Friday, May 23, 2014

Time for the nuclear option?

BULLY BOY PRESS &   CEDRIC'S BIG MIX -- THE KOOL-AID TABLE

FADED CELEBRITY BARRY O CONTINUES TO FLOUNDER IN THE FACE OF THE VA SCANDAL.

IT IS CONSUMING SO MUCH ATTENTION THAT HE'S CONSIDERING WHAT'S BEING DUBBED "THE NUCLEAR OPTION."

A WHITE HOUSE RAT TOLD THESE REPORTERS, "THE NIT-TIT PLAN IS THE NUCLEAR OPTION.  THE CELEBRITY IN CHIEF WOULD TAKE OFF HIS SHIRT AND GO THE ENTIRE WEEK TOPLESS WHILE IN PUBLIC AND BEFORE PHOTOGRAPHERS.  WHEN ASKED ABOUT IT, HE WOULD STROKE HIS NIPS AND COYLY ASK, 'YOU MEAN THESE?  DO YOU THINK I'M SEXY?  DO YOU THINK I'M PRETTY?'  AND AFTER A WEEK OF THIS, THE VA SCANDAL WOULD BE FORGOTTEN.  REMEMBER, THIS IS ON BACKGROUND.  I CAN'T LOSE MY JOY SO YOU CAN'T USE MY NAME OR EVEN MY TITLE.  IF YOU IDENTIFY ME AS 'WHITE HOUSE SPOKESPERSON,' EVERY ONE WILL KNOW IT'S ME JAY.  SO YOU CAN'T DO THAT, OKAY?"

WHEN THESE REPORTERS SPOKE TO BARRY O FOR CONFIRMATION ON THE NIT-TIT PLAN, HE GIGGLED AND SAID, "I'M NOT SAYING I AM DOING IT.  I'M NOT SAYING I'M NOT.  I AM SAYING THESE MOOBS ARE BOUNCY AND MEATY WITH PERKY NIPPLES AND MAYBE IT'S TIME THE COUNTRY FOCUSED ON THEM?"


FROM THE TCI WIRE:

Starting with the VA scandal.  Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Budget Committee and serves on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                            CONTACT: Murray Press Office
Thursday, May 22, 2014                                                                            (202) 224-2834
 
 
Murray: “What we need from VA now is decisive action and I think this Committee should be clear to the VA what we expect. The lack of transparency and the lack of accountability are inexcusable and cannot be allowed to continue.”
 
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) continued her push for action at the VA during the Senate Appropriations Committee’s first Full Committee Markup of the year. During consideration of the Military Construction and Veterans’ Affairs Appropriations bill, Murray reiterated her call for decisive, transparent action from the Department of Veterans Affairs to address the deep, system-wide problems when it comes to health care wait times. Murray also expressed support for provisions that would address those wait times and increase accountability through prohibiting the VA from awarding bonuses to VHA senior executives, medical directors, and assistant directors until the Inspector General completes a nation-wide review and the VA provides a plan to implement the recommendations.
The bill also funds Senator Murray’s key priorities for veterans, including mental health and suicide prevention, gender specific care for women veterans, Vet Centers, care for veterans in rural areas, and care for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.
 
Full Text of Senator Murray’s Remarks:
 
“I want to thank Chairman Johnson and Ranking Member Kirk and their staffs for all their work putting this bill together. 
 
“Like pretty much every American, I believe that when it comes to caring for our nation’s heroes, we cannot accept anything less than excellence.
 
“The VA and the Department generally offers very high quality health care—but it is really disappointing that the Department has failed to address wait times for that care.
 
“I was glad to see President Obama weigh in on this issue yesterday, but these recent allegations are not new issues – they are deep, system-wide problems, and they do grow more concerning every day. We should not be waiting to take action.
 
“The Inspector General and GAO have reported on this problem repeatedly for several years.  But many of the recommendations still have not been implemented by the VA.
 
“The Department has announced it’s going to conduct a nation-wide review of access to care.   And there have been some adjustments in personnel. But those are really only first steps. 
 
“There are still far too many unanswered questions about the review, including whether it is taking a serious look at the problem.
 
“As I told Secretary Shinseki last week, I continue to believe that he does take this seriously and wants to do the right thing.  But we really have come to the point where we need to have more than good intentions.
 
“What we need from VA right now is decisive action and I think this Committee mark should be very clear to the VA what we expect.
 
“The lack of transparency and the lack of accountability are inexcusable and cannot continue to be allowed. 
 
“Giving bonuses to hospital directors for running a system that places priority on gaming the system and keeping their numbers down rather than providing care to veterans – has to come to an end.  
 
“That is why I am very pleased the Subcommittee’s mark includes a provision to prohibit VA from awarding bonuses to VHA senior executives, medical directors, and assistant directors until the Inspector General completes a nation-wide review and  the VA provides a plan to implement the recommendations.
 
“And I also commend you Mr. Chairman for adding an extra $5 million to the Inspector General to conduct that review. 
 
“We cannot continue to not provide the resources for the care at the local level or for the IG to be able to conduct this very important review.
 
“So I really want to thank Chairman Johnson and Ranking Member Kirk for including those really important provisions in this bill and addressing wait times and increasing accountability. I think this takes a very important direction, and I appreciate it.
 
