Shulkin Says he is Considering Closing 1100 VA Facilities

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Photo Credit: Andrew Harnik/AP

According to this, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin is considering closing 1100 VA facilities nationwide. Apparently, they are prepping to allow Veterans more use of the private sector.

For years now, we have heard stories of long wait times and Veterans dying while waiting to be seen. I personally had a fight with the VA (on behalf of my father) that required the assistance of a state Senator. Had my father been going to the private sector, he would have been treated faster, with less complaint, and more uniformly, which he actually needed because he was undergoing cancer treatment for stage 4 glioblastoma.

According to the article at Military Times:

In an internal agency document obtained by The Associated Press, the VA pointed to aging buildings it was reviewing for possible closure that would cost millions of dollars to replace. It noted that about 57 percent of all VA facilities were more than 50 years old. Of the 431 VA buildings it said were vacant, most were built 90 or more years ago, according to agency data. The VA document did not specify the locations.

I see no issue with this! Aging buildings in disrepair? Close them! I think we should allow our Veterans to see non-VA doctors with the use of a VA insurance that affords them the same benefits of using the VA. The remaining VA hospitals should be used for the most serious cases, such as our men and women coming home from overseas with injuries and rehab for those injuries. Everyone else, like my father, should be treated in the private sector.

We should also be expanding their nursing facility for long term care of aging and terminally ill Veterans. My father required the services of a 24 hour location as he got severely ill, and he very much wanted to be among his fellow Veterans in his final days. He was denied. There was no room. I personally believe that, if he had been granted a room, he would have lived longer. All my father would have needed to give himself a few more months would have been for some Vietnam era Marine to walk into his room and tell him to suck it up (my dad was Army, but he so admired the Marines that he preferred them and lamented the fact that he wasn’t one).

So let’s do this. Save the tax payers some money. And for the love of all things holy, let’s save our Veterans from long wait times, fights they shouldn’t need to focus on more than their illness or injury, and premature death.

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Ft. Lauderdale shooter another ‘known wolf’ let go by FBI

It is uncertain if Esteban Santiago, the man in custody for the horrific attack, is a true believer in a radical Islamic ideology, or a severely mentally unstable person who carried out jihad because of the voices in his head. What is undeniable is that he walked into a FBI office in Alaska and told them “voices” were making him do things.

He told officials he was hearing voices in his head, some of which were telling him to join ISIS and watch their videos, and was taken to hospital for a mental health evaluation.

Santiago, who also told the FBI the government controlled his mind, gunned down 13 people at Fort Lauderdale airport today, killing five and injuring eight.

After the evaluation, and after agreeing to seek help for his mental issues, Santiago was freed. It looks as though there was very little monitoring of him afterwards. There also appears to have been no follow up or monitoring of Santiago, nor an attempt to use existing laws and due process to suspend his right to carry a gun, something that is permissible under current law.

Again, it is very much unsure at this stage if Santiago is an actual convert to radical Islam. But he did flash what is known as, for lack of a better term, the ISIS gang sign in a social media photo.

If, in fact, if it turns out that Santiago is mentally unstable and not a true jihadi, that brings another government agency into focus: the VA. It is well known that the VA health system has been letting down our nation’s veterans at an alarming rate, especially the mental well-being of those veterans.  It has been reported that Santiago recently spent a tour of duty in Iraq. His family said that he was not the same since coming back.

The suspect’s aunt Maria Ruiz Rivera claimed the alleged shooter “lost his mind” while fighting in Iraq.

When quizzed why Santiago may have opened fire at passengers, her husband, Hernan Rivera, said: “No idea. Only thing I could tell you was when he came out of Iraq, he wasn’t feeling too good.”

Full article: Ft. Lauderdale shooter another ‘known wolf’ let go by FBI

NEW INFORMATION: Tomah VA: Veterans could have been infected with Hepatitis, HIV

Nearly 600 veterans who received care at the Tomah VA may have been infected with several types of disease due to violations in infection control procedures.

VA administrators made the announcement Tuesday afternoon at a press conference.

