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The U.S. Department of Veteran's Affairs (VA) scandal has started to take on a life of its own, as lawmakers and veterans are sharply criticizing VA head Eric Shinseki after employees called attention to VA schemes to obscure long wait times for medical care.

The Department of Veterans Affairs warned its health clinics as early as 2010 to stop manipulating scheduling records to hide treatment delays, but the practice continued for years, according to whistleblowers.
One whistleblower - Sam Foote - explained his decision to come forward in the clearest possible terms:
MY decision to become a whistle-blower after 24 years as a physician in a Veterans Affairs hospital was, at first, an easy one. I knew about patients who were dying while waiting for appointments on the V.A.’s secret schedules, and I couldn’t stay silent.
While lawmakers will no doubt pounce on the scandal to score as many political points possible, they should endeavor to protect the whistleblowers who brought the scandal to light. The VA whistleblowers deserve protection from retaliation and deserve to have the issue taken seriously. Too often members of Congress forget the whistleblowers who created the situation that makes real reform politically feasible, and even politically expedient.

Shinseki tried to defend himself and rally employees this weekend:

The secretary reminded employees about actions the department is taking to address the allegations, noting that he ordered face-to-face audits of scheduling practices at all VA clinics and that the VA inspector general’s office is conducting an investigation of the allegations.
Ironically, Shinseki himself spoke truth to power only to see it hidden from the public, a result that reports indicate a media-shy Shinseki was not unhappy with:
Until recently, Shinseki was best known for drawing the ire of former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld in 2003, as the war in Iraq neared, by predicting that several hundred thousand troops would be needed to stabilize Iraq and separate warring sects in the wake of a U.S. invasion. The controversial estimate, which made him a hero among Army officers and many lawmakers, wasn’t relayed through the media: Rather, it became public in Shinseki’s spare and unemotional response to a senator’s question during congressional testimony.
Regardless, Shinseki should know what it takes to contradict a powerful head of a federal agency. The VA whistleblowers have stuck their necks out for the good of the veterans they serve, and the White House and VA management should - for once - switch their goal from cover-up to reform. Our veterans deserve no less.
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Comment Preferences

  •  This is so much a redux of almost any conflict (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    First the VA will show treating more patients than they are and when the number of Troops are drawn down, the VA will start to reduce personnel and now the veteran sits and waits while the counselor attends to a 45 minute consult with an imaginary client, thereby showing what a hard time they are having keeping up.

    "If you tell the truth, you won't have to remember anything", Mark Twain

    by Cruzankenny on Tue May 27, 2014 at 07:01:53 AM PDT

  •  Very good diary! (5+ / 0-)

    As a disabled veteran, I can tell that my services have been outstanding.  I do know that this goes by state and region as far as good or bad treatments go.  The VA should see the good ones and go by their practices completely.  If someone is not doing there job, fire their ass.  

    What I have seen personally is that it has improved greatly since I first started to use it in 1971, but thanks to whistle blowers and bitching in general, it has improved no thanks to bullshit organizations like the American Legion either.  What a right wing skanky organization that only serves the propaganda wing of the the tea party.

  •  Espionage charges in 3...2...1... nt (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lostinamerica, snoopydawg

    “In the beginning there was nothing, which exploded.” Terry Pratchett

    by 420 forever on Tue May 27, 2014 at 07:10:19 AM PDT

  •  Think About 'whistle blowers' (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Are they really or are they playing the politics from within their government jobs causing expensive problems, in more ways then just cash, in a long time under funded agency conservatives have sought to privatize for corporate profits and fee's that can be legislated into for those corporate entities!!!!

    One has already been highly touted on the FOX and the parrots carrying forward saying they fully support that privatization of the peoples served responsibility!!!!!!!!!!!!

    "If military action is worth our troops' blood, it should be worth our treasure, too; not just in the abstract, but in the form of a specific ante by every American." -Andrew Rosenthal 10 Feb. 2013

    by jimstaro on Tue May 27, 2014 at 07:21:31 AM PDT

  •  Have any of the whistleblowers, reported being (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bufffan20, ericlewis0, Wildthumb

    harmed or threatened here? I haven't heard any of these people, stating that they have been reprimanded or mistreated due to revelations that they have made. And you haven't either, otherwise you would have publish it here.

