VA Pays Millions For Spin-And-Stonewall Machine

VA Pays Millions

Benjamin KrauseVA communication specialists “are not concerned with veterans in need,” writes columnist Michelle Malkin. “They’re not concerned with citizens and public officials requesting information… What these entrenched government employees care most about, above all else, is the business of spin and stonewalling.” The reality is that VA pays millions for purposes less worthy than supporting veterans. Vets most certainly are not a top priority.

Malkin recently covered my research into VA’s public affairs machine.

VA spokesman Mark Ballesteros warned his colleagues in an October 2013 email that he had read Krause’s veterans advocacy website, DisabledVeterans.org… Ballesteros wrote that Krause’s website “appears to have a distinct anti-VA tone.” He advised the VA’s taxpayer-funded public affairs specialists: “We should proceed cautiously with this one.”

Malkin continued:

What exactly did that mean? Ultimately, the office supplied data in response to Krause’s request — but not before Ballesteros imposed what appears to be a selective, pre-FOIA release policy based on viewpoint discrimination. “Let’s ensure the material is socialized before we provide it to the organization,” Ballesteros told his colleagues.

My research got started after I heard a rumor VA was using advanced software and services outside the agency to influence public opinion. What VA provided me confirmed my suspicions and as the old saying goes, where there was smoke, there was a fire.

The dirty truth is that VA uses taxpayer dollars to fund its media spying campaign by hiring a government contractors – millions upon millions, actually. Last year, VA gave me numerous unredacted contracts from a variety of companies that help. One company is called Barbaricum, LLC. This year, VA gave me a sample of exactly what they paid for while the government was shut down, from September – November 2013.

JUST WHAT DOES BARBARICUM DO?

Barbaricum is a company managed by “influence peddlers” like its principal, Scott Feldmayer. According to Washington Post, Feldmayer is a disabled veteran and former influence peddler for Lincoln Group during the Iraq War.

[Read Washington Post Lincoln Group Article]

Around 2006, Congress and the media tarred Lincoln Group for selling “influence” (psyops, public relations, and the like) that most considered blatant propaganda, to the tune of over $130 million in DoD contracts (i.e. it was sold to the American taxpayer). Those at Lincoln were well trained and well paid to use psychological and semantic manipulations to win the minds of many people. Now, Barbaricum under the lead of Feldmayer and friends peddles similar wares to American taxpayers through the Dept. of Veterans Affairs.

VA’s contract here with Barbaricum is valued at over $1.1 million if VA takes options through 2018. This VA contract indicates Barbaricum provides VA with media tracking of “positive and negative” news stories, social media influence, etc. The contract does not specifically state the company will help VA track members of Congress, private citizens, VA propagandists, and more, but the company helps VA do exactly that.

[Download Barbaricum Veterans Affairs Contracts]

VA Public Affairs provided me copies of the reports Barbaricum provides the agency through a FOIA request for the period covering the government shutdown. This is when VA got a lot of heat from Congress for spending millions on commercials bragging up VA services while the agency meanwhile failed to inform veterans about their benefits if the government fully shut down.

The reports document which of VA’s media campaigns were most successful in squelching scandals and tampering messages of concern from Congress. Is this what taxpayer dollars should pay for when VA cannot provide deserved care and benefits?

The following are just two reports (see all Barbaricum reports for VA they gave me here) with highlights next to each just to give a quick example:

October 2013 – VA Monthly Media Analysis Brief

Key Statements: “A majority of coverage was balanced due to a higher than normal amount of VA messaging, particularly from Sec. Shinseki on the shutdown, countering critical comments.” “Direct massaging from VA officials countered a large amount of critical reports.”

The following issues were discussed: Influence of Rep. Jeff Miller, American Legion, coverage of conference spending took a negative tone.

[Download October Report here]

September 2013 – VA Monthly Media Analysis Brief

Key Statement: “Direct messaging from local VA spokespeople balanced critical coverage of the government shutdown.”

