DOD Failing Transition Assistance Program Mandate Of VOW Act

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Transition Assistance Program

Benjamin KrauseRecently released Veterans Affairs documents revealed the Defense Department is still failing to implement mandatory Transition Assistance Program (TAP) training for separating servicemembers.

According to VA executive Danny Devine, the Executive Branch of the Federal government is “not enforcing it and not adhering to the tenets of the law.” Devine is an executive in VA’s Disability and Medical Assessments (DMA), the part of VA responsible for disability compensations examinations.

SEE: Full Advisory Council Transcript (pg 301)

The transcript from an Advisory Council meeting last October indicates major failures within the military to implement mandatory TAP training for all servicemembers prior to separation from the military. This matters because VA derives its disability application projections from these attendees, meaning VA’s projections are likely unreliable.

Under President Obama’s Veterans Opportunity to Work Act (VOW Act), the DOD was required to provide mandatory TAP training starting November 2012. The VOW Act was considered “the most comprehensive legislation to end veterans unemployment” according to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs and America. Part of the legislation included a mandate for DOD to ensure servicemembers received the mandatory TAP training.

However, according to statements from meeting attendees, only 50% of servicemembers attend TAP two years after the 100% mandate went into effect. The failure to attend TAP impacts VA’s ability to project disability claims filing for new veterans and clearly affects budget projections for the agency.

RELATED: VA Budget Deficit Whooping $2.6 Billion

Meeting attendees included Chairman LTG James Terry Scott (Ret.), Danny Devine, head of DMA Gerald Cross, MD and others.

According to a transcript from the meeting starting on page 301:

CHAIRMAN SCOTT: From your perspective, is the VOW Act working the way it’s supposed to? I realize that it may be asking the wrong part of VA the total question, but from your perspective–

DEVINE: Danny, you’re closer to that than me.

DEVINE: No, it isn’t. They haven’t enforced the mandatory use of–they’re at maybe 50 percent of the folks are actually attending the TAP. They’re not doing a real good job yet of tracking those folks because what we had wanted was a notation–

CHAIRMAN SCOTT: Who collects the statistics on that? That’s too vague for me to put in a report that–who would I talk to about which services are doing it, which ones aren’t, and RC versus AC, and all that? Somebody in VBA, I guess, uh?

DEVINE: VBA doesn’t even know because that’s where we get our information. So whatever they’re getting from Manpower and Personnel, it’s about as vague as that because they know they’re not enforcing it and not adhering to the tenets of the law.

CHAIRMAN SCOTT: Okay. Well, I’ll ask them how do they know that then. Because that’s–if we’re going to–you know, for us to say something, we’ve got to have a pretty good idea that, you know, what are the specifics of the issue.

DEVINE: We’re not even allowed to survey the folks to find out whether or not they’re going to file–have an intention to file a claim.

CHAIRMAN SCOTT: Okay. Well, maybe we can get a little help from them. Okay. Go ahead. Let’s see. The ACE, slide 28. Everybody okay on that?

CROSS: Oddly enough, our staff would really like you doing that, and the poor veteran who was going to take the day off from work and drive to the hospital, find a parking space, get to the clinic, find the clinic, just stays home or he goes to work.

We often have to supplement the records with a phone call to clarify some issue, but, you know, that, from a veteran-centric point of view, that nails it.

MG MARTIN: Actually I had–we received a briefing from Mike McNeal, director of the VA-DoD Program Office back then. This was in April, and he, at that briefing, said that 53 percent of TAP people intended to file a disability claim when they asked him a question. So they did a survey.

DEVINE: It wasn’t an official survey. What they did was probably talk to them on the way out, and that’s how they determined what those numbers were.

MG MARTIN: So 53 percent is kind of soft then?

DEVINE: Correct.

CROSS: It’s very soft, and we had estimated for budget purposes 50 percent. Now, Gingrich, again, I mentioned him several times. He did some good things although he was challenging at times because he, you know–he wanted good things for veterans as fast as we can do them, and that was fine.

He estimated that it’s going over time be much, much higher. You and I have all had sergeant majors. So the sergeant major sits through this briefing and cuts to the chase and says–here’s what my sergeant major might say. He said, okay, you got to make your decision, soldier. You’ve got to go either this–you’re getting out. Go this way or that way.

Now if you go this way, you get an exam from the military; it will be very good. If you go that way, you get an exam from VA, and you get the exam and you get money. Which way do you want to go?

Now that’s oversimplistic by a long shot, but, you know, some people anticipate that it will move in that direction. The truth is last I heard it was actually less than 50 percent–

DEVINE: Correct.

The more I know from analysis of FOIA responses from VA, the more I realize the Executive Branch of the Federal government has little to no ability to respond in real time to any crisis.

What did you notice from reading the transcript?