    While lawmakers will no doubt pounce on the scandal to score as many political points possible, they should endeavor to protect the whistleblowers who brought the scandal to light. The VA whistleblowers deserve protection from retaliation and deserve to have the issue taken seriously.

    You then went on to refer to Shinseki attempting to defend himself and then this:
    the White House and VA management should - for once - switch their goal from cover-up to reform. Our veterans deserve no less.
    Ahhhh...the coup de grâce:

    I don't think you had to take a circuitous route to attack the White House (euphemism on this site for the President) for covering stuff up. There is no evidence that the White House or the President covered up anything.

    Still, you could have just come out and say the President is covering up a scandal at the VA without jumping through hoops.

    The sideway usually never works....

    •  Let me get this straight. (6+ / 0-)

      Veterans, in the system, some of whom maybe dependent upon the VA for not only medical care, but also the money to pay the rent and keep the electricity on, have potentially bitten the hand that feeds them (even if that hand doesn't do it very well or in a timely manner) and you cannot see the hazard to them?

      You cannot see, that a system that has already chosen who will live and die in secret care scheduling, could possibly go a step further and add some of these vets to a list?

      Great Googly Moogly.

      Very brave, but disabled or sick people could be at the mercy of a corrupt bureaucracy and you say, No Worries.

      And any Vet who has been around knows that the VA problems have gone back through multiple administrations. Hopefully the current POTUS won't pull with this VA problem what he did with the Big Bank Problems or the NSA issues.

      I know I know--we are supposed to ignore patterns of behavior.

      "It were a thousand times better for the land if all Witches, but especially the blessing Witch, might suffer death." qtd by Ehrenreich & English. For Her Own Good, Two Centuries of Expert's Advice to Women pp 40

      by GreenMother on Tue May 27, 2014 at 08:35:43 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm not sure I get your point. No one is saying (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        TopCat, ericlewis0, Loge

        veterans are not having a hard go at it. Incidentally, this President has done more for veterans than any president in decades....

        Nevertheless, my point here is that there has not been any reports of whistleblowers being targeted for reporting misdeeds at the VA.

        I feel the diarist penned this post to accuse the President of a coverup and there is no evidence of that.

        Do you yourself have evidence of the President involved in a coverup here?

        If you do I would like to hear it.....

        •  Let's make sure it doesn't happen. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          BMScott, JayRaye, allenjo
          Nevertheless, my point here is that there has not been any reports of whistleblowers being targeted for reporting misdeeds at the VA.
          Keep talking about it, don't let the whistleblowers get targeted.  Make sure our voices are heard on that.

          Dallasdoc: "Snowden is the natural successor to Osama bin Laden as the most consequential person in the world, as his actions have the potential to undo those taken in response to Osama."

          by gooderservice on Tue May 27, 2014 at 10:42:53 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  I think that you’re reading far too much (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          JayRaye, allenjo

          into one sentence.  This diarist has reason to be more sensitive than most to the risks run by whistleblowers, so it’s not at all surprising that she would try to sound a preventive warning.

      •  I'm not sure I get your point. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        No one is saying that veterans are not having a rough go at it, incidentally this President has done more for veterans that any president in history.

        My response to the diarist is that there is no evidence that the President is involved in a coverup. If you know of such an evidence yourself, I would actually like to hear it.

        ****This response to your comment might be a repeat since the first did not show up immediately after I posted it...

        •  By the way I meant to say more than any (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          presidents in decades. FDR did create the GI bill.... But this President has certainly done more for veterans than any in decades, and has spent more on veterans services than any president in decades.... It is ironic that some are blaming the administration for backlog in wait time when there have been steps made by this administration to enable more veterans to be qualified for care. Even with this, the Obama administration has even cut wait time considerably since the days of the Bush administration....

          •  Words. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            You know a lot was said and even codified for sexual harassment way back in the 1990s. The funny thing is, it's a lot harder to implement change than it is, to change the paper-work itself. Just like the service with this issue--what the VA has is a gigantic cultural problem.

            You can't just make a decree for any huge bureaucracy with this level of dysfunction and expect a quick fix and by quick I mean within 5 years without appointing a serious task force to stay on top of it constantly like a gang of hardasses equipped with name taking equipment and major lawn mowers.

            So words, mere words.

            I am grateful for the sentiments, but Veterans need a lot more than good feelings and words. These people are suffering and dying NOW. So words don't mean shit without action behind them 110 percent of the time.

