Wednesday, April 23, 2014

HVAC to Examine VA Traumatic Brain Injury and Mental Health Care Treatment, Benefits

HVAC to Examine VA Traumatic Brain Injury and Mental Health Care Treatment, Benefits

 

WASHINGTON, D.C.— On Thursday, April 24, 2014, the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations will hold an oversight field hearing entitled,  "Access to Mental Health Care and Traumatic Brain Injury Services:  Addressing the Challenges and Barriers for Veterans." The hearing will begin at 1:00 PM MST at the Southern Arizona VA Health Care System, Building 4, Conference Rooms A and B, 3601 South Sixth Avenue, Tucson, Arizona 85723.

 

Traumatic Brain Injury is widely regarded as a signature wound of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. According to the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury, more than 287,000 service members sustained traumatic brain injuries between 2000 and the third quarter of 2013.  Though all veterans receiving VA medical care are required to undergo screening for TBI, many have faced challenges in getting timely and adequate access to TBI treatments and related benefits. 

 

This hearing will examine the long-term impacts TBI is having on veterans and VA's ability to provide proper disability ratings and timely access to care for those suffering from TBI and mental health conditions.

 

The following event is open to the press:

WHO:       Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations

WHAT:    Field Hearing:  "Access to Mental Health Care and Traumatic Brain Injury Services: Addressing the Challenges and Barriers for Veterans"

WHEN:    1:00 PM MST, Thursday, April 24, 2014

WHERE: Southern Arizona VA Health Care System, Building 4, Conference Rooms A and B, 3601 South Sixth Avenue, Tucson, Arizona 85723

 

Witness list

 

Panel 1

Mr. Derek Duplisea

Regional Alumni Director, West

Wounded Warrior Project

 

Ms. Ariana Del Negro

Co-Founder

Veterans Leadership Assistance

 

Captain Charles Gatlin, U.S. Army (Ret.)

Veteran

 

Mr. David Anderson

Veteran and American Legion Commander, Post 51

Sacaton, Arizona

 

Mr. Jerry Boales

Veteran and Chairman of Rock Soldiers for Wounded Warriors

 

Mr. John Davison

Father of a Wounded Warrior

 

Mr. Bradley Hazell

Veteran

 

Panel 2

Lisa Kearney, PhD

Senior Consultant, National Mental Health Technical Assistance

Office of Mental Health Operations

Veterans Health Administration

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

 

Accompanied by:

 

Dr. Joe Scholten, M.D.

National Director of Special Projects

Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Services

Veterans Health Administration

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

 

Mr. Jonathan H. Gardner, MPA, FACHE

Director, Southern Arizona VA Health Care System

Veterans Health Administration

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

 

Mr. Joshua D. Redlin, LCSW

Team Leader

Tucson Vet Center

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

 

Mr. Rod Sepulveda

Rural Health Program Manager

Northern Arizona VA Health Care System

Veterans Health Administration

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

 

Statement for the Record

Ms. Tana Ostrowski, COTA/L, CBIS

Community Bridges

Rehabilitation Institute of Montana

###



--


 

 Sean Eagan


 Life Member VFW NY Post 53
 American Cold War Veterans, Inc.
Web: http://americancoldwarvets.org/
Blog: Cold War Veterans Blog
Email: Sean.Eagan@gmail.com
Phone:  716 720-4000 
Network: My Fast Pitch! Profile
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Thursday, April 17, 2014

VA Exec Can't Explain Why He Collected $54,792 in Bonuses

HVAC to Examine Overruns


HVAC to Examine Long Construction Delays and Huge Cost Overruns at Aurora Veterans Affairs Medical Center

 

WASHINGTON, D.C.— On Tuesday, April 22, 2014, U.S. Representative Mike Coffman, chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations, will chair an oversight field hearing titled, "Construction Conundrums: A Review of Continued Delays and Cost Overruns at the Replacement Aurora, Colorado VAMC."  The hearing, which will also be attended by House Committee on Veterans' Affairs Chairman Rep. Jeff Miller, will begin at 9:00 AM Mountain time at the Old Supreme Court Chambers, State Capitol Building, Room 200, 200 East Colfax Avenue, Denver, Colorado 80203.