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22 Comments

  1. Could this just be the VA’s way of throwing someone under the bus in order to justify their $2.6 BILLION Budget Deficit?
    The VA can now easily state, “Since we have not had accurate numbers since 2012, we had more Disability Claims than we projected/budgeted for.”????

    1. The VA did not obey the various other “Acts”, such as the since canceled Suicide Prevention Program, and lest we forget the continuing obstinacy of the VA to actually allow Vets to use The Choice Card Program…oh wait…what the hell was that Hepatitis C Cure/Vaccine excuse to steal from The Choice Program?

    2. The VA has yet to even fix the “As A Crow Flies” with The Choice Card Program, as again ordered by Congress…oh wait…the VA is STEALING the Choice Card $$$$ because they want that $$$$ so bad they came-up with a $2.6 BILLION Deficit to support their theft….silly me to even think the VA *cares* what they are ordered to do by Congress, let alone any ACT signed by the President!

    So, because-1- person named Danny Devine is BLAMING the Executive Branch for NOT ENFORCING the TAP, yet VA executive Danny Devine is IN CHARGE OF PROGRAM?
    Does this even make sense? What kind of huge budget has the TAP program been granted since enacted in 2012 that’s totally unaccountable?
    The military is a well-oiled machine and the VA is the Rust Belt. This shows the VA does not even remotely understand that basing projections on heads of injured in no way could be accurate because MANY Veterans do not deal or acknowledge there’s even the PTSD or other issues until years after separation…and that’s just -1- of many possible scenarios.
    It would be like budgeting for VA Funerals and cost of TOE TAGS before any War even started.

    This smells of a smoke screen of sorts…what does this *really* mean they are pulling out of their hat next? Silly me…the VA will again ask for MORE $$$$$$ to “enforce” the TAP Act. I could be wrong, but this has been the pattern, just watch and wait….

  2. “What did you notice from reading the transcript?”

    I got that the right hand has no idea what the left hand is doing or if it’s even functional…I also distinctly heard scary circus music between the lines.

    How the hell does ANY Veteran know if he/she will be filing a claim? If veteran does NOT file the “Intent To File A Claim”, does this somehow make a claim by same Veteran later on less valid?

    This makes no accurate nor logical sense. Plus, the VA has no clue on the PRIDE of Vets, and how we typically will let pride get in way of admitting that anything is wrong until it really hits you hard.

    No clue.

  3. If I understand this correctly, the DOD ISN’T following the rules, or law. The VA, on the other hand, can’t do their job because of the DOD. Something is definitely wrong. It looks like each ‘party’ is blaming the other one. So, can we expect any other outcome?
    By the way, I heard from a fairly reliable source, the VA is actually $5.2+ billion over budget. I’m not sure, but if it is, then expect the “management” to be begging for more $$$$$$$!

    • I am betting that the VA has a “deficit” that’s the EXACT dollar amount that’s allocated for Veteran Choice Card Program…not less and not more…they want it and I bet they have been over-spending as if they already had that $$ for their own bidding.

      The BIG question that not even Congress is asking is: What has the VA DONE WITH what we know now, of $2.6 BILLION?????? That is NOT just “slush money”…everyone seems to toss around the word BILLION carelessly these days and if you sit down and look at the math, it’s simply a HUGE number, and to be THAT FAR IN A DEFICIT (that’s all the VA is admitting, so assume it is at least twice that), this is yet another supporting reason why the VA should regularly be subjected to massive audits.
      With that said, HOW does ANYONE actually KNOW if the deficit the VA claims to have even exists without any audit or accountability?
      Would any of us operate our monthly let alone weekly budgets this way?

      • namnibor, if you notice, the “amount of deficit” stated to me by my friend, IS exactly double what the VA asked (begged) for.
        You may be very correct over the “Choice Program” funding being used for more than what the VA has stated.
        My opinion is, there are some real funny economic shenanigans going on.
        My concerns are, Why hasn’t the’middle class taxpayers’ (the ones hit the hardest) demanded something be done. Not only with the VA, but all federal, state and local entities?
        It seems also the VA doesn’t really care about the veterans. All they care about is how much $$$$ goes into their coffers (or pockets). Another concern I have is; How does the VA justify using $$$ in ways that Congress did not say they could?
        There’s more to what’s happening within the VA than what’s being reported; Of course we all know the VA (or the feds) are censoring the news!

  4. Fox [email protected] 9am, Andrea Jackson reporting from a church in Central Florida, a ‘committee’ is getting ready to begin “talks” of “endind veteran homelessness in Central Florida by the end of the year.” There was a ‘slight’ mention of the VA and what their role will be. Andrea said, “the [whole] story (will be broadcasted) at 4:00 pm this afternoon.”