The following issues were highlighted by media influence: Benefits for same sex couples, ending backlog and government shutdown, local VA office problems, impact of comments from US Senator Barbara Mikulski on backlog.

[Download September Report here]

If VA were a marketing company capitalizing on market ingenuity, I would congratulate them with a pat on the back. Hell, if I could afford help from Barbaricum for my own media campaign to fix VA, I would gladly pay them for it.

Sadly, VA executives decided to spend taxpayer dollars to learn how to best manipulate public sentiment about very serious issues for which our country demands transparency. Instead, we get treated with typical psyops garbage that we pay for.

[Download full Barbaricum – VA Public Affairs reports here]

Should government use propaganda tools against its citizens? I think it is time our government, including VA, starts winning over the hearts and minds of American’s the old fashioned way – be honest, work to improve the country, don’t commit crimes against those you serve.

UPDATE – 7/3/14 – 11:50 AM CST: Facebook “Like” feature is acting wonky for this article.

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Voc Rehab Survival GuideBenjamin Krause is an award winning investigative reporter, Veterans Benefits Law attorney, and disabled veteran of the US Air Force, where he served in its Special Operations Command. He attended Northwestern University and  the University of Minnesota Law School using VA Vocational Rehabilitation.

While in law school, Benjamin won his decade-long fight for full disability benefits and now helps others do the same with this website and his guide, the Voc Rehab Survival Guide for Veterans. Since its first publication in 2011, the guide has helped the veteran community receive millions in untapped benefits through the VA Chapter 31 Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment program. 

Connect with Benjamin on  Google+,  Twitter,  Facebook and LinkedIn.

Voc Rehab Survival Guide Benjamin Krause is the creator of the DisabledVeterans.org community, author of the Voc Rehab Survival Guide for Veterans, and numerous other guides. 

Benjamin is an award winning investigative reporter, Veterans Law attorney, and a disabled veteran of the US Air Force, where he served in its Special Operations Command. After receiving an Honorable Discharge, Benjamin began his decade long fight for benefits after being lowballed with a 10% rating in 2002. During that fight, he received degrees from Northwestern University and  the University of Minnesota Law School while using VA Vocational Rehabilitation.

You can connect with Benjamin on  Google+,  Twitter,  Facebook and LinkedIn.

Comments

  1. lemonfoundation says

    - Dr. Lorraine Day on Captain. Joyce Riley’s military show THE POWER HOUR (09/12): “…HIV-Negative AIDS cases falsely reported and treated as CFS cases may be one of the biggest cover-ups we’ve ever seen…”

    – In 1992 (i.e., after Gulf War 1) “…Newsweek made an even more shocking announcement: …CFS patients who had the same immune system deficiencies as the NON-HIV AIDS cases…”

    My case goes up through the NIH, CDC, White House, WHO, to the UN. I testified federally in Washington-DC, sat on conference with the America Red Cross, and am published 28 times on 4 continents (including People’s Voice, From the Trenches World Report, ProHealth, RealNews24, PFLAG, UK Progressive, & Black Men’s Magazines).

    11+ years of perfectly-cited research (books, documentaries, interviews w/ scientists, etc.) including my federal testimony –>

    http://www.cfsstraighttalk.blogspot.com

    • Dan F says

      Tom H., There are some good VA facilities. Ones where the there are 4.2 doctors per thousand veteran visits, instead of 1.2 per thousand veteran visits. Some VAs are associated with top medical schools, while others can only fill positions with the dregs of the medical profession. Always remember, you still call the guy who finished at the bottom of his class in medical school, doctor.

      Also, it can be the part of the country you live in and the work ethic. I have traveled to every state. There are different levels of human compassion, as well as levels of sophistication and educational attainment depending on where you live.

      Finally, the medical issues you have may be readily diagnosable and treatable. Also, take into consideration how far the VA is from you. Did you know that some veterans have to travel hundreds of miles to sometimes receive treatment?

      Be thankful you are receiving the care many of us wish we had. Does that help you understand – maybe just a little?

