Archive for the ‘Truth’ Category

Veteran benefits entangled in red tape

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

Leading Democrats like to hold up the Veterans Benefits Administration as an example of how well government can provide health care. But veterans who deal with the complex federal bureaucracy have invented an unhappy refrain to describe the VBA: “Deny, deny until you die.”

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/dec/31/veteran-benefits-entangled-in-heaping-red-tape/?source=newsletter_must-read-stories-today_more_news_carousel

Millions in VA Bonuses Questioned

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

“WASHINGTON – Outside the Veterans Affairs Department, severely wounded veterans have faced financial hardship waiting for their first disability payment. Inside, money has been flowing in the form of $24 million in bonuses.”

From:  http://www.military.com/news/article/August-2009/millions-in-va-bonuses-questioned.html

VA inspections show continued exam flaws

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

From The Washington Times:

“Fewer than half of Veterans Affairs centers given a surprise inspection last month had proper training and guidelines in place for common endoscopic procedures such as colonoscopies – even after the agency learned that mistakes may have exposed thousands of veterans to HIV and other diseases.”

“The random inspections were conducted May 13-14 at 42 VA medical centers across the country. They found that 43 percent of the centers have standard operating procedures in place and have properly trained their staffs for using endoscopic equipment.”

VA says 3 positive HIV tests from follow-ups

Saturday, April 18th, 2009

From Army Times:

Three patients exposed to contaminated medical equipment at Veterans Affairs hospitals have tested positive for HIV, the agency said Friday.

Initial tests show one patient each from VA medical facilities in Murfreesboro, Tenn.; Augusta, Ga.; and Miami has the virus that causes AIDS, according to a VA statement.

Veterans deserve better from VA (Equipment should have been sterilized)

Friday, April 17th, 2009

From The Leaf Chronicle:

What’s been going on regarding safety procedures at Veterans Affairs Department medical facilities in Tennessee, Georgia and Florida?

A failure to properly maintain hospital equipment has led veterans to be exposed to HIV and other potentially fatal diseases. The VA, in fact, has warned more than 10,000 veterans to get blood tests.  VA sites in the three states cleaned but failed to properly sterilize equipment between patient treatments.  In Tennessee, at Murfreesboro’s Alvin C. York VA hospital, the VA blamed most of the problems on unclear or incomplete instructions from the colonoscopy scope’s manufacturer, Olympus American Inc. That company said in a statement that it is helping the VA address problems with “inadvertently neglecting to appropriately reprocess a specific auxiliary water tube.”

Good Riddance

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

VA issued a press release yesterday announcing the retirement of Michael (We don’t obfuscate) Kussman.  While we would have preferred he be imprisoned for perjury, at least he’ll be out of VA.

True to his character, and directly contradicting his testimony in the Veterans Lawsuit, it was obfuscation that was the last straw.  In a memo about the massive failure of the VA’s $167 million effort known as the Replacement Scheduling Application Development Program.

In the memo Kussman states:  “Finally, we need a clear communication plan for how we tell the story both inside and outside VA.”

In other words: We need to figure out how to obfuscate this issue so we don’t get in trouble.

Some People…

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

We have the domain name veteranshelpingveterans.org automatically redirected to vetsburg.org. Actually, Veterans Helping Veterans transmogrified into Vetsburg.

Anyway, someone has been using bogus email addresses with the domain name veteranshelpingveterans.org to send spam and phishing emails. The emails are forged to make it appear they are coming from us.

How pathetic is that?

Pretty pathetic we think.

If you have received one of these emails, please accept our sincere apologies and trust that we will never stoop to such scurrilous tactics.

There is a special place reserved for those who perpetrate these most heinous transgressions.

Jon Agrees With Lars (Or vice versa)

Friday, March 20th, 2009
The Daily Show With Jon Stewart M – Th 11p / 10c
That Can’t Be Right – Veterans’ Health Insurance
comedycentral.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Important Things w/ Demetri Martin Political Humor

The Denial Twist

Thursday, March 19th, 2009

Why is the VA unwilling to feature suicide prevention on their website? Suicide prevention used to show up only in the “Top Info Requests” section on the home page, and now it is completely gone.

If you go into the Health Care section of the site, there is a small banner buried within all of the clutter.

Maybe Everett (Call me Ev) Chasen, Ira Katz, or Michael Kussman, have been sending emails to the website people with subject lines like “Shhhh…”

Anyone with a website that gives a rats ass about the welfare of Veterans has a prominent banner linking to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

It is patently offensive and completely unconscionable that the VA does not prominently display suicide prevention on their home page.

