IN THE SPIRIT OF HIS NEW LEAN SOMEWHERE THINKING
, FADED CELEBRITY BARRY O ANNOUNCED TODAY NEW STEPS HE WILL BE TAKING.
"I'LL BE EXPLORING BRIGHT AND NEW VISTAS," HE GUSHED TO THESE REPORTERS. "SUCH AS PARDONS. WHY DON'T WE PARDON BENEDICT ARNOLD? HE'S DEAD BUT HE MADE SUCH IMPORTANT CONTRIBUTIONS."
FROM THE TCI WIRE:
US House Rep Jeff Miller is the Chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee. His office issued the following today:
Miller Demands VA Comply with HVAC-Issued Subpoena, Threatens Additional Legal Action
For more information, contact: Curt Cashour, (202) 225-3527
Jun 3, 2014
WASHINGTON, D.C.— After
writing Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson regarding VA’s repeated
failure to comply fully with an HVAC-issued subpoena, Chairman Jeff
Miller released the following statement.
“Today’s VA is a case study in how to stonewall the press, the public
and Congress. And as we found out last week, often times officials from
across the department have routinely sought to hide information about
some of VA’s most pressing problems from the department’s own senior
leaders. I am hoping Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson will put an
immediate stop these disturbing trends. To that end, I have asked Sec.
Gibson to provide our committee with any and all remaining documents
responsive to our May 8 subpoena no later than June 9, 2014. Right now,
Sec. Gibson has a chance to begin to repair the reputation of a
department that has gained notoriety for its secrecy and duplicity with
the public and indifference to the constitutionally mandated oversight
responsibilities of Congress. I am hoping he makes the most of this
chance.” Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs
Chairman Miller Letter to Sec. Gibson Regarding VA’s Noncompliance with Committee-Issued Subpoena
June 2, 2014
This isn't a minor issue that Miller is raising. This is a major one. As we noted in Friday's snapshot
a culture of secrecy has taken hold at the VA. Congress has been
rebuffed on requests, has had to resort to subpoenas and those get
rebuffed as well. The people are represented by the Congress, the
legislative branch is a co-equal branch of government to the executive
branch (and to the judicial branch). Congress is tasked with laws and
oversight and it can't do its job if the executive branch is not
providing accurate information.
In Friday's snapshot, I made a number of people angry when I stated
(yes, "stated," the snapshot are dictated, I don't type them up) the
It was about Congressional requests that are not being honored.
Congress is supposed to provide oversight. But since 2009, the VA has
stonewalled Congress and outright ignored requests for information.
You can blame the White House for that since it's over the VA. I don't
know that I would or wouldn't. But it is a problem and everyone should
be aware of it now and the White House should order the VA to start
complying with all Congressional requests as, in fact, they're legally
"You can blame the White House for that since it's over the VA. I don't
know that I would or wouldn't." That's what made people angry.
I had no problem calling for Eric Shinseki's resignation. When he
revealed to Congress October 14, 2009 that he'd known since January that
the rollout on the Post-9/11 GI Bill would not go smoothly, that he'd
been told of that when he became VA Secretary, that he hired an outside
consultant to review the situation and the consultant said the same
thing, that's when I called for Shinseki's resignation. He knew there
would be a problem. He did not give veterans a heads up. He did not
give Congress a heads up. When the problems started with checks not
being received, he allowed VA officials to publicly blame education
institutions and to blame veterans. He should never have allowed that.
I have no problem calling him out and veterans suffered because of him.
I've got six years demonstrating I have no problem calling out Barack as
president. And I may end up calling him out on the VA issues. I have
no problem stating that he's ultimately responsible. But Shinseki
making one mistake did not turn me against Shinseki. It was finding out
that he knew veterans were going to suffer and he not only didn't
inform veterans or Congress but he also allowed his Department to lie to
the public. That's a crossed line.
I can call Barack out for Iraq (and have and will) and I can call out
for The Drone War, for the illegal spying, for any number of things.
And I'm fine with that. But I have no idea what information he
received. I thought he was willfully ignorant of some VA issues. The
big one was the seamless transition -- an electronic medical record
created for a service member which would follow them from the Pentagon
to VA when they left the service and became a veteran.
