Why hasn’t the Veterans Law Blog weighed in on the current scandal with the “VA wait list”, “secret lists” and “bad-boy” lists at VA Medical Centers around the country?
Easy answer: We are waiting for all the facts to come out before commenting.
REAL Answer: I don’t give a Flying Fudgsicle about the VA’s problems. I care about Veterans problems.
This scandal won’t fix those.
Before I continue, I want to be clear on a couple things. This is a direct message for the folks inside the VA, the BVA, and the Veterans Court that read this blog AND who are moving mountains, from the inside, to change the system for the better.
There are good people in the VA doing good things for Veterans, and trying to make a difference. When it comes to THOSE people, I believe that we should change the tone of our conversation. I believe those people should be moved into the positions of real power inside the VA.
There are also folks inside the VA that just want to point fingers to protect their “turf”: its the attorneys’ fault…its Shinseki’s fault…and so on, ad nauseum.
VA Leadership needs to identify these people and – metaphorically speaking – cut them off from the flock. If Shinseki or his hench(wo)men can’t do that, it is time for new leadership.
I don’t want to hear all this nonsense about how hard it is to fire an SES executive. It was hard storming the beaches at Normandy, or fighting back the Tet Offensive, or staying in the fight at Kandahar. But we didn’t bitch and moan about it. Be creative for the love of God. General Shinseki – call me and I can tell you how to take care of those high level SES slugs that you want to get rid of in a way that will make EVERYONE happy.
Does any of this matter, in the end? After all – the one getting HURT is the Veteran. That’s where MY loyalty lies:
With the Veteran – and the Veteran (and their surviving spouse and dependents) alone.
Despite my desire to build empowering partnerships, with pro-Veteran VA employees, built on a foundation of trust, respect, and civility, I won’t be snuggling up with the VA and spooning with them on a cold winter’s night.
For me, there will be no Hot Cocoa with the VA after a hard day on the Ski Slopes.
No swapping spit in the shower, as the famous Marine Corps Drill Instructor used to say.
After all, I’m not the DAV.
I have no problem being critical of the VA claims process bureaucracy. But I will stand up with – and go to battle for – any VA employee that is actually making things better for Veterans.
The VA’s LONG History of Problems is REALLY America’s 200+ Year Old Culture of Ambivalence to Veterans.
I have written articles showing that the American government – the American people’s elected representatives – have been stalling on Veterans claims since 1782.
I have a theory why this is – I’ll share it with you some day. I think humans are hard-wired to love soldiers and ignore Veterans. I think the American culture is built on a foundation that promotes ambivalence to Veterans. Another story for another day.
George Washington had to quell a near rebellion against the fledgling Constitutional government by a group of Revolutionary War Veterans who were hacked that Congress was delaying in granting their Veteran Pensions. This happened in 1782-1783, folks.
Another Founding Father – Edmund Randolph – was the first Veteran to have his Writ of Mandamus for a decision on a Veterans Claim denied by a Federal Court. The purpose of his Petition for the Writ of Mandamus? The same as most Veterans today – force the government to grant the benefits that the law requires them to grant. That was in 1792.
In the 232 years since the Newburgh Conspiracy, the American Government (and now the VA) have been caught in scandal after scandal destroying evidence, shredding records, and failing to adjudicate claims such that a massive backlog was allowed to build up.
1782: Newburgh Conspiracy – Revolutionary War officers propose rebellion against American government for failure to pay pensions
1792: Federal Court in Hayburn’s Case “punts” on Writ of Mandamus relating to delays in processing the pensions of disabled Revolutionary War Veterans
1921 – 1923: The Forbes Scandal. Former Army Colonel – and acknowledged deserter – Charles Forbes was the Veterans Bureau head in 1921-1923. He was convicted of looting over $200 million of government medical supplies belonging to the Veterans Bureau for personal gain.
1932: “Bonus Army” and the “Death March”. Shortly after the end of World War I, veterans were promised by Congress a bonus payment of $1,000, although payment wasn’t due until 1945. Veterans in the throes of the depression took to the streets in what was called the “Death March.” President Hoover had to call in the army under the command of General Douglas MacArthur to clear out the Bonus Army camp in Washington, DC. He even shot and killed a few War Veterans.
In the interest of having an end to this post, let’s fast forward over all the WW2, Korean War and Vietnam War scandals that defined the VA for the next 60 years.
1995: BVA Attorney sentenced to prison for destroying Veterans Records
1999-2000: ORCA scandal – remember that? It was a major public scandal involving reports that Veterans were being used as unconsenting guinea pigs in risky research and pharmaceutical testing at the West Los Angeles VA, which led to the first shut down of certain VA clinical trials in 1999
2001 – present: Claims Backlog Scandal
2005 – present: Wait List Scandal.
2008: Remember Shredder-Gate? What did Congress or the Executive Branch or the Judiciary do about that?
2014: Bonus Scandal
Coming Soon to a BVA near you:
The Appeals Backlog Scandal (Scheduled for Release in 2016, right after the General Election).