The purpose of this hearing is to address continued problems with the construction of the replacement Aurora, Colo., VA Medical Center that have resulted in more than a year of delays and cost overruns of more than $470 million, according to the Government Accountability Office.  The hearing will also address how VA's handling of the project has resulted in several lawsuits due to its failure to pay contractors. 

VA's construction mismanagement problems are not limited to the Aurora VAMC. GAO has documented how construction projects in Aurora and other locations, including Las Vegas, New Orleans and Orlando, Fla., have been plagued by years long delays and cost overruns totaling nearly $1.5 billion. Despite these failures, VA has awarded more than $54,000 in bonuses to its construction chief Glenn Haggstrom. At a May 7, 2013, House Committee on Veterans' Affairs hearing, Haggstrom could not explain what he did to earn the bonuses.

Coffman in November 2013 introduced bipartisan legislation, H.R. 3593, the VA Construction Assistance Act of 2013, which aims to help improve the speed and efficiency of major VA construction projects.  The bill would require a project manager from the Army Corps of Engineers – one of the few government entities with a successful construction track record – to oversee certainmajor VA construction projects. 

The following event is open to the press:

WHO:       Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations

WHAT:    Field Hearing:  "Construction Conundrums:  A Review of Continued Delays and Cost Overruns at the Replacement Aurora, Colorado VAMC"

WHEN:    9:00 AM Mountain Time, Tuesday, April 22

WHERE: Old Supreme Court Chambers, State Capitol Building, Room 200, 200 East Colfax Avenue, Denver, Colorado 80203

 

Witness list

 

Panel 1

Ms. Lorelei St. James

Director, Physical Infrastructure Issues

U.S. Government Accountability Office

 

Mr. Kirk Rosa

State Commander

Department of Colorado
Veterans of Foreign Wars

 

Mr. Ralph Bozella

Chairman, Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Commission

The American Legion

 

Mr. Dave Davia

Executive Vice President & CEO

Colorado Association of Mechanical and Plumbing Contractors

 

Michael Gifford, MPA, IOM

President

Associated General Contractors of Colorado

 

Panel 2

Ms. Stella S. Fiotes

Executive Director

Office of Construction and Facilities Management

Office of Acquisition, Logistics and Construction

Department of Veterans Affairs

 

Accompanied by:

Mr. Richard L. Bond

Associate Executive Director, Office of Operations

Office of Construction and Facilities Management

Office of Acquisition, Logistics and Construction

Department of Veterans Affairs

###

 

For more news from the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, please visit:

 

Veterans.House.Gov 

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 Sean Eagan


 Life Member VFW NY Post 53
 American Cold War Veterans, Inc.
Web: http://americancoldwarvets.org/
Blog: Cold War Veterans Blog
Email: Sean.Eagan@gmail.com
Phone:  716 720-4000 
Network: My Fast Pitch! Profile
LinkedIn







VFW Action Corps Weekly

Action Corps Logo

VFW Action Corps Weekly
April 17, 2014

In This Issue:
1. VFW Counters 'Crazy Vet' Editorial
2. VFW Discusses Issues with Recovering Warrior Task Force
3. Medal of Honor to Go to OEF Soldier
4. Tricare Prime Update
5. Field Report: Alaska Discusses Veterans' Issues with Senator Begich
6. Veterans Legislation Needs Your Help
7. Two WWII MIAs Recovered 

1. VFW Counters 'Crazy Vet' Editorial: VFW National Commander Bill Thien is asking all members and advocates to flood the New York Times with good news stories to counter an opinion editorial published this week that uses accused triple murderer Frazier Glenn Miller as the focus of a piece, entitled Veterans and White Supremacy. "The First Amendment protects the free speech and expression rights of this young author, and the rights of the New York Times to publish it, but it also protects my right to disagree with the message," he said. "The 'crazy Vietnam veteran' label isn't talked about much these days, yet despite 40 years of moving on with our lives and successfully reintegrating into our communities, we all know the potential is just another headline away," he wrote in a letter to membership. "The shooting on Sunday in Overland Park, Kan., was as senseless as it is tragic, but we cannot allow political pundits, the media or our academicians to use the failings of one to once again paint all of us as damaged goods," he said. "That is why I am asking that you send your personal comments directly to the New York Times, but in a positive manner, such as 'I am a proud Vietnam veteran who came home from war, went to work, raised a family, and continues to help give back to my community and country. I am not damaged goods.' Let them hear our voices by writing today to letters@nytimes.com."