Congress poured billions into that. It is still not up and running.
We have called out the 'progress' on that repeatedly. The press has
ignored it, we haven't. The VA Secretary and the Secretary of Defense
had to first agree on which computer system to use -- they currently use
two different systems. Once that's decided, things move forward.
I knew for a fact that Leon Panetta had listened to Shinseki's argument
for which system to use (Shinseki wanted to use VA's system) and Leon
told him, "Fine. Use it. Let's move on to the next step." When I
wrote about that here, a friend wanted me to know that this was
basically Robert Gates' response as well. (Robert Gates was Barack's
first Secretary of Defense. Leon Panetta became his second. Chuck
Hagel is currently the third.)
So I began noting that Gates had also agreed so that the program could move forward.
But it never did. And I would call Barack out for that here.
Especially when, less than two months after Hagel became Secretary of
Defense, Ranking Member Mike Michuad asks Shinseki about the progress on
this issue and Shinseki, who's been working on it for five years now,
blames Hagel. He says Hagel's adjusting to his job and so nothing's
I blamed Barack -- here and in loud conversations with friends in the
administration. Fortunately, Hagel was offended (who wouldn't be?) by
Shinseki using him as a scapegoat and Hagel insisted on a meeting with
Barack -- Hagel, Shinseki and Barack. At that meeting, a system was
decided on and things were supposed to move forward. Did Barack not
know about the foot dragging before that meet-up was scheduled?
Possibly he didn't. I don't know. I do know when he finally got
involved, the issue was resolved.
I don't know at present how much honesty on the VA reached Barack. So
I'm not comfortable making him the focus of my VA critiques. If others
are, they should do so. I'm not saying he's off-limits. I am saying
that, for me, I'm not there yet. If others are, more power to them.
My focus in calling for Shinseki's resignation was because Shinseki was
clearly and repeatedly failing. Veterans deserved better than they were
Barack hasn't lived up to his promise to veterans. That's a fact as far
as I'm concerned. But, barring a revelation from a friend in the
administration (I don't see one coming -- I know Leon Panetta, if Barack
was intentionally failing veterans, Leon wouldn't have stood for it and
would have been publicly critical of Barack), I can see this as Barack
not getting the needed information to know what was going on. By that, I
mean Shinseki gave happy talk presentations that were not rooted in
And we can all be fooled and tricked. (I'm not trying to bring anyone
over to my way of thinking, I'm merely explaining where I stand on the
There is a culture of secrecy at the VA. They have not been
transparent. They have quibbled over word choice with the Office of the
Inspector General (an "error" is an error, the VA needs to stop
splitting hairs). They have flat out lied and they're running about
three shell games right now.
All of the problems with the VA go to the culture of secrecy.
Melinda Henneberger (Washington Post) had a strong article on the VA which noted:
When he put new guidelines in place requiring that veterans be seen
quickly, the response was to fake the paperwork to make it look as
though wait times had disappeared.
But with nothing less than the lives of our veterans at stake, how could employees do that, and why would they lie?
answer to that question is that after years of being “told to shut up
or retire,” most people eventually do one or the other. “You see the
dead wood and get exasperated.”Overwhelmed, she said, you despair of actually changing anything, in other words, and give up.
That's the culture and it needs to end.
Barack should now be aware of it. He should be calling for the VA to be
transparent, to use the same terms with the same definitions as the
Office of Inspector General and for the VA to comply will all
Congressional information requests.
If Barack doesn't do that after the failures of the Shinseki period, I
will have no problem calling him out. And I will do it loudly and
mockingly and any way I feel at that moment.
But for me this primary issue was Shinseki was too quick to believe
anything he was told and provided too little oversight and, most of all,
his actions were harming veterans. I wanted him gone and now he's
gone. The problems aren't going to disappear. They're going to have to
be addressed and I hope Barack addresses them. If someone who is as
critical of Barack as I am can hope that he will demand real
accountability at the VA and end the culture of secrecy, this could be a
big win for him with others because I'm not a Barack fan. I didn't
vote for him either time. (In 2008, I voted for a candidate not with
the duopoly and in 2012 I didn't vote for the office of president.)
