Democrats vs Republicans on Secretary Shinseki Subpoena

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Secretary Shinseki 

On Thursday, the House Committee on Veterans Affairs voted to subpoena VA Secretary Shinseki. The Committee intends to question the Secretary over emails about the alleged destruction of a secret wait list in Phoenix.

VA denies the existence of a secret wait list. VA doctors claim the secret wait list existed.

Despite heightened rhetoric from the American Legion and Concerned Veterans for America, Secretary Shinseki has refused calls for his resignation. In a statement to the Wall Street Journal, Shinseki stated:

“I serve at the pleasure of the president,” Shinseki told the newspaper when asked whether he would step down. “I signed on to make some changes. I have work to do.”

The White House has yet to change its position on the Secretary. According to press secretary Jay Carney, “The President remains confident in Secretary Shinseki’s ability to lead the department and take appropriate action.”

 

Democrats vs Republicans on Veterans Affairs

The parties are now squaring off on the scandal. In my trips to Capitol Hill, I have noticed two distinctions between the parties that center around the union. Democrats are pro union and anti outsourcing of VA tasks the agency is bad at. Republicans are pro outsourcing bad tasks and anti union growth. Basically, it is Pro Union vs Pro Contractor.

Republicans in the House Committee on Veterans Affairs have announced their subpoena of Secretary Shinseki. That hearing will focus specifically on emails and the destruction of the list. There will be fireworks, and Republicans will likely hammer VA.

Meanwhile, the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, led by the Senate’s Democratic majority, has announced a hearing of their own called, The State of VA Health Care. There, Democrats will likely diminish the problems in Phoenix. They will appear slightly tough and VA officials will explain away VA’s problems by pointing out how big the agency is. That is my prediction.

Here is the down and dirty. Democrats almost always laud VA for doing a great job with its huge workload and huge staff size regardless of the crisis type, with the exception of Bob Filner rocking VBA Under Secretary Hickey. Otherwise, it is guaranteed that VA officials and Democrats will offset any scandal with a statement saying something like, “We know you messed up, but your agency is just so big; it would be hard for anyone to manage such a work load.”

Personally, I think it is irresponsible to contextualize VA this way because it diminishes the pain and suffering of its victims at the moment of pain. In the civilian sector, no civilian hospital would hide scandals with such vigor as VA by hiding evidence with impunity regardless of the size. I am unclear why we point to size as a scapegoat during a crisis.

 

Senator Bernie Sanders’ press release

Last night, I read through Bernie Sanders’ press release and was very disappointed. While I like some of his positions as an Independent, he clearly pulls out his Democrat trousers when VA is on the hook.

Exactly what I expected above was contained in his press release. He even sunk as low as to remind everyone that VA hospitals are ranked among the best in the nation in a VHA survey… of veterans who do not get care anywhere else and do not know the difference. Making matters worse, he basically verbatim repeated the White House’s talking points on the IG investigation.

Here is Sanders’ press release. I underlined the parts that I found offensive in light of the seriousness of the scheduling scandal that is fast spreading across the country:

Secretary Shinseki to Testify on VA Health Care

WASHINGTON, May 8 – Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders today announced a hearing next Thursday on “The State of VA Health Care.”

Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki will be among the witnesses at the hearing that Sanders said will focus on what the VA health care system does well and how it can improve care for veterans.

Referring to allegations that patients died while they were on waiting lists at VA hospitals in Phoenix and elsewhere, Sanders previously announced that his panel will hold a hearing immediately after the independent Office of Inspector General sorts out the facts and submits its findings.  “I take these allegations very seriously,” Sanders said. “I expect the inspector general will conduct the investigation thoroughly and provide this committee with an objective analysis of these allegations.”

Meanwhile, Sanders said the committee at Thursday’s hearing will take a broader look at the overall VA health care system that serves 6.2 million veterans at hundreds of VA facilities throughout the country. “In fact,” he said, “some 200,000 veterans get care every single day and independent studies consistently show that VA provides, in general, excellent care to our veterans.”

A survey released last month found that veterans ranked VA hospitals among the best in the nation. The American Customer Satisfaction Index said VA hospitals scored equal or better ratings than private hospitals.

“Nonetheless,” Sanders said, “in a system as large and bureaucratic as the VA, it is imperative that we uncover the problems that exist in the system and address them boldly. The veterans of our country deserve the best-quality care that we can provide and I intend to do my best to make sure that happens.”

