On May 1 of last year I was contacted by an executive producer of CBS News who had read my post about my late friend, Hollis Williams. Hollis did not complain that much about the treatment at the VA, but was mortified by how he was treated by the Social Security Administration who kept denying his claim for SSI. “Homelessness” was listed as a cause of death even though H alas got SSI and an apartment.
What killed Hollis was the Them vs. Us survival mode he developed over ten years. I met H when he was working for Agra-Pac. I did not see him again until I moved to Springfield where he stood in front of Safeway collecting cans. This was his routine, and way of life. He had his regular donors, his friends, his surrogate families. H had not seen his siblings in thirty-five years. When he was in the hospital I dialed his sister and handed the phone to H who was on death’s door. Then, we lost contact with them.
I begged Hollis to not go canning. It was winter. He didn’t need the money. It never got over 20% degrees that day. H caught pneumonia. The doctors told them he would have to go into a home if they were going to treat him because it was a waste of time if he would not follow the plan to keep him alive. He told me he was not going into a home.
The next day his minister came to his house and they went to the bank. After not hearing from Hollis all the next morning, I went to his apartment. The sliding door was left open for me. Entering the bedroom I found H curled on his side on his bed. There was a fan blowing air at him. My dear friend drowned.
There is a Them vs. Us blame game going on in Washington where we have seen a Republican Witch-hunt going on since Obama took office. CBS News carried many stories on the back-log at the VA. The Republican Congress had to have seen some of these broadcasts. Why did not one of these alleged Patriots champion at least one Vet?
I have been receiving SSI for a number of years. I get around $700 dollars a month to live on. I found I had money to spare when it came to helping a friend and veteran thanks to a special needs trust that handled my uncle’s generosity to all his kindred. Uncle Vinnie had no children due to my aunt’s condition. He was a veteran. I adopted Hollis after his death, and consider him the son Vinnie never had. You can say I played God.
At Hollis’s memorial, I gave a simple eulogy….
“I will not leave you as orphans in the world!”
What I suggest is that every congressman, senator, and mayor of a major city, contact the Elks Society and Adopt a Veteran. This way our nation’s leaders will not have to rely on any national news to get a report on how our Veterans are faring in the world.
To Kimani, Julia
May 1, 2013
Thank you for your interest, Julia
Hollis was 58 when he died. I am 66. He suffered from homelessness for 10 years. He was loved by many. He was denied Medical and SSI as far back as 2008. Only when I and Pat helped Hollis jump through many hoops, was he given SSI three months ago, and a permanent place to live via HUD-Vash. However his heart was bad due to a soup-kitchen diet and smoking, and he died.
I’m a producer with the CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley and I’m working on a piece about the VA backlogs and how in spite of these backlogs, and other issues some administrators were given bonuses. I ran across your blog/tribute to your friend Hollis and saw that you believe he might still be alive if he had not been denied medical help by the U.S. Government– the VA, SSI, or Medicare. I’d love to talk to you more about this. Could you please email me with your contact info, or give me a call. My contact info is below. Hope to talk to you soon.
Hollis was a survivor. We talked about young veterans becoming homeless and how his way of life could barely sustain him. He collected cans in front of Safeway whom I talked to about having folks who return cans donate all, or some to homeless vets. I have not heard back from them. I believe they fear they will become a mecca.
I adopted Hollis through the Elks Society after he died. I tried to get my Special Needs Trust to pay for his funeral because I did not want him declared an indigent. I am not a vet. I was drafted in 1966, but because of grave emotional problems I was classified 4F. I was an original hippie who supported the troops. I marched on Washington in 1971 – for peace. I believe people should adopt homeless vets and help them over the hurdles. I bought Hollis bus passes and cellphone time.
You may be more interested in the crisis that new vets are going thru.
Let me add that I found Hollis dead in his bed after he failed to make his daily call. The 911 operator wanted me to try CPR, but when I felt his wrist for a pulse, he was cold.
The reason I was classified 4F was I told the army shrink about my childhood friend suiciding on my 18th. birthday. Years a later when I suggested to Bill’s sister he killed himself to get out of going into the army, she said;
“We were born in the army. Our father was a career officer.”
She then told me her father beat Bill most every night. He had become unhinged and the army got rid of him. When he threw his son out of his home, he came to live with us. Bill was homeless.
Attached is the painting my sister did titled ‘The Crossing’. Christine told me this is how she dealt with Bill’s death, he hit by a train after driving on to the railroad tracks at night, and turning off his healights. This is the crisis I see coming for Vets who are not being treated for PTSD. My famous sister suffered, as did Bill’s sister who keeps a gun under her pillow so she can blow her brains out when the memory of those beatings get real bad. PTSD lasts a lifetime. Bill’s father more then likely suffered from PTSD.
