Saturday, March 30, 2013

You should thank the Cold War veterans

You should thank the Cold War veterans


In the Feb. 14 Watertown Daily Times I read that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta wants to create a medal that can be awarded to troops who have a direct impact on combat operations but never step into actual combat. These troops sit thousands of miles away from the actual fighting and killing and fly the drones now being used in combat.

The people to whom aa medal should be awarded are the men and women who fought in the Cold War and saw actual combat and got killed, wounded or disabled for life. We only received a sheet of paper stating that we were in the Cold War.

According to the Pentagon criteria, the article states the medal gives the military a way to recognize a single act that directly affects a combat operation. It must be the actions of Cold War veterans do not meet the criteria.

I guess my time and the time of all veterans that served in the Cold War don't amount to anything by the standards created by the Defense secretary. If I had known this was the way I was going to be treated, and I'm sure other veterans that served during the Cold War feel the same, we would not have volunteered to serve our country.

Paul Charleston


Well said Paul.


Sean Eagan
American Cold War Veterans, Inc.
Blog: Cold War Veterans Blog
Phone:  716 720-4000
Network: My Fast Pitch! Profile

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Hagel Announces Fewer Furlough Days for Civilians

Hagel Announces Fewer Furlough Days for Civilians

By Nick Simeone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 28, 2013 - The Defense Department has revised from
22 to 14 the number of days hundreds of thousands of civilian
employees could be furloughed this year because of the budget
sequester, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced today.

In addition, a senior Defense Department official speaking on
background told reporters the start of the furloughs will be delayed
until mid-to-late June, after more than 700,000 department employees
receive furlough notices now set to go out in early May. Furloughs
would happen over seven two-week pay periods until the end of
September, when the current fiscal year ends, the senior official
said, with employees likely to be told not to come to work for two
days during each of those pay periods.

Department officials say they are still working to determine which
employees might be exempted.

Hagel characterized the reduced furloughs as well as a revised
estimate of sequestration's impact on the defense budget as good news.
The changes follow Congressional approval last week of a defense
appropriations bill that prevented an additional six billion dollars
in cuts, ordered under sequestration, from taking effect.

"It reduces a shortfall at least in the operations budget," the
secretary told reporters at a Pentagon news conference. "We came out
better than we went in under the sequester, where it looks like our
number is $41 billion [in cuts] now versus the $46 billion."

But despite a Congressional reprieve, Hagel said the Pentagon is still
going to be short at least $22 billion for operations and maintenance,
"and that means we are going to have to prioritize and make some cuts
and do what we've got to do," including making sharp reductions in
base operating support and training for nondeployed units.

More critical in the long run, he said, is how budget cuts will affect
readiness and the department's overall mission. Because of that
concern, he said he has directed Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter
and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of
Staff, to conduct an intensive department-wide review of U.S.
strategic interests including how to protect the nation with fewer
resources. "How do we prioritize the threats and then the capabilities
required to deal with threats?" he said. "There will be some
significant changes, there's no way around it."

Dempsey said the department has already exhausted 80 percent of its
operating funds halfway through the fiscal year and characterized the
current budget situation as "not the deepest, but the steepest decline
in our budget ever," and warned it will affect military readiness into
the future.

"We will have to trade at some level and to some degree our future
readiness for current operations," the chairman said. He called on
elected leaders to give the Pentagon the budget flexibility it needs
to carry out institutional reforms.

"We can't afford excess equipment," Dempsey said. "We can't afford
excess facilities. We have to reform how we buy weapons and services.
We have to reduce redundancy. And we've got to change, at some level,
our compensation structure."
Chuck Hagel
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey


Sean Eagan
American Cold War Veterans, Inc.
Blog: Cold War Veterans Blog
Phone: 716 720-4000
Network: My Fast Pitch! Profile

Breaking News: North Korea readies rockets after U.S. show of force

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (2nd R) looks at the latest combat and
technical equipments, made by unit 1501 of the Korean People's Army,
during his visit to the unit March 24, 2013 in this picture released
by the North's official KCNA news agency in Pyongyang March 25, 2013.

By David Chance and Phil Stewart

SEOUL/WASHINGTON | Thu Mar 28, 2013 11:07pm EDT

(Reuters) - North Korea put its missile units on standby on Friday to
attack U.S. military bases in South Korea and the Pacific, after the
United States flew two nuclear-capable stealth bombers over the Korean
peninsula in a rare show of force.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un signed off on the order at a midnight
meeting of top generals and "judged the time has come to settle
accounts with the U.S. imperialists in view of the prevailing
situation", the official KCNA news agency said.