            "It were a thousand times better for the land if all Witches, but especially the blessing Witch, might suffer death." qtd by Ehrenreich & English. For Her Own Good, Two Centuries of Expert's Advice to Women pp 40

            by GreenMother on Tue May 27, 2014 at 10:38:52 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I get your point N.S. you want to protect the (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              GreenMother, allenjo, Don midwest

              president, it's all you seem to care about.

            •  Who says words don't mean anything? I think you (0+ / 0-)

              are actually using words, aren't you?

              •  Incidentally, and this is my final comment on this (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                BMScott, freakofsociety

                issue. In case you think this President is all words. Here is where the President stands with veterans, as he has even while being blocked made provisions for vets through an executive order which:....

                Ensuring that all veterans, Active, Guard, and Reserve service members and their families receive the support they deserve is a top priority for the Obama Administration. Since September 11, 2001, more than two million service members have deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan with unprecedented duration and frequency.

                Long deployments and intense combat conditions require optimal support for the emotional and mental health needs of our service members and their families. The Obama Administration has consistently expanded efforts to ensure our troops, veterans and their families receive the benefits they have earned and deserve, including providing timely mental health service. The Executive Order signed today builds on these efforts.  

                President Obama’s Executive Order

                The Executive Order signed by President Obama:

                Strengthens suicide prevention efforts across the Force and in the veteran community:
                The Executive Order directs the VA to increase the VA veteran crisis line capacity by 50% by the end of the year.  
                Under the Executive Order, VA will ensure that any veteran identifying him or herself as being in crisis connects with a mental health professional or trained mental health worker within 24 hours or less.

                VA will work with the Department of Defense to develop and implement a national 12 month suicide prevention campaign focused on connecting veterans to mental health services.  
                Enhances access to mental health care by building partnerships between VA and community providers:
                In service areas where VA has faced challenges in hiring and placing mental health service providers and continues to have unfilled vacancies or long wait times, the Executive Order Directs the Department of Veterans Affairs to work with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to establish at least 15 pilot sites.  In pilot sites, VA will contract with community health centers, community mental health clinics, community substance abuse treatment facilities and other HHS grantees and community resources to help reduce VA mental health waiting lists.  

                Under the Executive Order, HHS and VA will develop a plan for a rural mental health recruitment initiative to promote opportunities for VA and rural communities to share mental health providers when demand is insufficient for either to support a full-time provider.  

                Increases the number of VA mental health providers serving our veterans:
                Under the Executive Order, VA will hire 800 peer-to-peer support counselors to empower veterans to support other veterans and help ensure that their mental health care and overall service needs are met.

                VA has launched an effort to hire 1,600 new mental health professionals to serve veterans. The Executive Order directs VA to use its pay-setting authorities, loan repayment and scholarships, partnerships with health care workforce training programs, and collaborative arrangements with community-based providers to recruit, hire, and place 1,600 mental health professionals by June, 2013. Since, 2009, the VA has expanded its mental health programs, hiring more than 3,500 mental health professionals since 2009.

                Promotes mental health research and development of more effective treatment methodologies:
                The Executive Order directs the Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Education to develop a National Research Action Plan that will include strategies to improve early diagnosis and treatment effectiveness for TBI and PTSD.

                The Executive Order further directs the Department of Defense and Department of Health and Human Services to conduct a comprehensive mental health study with an emphasis on PTSD, TBI, and related injuries to develop better prevention, diagnosis, and treatment options.  

                Launch a government-wide collaborative effort to address these issues through a Military and Veterans Mental Health Interagency Task Force:
                The Executive Order establishes an Interagency Task Force, including the Department of Defense, Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Education, the Domestic Policy Council, National Security Staff, the Office of Management and Budget, the Office of Science and Technology Policy, and the Office of National Drug Control Policy, which will make recommendations to the President on additional strategies to improve mental health and substance abuse treatment services for veterans, service members, and their families.

                Supporting our Military, Veterans, and their Families
                The President has taken key steps to protect and strengthen the health of our military, veterans and their families here at home. Many of these initiatives are supported by agencies across the federal government and collaborative partnerships with states and communities.

