Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act

One America News is reporting today that President Trump signed the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act after speaking at the American Legion’s National Convention in Reno.

The wtkr website explains one of the provisions of  the bill:

…makes it easier for veterans to appeal decisions on disability claims through the Department of Veterans Affairs. A White House spokesman said there are currently 470,000 veterans waiting to hear a decision on their appeal claims.

The article at One America News reminds us:

The President mentioned several bills he has signed as a part of his ten point VA Reform Plan, including the Accountability Bill, the Veteran’s Choice Bill, and the Forever GI Bill.

Because so few American families have a family member serving in the military, we sometimes overlook the sacrifices these men and women and their families make. The people serving in our military are often overlooked in the budgeting process. We need to be sure that we fully support them as they protect our freedom. I believe that this bill and the previous bills signed by President Trump are a step in the right direction.

 

This Should Have Been Done Long Ago

Yesterday The Daily Caller reported that the Trump Administration is dealing with the corruption and other problems that have plagued the Department of Veterans Affairs in recent years.

The article reports:

Days into Donald Trump’s administration, heads are finally beginning to roll at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Two notoriously corrupt employees in Puerto Rico were fired this week, indicating that more may be on the way.

One is the hospital’s CEO, DeWayne Hamlin, who offered an employee $305,000 to quit after she played a role in exposing his drug arrest.

“Mr. DeWayne Hamlin was removed from federal service effective January 20, 2017”–inauguration day–the VA said.

Currently Robert Snyder is currently Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

By order of the President of the United States, Mr. Snyder was appointed as the Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs effective January 20, 2017, pending the swearing in of the next Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

Prior to this appointment, Mr. Snyder served as the Department’s Interim Chief of Staff, appointed by Secretary Robert A. McDonald on January 18, 2016.

The Daily Caller further reports:

Under former Secretary of Veterans Affairs Bob McDonald, the agency ignored years of evidence about shoddy work ethic, theft and whistleblower retaliation. The VA finally began a months-long investigative proceeding last year, after an outside agency, the Office of Special Counsel, prodded VA leadership.

…In December, Sen. Jeff Flake introduced a bill requiring the VA to stop hiring felons, and to fire the ones that already work there. The American Federation of Government Employees union has refused to say publicly whether it opposes the bill.

During the Obama administration, eleven sex offenders listed the Detroit VA hospital alone as their work address; some of them were fugitives wanted by local police, but the VA cited employee privacy.

Hiring felon is a difficult issue. As a society we need to give people the opportunity to succeed, but wisdom is required. I think putting sex offenders to work in a hospital lacks common sense. Felons need jobs where they are closely supervised and can learn to be an asset to the business that employs them. Putting them to work in situations were people are extremely vulnerable does not make sense.

Hopefully the Senate will quit fooling around and confirm President Trump’s nominations for his cabinet. It really is time to drain the swamp!

Standing Up For Our Military

The Washington Examiner posted an article today about a House of Representatives vote on housing illegal aliens.

The article reports:

House Republicans voted Thursday to ban the Defense Department from housing illegal immigrants on military bases, which might force President Obama’s team to develop an alternative plan for housing the unaccompanied children arriving on the southern border.

“By proving housing for illegal immigrants on military installations, we are wasting scarce defense dollars that should be used to train and equip our soldiers to fight our nation’s wars,” Rep. John Fleming, R-La. He proposed his solution as an amendment to legislation that funds the Department of Veterans Affairs and other military-related issues, and it passed 219-202.

Our military are overextended and have equipment that they don’t have enough spare parts for and the government is considering using their budget to help people here illegally.

The article further reports:

Fleming’s amendment passed by a narrow margin considering the GOP’s 246-seat majority. Twenty-two Republicans voted against the measure, while six didn’t vote at all. Two Democrats — Rep. Brad Ashford, D-Neb., and Rep. Brendan Boyle, D-Pa. — voted in favor of the bill.

The amendment should have passed unanimously–there is no excuse to take money that is supposed to be for our military and give it to people who are here illegally.

Time For New Management

Yesterday The Washington Examiner posted a story yesterday that illustrates the poor management of the Veteran’s Administration.