The North has an arsenal of Soviet-era short-range Scud missiles that
can hit South Korea and have been proven, but its longer-range Nodong
and Musudan missiles that could in theory hit U.S. Pacific bases are

On Thursday, the United States flew two radar-evading B-2 Spirit
bombers on practice runs over South Korea, responding to a series of
North Korean threats. They flew from the United States and back in
what appeared to be the first exercise of its kind, designed to show
America's ability to conduct long-range, precision strikes "quickly
and at will", the U.S. military said.

The news of Kim's response was unusually swift.

"He finally signed the plan on technical preparations of strategic
rockets of the KPA (Korean People's Army), ordering them to be on
standby for fire so that they may strike any time the U.S. mainland,
its military bases in the operational theaters in the Pacific,
including Hawaii and Guam, and those in South Korea," KCNA said.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported there had been additional
troop and vehicle movements at the North's mid- and long-range missile
sites, indicating they may be ready to fire.

"Sharply increased movements of vehicles and soldiers have been
detected recently at North Korea's mid and long-range missile sites,"
Yonhap quoted a South Korean military source as saying.

It was impossible to verify the report which did not specify a time
frame, although South Korea's Defense Ministry said on Friday that it
was watching shorter-range Scud missile sites closes as well as Nodong
and Musudan missile batteries.

The North has launched a daily barrage of threats since early this
month when the United States and the South, allies in the 1950-53
Korean War, began routine military drills.

The South and the United States have said the drills are purely
defensive in nature and that no incident has taken place in the
decades they have been conducted in various forms.

The United States also flew B-52 bombers over South Korea earlier this week.

The North has put its military on highest readiness to fight what it
says are hostile forces conducting war drills. Its young leader has
previously given "final orders" for its military to wage revolutionary
war with the South.


Despite the tide of hostile rhetoric from Pyongyang, it has kept open
a joint economic zone with the South which generates $2 billion a year
in trade, money the impoverished state can ill-afford to lose.

Pyongyang has also canceled an armistice agreement with the United
States that ended the Korean War and cut all communications hotlines
with U.S. forces, the United Nations and South Korea.

"The North Koreans have to understand that what they're doing is very
dangerous," U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told reporters at the
Pentagon on Thursday.

"We must make clear that these provocations by the North are taken by
us very seriously and we'll respond to that."

The U.S. military said that its B-2 bombers had flown more than 6,500
miles to stage a trial bombing raid from their bases in Missouri as
part of the Foal Eagle war drills being held with South Korea.

The bombers dropped inert munitions on the Jik Do Range, in South
Korea, and then returned to the continental United States in a single,
continuous mission, the military said.

Thursday's drill was the first time B-2s flew round-trip from the
mainland United States over South Korea and dropped inert munitions, a
Pentagon spokeswoman said.

Victor Cha, a North Korea expert at the Center for Strategic and
International Studies, said the drill fitted within the context of
ramped-up efforts by the Pentagon to deter the North from acting upon
any of its threats.

Asked whether he thought the latest moves could further aggravate
tensions on the peninsula, Cha, a former White House official, said:
"I don't think the situation can get any more aggravated than it
already is."

South Korea denied suggestions on Friday that the bomber drills
contained an implicit threat of attack on the North.

"There is no entity on the earth who will strike an attack on North
Korea or expressed their wishes to do so," a spokesman for the South's
Unification Ministry said.

Despite the shrill rhetoric from Pyongyang, few believe North Korea,
formally known as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, will risk
starting a full-out war.

Still, Hagel, who on March 15 announced he was bolstering missile
defenses over the growing North Korea threat, said all of the
provocations by the North had to be taken seriously.

"Their very provocative actions and belligerent tone, it has ratcheted
up the danger and we have to understand that reality," Hagel said,
renewing a warning that the U.S. military was ready for "any
eventuality" on the peninsula.

North Korea conducted a third nuclear weapons test in February in
breach of U.N. sanctions and despite warnings from China, its one
major diplomatic ally.