2. VFW Discusses Issues with Recovering Warrior Task Force: This week, VFW was given the opportunity to present our views on issues being discussed as part of DOD's Recovering Warrior Task Force (RWTF). The RWTF was mandated as a part of the FY 2010 National Defense bill and is tasked with providing DOD with recommendations on policies relating to wounded warrior organizations and the care provided them as they transition back to civilian life. The VFW's testimony centered on the issue of improperly diagnosing service members with psychiatric disorders during discharge. Recent DOD data (2001-2010) shows that over 32,000 service members were diagnosed with a Personality Disorder or an Adjustment Disorder at the time of their discharge. DOD's own directives call on the military branches to send the service member through the disability evaluation process. VFW is concerned that those improperly discharged who may suffer from PTSD or other mental health disorders will not have access to the services they need. For complete information on the RWTF and our testimony, click here:
http://rwtf.defense.gov/Meetings/FY2014BUSINESSMEETINGS/2014m21.aspx

3. Medal of Honor to Go to OEF Soldier: The president will award the Medal of Honor to former Army Sgt. Kyle J. White on May 13 for conspicuous gallantry while serving in Afghanistan on Nov. 9, 2007. Then-Specialist White was a platoon radio telephone operator assigned to C Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade. He will become the seventh living recipient to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan. White separated from the Army in July 2011 and now lives in Charlotte, N.C., where he works as an investment analyst. Read more at http://www.stripes.com/news/us/former-army-sgt-kyle-j-white-to-receive-medal-of-honor-1.278118.

4. Tricare Prime Update: Later this month, many military retirees and family members who lost access to TRICARE Prime when Prime Service Areas changed last October will be eligible to re-enroll in Prime. OnApril 28th, TRICARE will begin sending out letters to all affected beneficiaries who live within 100 miles of a Military Treatment Facility (MTF) with instructions on how to get back into Prime. Retirees will have until the end of June to decide whether to make the switch and those who wish to remain on Standard will not have to take any action. This re-enrollment window was made possible by a VFW-supported provision in the 2014 NDAA. Approximately 76,000 beneficiaries will receive the letters explaining their new benefit options. For more information, visit: http://www.tricare.mil/Welcome/CurrentTopics/ChangestoPSAs.aspx

5. Field Report: Alaska Discusses Veterans' Issues with Senator Begich: This week, VFW leaders in Alaska attended a Town Hall meeting with Senator Mark Begich. Begich, a member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee spoke at length about S. 1982, comprehensive legislation that will provide critical benefits and services to veterans and their families. He also addressed his support for ending Sequestration and the harm it continues to pose for DOD and VA programs. To read more about the Town Hall in Kenai, AK; visit our blog at: 
http://thevfw.blogspot.com/2014/04/field-report-alaska-discusses-veterans.html

6. Veterans Legislation Needs Your Help: As we enter into the second week of congressional recess, we ask all of you to continue to advocate for S.1982, the, "Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act of 2014. This legislation addresses many of the VFW's legislative priority goals and will expand health care and other critical services to all generations of veterans, but it needs your help. Congress returns to Washington on Monday, April 28 so continue to visit, call and email your Senators and urge them to support and pass S. 1982 when they return to DC. To Take Action, click here: http://capwiz.com/vfw/issues/alert/?alertid=63187016

7. Two WWII MIAs Recovered: The Defense POW/MIA Office announced the identification of remains belonging to two Americans who had been missing and unaccounted-for since World War II. Identified are:
* Army Pfc. William T. Carneal, 24, of Paducah, Ky., who will be buried April 25 in his hometown. In mid-June 1944, the 27th Infantry Division landed on Saipan as part of the Allied strategic goal of securing the Marina Islands. Carneal was reported killed in action on July 7, 1944.
* U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Verne L. Gibb, 22, of Topeka, Kan., will be buried April 23 in Leavenworth, Kan. On Oct. 23, 1945, Gibb was piloting a C-47B Skytrain on a routine cargo mission from Burma to India. The aircraft, along with three other crew and two passengers, was never seen again. 
Read more about their recovery stories at http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo/news/news_releases/

