Tricare as an insurance for military retired/veterans.
Here is direct quote from the VA Web site on what they state about Tricare Insurance & the VA.
28. What is TRICARE?
Answer: TRICARE is a military healthcare program for Active Duty, Military Retirees (including those Medically Retired because of injuries), and their dependants. The VA has a similar program for Veterans dependants rated at 100% called CHAMPVA which they can apply for.
Question : 29. Does the VA Medical Center accept TRICARE?
Answer : Yes, most VAMC's accept TRICARE on a space available basis, and some CBOC's also accept TRICARE (if staffed by VA employees) and not contracted out to see only Veterans. Veterans will always have priority for care.
Question : 30. Do VA Medical Center's accept TRICARE Prime?
Answer : TRICARE Prime is similar to a civilian HMO insurance and there are some of the same restrictions. Active Duty (including spouses) can utilize all VA Medical Center's (and some CBOC's if not civilian contracted). Military Retirees (including spouses) you are restricted by Congress in the use of TRICARE Prime to a 50 mile radius surrounding a military base or a military base closure (BRAC).
Here is what Health Net Federal Services state about Tricare and the VA
Understanding the Relationships: TRICARE, the VA and CHAMPVA
Department of Veterans Affairs Health Care Facilities Partner with TRICARE
All Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care facilities in the North region participate as TRICARE network providers. They can provide primary care, but more often they are used for specialty care. Beneficiaries should always check with the specific VA facility to confirm the availability of specific services.
VA PATIENTS AND TRICARE
VA patients are Veterans with service-connected disabilities. Health Net Federal Services, LLC (HNFS) reports network providers to the VA as TRICARE network providers. Network providers are asked to accept requests from the VA to provide care to Veterans. The VA has the right to directly contact providers and request they provide care to VA patients on a case-by-case basis. If you agree to see a VA patient, the referral and instructions for seeking reimbursement from the Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) will be provided by the patient at the time of the appointment.
Health Net Federal Services requires network providers (individual, home health care, free-standing laboratories and freestanding radiology only) who accept VA patients, to serve as participating providers and accept assignment with the VA. If seen by a TRICARE network provider, any documentation of and reimbursement for the care provided to the VA patient is a matter between the referring VAMC and the provider.
All TRICARE network providers are listed in the Network Provider Directory as willing to receive VA queries on availability. If you choose not to accept VA inquiries please contact HNFS at 1-877-TRICARE (1-877-874-2273) to update your status.
CHAMPVA AND TRICARE
CHAMPVA is a health care benefit that provides coverage to the spouse or widow(er) and children of eligible Veterans.
Health Net Federal Services reports network providers to CHAMPVA as TRICARE network providers. Health Net Federal Services requires network providers (individual, home health care, freestanding laboratories, and free-standing radiology only) who accept CHAMPVA patients to serve as a participating provider and accept assignment with the VA.
All TRICARE network providers are listed in the Network Provider Directory as accepting CHAMPVA patients and accepting assignments on claims. If you choose not to accept CHAMPVA patients, please contact HNFS at 1-877-TRICARE (1-877-874-2273) to update your status.
View the CHAMPVA Fact Sheet for more information regarding CHAMPVA claims. You also can view the Claims Processing and Billing Information section of the TRICARE North Region Provider Handbook for more information.
MyHealthy Vet is the VA's connection to veterans via the Internet. Veterans are encouraged to utilize it to reorder medicine. Recently I attempted to reorder my Insulin which was low. I am a Type II Diabetic and take 2 injections of long active insulin (Levemir) & 3 injections of fast acting insulin (NovoLog). I recently, within the last 30 days had my 6 month check up and my next checkup was not due for another 6 months. Yet when I attempted to reorder my Levemir I could not because it showed that the doctor had not approved the refills. I then called the Pharmacy at the Marion VA where I have been going to for the last 21 years. The Pharmacist immediately understood the problem and put in a order for insulins. This was on Wednesday before the 4th of July Weekend. On Friday July 1st I received a call from the Pharmacy they stated that there had been a problem and they just got in my medicine and that I could pick it up since it would not get to me in time before I ran out. I drove to Marion and went to the Pharmacy to pick up my medicine. When I went to the pick up window and talked to the Pharmacist and informed her I was here to pick up my insulin she said that there was none there with my name on it to be picked up. The other Pharmacist on Duty immediately took charge & told me that the Indianapolis Call Center had sent to insulin to the wrong facility. They had sent it to Ft Wayne VA for me to pick up. He immediately filled my order and apologized for the mistake (when it clearly was not his to apologize for).
Another incident was the Indianapolis VA put a 94 year old veteran into a cab in Indianapolis & transported him to the VA Facility in Marion, Indiana. Interesting that they can cut off travel pay to some veterans yet send a 94 year old man from Indianapolis to Marion, Indiana by cab.
News Flash another Veteran received a bill for $ 135.00 without warning for attending the Gym on Doctor's Orders at the Marion, Indiana VA. Now the VA is charging US to exercise.
Reports that Veteran's are being told that Billing for Gym attendance may be a billing error and they should contact the billing department. Contact being suggested is "Ginger". Yet no confirmation yet. What is going on at Marion ? Numerous Veteran's have discontinued their Doctor prescribed KT ( Gym attendance ) on a rumor ? There needs to be confirmation from VA administration to clear up this situation. It is not the job of Veteran's to speculate about their benefits, it is the administration's to provide guidelines and inform those affected with the information. Do we have to experience another "Phoenix, Arizona" situation here in Indiana before they act ? Numerous Veteran's have been charged hundreds of dollar without any prior warning.
Marion, Indiana VA is starting to be Anti Veteran
It appears that the upper echelon of the VA has decided that regardless of the health benefits of physical exercise they would punish thousands if not millions of veterans.
1. Veterans who are not service connected are now charged for visits to the Gym
The cost is $15.00 a day. One veteran received a bill for $ 300.00 for his Gym visits without prior notice. His never received a notice that he was being charged. The bill just arrived in the mail.
2. Another veteran who received shoes each year and had his feet inspected because he was a diabetic . He was told over and over not to trim his own toe nails now is told "Have your wife cut them or cut them yourself." And that was a direct quote. He was also told that they were not going to provide shoes for those veterans who had foot problems caused by diabetes.
I personally was informed that it was not listed on my records that I was one of the Camp LeJeune Marines who were at Camp LeJeune during the period of 1953 to 1987 when it was exposed to a devestating toxic water contamination of it water. I provided the clerk with a copy of my DD-214 which clearly stated that I was at LeJeune from 1971 to 1974. I signed up for VA Benefits in 1995. And it took them from 1995 to 2016 to get it entered on my records. Even though that Camp LeJeune has been a specific Category of the 1-8 ( now 9 ).
The problem we are experiencing is not with the Doctor's - Nurses and Technicians at the VA it is with the Administration. And that is the higher up Administration, not the clerks who are over worked and understaffed.
Perhaps if the VA would care more about the Veterans and less about the $142 Million dollars they paid out in 2015 things would be better for the Veteran. Including $ 36,000.00 for the Adminsitrator of the VA Facility in Indianapolis and $1.43 million in bonuses were awarded to employees just at Indianapolis overall. It appears that the stink has gotten so bad that Congress itself is going to do something about it. We have spoken with or will be speaking with the following individuals in the following Senatorial and Congressional offices.
Senator Coats - Office - Nathan Stamps - 202-224-5623 (Voicemail)
Congressman Stuzman's Office - Zach Rogers - 260-424-3041
We talked at length with Mr. Rogers who seemed sincerely interested in our problems. He is the Veteran Liasons Officer at Congressman Stutzman's Office. He stated that he would look into these concerns. I will be providing feedback with what he found out. If you have a particular concern I would highly suggest that you contavct him directly with your concerns.
Congressman Stuzman's Office - Will Young - 202-225-4436 (Will be contacting this week)
Special Extra Earnings for Military Service
Earnings for active duty military service or active duty training have been covered under Social Security since 1957. Social Security has covered inactive duty service in the armed forces reserves (such as weekend drills) since 1988.
If you served in the military before 1957, you did not pay Social Security taxes, but you are given special credit for some of your service.
You can get both Social Security benefits and military retirement. Generally, there is no reduction of Social Security benefits because of your military retirement benefits. You'll get your full Social Security benefit based on your earnings.
Social Security and Medicare Taxes
While you are in military service, you pay Social Security taxes just as civilian employees do. In 2011, the tax rate is 5.65 percent, up to a maximum of $106,800. If you earn more, you continue to pay the Medicare portion of the tax (1.45%) on the rest of your earnings.
How your work qualifies you for Social Security
To qualify for benefits, you must have worked and paid Social Security taxes for a certain length of time. In 2011, you will receive four credits if you earn at least $4,480. The amount needed to get credit for your work goes up each year. The number of credits you need to qualify for Social Security benefits depends on your age and the type of benefit for which you are eligible. No one needs more than 10 years of work.