(Additional reporting by David Alexander in Washington; Editing by
Warren Strobel, Paul Simao and Raju Gopalakrishnan)


Sean Eagan
American Cold War Veterans, Inc.
Blog: Cold War Veterans Blog
Phone: 716 720-4000
Network: My Fast Pitch! Profile

Saturday, March 23, 2013



In This Issue:

1. Rough Week for Marines
2. Military Tuition Assistance Passes Congress
3. CBS Reality Show Angers VFW
4. VFW Meets New SECDEF
5. CR Funding Passes Congress
6. Protect Your COLA Today
7. Senate VA Committee Discusses Mental Health
8. House Hosts Hearing on Veterans Small Business
9. House VA Committee Hears More on VA Claims Processing

1. Rough Week for Marines: Our thoughts and prayers go out to the entire Marine Corps family this week. On Tuesday, an accidental mortar explosion killed seven and injured eight during a training exercise in Hawthorne, Nev., and three died yesterday in what is being investigated as a double homicide-suicide at MCB Quantico. VFW Junior Vice Commander-in-Chief John Stroud, who hails from Hawthorne, and local VFW Post 2313 led a memorial service Tuesday to honor the fallen and to pray for the injured and their families. More than 300 residents attended the service, plus almost $3,500 has been raised so far for the families. In a letter to Stroud, MCB Twentynine Palms Public Affairs Officer Capt. Nick Mannweiler wrote: "My granddad served on Iwo Jima, Saipan, and Roi Namur and joined the VFW in 1946. The two greatest institutional loyalties he displayed every day of his life were to the U.S. Marine Corps and to the VFW." Semper Fidelis, captain, and to the Corps.

2. Military Tuition Assistance Passes Congress: Both the House and Senate heard the calls of over 14,000 VFW advocates when they voted to pass an amendment that will reinstate the Military Tuition Assistance program. The amendment was a part of a larger package (H.R. 933) that will fund the government until Sept. 30, 2013. VFW's grassroots advocacy made the difference in getting the provision passed. Click here to learn more about how the VFW's national network of advocates made Congress listen:
To join our advocacy team, sign up with your address and email here:

3. CBS Reality Show Angers VFW: On Sunday, the CBS reality show "Amazing Race" aired footage of contestants using a downed B-52 memorial in Hanoi as a prop, and of young Vietnamese singing praises of their communist system. The task was for contestants to learn the lyrics. In a letter to CBS President and CEO Leslie Moonves, VFW National Commander John Hamilton wrote of the anger his organization is directing at CBS for failing to exercise programming oversight about a time in American history that continues to be misunderstood, misrepresented and stereotyped. Hamilton said the show wasted a golden opportunity to educate as well as entertain. "The scene with the B-52 wreckage could have been used to tell a story about what was then America's longest war, about the 58,195 American names on the Vietnam Wall, about the 1,652 Americans still listed as missing-in-action, or about the fates of the multiple crewmen aboard each of the 17 American B-52s we lost in combat," he wrote, adding that the B-52 scene, as well as the young people singing a propaganda song, was totally unnecessary to the show's plot, "which speaks volumes about naive producers who think
they're in charge when they are not.". .

4. VFW Meets New SECDEF: VFW Washington Office Executive Director Bob Wallace concluded a two-day conference in the Pentagon today with new Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, plus other DOD senior executives and leadership from more than two dozen veteran and military service organizations and support groups. The purpose was to update the VSO/MSO communities on DOD programs and policies that affect service members, veterans and their families, plus to listen to our concerns regarding budget impacts on military healthcare and Quality of Life programs, as well as access to senior Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps leadership. Hagel, a life member of Nebraska VFW Post 3704, has been in the position barely three weeks, but has already mended fences abroad, discussed better care for the troops with VA Secretary Shinseki, been forced into serious budget reductions due to sequestration, and has now sat down with the VSO/MSO communities. Said Wallace, "Secretary Hagel is one of us, and we look forward to a great partnership as we move ahead to properly care for the troops we send to war and their families who serve at home."

5. CR Funding Passes Congress: Congress passed a Continuing Resolution (CR) that funds the federal government for FY 2013 (September 30, 2013). While most departments received funding levels equal to the FY 2012 levels, both DOD and VA were looked at more closely. Congress authorized DOD to transfer about $10 billion to its Operations and Maintenance account to allow more flexibility in managing sequestration cuts. VA was funded at the Administration's recommended levels for FY 2013, which included $2 billion in Advance Appropriations increases for medical care accounts.