What do you think Congress should do and ask Secretary Shinseki? And before you comment below, just know that I am an independent voter who exposes faults regardless of whether it is a Republican or Democratic issue. For example, Obama, Republicans Seek $23 Billion Disability Pay Cut.

Read More:

https://www.cnn.com/2014/05/08/politics/va-shinseki/

https://www.sanders.senate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/secretary-shinseki-to-testify-on-va-health-care

 

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15 Comments

  1. I think the preemptive remarks by Senator Sanders are disgraceful and dismiss the immense suffering, horrors and wrongful death that many veterans and their families suffered. VA doctors and the VA medical system is no where near the best in the nation.
    At the best hospitals and clinics in the US, interns do not make diagnoses of patients. They do so at the VA and I have been misdiagnosed and improperly treated many times.

    I think his remarks are so disgraceful that I think Sanders should resign or conduct sensitivity training by holding town hall meetings with veterans and their families in every state, and then look at the empirical evidence and methodology the VA uses to compile its undeniably self-serving “survey” results. The fact is that the VA is dishonest and has been for many decades. Nothing much will change when Sanders has his stage play during his so-called urgent hearing with Shinseki.

  2. WHY DO WE, AS A NATION, WAIT UNTIL THE “WORSE” POSSIBLE RESULTS BEFORE LOOKING INTO “COMPLAINTS BY OUR CITIZENS. TO SAY BALL THE DEATHS COULD HAVE BEEN AVOIDED IS A STRETCH, BUT CERTAINLY SOME WOULD HAVE BEEN CAUGHT BEFORE THE “TRAGIC” END. VETS HAVE BEEN “PROTESTING, FILING COMPLAINTS, WRITING CONGRESSMEN, ETC” FOR THE LONGEST, BUT VETS HAVE TO DIE(AGAIN)BEFORE OUR GOVT TAKES A LOOK AT THE PROBLEM. WE MAY NOT BE A “TOP PRIORITY” OF OUR GOVT, BUT WE DO NEED AN “EAR/VOICE” FOR OUR PROBLEMS BEFORE WE LOSE OUR LIVES(AGAIN).

  3. Great article, Ben. I agree with every word, and I will go farther. Neither major political party has the best interests of veterans at heart. In the cynical world of Washington, DC, military veterans are just one more pawn in the game of for profit politics.

  4. A few administrations ago, Reagan told the USSR they needed Glasnost (to be open). Obama said he would be transparent. But, both sides of the isle have turned everything into one big secret. The VA is a symptom of this. As a result, at least 20 vets commit suicide every day, and all across America there are secret waiting lists, secret botched surgeries, secret fraudulent denials of earned benefits, secret delay and denial programs so the vet will die before benefits ever get paid, even the dying vets are put on a secret list that gets shredded. Veteran families are destroyed all day long, every day of the year by unchecked, glaring incompetence, outright lies and corruption at the VA. The icing on the cake is the obvious truth that it is all intentional and strongly encouraged, right down to the VA’s perverse cash bonus system that rewards the cowardly traitors running these scams.

    • I agree 100% with what you are saying. The VA is one of the worst things in this world. I will be dead before the VA finds out what is wrong with me. they will not do tests, do not care that I am to the point I can barely breathe or do anything. I can not get a job because of this. I have to live off of my 20% (258) a month which is impossible. I have lost everything and in a few weeks I will be homeless. I have finally decided to get the healthcare from the private section and it does not start until June. I am hoping I make it to June. Anyone who thinks the VA is so great is either new to the system or does not have anything wrong with them. Everyone else that has been in the system or has tried to get an increase knows the BS the VA gives out. I have been trying to get an increase for almost six yrs. now and they still are denying me and every time it is some other reason to deny. This time I was denied because I do not have a limit of extension greater that 10% of my leg. I have always had a full extension so where did this come from. They denied me before they get the results of the exam they sent me to. How is that done. The report is full of things that would get me several increases for both of my knees (which is what I originally requested in 08). You are right, they are all crooks, lying, and do not care. They want their check and bonus and that is it. THE VA SUCKS. PERIOD.

  5. Someone needs to put together a list of names and photos of veterans who have died after being put on waiting lists, from bad medical care, and the PTSD vets who commit suicide while the VA artfully delays and denies their medical care.

    We can put “top secret” Lightning Task Force Machine Gunner, Dan Somers, at the top of the list of VA planned suicides, as reported a month ago.

    Statement of Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema

    H.R. 3387, the Classified Veterans Access to Care Act
    House Veterans Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on Health Legislative Hearing
    March 27, 2014

    Thank you Chairman Benishek and Ranking Member Brownley for holding this hearing.