The story reports:

The Department of Veterans Affairs’ Office of Inspector General (OIG) on Wednesday confirmed that more than one-third of the people thought to be seeking eligibility for VA benefits are deceased, and said many of them have been dead for more than four years.

The OIG report confirms the worst fears of members of Congress, whosaid in July that they would investigate unsubstantiated claims that thousands of veterans died before they ever became eligible for VA benefits.

Scott Davis, a VA employee and whistleblower, has dismissed the findings of the OIG. He claims that the independent investigator has no way of knowing how many veterans died seeking care. That may be, but if the number is one veteran, that is one too many.

The article states:

“We can’t say what’s what because of flaws in the enrollment system, and the flaws exist basically because the people responsible for fixing it haven’t,” he (Scott Davis) said.

Davis said the main official responsible for the VA’s Health Eligibility Center, Stephanie Mardon, should be fired for keeping such poor records, which even the OIG said is hurting efforts to get care to veterans. “Overstated pending enrollment records create unnecessary difficulty and confusion in identifying and assisting veterans with the most urgent need for health care enrollment,” it said.

But Davis also said the OIG report gives the VA, and the Obama administration, the tools it needs to start fixing the problem.

In July of 2014, Robert A. McDonald became Secretary of Veterans Affairs. It seems to me that there needs to be a way of mapping whatever progress he is making in fixing the problems the Veterans Administration has had in recent years. If things have not changed by July 2016, it is time to consider either replacing Secretary McDonald or disbanding the Veterans Administration and allowing veterans to seek medical care outside of the Veterans Administration at the same cost.

Does Integrity Matter?

Should a government official lose his job for doing something that is routinely done in bars all over America every night of the week? That is one way to look at the situation surrounding Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald. This is actually a really sad story. In an effort to relate to a homeless veteran, Secretary McDonald stated that he had served in the Special Forces. Unfortunately the moment was caught on camera. The sad part of this story is that Secretary McDonald is a military veteran (despite the fact that he was not in the Special Forces) and obviously has compassion for military veterans. The fact is that he lied. The question is, “How significant is that?” Actually, I think it is rather significant–if I were in the Special Forces and had seen action, I would resent someone who hadn’t served there claiming he had.

Yesterday The Washington Examiner posted an article noting the news coverage of this incident.

The article states:

A majority of headlines this week have characterized Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald’s claim that he served in the Army’s Special Forces as a “misstatement” and a “false claim.” Very few have referred to his admitted fabrication as a “lie.”

McDonald, who qualified but never served as a Ranger and did not serve in Special Forces, apologized this week for the falsehood.

Headlines from the Huffington Post, the Washington Free Beacon, the Washington Examiner, the Hill and Military Times have used variations of “falsely claimed” in headlines regarding McDonald’s fabrication.

I hate to be difficult, but I can’t help but wonder if this event would have been reported differently if a Republican were in the White House.

This Is Just Wrong

The Congressional Budget Office website has posted a suggestion for cutting our military spending. As usual, it is a suggestion that does nothing to solve the bureaucracy problem–it just takes money away from people who were actually promised benefits.

Aside from the toll twenty or more years in the military takes on families, it also takes a physical toll on the soldiers. Many of our retiring soldiers also collect disability pay for various injuries suffered in the course of their service. These injuries include war injuries, but they also include more simple (but often painful) injuries acquired in the various physical requirements of service. Under the current program, soldiers with injuries collect disability pay (the amount is based on the severity of the injuries) as well as retirement pay. The Obama Administration is wanting to change that.

The article explains:

Military service members who retire—either following 20 or more years of military service under the longevity-based retirement program or early because of a disability—are eligible for retirement annuities from the Department of Defense (DoD). In addition, veterans with medical conditions or injuries that were incurred or worsened during active-duty military service (excluding those resulting from willful misconduct) are eligible for disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Until 2003, military retirees who were eligible for disability compensation could not receive both their full retirement annuity and their disability compensation. Instead, they had to choose between receiving their full retirement annuity from DoD or receiving their disability benefit from VA and forgoing an equal amount of their DoD retirement annuity; that reduction in the retirement annuity is generally referred to as the VA offset. Because the retirement annuity is taxable and disability compensation is not, most retirees chose the second alternative.