6. Protect Your COLA Today: The Senate began budget talks this week and amidst the debate over cuts and savings is a provision that would harm future COLA calculations. The proposal, known as chained CPI, would reduce benefits of all current and future veterans, retirees and their survivors. Senator Bernie Sander (I-VT), Chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee has introduced legislation to protect the current system of calculating COLA. We ask all of our advocates to contact their Senators today and urge them to support the Sanders' amendment. Click here for details and to Take Action:

7. Senate VA Committee Discuss Mental Health: On Wednesday, The Senate Veterans' Affairs discussed mental health care and suicide programs within VA. The hearing is a follow-up to three mental health hearings held last Congress which addressed gaps in care many veterans experience when seeking mental health treatment at VA. A VA Inspector General report requested by the Committee, found VA scheduling did not follow directives and protocols and often was based on availability and not the clinical needs of patients. Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Ranking Member Richard Burr (R-NC) both believe that VA needs to look outside the box to fix what has become a broken process and it cannot be soon enough as the number of veterans of all eras seek care and services within VA. To learn more about the hearing and to view an archived webcast, click here:

8. House Hosts Hearing on Veterans Small Business: This week the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations and the House Small Business Subcommittee on Contracting and Workforce hosted a joint hearing to discuss the challenges service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses (SDVOSBs) face in doing business with the federal government. Panelists representing SDVOSBs discussed the uncertainty SDVOSBs face when seeking to secure contracts from VA because of inconsistencies in how VA's Center for Veterans Enterprise evaluates businesses for eligibility. You VFW, which has criticized CVE for its inconsistent and overly-stringent criteria, was on hand for the hearing. To learn more about the hearing and to read prepared remarks from each witness, click here:

9. House VA Committee Hearing: On the heels of last week's Senate VA Committee hearing on VBA's transformation process, the House Veterans' Affairs Committee held a hearing this week on the same topic - disability claims processing. Committee members asked General Allison Hickey, VA Under Secretary for Benefits to review progress on employee training, workload and accountability within the current VBA transformation process. Hickey, the only witness at the hearing, openly discussed the electronic medical record, workload and the current composition of inventory within the backlog of claims. For more on the hearing and to view the recorded webcast, visit the House VA website at:



Sean Eagan

American Cold War Veterans, Inc.
Blog: Cold War Veterans Blog
Phone:  716 720-4000 
Network: My Fast Pitch! Profile

MD and NJ Have Proposed Veterans Jobs Bills Moving Forward

NJ Assembly approves bills to help unemployed veterans

TRENTON — New Jersey lawmakers want to help out-of-work veterans find employment in the Garden State, in a variety of ways.

During Thursday's voting session, members of the state Assembly approved four bills that specifically aid the former military.

One of the measures would grant veterans or active-duty service members professional licenses or certificates for trades in which their military training, education or experience is equivalent to the requirements of the state license or certificate.

Another bill would waive the skill test requirement to obtain a commercial driver's license for veterans who have military experience in operating commercial motor vehicles.

The waiver would not apply for applicants seeking a CDL to drive a school bus or commercial bus that transports more than 16 passengers.

Lawmakers said the intent of both measures was to give veterans credit for their service and training.

"The on-the-job training our soldiers received while serving in the military should count when seeking employment," Assemblyman Herb Conaway, D-7th of Delanco, said Thursday. "The head work and sacrifice of our soldiers should be rewarded when they return home. Cutting a little red tape based on valuable experience is plain good sense."

Conaway, an Air Force veteran, was a sponsor of the CDL waiver bill.

Both bills were approved by the state Senate last month and head to Gov. Chris Christie's desk for consideration.

The third bill approved by the Assembly directs the New Jersey Board of Nursing to encourage nursing schools in the state to award former Army medics or Navy corpsmen who enroll in school credit toward nursing degrees. 

"What many men and women who valiantly served their country and fellow soldiers as corpsmen and medics experienced on the battlefield cannot be taught in the classroom," said Assemblywoman Alison Littell McHose, R-24th of Franklin, the bill's sponsor, on Thursday in a statement. "Their training and hands-on service make them ideal candidates for nursing school following their discharge. Such training and service is deserving of academic credit as they continue their education in a civilian setting."

The bill was unanimously approved by the Assembly, but a companion measure in the Senate is still pending before its Commerce Committee.

The fourth veterans jobs measure directs the New Jersey Turnpike Authority to create an 18-month pilot program to help veterans find employment in the construction industry.

During the pilot, the authority would be required to award a minimum of 5 percent of its highway construction work to contractors registered with the national Helmets to Hardhats program, which connects National Guard, reservists and former active-duty military members with training and employment opportunities in the construction industry.

The bill requires the authority to evaluate the pilot program to determine how many veterans worked on highway projects and what, if any, impact the program had on the cost of projects.

The bill incorporates recommendations made by Christie, who conditionally vetoed an earlier version of the bill in January. The revised bill was approved by the Senate and returns to the governor's desk for consideration.