  2. steamwhistler says

    Ben, the VA criminals are not going to jail until someone makes a connection between all these VA scandals and the hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars being diverted or laundered from appropriated healthcare and construction funds into the VA’s Supply Fund. The Supply Fund is the source of funding for the executive bonuses, lavish conferences, and I suspect, funding for all these secret propaganda and psyops contracts. Someone also needs to look into the billions of dollars ($3.1B according to figures mentioned during the House VA Committee hearing in Feb 2012) of veterans’ money being held in “trust” (now there’s a VA oxymoron) under the VA’s Fiduciary Program. Ever wonder why the House and Senate VA Committees never call for the audit of these funds? I’m willing to bet that Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH) got canned from his Sub-committee Chair by his fellow Republican Jeff Miller for having the nerve to investigate the VA’s Fiduciary Program and the contracting fraud in VA’s major construction projects in Orlando, New Orleans, and Denver. The VA executive in charge of the Supply Fund must be feeling very comfy right now because all these “wait list” and veterans’ death scandals are effectively diverting attention away from the billions of dollars of cost overrun and years of delay in VA construction projects. And he got what he wanted too: more billions of dollars of money from Congress, and the complete evisceration of Public Law 109-461, commonly known as Vet First Contracting Program. We can’t really question the effectiveness of those pysops contractors now, can we? For the VA criminals, it’s money well spent.

    And to those of you who doubt the integrity of Michele Malkin, maybe she needs to write an investigative report on the Supply Fund and the Fiduciary Program Trust Fund. Let’s see how quickly she gets gagged by her “conservative” friends. Now Ben, you know how to contact me, or get me in contact with Ms. Malkin.

  3. Benjamin Krause says

    Gwen’s claim below seems to contradict the very information Barbaricum produced for VA policy makers to read. Influence matters. Veterans issues are bipartisan and deserve coverage from both the right and the left. Where was HuffPo and MSNBC on this issue of propaganda? Nowhere. From what I can tell, HuffPo and left leaning reporters are attempting to diminish the scandal by conflating real issues with common “rhetoric”. I will tell you one thing, for those families who watched their loved ones die waiting for VA care, this issue is certainly not a rhetorical football. It is real — flesh and blood — and those individuals who perpetrated those crimes in VA must be punished. Michelle Malkin’s publication of my work put it in front of tens of thousands more readers beyond my normal reach = more influence on the issue of crimes against veterans. Malkin published the truth and the word is getting out. I do not care what side of the aisle she falls on when she is in the voting booth.

    • American Veteran says

      According to the Media Research Center, major network news progressively decided to ignore the growing VA scandal as it developed in May of this year.

      Minutes of coverage during May and June:

      ABC: May – 28 and June – 5

      CBS: May – 78 and June – 15

      NBC: May – 73 and June – 10

      Anybody with half-a-brain knows that the mainstream media does Obama’s bidding and will thus do everything they can to mitigate any scandal linked to him.

      It is absolutely reprehensible that these scum-sucking major media networks deliberately conceal, deny, and lie for Obama.

      This is shamefully disgusting, anti-American, and anti-veteran!

      Thank God that we have someone like Ben who DOES CARE about us disabled veterans.

      We should all admire his valiant passion for exposing and then scathingly rebuking the injustices done by the VA.

      And I agree with him that WE MUST PUSH HARD against the VA to stop their systemic abuses against us disabled veterans!

  4. Bruce Wallace says

    What is it that the throng of VA executives resigning are terrified enough about to go away so quietly the way they have done the past week or so? I admit this is just a theory, but here it is: They devised a plan that has been in place for some time that was just recently exposed in part. They are killing off homeless vets, other vets, by the hundreds and thousands, then setting up shell payees so disability payments and cost for medical care goes directly to fraudulent accounts that they all tap into. Okay, I said it was ridiculous. Or, is it? My guess is that no one will answer my question as to the possibility of some monumental scam like this going on that would explain the full reason they are rushing into retirement. After all, I have been blackballed here because my PTSD is so F’d up out of control from all of this. The V wins again, just in time for Indepedence Day. I’m just one more irritating Marine, like the ones who after being founded in 1772, 4 years before the Declaration of Independence was signed, made damn sure they defended the colonialists long enough to get America started. Yes, damn fools with big mouths like me that can’t stand anything but gung ho all the way are a real pain in the ass. I will go back to by status as the shunned one now, thank you very much, and Happy Independence Day from a 100% service-connected PTSD walking train wreck.

