Disgraceful VA Backlog

veterans_wv_health

orevet3Awareness is the first step in change. Hollis made me aware that one does not complain when it comes to dealing with the military. As a citizen, I have no problem. My voice will be heard. Two days after Hollis Williams died I saw evidence in his papers that I inherited that he might still be alive if he had not been denied medical help by the U.S. Government, whether it was the VA, SSI, or Medicare. It appears the President is about to let go of those at the top due to the disgraceful backlog of claims. Because a local TV station told the truth, bonuses are going to be withheld.

We can not employ a college football team to make it appear We The People of Eugene are behind our troops, when our help as citizens is being withheld, or, extremely late in arriving. Perhaps our President should draft Chip Kelly, take him away from the NFL – and his huge salary – until this backlog is no more.

I suffer from PTSD and Survivor’s Guilt. I knew there was going to be a huge problem with Vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. For every Vet who admits they suffer, ten Vets remain silent. It is this silent suffering that will do even more damage. We must adopt this suffering, make it our own. We have got to get behind America’s No.1 team.

John Presco

A letter signed by a bipartisan group of 67 senators was sent to the White House Monday urging President Obama to take direct action in resolving the backlog of veterans disability claims.

“We need direct and public involvement from you to establish a clear plan to end the backlog once and for all,” states the letter to Obama, which was put together by Sens. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Dean Heller, (R-Nev.) and signed by more than two-thirds of Senate members.

http://www.azcentral.com/opinions/articles/20130426va-has-failed-our-veterans.html

“Duck fans attending last Saturday’s Spring Game at Autzen Stadium brought in over 66,000 pounds of food and donated $1,650 to Food for Lane County, giving the local agency enough resources to provide 56,776 meals to local people in need of food.

Fans were asked to contribute at least three cans of food in lieu of paying admission to the game, which was attended by over 38,000 fans.”

WASHINGTON —

Major changes are happening at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in the wake of a Channel 2 Action News investigation.

Channel 2’s Scott MacFarlane broke the story last week of executives at the Atlanta VA Medical Center in Decatur pocketing big salary bonuses even amid complaints of mismanagement inside the building.

MacFarlane learned late Monday that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is cancelling some executive bonus pay for 2013.

Many of the top brass in the department will have to get by on their six-figure salaries alone, no bonuses.

Executives who work in the Veterans Benefits Administration are the ones being cut off. Those are the execs who are in charge of ensuring local veterans get all the benefits they are due.

The VA said it will instead funnel the bonus money into reducing the long backlog of benefits claims so many of those local veterans are facing.

MacFarlane’s investigation found the VA handed out $2.7 million in bonus pay to top-level executives in 2011, including tens of thousands of dollars to top officials in Decatur in the past couple of years.

Records show former Atlanta VA Medical Center Director James Clark pocketed a $13,000 bonus in 2011 and another $17,000 worth of salary bonuses in 2010.

MacFarlane’s investigation found Charles Sepich, head of the VA’s Southeast Network, was given a $13,000 bonus even before his arrival in Georgia.

A former regional director, Lawrence Biro, received $18,000 in bonuses.

Those executives received those bonuses despite findings that the Atlanta VA management botched how it handled high-risk patients during roughly the same time period.

An audit showed two Atlanta veterans showing suicidal tendencies sought help, got lost in red tape and then killed themselves.

It’s also about the same time another person with a history of substance abuse was overlooked, overdosed and died.

The report said a mental health patient managed to roam free in the building for hours and injected testosterone around the same time as well.

MacFarlane’s investigation triggered a flood of emails and tweets across the country. The moratorium on executive bonuses would impact only officials in the Veterans Benefits Administration offices of the VA, and not necessarily affect veterans’ hospital managers.

“While I commend the VA for taking steps to eliminate the backlog and eliminating bonuses for executives, these policies should have been implemented long ago. More reforms are needed, such as eliminating the practice of official time and implementing audit recommendations. At a time when so many soldiers are returning from war, and in light of the recent deaths in Atlanta, the VA must prioritize veterans’ health and well-being above all else,” said Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Georgia, in a an email statement to MacFarlane.

Rep. Jeff Miller, the chairman of the U.S. House Veterans Affairs Committee, which oversees the VA, said he’s also considering formal hearings to investigate what’s been happening in Decatur.

“It’s about time VA stopped rewarding employees and managers for falling behind. One can only wonder what effect this sort of policy may have had if VA had instituted it years ago,” Miller told MacFarlane.

The number of disability claims pending with the Department of Veterans Affairs is nearly 900,000, with more than 600,000 in the system for more than 125 days.

The letter noted that the number of pending claims has grown by over 2,000 percent in the last four years despite a 40 percent increase in the VA’s budget over that time.

Veterans in some VA regional offices, including Baltimore, can wait a year or more to have their claims resolved

“Our veterans now need to hear from the President about how he plans to bring the number of veterans in the backlog to zero,” said Paul Rieckhoff, founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, which has called for the appointment of a presidential commission to examine the issue.

White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough

Other veterans groups, including Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion, oppose the creation of a commission, saying that the issue has been studied enough and that more action and fewer words are needed.

White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough told reporters this month that Obama has made clearing out the backlog an administration priority. “Nobody is going to be more impatient about this than the guy we’re reporting to on a regular basis . . . the president,” he added.

About Royal Rosamond Press

I am an artist, a writer, and a theologian.
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