Your Social Security benefit depends on your earnings, averaged over your working lifetime. Generally, the higher your earnings, the higher your Social Security benefit. Under certain circumstances, special earnings can be credited to your military pay record for Social Security purposes. The extra earnings are for periods of active duty or active duty for training. These extra earnings may help you qualify for Social Security or increase the amount of your Social Security benefit.
If you served in the military after 1956, you paid Social Security taxes on those earnings. Since 1988, inactive duty service in the Armed Forces reserves (such as weekend drills) has also been covered by Social Security.
Under certain circumstances, special extra earnings for periods of active duty from 1957 through 2001 can also be credited to your Social Security earnings record for benefit purposes.
From 1957 through 1967, extra credits will be added to your record when you apply for Social Security benefits.
From 1968 through 2001, you do not need to do anything to receive these extra credits. The credits were automatically added to your record.
After 2001, there are no special extra earnings credits for military service.
The information that follows explains how you can get credit for special extra earnings and applies only to active duty military service earnings from 1957 through 2001. From 1957 through 1977, you are credited with $300 in additional earnings for each calendar quarter in which you received active duty basic pay.
From 1978 through 2001, For every $300 in active duty basic pay, you are credited with an additional $100 in earnings up to a maximum of $1,200 a year. If you enlisted after September 7, 1980, and didn't complete at least 24 months of active duty or your full tour, you may not be able to receive the additional earnings. Check with Social Security for details.
If you served in the military from 1940 through 1956, including attendance at a service academy, you did not pay Social Security taxes. However, your Social Security record may be credited with $160 a month in earnings for military service from September 16, 1940, through December 31, 1956, under the following circumstances:
You were honorably discharged after 90 or more days of service, or you were released because of a disability or injury received in the line of duty; or You are still on active duty; or
You are applying for survivors benefits and the veteran died while on active duty.
You cannot receive credit for these special earnings if you are already receiving a federal benefit based on the same years of service. There is one exception: If you were on active duty after 1956, you can still get the special earnings for 1951 through 1956, even if you're receiving a military retirement based on service during that period.
These extra earnings credits are added to your earnings record when you apply for Social Security benefits.
NOTE: In all cases, the additional earnings are credited to the earnings that we average over your working lifetime, not directly to your monthly benefit amount.
In addition to retirement benefits, Social Security pays survivors benefits to your family when you die. You also can get Social Security benefits for you and your family if you become disabled. For more information about these benefits, see the Social Security document Understanding The Benefits (Publication No. 05-10024).
If you became disabled while on active military service on or after October 1, 2001, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/woundedwarriors to find out how you can receive expedited processing of your disability claim.
When you apply for Social Security benefits, you will be asked for proof of your military service (DD Form 214) or information about your reserve or National Guard service.
When you are eligible for Medicare
If you have health care insurance from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) or under the TRICARE or CHAMPVA program, your health benefits may change or end when you become eligible for Medicare. You should contact the VA, the Department of Defense or a military health benefits advisor for more information.
You can work and get retirement benefits
You can retire as early as age 62. But, if you do, your Social Security benefits will be reduced permanently. If you decide to apply for benefits before your full retirement age, you can work and still get some Social Security benefits. There are limits on how much you can earn without losing some or all of your retirement benefits. These limits change each year. When you apply for benefits, we will tell you what the limits are at that time and whether work will affect your monthly benefits.
When you reach your full retirement age, you can earn as much as you are able and still get all of your Social Security benefits.
The full retirement age is 66 for people born in 1943 through 1954, and it will gradually increase to age 67 for those born in 1960 and later. To help you decide the best time to retire, see the Social Security Retirement Benefits page.
Contacting Social Security
For more information about Social Security programs, visit the Social Security Online Services section. In addition to using the Social Security website, you can call the Social Security office toll-free at 1-800-772-1213 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. All calls are treated confidentially. If you are deaf or hard of hearing, you can call the TTY number, 1-800-325-0778.
VA Life Insurance
It's hard to know what the future holds, but VA life insurance programs have you covered. VA provides Veterans, Service members & their families with $1.3 trillion in insurance coverage each year giving you the peace of mind that comes from knowing your family is financially protected. Many Veterans find VA life insurance to be a high-quality option and often the only option.
You can learn about the various programs offered along with application deadlines that apply to each of them by visiting the following two websites:
Special Pension for Veterans' Aid and Attendance
The VA offers Aid and Attendance as part of an "Improved Pension" Benefit that is largely unknown. This Improved Pension allows for Veterans & surviving spouses who require the regular attendance of another person to assist in eating, bathing, dressing, undressing, medication dosing, or taking care of the needs of nature to receive additional monetary benefits. It also includes individuals who are blind or a patient in a nursing home because of mental or physical incapacity. Assisted care in an Assisted Living facility also qualifies.
This most important benefit is overlooked by many families with Veterans or surviving spouses who need additional monies to help care for ailing parents or loved ones. This is a "Pension Benefit" and IS NOT dependent upon service-related injuries for compensation. Aid and Attendance can help pay for care in the home, Nursing Home or Assisted Living facility. A Veteran is eligible for up to $1,788 per month, while a surviving spouse is eligible for up to $1,149 per month. A Veteran with a Spouse is eligible for up to $2,120 per month and a Veteran with a Sick Spouse is eligible for up to $1,406 per month*.
To receive this benefit, one must contact the VA and fill out the necessary forms. It is called "The Special Pension for Veterans' Aid and Attendance".
Must have served at least 90 days of active duty with at least one day during a period of war.
Must have anything other than a Dishonorable discharge.
A surviving spouse must have been married to the veteran at the time of his passing.
Must require the assistance of another person to perform some of the daily activities of living.
Must meet income & countable asset criteria established by the VA. (Current cap is $20,000 worth of assets.)
Must be 65 years and older or totally disabled.
Eligible Periods of War
World War II: December 7, 1941 - December 31, 1946, inclusive. If the veteran was in service on December 31, 1946, continuous service before July 26, 1947, is considered World War II service.
Korean conflict: June 27, 1950 - January 31, 1955, inclusive.
Vietnam era: The period beginning on February 28, 1961, and ending on May 7, 1975, inclusive, in the case of a veteran who served in the Republic of Vietnam during that period. The period beginning on August 5, 1964, and ending on May 7, 1975, inclusive, in all other cases.
Persian Gulf War: Aug 2, 1990, thru date to be prescribed by Presidential proclamation or law.
Click this link for the form: http://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-21-2680-ARE.pdf
House Appropriators Approve VA Senior Executive Bonus Ban
It's about time !
Senior executives at the Veterans Affairs Department would not receive bonuses in fiscal 2017 under a major House spending bill approved by an appropriations subcommittee on Wednesday.
The fiscal 2017 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations measure now heads to the full House Appropriations Committee, and includes a provision that prohibits the department from using any funds in the legislation for senior executives’ performance awards. It’s the first time the language has been included in the base MilCon-VA spending bill. An amendment banning bonuses for all VA senior executives was successfully added to the fiscal 2016 MilCon-VA legislation, but was not included in the eventual omnibus package Congress had to pass at the end of last year to avoid a government shutdown. There have been other legislative efforts over the past few years to limit or prohibit VA’s senior executive corps from receiving annual performance awards, which they are eligible for under Title 5.
Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Ga., said during Wednesday’s brief markup that he was “not particularly pleased” about the measure’s inclusion in the overall bill. “As I’ve stated over the last three years, this language will not provide any solution in the short term, and in fact may have more long term consequences and compound the very problem it attempts to address,” said the ranking member of the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee. “All the language will do is make the VA a less attractive option than other agencies when it comes to recruiting and retaining quality executive leaders.”
Rep. Sam Farr, D-Calif., said he didn’t “totally understand” the measure to prohibit all VA senior executives from receiving bonuses, mentioning the work of Elizabeth (Lisa) Freeman, who is the director of the VA Palo Alto Health Care System in California. Freeman was temporarily tapped in 2014 to help fix the problems at the Phoenix health care center, where the scandal over excessive waiting times for veterans seeking appointments erupted. “I just think we need to understand what the implications are [of banning all bonuses] because we don’t want to lose people like Lisa Freeman, and they are in government all over the place,” said Farr. The Democrat, who is retiring from Congress when his term is up in January 2017, noted the wide disparity between hospital administrator salaries in the public and private sectors, particularly in a place like Silicon Valley.
Jennifer Hing, spokeswoman for the majority on the House Appropriations Committee, said the panel “had many member requests for similar language,” when asked who had pushed for inclusion of the measure prohibiting performance awards for all VA senior executives.
The fiscal 2017 MilCon-VA bill appropriates money for housing, training and equipment for military personnel and funds vets’ benefits and programs. The legislation provides $81.6 billion in discretionary funding, $1.8 billion more than the fiscal 2016 level. That discretionary funding figure includes $73.5 billion for the VA alone; adding mandatory funding to the number, the legislation includes a total of $176.1 billion for the VA.