    I am here to discuss H.R. 3387, the Classified Veterans Access to Care Act — thank you Chairman Benishek for cosponsoring this bill. (There are now a total of 7 co-sponsors of this bill.)

    The Classified Veterans Access to Care Act ensures that veterans with classified experiences can access appropriate mental health services at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

    I am working on this issue because last year a veteran in my district –Daniel Somers –failed to receive the mental health care he needed and tragically committed suicide.

    No veteran or family should go through the same tragedy that the Somers family experienced.

    Daniel Somers was an Army veteran of two tours in Iraq. He served on Task Force Lightning, an intelligence unit. He ran over 400 combat missions as a machine gunner in the turret of a Humvee. Part of his role required him to interrogate dozens of terrorist suspects, and his work was deemed classified.

    Like many veterans, Daniel was haunted by the war when he returned. He suffered from flashbacks, nightmares, depression, and additional symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, made worse by a
    traumatic brain injury. Daniel needed help. He and his family asked for help.

    Unfortunately, the VA enrolled Daniel in group therapy sessions, which Daniel could not attend for fear of disclosing classified information. Despite requests for individualized counseling, or some other reasonable accommodation to allow Daniel to receive appropriate care for his PTSD, the VA delayed providing Daniel with appropriate support and care.

    Like many, Daniel’s isolation got worse when he transitioned to civilian life. He tried to provide for his family, but he was unable to work due to his disability. Daniel struggled with the VA bureaucracy; his disability appeal had been pending for over two years in the system without resolution. Daniel didn’t get the help he needed in time. (End of Sinema’s Congressional statement.)

    Where was VA leadership when this guy was denied the individual PTSD therapy he obviously needed? What were VA staff and doctors thinking when they knew he completed more than 400 top secret combat missions? I have an idea of what they told him. The same thing the told me and my wife. “We are mandated reporters to the US Dept. of Defense. You will be arrested if you think you are going to talk to us or to any doctor or to anyone about your PTSD.”

    The VA is sick. Their top leaders are sick, there is sickness and profound anti-American sentiment, apathy and extreme corruption at all levels of Veteran Affairs. We need a list of photos and names of the dead the VA has been generating.

  6. This newsletter is nothing more than partisan politics at its worst. It operates under the guise of supporting veterans’ who need help, but it quickly goes into a comparison of Demos versus Republicans. Democrats evil union supporting, VA defending, group of legislators more interested in subverting VA Heath care. While the R’s are wonderful free market defenders of Veteran rights. And Bernie Sanders as someone not supporting the working man/woman. What a joke, he has has had the back of people who have most needed help for all of his political life.

    I write this as a disabled vet who gas had nothing but positive experiences with the VA. Oh that’s right, evil VA supported by those equally evil dems. From my perspective, the Republicans, who pushed into sequestration have much more of a negative impact on veteran care. As an example, the cuts to support veteran housing

    • Ben, IMHO, is pretty fair when it comes to analyzing politics in veterans’ issues. There is ample evidence of both the Democratic Party and the RINO Party abusing and using veterans for their political gain.

      Does it bother you as a veteran being a political hostage every time a political showdown looms in the cesspool of our nation’s capital?

      Does it bother you as a veteran that these same politicians have no problem putting on a fake smile and then waving mechanically during parades for veterans returning home from war?

      Does it bother you as a veteran that the Democratic Party and its lapdog media are hellbent on protecting Hillary Clinton from her shady military arms deal with Al-Qaeda terrorists in Libya that resulted in the murder of four Americans, including 2 highly decorated Navy SEAL veterans?

      Does it bother you as a veteran that the RINO Party and their crony corporate lobbyists profit off the gutting of America’s middle class by willfully ignoring the plight of broke and wounded Main Street veterans?

      Well, is should BOTHER YOU!

      So stop blaming Ben when he reports THE TRUTH, and instead start voting for Main Street veterans to be our elected leaders!

      No more anti-veteran liberal politicians, no more anti-veteran RINO politicians!

  7. Here is an interesting tid bit of information for you all; A couple of days ago why seeing my PCP at the VA. Him and i started talking about my claim and I informed him that the BVA judge ruled service connection for me and i still haven’t heard back from Reno. Well he started going into the reason there is a Backlog in claims is because the economy sucks so Vets started filing more claims and the VA has to surf through the good and bad claims. My reply was really the Disabled Vet asking for help and you all think its a hand out? Gee, no response from him. This is why I know the VA needs to have some major change!!!

