Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Senate and House Veterans Affairs Committees Snow Job

Wounded Times
Kathie Costos
August 5, 2014

The longer problems for veterans goes on, the more it seems as if the Senate and House Veterans Affairs Committees are pulling a snow job on veterans.

A new poll from NBC says voters are not happy with congress. Majority disapprove of their own House member but the other part of this is, "Americans’ frustration with Congress is reflected in other polls, too: just 3% said they thought Congress had been “very productive” this year in a recent NBC News/Marist poll."

Well, my fellow Americans, welcome to the world veterans have lived in for decades. They haven't been happy in, well, forever.

As much as I frankly do not like the national news stations, especially cable news, CNN did do a pretty good job of trying to explain how long veterans have suffered while members of congress just promised them everything, usually around election time and they needed the votes. Here are some highlights.

The VA's troubled history
CNN) -- Scandal, controversy and veterans care in the United States have gone hand-in-hand for virtually as long as there's been a republic.
After the Revolutionary War, for instance, payments promised by Congress to disabled veterans were left up to the states, and only a few thousand of those who served ever received anything, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
1932 -- Thousands of World War I veterans and their families march on Washington to demand payment of promised war bonuses. In an embarrassing spectacle, federal troops forcibly remove veterans who refuse to end their protest.
1984 -- Congressional investigators find evidence that VA officials had diverted or refused to spend more than $40 million that Congress approved to help Vietnam veterans with readjustment problems, the Washington Post reports at the time.
2003 -- A commission appointed by President George W. Bush reports that as of January 2003, some 236,000 veterans had been waiting six months or more for initial or follow-up visits, "a clear indication," the commission said, "of lack of sufficient capacity or, at a minimum, a lack of adequate resources to provide the required care."
2009 -- The VA discloses that than 10,000 veterans who underwent colonoscopies in Tennessee, Georgia and Florida were exposed to potential viral infections due to poorly disinfected equipment. Thirty-seven tested positive for two forms of hepatitis and six tested positive for HIV. VA Director Eric Shinseki initiates disciplinary actions and requires hospital directors to provide written verification of compliance with VA operating procedures. The head of the Miami VA hospital is removed as a result, the Miami Herald reports.

We can also rely on CSPAN and their video coverage. While listening to members of congress talk can be less attractive than going to the dentist, these videos are vital to anyone wanting to know how we got where we are. Think of them as a GPS to let you know how to get away from the big rig on bald tires. JULY 10, 1989
Agent Orange Studies The subcommittee held a hearing on Agent Orange studies. Witnesses from the Office of Technology Assessment, the VA and the Air Force testified that numerous Agent Orange studies
JUNE 9, 1994
Gulf War Veteran Benefits Secretary Brown spoke about the administration’s decision to afford Gulf War veterans benefits for the "Gulf War Syndrome"
MARCH 6, 2001
Veterans Affairs Budget Witnesses testified about veterans issues and funding needs for the department. Among the issues they addressed were benefits claims procedures and delays,
JUNE 10, 2003
Veterans Affairs Operations Officials testified about recent reports of fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement in the Veterans Administration. Among the topics they addressed were absentee doctors
SEPTEMBER 11, 2003
Veterans' Hospitals Consolidation and Closure Witnesses testified about a proposal to scale back, consolidate or close selected Veterans' Administration health care…

Yes you read that right! By this time troops were in Afghanistan and Iraq yet these yahoos were talking about closing down VA hospitals.

FEBRUARY 4, 2004
Fiscal Year 2005 Veterans Affairs Budget Witnesses testified about the fiscal year 2005 budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs. Among the topics they addressed were services provided, efforts to make delivery of service more efficient, and moving away from hospital based health care.
DECEMBER 12, 2007
Veterans Mental Health Care The House Committee on Veterans' Affairs held a hearing to examine and identify mental health challenges within the Department of Veterans Affairs health care system, including increasing numbers of cases of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), suicide, substance abuse, and homelessness. Witnesses included the parents of Specialist Tim Bowman (U.S. Army, Illinois National Guard, Bravo Troop, 106th Calvary), who committed suicide, authors with personal connections to the problem, and representatives of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Due to the length of testimony some other witness were deferred to a later hearing.

Penny Coleman is the author of Flashback: Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Suicide, And the Lessons of War, published by Beacon Press, Ilona Meagher is the author of Moving a Nation to Care: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and America’s Returning Troops, published by Ig Publishing.
MAY 6, 2008
Suicides of Veterans Department of Veterans Affairs officials testified about charges the department had misled the public about the numbers of suicides committed by active duty personnel and veterans. Committee chairman Bob Filner accused the agency of criminal negligence in the handling of data about the number of veterans who have committed suicide of being more concerned about how data was interpreted than the health of veterans. Veterans Affairs Secretary James Peake told panel members the agency is actively reaching out to veterans to encourage them to get help if they are at risk for suicide.
JULY 31, 2008
Veterans Administration Spending Practices The Veterans Affairs Committee held an oversight hearing on the issue of overspending at Department of Veterans' Affairs. Witnesses testified about lapses in competitive bidding, poor auditing programs, and lack of financial mechanisms to control spending.

There are a lot more of these videos but as with everything else, it all boils down to what they really intended to achieve. Was it to take care of veterans or was it to pretend they were doing enough to get their votes again?

This video is from a hearing on disabled veterans. It is from February of 2014 months before the "crisis" House members decided they would scream about. FEBRUARY 25, 2014
Disabled Veterans Officials from the Disabled American Veterans organization outlined their 2014 legislative priorities at a joint hearing of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees. In opening remarks, the organization’s national commander Joseph Johnston said the highest priority was to make advanced appropriations for all Veterans Affairs Department funding accounts, including mandatory disability payments. Topics during questioning included the backlog of veterans benefit claims, veterans' homelessness, and VA infrastructure funding.

Summing this up think of it this way. There are some folks doing whatever they can to avoid going to the dentist. Lose a filling, they take Super Glue and stick it back in the hole. While this may look ok on the outside, it erodes the rest of the tooth and by the time they are forced to do the right thing, so much damage is done, the tooth gets pulled leaving a hole. That is what congress has been doing. Filling the whole long enough to get past the next election hoping what they "did" will hold long enough so one on notices they didn't do the right thing in the first place. In the long run, more pain is caused and it costs a lot more money to fix the problem. All too often, it is beyond repair. Are we really going to let them do this to the VA and our veterans?

When do we hold them accountable?