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A foreboding change at the VA

by Dan Burns on March 29, 2018 · 0 comments

Well, it’s not Fox half-wit Pete Hegseth (cf. four posts down on this page), at least not yet, but it is someone similarly unqualified by any valid standard – though highly skilled at smooching Donald Trump’s butt.
 

President Trump has chosen his doctor, Ronny Jackson—the man who went on TV to publicly affirm that the president’s brain is not a bowl of rotting peas—to be his new Secretary of Veterans Affairs. And now, we have confirmation from an anonymous White House official that Jackson got the job in part because of just how well he went on TV and said yes, the president’s brain is good.
 
According to CNN, “Trump liked the way Jackson handled himself with reporters” when he gave a press conference on the results of the president’s physical, which included his insistence that the president is NOT obese and that his brain is NOT falling apart like a cake left in the rain, but instead is Normal. At the press conference, Jackson said he had “no reason whatsoever to think that the president has any issues whatsoever with his thought process.”
(Splinter)

Former Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin used an op-ed late Wednesday to blast “the environment in Washington” that “has turned so toxic, chaotic, disrespectful and subversive that it became impossible for me to accomplish the important work” of his job.
(CNN)

Looking at what came up when I did an online search right now, corporate media is generally spinning this as being mostly about a pricey jaunt Shulkin took on the taxpayers’ dime. In other words, they’re largely downplaying the reality, which is that Shulkin is gone because he was seen as an obstacle to the greedheads’ plans to start strip-mining veterans’ medical care for profit, ASAP.
 

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veteransOne one hand the Trump budget calls for a big boost in the Veterans Administration budget, which is a rare bit of positive news from that for the most part extremist wish-list. On another:
 

But others in the administration want a much more drastic change: They seek to privatize vets’ health care. From perches in Congress, the White House and the VA itself, they have battled (VA secretary David) Shulkin. In some instances, his own subordinates have openly defied him.
 
Multiple publications have explored the turmoil and conflict at the VA in the wake of the inspector general report. Yet a closer examination shows the roots of the fight stretch back to the presidential campaign and reveals how far the entropy of the Trump administration has spread. Much has been written on the “chaos presidency.” Every day seems to bring exposés of White House backstabbing and blood feuds. The fight over the VA shows not only that this problem afflicts federal agencies, too, but that friction and contradiction were inevitable: Trump appointed a VA secretary who wants to preserve the fundamental structure of government-provided health care; the president also installed a handful of senior aides who are committed to a dramatically different philosophy.
(ProPublica)

There was a report yesterday that one of Shulkin’s top staffers tried to get him fired.
 

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trump10Though he actually made a sane choice to head the VA, at least for now, the following is probably much more indicative of the administration’s plans.
 

Donald Trump signed an order (Jan. 23) that freezes pay for hundreds of thousands of veterans, potentially shuts tens of thousands more out of a job, and seems to starve the Department of Veterans Affairs of workers it desperately needs.
 
“That didn’t take long. In just his third day in office, Donald Trump screwed hundreds of thousands of veterans out of better pay, and thousands more out of potential jobs,” said Peter Kauffmann, Senior Adviser to VoteVets. “Veterans who have families to feed, who may be saving up for a home, all of them have been let down by Donald Trump. This shouldn’t be shocking. Donald Trump lobbied New York to kick disabled veterans, working as vendors, out from in front of Trump Tower. He has always been hostile to working veterans.”
 
…The Executive Order, signed by Trump, freezes pay and hiring for all Federal agencies with few exemptions. The Federal workforce is 31% veteran, meaning roughly 623,000 veterans depend on Federal jobs and pay.
(VoteVets)

As far as how much worse things could get:
 
Trump is moving forward with plans to privatize veterans’ care (MSNBC)
 

A mixed message to vets: Veterans groups weren’t invited to Trump’s first VA “listening session” (Salon)
 
According to exit polls, which are not reliable for close, detailed analysis but have meaning when they’re really one-sided, veterans voted 2-1 for Trump. Getting the word out about matters like this may help reverse that. The old military guys I know may be stubborn, but for the most part they’re no fools.
 

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Romney: “Privatize Veterans Medical Care”

by TwoPuttTommy on November 17, 2011 · 0 comments

There’s a reason the New Hampshire Gazette has Willard Mitt Romney listed in it’s “Chickenhawk Hall Of Shame.”

And stuff like this is going to keep Romney in it:

Maybe some enterprising main-stream media type will ask if Kline, Paulsen, Bachmann & Cravaack are in with Mitt on this scheme to screw veterans for corporate gain?