The Violation of Veterans Privacy, Part II (you’ll hear about that, here, soon)
By the way, did you know that the DAV – and a couple other VSOs – have the VA’s preferred solution ready and waiting: waiver of your appeal rights in exchange for a few bucks cash. Click here and learn ALL about the new mess of red tape that the DAV wants to add to your appeals.
Want to FIX the appeals backlog? Scrap this ridiculous NOD-SOC-VA9-SSOC goat f**k appeals process and set the Board of Veterans Appeals up like the Merit Systems Protection Board.
There are 2 Trends in this LOOONG History of VA problems.
The problems are growing at an increasing rate.
Maybe the VA will implode – but I doubt it. Scandal rarely destroys bureaucracy — it often enlarges it, as watchdogs are created to watch the watchdogs that are watching the watchdogs that are watching – who? Shinseki? Hickey? Petzel?
The traditional response to Bureaucratic Scandal expands the opportunities for MORE problems.
Its how politicians give their future brothers political leverage: expand a bureaucracy, and in 10 years, the Future You can uncover the scandal in that bureaucracy. Create a bureaucratic process to resolve the scandal. Rinse and Repeat.
I can’t think of a Federal Government Bureaucracy that was ever closed down. Although more than a few have been “rebranded”.
“Rebranding” is marketing-speak for putting down pretty new carpet to cover up the fact that the dog has been shitting all over the floor for 10 years. Problem is, the stink is always still there.
I think the VA’s problems can be solved with 3 simple steps, so if you are a Political Leader or VA Executive with courage – and I mean real courage and loyal to the American people and not American corporations – I will share with you my 3 Point Plan for fixing the VA.
Maybe that’s you, Tammy Duckworth…what do you say? You are on this site’s list of 12 possible replacements for Shinseki — and hopefully Undersecretary Hickey.
You’ll be amazed at its simplicity and, who knows: it may well make you the Scipio Africanus of the American Political Landscape.
Non-History Geeks: Scipio Africanus was the Roman military genius who won the loyalty of the forgotten and neglected Roman Veterans that fought at the Battle of Cannae, and through his loyalty to them, manufactured a victory over Hannibal.
My favorite quote from Scipio Africanus defines who he was.
His offers of peace were rejected by his enemy and he had moved his armies into battle. The enemy, without removing from disputed territory sent emissaries to plead for peace. His response was simple:
“Prepare for war, since you appear to have previously found peace so intolerable.”
Never – not once – has Congress or any Court given any sanction that would put the Fear of God into the VA Bureaucrats.
Congress, the Courts – hell, the American People – have all enabled the VA, and sent a clear message to over the years: just ride the storm out…the wave of anger will pass eventually and the status quo will return.
Sure, Jon Stewart will take some jabs at you but the sting of that will pass in 3 iterations of the news cycle.
Jon Stewart – please, please – put the passion into dismantling the VA Bureaucracy that you put into getting health benefits for 9-11 Firefighters and EMTs. You were THE trigger for change with your persistent focus. Call me – I’ve got some ideas for you.
So rather than get caught up in the Cycle of Insanity of yet another VA Scandal – and I’m referring specifically to the Wyoming email for right now – I am going to push forward with my mission:
Changing the Way Veterans Experience the VA Claims Process so that they can get OUT of the VA Hamster Wheel and not be harmed by future scandals.
The Veteran – and Survivors’ – Problems – That’s What I DO Care About.
In the wake of the recent scandal, many Veterans have allegedly died.
They have left behind surviving spouses that may or may not know what to do or what Veterans Benefits are available to them.
At least once an hour, a Veteran commits suicide. The surviving spouse is left holding the bag.
What do they do about this VA Loan they can’t afford?
Will they keep the Veterans’ benefits?
Where will they get money for school for the kids?
What about the VA claim that their husband had?
Can the VA help at all?
This is something that is near and dear to MY heart – the fight for Veterans’ Survivors is a very personal fight for me. Watch this video and I’ll tell you why:
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In 2 weeks, we will have “Survivor’s Week” on the Veterans Law Blog.
Next week is Memorial Day week, and so I’ll be using the week to say “Thank You” to many of the fine people that are helping me to accomplish my Mission, as well as telling you about a NEW scandal going on inside the VA RIGHT NOW!
Why “Thank You” on Memorial Day? It has been said that the greatest prayer is Thank You – and if you say no other prayer in your life, “Thank You” will be enough.
My prayer for the Fallen is to Thank those that are Helping the Living.
So, next week we will thank the people that are helping us Change the Way that Veterans Experience the VA Claims Process.
Then, the following week is “Survivor’s Week” – I’m going to do my best to educate Veterans’ Survivors on some of the VA benefits that are available to them.
I can’t cover them all – there is a lot of help available to the Surviving Spouses of deceased Veterans.
But I’m going to point out a few:
Dependent Educational Benefits.
VA Loan Issues.
Let me ask y’all, though: Is there are specific Survivor Benefit – or question about a specific Survivor Benefit – you want me to cover next week?
If so, go to this page, fill out the form, and let me know.
I’ll be sure to address as much of your feedback as I can. Until then, check out this series of posts covering some of the basic compensation claims by Survivors of Deceased Veterans.