But I will be the first to applaud him if he can end the culture of
secrecy. Hell, I'd applaud if he could even just make a strong dent in
Because the secrecy is what is harming the veterans. It's what caused
the problems with the tuition checks, it's what causes people with
Post-Traumatic Stress being stripped of their diagnosis. It's behind
every scandal under Shinseki and all the ones to come if this is not
addressed. If the secrecy is removed, then Congress and the American
people can know the truth and work on solutions. If the culture of
secrecy continues, expect more press exposes.
The VA is not going to meet a number of goals they set for FY 2015. It
would be really smart for them to stop lying and admit it's not
happening so they and the Congress could work together to figure out how
That's where I am on the issues and why I'm there. Here's where Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America are via a statement they issued yesterday
This is a defining moment in American
history. After decades of neglect, years of failure and weeks of
controversy, all of America is focused on our nation’s veterans. As a
result of the scandal that began in Phoenix, the sacred trust at the VA
has been broken. But it can be rebuilt. With leadership, creativity and
tenacity, the VA can be stronger in the broken places.
can be the time when America can finally turn the corner on decades of
failures at the VA—and for our veterans of all generations more
membership of IAVA calls on President Obama to move quickly to create
and execute a bold, comprehensive plan to support all generations of
American veterans. It must be a top priority for the President for the
duration of his term and involve the entire federal government,
Congress, the private sector, philanthropy, veterans groups, the medical
community and every resource our great nation can muster. It’s time for
a Marshall Plan for veterans.
America’s veterans are depending on strong leadership from the President and are standing by to support in any way needed.
The plan should include the following 8 steps as recommended by Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA):
Appoint a Post-9/11 veteran, or someone very familiar with our
community, who is a proven, dynamic leader capable of making dramatic
changes and inspiring the turnaround VA needs. The VA needs a
proven reformer at the top who can end the crisis and drive the VA to
become the 21st Century organization our veterans deserve. America needs
a unique brand of hybrid leader--a proactive change-agent who
understands Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, technology, healthcare and
Congress. The new Secretary must also be an effective communicator who
can level with the public, operate effectively in the midst of a growing
scandal that may span dozens of cities and continue for months, and
inspire the best talent in America to answer the call to serve at VA.
2. Initiative a full criminal investigation and punish all violators to the full extent of the law.
The IG has revealed a full system failure. An unknown number of bad
actors have ruined the reputation of the VA. Those who have violated
America’s sacred trust with our veterans must be rooted out nationwide
and held accountable. Only if these people are cleansed from the system
will the VA workforce, IAVA members and the rest of America ever have
faith and trust in the system again.
3. Implement the recommendations of interim IG report for Phoenix.
The interim IG report recommended that the VA: (1) do a nationwide
review of all facilities, (2) audit new requests for appointments across
the system to ensure all veterans are on the list to be seen, and (3)
reach out to veterans affected in Phoenix to get them into care. The VA
must now to implement these recommendations immediately.
4. Pass the VA Management Accountability Act. The Senate must act now to pass the VA Management Accountability Act.
The bill (endorsed by Secretary Shinseki in his final public remarks)
gives the Secretary of the VA the authority to remove under-performing
Senior Executive Service employees from their jobs. Without the ability
to fire poor-performing managers, the next VA Secretary will struggle to
restore a culture of accountability throughout the VA.
5. Support the recommendations in IAVA’s 2014 Policy Agenda that focus on building a 21st Century VA.
For years, IAVA has demanded a 21st Century VA, an organization able to
find problems, respond decisively, and provide the quality of care
veterans of all generations deserve. This is especially urgent for IAVA
veterans who present new healthcare needs, more gender diversity, and
significant geographic shifts. To move towards a 21st Century VA,
Congress and the VA must:
A. Mandate best practices for managing VA medical facilities.
There is a saying that when you’ve seen one VA hospital, you’ve seen
one VA hospital. But there are best management practices that can
improve care at the VA if implemented across the entire system.
B. Overhaul the training and technology of the VA’s scheduling system.
The nationwide audit of VA facilities exposed many problems in the
training of VA scheduling employees. The VA must re-establish scheduling
guidelines, improve training for staff, and invest in new scheduling
C. Change performance metrics to focus on quality of care.
The VA scandal has exposed what many veteran organizations have talked
about for years: accountability is lacking at the VA. The VA must
realign its performance metrics and performance incentives to encourage
and deliver quality care.