When you have Michael Kussman justifying the number of Veterans committing suicide by saying, Well, there are so many of them…, it is no wonder that the VA is burying Lifeline information right along with all those Veterans killing themselves.

suicidepreventionlifeline.org

Should You Pay For Me If… (Note From Lars)

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

Well Friends, ol’ Lars is fired up! He Who Must Not Be Named and his faithful sidekick Shinseki (nka Wormtail) want private health insurance programs to pay for treatment provided by the VA for service-connected medical conditions.

This is outrageous!

The VA already bills “Third party” payors (i.e. private health insurance) millions of dollars a year that they shouldn’t. Most notably in that amount is charges to private insurance for prescription medication that is supposed to be paid for by the VA. Veterans exposed to ionizing radiation and environmental contaminants while in-service are supposed to receive free medication for conditions that may be related to those exposures. Problem is, nobody in VA or the third party payors knows that. So the VA bills these insurance companies millions every year and they just keep on paying. Primarily because they don’t want to get in trouble with The Gubmint.

Why should you care?

Hang on, Lars’ll tell ya. You should care because those insurance companies are passing that cost on to you!

Whenever the VA bills the insurance company, the insurance company turns right around and increases your premiums. The end result is that you are paying for what the VA (gubmint) should be paying for. Very few people believe that they don’t pay enough taxes, and it is the taxes that we pay that should be funding our defense costs. Included in those defense costs should be gubmint funded health care for people who were injured in-service (service- connected conditions).

Congress enables VA to continue this practice by way of the Medical Care Cost Recovery Program (MCCR). The VA is giddy about the program because they can spend the money they collect any way they want to. Therefore, by expanding the program to include charging private insurance companies for service-connected conditions, they can increase the collections at least ten-fold. They can then use that money to buy fine leather portfolios, and pay big fat bonuses, for the chronic underperformers at the highest echelons of the bloated bureaucracy.

This isn’t the CHANGE we were promised friends. This is more of the same, only worse. This is a step in the wrong direction and unless something drastic is done they are going to get away with it.

Now is the time to STOP THE MADNESS! Tell congress NO. Tell the Administration NO. Tell them that it is the responsibility of government, not the private sector, to bear the cost burden of providing health care to Veterans who were injured in-service.

Let’s Get Something Straight Here

Monday, February 9th, 2009

The MSM is all atwitter this morning over Robert Plant. His collaboration with Alison Krauss, Raising Sand (Produced by T Bone Burnett), won five Grammy awards, that’s right, FIVE.

If it were not for Alison Krauss and T Bone Burnett a similar collaboration, say with Robert Plant, Britney Spears, and will.i.am, would have sold three albums and not even been nominated for a Grammy.

Raising Sand won five Grammys despite Plant. T Bone Burnett also produced the soundtrack album for “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”, which, o by the way, prominently features, guess who, Alison Krauss. Just a reminder, that album won FIVE Grammys too.

Alison Krauss has already won 18,000 Grammys and she’s only twelve years old.

One song that she was nominated for, but did not win a Grammy, is “Simple Love”. Here’s that:

We Haven’t Forgotten (Note From Lars)

Saturday, February 7th, 2009

Greetings Friends:

Well, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the new VA secretary, Eric Shinseki, but given that he has kept all of the old VA bureaucrats in charge, it doesn’t look like we can expect much “change”.

To my mind, one of the most offensive retentions is that of Michael Kussman as under secretary for health.  This guy is one of the most callous characters I’ve ever seen.

For those of you that haven’t seen it, here’s an email Kussman sent about Veterans suicides:

—– Original Message —–
From: Kussman, Michael J, M.n.
To: Katz, Ira R.; Zeiss, Antonette
Cc: Cross, Gerald M.; Van Diepen, Louise R; O’Grady, Laura (VHACO)
Sent: Sat Dec 15 10:26:382007
Subject: Suicides
Folks,
In the Clips this morning. our friend Chris Adams in the McLatchy Papers alleges that 18 veterans kill themselves every day and this is
confirmed by the VA’s own statistics. Is that true? Sounds awful but if one is considering 24 million veterans.
Michael J. Kussman, MD, MS, MACP
Brigadier General, United States Army, Retired
Under Secretary For Health
Veterans Health Administration
Department of Veterans Affairs
Washington, DC, 20420

“Sounds awful but if one is considering 24 million veterans.”

Well, gee, there’s so damn many Veterans, 24 million, what’s the big deal about 18 a day?