--


 

 Sean Eagan


 Life Member VFW NY Post 53
 American Cold War Veterans, Inc.
Web: http://americancoldwarvets.org/
Blog: Cold War Veterans Blog
Email: Sean.Eagan@gmail.com
Phone:  716 720-4000 
Network: My Fast Pitch! Profile
LinkedIn







Saturday, April 12, 2014

Rage at VA health care failures isn't enough

Rage at VA health care failures isn't enough

The Arizona Republic

April 10, 2014

http://www.azcentral.com/story/opinion/editorial/2014/04/10/va-health-care-phoenix-rage/7566131/

"So I ask you today, how many more vets will be allowed to suffer and die before someone is held accountable?"

— Barry Coates, a terminally ill veteran testifying to Congress

Pick your response: Rage or sorrow.

The horrors revealed at a House hearing this week cry out for ripping through the bureaucracy, stripping away the excuses, ousting those responsible and treating veterans the way they treated their country: with honor, respect and loyalty.

That seems like a no-brainer.

Yet this was the third House hearing in recent years on Veterans Administration mismanagement, incompetence and outright indifference to veterans' health needs. Whistleblowers and wronged patients have been raising alarm bells that sound loudly in Arizona.

Rep. Jeff Miller, the Republican chair of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, said staff investigators found as many as 40 veterans died because of long waits for care in the Phoenix VA Health Care System. The system apparently hides wait times by keeping two sets of records.

That is not accidental, negligent or incompetent. It's intentional.

Miller ordered that records in Phoenix be preserved and an investigation take place. Perhaps this one will matter. Finally.

Dr. Sam Foote, who retired from the VA in December, provided The Arizona Republic with a Feb. 2 letter he sent to the VA inspector general seeking an investigation of "gross mismanagement of VA resources and criminal misconduct" that produced "systemic patient safety issues and possible wrongful deaths."

Copies of the letter went to Miller, Sen. John McCain, Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick and the U.S. Attorney's Office.

It was a follow up to allegations Foote made in October. He noted that inspector general investigators had substantiated his allegations, yet nothing changed.

"Patients are still dying," he wrote in the February letter.

One was Thomas Breen, who died in November at age 71. He served two decades in the Navy. When blood began to tint his urine, he sought an appointment with the Phoenix VA, his daughter-in-law said. He waited. And waited. And waited. The call telling him a date was available came one week after he died of undiagnosed bladder cancer.

Whistleblowers cite backlogged record keeping, poor mental health care, an emergency room swamped with vets whose condition had worsened while they waited for appointments, and hostile working conditions that drive away quality doctors and nurses.

Veterans tell stories of the hell that comes after returning from war.

Coates told the committee that he spent a year seeking a diagnostic test. By the time he got it, his cancer had spread. The surgery he then required left him impotent, incontinent and with a colostomy bag.

"Gross negligence of my ongoing problems ... has not only handed me a death sentence but ruined the quality of my life I have for the meantime," he told the committee.

Welcome home, soldier. You went, you served. You risked body, mind and soul. Now take a number and we'll get to you. Maybe.

Beyond the rage and sorrow this ugly reality evokes, there needs to be a sustained commitment to rout the culture of status quo at VA and turn it into a agency that serves the health care needs of veterans with the same determination the military demanded from them. Let the heads begin to roll.

###

 

Mike Siegel

Committee on Veterans' Affairs

U.S. House of Representatives

335 Cannon House Office Building

Washington, DC 20515




--


 

 Sean Eagan


 Life Member VFW NY Post 53
 American Cold War Veterans, Inc.
Web: http://americancoldwarvets.org/
Blog: Cold War Veterans Blog
Email: Sean.Eagan@gmail.com
Phone:  716 720-4000 
Network: My Fast Pitch! Profile
LinkedIn








Thursday, April 10, 2014

VA's response to congressional inquiries about patient deaths called 'ridiculous'


NOTE: “We are looking for specifics _ data, metrics _ but we never get them,” Rep. Julia Brownley, D-Calif., told Lynch. “It’s just my feeling and my only conclusion that if you’re not willing to reveal the facts, that there’s something you don’t want the public to hear.”