If you’ve ever been hospitalized, you know the loneliness and depression you can experience. Think how tough it must be for hospitalized veterans, especially those who are far from home or have no family. With that thought in mind, George Schwarz of Clawson-Troy, Michigan, Lodge devised a simple yet effective solution in 1980: the Adopt-a-Veteran program.
His idea proved so successful that it was picked up by the National Veterans Service Commission in 1983. Each year, Elks Lodges across the nation adopt tens of thousands of veterans. The Elks visited with them on their birthdays and holidays and showered them with gifts and attention. They took those who could leave the medical centers out to dinner, and brought dinner to those who couldn’t. Elks provide entertainment, recreation to liven their spirits. The Elks provided these men and women with comfort, companionship, cheer and understanding, and in the process helped lift some of their loneliness.
The object of the Adopt-a-Veteran program is to make the veteran know that they are part of our family , to replace despair with hope, loneliness with fellowship, sadness with joy, and to prove our motto, “So long as there are Veterans, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks will never forget them.”
If you’re an Elk and would like to start a program of your own, or augment an existing program, National Adopt a Veteran Chairman Stewart Israel of Plymouth, MI Lodge No. 1780, has created several informative documents to walk you throug the process. Visit our Adopt-a-Veteran Program page for more information.
I talked to you earlier about my friend, Hollis Williams.
If Safeway gave the option to donate redeemed can slips to homeless vets, I think many will say “Yes”
Monies could be used to hire homeless vets to work in community gardens and grow porduce for kitchens for the hungry. Vets could be hired, or, volenteer during peek hours to recieve cans and feed them into recycle machines they would know how to maintain. This would help Safeway employees. Vets could wear name tags in form of flag. Customers will love the opportunity to help those who served.
Monies could be used to pay for funerals of unfamilied vets. I tried to do this for Hollis with my trust monies, but, was given the wrong information. I did not want him declared an indigent and thrown away. I adopted Hollis through the Elks Association.
Dear Kitty Piercy
My dear friend Hollis passed away on March 8th. He was a homeless Veteran for many years and had been placed in an apartment two months ago by HUD-VASH. He also received funds from The Vet-Vincent De Paul program. Because Hollis has no next of kin, I adopted him through the Elks Society, and am paying for his cremation with monies from a Special Needs Trust. I am on SSI. Mr. Williams is now my son. I did not want him to be treated like a unfamilied pauper – after he is dead!
The people at HUD-VASH have been very helpful, however, they have no funding in order to make sure Veterans like Hollis – have not served in vain! For this reason, I have established the Hollis Williams Memorial Fund at Selco Community Credit Union. At Hollis’ memorial, I will present the idea that if we collect $1,005 dollars, then Hollis himself can pay for the burial cost of the next Homeless Vet who dies unfamilied. This is the passing of a baton amongst a Band of Brothers. Here is a hand from heaven lifting up the next Homeless Veteran who passes on.
I am not a Veteran. I was drafted in 1966, but because of grave emotional problems I was classified 4F.
I have always respected those who served, and have considered them my brothers.
The memorial will be at the Campbells Senior Center 155 High St. at 1:30 Sunday the 17th.
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota’s Sen. Al Franken is pushing for legislation that would help ease the back log of claims filed by veterans who are in need of benefits.
Franken, along with Rep. Tim Walz, are trying to find ways to make the process more efficient.
Franken said proposed change would allow doctors outside the Veteran Affairs system to treat and diagnose veterans.
“These are men and women who have put everything on the line for us, and we sent them into war and it’s our job to take care of them if they come back with disabilities,” Franken said.
Franken says nearly 500,000 benefit claims are stuck, caught up in a back log, forcing many to wait months for help.
Boehner resists calls for US veterans chief ouster, blames Obama
By Susan Cornwell and David Lawder
WASHINGTON Thu May 29, 2014 12:28pm EDT
May 29 (Reuters) – Republicans stepped up their attacks on the Obama administration over a deepening Veterans Affairs healthcare delay scandal on Thursday, but House Speaker John Boehner again declined to join a growing list of lawmakers calling for VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign.
At a news briefing, Boehner said he was not still convinced that Shinseki’s ouster would solve the VA’s problems. Instead, he sought to keep the pressure on President Barack Obama for VA scheduling abuses that covered up monthslong delays for veterans’ medical care appointments.