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Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) has always used veterans as props at her campaign events while simultaneously stabbing them in the back with votes to cut funding to their programs and benefits.  Now that she’s a presidential candidate, she’s promising to defend veteran’s benefits.  Either she’s lying or this is a flip flop from her previous voting record.

But now that she’s running for president, Bachmann is billing herself as a great defender of veterans benefits. The Washington Independent reports that during a speech at the annual convention of the American Legion in Minneapolis last Thursday, Bachmann vowed to support and strengthen veterans medical care:

   “It is our duty, first and primarily, to protect our veterans and to make sure that you receive not only the respect, but also the care that you have paid for very heavily with your service to our nation,” Bachmann told members of the American Legion Thursday.

“As president, I will assure that those who serve today as well, and in the past, have the highest access to the best care, both of health, mental health and rehabilitative care that the world has to offer.”

But Bachmann’s January plan, which was touted as a way to avoid raising the debt ceiling, would have brought about dramatic cuts to veterans services.

Bachmann’s plan would have frozen the Veterans Affairs Department’s health care spending and reduced the amount veterans receive in Social Security Disability Income. The congresswoman offered no explanation for her sharp reversal on the issue, but it’s hard to interpret her promise to strengthen veterans benefits nine months after trying to cut them as anything other than empty pandering to an important political constituency.
(Think Progress)

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Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-MN) campaigned on Tea Party principles like small government, free markets and, especially, repealing health care reform.  Of course, Cravaack didn’t really believe in his principles strongly enough to forego his government health care that all Congresscritters get.  No, he signed up.

And he should know full well about socialized medicine — he’s a vet.

All veterans can go to the government-owned Veteran’s Administration clinics and hospitals across the country and get whatever ails them treated by government-paid MDs and RNs.  The highly qualified professionals take quite good care of their patients here in MN from what I gather.

BTW, he’s also quite familiar with the benefits of being in a union.  He’s a retired pilot.  He spent a number of years on disability because of sleep apnea … all because his pilot’s union fought for his rights.

It was a distant hope just a year ago. Cravaack was living the quiet life of a medically retired Northwest Airlines pilot, grounded at 48 with sleep apnea. “I can’t even fly a kite,” he said with the gallows humor of an airman who once taught formation flying and aerial acrobatics.

So when Cravaack talks about how awful socialized medicine is and how evil unions are, he’s lying.

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Veterans Day – Remembering My Brother Dave

by TwoPuttTommy on November 11, 2009 · 0 comments

Today, we honor veterans.  I remember my brother Dave, a Category 8 veteran, who passed away March 26th, 2008.  Dave served as a Lieutenant in the US Army; when my daughter is commissioned, I’ll have the honor of pinning his butter bars on her shoulders.

A fellow veteran emailed me a story from The Huffington Post:  “2,266 Veterans Died In 2008 Because They Were Uninsured”

According to a study released by the Harvard Medical School, 2,266 veterans under the age of 65 died last year as a result of not having health insurance. Researchers emphasize that “that figure is more than 14 times the number of deaths (155) suffered by U.S. troops in Afghanistan in 2008, and more than twice as many as have died (911 as of Oct. 31) since the war began in 2001.”

The 1.46 million working-age veterans that did not have health insurance last year all experienced reduced access to care as a consequence, leading to “six preventable deaths a day.”

Like other uninsured Americans, most uninsured vets are working people — too poor to afford private coverage but not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid or means-tested VA care,” said Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, a professor at Harvard Medical School. (HuffingtonPost.com):  

Were it not for family and friends, that would have been my brother Dave’s fate, years ago.    Dave simply could not afford rent, food, medications, doctor co-pays, and insurance – fortunately for him, family and friends were there to make up the difference.  Although an honorably discharged veteran, Dave did not qualify for VA health care.  By the time Dave applied to the VA, it was too late:  the Republican Party closed the door to Category 8 Veterans on January 17th, 2003.

Veterans deserve better than that.

And everybody deserves to be able to die with their dignity intact.  The op/ed I wrote about my brother Dave’s death, and was published by The Eden Prairie News, is below the fold.

 
Commentary: Government should stay out of end-of-life care
By Tommy Johnson
Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Yesterday, my family and I had to make one of the toughest decisions a family ever has to make: taking another family member off of life support systems, and allowing the loved one’s body to end this earthly life – as their soul already has.

Dave, as anyone and everyone that knew him, was fiercely independent. Dave was stricken with multiple sclerosis (MS); diagnosed 14 long and painful years ago. Slowly, his body fell apart, ravaged by this debilitating disease. Lately, we – as a family – have been wondering how Dave would transition from living independently to dependently living – as was Dave.