According to the New Jersey Department of Labor, there were 189,000 veterans over age 20 in the workforce last year. Among them, 19,000 were unemployed, giving veterans a 10 percent jobless rate compared with 8.8 percent for non-veterans over 20.

Nationally, veterans had an unemployment rate of 7 percent compared with 7.5 percent for non-veterans, the Labor Department reported.

David Levinsky: 609-871-8154; email:; Twitter: @davidlevinsky

Maryland Senate passes veteran jobs bill

ANNAPOLIS -- Military veterans would get academic credit for skills learned during their service under a bill passed by the Maryland state Senate on Friday.

The bill, an initiative of Gov. Martin O'Malley, creates a process to credit veterans for skills learned and years served, and then apply those credits toward professional licenses or academic degrees.

There are more than 33 different professions licensed by the state, including barbers, pilots, electricians, nurses, social workers and paramedics.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, unemployment among veterans who served after 9/11 was at 9.9 percent in 2012, compared to the unemployment rate of 7.9 percent for the rest of the labor force.

That number is higher among young male veterans, 29.1 percent of whom were unemployed in 2011, compared with 17.9 percent of nonveteran young men.




Sean Eagan

American Cold War Veterans, Inc.
Blog: Cold War Veterans Blog
Phone:  716 720-4000 
Network: My Fast Pitch! Profile

Friday, March 22, 2013

40,000 and Counting


Four days ago, my six-week-old son flew from San Francisco to DC to join me and dozens of other veterans from across the country in fighting to end the VA disability benefits backlog. Meet the tiniest member of Storm the Hill:

Baby Asa

Thanks to you, a lot has happened since we got to Washington on Sunday.

You joined 23 members of Congress (including the Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, Rep. Jeff Miller from Florida!) and 40,000 Americans when you signed our petition calling on President Obama to end the VA backlog.

With our message, we reached over 128 members of Congress. We met with the VA and the DoD. We rallied on Capitol Hill and asked Washington to get on board with our mission. And we sat in the Roosevelt Room at the White House with President Obama's Chief of Staff to represent the other 2.5 million new vets that couldn't be there with us.

Zach from Indianapolis was on CNN, Tyler from Kansas was on Fox News, John Wypyzinski was on NBC Nightly News last night!

NBC Nightly News

I know I speak for the other 2.5 million new vets when I say we won't stop fighting until the backlog is at zero.

Thank you for joining us. This week was just the beginning.


Ann Weeby
U.S. Army

P.S. If you can, give a few bucks today so we don't run out of beans and bullets for the fight ahead. Thanks again!



Sean Eagan

American Cold War Veterans, Inc.
Blog: Cold War Veterans Blog
Phone:  716 720-4000 
Network: My Fast Pitch! Profile

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Senator Charles E. Schumer Support a Fair Veterans COLA

As your constituent I write with concerns about your views on one provision in the budget resolution, a bill before the Senate this week that would fund the operations of the federal government for fiscal year 2014.

It seems to me the COLA issue for veterans benefits has the potential to be a hostage annually in budget negotiations.  This is a budget item that should not be used as a bargaining chip or as a way to cut the budget.

One of the provisions would substitute a new formula for calculation of cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) for Social Security and veterans benefits payments.  Alleged to be more accurate, the new method will reduce future COLAs by hundreds of billions of dollars over the next decade.  I believe this change is unfair to sick, elderly and disabled veterans, and should not be enacted into law.

In recent years, it has become apparent that even the current COLA has failed to meet the rising costs faced by disabled veterans, their dependents and survivors.  These men and women are not traditional consumers of goods and services in the U.S. economy; they are significantly older and suffer disabilities at higher rates than average citizens across the age range of residents of this country.  In general, they are heavy consumers of health care, both within the VA and DOD systems, from Medicare and Medicaid, and from private sector providers.  The sickest and most infirm among them are unemployable.  They are substantial consumers of prescription medications and other health aids.  In many cases, they live on fixed incomes and some must subsist on a single source of income: their monthly government disability or pension payment.  The current COLA does not even take into account the rising costs of food or fuel.  Lowering VA benefit payments using a new formula designed to reduce federal spending at large seems an unconscionable policy and would threaten their financial security and must be rejected.  In addition, we urge you to examine whether there are better, more appropriate indexes that recognize the uniqueness of this population's needs and consumption patterns. 