“I’m going to continue to reserve judgment on General Shinseki,” Boehner said. “The question I ask myself is, is him resigning going to get us to the bottom of the problem, is it going to help us find out what is really going on? The answer is no.”
On Wednesday, the Department of Veterans Affairs’ inspector general confirmed “systemic” and widespread manipulation of data that understated appointment waiting times, prompting both Democratic and Republican lawmakers to call for Shinseki to quit.
In an interim report on an investigation into secret waiting lists at VA facilities in Phoenix, the inspector general said it was now probing appointment data manipulation at 42 VA locations nationwide.
Asked who should replace Shinseki, Boehner said the key priority was getting to the bottom of the problems at the VA.
“The real issue here is the president is the one who should be held accountable,” Boehner said.
The Ohio Republican added that it was “rather shocking” that Obama has professed no knowledge of the scandal when the VA inspector general and the Government Accountability Office have flagged scheduling problems at the VA for years.
The scandal exploded earlier this month after VA doctors in Phoenix came forward with allegations that some 40 veterans had died while waiting months for primary-care appointments.
The inspector general’s report confirmed that 1,700 veterans were being held on a secret waiting list that allowed Phoenix VA officials to report much shorter waiting times, data that was used in bonus award calculations.
Republican Representative Peter King said Boehner told House Republicans in a closed-door meeting that he was concerned that simply replacing Shinseki might give the impression that the VA’s problems were solved and it “may end the whole situation too quickly.”
Republican lawmakers have been formulating strategy to use the VA troubles in their re-election campaigns for November, portraying them as another example of Obama administration mismanagement rivaling the botched launch of health insurance reforms.
The chorus of lawmakers calling for Shinseki to leave grew on Thursday with Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida joining the fray, saying that the inspector general’s report “not only confirmed our worst fears about rampant mismanagement and institutional neglect at the VA, it also revealed the problem is even worse than we thought.”
Rubio is sponsoring a bill that would be identical to House-passed legislation that would give the VA secretary more authority to fire or demote executives for poor performance. (Additional reporting by Richard Cowan; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)
EAST MEADOW, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — They served our country and then are told to wait for government benefits. A massive backlog at the Department of Veterans Affairs has had some waiting for years.
But as CBS 2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported Friday, with Memorial Day fast approaching, there appears to be some relief in sight.
Robert Wright served as an Army sergeant in Vietnam. He watched planes drop Agent Orange on forests and crops. Now, 45 years later, he’s diagnosed with diabetes and nerve damage. But when he filed for Veterans Disability benefits, he was told, he’d have to wait.
“Every few weeks they said ‘We’re working on it. You’re in the pile,’ I guess,” Wright said. “It would be one to three years to hear back from the military.”
He’s not alone. There is a huge backlog. More than 873,000 veterans are waiting for claim decisions. The reason: an antiquated paper filing system; plus a flood of new claims from Vietnam vets who are getting older.
“They need every piece of help we can [give]. That was our promise to them — you serve our country, we will be there for you,” said Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.).
The backlog has prompted McCarthy to sponsor a package of bills that would help the VA modernize and move claims along faster.
“They’re doing their best, but it’s not acceptable for our veterans,” McCarthy said.
Just this week, Veterans Affairs announced a goal of ending the backlog within two years, saying, “Veterans are waiting too long for earned benefits. That has never been acceptable and we have an aggressive plan in place to end the backlog in 2015.”
The VA plans to prioritize the oldest claims, pay overtime for claims processors and finally end paper processing.
“The Army says hurry up and wait, so hopefully these boys don’t have to hurry up and wait like years past,” Robert Wright said.
“People don’t have the resources to wait,” added Regina Wright, Robert’s wife.
After a year and a half, and the help of Rep. McCarthy, Robert Wright is now finally collecting disability benefits. The congresswoman said until the system is fixed, veterans should seek help from their members of Congress to prod the system along.
There are 22 million living American veterans, and over the last four years, more than 4 million disability claims were processed, officials said.
Reblogged this on rosamondpress and commented:
Several days ago I awoke from my nap in time to watch CBS News. I was half awake, thinking I was dreaming and having a nightmare. I was composing how I could resolve my conflict with SLEEPS who cam after me when I asked for an accounting. Later Trump goes to was with Fox News and will not attend the debate. Instead he will conduct a carny show and use wounded vets for political gain. Some Vet groups are protesting this sick abuse by a monster who is out for personal power – for kicks! He wants to see how much power the people will hand over to him for no good reason at all. “http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/28/us/wounded-warrior-project-spends-lavishly-on-itself-ex-employees-say.html?_r=0