Dave had taken in cleaning help with the frequency slowly increasing. Reluctantly, Dave had been looking into home health care for hygiene, and started looking into available group homes.

Dave called last Saturday morning, and asked how soon we could come to his home – his legs collapsed on the way to the bathroom. Dave was flat on his back when we got there. It was the saddest sight – my once strong big brother; lying there – staring at the ceiling. Dave said it had taken him an hour and a half to crawl to the phone to call for help. He was having yet another MS attack. Dave had not the strength to get up.

I took him to the emergency room. On Tuesday afternoon, the hospital called – Dave had suffered “a setback.” When a nurse had checked on him, he had stopped breathing and his heartbeat was negligible. The trauma team took over 20 minutes to restore heartbeat. In intensive care, the doctor gave the bad news: it was not a question of if there was brain damage; it was how much damage. Then there was the list of organ damages. Add to that the years of MS, and the prognosis was – to say the least – “not good.”

Yesterday morning, after the specialists assessed the damages, it was determined Dave wasn’t getting better; Dave was getting worse. Furthermore, in the unlikely event Dave “recovered,” Dave wouldn’t be the same Dave of a week ago; my brother would be going to a nursing home – something Dave simply dreaded.

Family, clergy and medical conferred. Knowing what Dave would want, and more importantly, would not want, family knew Dave had suffered enough. Our pastor supported the decision; medical personnel also agreed.

Dave passed peacefully, painlessly and swiftly Wednesday, March 22, at around 4 in the afternoon.

This morning, I open the Op/Ed page, and find some lawmakers think they know better than family, clergy and medical practitioners how loved ones should face end-of-life care.

I pray no one reading this has to face the awful decision we, our clergy and medical providers faced. As awful as that decision is to make, I pray that this decision remains a decision you, your clergy and your medical providers can make – without government interference.

Tommy Johnson is a resident of Eden Prairie. Services for Dave Johnson were held Monday.

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Do You Know A Servicemember Who Needs Help Getting Treatment?

by Jason Forrester - Veterans For America on February 7, 2008 · 0 comments

Around the United States, including here in Minnesota, we see that the military is overwhelmed as it tries to assist servicemembers.

Here at Veterans For America, where I am proud to be Director of Policy, we are determined to do something to help the men and women who have served us. Part of our efforts include our easy-to-use registry that will help us get you the help you need (or help for someone you know).

Please click here to register with Veterans for America’s Wounded Warrior Registry.

If you or someone you know needs help, we will work to make sure that you get it — it’s as simple as that. We will answer every single request we get. Sometimes it can be just knowing how to fight through the bureaucracy and get the mental health appointment you need or it might be how to get your family counseling.

Please let us help you or someone you know get the help you need and deserve.

Veterans For America was founded over thirty years ago by Bobby Muller, who was paralyzed by a bullet in Vietnam while leading a Marine patrol.  Originally named the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation, VFA now works all across the country, focusing on the high rates of mental health problems and mild traumatic brain injuries (mTBI) as a result of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This Wounded Warrior Registry will help us determine how many military men and women need help and what is the best way to get them that help.

We also have recently published online “The American Veterans And Servicemembers Survival Guide.”Available free to all as a download, it is a great resource for veterans and servicemembers alike.

To learn more about what we do, and how we help servicemembers and veterans alike, please click here. Thank you for your help and support.

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Seven Months Without Care After a
Heart Attack in Iraq

My name is Sean.  I served in Iraq with the New Jersey National Guard. On August 16, 2006, I had a heart attack in Iraq. I was shipped to Germany for further care. In Germany they inserted a stent into my heart. I was in intensive care for 2 to 3 days. I really don’t know the exact time.  I was heavily drugged. I then spent a few days in the ward. On my last day the cardiologist told me that I had heart damage and it would never recover. He told me that when I got to the states I would be put on Community Based Outpatient Care (CBOC) and he wanted me to take 30 to 60 days of convalescent leave, then when that was over to have a cardiologist put me in Cardiac Rehab.

When I arrived at FT Knox I was sent to the care station there.  I explained what the cardiologist had wanted and showed the doctor the paperwork I was given. I was told that the convalescent leave was not needed because they would have me home in a matter of a week or two. As I was rushed through the process, I started to wonder what was happening.  I was told that I would get the care I needed when I got to my home state.  At the end, I realized that I was getting the run around.

I started asking for someone to put it in writing. I told the people in charge that I wasn’t leaving until I got assured I was going to get the care I needed.  My wife received a call that stated that everything was fine.  I was going to be put on CBOC.  I was going to be put on 6 months of orders to complete it. This assurance was left on the answering machine.