Furthermore, these millions of disabled veterans, dependents and survivors suffer the additional indignity of the novel "rounding down" policy Congress imposed in 1991 as a "temporary" means to lower the federal deficit in fiscal year 1992 by reducing the annual COLA increase to the next-lower dollar.  Adding a chained CPI formula to this reduction of benefits would serve to lower their standard of living even more, an ironic reversal of the very purposes of these payments.

I ask that you stand in firm support of Senator Sanders' amendment, which would create a deficit-neutral reserve fund to protect disabled veterans and their dependents and survivors by not enacting the chained CPI to disability payments for veterans, dependents and survivors of veterans.  America's heroes deserve your support and the support of a grateful and caring nation.

Please inform me of the actions you take in response to my request.



Sean Eagan

American Cold War Veterans, Inc.
Blog: Cold War Veterans Blog
Phone:  716 720-4000 
Network: My Fast Pitch! Profile

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Important Amendment Protecting Disability Compensation COLA

Take Action!

Please Write to Your Senators Today!
This week the Senate is considering its budget resolution, a bill that would fund the entire federal government, including the Department of Veterans Affairs, for fiscal year 2014. One provision in this bill would have a long-lasting consequence: it would drastically change the way annual cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) are added to disability compensation and pension payments to veterans, their dependents and survivors. If adopted, this change will reduce government payments for these obligations by billions of dollars over the next ten years.

The Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, has asked for help from DAV (Disabled American Veterans) in gaining other Senators' support for his amendment to stop this change from occurring, thereby preserving the current system for calculating COLA additions to payments to veterans and others.

Please use the prepared email in this alert, or write your own individualized email to your Senators to urge their support of the Sanders' amendment. Veterans and their survivors earned the compensation and pension payments they receive by virtue of their military service to the nation. The federal deficit was not created by sick and disabled veterans, and they do not deserve to be unfairly penalized.

DAV appreciates your use of the Commander's Action Network in helping DAV communicate our priorities to Congress. Your grassroots advocacy is key to our effectiveness in Washington. With your help, DAV CAN!

Please send your message to your Senators TODAY!



Sean Eagan

American Cold War Veterans, Inc.
Blog: Cold War Veterans Blog
Phone:  716 720-4000 
Network: My Fast Pitch! Profile

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Hearing to Examine How VA Tracks Patient Wait Times

HVAC Hearing to Examine How VA Tracks Patient Wait Times


WASHINGTON, D.C.—On Thursday, March 14, 2013, at 1:00 P.M., in Room 334 of the Cannon House Office Building, the Oversight & Investigations Subcommittee will hold a hearing examining the continued struggle of the Department of Veterans Affairs to accurately track patient wait times.


Currently, VA is not able to provide an accurate assessment as to the average time between when an appointment is desired, scheduled and when a veteran receives treatment – a problem attributable to VA's tendency to move its performance metrics around and stray from its own internal policies, training and procedures.


The Government Accountability Office (GAO) and VA's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) have been reviewing VA patient wait times since at least 2005 and have found consistent problems with VA's data reliability and policy implementation. While VA has expressed an intent to fix these problems, the department has made very little progress in doing so. This lack of progress has contributed to a backlog of veterans awaiting appointments, some for critical and life-threatening procedures.


The following event is open to the press:


WHO:             Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations

WHAT:          Hearing: Waiting for Care: Examining Patient Wait Times at VA 

WHEN:          1:00 P.M., Thursday, March. 14, 2013

WHERE:        Room 334, Cannon House Office Building and streaming at


The witness list is as follows:


Panel 1


Mr. William Schoenhard

Deputy Under Secretary for Health for Operations and Management

Veterans Health Administration

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs


Accompanied by:


Mr. Thomas Lynch, M.D.

Assistant Deputy Under Secretary for Health Clinical Operations and Management

Veterans Health Administration

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs


Mr. Philip Matkovsky

Assistant Deputy Under Secretary for Health for Administrative Operations

Veterans Health Administration

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs


Mr. Michael Davies, M.D.

National Director of Systems Redesign

Veterans Health Administration

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs



Ms. Debra A. Draper

Director, Health Care

Government Accountability Office


Mr. Roscoe Butler

National Field Service Representative

Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Commission

The American Legion





Sean Eagan

American Cold War Veterans, Inc.
Blog: Cold War Veterans Blog
Phone:  716 720-4000 
Network: My Fast Pitch! Profile

Furloughs Could Affect Army's Behavioral Health Care

Furloughs Could Affect Army's Behavioral Health Care

By C. Todd Lopez
Army News Service

WASHINGTON, March 14, 2013 - Upcoming furloughs for Army civilians, along with budget cuts, will affect the Army's ability to provide behavioral health care to soldiers, the service's chief of behavioral health care said here this week.