  5. Gwen says

    So what do you think? I think I would be somewhat reserved by perhaps NOT touting the endorsement of a shill like Malkin as a hook to your piece and maintaining some kind of credibility. While I don’t doubt the veracity of your findings, putting her up front as a validation does exactly the opposite. The point of doing investigative journalism is to drive the page clicks up by thinking and intelligent readers, which are not usually found in her fan base. Gaining the attention of decision makers occurs several clicks above the stratum where she and her patrons float.

    • Gwen says

      Almost forgot – not to burst the bubble as I know there are issues that need to be fixed in the VA system. But I have had minimal issues with the VA (Roudebush in Indy) as far as care goes. I’m only 30% and female so I don’t know if there is a sub-trend in there. I am also transitioned out of VocRehab with a Bachelors in less than 3 years after being a HS drop out to enlist in the 80s before GED was a thing. So…I’ll go with – they are doin some things right. Down the thread, there is a brother in arms that nails it – don’t let them divide and conquer. More impetus to avoid the endorsements of the wingnuttery/moonbattery when the goal should be to come together for the betterment of our VA. The VA is not 100% bad. There are improvements to be made, so the focus should be on working hard to make them. Baby steps people. We didn’t break the system in one administration – its unlikely to be fixed by one either.

      • Benjamin Krause says

        I think baby steps is the wrong move. Veteran issues rarely have such terminal velocity as they do today. I think we need to push, and push hard.

      • lholman2014 says

        When 22 veterans are taking their own lives every day (8,030 per year – 3 times the rate of suicides for non-veterans), then we have no time to waste. Reform of the VA, and all the other related entities (Congress, White House, GAO, VSOs, etc.) cannot wait for baby steps. We need bold and sweeping reforms. We should start by giving all enrolled veterans unfettered access to non-VA care paid for by the VA. This would incentivize the VA to be an entity of attraction by reforming itself.

      • stan says

        My thoughts as well, Gwen. M. Malkin’s name as source is a virtual “UH OH” to many of us who prefer objective analysis and reporting. I believe the VA money spent is reviewed by Congress and OMB. Plus, are the actions taken illegal, unethical or even uncommon among other Agencies in the federal government. Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate the effort by American Veteran. I just want absolute objectivity and fair treatment of an Agency that provides more benefits than similar ones in all other countries.

      • American Veteran says

        Stan, fair enough.

        Ben states that resistance to the VA scandal must be bipartisan.

        However, I’m not a Republican, so the resistance obviously must be multipartisan for us disabled veterans to be a unified political force against the VA.

        I would be more than willing to read your favored liberal blogger, writer, or pundit, as long as they demonstrate the same fervor in condemning the VA scandal that Michelle Malkin does.

        So who do you suggest that I read as a counter-balance to the pro-veteran Tea party side?

    • American Veteran says

      Here is a perfect example of a Barbarious technique to prejudicely influence Ben’s readers to doubt the veracity of his legitimate research highlighted in his daily articles.

      Whether this ‘Gwen’ is a real person, an anti-disabled veteran troll, or a computer-generated psyops’ account, what is important is to automatically discount what they/it say(s) in order to deny them/it relevancy and to hinder their/its furtherance of their/its illogical betrayal of reality.

      IN FACT, a prominent non-Tea Party Yale professor has recently concluded that Tea Party individuals are smarter scientifically than non-Tea Party individuals.