Hey!  This is good for the gubmint!  If only we could figure out how to get 180 to commit suicide each day!

How about 1800?  Wouldn’t that be great!?

Wouldn’t be long before we could get rid of the whole bunch!

Unless of course you’re a retired General.  Like Eric Shinseki and Michael Kussman.  Those are “keepers”.

The only solace that I get is in the knowledge that Shinseki and Kussman will have to meet their maker come judgment day.   And I’m convinced it ain’t gonna be pretty for these two and their ilk.

Ut Prosim

Lars

Let’s Be Honest (Cardinals Were Robbed)

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

The haters in Steeler Nation are livid over accusations of bad officiating. They, and their supporters, are looking myopically at several plays that were punctuated by terrible calls (or no-calls) from officials.

They claim that the holding call in the end zone that resulted in a safety was bogus, but ignore the fact that the safety should have been called on the previous play when Parker didn’t make it out of the end zone.

They claim that the forward pass that was ruled a fumble, and overturned on review, was really a fumble.

And then there was the final Cardinals play of the game: The officials ruled the play a fumble (again) and gave the ball to the Steelers, thus ending any chance for the Cardinals to get the Hail Larry (because anyone who knows what Fitzgerald is capable of in those situations knows that the pass needs to be renamed).

For some reason that is only known by the NFL, the play was not automatically reviewed by the booth. Had the play been reviewed the official under the hood would have been able to see a very high quality image as represented here:

Forward Pass Ruled A Fumble

Forward Pass Ruled A Fumble

Anyone capable of objective thought can surely see that he maintained possession of the ball through the passing motion and the ball did not come out earlier, as ruled by the official.

We don’t like to see anyone lose because of bad officiating, and that is exactly what happened in this game.

And then there is the roughing the passer that wasn’t and the intentional grounding that was (but wasn’t called).

And it goes on-and-on…

George Bretherton writes: “The hurried judgment (of the booth officials) took on greater significance when the Steelers’ James Farrior was penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct after he removed his helmet on the field. If a longer inspection of the fumble had shown that Warner in fact had possession as his arm was moving forward, the Cardinals would have run the next play from the Steelers’ 29, hardly a Hail Mary situation.”

The B.O. Republicans who voted for Geithner

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

Michelle Malkin provides us with this list of Republican senators who voted FOR Timothy Franz (call me Tim) Geithner.

Corker (R-TN)
Cornyn (R-TX)
Crapo (R-ID)
Ensign (R-NV)
Graham (R-SC)
Gregg (R-NH)
Hatch (R-UT)
Shelby (R-AL)
Snowe (R-ME)
Voinovich (R-OH)

We’re not surprised that Robert Phillips (call me Bob) Corker, Jr. voted for Geithner.  He has proven to be less interested in doing what Tennesseans hired him to do, represent us in congress, and more inclined to do what is best for Bob.

Another Republican from Tennessee recently did the same thing.  David Davis was elected to the House of Representatives in 2006 and was defeated in the 2008 primary.

Given the strong showing by Democrat Harold Ford in the last senate class I election (Corker only won by 2.7%, compared to a 33% margin of victory for Lamar Alexander in the 2008 election), it is logical to assume that Corker is playing politics to win support from those Ford voters; However, by doing so he is disenchanting conservative voters in Tennessee.

Had Corker and his ilk been willing to stand up for what’s right, we wouldn’t now have a Treasury Secretary who likes to cheat on paying his taxes.

Given that Corker likes to cheat on his business conflicts of interest, he may have made a deal with Geithner to get in on the action.

UPDATE: When The Student Is The Teacher

Monday, January 26th, 2009

Mad Dog clued us in to an update on the previous post.  The coach of the team that beat their opponents 100-0 has been fired.

Recap:  “On its Web site last week, Covenant, a private Christian school, posted a statement regretting the outcome of its Jan. 13 shutout win over Dallas Academy. “It is shameful and an embarrassment that this happened. This clearly does not reflect a Christlike and honorable approach to competition,” said the statement, signed by Queal and board chair Todd Doshier.”

That statement was made after The Covenant School girls’ basketball coach ran up the score on the woefully unmatched Dallas Academy.

Coach Micah Grimes, in response to his school’s statement, is quoted as saying: “In response to the statement posted on The Covenant School Web site, I do not agree with the apology or the notion that the Covenant School girls basketball team should feel embarrassed or ashamed.  We played the game as it was meant to be played. My values and my beliefs would not allow me to run up the score on any opponent, and it will not allow me to apologize for a wide-margin victory when my girls played with honor and integrity.”