More than half of the Army's behavioral health providers are either government civilians or contractors, Col. Rebecca Porter said at a Defense Writers Group breakfast March 12.

"The plan is that our Department of the Army civilians who are employed with us would be impacted across the board," Porter said.

The Army's medical community is about 60 percent civilian, overall, she said. Within the behavioral health specialty, which includes about 4,500 providers, more than half are civilian. The Army surgeon general's priorities for medical care in coping with spending cuts for the rest of the fiscal year mandated by the sequestration provision in budget law are warrior care, primary care, behavioral health and the Integrated Disability Evaluation System, Porter said. Army officials are looking at possibly exempting some of those Army civilians from furlough, she added.

Another option, she said, is to have medical providers in uniform, backfill where care is most needed.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan created a greater need in the Army for behavioral health providers, Porter said, and the Army has worked to bring those medical professionals on board. With furloughs and sequestration, lack of stability as a behavioral health provider within the Army may drive some of those professionals back to the private sector, she added.

"There is a national shortage of behavioral health providers. ... Since 2007, we've more than doubled the number of behavioral health providers that we have in the Army," Porter said. "To see them now looking elsewhere because they don't have the job security that they thought they were going to have, and they don't know how much the organization or the institution supports them in what they are trying to do, it is a morale issue."

When contracts or term behavioral health positions come up for expiration or renewal, providers go through her office "so we can look, kind of corporately, at what do we have as far as resources in the personnel realm," Porter said.

"We value those individuals greatly," she added. "Particularly for providers, we are looking to retain them."

Porter said the Army has seen success with embedded behavioral health teams, or EBHTs, where behavioral health providers are taken out of the hospitals and are aligned with specific brigades. The pilot installation for that effort was Fort Carson, Colo., and success with the program has meant an expansion to brigade-sized elements across the Army by the end of fiscal year 2016, she said.

An evaluation of the EBHT program at Fort Carson, she said, has shown "a decrease in incidents of psychiatric hospitalizations, decreased incidents of suicides, of suicide attempts and even things like alcohol-related incidents."

The success of the EBHT program, and cause for its expansion across the force, stems largely from the benefits of creating familiarity between providers and unit commanders.

"Co-locating them with the unit and with the commanders, I think, helps the behavioral health provider be more in tune with what are the needs of the command," Porter said. "But it also, in our experience, makes the commander, and the soldiers, more trusting of the behavioral health providers."

Early in her career, Porter said, she was in a position to recommend to a commander that he not take a soldier on deployment, due to post-traumatic stress disorder. She said that commander thanked her for her input, but took the soldier on deployment anyway. Later, she said, problems surfaced and the commander had to send the soldier home.

"Today, I think if I made the same recommendation to a commander, I think they would heed a behavioral health professional's input a lot more than they did 16 or 17 years ago," she said. "It's a different environment -- vastly different than it was back then."

Part of the increased trust commanders have in behavioral health providers stems from increased awareness of issues such as PTSD, Porter said. But she added that she believes the relationships that can be built through the use of EBHTs will only further commander trust.

The EBHTs are made up of civilian behavioral health providers, she said. Downrange, units have two organic behavioral health providers and two behavioral health technicians. In addition, combat stress control teams function in a general area and go where commanders think additional help is needed.



Sean Eagan

American Cold War Veterans, Inc.
Blog: Cold War Veterans Blog
Phone:  716 720-4000 
Network: My Fast Pitch! Profile

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

End The VA Backlog , Stop The Madness !


shocking report just came out about the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability benefits backlog. It says that delays for new vets to receive disability compensation from the VA are much longer than originally reported, which is saying a lot. (If you've had a loved one file a claim, you know what I mean.)

We must end this backlog now. Sign a petition to call for action with IAVA.

According to the report, more than 900,000 veteran's benefits claims are currently in the system, a number that VA expects to grow to over a million by the end of this month. Of the 600,000 backlogged, VA has said that the average wait time was 273 days, but this report reveals that veterans are waiting between 316 and 327 days after filing. Furthermore, despite spending hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars on developing a digital claims process, 97% of claims are still on paper.

The wait is 490 days in New Orleans. 619 in Los Angeles. 612 in Indianapolis. 586 in Houston. 642 in New York. And 681 in Reno. That's 681 days to get benefits for injuries received while at war.