 

VA’s response to congressional inquiries about patient deaths called ‘ridiculous’

McClatchy Washington Bureau
April 10

http://www.kansascity.com/2014/04/09/4948115/vas-response-to-congressional.html

A House of Representatives committee blasted the Department of Veterans Affairs on Wednesday over a lack of progress and accountability in the aftermath of at least 23 preventable veteran deaths that were the result of delays in treatment at VA medical centers across the country.

One of the centers to come under heat was the William Jennings Bryan Dorn VA Medical Center in Columbia, S.C., where six patients died as a result of not receiving care they needed, according to a VA report.

In the third full House Committee on Veterans Affairs hearing about patient safety, Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the panel, along with other lawmakers, expressed frustration with the VA’s unresponsiveness to requests for information. These included the steps the department has taken to discipline those responsible, as well as how funding meant to reduce backlogs and improve care has been spent.

In a report released Monday, the VA said it has identified 76 patients in its health care system whose care warranted an “institutional disclosure,” or a formal notification that a problem with the patient’s VA care is expected to result in death or serious injury.

Of those 76 patients, 23 died, and the deaths were primarily the result of delays in gastrointestinal care, the report said. The report did not state when the patients died.

Miller called the testimony that VA officials submitted to the committee “ridiculous.”

“It concerns me that my staff has been asking for further details on the deaths that occurred as a result of delays in care at VA medical facilities for months, and only two days before this hearing did the VA provide the information we have been asking for,” he said.

Barry Coates, an Army veteran who sought care at the Dorn VA Medical Center, testified about his experience with delays in the VA system that ultimately led to an ongoing battle with colorectal, liver and lung cancers.

Coates, who has seen four different VA doctors over the course of his treatment, said he never received an “institutional disclosure” or other formal notification or apology from the VA. He said he hopes his testimony will lead to measurable progress in VA operations and prevent other veterans from suffering as he has.

More than $1 million in funds were designated for reducing the 4,000-patient Dorn backlog, but only $200,000 was actually used for this purpose, according to a Veterans Administration inspector general’s report released in September.

The committee still has not received a straightforward answer about where the rest of the funds went, Miller told Thomas Lynch, assistant deputy undersecretary for health for clinical operations for the Veterans Health Administration.

“I have tried to work with your committee,” Lynch said. “I have tried to share information we’ve obtained as we’re obtaining it. . . . We strive to be transparent.”

Of Coates’ testimony and the stories of veterans’ deaths, Lynch said, “I think it’s good that we hear these stories, that we not ignore the harm that has occurred.”

The VA also has been reticent about disciplinary actions it has taken on employees responsible for the delays, committee members said.

When asked if anyone lost his or her job at several of the sites where patient deaths occurred, including VA medical centers in Columbia, Memphis, Tenn., and Augusta, Ga., Lynch said he did not have that information.

“I’m troubled by whether or not firing someone is really the answer,” he said. “I think we need to be careful about punishing everybody for what happened at a few medical centers.”

However, committee members said the lack of accountability demonstrated by the VA was unacceptable in the face of preventable deaths.

“We are looking for specifics _ data, metrics _ but we never get them,” Rep. Julia Brownley, D-Calif., told Lynch. “It’s just my feeling and my only conclusion that if you’re not willing to reveal the facts, that there’s something you don’t want the public to hear.”

Although Lynch called the VA’s relationship with the committee “constructive,” lawmakers said they were tired of hearing the same vague promises of reform.

“This is a bureaucracy that’s out of control,” said Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-Ind. “If this happened in the civilian world . . . we would be in the streets with signs saying, ‘Shut them down.’”

###

Mike Siegel

Committee on Veterans' Affairs

U.S. House of Representatives

335 Cannon House Office Building

Washington, DC 20515




--


 

 Sean Eagan


 Life Member VFW NY Post 53
 American Cold War Veterans, Inc.
Web: http://americancoldwarvets.org/
Blog: Cold War Veterans Blog
Email: Sean.Eagan@gmail.com
Phone:  716 720-4000 
Network: My Fast Pitch! Profile
LinkedIn