Assistant Inspector General Testifies Before House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs on Mismanagement and Data Manipulation at the Philadelphia and Oakland VA Regional Offices
Linda A. Halliday, Assistant Inspector General for Audits and Evaluations, testified before the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, United States House of Representatives, on the results of the Office of Inspector General’s recently published reports that substantiated allegations of mismanagement and data manipulation at the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, VA Regional Office and allegations of claims mismanagement at the Oakland, California, VARO. Ms. Halliday told the Committee that OIG identified serious issues at the Philadelphia VARO involving mismanagement, and that OIG made 35 recommendations for improvement encompassing operational activities relating to data integrity, public contact, financial stewardship, mail mismanagement, and other areas of concern. Ms. Halliday also stated that Oakland VARO staff had not processed a significant number of informal requests for benefits found in October 2012 that dated back as far as July 2002 and improperly stored formal claims. Furthermore, management’s poor recordkeeping practices precluded OIG from confirming that VARO staff processed all of the informal claims or if the initial list contained 13,184 informal claims. Ms. Halliday was accompanied by Ms. Nora Stokes, Director, OIG Bay Pines Benefits Inspection Division and Mr. Brent Arronte, Director, OIG San Diego Benefits Inspection Division.
OIG’s Top Physician Tells Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee VHA Must Make Quality Health Care Its Most Important Mission
Dr. John D. Daigh, Jr., AIG for Healthcare Inspections, accompanied by Mr. Gary K. Abe, Deputy AIG for Audits and Evaluations, testified before the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, US Senate, to discuss OIG’s health care reviews & audits of programs and performance of the Veterans’ Health Administration. Dr. Daigh testified that VHA is at risk of not performing its chief mission to deliver high quality health care as the result of several intersecting factors:
1) VHA has several missions, and too often management decisions compromise the most important mission of providing veterans with quality health care;
2) leadership has too often compromised national VHA standards to meet short term goals;
3) the Veterans Integrated Service Networks (VISN) do not consistently support local VA Medical Centers to encourage success and proactively address areas of risk;
4) resource management data gaps make the cost-effective delivery of a national benefit challenging, and
5) VHA’s internal processes are inefficient & make the conduct of routine business unnecessarily burdensome. Dr. Daigh reported that the issues confronting VHA are issues that OIG has long reported as serious and in need of attention at the VA Central Office, at the VISN, and at the facility levels & that OIG will continue to do so until we see that lasting change has occurred.
OIG Criticizes Office of Information and Technology Officials’ Response to Improper Access of VA Network by Contractors While Working in China and India
Seven years after the 2006 data breach, VA information security employees still reacted with indifference, little sense of urgency, or responsibility concerning a possible cyber threat incident. Austin Information Technology Center (AITC) Office of Information and Technology (OIT) employees failed to follow VA information security policy and contract security requirements when they approved VA contractor employees to work remotely and access VA’s network from China and India. One accessed it from China using personally-owned equipment (POE) that he took to and left in China, and the other accessed it from India using POE that he took with him to India and then brought back to the United States. After the Acting Chief Information Officer (CIO) learned of this improper remote access, he gave verbal instructions for it to cease; however, VA information security employees at all levels failed to quickly respond to stop the practice and to determine if there was a compromise to any VA data as a result of VA’s network being accessed internationally. Further, OIG found that a VA employee, as well as other VA contractor employees, improperly connected to VA’s network from foreign locations.
Patient-Centered Community Care Contracts Cost VA $14.9 Million More Than if VA Used Non-VA Care Program To Purchase Same Health Care Services
In April 2014, OIG received a request from the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations to review VA’s Fiscal Year 2014 Patient-Centered Community Care costs and the $13 million cost savings estimate presented in VA’s budget submission. OIG could not attest to the reliability and accuracy of VA information regarding the methodology and calculation of the PC3 cost savings estimate. Our analysis of available PC3 data determined that inadequate price analysis, high up-front contract implementation fees, and low PC3 utilization rates impeded VA from achieving its $13 million PC3 cost saving estimate. OIG found that in FY 2014 PC3 cost about $14.9 million more than if VA had used the non-VA care program to purchase the same health care services. VA assumed that the PC3 contractors would develop adequate provider networks; VA medical facilities would achieve desired 25 to 50 % contract utilization rates; and accrued PC3 cost savings for health care services would more than offset the contractors’ fees. These flawed assumptions contributed to significant PC3 contract performance problems and a 9 % PC3 utilization rate in FY 2014. OIG recommended the Interim Under Secretary for Health revise VA’s PC3 cost analyses and address VA’s low PC3 utilization rates. Additionally, OIG recommended the Executive Director, Office of Acquisition, Logistics & Construction, ensure all required contract documents are maintained in the PC3 contract files.
OIG Makes Nine Recommendations To Improve Access to Care and Completeness of Medical Records at VA Maryland Health Care System
OIG conducted a review in response to concerns raised by Senator Barbara Mikulski regarding lapses in access and quality of care issues at the VA Maryland Health Care System. The purpose of this review was to determine the extent to which those concerns had merit. OIG substantiated delayed access for a patient at the Perry Point campus and identified some contributing factors, including insufficient primary care provider staffing. OIG substantiated that the system experienced challenges in providing timely access to orthopedic surgical services but had developed an action plan to address these issues prior to our visit. OIG did not substantiate concerns that a second patient experienced delays in service delivery or cancer diagnosis at the urgent care center at Perry Point. OIG also did not substantiate allegations related to a third patient’s diabetes and diabetic neuropathy pain; however, OIG found that community health care information was not included in the patient’s electronic health record because of provider documentation lapses and, possibly, a backlog of documents waiting to be scanned. OIG further found that the system’s policy for tube-feeding nutrition did not comply with all requirements. OIG made nine recommendations.
OIG Recommends Better Controls on Date Stamping Equipment & Refresher Training at Boston, MA, VA Regional Office
OIG substantiated that a Veteran Services Officer (VSO), accredited and employed by the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Department of Massachusetts, manipulated or attempted to manipulate dates of claims at the Boston VA Regional Office (VARO). OIG also found evidence indicating the VSO may have engaged in a similar manipulation scheme at the VARO in Togus, Maine. The VSO secretly date stamped multiple blank documents, providing the opportunity to cut, attach, and photocopy these dates onto claims documents for other claimants. Manipulation of dates of claims appeared to be a routine practice dating back to at least July 2013. OIG found about 25 benefits claims in the VSO’s workspace that had not been submitted to the VARO for processing; some of the claims dated back to October 2013. OIG could not identify claims where the VSO may have altered the actual dates of claim because there is no audit trail that tracks claims submitted by individual VSOs. Untimely processing by the VSO impedes the VARO’s ability to initiate required development actions and results in veterans waiting longer for their claim to be processed. The VSO was able to manipulate dates of claims to cover up the untimely submission of claims because VARO management did not ensure only authorized staff accessed and used its date stamping equipment. Additionally, VARO management did not ensure the keys needed to unlock and operate date stamping machines were securely stored. Rather, keys were stored in unlocked desk drawers near the date stamping machines. Further, manipulation of dates of claims compromised the data integrity of claims processing timeliness and introduced delays in processing benefits claims. OIG recommended the Under Secretary for Benefits implement plans to ensure only authorized staff at the Boston VARO use date stamping equipment and that they receive refresher training on securing date stamping equipment.
OIG Finds Mismanagement and Distrust Impede Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, VARO Operational Effectiveness
In late May 2014, OIG began receiving a number of allegations through the VA OIG Hotline of mismanagement at the Philadelphia, PA, VARO. Many of these allegations included indicators that staff had a serious mistrust of VARO management. On June 19, 2014, OIG benefits inspectors, auditors, and criminal and administrative investigators began a comprehensive review of conditions at the Philadelphia VARO. Overall, OIG staff conducted over 100 interviews with VARO management and staff to assess the merits of multiple allegations of wrongdoing. OIG substantiated serious issues involving mismanagement and distrust of VARO management impeding the effectiveness of its operations and services to veterans. Overall, OIG made 35 recommendations for improvement at the Philadelphia VARO, encompassing mismanagement of VA resources resulting in compromised data integrity, lack of financial stewardship, and lack of confidence in management’s ability to effectively manage workload, to include mail management and in protecting documents containing personally identifiable information. There is an immediate need to improve the operation and management of this VARO and take actions to ensure a more effective work environment. Further, the extent to which management oversight has been determined to be ineffective and/or lacking requires Veterans Benefits Administration’s (VBA) oversight and action. It is imperative to ensure VBA leadership and the VARO Director implement plans to ensure the unprocessed workload OIG identified is processed and to provide appropriate oversight that is critical to minimizing the potential future financial risk of making inaccurate benefit payments. This includes maintaining oversight needed to ensure all future workload is processed timely and in ensuring the accurate and timely delivery of benefits and services.