Given Micah Grimes uncanny ability to justify slime, he will be immediately hired by the Department of Veterans Affairs office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs.  He is widely believed to be the heir apparent to Everett (call me Ev) Chasen of the now infamous “Shhh…” emails.

Story is here at the Dallas Morning News.

Audit: More Bad Accounting In Veterans Health Care

Sunday, January 25th, 2009

GAO REPORT HERE

Two years after a politically embarrassing $1 billion shortfall that imperiled veterans health care, the Veterans Affairs Department is still low-balling budget estimates to Congress to keep its spending down, government investigators say.

Veterans Turn To Online Strangers For Financial Help

Sunday, January 25th, 2009

From NPR:  “Veterans Turn To Online Strangers For Financial Help“.

Shoot First… (A Note From Lars)

Saturday, January 24th, 2009

Greetings Friends:

Late to the party, as usual, but this morning I was perusing an article from The Fayetteville (NC) Observer titled: “Changes coming to veterans hospitals?”

In the article some schmuck named Dave Rainey, identified as spokesman for the VA Mid-Atlantic network is quoted as saying: “On one hand, we have a $1.8 billion budget. That’s taxpayer money, and it has to be spent effectively, by making plans in the short term and the long term. That’s the business case for what we plan there in the Salisbury VA.” (Wait… What?)

The VA decided, arbitrarily and capriciously, that they weren’t spending taxpayer money effectively so ordered that shutdown of the ER and surgical service at the Salisbury, NC VA medical center. When the situation came to light, politicians got involved and the VA Secretary ordered the decision be reversed. Here’s how the director of the Salisbury VA characterized it: “The Secretary of Veterans Affairs, The Honorable James B. Peake, MD, has made a decision regarding the proposed (proposed? proposed? those changes weren’t proposed, they were ORDERED.) changes for the Salisbury VA Medical Center. This decision was made after careful deliberation and review of information from veterans and their family members, employees, veterans’ organizations, congressional members, local government officials and concerned citizens.

There will be no changes in the services offered by the Salisbury VA until 2013. The inpatient medical/surgical unit and the emergency department will remain open while Health Care Centers are constructed in Charlotte and Winston-Salem and relationships with community health care partners are developed. Salisbury will also continue to provide outpatient primary care and mental health services, medical and surgical outpatient specialty care and all other related medical services currently available. In addition, programs will be established in Mental Health and Long Term Care. The large number of inpatient beds in these areas will remain open as programs and services are added.

The Health Care Centers in Charlotte and Winston-Salem will essentially provide all clinical services with the exception of inpatient care and emergency department services. Plans for doubling the size of the Hickory clinic remain ongoing, with an estimated completion date of 2010.

The establishment of after-hours primary care clinics at Salisbury, Charlotte, Winston-Salem and Hickory will be implemented as soon as possible. This will involve extended hours Monday through Friday as well as weekend hours. A 24/7 telephone triage call center will be established and a case management program will be implemented for veterans referred through the Salisbury Fee Program.

This plan will improve health care access for our veterans and decrease their travel burden while providing comprehensive health care close to where veterans reside.

Carolyn L. Adams
Director”

Q: What can we gleen from this information?

A: The VA shoots first…

Ol’ Lars is pretty broke down friends, and I rely on help from a home health worker to keep me at home instead of in a nursing home. Recently a new coordinator was hired by the VA Mountain Home and he decided that me, and hundreds of Veterans like me, didn’t need twelve hours of care a week, we only needed two. He called me on a Monday and told me that my services would be terminated Wednesday. I called a friend in Washington D.C., and by Friday the Mountain Home director announced that the Secretary of VA had ordered the decision reversed.

While I was on the phone with this new Mountain Home guy I commented on how odd it was that this information would come in a phone call. I said that this kind of information is usually mailed, along with an explanation of how to appeal the decision. He replied: “We didn’t want to incur the expense of a mailing.”

True story friends, Lars wouldn’t lie to you. So I said to him, I said: “I don’t know how much you make, but I know it’s more than 60,000 dollars a year, and it is costing the VA a hundred times as much for you to be making all these phone calls as it would cost to mail a letter.”

But that’s the point I want to make. The way VA makes decisions ultimately results in an enormous INCREASE in what is ultimately spent. For years and years I was telling the VA that there was something seriously wrong with my neck. Despite several doctors recommendations they wouldn’t authorize an MRI because “That’s taxpayer money…”, so they took dozens of x-rays. Because x-rays can’t see soft tissue damage they kept telling me that everything was fine. Finally I wound up in the ER at a civilian (real) hospital and they did an MRI. There were two ruptured disks in my neck that were flattening the spinal cord from opposite directions.