The Major in charge of the med hold company at Ft Knox called me into the office to ask what the problem was with me.  I told him that I was concerned that I would not get the care that was recommended by the Army assigned Cardiologist in Germany.  He told me to wait outside.  I waited.  He called me back in and told me, “You have been medically cleared by our doctor and you will get the HELL of the post ASAP.”  He also stated it was not his job to make sure what happened to me was “Right”.  It was his job to get me to the next station.

I was flown to FT McCoy and out processed.  The out processing took about 1 day and I was flown home the next day.  Since then I have not received the care I was promised.  The state of New Jersey has done everything they can to help but, the Army has not budged.  I was put in for Military Retention Processing Orders (MRP).  The request was denied by the Office of the Surgeon General.  An appeal was sent forward with the supporting documentation they asked for and it was again denied.  It has been 7 months since I had the heart attack and I still have not received my care.

Empowering Veterans wants your story of Healthcare Injustice. Visit http://www.empowerin… Click on the “Record Your  Story” tab and leave your story.

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Disabled Service Members – The 30% Pea Shell Game
  Or
How DOD is Short Changing Our Disabled Veterans

Congratulations, young man or woman! You were a patriotic member of the United States All Volunteer Military. You volunteered to serve with the full expectation that “Support the Troops” was not just empty rhetoric piously mouthed by politicians, generals, and the yellow-ribbon-displaying American public. You served honorably, sometimes with multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Unfortunately, you returned damaged to the point that you can no longer serve because of wounds, injury, illness, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). You must be discharged from active service. You have just earned entry into the official 30% Shell Game.

There are two players in the 30% Shell Game: the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). You are the pea.

Ah, but you ask, “What is the prize in this Game?” The answer is your health care and your family’s health care for the rest of your lives, as well as other benefits to which retired members of the Armed Forces are entitled.

How, you ask, is the game played? Let me explain and you will see:

The first player is the DOD who has already decided that you can no longer serve on active duty. They get to decide your level of disability. In this process, the DOD is not your friend.

The magic hurdle is a designation of 30% disability. At or above that hurdle you are retired from the military with full benefits for you and your family including Tri-Care, the health insurance that allows you and your family to acquire care in the civilian health care system. The catch for DOD is that they have to pay for both retirement pay and benefits.

Below the magic 30%, you are passed on to the next player, the VA. Now guess how eager the DOD is to keep you on their rolls. If you guessed not much, you would be correct. If you guessed not much and were in the Army, you would be twice as correct as if you were in the other services. The other services are almost twice as generous with the magic 30% disability designation as the Army; although, the Navy and Air Force are still pretty miserly. The Army rated less than 19 percent of those discharged for disability at or greater than 30% (<4% permanent and <15% temporary) while the Navy (includes the Marine Corps) was about 35 percent and the Air Force about 24%.  Oh sure, there are appeals and enough bureaucracy to give the appearance of fairness and due process -- if you have a lot of time and if you have the money to hire lawyers to fight on your behalf. "The Chain of Command," you ask? Forget it. Let's just say that if you were short of the magic 30% hurdle with DOD in the first place, you're unlikely to clear it on appeal.

You are now the VA’s pea in the great shell game with a few thousand dollars in severance from DOD. In all likelihood, if you deserved the 30% disability rating, you will get it from the VA.

Congratulations, you are now entitled to care in a VA facility and you get a lifelong disability check. Not so bad, huh? How about your family’s medical care you ask, forget it. How about if the nearest VA facility is hours away? Too bad. How about if you have PTSD? The VA mental health system is already overwhelmed. To add insult to injury you will not receive any disability payments until the severance pay you received from DOD has been fully repaid to the military.

Welcome to the world of “Supporting the Troops”

The logical question is, “Why a service member who volunteered and served honorably should be deprived of medical care for his family because he or she is forced to leave the service, where his or her family has medical care, due to a service connected disability that resulted for his or her honorable service?”  This sure does not sound honorable to me.  The next logical question is, “What should be done about it?”

I have a very simple solution: By decree, declare that if a service member must be medically discharged from active duty for a service-connected disability, they are by definition at least 30% disabled. Let the bureaucrats and politicians sort out the jurisdictional turf between DOD and the VA.

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Empowering Veterans wants the story of your first person experience with the 30% shell game. Please go to the website http://www.empowerin… and click on “Record Your Story” — we will publish it on the site as well as circulate it on the blogs.  See Paula Span’s story in the February 25 Washington Post Magazine for the account of a real soldier caught in the 30% Shell Game.  http://www.washingto…

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