Delays at Memphis, Tennessee, VA Emergency Department Deemed Unavoidable Given Patient Population, Progress Noted Since Last Review
OIG conducted an inspection in response to complaints about the timeliness and quality of care in the Emergency Department (ED) and Primary Care of the Memphis VA Medical Center (facility), Memphis, TN, which is part of Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) 9. OIG did not substantiate the allegation that Memphis ED personnel were inattentive and failed to provide timely care. The patient was triaged appropriately on arrival. The 4-hour delay the patient experienced before leaving without being seen by an ED provider was unfortunate yet unavoidable due to the patient population in the ED at the time of the patient’s visit. OIG did not substantiate the allegation that Primary Care provider assistants were inattentive to the patient’s requests for medical help via phone and VA’s electronic secure messaging system. Primary Care clinic staff responded to the patient’s requests, and the patient received the services he requested. While OIG found occasional delays in responding to the patient’s requests, overall, delays were not typical. OIG substantiated the allegation that VA refused to pay for private facility care; however, this decision was based on Federal regulations. OIG substantiated the allegation that the facility faxed incorrect records to the ED of a private hospital. This was attributed to human error by a staff member at the facility, and as a result, the facility changed its process for providing medical information to other hospitals. OIG found that the new process was being followed at the time of our visit; therefore, OIG made no recommendation. OIG did not substantiate the allegation that the facility ignored recommendations or postponed implementation of actions recommended by the OIG in previous reports. OIG made no recommendations.
OIG Recommends Strengthening Teleradiology Oversight at Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System, Little Rock, Arkansas
OIG reviewed the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System (CAVHS) Teleradiology Reading Center (TRC) to determine the merits of an allegation that radiologists stopped reading exams for CAVHS patients when they had reached their minimum Relative Value Unit (RVU) level and then performed fee-basis interpretations for other VA facilities during their tours of duty under a TRC agreement. OIG did not substantiate the allegation that CAVHS radiologists inappropriately performed fee-basis interpretations for other VISN 16 medical facilities during their scheduled duty hours. Our review of 7,657 interpretations between January 1, 2014, and June 30, 2014, determined that CAVHS radiologists conducted their TRC interpretations during non- duty hours. OIG did not find that radiologists stopped performing radiology interpretations for CAVHS patients when they had reached their minimum production level. However, OIG found VISN 16 could improve their controls to add more reliability to their determinations that radiologists performed TRC interpretations during non-duty hours. Of 7,657 interpretations, OIG identified 384 interpretations that appeared radiologists started or accessed during duty hours. OIG used data not accessed by VISN staff and identified the actual time radiologists dictated their interpretation. OIG determined radiologists made all 384 interpretations during non-duty hours. OIG also found that CAVHS radiologists’ timecards did not accurately show their official weekend tour of duty and VISN 16 had not reviewed the TRC agreement in the past 5 years. OIG recommended the Interim VISN 16 Director review the time interpretations started and ended to ensure radiologists perform TRC interpretations during their non-duty hours, establish policy on an official tour of duty for weekend duty, and require annual certification of the TRC agreement.
Combined Assessment Program Reviews
In April 2015, OIG published six Combined Assessment Program (CAP) reviews containing OIG findings for the facilities listed below. The purpose of the CAP reviews was to evaluate selected health care facility operations. Topics reviewed may vary due to differences in services provided at each facility, the need to follow up on previous CAP findings, or the rotation of CAP review topics over time. The reviews covered the following nine activities:
(1) Quality Management,
(2) Medication Management,
(3) Coordination of Care,
(4) Magnetic Resonance Imaging Safety,
(5) Acute Ischemic Stroke Care, (
(6) Mental Health Residential Rehabilitation Treatment Program,
(7) Emergency Airway Management,
(8) Environment of Care, and
(9) Surgical Complexity.
VA Puget Sound Health Care System, Seattle, WA & Dayton VA Medical Center, Dayton, OH
Martinsburg VA Medical Center, Martinsburg, WV
Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks, Fayetteville, AR
CAP Summary – Evaluation of Quality Management in VHA Facilities FY 2014 VA Palo Alto Health Care System, Palo Alto, CA
Community Based Outpatient Clinic Reviews
In April 2015, OIG published three Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC) reviews containing OIG’s findings at select CBOCs and primary care clinics that fall under the oversight of the parent facilities listed below. The purpose of the CBOC reviews was to evaluate four operational activities:
(1) Environment of Care
(2) Alcohol Use Disorder,
(3) Human Immunodeficiency Virus Screening
(4) Outpatient Documentation.
Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks,
VA St. Louis Health Care System, St. Louis, Missouri
Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center, Charleston, South Carolina
As a result of a review of OIG decision making practices on closing reviews administratively, the Deputy Inspector General instituted a new policy requiring coordination of administrative closures within the Immediate Office of the Inspector General, the Office of the Counselor to the Inspector General & the Release of Information Office. This process will ensure consistency in decision making regarding when & how public release of related documents is handled. The Deputy Inspector General also directed a retrospective review of administrative closures by the Office of Healthcare Inspections from FY 2006 to present. Based on this review, OIG has published administrative closure reports on the OIG website, publishing 115 in April. Please review Table 1 at the end of this report for a full list of Administrative Closures published in April 2015.
Former VA Fiduciaries Indicted for Misappropriation by a Fiduciary
A former VA appointed fiduciary, who was also an administrator of a nursing home, was indicted for misappropriation by a fiduciary. An OIG investigation determined that the defendant embezzled more than $313,000 from a veteran’s benefit payments. A second former VA fiduciary was indicted for theft of Government funds. An OIG investigation determined that the defendant stole $69,686 in VA funds intended for a veteran and used the money for personal expenses.
Contract Employee Pleads Guilty to Mail Fraud
A former employee of a VA Home Based Primary Care contractor pled guilty to mail fraud. An OIG and U.S. Secret Service investigation revealed that the employee stole approximately $75,000 from an 87-year-old blind veteran beneficiary for whom she was entrusted to care and pay bills. The defendant wrote checks to herself and forged the veteran’s signature with his signature stamp. The defendant purchased a motorcycle and a sports utility vehicle with the stolen funds, both of which were seized during the investigation. The defendant also admitted to gambling a significant portion of the money away.
Northampton, Massachusetts, VAMC Nursing Assistant Charged with Assaulting Disabled Veteran
A Northampton, MA, VAMC nursing assistant was charged with assaulting an elderly disabled veteran. An OIG and VA Police Service investigation revealed that the defendant forcefully took the veteran to the ground during a psychiatric intervention causing injury. The defendant continued to verbally and physically assault the veteran after the patient had been taken to his room.
Anesthesiologist Pleads Guilty to Theft of Government Property and Simple Possession
A University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), anesthesiologist pled guilty to theft of Government property and simple possession of a controlled substance. A multi-agency investigation revealed that while completing a rotation at the West Los Angeles, CA, VAMC and providing anesthesia care to a veteran in surgery, the defendant collapsed due to sublingual ingestion of clonazepam and injection of multiple controlled substances.
Here is what has happened in Indiana alone in lawsuits and settlements
Wrong Diagnosis Or Misdiagnosis (Original Diagnosis is Incorrect) $50,000.00
Failure to Supervise; Failure to Recognize a Complication $10,047.45
Failure to Recognize a Complication $50,000.00
Failure To Treat; Failure To Diagnose (Patient Has No Disease or Condition) $65,000.00
Wrong Procedure or Treatment; Improper Technique $120,000.00
Delay In Diagnosis; Failure To Diagnose (Patient Has No Disease or Condition) $60,000.00
Failure to Ensure Patient Safety (Assault, Falls, Burns, Elopmen; Failure To Monitor $100,000.00
Failure To Report Patient Condition & Monitor; Improper Performance; Delay In Diagnosis $300,000.00
Failure to Monitor $200,000.00
Problems with Patient Monitoring in Recovery $25,000.00
Patient Monitoring Problem $50,000.00
Improper Performance; Improper Management $150,000.00
Improper Performance $250,000.00
This is addressed to all Hoosier Veterans that utilize the VA Marion, IN Gymnasium Facility
One of the best benefits that the VA provides is called KT. What is KT ? Simply put it is the Gym and workout equipment. The Gym in Marion at the VA Facility at Marion, IN Northern Indiana Healthcare Facility is a special place. It definitely provides and excellent place for veterans to help themselves by utilizing the equipment as well as the inside ability to walk miles and miles. And believe me they do. How do I know ? Because I am one of those veterans that utilize the facility 3 times a week.
But it also a place that veterans can leave off a little steam while riding the exercise bikes or walking on the treadmill. The staff at the Gym as it is referred to are Lisa Miller and George Lindsey. They are more than just VA personnel to the hundreds of veterans that come to the morning and afternoon sessions per week. They are someone that veterans can talk with while they are exercising and after exercising. Both Lisa and George are trained therapists in the physical sense but to us veterans they are just as much on the mental side as well.
When you think of
multi-tasking that describes George and Lisa.
Some veterans require that extra care and receive
it from them. Others need that extra bit of
encouragement and once again they both are there
to assist us. While they can be a friend they
also can and do become task masters in their
jobs. Many a time either Lisa or George have
stated "Get back on the bike Rick" or
"How about getting on the treadmill Rick for
10 minutes or more". When I come into the
Gym I am always met with the blood pressure cup
from George and a get busy from Lisa. And you
know what I would not have it any other way
because these two people have no doubt saved my
life with their concern on my health in the Gym
and elsewhere with the VA.
