Hi there – hope your week is starting off on the right foot. The weather here in Minneapolis is starting to feel like a muggy August. Of course, in August, we will be gearing up for a cold winter. It seems we’re never happy with the weather here.
Tons of festivals last weekend, and on Saturday I wrote a bit about recruiting you veterans to live up here. It’s a pretty good state, all in all.
Some Scary Veterans Health Administration Stats
Ventilator-Associated Infections 3 Times Higher than VA Avg
I’ve been digging around on the VA website for past few weeks. It never ceases to amaze me when the VA publishes stats that make them look bad. I’m not sure if this is a good sign about full disclosure or a sign the VA just doesn’t care how bad it looks.
Stats this week pertain to the Veterans Health Administration. Have any of you ever heard of VAP Infections? I had not until a couple days ago. VAP stands for Ventilator-Associated Pneumonia.
The VAP rates are 3 times higher in VISN 06 Hospitals:
- Beckley, WV,
- Durham NC,
- Fayetteville, NC,
- Hampton VA,
- Asheville, NC,
- Richmond, VA,
- Salem, VA,
- Salisbury, NC.
VHA in southern states worst with bedsores
Veterans seen at Durham, NC, and Salem, VA, experiences bed ulcers almost twice as often a national averages for the VHA, too. This means veterans are likely sitting in bed longer without been cared for by nursing staff.
Iowa City, IA, Gulf Coast, MS, And Augusta, GA are the worst in the country for allowing veterans to develop bedsores. Iowa City, IA holds the crown.
For family members of veterans seen at these areas, be sure to accompany your family members. If you have experienced problems at these facilities, contact a medical malpractice attorney in your area immediately.
The Veterans Health Administration is required by law to provide adequate care to veterans. When they fall short, that is a sign that funding is low or processes are not being followed. Either way, it means that the facility in question may lack funding for proper training. This lack of funding puts elderly veterans at risk.
Veteran Issues that Fire Me Up
VA Hoards DIC Claim, Waits for Widow to Die
In the Bamboozled section of NJ.com is the story of a disabled veteran’s widow. Virginia Arpaia was the widow of US Marine Carmin Arpaia, a WWII veteran who fought in Japan.
Virginia’s husband died in 1970. In 2009, Virginia filed for DIC benefits to help pay for assisted living. Her daughter, who had power of attorney, filled out the paperwork.
The VA delayed adjudicating, at which time the children enlisted the help of Senator Lindsay Graham, of South Carolina. Some time later, Virginia passed away, but her claim was still open.
The family called the VA to inquire but received road block after road block. In 2010, the family received a letter the from the VA, “We have been notified of the death of Virginia Arpaia… Based on this notification we have stopped processing her claim,” it said.
After pressing the issue, one year later, the VA claimed it already denied Virginia in 2009. However, the VA sent the denial letter to the wrong address, some 250 miles away to an address not listed on the application. All the other letters had been sent to the correct address.
This claim is peculiar because the VA had been sending notices to the family that they were still reviewing the claim over one year after the date the denial was supposedly sent.
There are two ways to look at this case for speculator purposes.
Either the VA is waiting for spouses and older veterans to die so as to avoid paying out benefits after death. Or, a VA employee slipped the letter into the file to help the VA avoid paying on the DIC claim.
Fiduciaries ripping off veterans
In a recent Congressional investigation, Congressman Bill Johnson stated that it is a shame that the only way to get the VA to follow the law is to hold a Congressional hearing.
That truth is especially apparent in the VA’s handing of the VA Fiduciary Program.
Nationwide, disabled veterans are being exploited by fiduciaries. Families end up in battles against the Department of Veterans Affairs over the matter.
At the center of the battle, fighting to help veterans, are Doug Rosinski and Katrina Eagle. Both have taken cases on against the VA fiduciary, and sometimes against the VA. One reason for the latter is when the VA misuses the program to the veteran’s detriment.
The Veterans Affairs assigns a fiduciary whenever a veteran is too disabled to manage their disability benefits. Unfortunately, the program has grown into a $3 billion enterprise. Whenever that kind of money is involved, people will take advantage of the program.
Until a year ago, veterans had no ability to appeal a fiduciary decision. Veterans were just stuck with whatever fiduciary the VA assigned. In certain areas, Regional Office officials of the VA developed close ties with area bankers who benefited from the deals.
Here is one example of such an exchange, cited in a recent article written by Eric Nalder and Lise Olsen.
“R. Dean Slicer, a top regional program manager in Indiana, boasted in a November 2010 email to an Indianapolis bank official that they would have “fun” battling with a war veteran’s daughter. Carolyn Stump, a registered nurse, was trying to free her seriously ailing 81-year-old dad, William Evans, from a fiduciary at the bank who had tangled with the family and had recently been slow paying some bills, according to court records.”
Slicer was recently promoted to oversee the fiduciary program in 13 states. This is a clear example that the VA is actively employing bureaucrats who do not give a shit about veterans. Not only do they not get fired when cited for abusing veterans, but the real bad ones get promoted.
Veterans are slowly winning their rights back following a 2011 decision from the US Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. Now, veterans can appeal to the VA whenever a fiduciary is assigned incorrectly.
But the battle is far from one. Jerks like Slicer are still in the system. For more information on his behavior, read on: http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/article/Disabled-vets-families-fight-VA-over-fiduciaries-3639797.php#page-2
DoD, VA Clamp down on For-Profit Colleges
Predatory for-profit colleges are being targeted by President Obama’s executive order. The Executive Order establishes standards for colleges that received funds from veterans benefits.
“The executive order requires some specific tasks and deliverables that focus on enhancing the information and resources available to students, as well as strengthening oversight and accountability within federal education benefit programs,” said Robert Worley, director of the education service at VA during a recent webinar the three agencies hosted to describe the initiatives.