  8. What do I THINK? I think Frank Jones is full of acumpucky. To accuse Ben of being a shill for Republicans is about as dumb as dumb gets. Ben is as LIBERAL as a lending Library. And, SO am I. But, here we a case where the Democrats are doing the WRONG thing while the Republicans are doing the RIGHT thing. In truth, neither party gives a sweet shit for veterans. Right now, as always, BOTH parties are using veterans as pawns in their political machinations. Note THIS, if you are a veteran, you may occasionally find an ally on specific issues among the politicians in Washington, DC, but you have ZERO friends there from EITHER party.

  9. I’m a Gulf War I non-disabled vet who has had mostly positive experiences with the VA, but my eyes are open and I see how lucky I am. The VA has had a long history of backlogs and denials when it comes to disabled vets. This system needs to be cleaned up – and that doesn’t mean sweep it under the rug. Starting with Secretary Shinseki, the people at the top of the VA’s chain of command need to be held accountable. Both the House and Senate Committees should be grilling the VA about emails and the destruction of that ridiculous list.
    I like Bernie Sanders a lot and I agree with him on most issues, but, like Ben, I was also disappointed with Sanders’ press release. He doesn’t need to “focus on what the VA health care system does well…” He needs to focus on the problems in Phoenix.
    I also agree with what Ron Nesler says: “Neither major political party has the best interests of veterans at heart.” I think it’s been that way for a long time. I was under the impression that Sanders is independent socialist and only caucuses with the Dems. He didn’t look very independent in that press release.

  10. I’m a Gulf War I non-disabled vet who has had mostly positive experiences with the VA, but my eyes are open and I see how lucky I am. The VA has had a long history of backlogs and denials when it comes to disabled vets. This system needs to be cleaned up – and that doesn’t mean sweep it under the rug. Starting with Secretary Shinseki, the people at the top of the VA’s chain of command need to be held accountable. Both the House and Senate Committees should be grilling the VA about emails and the destruction of that ridiculous list.
    I like Bernie Sanders a lot and I agree with him on most issues, but, like Ben, I was also disappointed with Sanders’ press release. He doesn’t need to “focus on what the VA health care system does well…” He needs to focus on the problems in Phoenix.
    I also agree with what Ron Nesler says: “Neither major political party has the best interests of veterans at heart.” I think it’s been that way for a long time. I was under the impression that Sanders is an independent socialist and only caucuses with the Dems. He didn’t seem very independent in that press release.

  11. A few days ago I saw a doctor at the Va Hospital in Madison, WI for arthritis in one of my knees. Most the time during the visit with the doctor, she was going on and on about how much “the VA is concerned for (my) health and wants to help” I don’t know what brought this on. I hadn’t said a word. I was just there for a follow-up exam! Now I see it was defensiveness the result of the negative press the VA is getting about the situation in Arizona. I also have a strange rash on both arms. I have an appointment in June at their dermatology clinic to try and determine what it is. In the past they have just given me some medicated ointment to apply which has done nothing to clear it up.

    • Hello Glen, I too have arthritis in both knees and have had a rash. If the rash in around your elbows or around the knees, it’s most likely Psoriatic arthritis. Psoriatic arthritis is a joint problem (arthritis) that often occurs with a skin condition called psoriasis. That ‘s what they (the VA) determined was my rash. I get the same thing when I go to the Dr. He keeps telling me how the VA cares and wants to help and that the people that are here actually care and take your care seriously. I keep telling them “I’m glad you believe that, because I sure don’t”. And then yesterday while waiting for my appointment I overheard someone at the desk telling a guy that the VA isn’t a health Insurance company and he needed to get another insurance because the VA Healthcare System is a “service” that the veterans get for serving in the military. And I heard the guy say that he would get health insurance from another company immediately so he would have it. I think this person fed him a bunch of BS. He explained that to have “insurance” you have to pay a premium and you don’t pay a premium to the VA. I was thinking you may not pay them cash and they may not have the word “insurance”; however, you pay a premium by enlisting, and for some the premium is very high. Some have given parts of their body, their minds, and themselves. I would consider that a paid premium. And if memory serves me correctly, the VA Healthcare was determined to be considered as an insurance policy in the Obomacare Healthcare and we did not need to seek outside insurance. I have recently enrolled in the private healthcare because I am not getting what I need and I am afraid I’m going to die if my problem isn’t found soon.

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