    Channel 35 is our “local new station here in Central Florida. I don’t know how many on here can pick up this story in other states, or in other parts of Florida. I would suggest calling your news stations. Ask them if they can contact Fox 35 News here to follow this story on your local stations.
    The phone # is (407) 644-3535 or (866) 55 Fox 35. Just follow the “prompts”.

    My wife just found, (on “Veterans Today” from Nov. 2013) something on the web concerning, “putting veterans in FEMA Camps”! It’s not supposed to be rumored. When I get more info on this, I will ‘post’ it on here for everyone……

    I know the stories here may not be what’s on today’s “blog”. But in a way it shows what our city, county and state reps ARE doing vs. what the VA, DOD and other Federal Agencies are NOT doing.

  5. I had to tell my CSM in the S-3 shop that I was not going to be here next week! He said where are you going and I said after 22 years it is called “retirement”!!! I basically went on leave and never came back except to sign out of Post. I got Nothing, no time to get ready to leave, prepare my family “Nodda”!!!!

  6. Just on the web from the, Orlando Sentinel. “VA partners with community to find last of homeless vet.” Go to: http://www.orlandosentinal.com
    for the complete story. It was written by Kate Santich, staff writer June 30, 2015.
    Looks like the VA is gonna need more $$$$$$$$$$$$$.

  7. “not enforcing it and not adhering to the tenets of the law.”

    Great Ben, keep the legal phrases rolling in!

    It’s intimidating to the unknowing VA thugs, spinning us around in circles to cause us grief and make us miss deadlines, in our pursuit of justice.

  8. In case you cannot log into Stripes dot com from the link here’s a small quoted area about the VA IG…

    “[He said in April the office was named the second most productive IG in the federal government for its work over the past five years. Certainly the VA IG has released thousands of pages of investigative documents – many subpoenaed by Congress – over the past year.

    Most recently, the IG drew flak from Congress over its treatment of reports that VA staff was overprescribing opiates to patients at a medical center in Tomah, Wisc.

    The IG spent two years investigating the allegations but then closed out the case without making the results public. About five months later, a Marine in-patient at the clinic died when his new prescription of narcotic pain killers had a toxic reaction with 14 other medications he had been put on.

    The whistleblowers said the investigation at Tomah is indicative of a “horrifying pattern of whitewashing and deceit” and published a letter calling for him to be immediately replaced.]”

    from stripes dot com

    • Ok, I get it. The head of VA-OIG is stepping down July 4.
      He should. Because he really could have saved that Marine. In my opinion, because of his lack of professional integrity, he should be held not only in contempt, but also liable for the death of that Marine. And anyone else who was adversely effected by his ineffective investigations into that VAMC!
      I still would like to know if the State of Wisconsin has done anything with their investigation into the Tomah VAMC they began in February 2015?

    • Ok, the ‘interim va oig’ is stepping down. The person taking his place is Linda Halliday. Seems I’ve heard that name before, and it wasn’t complimentary. Question, are we veterans going to receive the same form of treatment as before? Is the new interim director of the va oig going to “whitewash” reports? Or, is she going to publicly admit wrongdoings by her predecessor? Will she go to Tomah, Wisconsin, and other vamc’s, and recommend the ousting of the incompetent employees as she should?
      There are hundreds of such employees still working for the VA. Which, at the least, should have “letters of admonishment” put in to their records! They should be told, in no uncertain terms, if their work conduct and attitudes don’t change, they will be FIRED. No if, ands or buts!!!!!

  9. This is a perfect example of the conspiracy between the DoD and the VA to jointly defraud military personnel and veterans out of their hard-earned rights and benefits.

  10. I agree with the other posts that talk about the right hand not knowing what the left one is doing, I also think it’s an outrage that the VA is 2.6 billion short (at least that’s what they’re telling us) and that they are trying to use the money that was allotted for the Choice program to make up for that deficit.

    The VA leadership is still not doing their job properly and probably never will, the only way to fix the problem is to fire everyone and start from scratch to rebuild the program, they should also incorporate a Six Sigma program in order to keep the system running smoothly and properly, our nations veterans deserve it.

    I retired from the Navy 9 years ago today, I went through the TAP class and felt it was a huge waste of time, especially when the facilitators didn’t have a clue on how to read a DOD job announcement (USA Jobs) so they could explain how to get the “key words & tricky phrases” for ones federal resume when applying for government jobs, they also wouldn’t take the time to sit down with anyone and help them translate their military training and experience into their civilian counterparts and then help them write a basic resume.

    The only thing that wasn’t a colossal waste of my time was the help they gave me in filing my VA disability claim and setting up the medical appointments for the VA physical.

    If you’re going to require people to attend TAP class prior to discharge or retirement you should also have experts available to sit down one on one with each military member to write their resume and show/explain to them how to write a job specific resume & cover letter, show them how to conduct a proper job search, and help them prepare for their first civilian job interview.

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