681 days. That's just ridiculous. And it's gone on for long enough. The men and women who have sacrificed so much deserve better than that.

Sign the petition today to call on President Obama to establish a Presidential Commission to end the backlog.  Next week at Storm the Hill, IAVA's membership will bring the petition with your name to the White House. We'll also gather IAVA members from across the nation on the steps of the Capitol to demand the President fix this ongoing problem once and for all.

We'll keep the pressure up – and we won't stop fighting until it's done. 


Paul Rieckhoff
Founder and CEO
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA)




Sean Eagan

American Cold War Veterans, Inc.
Blog: Cold War Veterans Blog
Phone:  716 720-4000 
Network: My Fast Pitch! Profile

Saturday, March 09, 2013


Action Alert: Contact Congress to Lower Medal Status
The VFW needs you to immediately contact your members of Congress to urge their support of H.R. 833 and S. 470 to lower the ranking of the new Distinguished Warfare Medal to below the Purple Heart. Why? Because in a letter to VFW National Commander John Hamilton, the Defense Department again said they would not lower the status of the medal, which now ranks 9th highest out of five dozen current medals and ribbons in the order of precedence—and you don't have to go to war to earn it! As of this morning, H.R. 833 had only 41 sponsors out of 435 members of the House, and S. 470 had only 10 sponsors out of 100 members of the Senate. We need more! This VFW-supported legislation has bipartisan support because it is the right thing to do for the troops who go into harm's way and not home every night. This is a policy disagreement over the placement of the new medal, not whether drone operators, cyber warriors and others don't deserve to be properly recognized for the tremendous impact they are bringing to the battlefield in real-time. The VFW just adamantly believes that medals that can only be earned in combat must rank higher than new medals awarded in the rear. Tell your members of Congress to support H.R. 833 and S. 470 today! Take action



Sean Eagan

American Cold War Veterans, Inc.
Blog: Cold War Veterans Blog
Phone:  716 720-4000 
Network: My Fast Pitch! Profile

Friday, March 08, 2013

HVAC Update

Vets don't have to worry about sequestration cuts at VA

By Mark Flatten

Washington Examiner

Those who rely on the Department of Veterans Affairs for medical care, disability benefits or educational assistance will be spared whatever pain eventually comes from sequestration because the agency is exempt from the automatic budget reductions, the chairman of the House veterans committee said today.

Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., said he has pressed VA officials for a year to get a straight answer whether President Obama would claim veterans would be hurt by the sequestration that began this month.

Miller finally got a clear concession that the VA's budget is totally exempt from the automatic cuts last December, so any claims now that veterans programs will be harmed are pure hype, he told The Washington Examiner today.

"The one thing I wanted to make sure of was that veterans weren't used as political pawns in the discourse," Miller said. "We clearly said VA was exempt. For a year I could not get the White House nor the VA to say 'yes, in fact that's the way we interpret the law.'"

The ambiguity is rooted in two conflicting laws. One passed in 1985 allowed a 2 percent cut to veterans' health care in a sequestration while the other, passed in 2010, exempted the VA from any cuts.

In November 2011, Miller could not get a clear answer from W. Todd Grams, VA's chief financial officer. White House lawyers were researching the issue, he said.

That triggered a series of letters from Miller to the VA and the White House Office of Management and Budget. OMB responded in June 2012 that all programs administered by VA were exempt from sequestration, but the agency could face cuts in undefined "administrative expenses."

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki repeated that assertion in congressional testimony last July.

"VA is exempt from sequestration except for administrative costs," Shinseki said. "I don't have a definition of administrative costs right now."

Miller finally got the answer he wanted in December, when Shinseki sent a letter affirming the entire VA budget, including administrative expenses, are exempt from automatic cuts.

Miller said he is concerned the White House chose to "slow roll" the answer because threats to popular veterans programs would give President Obama leverage in budget negotiations.

VA officials could not be reached today for comment.

While the VA is completely exempt from sequestration, veterans could see some disruptions. For instance, veterans filing disability claims must get their military and medical records from the Department of Defense, which is facing automatic reductions.

Pentagon officials blamed the looming sequestration for a decision not to link electronic health records with the VA during a house veterans committee hearing last month.

Miller said agencies can minimize those disruptions by making veterans a priority.

"I don't think veterans' funding should ever be allowed to be used as political leverage," Miller said.



Curt Cashour

House Committee on Veterans' Affairs




Sean Eagan

American Cold War Veterans, Inc.
Blog: Cold War Veterans Blog
Phone:  716 720-4000 
Network: My Fast Pitch! Profile