Work we did at Veterans for Common Sense was highlighted in a recent article by eCampus News:
“A Washington, D.C.-based organization calledVeterans for Common Sense released an extensive submitted to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs May 16 as members of Congress considered an executive order from President Obama meant to provide more college information to military veterans.”
Patrick Bellon and I met with the Senate Minority in the HELP committee about for-profits. The HELP acronym stands for Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions. Our meeting was productive in that we learned that many Senate Republicans support for-profit colleges as a market alternative.
We disagreed. Everyone likes having market alternatives to things like mustard or catsup. When I am on a budget, I may not buy a superior product so as to save money. This is good.
But to draw a comparison between generic condiments and college seemed trite, especially here. For-profits charge, in many instances, as much or more than traditional colleges. Meanwhile, the degrees are not as well recognized as equivalent, much less superior.
Would you pay $60,000 for a Jaguar XK but settle for a Chevy Malibu? I didn’t think so. And that was our point to the Republican Minority.
Before the Executive Order, the problem was that there was no information sharing between the consumer and the college. Veterans in particular were being targeted with aggressive marketing practices that included deception.
So, the veteran may think she were buying an educational Jaguar while in reality driving off in a Chevy. The Senator Minority thought this rip off was ok.
Anyway, that was our fun last March and it’s great to see the VA and DoD tackling the issue now.
For those reading this that believe the Senate Minority was in the right, I have some beachfront property in Arizona with your name on it. Call me any time.
Source: Federal News Radio
Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs
Concerning failing project in Orlando, FL hospital that will impact 300,000 veterans”
“This project has been a multi-million dollar debacle, and a failure of this magnitude deserves accountability at the highest level. Unfortunately, we have seen this pattern before. VA management and oversight of large construction and IT projects across the country has been sorely lacking and fraught with incompetence.
“The current situation in Orlando is inexcusable. Pointing fingers and laying blame will not build the medical center the veterans of Central Florida deserve. I expect answers immediately from VA on the status and cost of this project, and the implication of today’s decision on the delivery of care and services to our veterans.”
From article, “Scammers Prey on Disabled Veterans, Steal Millions.”
In Fort Worth, fiduciary Patricia Ibrahim got five years in prison after she withdrew veteran Larry Rodgers from a nursing home and put him without permission into a “substandard” group facility so she could “use his money to go gambling,” said prosecutor Lori Burks. “It is despicable.” Rodgers died before Ibrahim was prosecuted.
From article, “Disabled vets’ families fight VA over fiduciaries.”
Quote of VA employee R. Dean Slicer, who is now in charge of the VA fiduciary program in 13 states.
In a Nov. 22, 2010 email to Springmier, Slicer mentioned the “many congressional and other complaints filed by Mrs. Stump.” He told Springmier to “document any conversations you have.” He cited a technical misstep: Stump’s mother had refused to disclose her small Social Security allotment.
“So this will be a fun one,” wrote Slicer.
Facebook Comments from Veterans
Every week I like to highlight a few comments of veterans from our Facebook feeds from the past.
Down and Dirty of Vocational Rehabilitation
I picked this one because of a couple misstatements that I would like all veterans to understand. Congress passes the laws that get turned into Statutes. Then, the VA takes those statutes and interprets them into Regulations. Sometimes, the VA is wrong when they write the Regulation. When that happens, either the Courts or Congress makes the rewrite the Regulation.
Here is the Facebook comment that prompted the above statement:
“Veterans also have to remember Congress mandates the regulations that Voc Rehab goes by. The counselors do not make them up. Also many think of the program as a educational program and that it is not. It is a rehabilitation Program designed to get you back to work. Many that sign up have Masters Degrees or other degrees and simply need a new skill to accommodate their disability. Also many forget they have a disability and request something that reasonably they wont be capable of supporting themselves with. They look at the big picture not just a wish list. We all have dreams of what we would like to do. But the counselors job is look at your disability, the market outlook and to insure you could support yourself in the future. Congress mandated laws to insure those rules are followed. So when you go to them insure you also look at the big picture.”
Lawmakers and Veterans Service Organizations
Pushing for changes to the Post 9/11 GI Bill – including pre-college counseling. What improvements would you like to see in this benefit?
Matthew: I would like to see the maximum amount for private colleges raised. In my state the maximum amount is less than the highest in state tuition at a public university. Also there should be different payment amounts for undergrad and grad school.
Are California veterans getting shafted?
Waits in Oakland for disability compensation claims are almost twice the national average. http://www.disabledveterans.org/2012/05/16/for-disability-california-veterans-wait-longer/
Chad Hansen: I been waiting since 2008! I am in Sacramento.
Dennis Vogt: Los Angeles…Im settled. Took 24 months, more or less! And considering some of the stories I had heard prior to application, I thought that was pretty quick. I think you have to consider the time it takes one to accumulate, search and return information, plus the wait for the C & P’s when you speak of total time as well….I was OK with two years….2008 Chad, is WAY beyond reasonable….though I remember one guy on our Vietnam Vets site who’s back check was something like $160K if memory serves me….so he probably waited over ten years.
Phil Lester: it took sc. 729 days to get 100 percent, i was already rated at 80 percent.
Charles C Dahms: I wish it was that fast here in New Jersey. I have been waiting 14 monts and still nothing. Two months ago they said it was in review.
Tommy Locklear: 19 months in N.C.
Art Stephens: I’m still waiting after 7 PLUS years and an appeal, which was decided in my favor, and it has been sitting at the rating board for 14 months now.
Veterans Advocate of the Week
This one goes out to Congressman Jeff Miller. The Congressman has been a tireless advocate of veterans, both nationally and in Florida. Thank you Congressman for everything you do on our behalf.