D. Smooth the Transition between the Department of Defense and the VA.
Too much is lost between the DoD and VA. Despite significant
investment, there is still no interoperable health record and many
veterans never enroll in VA care. The DoD and VA must improve
collaboration to adequately care for today’s veterans.
E. Invest in Technology to Transform the VA.
The technology underpinning all of the VA’s work, including the
disability claims process and appointment scheduling, is woefully
outdated. Without 21st Century technology, the VA can never be a 21st
6. Fully Fund the VA to the levels recommended by the Independent Budget.
Despite consistently claiming otherwise, it is clear that the VA does
not have the resources it needs to meet the demand for care. The VA
currently relies on outdated and inadequate formulas to project their
needs. Congress should fully fund the VA to the levels recommended by
the Independent Budget,
a budget written by leading veteran service organizations including
IAVA. In FY2014, the IB recommended $4 billion more for discretionary
medical services funds than the President requested or Congress
7. Support best-in-class non-profit organizations that the fill gaps.
The VA can not meet all of the needs of America’s veterans alone. And
some vets will never go to the VA. Non-profits fill the gaps and are
often there for vets when VA can’t be. The VA is also often most
effective when it partners with non-profits, as demonstrated by the
tremendous progress made toward ending veteran homelessness. Innovative
programs like IAVA’s Rapid Response Referral Program (RRRP)
assist veterans in reaching private, local and VA resources in times of
crisis. They also serve veterans who are not eligible for VA
services--like those with “other than honorable” discharge status.
public must donate their time, money and talent to trusted, effective,
best-in-class non-profit organizations who continue to face growing
demand with extremely limited resources. Philanthropy, corporate
leaders, and all Americans must donate as generously as possible now to
support these essential groups supporting veterans. The Iraq and
Afghanistan Deployment Impact Fund (IADIF), the Schultz Foundation, the
recent First Lady's donor initiative, and Robin Hood have all created
effective blueprints for national support that must be replicated,
expanded and scaled.
Combat suicide by passing the bi-partisan Suicide Prevention for
America’s Veterans (SAV) Act, enacting an Executive Order, and
connecting 1 million veterans with resources by the end of 2014.
According to VA data, 22 veterans die by suicide each day. Many of
these men and women never reached the VA. Only bold, comprehensive
action will prevent suicide and ensure that veterans have access to
quality mental health care. Congress must act by passing the Suicide
Prevention for America’s Veterans Act (SAV Act). The President must
issue an Executive Order as outlined by IAVA. And all American can help
by promoting suicide prevention resources in their local communities.
is an astute person. We'll provide a link to his piece at Global Research
(Mike is also an Iraq War veteran.) But I can't quote from it because
it's premise is Congress isn't funding the VA adequately.
I'm sorry, Mike's too intelligent to make that assertion.
The VA, like every other Department in Barack's Cabinet, creates their own budget request.
So stop this generic underfunding claims garbage.
Show me where the VA requested X and wasn't given it by Congress, show me that or stop this nonsense.
Beto O'Roarke is a Democrat from Texas in the US House of
Representatives. Last Wednesday night, he did what members of the House
and Senate Veterans Comittees do over and over: Ask VA officials present
for the hearing if they needed more funding, if they needed more
As happens over and over and over at these hearings, VA begged off requesting more funds.
RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot
"Nouri's Iraq: Bombing hospitals, arresting journal...
"Now you're outraged by negotiations with terrorist...
"Juvenile Prison: $5 Billion for Child Abuse (David...
"Maya Angelou gave literary, political voice to Afr...
"Barack has a deal for you!
"His own worst enemy
"The return of Mistresses (Karen and Jos)
"barack's latest round of negotiations with terrorists
"Mistresses returns (Savi and April)
"Another fine mess Barack has gotten himself into
"The latest White House scandal
"Barack makes (another) deal
"Ode to Billie Joe
"Words are like Casper, they haunt
"THIS JUST IN! STUCK ON REPEAT!