“There are other issues in this bill very important to all of us. I do want to thank the Chairman for his willingness to continue to work with me on providing reproductive health services to our most catastrophically wounded heroes. I wasn’t able to include it in this, but we are going to continue to work on that.
 
“Madam Chairman, I just think it is extremely important that all of us recognize that this committee is making a strong statement with this bill about the challenges we’ve been hearing at the VA, and I appreciate it.”
 
###
---
Meghan Roh
Press Secretary | New Media Director
Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
Mobile: (202) 365-1235
Office: (202) 224-2834





The cooking of the books by the VA?  Two lists were kept at some VA medical centers (over 20 are now under investigation).  One was the fairy tale list known as the 'real' list and it was entered into the computer system.  It showed veterans needing medical attention being able to make appointments within 14 days of calling in for an appointment.

Senator Murray's calling for an end to the bonuses and that is smart because these fairy tale lists allowed VA officials to be rewarded for their 'good' job.

But the reality was there was an off book list.  It was kept by hand and it demonstrated that veterans were not receiving timely medical attention. Scott Bronstein, Drew Griffin and Chelsea J. Carter (CNN -- link is text and video) report:

Some veterans injured in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan are being made to wait for months in the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care System despite a national mandate they be given priority access to medical care, a VA doctor told CNN.

Dr. Katherine Mitchell, medical director of the Phoenix VA's post-deployment clinic, outlined the allegations in a report that aired Wednesday night on CNN's "AC 360°."
She accused the Phoenix VA -- up until at least three weeks ago -- of not following a mandate that the highest priority be given to new or injured veterans for scheduling appointments.


Wait lists in Phoenix for veterans injured in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan can be "six months, nine months or longer," Mitchell said.


In the video (from Wednesday's Anderson Cooper 360), Drew Griffin comments on Barack's speech from yesterday.

Drew Griffin:  You know, I thought these poor veterans are going to have to wait now even longer to get care while the President studies the issue, Anderson.  The fact is veterans across the country have been waiting too long to get doctor's appointments.  That is a fact.  The other fact is, the VA has known about that.  Not only that, the VA has known that its offices out here in the country have been cooking the books to try and hide those numbers.  Those are facts which come from numerous government reports.  So those are facts that are already out there.  In the last several months, six months, on your program, whistle-blowers have come forward and told us, have told us, they have talked to the VA Inspector General reporting that due to delays in care, deaths have occurred as a result.  The VA has admitted to 23 deaths due to delays.  Now, I just want to tell you, Anderson, who this is harming and why many believe the President's speech today was completely inadequate.  Last night, here in Phoenix, I talked to a physician at the VA who runs the post-deployment clinic, Dr. Katherine Mitchell, and I had to ask her twice because I couldn't believe what she was telling me.  She told me even recent war vets, vets coming home injured are waiting months to get care.


The Economist weighs in on yesterday's speech noting:

Not for the first time, Mr Obama’s first response seemed oddly detached. He offered tepid support for Eric Shinseki, a former four-star general who serves as his secretary for veterans’ affairs, calling him a great public servant who “cares deeply about veterans”, before noting that, if Mr Shinseki were to conclude that he had let veterans down, “then I’m sure that he is not going to be interested in continuing to serve.” With that out of the way, the president then explained how hard it is to run the VA, an agency that has endured backlogs for decades and now faces an influx of troops wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as claims from newly-eligible veterans after rules were relaxed for those exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam or suffering from post-traumatic stress.

This afternoon, Dana Bash informed Jake Tapper (The Lead, CNN) that Shinseki told (bragged to?) reporters today that he has not offered his resignation and insisted, "You guys know me better than that."

Bret Hayworth (Sioux City Journal) reports Iraq War veteran Jim Mower, who is running for Congress, publicly called today for Shinseki to resign:



"I am appalled by the actions of the president and the V.A.," Mowrer said.
Mowrer is a veteran who served in Iraq for 16 months with an Infantry Battalion out of Waterloo, Iowa. He said Obama only reacted after weeks of media outcries about veterans hospitals, so he sees "a rudderless ship approaching disaster."
Mowrer is not worried about any fallout from his criticism of Obama, who is a fellow Democrat.
"I don't care who the president is, it needs to be fixed," he said.

Jim Mower isn't the only Democrat making the call for Shinseki to step down.  As noted in yesterday's snapshot, US House Reps John Barrow and David Scott (both Democrats) called yesterday for Shinseki to step down.   In addition, Andrew Johnson (conservative National Review -- link is text and video) notes Bob Kerry appeared on Hardball last night and called for Shinseki to step down.  (Disclosure, as noted before, I know and like Bob Kerrey.)  The Vietnam veteran, former Governor of Nebraska and former US senator told Chris Matthews, "In this case I think there's an urgency for General Shinseki, who is honorable man and served his country honorably, but he needs to step aside."

Mike Lillis (The Hill) notes House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi declared that the scandal "could rise to the level of criminal misconduct" and points out, "She's not alone in suggesting the alleged misconduct might be criminal. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) has urged VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to call in the FBI to investigate."




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