      THESE RESEARCH FINDINGS easily demonstrate that including Tea Party individual Michelle Malkin in an article is a sane and objective strategy to enhance the validity of the premise that the VA is corrupt and hell-bent on silencing Ben’s readers from criticizing it.

      Below is the Yale researcher’s assessment of his research study that shows Tea Party individuals are smarter than non-Tea Party individuals.

      • Bruce Wallace says

        Saying the VA is not 100% bad is about like saying Hilter was not 100% bad, because his German Sherperd liked him. The VA does not need defenders right now, they need criminal charges against their cadre of executives to the very top who orchestrated it all, along with McDonald if he is foolish enough to be exposed any further on his part in the whole wider scandal that is traced back to his position as CEO of Xerox. Even if he does not bow out, he is really pushing it.

  6. Dan Flynn says

    Boy is the propaganda spewing from the VA. Anyone that subscribes by email to The VAntage Point blog can tell you it is all about how the VA is doing so good and helping veterans. About once a week they produce a video called VA News which is directed to Veterans. It is also posted on Youtube so it is easy to see how many views this production of the “Original Amateur Hour”, really receives. Some productions receive as little as a couple of hundred views, the average being about 900 and a few which range in to the 1500 range. The cost of such a production for the results is terrible. Cat videos are better produced, have better actors, cost less to produce, are funny and get one heck of a lot more hits. So, why do they keep doing it? You can’t contact the blog directly, so I have asked that question in the comment section..obviously I received no answer.

    The VAntage Point Blog has a comment section. Although you can occasionally see comments which challenge the VA or a veteran venting, they often censor critical comments. I have had numerous critical comments “moderated.”

  7. American Veteran says

    Alinsky them, Ben!

    Fight psyops with facts!

    Saul Alinsky’s 12 Rules for Radicals

    RULE 1: “Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have.”

    RULE 2: “Never go outside the expertise of your people.”

    RULE 3: “Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy.”

    RULE 4: “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.”

    RULE 5: “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.”

    RULE 6: “A good tactic is one your people enjoy.”

    RULE 7: “A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.”

    RULE 8: “Keep the pressure on. Never let up.”

    RULE 9: “The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.”

    RULE 10: “If you push a negative hard enough, it will push through and become a positive.”

    RULE 11: “The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.”

    RULE 12: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.”

    WIN THE MIND! WIN THE DAY!

  8. Bruce Wallace says

    Disclaimer: Nothing in this comment of mine here is classified or considered sensitive national security information; As a former member of the 306th Psy Op Bn, Los Alamitos Armed Forces Reserve Center, in California, and the 4th Psy Op company also in CA, I can tell you, that as this article suggests, it is highly illegal for psy ops to be conducted inside the USA. This is especially true for the F Teams, that are tasked with developing and deploying psy ops on or against foreign and enemy countries. The F teams specialize in propaganda specifically. An example of a now declassified psy op from WW2 was “Operation Cornflakes”. This black op used newspapers printed in German, put in front of the German High Command every morning at breakfast, hence the reference to cornflakes. This is the ultimate form of propaganda where the enemy (in the instant case, Americans and veterans, which is an impossible irony) believes it is reading reliable news from their own government and private sector sources. Food for thought. Using third party contractors to carry out these kind of illegal psy operations against the American public, or specifically against veterans, is just as illegal as if it were carried out by the US military or CIA, or any US Intel agency.Again, what I have said here is most certainly unclassified and non-sensitive material.

  9. J. EDWARD VERNON jr. says

    WHEN I SAY “MAN IS EVIL”, I DO NOT MEAN “ALL” MEN, JUST THOSE WHO CARRY THEMSELVES AS “BETTER” THAN THE REST OF US OR THINK THEY HAVE SPECIAL RULES/PRIVILEDGES.
    UNITED STATES OF AMERICA IS THE DREAM OF OUR FOUNDING FATHERS, BUT NOT THE REALITY OF OUR LEADERS TODAY. CLASS, MONEY, ETC. IS THE ORDER OF THE DAY. IF YOU ARE BLESSED TO BE BORN INTO THE “SO-CALLED” ELITE, THEN YOUR ARE “SEPARATE” FROM THE REST OF US.
    THIS LAND HAS BEEN TRULY BLESSED BY OUR HEAVENLY FATHER, BUT OUR BROTHERS HAVE “RAPED” HER OF HER GLORY. OUR PROBLEMS STEM FROM OUR INABILITY TO GENUINELY CARE FOR ONE ANOTHER.
    I PRAY DAILY FOR OUR “WORLD LEADERS”, JOOIN ME PLEASE.