The Tomah VA says it’s in the process of notifying 592 veterans that they may be infected with Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, or HIV after they received care from one particular dental provider.

Acting Medical Center Director Victoria Brahm said the dentist was using his own equipment, then cleaning it and reusing it, which violates the VA’s regulations.

The Tomah VA says it uses sterile and disposable equipment.

The VA says he did this for one year, from October 2015 through October 2016.

It came to light when someone filling in for his assistant noticed what was going on and reported it.

That dentist has been removed from patient care and is now working in an administrative role.

The VA also referred the case to the inspector general for assessment of any criminal charges.

 “It was purposeful that he was violating VA regulations,” Brahm said. “During all of the orientation, he used all of our equipment. He used it appropriately, so it was very purposeful from what we found in our investigation that he knew exactly what he was doing, and preferred to use his own equipment against procedure.”Brahm told reporters that the Tomah VA has made improvements but still has others to make.

“We have clear evidence that we are moving forward and the people that remain here are very vested and here for the mission of taking care of veterans,” she said. “There are pockets of improvement that need to occur they still need to I’ll be honest, and we are aware of where they are and we are dealing with them as quickly as we can.”

The VA is offering free screenings to those veterans and will provide free medical treatment to those who test positive for an infection.

Full article: NEW INFORMATION: Tomah VA: Veterans could have been infected with Hepatitis, HIV

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Houston Veterans Waited for Care After VA Cancelled Appointments

Nearly 100 veterans in Houston waited an average of 81 days for care after schedulers at a Department of Veterans Affairs hospital cancelled their appointments, a watchdog said this week.

The veterans’ wait times appeared much shorter in electronic scheduling records because staffers at the Michael E. DeBakey Medical Center in Houston, Texas were told to designate appointments as cancelled by the patient when they were really cancelled by the facility, according to a VA inspector general report released on Monday.

Investigators learned through a review that two former scheduling supervisors at the hospital and a current director of two of its outpatient clinics told staffers as recently as February to designate appointments cancelled by the clinic as cancelled by patients.

“This report is a prime example of why VA is still mired in dysfunction. The inspector general caught three VA leaders red-handed instructing their subordinates to manipulate wait times,” Rep. Jeff Miller (R., Fla.), who chairs the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, told the Washington Free Beacon.

Miller said one of the VA leaders was allowed to retire with full benefits, while the other two still work at the VA.

Source: Houston Veterans Waited for Care After VA Cancelled Appointments

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I Have Something Important to Say, Especially for the Vietnam Veterans

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Image Source: The Frame: Looking back at the Vietnam War

If you are or know a Vietnam Veteran, please read this. It is important.

My parents got screwed by the VA, and I want to make sure it doesn’t happen to another Veteran.

As some of you know, my father became ill a little over a year ago. He is a Veteran, US Army, and he served in Vietnam, one tour. He was exposed to agent orange and was aware of it.

I did a lot of research when my father became ill and I have gotten very acquainted with agent orange over the last year (and I studied hard about the time my dad was there, so I know he was exposed to it… a lot of it). A lot of guys who were over there when my dad was developed the same issue; the VA has settled with around 800 of them. So I pushed my parents to approach the VA for help. They wouldn’t touch him with a 50 foot pole. According to them, this particular illness was not recognized as an effect of agent orange, and his illness was not considered to be combat related.

The VA refused to handle any of his care until I contacted Senator Burr of North Carolina. Suddenly, things they told us they weren’t set up for, etc., they could do for my dad, and insisted on doing it.

Because my father’s issues became severe enough that he needed 24 hour care, he was moved to a skilled nursing facility. The VA, again, would not take him in to one of their Veteran’s nursing facilities. My mother was again told by a social worker at the VA that his illness was not recognized and was not considered a combat illness. Senator Burr’s name was on absolutely everything dealing with my dad, so they gave him the treatment he needed and did maintenance, but would not cover the nursing facility or take him in to their own. They did not qualify for any benefits at all. Mom was told to have dad autopsied when he died, and if agent orange was found, she’d get some benefits. But they can’t help them at all right now, when he needs the help the most.