                Health Care
                For the first time ever, 135 medical schools have committed to exchanging leading research on PTSD and TBI and will also train future physicians to better understand veteran health needs.  More than 150 state and national nursing organizations and over 650 nursing schools have committed to ensure our nation’s 3 million nurses are prepared to meet the unique health needs of veterans and their families by educating the current and future nurses of America to have a better understanding of PTSD and TBI.

                President Obama signed the “caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010”, into law which helps our most seriously injured post-9/11 veterans and their family caregivers with a monthly stipend; access to health insurance; mental health services and counseling; and comprehensive VA caregiver training and respite care.
                The Department of Labor has proposed new regulations for the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to support military families and caregivers. This rule would implement statutory changes to the FMLA, expanding leave to family members caring for veterans who have suffered a serious injury or illness.

                In July 2010, the VA published a historic change to its rules, streamlining the process and paperwork needed by combat veterans to pursue a claim for disability pay for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

                The VA expanded its workforce by over 2,600 people to handle applications for disability pay. The VA is also using technology and new approaches to help veterans get their benefits by accepting online applications for initial disability benefits, initiating an innovation competition, launching pilot initiatives, and investing over $128 million in a paperless Veterans Benefits Management System.

                The administration is utilizing partnerships to reduce the stigma associated with seeking treatment for behavioral health issues. Make the Connection, a campaign launched by the Department of Veterans Affairs, is creating ways for veterans and their family members to connect with the experiences of other veterans and access the information and resources to help these families confront the challenges of transitioning from service to daily civilian life.

                Licensing and Credentials
                Nearly 35 percent of military spouses in the labor force require licenses or certification for their profession. Many military spouses hold occupational licenses and routinely move across state lines, causing licensing requirements to disproportionately affect the military spouse population.

                The First Lady and Dr. Biden encouraged all 50 governors to pass legislation by 2014 to reduce the financial and administrative strains that 100,000 military spouses incur from trying to get their state licenses or certification credentials to transfer from state to state as they move. Mrs. Obama and Dr. Biden encouraged governors to take Action in February 2012 when only 11 states had legislation on the books. 26 states now have measures in place to support military spouses and the initiative is on-track to meet the 2014 goal.

                The Department of Defense has awarded $180 million in grants to support military-connected public school districts.  These grants support improved academic programs for military children.  More than 400,000 students from military families across all grade levels are impacted by these grant projects.

                The Department of Defense has awarded approximately $25 million to military-connected Local Education Agencies (LEAs) this summer to focus on increasing student achievement and easing transitions through research-based academic and support programs.  

                The Department of Defense, in collaboration with the Council of State Governments' (CSG) National Center for Interstate Compacts developed the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children (the Compact) to address the educational transition issues of children of military families.  

                The Compact covers transition issues including class placement, records transfer, immunization requirements, course placement, graduation requirements, exit testing, and extra-curricular opportunities.  States adopt the Compact through legislation, and as a result, join the Military Interstate Children’s Compact Commission (MIC3).  

                To date, 39 states have approved the Compact and these states are home to 89 percent of school age children whose active duty parents are assigned to military installations in the United States.  We will continue to work with leaders to encourage the 11 remaining states approve the Compact and become members of MIC3.

                VA eased the Post-9/11 GI Bill application process within the eBenefits portal, including transferability to spouses or children for service members with over six years of service. Servicemembers can now apply on-line to transfer the benefits of their Post-9/11 GI Bill to eligible beneficiaries.

                On top of the historic settlements completed by the Federal government and 49 state Attorneys General, major mortgage servicers will be providing relief to thousands of service member and veteran households.

                A review will be conducted of every service member household foreclosed upon since 2006. Those wrongly foreclosed upon will be compensated equal to a minimum of lost equity, plus interest and a refund for money lost because they were wrongfully denied the opportunity to reduce their mortgage payments. Additionally, these organizations will pay $10 million into a VA fund that guarantees loans on favorable terms for veterans.

                The Administration is working to end veteran homelessness through leveraging broad support at Federal, State, and local levels in both the public and private sectors.

                Working with over 4,000 community agencies, the VA and HUD have successfully placed more than 37,000 veterans in permanent housing with dedicated case managers and access to high-quality VA health care since 2009. To ensure we reach out to our homeless veterans, the VA created a National Registry for Homeless Veterans and established a National Homeless Hotline. Veteran homelessness was reduced by nearly 12 percent between January 2010 and January 2011.