  10. Bruce Wallace says

    As one of our famous founding fathers of America said, “We can all hang together, or we can hang separately.” Did you know that five signers of the US Constitution were in fact captured and tortured before they were executed. We are supposed to be past that kind of barbaric behavior in modern America, but don’t count on it. Thought of the day: get over your petty differences with other vets, and don’t be a casualty of the VA’s most common called conquer and divide.

  11. Bruce Wallace says

    As the saying going, “Just because you’re paranoid does not mean they are not out to get you.” If the VA handed over documents showing that they use psy ops and other unethical manipulation involving those who disagree with them, what else do they do? Here is what else: they use and infiltrate every department and agency of the federal government, every agency (DHS, FBI, CIA, NSA, ATF, etc.) county and city level agency to influence and control public opinion and policy that applies to veterans. Much or possibly most of this is done through the VA Criminal Investigation Division (CID) that functions like a hidden CIA type of organization. VA Medical Centers and Hospitals have CID offices with signs designating them as such, usually next door to the VA police stations on the medical campuses. A useless, anti-veteran Congressman, Wally Herger, thankfully retired, used the VA CID in conjunction with the Secret Service and DHS, to harass me, my family and other vets in his district in Northern California. So, if you ever rub your Congressman the wrong way, expect them to bring the wrath of the feds and everyone else down on you. This Congressman was despised by vets in his district, and had several vets and active duty military personnel and their families arrested when they protested outside his office about his chronic failures to contact the VA on their behalf. He helped orchestrate intense police harassment of me that continues to this day. The VA and all the federal government, and local governments for the most part too, have become Police State type organizations that mimic the tactics and objectives and effects of Nazi Germany and the Gestapo. The recent incident at Mission Vallley VA Medical Center where DHS Shock Troops came in with automatic rifles, attack dogs and a convoy of armored SUVs and other heavy vehicles, to harass and intimidate disabled vets is just one recent example. The VA targets individuals with every tactic you could think of and more. They use private parties, criminal elements and low-lifes, informants, spies, etc., to stalk you without your knowledge, then set you up if they can. This is done for the sole purpose in many cases to maneuver the vet in to jail, especially if they have a pending benefits claim of any kind, especially a service-connected disability claim. The jails and prisons are full of vets who have been set up by the VA and its endless resources, with bonuses paid for cancelling compensation payments after the vet remains in custody for a certain period of time, about 90 days or more. The VA has done this to every type of vet AND their family members. It does not matter if you are a veterans who is now a cop, a lawyer, a judge, a plumber, a cook, a disabled vet who is unemployable with both legs missing from being blown off in Nam or Iraq, they will destroy your life if you are not very careful. That includes people that advocate for disabled vets and do research on their nefarious activities. By the way, McDonald is from Chicago, the same corrupt crime machine town that the President is from. Connect the closely connected dots on that one to get a picture of the kind of VA that bastard will run if he is confirmed as the new VA Secretary, or installed even temporarily. McDonald was forced out of Proctor and Gamble a year ago, no private corporation wants him. He was a traitor against vets at Xerox where he was CEO and therefore top man in charge of the gigantic contract that Xerox has where they continue to process thousands of VA benefit claims as rejections when the vast majority of claims are in fact legitimate. You can be he is getting help from Shinseki and others in the background and they will and are going after anyone who dare speaks against their latest plot to gut what is left of the VA so they can put whatever they want into their own greedy, corrupt pockets.

So what do you think?