Well, here’s the part you need to read.

My mother got a call tonight about my dad because things are ever changing and a different social worker called to get paperwork and more details.

This is when my mom found out that the VA does cover what he has under certain circumstances – that my dad meets. According to this social worker, because my dad was boots on the ground during Vietnam and on the ground during a time they knew agent orange was being used – dad was on the ground and fighting for the Tet Offensive – he should have been completely covered. There was no reason for Senator Burr to have to get involved, because he should have automatically been covered for care, and he should have been placed in a VA skilled nursing facility. Senator Burr is the only reason he got any care at all, but that shouldn’t have happened.

Vietnam Veterans: if you were boots on the ground during the war and the VA says you aren’t covered for common illnesses of other Veterans, please start asking questions. This includes several different kinds of cancers. You should not have to wait until you are dead to prove agent orange is in your system so your loved ones get benefits after the fact. They should be helping you while you are alive.

The original social worker who told my mom there was nothing they could do and they were only entitled to benefits after my dad died and they had proof of agent orange exposure gave my mother bad information. Now, because it wasn’t filed at the get go, they can’t get any money back for the multiple thousands of dollars spent for my father’s care that should have been covered by the VA. Mom has the forms to fill out to get filed so it is taken care of from here out, but my dad got sick in November 2014… he isn’t covered for any of that because my mom was given bad information.

Please, guys. You were treated badly by everyone when you returned home. The least they can do is treat you well now. You deserve that. Don’t let them screw you like they screwed my parents. If you find proof other Veterans got the same illness as you, show it to them, especially if benefits were paid out. Keep telling them you were boots on the ground for the war, and tell them how many tours you did. The boots on the ground thing is very important… it gets you covered for a lot of things not normally covered. Don’t just talk to one person. If you have to, get your representatives involved. I can’t tell you how much Senator Burr did for my family, it was amazing, and more than I expected. I really only expected a virtual pat on the head, but Senator Burr dove in head first. A lot of expenses my parents could have ended up with got erased. But a lot more should have been, and weren’t.

This is worth it, guys. You deserve care for whatever you have that could be traced back to that crap they sprayed all over. Your family deserves it, too. Get the help you need, and don’t take the first no you hear… keep fighting. Don’t lose everything with the promise of a payout after your autopsy. No. Get the help you need now!

Vietnam Veteran, I love you, and I thank you for your service. I can’t help you with a lot now, but this… I owed you this. You need to know what I now know. Please don’t get hurt the way my parents were.

VA says it may shut down hospitals to close $2.5B budget gap

The Department of Veterans Affairs may have to shut down some hospitals next month if Congress does not address a $2.5 billion shortfall for the current budget year, VA officials warned Monday.

VA says it may shut down hospitals to close $2.5B budget gap | WATE 6 On Your SideThe VA told Congress that it needs to cover shortfalls caused by an increased demand by veterans for health care, including costly treatments for hepatitis C. The agency also is considering furloughs, hiring freezes and other steps to close a funding gap for the budget year that ends Sept. 30.

The VA said it wants authority to use up to $3 billion from the new Veterans Choice program to close the budget gap, with as much as $500 million going to treat hepatitis C. A single pill for the liver-wasting viral infection can cost up to $1,000.

The Choice program, the centerpiece of a VA overhaul approved last year, makes it easier for veterans to receive federally paid medical care from local doctors. Congress approved $10 billion over three years for the Choice program as it responded to a scandal over long waits for veterans seeking medical care and falsified records to cover up the delays.

Deputy VA Secretary Sloan Gibson told Congress that VA health care sites experienced a 10.5 percent increase in workload for the one-year period since the scandal erupted in April 2014.

The VA needs flexibility from Congress to close the budget gap, Gibson said, adding that action is needed in the next three weeks to avoid drastic consequences.

VA says it may shut down hospitals to close $2.5B budget gap.

So where is that $2.5B being spent? Because it sure isn’t being spent on caring for our Veterans.