Can you image what kind of pain that caused?

So, I take the MRI report to the VA and say: “Now what?” And the VA says: “We’ll set you up with a civilian neurosurgeon at a civilian hospital that will cost the VA at least 250,000 dollars and because while you are there the anesthesiologist will damage your nose lining causing your lungs to fill up with blood which will require 10 days in the civilian hospital with extensive involvement from the pulmonary department which will wind up costing the VA over 500,000 dollars.” “O, and by the way, the VA will call the hospital daily complaining about how much it is costing the VA and demanding you be transferred back to the VA hospital, which will result in the pulmonary problems not being resolved properly and you will have to go on home oxygen for the rest of your life which will cost the VA well over a million dollars.”

And I say: “Why?”. And the VA says: “Because that’s taxpayer money and we have to spend it effectively.”

Now I’m not the brightest bulb in the box. I have ancestors named Ole. But, I do know that you can be penny wise and pound foolish. Or, for Ole: Øre wise and kroner foolish.

Until next time,

Lars Harfagre

Note From Lars: An Idea Whose Time Has Come

Friday, January 16th, 2009

We put in a call to Lars Harfagre, Warrior Emeritus, to see if he had any thoughts for us and we now bring you the most recent “Note From Lars”.

Hello Friends, Lars Here:

Don’t like that Dr. Phil.  Going back to when he was on the Opry show.  Opry Winfrey’s show.  He comes across as a bloviating blowhard.  To be fair, though, he does have some commendable moments.  One of those came on this past December 19th.  In that show, titled “Beyond The Front Lines”, Dr. Phil and his guests pore over some of the catastrophic failures of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

I was clued in to the show by reading a December 31st article in The Washington Times by Dr. Robert Van Boven, director of a VA Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) program in Texas, titled “Dealing with PTSD, VA failures exposed in living color”.  In that article Van Boven succinctly illustrates how the VA operates with this example: “…at Central Texas Veterans Health Care System, suppression and inaction to disclosures of fraud, waste, plagiarism, and cronyism fell upon deaf ears to protect the inner circle of involved management and shortchange victims of traumatic brain injury (TBI). Consequently, attempts to bring to light misdoings by management at the only dedicated TBI brain imaging and treatment research program in Texas resulted not in remedies, but reprisals and covert plans for considering closure of the program without explanation.”

Couple of things that the VA won’t tell you that shed light on the situation:

1.  Only the Department of the Army has a higher percentage of employees quit each year.

2.  According to the VA’s own research “Veterans  with alternative insurance coverage were less likely to use VA and tended to use VA for special care such as pharmacy… Having a regular VA physician had a significantly
negative effect on the ratio of pharmacy to total cost and on the likelihood of staying in VA hospitals for mental health/substance abuse treatment, implying that VA enrollees’ with regular non-VA physicians tend to use VA mainly for special care such as pharmacy or mental health/substance abuse treatment.”

I have had the bad fortune to require massive amounts of health care in both VA and civilian hospitals and clinics.  There is a huge difference between the quality of care.  Civilian hospitals beat VA every time.  And there is a large group of people advocating using the VA as a national model for Government Health Care.  That should be very troubling to the average citizen.

The proof is in the pudding, and the VA is making runny pudding.

Veterans should be given (Like in Australia) cards to access the health care of their choice and shut the VA down entirely.

Godspeed friends, and may the wind be always at your back.

Lars

P.S.

If you read this and think that your tax dollars could be better spent by someone other than the VA, please contact your elected representatives and thell them about it.

Far Out

Friday, January 9th, 2009

So, we’ve done it.  Surpassed the one trillion dollar deficit threshold.  What’s a trillion dollars?  How do you wrap your brain around a trillion dollars?  Well, let’s try the comparison thing.  Let’s do a stacking exercise.

Stack one has 1,000 bills and is 4.3 inches tall

Stack two has 1,000,000 bills and is 358 feet tall

Stack three has 1,000,000,000 and is 68 miles tall

Stack four has 1,000,000,000,000 and is 67,866 miles tall

Our national debt is now 11 trillion, which is 746,527 miles tall

A million here and a million there, and pretty soon you’re talking about real money.

Of course our exercise is hypothetical because you can’t stack money like that without a complete collapse.

O. Wait…