Recently I had an problem with my legs which was the result of my diabetes. Rather than simply say you should get that looked at Lisa who was on duty that day said "Rick, I am going to call your Pac and get you looked at today" And she did. The same happened another time when I was not feeling up to pair & a phone call from the Gym quickly put me into the VA ER.
To sum it up Lisa and George and the other veterans who attend the Gym have became a "family" who actually care about each other, greets each other by their first names. And shows actual concern for each other. This is what no other health care service can or will provide. This is why the VA, the Gym and all the people at the facility from Lisa and George to Kathy Brown at travel who also goes way beyond her job description to serve the countless veterans who utilize the VA facility at Marion. If you you need help at Building 138 or elsewhere on the Campus go to Kathy. She may seem gruff sometimes but believe me she isn't. Other caring VA employees are Sue Germain, Dietician, the ladies in the various Pacs. The Patient Advocate, the ladies and gentleman in the Pharmacy. There are many others at the VA I know I am missing but I am thankful for their services. But to George, Lisa and Kathy and Sue I want to say thank you, you all make a big difference in my life and I truly appreciate you all.
Strawman Proposal To Close VA Makes Veterans Fearful
A straw man is a common form of
argument and is an informal fallacy based on
giving the impression of refuting an opponent's
argument, while actually refuting an argument
that was not advanced by that opponent.
Benjamin Krause A “drastic” strawman proposal for VA closure of hospitals nationwide now has many veterans fearful of being left without health care.
The proposal is supposedly a preliminary recommendation that Veterans Health Administration be drawn down and that veterans be allowed to choice whether to get care at VA or not.
The VA Commission on Care issued what is now called a “Strawman Document” that asserts VA health care “is seriously broken and, because of the breadth and depth of the shortfalls, there is no efficient path to repair it.”
Confused about what all the hubub is about? Isn’t the above claim already well known? Is it ironic that the information name of the document in question is nicknamed for a type of logical fallacy? Was that intentional or was the author misguided about language and instead referencing Wizard of Oz?
Do you like the strawman proposal or hate it?
The commission is apparently fragmented because of a sharp disagreement on the politics of the VA wait list scandal, which was initially downplayed by certain veteran organizations and democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Seven of its members independently penned the recommendation.
In response, Disabled American Veterans (DAV) and other veteran orgs wrote a scathing letter to the committee about the document. DAV has long opposed the extent of “choice” many veterans seek, which would allow full choice of health care. DAV claims allowing veterans “choice” would outstrip funding for the ever growing VHA that never seems to end the laundry list of scandals.
DAV and these other orgs has long opposed the extent of “choice” many veterans seek, which would allow full choice of health care. Specifically, DAV claimed allowing veterans “choice” would outstrip funding for the ever growing VHA that never seems to end the laundry list of scandals.
Here is an excerpt from the letter on the DAV website:
“What is most unsettling about the “proposed strawman document” is the utter lack of consideration that veterans would want to improve and expand the VA health care system. There is also no discussion of how this proposal would affect the coordination of care, the quality of medical services and the health outcomes for veterans. While there are numerous references to “bold transformational change” and letting “the money follow the veteran,” there is no discussion about strengthening the VA health care system for veterans who would choose to receive care at VA medical facilities rather than seek care from disparate community providers.”
Thanks DAV, I sure hope you enjoy your fantastically high salaries that you pay yourselves on the backs of veterans’ sympathy from donors and members.
Why is it that the same organization that opposes a veteran’s choice to hire a lawyer is the same that opposes a veteran’s choice of health care provider? Does DAV truly stand for us or its own interests?
One health care blogger, Suzanne Gordon, says the proposal is to “totally eliminate the Veterans Health Administration by 2035 and turn its taxpayer-funded functions over to the private sector.” Gordon hyperbolically titled her blog post “Group Drafts Secret Proposal to End Taxpayer-Funded Veteran Care.” The title has created quite a ruckus.
This is not the firs time Suzanne Gordon hammered against the Veterans Choice Program or those who support it. Gordon is actually an ivory tower intellectual whose writing supports VA health care initiatives and the union.
Back in reality, the plan was not secret and the recommendations within it do not include destroying the Veterans Health Administration. Instead, it calls for “drastic changes” because VA continues to fail its mission regardless of efforts to increase accountability.
Instead, the plan calls for a “closure of numerous VA healthcare facilities, with funding following the patients to community providers.”
Opponents to privatization of any kind, including the Legion and Paralyzed Veterans of America, believe the report is actually a call to shut down veterans’ health care.
Meanwhile, the Washington Monthly called current outrage against VA for current fraud and misconduct as being merely a policy conspiracy. This is basically what Hillary Clinton claimed during her interview with Rachel Maddow on MSNBC last October.
Clinton harkened back to her famous claim about the “vast right-wing conspiracy” that she said was attacking her husband during his presidency. Now, she and others like her claim the wait list scandals and apparent deaths are make-believe products of political theater.
Does Hillary Clinton have a clue? Are veteran service organizations out of touch with the pulse of modern veterans?
What do you think about the issues with “choice” and your health care?
Organizations Against Privatization and Strawmen
Ms. Nancy Schlichting, Chairperson Commission on Care
1575 I Street, NW, Suite 240
Washington, DC 20005
Dear Chairperson Schlichting:
On behalf of our combined 5 million members, the vast majority of whom use the VA health care system, we write to express our grave concerns with the “proposed strawman document” that was discussed and disseminated during your March meetings in Washington, DC. We appreciate opportunities we have had to discuss our concerns with the Commission and its staff, and hope to have similar ones in the future, but given the limited time remaining before your final report is due, we feel it necessary to present our objections to any proposal that would limit the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) ability to provide timely access to high-quality, comprehensive, and veteran-centric health care by reducing the role of the VA health care system from a provider of direct care to merely a payer of health care for veterans.
We are greatly alarmed by the content of the “proposed strawman document” that was developed and drafted outside the open Commission process by seven of the Commission’s fifteen members – without the input or even knowledge of the other Commissioners. This document – which became the centerpiece of the Commission’s discussions this past week – proposes to privatize veterans’ health care and completely eliminate all VA health care treatment facilities within the next twenty years.
The Commission’s Interim Report submitted to Congress last December stated that the “Guiding Principles” would require that “Deliberations and final recommendations…be data driven and decided by consensus” and “focus on ensuring eligible veterans receive health care that offers optimal quality, access, and choice.” We certainly agree with these principles. We completely disagree, however, with the essence of the “proposed strawman document” that would completely transition veteran care to the community without properly evaluating how such change would impact the quality, access, and choice of health care for veterans.
The summary section of the “proposed strawman document” includes the following:
“VA facilities that are under-utilized will be dispensed with…No new facility construction or major renovations will occur… A BRAC-like process will begin to close the other facilities. All enrolled veterans should now be given the option of community care… A deliberate plan should be developed to transition the others to community care over the next two decades…”
– “Strawman Document”, pages 19-20
In other words, all enrolled veterans would immediately be given the “choice” to switch to private health care paid for by VA; over the next two decades all VA hospitals and clinics would be closed; and the option to use VA health care would be phased out over the next two decades for all veterans, even those who are 100% service disabled and rely on VA for all of their complex health care needs as well as those who rely on specialized VA services that do not currently exist in the private sector, such as the Spinal Cord Injury and Disorder System of Care and the Polytrauma System of Care. In short, the VA health care system – the nation’s largest integrated health care system – would be abolished if these proposed recommendations were adopted and implemented.
What is most unsettling about the “proposed strawman document” is the utter lack of consideration that veterans would want to improve and expand the VA health care system. There is also no discussion of how this proposal would affect the coordination of care, the quality of medical services and the health outcomes for veterans. While there are numerous references to “bold transformational change” and letting “the money follow the veteran,” there is no discussion about strengthening the VA health care system for veterans who would choose to receive care at VA medical facilities rather than seek care from disparate community providers.
Instead, the proposed “Summary” section of the document simply asserts that, “…the current VA health care system is seriously broken, and… there is no efficient path to repair it.” In addition, this provocative statement, repeated in different forms several times throughout the 34-page document, is not backed up by any evidence or data to sustain such a broad and unequivocal condemnation.