As a result of several laws, starting with the National Defense Authorization Act for 2003, two classes of retired military personnel who receive VA disability compensation (including those who retired before the enactment of those laws) can now receive payments that make up for part or all of the VA offset, benefiting from what is often called concurrent receipt. Specifically, retirees whose disabilities arose from combat are eligible for combat-related special compensation (CRSC), and veterans who retire with 20 or more years of military service and who receive a VA disability rating of 50 percent or more are eligible for what is termed concurrent retirement and disability pay (CRDP). CRSC is exempt from federal taxes, but CRDP is not; some veterans would qualify for both types of payments but must choose between the two.

This option would eliminate concurrent receipt of retirement pay and disability compensation beginning in 2015: Military retirees currently drawing CRSC or CRDP would no longer receive those payments, nor would future retirees. As a result, the option would reduce federal spending by $108 billion between 2015 and 2023, the Congressional Budget Office estimates.

This is not the place to cut government spending. One of the things President Obama has done in office has been to undo the welfare reforms put in place by the Clinton Administration. Going back to those regulations, which actually decreased welfare rolls and put people back to work, would seriously reduce government spending. We need to give money to people who have earned it–not people who have not. When Congress recently did not extend the amount of time people could collect unemployment, unemployment went down. When you reward a behavior, it increases. We need to learn that lesson if we are ever going to cut government spending.

 

Rearranging The Deck Chairs On The Titanic

USA Today is reporting today that President Obama has accepted the resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki. Fox News is reporting today that the President has also accepted the resignation of Jay Carney as White House press secretary.

USA Today reports:

Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson will take temporary charge of the department, Obama said, adding that he will nominate a new permanent secretary soon.

Obama began what he called a “serious conversation” with Shinseki Friday just hours after the VA secretary apologized to all veterans and the nation for scandal involving the systemic delay of health care to veterans.

While accepting Shinseki’s resignation, Obama went out of his way to praise the retired four-star general.

“He is a very good man,” Obama said. “He’s been an outstanding soldier. He’s a good person who’s done exemplary work.”

Secretary Shinseki is an outstanding soldier, but he obviously did not have the management skills to solve the problem at the VA. It is questionable if any person alive has those management skills. I suspect Mitt Romney does, but obviously, his talents will not be tapped.

Fox News reports:

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney is stepping down, ending a lengthy term in what is considered one of Washington’s toughest jobs. 

Carney has served as President Obama’s lead spokesman since 2011. The president interrupted Carney’s daily press briefing to announce his departure, calling him one of his “closest friends” and a trusted adviser. 

Noting Carney’s background as a reporter, Obama said: “I actually think he will miss hanging out with all of you.”

Jay Carney used to be a reporter. I wish him well in future endeavors, but I have to admit that I will never again believe anything he reports.

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A Backdoor Approach To Limiting The Right Of Veterans To Own Guns ?

For the past day of so, a number of ‘facebook friends’ have posted links to articles about veterans being denied the right to own guns. I waited to post this article until I saw the letter involved and was able to see who sent it.

The Blaze posted the story on Friday along with a copy of the relevant letter. The letter was written by the Oregon Department of Veteran’s Affairs.

One paragraph from the letter states:

“A determination of incompetency will prohibit you from purchasing, possessing, receiving, or transporting a firearm or ammunition. If you knowingly violate any of these prohibitions, you may be fined, imprisoned, or both pursuant to the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, Pub.L.No. 103-159, as implemented at 18, United States Code 924(a)(2).”?

An article at Red Flag News states:

The letter provides no specifics on the reasons for the proposed finding of incompetency; just that is based on a determination by someone in the VA. In every state in the United States no one can be declared incompetent to administer their own affairs without due process of law and that usually requires a judicial hearing with evidence being offered to prove to a judge that the person is indeed incompetent. This is a requirement of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that states that no person shall “… be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law…”.

The writer at Red Flag News further asks:

“If you are receiving a Social Security check will you get one of these letters? Will the government declare that you are incompetent because of your age and therefore banned from firearm ownership?” Connelly wrote. “It certainly fits in with the philosophy and plans of the Obama administration. It is also certain that our military veterans don’t deserve this and neither do any other Americans.”

This bears watching.

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