Sunday, December 6, 2015

Don't Expect Congress to Fix VA This Time Either

Wow this sounds really bad! It is a great article on the reality of what veterans go through finding help from the VA. Now, while it may seem as if Congress was just clued in on what was going on, the truth is far from "new" and the reason behind why it has not improved has been forgotten about.
One year later, Choice Card having little impact on veterans’ care
Program does little to relieve VA backlog
San Antonio Express
By Martin Kuz, Staff Writer
December 5, 2015

Jose Campos wakes each morning suspended between present and past. He lies in bed in his San Antonio home as the pain in his body wrenches his mind back to Afghanistan.
Photo: Billy Calzada / San Antonio Express-News

During a patrol with his Marine unit in 2008, Campos, riding in an armored vehicle, suffered injuries to his back, legs and right arm when a roadside bomb exploded.

Seven years later, there are days when the former sergeant struggles to stand, trudging across his bedroom with the rigid gait of a man five decades older.

Campos, 38, has waited more than 30 days for appointments on multiple occasions when seeking medical treatment from the Veterans Affairs Department. His plight mirrors that of hundreds of thousands of veterans across the country.

The delays qualify them to receive private care through the Choice Card program.

The VA launched the $10 billion initiative in November 2014 to speed access to medical services and ease the burden on its nearly 1,000 hospitals and outpatient clinics.

Yet since then, the Choice Card has shown little effect in Texas and elsewhere.
read more here

The article says "one year later" but what it didn't tell you was the following.

In 2007 there was a report showing that the Clinton Administration/Congress left a huge backlog. Disability Cases Last Longer as Backlog Rises
The agency’s new plan to hire at least 150 new appeals judges to whittle down the backlog, which has soared to 755,000 from 311,000 in 2000, will require $100 million more than the president requested this year and still more in the future. The plan has been delayed by the standoff between Congress and the White House over domestic appropriations. Reported by Associated Press in 2008
But after the Bush Administration/Congress, this was what was left
The VA's claims backlog, which includes all benefits claims and all appeals at the Veterans Benefits Administration and the Board of Veterans Appeals at VA, was 803,000 on Jan. 5, 2009. The backlog hit 915,000 on May 4, 2009, a staggering 14 percent increase in four months.
VA secretary pledges to cut 5 weeks off wait
Peake promised to “virtually eliminate” the current list of 69,000 veterans who have waited more than 30 days for an appointment to get VA medical care. Such long waits runs counter to department policy, and a group of Iraq war veterans have filed a lawsuit alleging undue delays. He said VA plans to open 64 new community-based outpatient clinics this year and 51 next year to improve access to health care in rural areas.

And Congress acted on it. Or at least said they would fix the problem.
Rural Veterans Access to Care Act Rural Veterans Access to Care Act - Directs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to conduct a three-year pilot program under which a highly rural veteran who is enrolled in the system of patient enrollment of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and who resides within a designated area of the Veterans Integrated Service Network may elect to receive covered health services through a non-VA health care provider. Defines a "highly rural veteran" as one who: (1) resides more than 60 miles from the nearest VA facility providing primary care services, more than 120 miles from a VA facility providing acute hospital care, or more than 240 miles from a VA facility providing tertiary care (depending on which services the veteran needs); or (2) otherwise experiences such hardships or other difficulties in travel to the nearest appropriate VA facility that such travel is not in the best interest of the veteran. Requires an annual program assessment report, during the three-year period, from the Secretary to the congressional veterans' committees, which shall include recommendations for continuing the program.
And as the backlog kept growing, they thought this would be a good idea.
570,000 Iraq and Afghanistan vets to get calls from VA VA to call Iraq, Afghanistan veterans
The Associated Press
Posted : Thursday Apr 24, 2008
WASHINGTON — Iraq and Afghanistan veterans: Get ready for a phone call.

The Department of Veterans Affairs said Thursday that on May 1 it will start calling 570,000 recent combat veterans to make sure they know what services are available to them.

The first calls will go to about 17,000 veterans who were sick or injured while serving in the wars. If they don’t have a care manager, the VA says they will be given one.

The next round of calls will target 555,000 veterans from the wars who have been discharged from active duty, but have not reached out to the VA for services. For five years after their discharge from the military, Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have access to health care at the VA.

The effort will cost about $2.7 million and will be handled by a government contractor.

The agency has faced complaints that a backlog in claims and bureaucratic hurdles have prevented some recent veterans from getting proper mental and physical care. Earlier this week, two Democratic senators accused the VA’s top mental health official of trying to cover up the number of veteran suicides and said he should resign.

While all this pretty much sums up the lack of thought out of Congress as well as other administrations, it is also showing the press has lost their ability to report on how it all got this bad.

The latest reporting on how employees get bogus bonus money while veterans suffer is nothing new either. Report from last month Veterans Affairs pays $142 million in bonuses amid scandals
And from 2009 about 2007-2008
As vets await checks, VA workers get $24M bonuses in 2007 and 2008
By KIMBERLY HEFLING (AP) – 6 hours ago

WASHINGTON — Outside the Veterans Affairs Department, severely wounded veterans have faced financial hardship waiting for their first disability payment. Inside, money has been flowing in the form of $24 million in bonuses.

In scathing reports this week, the VA's inspector general said thousands of technology office employees at the VA received the bonuses over a two-year period, some under questionable circumstances. It also detailed abuses ranging from nepotism to an inappropriate relationship between two VA employees.

The inspector general accused one recently retired VA official of acting "as if she was given a blank checkbook" as awards and bonuses were distributed to employees of the Office of Information and Technology in 2007 and 2008. In some cases the justification for the bonuses was inadequate or questionable, the IG said.

The official, Jennifer S. Duncan, also engaged in nepotism and got $60,000 in bonuses herself, the IG said. In addition, managers improperly authorized college tuition payments for VA employees, some of whom were Duncan's family members and friends. That cost taxpayers nearly $140,000.

Separately, a technology office employee became involved in an "inappropriate personal relationship" with a high-level VA official. The technology office employee flew 22 times from Florida to Washington, where the VA official lived. That travel cost $37,000.
Veterans keep waiting, Congress keeps talking about them at the same time they try to make sure the VA fails so they can send veterans away to for profit healthcare, just while they are voting to kill Affordable Care Act?