It is distressing that the authors of the “proposed strawman document” have ignored ample authoritative evidence and data presented to them that clearly contradicts these unsubstantiated allegations. For example, the Independent Assessment mandated by Congress concluded that: “VA performed significantly better, on average, on almost all 16 outpatient measures when compared with commercial, Medicare, and Medicaid HMOs” In fact, the Independent Assessment’s conclusion is consistent with dozens of independent peer reviewed studies conducted over the past two decades, which is documented in Assessment B (Health Care Capabilities). As RAND recently said in a press release summarizing their findings, “…the quality of care provided by the VA health system generally was as good as or better than other health systems on most quality measures.” (www.rand.org/news/press/2016/02/08/index1.html)
Last December, a number of our organizations were provided an opportunity to present to the Commission our visions for the future of VA health care, based on feedback from our members – users of the system. We laid out a number of comprehensive reforms for the VA health care system, which were centered on veterans’ health care needs and preferences. We proposed a number of transformative changes, including the development of local Veteran-Centered Integrated Health Care Networks to seamlessly integrate community care into the VA system to provide a full continuum of care for veterans. We called for VA to eliminate arbitrary federal access standards – such as the current 40-mile and 30-day standards – and allow decisions about when and where veterans can receive medical treatment to be clinical decisions made between a veteran and his or her doctor; not by legislators, regulators or bureaucrats. We recommended expanded public-private partnerships, a new Quadrennial Veterans Review strategic planning process and audits of VA’s spending and a number of other serious reforms to evolve the VA system of care.
We believe that our recommendations, if adopted, would restore and sustain a veterans’ health care system worthy of the men and women who served this nation with integrity and honor.
We are also supportive of VA’s plan, with some recommended changes, and believe it too would put the VA health care system on a path to meeting veterans’ needs in the future. However, we are convinced that the “end state” envisioned by the “proposed strawman document” would decrease access to high quality, comprehensive and truly veteran-centric care for millions of veterans, particularly those who were injured or made ill through their service. That is why we would strongly denounce the Commission’s final report if the Commission recommends privatizing the VA health care system or making VA simply a payer of health care for veterans.
As you know, the law authorizing the Commission requires you to make recommendations about how, “…to improve access to health care through the Veterans Health Administration.” Unfortunately, the “proposed strawman document” does not include options to strengthen VA health care; instead it calls for transitional changes towards eliminating the VA health system altogether within 20 years.
By contrast, we note that the Commission’s work groups developed and reported last week on a number of ideas to improve and strengthen the VA health care system, some of which are similar to elements in our framework. While we do not agree with all of the work groups’ findings or recommendations, we welcome a discussion with the Commission about how to find common ground among our recommendations and improve health care for America’s veterans.
We are confident that any objective, unbiased analysis of all the relevant data and evidence about the VA health care system compared to private sector health care will demonstrate the benefits of maintaining and strengthening a dedicated veterans’ health care system. We look forward to continued discussions on these vital matters and working with you to develop and implement real reforms designed to fulfill the promise to America’s veterans, especially those who have been injured or made ill as a result of their service.
GARRY J. AUGUSTINE - Exe Dir. - Washington Headquarters - Disabled American Veterans
VERNA L. JONES Executive Director The American Legion
ERNESTO P. HERNANDEZ III National Adjutant - Military Order of the Purple Heart
RICK WEIDMAN Exe Director for Policy & Government Affairs Vietnam Veterans of America
ROBERT E. WALLACE Executive Director Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States
SHERMAN GILLUMS, JR. Executive Director Paralyzed Veterans of America
JAMES B. KING Executive Director AMVETS
PAUL RIECKHOFF - Founder & Executive Director - Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America
Key facts about the Veterans Health Administration
The Department of Veterans Affairs health-care system is the focus of the appointment scheduling scandal that generated calls for VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki’s resignation. But the system, central to the massive agency, has been plagued with service delays & scheduling manipulation for years.
Enrollees: About 9.3 million of the nation’s 22 million veterans are enrolled in the VA health-care system. Veterans qualify for health-care benefits if they have served in the active military and have not been dishonorably discharged.
Facilities: The VHA is home to the largest integrated health-care network in the nation, with 150 VA hospitals & 820 outpatient clinics, as of 2013. The agency operates at least 1 medical center in each state, as well as in the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
Utilization: The health system handled about 84 million outpatient visits in 2012, representing a 23% increase compared with 2008. In March of 2015 it was projected that 6.7 million patients probably would use the network, representing a 17% increase compared with 2009. In the VA’s 2010 national survey of veterans, 16% of respondents said they use the system as their primary source of health care, while 35% said they use it as a safety net and 32% indicated they don’t plan to use it.
VA inspector general's report on hospital allegations
A watchdog report substantiated allegations that VA health clinics used inappropriate scheduling practices that concealed treatment delays.
Patient satisfaction: Despite its troubles, the VA health system earned marks equal to or better than networks in the private sector in the 2013 American Customer Satisfaction Index. The health system earned overall satisfaction indexes of 84 for inpatient care and 82 for outpatient services, while the U.S. hospital industry earned scores of 80 & 83, respectively. Jacob Gadd, the American Legion’s deputy director for health care, said the scores probably reflect “pride among veterans that there’s a system for them that understands their unique needs.” A history of scheduling problems: Since 2005, the VA inspector general’s office has issued 18 reports identifying appointment scheduling problems, some resulting in long wait times and having a negative effect on patient care. In 2010, a top VA official issued a memo to the department’s medical centers listing 17 schemes that VA clinics were known to be using to cover up treatment delays. The memo said the practices would not be tolerated.
Spending: In general, slightly more than 40% of the VA’s annual budgets went toward medical care between 2000 & 2013, although the percentage dipped last year to 38% of the VA’s $139 billion budget for benefits and services. The VA spent $52.5 billion on hospital & medical care in 2013, more than double its expenditures in that category for 2000.
Staffing: VHA employees accounted for nearly 89% of the VA’s 278,565 workers in 2008. An audit two years ago determined that the agency had not developed an effective method for determining whether staffing levels were appropriate at any given clinic. VA health official Thomas Lynch said at a hearing Wednesday that the department is not sure whether it needs to add or shift personnel to address the scheduling problems.
Origins: The first national effort to provide medical care to veterans started in 1812, with the Naval Home in Philadelphia, according to a VA history. The U.S. government created homes for disabled veterans after the Civil War, with the facilities offering limited medical care at first and eventually providing hospital-level care.
VA: LOST RECORDS, HANG UPS, AND…
By Bob Gutsche, VietNow National VA Chairman
As part of a new program, the VA is issuing a Veterans Choice card as a way to help veterans with the long wait times for health-care appointments. This gives veterans who have waited over thirty days for appointments or who live over forty miles from a VA facility, the opportunity to see a private doctor instead of a VA facility. As part of a new program, the VA is issuing a Veterans Choice card as a way to help veterans with the long wait times for health-care appointments. The one requirement for use of the card is that the veteran must contact the VA and get permission to use the Veterans Choice card, rather than just going to a doctor’s office for care. Some veterans are showing up at emergency rooms only to discover that the card is not valid. In fact, many doctors do not fully understand the process to provide service to card holders and how to bill for services. This program could be a great help to many veterans, but it seems that the VA could have done a much better job of rolling out the program.
Help for hearing-impaired veterans
The number one claim for service-connected disability right now is for hearing loss – and veterans are waiting a long time to get their initial evaluation for their hearing loss due to the large number of claims and the small number of audiologists available to administer the tests. Legislation H.R. 353, the Veterans Access to Healthy Hearing Act, has been introduced to effectively alleviate the long waits for evaluations. This legislation would allow for veterans to utilize hearing specialists in their own community. This had previously been introduced in the 113th session of Congress, and was well received by the Veterans Affairs Committee. This should help to alleviate the long wait times and the travel time for veterans waiting to be tested. And what a great use of the VA’s new Veterans Choice card this would be.
Why won’t you talk to me?
The VA has seven dedicated call centers around the country to respond to veterans inquiring about their benefit claims. So why are calls going unanswered, ignored, or hung up on? Veterans calling the call centers are subjected to long waits of up to an hour, and many just give up, feeling that they are being discounted. Recent statistics show that in 2014, 55 % of veterans’ calls never got through to a representative. And so far in 2015, the number has increased to 59 %. Veterans calling the call centers are subjected to long waits of up to an hour, and many just give up, feeling that they are being discounted. To add to the frustration, the VA has established guidelines that require the call-center employees to spend less than ten minutes on each call. This gets frustrating when the veteran has a complicated claim. Employees who exceed the allocated time too often can be subject to disciplinary action, including termination.
Meanwhile at a different call center
Even more disturbing is when a homeless veteran calls the VA National Call Center For Homeless Veterans. Those homeless veterans calling for help end up with an answering machine to take their inquiry, and are not referred to a medical center. Investigations have revealed that call-center counselors often did not log in or spend the entire day logged into the telephone system. Night-shift counselors were not logged into the system an average of four hours each evening, thereby causing incoming calls to be forwarded to an answering machine. In total, there were identified 40,500 missed opportunities where the call center did not refer the veteran to a medical center or where referrals were closed without assurance that the homeless veteran was provided the needed care.
Does anyone give a damn about our nation’s veterans?
Gulf War illnesses
The VA has begun an in-depth evaluation of a correlation between Gulf War service and brain cancer among certain Gulf War veterans. The study of incidence of brain cancer among veterans who may have been exposed to chemical weapon agents during the demo-lition of the munitions depot in Khamisiyah, Iraq, during March of 1991 should be concluded by this spring.