                In 2011, VA helped save 72,391 Veteran and military borrowers with VA-guaranteed loans from foreclosure, a 10% increase from the prior year.   VA has helped nearly 59,000 borrowers avoid foreclosure so far in 2012.  The home loan guaranty program helps Veterans and their families purchase homes, often with no down payment required.  The program expects to guaranty the 20 millionth loan in early November 2012.

                Using their Interest Rate Reduction Refinancing Loan, also known as the Streamline Refinance, VA refinances existing VA loans into new loans with lower interest rates, or adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs) into fixed rate mortgages.  In 2011, this program saved an average of $202 per month in individual payment reductions and 1.42% in interest rates.  This equates to saving military and veterans $24 million a month and $293 million per year.

                Financial Readiness
                The Department of the Treasury’s Office of Financial Education and Financial Access has helped military families identify predatory lending practices. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) established an office of service member affairs to ensure that the CFPB addresses the financial challenges that confront military families and strengthens protections against abusive financial practices.

                So...even when the President is being blocked by Republicans he is still working to assist veterans.... This is just one of many initiatives that the President has created for veterans.
                He and his administration has actually focused on veterans issues more than any other President in recent history....

                I suppose the achievements listed are what you call just words.....
              •  Keep trolling. I avoid the VA (0+ / 0-)

                But I have friends who didn't have that luxury. It was all they had to turn to.

                You have no idea what it's like to watch someone who has serious heart troubles wait 6 months for a fucking appointment. And that was 8 years ago. 6 months for a vet, already in the system with a life threatening condition.

                They didn't have money--PTSD ruined their life for that. They didn't have health insurance, they didn't have much of nothing. And the VA was all they had to turn to, after getting the hell beat out of them in the service, exposed to god knows what kinds of chemicals, and everything else.

                You can be flippant because you don't know.

                So go ahead. Be a jerk about it.

                "It were a thousand times better for the land if all Witches, but especially the blessing Witch, might suffer death." qtd by Ehrenreich & English. For Her Own Good, Two Centuries of Expert's Advice to Women pp 40

                by GreenMother on Tue May 27, 2014 at 11:18:36 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

            •  Amen, Green Mother. Amen. (0+ / 0-)

              Shinseki had our backs.

              It's a damn shame our President didn't have the General's, or the Vets'.

              LBJ, Van Cliburn, Ike, Wendy Davis, Lady Bird, Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins, Sully Sullenburger, Drew Brees: Texas is NO Bush League!

              by BlackSheep1 on Fri May 30, 2014 at 01:09:45 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

      •  any vet old enough to have a VA assessment knows (0+ / 0-)

        damn well it was getting better with Shinseki at the helm.

        The useless smarmy Kochsucking "Representatives" who gave Shrub war powers (don't get me started on that lack of competence, because it's several orders of magnitude beyond monumental) and then filibustered the VA budget funding should ALL be standing up in public OWNING their "actions".

        LBJ, Van Cliburn, Ike, Wendy Davis, Lady Bird, Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins, Sully Sullenburger, Drew Brees: Texas is NO Bush League!

        by BlackSheep1 on Fri May 30, 2014 at 01:08:38 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I'm a vet, and have been treated extremely (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    well by the VA. I tell my primary care physician that he's doing a great job, and he supports my own progress.

    So there's a lot of hysteria going around now, but thousands upon thousands of vets like their care and they like the VA. You WILL NOT hear any of this in the media or in diaries here on Kos. Or by in comments by the usual people who want to shit on Obama or Shinseki.

    Shinseki has worked HARD to get homeless vets off the streets. I lead a vets support group; we have a vet who is also a social worker at the VA. He tells us that Obama and Shinseki have improved things there. They were serious about supporting vets all along. I agree. It's a better VA than when I went in years ago.

    Does there need to be a shakeup in the VA? Does the VA need more trained people and more volunteers? Yes. And it also needs support, and not just shit. I suggest that some of those who are most upset about the VA go there and volunteer with the most medically screwed-up vets there. I see them there and my heart sags!

    This is a big, sprawling system, and now the usual types want to privatize it. Don't let them. Keep it government-run, and improve it. Get better oversight of local, smaller VA's. Volunteer and improve it personally!

    "The soil under the grass is dreaming of a young forest, and under the pavement the soil is dreaming of grass."--Wendell Berry

    by Wildthumb on Tue May 27, 2014 at 11:08:48 AM PDT

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