For more information about Khamisiyah depot, go to www.gulflink.osd.mil/library/kham_info.jsp
I just can’t find them
Fourteen thousand unprocessed veterans claims – some dating back to the 1990s – were improperly filed and then lost, at the Oakland VA office.
In 2012, staff from the VA’s Office of Inspector General was in the Oakland VA office to help sort out problems in the office, and discovered the files secreted away in a filing cabinet.
In July of 2014, the Inspector General’s Office staff paid an unannounced visit to the Oakland VA office, and it appears that none of the records could be located. At the present time, the office has approximately 30,000 veteran’s claims that are pending in excess of 125 days.
Closely following the case, Rep. Doug LaMalfa, (R-Oroville, CA) had already heard about veterans getting the runaround, and said, “If those records are unfindable . . . then someone needs to pay a price for allowing that to happen.”
Long Wait-Times At VA Hospitals Haven’t Improved
April 14, 2015 - An investigation has found that wait times are not improving at VA hospitals, especially those located in the South. Meanwhile, a 60 year-old Navy vet has been awarded $21 million after he received inadequate care that left him trapped in his body with “locked-in syndrome.”
January 29, 2015 - The family of a vet who died of melanoma was awarded $900,000 by the VA hospital to settle allegations of malpractice due to treatment delays. VA Puget Sound has paid out $15 million since 2001 for 16 wrongful deaths & 33 major injuries that were preventable.
October 14, 2014 — A federal judge has awarded $725,000 to a 75 year-old veteran who was permanently paralyzed during a botched surgery at a VA hospital in Arkansas.
Examples of VA Hospital Malpractice Claims
Delayed care resulting in worse diagnosis or death
Wrong diagnosis of a disease or cancer
Failure to diagnose or treat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Surgical errors (such as leaving a foreign object inside a patient)
Infection from non-sterile equipment, lack of bed-sheets
Inadequate treatment of a disease
Unneeded medical procedures resulting in injury
“Secret Wait List” Linked to Veteran Deaths
April 2014 - At least 40 American veterans died while waiting for treatment at the Phoenix VA hospital. According to CNN, they were placed on a “secret wait list” to avoid scrutiny by officials in Washington.
“Secret Wait List” Linked to Veteran Deaths
April 2014 — At least 40 American vets died while waiting for treatment at the Phoenix VA hospital. They were placed on a “secret wait list” to avoid scrutiny by officials in Washington.
A former doctor with over two decades of experience at the hospital told CNN that the hospital shredded evidence to hide the fact that 1,400-1,600 vets waited months or years before getting an appointment. Nationally, VA hospitals are supposed to provide care within 14-30 days.
Investigators found over 7,000 veterans on backlog lists at just a few hospitals, including some who died while frantically seeking appointments.
Slipped Through the Cracks
In one example, 71 year-old Navy veteran Thomas Breen visited the Phoenix VA hospital in Sept 2013 complaining of blood in his urine. Breen had a history of cancer, and the emergency physician recommended an “urgent” appointment with a urologist within the week. Breen was sent home. Over the next few months, his family members called repeatedly to request an appointment. By the time they got an appointment in December, Breen was already dead from stage-4 bladder cancer.
In the Last 12 Month Period I Have Had 6 Doctors 3 I actually met
This is starting to become a complete joke. I have had 6 doctors assigned to my clinic in a 12 month period. I actually met 3 of them 1 time. Out of the 6 doctors 3 were extremely competent. As I have stated in earlier post I have absolutely no problem with the quality of care and the skills of of the medical personnel, when you actually get to meet them.
I have not been informed that my 6th doctor will be leaving. I seen her in July of this year (2015) and I had a appointment scheduled with her again in September of this year. But alas is it not to be. Today I was informed by a VA employee that the good doctor was leaving. I say good doctor because she was just that a great doctor.
Whatever is going on in VISN 11 at the Marion VA Hospital that they cannot seem to hold on to their doctors ? They have a fantastic KT Department and a Physical Therapy Section. Their CATSCAN and Ultrasound Technician are top notch. The Optometry and Podiatrist Doctors are 100%, however and this time at no fault of the VA we will be losing the Podiatrist soon do to her retiring after a long successful career. The two VA employees of the KT program at the Gymnasium are there for the veterans 110%. Lisa and George will go that extra mile for the patients and will work with you to make your experience at the Gym a successful one.
Sue Germaine the VA Dietician and Ann Friend, Diabetic Nurse are also angels in disguise who are really concerned for their patients. I have had the pleasure to have worked with them several years. However it seems now we have lost Ann Friend now at Marion. Another individual who always makes an individual veterans feel like they are not a bother id the Travel Clerk Kathy Brown. Her sometimes dry humor makes you sometimes forget that ache in the back or the shortness of breath. She a in all the others mentioned here become an extended part of the a VISN 11 veterans "family".
Now the reason I am giving praise is two fold. One, is because those mentioned do deserve it. And secondly, if VISN 11 can maintain this quality of medical personnel why not the Primary Care Physicians ? Is a pay thing ? I do not think so. I think it is a work load problem. I also feel it is a upper management micromanagement problem. I believe the doctors are good doctors, at least the 3 I met were. But each of these doctors left the system in less then 2 months in the position.
When a doctor picks up a new patient as in a patient takes on a new doctor there is a period of time that both of these individual require to establish a trust. Sometimes that period is instantaneous other times may be days, weeks and even months. Getting to know a veteran is as important for the doctor to do as is the doctor diagnosing that veteran's illnesses' and ailment's. When will the VA realize that it is their responsibility to the veteran to treat them as human and not just a series of 4 numbers.
U.S. Declared War On Vet Homelessness & It Actually Could Win
This is a tale of two cities. In New Orleans, there are signs of hope that veteran homelessness can be solved. But Los Angeles presents a very different picture.
Daniel Harmon, a veteran of the wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq, looks out the window of his room at the Hollywood Veterans Center in Los Angeles. The facility provides housing to homeless vets.
Under the deafening highway noise of the Pontchartrain Expressway in central city New Orleans, Ronald Engberson, 54, beds down for the night. Engberson got out of the Marines in 1979, plagued even back then by problems with drugs and alcohol. He says that's mostly the reason he's been homeless the past 10 years.
"My longest stretch sober was 14 months," he says. "Being out there on the streets, it's tough."
About 50,000 vets are homeless in America. In 2009, then-VA Secretary Eric Shinseki declared that all of them would have housing by this year. At the time, even inside the VA that goal was considered aspirational at best. But last year, cities across the country said it was looking achievable. New Orleans was the first to declare, in January, that the city had done it.
So if New Orleans has zero homeless vets, why was there a Marine sleeping under the expressway?
It's called "functional
zero," according to Melissa Haley, director
of supportive services at Volunteers of America
in New Orleans.
Marine Corps veteran Ronald Engberson says alcoholism had made it hard to keep a job and an apartment. His new apartment has few possessions, but he is clean and sober.
So if a vet loses a job today, misses the rent and gets evicted in New Orleans, the city can get him or her housed within a month. Haley says it's often faster; they got Marine Corps veteran Ronald Engberson housed in one day.
A Volunteers of America caseworker, DaVaughn Phillips, met Engberson under the expressway and started asking him questions from a survey. When he heard Engberson's name, he looked down at a list on his clipboard.
"Mr. Engberson, we've been
looking for you!" Phillips said. "When
you said Ronald Engberson, I'm almost about to
get up and shout!"
The next morning Phillips met Engberson by the expressway overpass and took him to a modest, clean apartment. First thing Engberson did was shave off his ragged beard.
"Last night I was under the bridge," Engberson said. "I'm thankful I'm inside. I have AC, don't have to deal with the rain, the lightning, people walking up on you all the time."
New Orleans went from 470 homeless vets in 2011 to functional zero today, using what are now considered best practices such as the master list and powered by a huge cash injection from Washington.
Nationwide, spending on homeless vets is up 300% since President Obama took office, hitting near $1.5 billion last year. That tracks with a reduction in homeless vets by about a third.
"We've been able to house more vets in the last five years than at any point in our history ... 30-plus years," Vince Kane, special assistant to the VA secretary, says of the agency's housing programs. "In the past, both inside and outside of VA, we were focused on models more about managing homeless than on ending homelessness," Kane says.
Part of that shift is to embrace a philosophy called "housing first."
"It's about getting guys in housing first and then treating whatever ails them afterwards," says Kevin Kincey, who does outreach for the group U.S. Vets in Los Angeles.
"Back in 2005, to come into a program ... you needed to be sober," Kincey says. "Now once you get in housing, if you need substance abuse treatment, mental health treatment, they'll wrap that around you."
Kincey says he's seen housing-first programs arrive just recently in Los Angeles — which VA officials acknowledge is lagging behind many other cities in the race toward the goal.
LA has the most homeless vets in the country. It also has a housing shortage that makes it hard to find places even with the funding available. And there were other problems the Los Angeles VA was embroiled in a lawsuit about misuse of resources. Kane was sent this year from headquarters to get the Los Angeles VA back on track.
Still, LA would need to house 3,000 more homeless vets by the end of the year to reach zero, and no one expects it to happen on schedule. Angelenos say it's not fair to compare the scale of their homeless problem to smaller cities like Houston or New Orleans.
"They've all done great work, but no one has done as much as Los Angeles has done in total volume," says Greg Spiegel, who advises the mayor of Los Angeles on homelessness.
For perspective, New Orleans housed 227 vets last year to reach zero. Los Angeles housed about that many last month and the month before that. LA has found homes for about 4,000 veterans since January 2014. But Spiegel says as fast as they can house them, about 7 more veterans become homeless every day in LA.
"That inflow of vets becoming homeless is so big, it essentially neutralized the incredible progress we made. That had never been done before and is more than anywhere else in the country," Spiegel says.
Many of the vets becoming newly homeless are from recent wars, raising fears of another generation of combat vets winding up spending a life on the streets.
"I don't want to see these guys homeless 40 years from now," says Jim Zenner, who runs the Hollywood Veterans Center, a barracks-style halfway house for veterans of Iraq & Afghanistan.
Zenner moved to LA when he got back from Iraq in 2008 and started pursuing a master's degree in social work at University of Southern California. The war still had a grip on him, though even the LA freeway reminded him of routes he had driven in Iraq. Anger and depression put him on edge. At home with his wife and kids, he'd yell so loud the neighbors would call the cops.
"The fourth time the police ... basically told me that if one of us don't leave the house, then they're going to take our kids. So I packed my stuff, slept in the car that night and then got a hotel room, took my oldest son, and we stayed there for four days," he says.
After that, he had nowhere to go. He and his wife were both students. They were living off loans and GI bill money not enough to pay two rents in Los Angeles.
He went to the VA for help, but none of the shelters at that time would take in a father and son. Then a place run by Volunteers of America did him a favor and bent the rules to house them both. He stayed seven months. Then they asked him for a favor.
"I did some volunteer work for them," Zenner says. "And in early 2010 they offered me a position to take an empty building and turn it into a readjustment facility for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans."
That facility looks a bit like one of the makeshift barracks troops made out of buildings in Iraq and Afghanistan right down to the free weights and boxing gear in the covered alley next to the building. There's a TV lounge and a group therapy room, too.
They try to get us to talk about it, but you know how vets are. We like to talk about it privately together. And that's the stuff that helps out the most," says Joe Scogan, who did two combat tours to Iraq.
After a divorce, he wound up living in his truck. He went to stay at a VA housing program before landing at the Hollywood Veterans Center this May.
"At the VA, I was there with some Vietnam vets, and they were great. But it really helps being with guys that you went through something with. They're different wars," Scogan says.
Zenner says his mission is to be flexible & fit treatment around school and job possibilities, even if it means bending the rules, like they did for him when he and his son had nowhere to stay.
He's got mixed feelings about the goal of ending homelessness.
"I don't think it's possible," says Zenner. "And the play-with-words like 'functional zero' and all that crap — I don't like to do that. Everybody knows in LA it's not going to end in 2015. [But] it's a good way to get people to work extra hard."
The deadline also has some worried.
"My fear is that someone will
claim victory at the end of this year and funding
will start going away," says Steve Peck,
president of U.S. Vets.
"It was only weeks after that we began making calls to our community partners to help us. We get donations from all over. And one of them actually said, 'Well, wait a minute, I thought we'd ended this.' "
Peck worries that once the deadline passes with the end of this year, the momentum in Washington will disappear, regardless of how many vets are still living on the street.
Homeless Veterans Problem?
• Veterans receive health care for
qualifying health conditions at no cost at all.
Veterans need to gather documents
showing they served on active duty at Camp
Lejuene. They can use military orders or base
Family members need to gather
documents to show their relationship to a
veteran; they can use a marriage license or a
Vet Killed By Police Trying To Leave
Hospital After Waiting 4 Hours
Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawsuits
Tricare for Life Cuts Discounts for
US military suicide
rate higher than believed: Pentagon
New arithmetic released by Pentagon
officials on Friday shows that during the
fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, the true
suicide rate across the US military was actually
up to 1% or more higher than what was being
reported. Defense officials said the problem with
the old, now-abandoned calculation, was that it
relied partly on an estimated figure in
determining the suicide rate rather than using
precise numbers. "It's jaw-dropping that the
Pentagon would use this kind of crass calculation
to measure the impact of the suicide epidemic
within their ranks," Senator Patty Murray, a
senior member of the Veterans Affairs Committee,
said. "It took us time and effort to sit
down and really just kind of figure out a better
way to do the math," said Jacqueline
Garrick, director of the Defense Suicide
Prevention Office. Since 2003, suicides among
active-duty members of the military and veterans
has soared, increasing to record levels every
year. For full-time troops across the US
military, the suicide rate stood at 22.7 per
100,000 in 2012 and fell to 19.1 per 100,000 last
year, according to the Pentagon.
#1 Soldiers at Ft. Hood were
instructed that evangelical Christians are a “threat
to this nation” Soldiers attending
pre-deployment briefings at Ft Hood say they were
told evangelical Christians & members of the
Tea Party were a threat to the nation & any
soldier donating to those groups would be
punished under the UCMJ.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Along with evangelical Christians, Tea Party activists, “conspiracy theorists”, anti-abortion protesters and those concerned about a “New World Order” have also been identified as dangerous extremists in a whole host of official U.S. government documents. For a large number of examples of this phenomenon, please see my previous article entitled “72 Types Of Americans That Are Considered “Potential Terrorists” In Official Government Documents“. And the frightening thing is that the federal government has actually been doing research into methods that change the way that people view the world. As I have written about previously, the government is actually developing technology that would enable it to brainwash people and change their religious beliefs. So who would the government do that to? They would do it to “extremists” and those that belong to “hate groups” of course. Once you are identified as a “terrorist”, then that gives authorities legal permission to treat you just like they would treat members of al-Qaeda. That is why it is so important for evangelical Christians to stand up and denounce this kind of vilification. In Nazi Germany, they didn’t just wake up one day and decide to start shipping Jews & other minorities off to prison camps. It all started with years of propaganda and demonization. And now a similar thing is happening in the U.S. We would have to be completely blind not to see what is happening right in front of our eyes.
"A nation can survive its fools, even the ambitious, but it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly, but the traitor moves against those within the gate freely. The traitor speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and wears their face and their arguments. He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to fear." Marcus Tullius Cicero
The U.S. Constitution
“I am constrained by a system our founders put in place.”
Actual quote by Obama
THIS SITE IS BASED ON PRINCIPALS OF THE CONSTITUTION
Amendment I : Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
Every year on Memorial Day & Veterans Day, Barack Obama & our other politicians make very nice speeches, but the truth about how they feel about us vets can be seen in how they are treated every single day. In the U.S. today, there are well over half a million veterans that have been waiting for at least 125 days to have their benefit claims processed. Many of them will ultimately have their claims sent back or denied just so a government employee somewhere can get a bigger bonus. Meanwhile many veterans have to wait more than half a year just to get an appointment at one of those facilities. Once you start looking into how this country really treats military veterans, it becomes easier to understand why 22 military veterans commit suicide in America every single day. Our vets have a higher rate of unemployment, a higher rate of poverty, a higher rate of homelessness, a higher rate of depression and a higher rate of divorce than the general population. It is a crying shame. One of the ways that any society is judged is by how it treats military veterans, and the truth is that America has failed miserably.
Below is a email I received regarding VA Travel Pay problems at the Indianapolis VA Hospital. Is this how veterans are to be treated? Obama said that Veterans were to be honored and respected. Talk is cheap.
Honorable Mr. Mike Pence,
Post Note: Received a phone call from
Indianapolis VA Travel Section. After a lengthy
conversation with their main Travel Section
Representative I was informed that I had already
received a "Gas Card" for my travel pay
back home. Also it was questioned why I had
contacted a Congressman about this matter. It
appears that Travel was more concerned with a
Congressional Investigation than they are doing
their own jobs. However, no card was issued or
wanted. As I and my wife were standing there next
to the Travel Section Pay Window talking with
another veteran from Vincennes, IN in the same
situation, a young Hispanic woman came up to us
and handed both myself and the other veteran
$20.00 each and said please accept this. We both
stated that we could not do this but she insisted
and said. This is my way to thank you for
defending our freedoms. I asked her how we could
send the money back to her. She said "Just
pay it forward to another veteran in need".
Day At The VA - Richard E. Buckner -
Below is a email received regarding
Travel Pay problems at the Indianapolis VA Hospital. Is this how
veterans are treated? Obama said Veterans were to be honored &
respected. Talk is cheap.
(1) Vets serving in more than 1
period are counted once in totals.
Last year data as of 4/1/2000 was a blend of rounded census & administrative data. This year ungrounded census data was relied on to the extent possible.
WEBMASTER: VA created Category 8 then
put a Moratorium on it creating a No Benefit
Class of 267,000 Veterans