VA health care quality has been at the center of media attention for the past few weeks, but few reports have connected how VA disability intersects with VHA care.
I’m planning to talk about that later this week and thought I’d take this week’s MMQB to cover some examples.
I read the most tragedy example of “Delay, Deny, Hope that I die,” that I’ve seen in a while. I’ll cover that below.
Hi and thank you for checking in for another edition of Monday Morning Quarterback for Veterans. This is where I let me hair down and tell it like it is.
This edition I’ll cover:
- 6 Vets Die, VHA Head says, ‘Sorry’
- VA physician loses license in Oklahoma
- Vet gets retro check day that he dies: $370k
- Obama increases veteran COLA pay
VA Statistic of the Week
I thought I’d take a look at USASpending.gov this week. One glimpse at VA’s budget shows we are all in trouble at some point in the future.
VA’s budget is around $150 billion. VA is slated to spend $106 billion on government contractors.
In light of how much VA pays out in benefits, it leads to the question, “Where is the money coming from that pays veterans benefits?”
Georgia VA head apologizes for 6 veteran deaths linked to care delays
AUGUSTA – In a rare act of responsibility for the federal government, a VA director apologized for problems at a Georgia VA that have been linked to 6 veteran deaths.
“All of us at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center are deeply saddened by the loss of any veteran at our facility, ” said director Robert Hamilton. “We offer our sincerest condolences to veterans affected by delays in GI care and families who have lost a loved one.”
VA confirmed to CNN that six deaths at the Dorn facility are in fact tied to delays. The delays are the result of poor scheduling for gastrointestinal procedures. The deaths are the result of cancers that went undetected.
In an interview, VA had this to say:
“The Department of Veterans Affairs is committed to providing the best quality, safe and effective health care our Veterans have earned and deserve. We take seriously any issue that occurs at one of the more than 1,700 health care facilities across the country. The consult delay at Dorn VAMC has been resolved.”
According to the CNN report, VA is not telling the truth.
Both medical staff and veterans at the Dorn facility say VA is still allowing long delays that previously killed many veterans.
VA physician loses license in Oklahoma
A VA doctor in Oklahoma got fired and lost her license after repeated breaches of public trust and a failure to behave properly.
Dr. Kelly Humphery’s lost her license after being caught for misleading the hiring board about mandatory suspensions in her past.
This comes right on the heels of another VA doctor losing a position as neurologist after being convicted of molesting female patients.
The report about Humphery’s had this to say about her problems:
“She is currently unable to function as a part of a treatment team due to her interpersonal style,” Hall wrote. “She is more invested in being right than in ensuring that her professional decisions are correct. She is unlikely to ask for assistance or input or accept it if offered. When questioned, she becomes irate. Within the boundaries of routine practice this may not be a problem, but in a novel or emergency situation, it could pose significant problems for the quality of the care she is able to provide.”
Source: The Topeka Capital-Journal
Indiana vet gets retro check for $377,342, dies
If you’ve been hiding under a log, it is possible that you have missed how badly VA is bungling the backlog issue.
While some VA regional offices are actually getting the backlog down, others are still struggling to follow the law.
One such office is the Indianapolis VA.
There, Sergeant First Class Shelton Hickerson finally won his lifelong battle for benefits only after losing his life.
Hickerson spent 20 years as a combat drill instructor after serving two tours in Vietnam with the US Army.
Initially, Hickerson battled VA for years to only receive a 10% rating. The conditions are covered in the television interview, but they are numerous.
Hickerson appealed and VA did not acknowledge his appeal for years. It finally provided him a full grant of 100% but then refused to provide payment. This means the initial decision was wrong by about 10000%.
The justification given as to why Hickerson would not get his money right away was that VA needed to assess Hickerson’s competence. VA has a policy where they will not give a veteran his or her money if they are determined to be incompetent. If incompetent, VA forces the veteran to have a fiduciary.
For Hickerson, he was in fact competent. However, VA ignored the reports and a previous requirement to file decisions in a timely manner. VA instead sat on the money for over one year.
The delay lasted the remainder of Hickerson’s life. The day that he died, his family received the payment for over $370,000.
VA had this to say about the Hickerson case:
“The VA confirms they received their own competency report almost three months before Hickerson died… Unfortunately, we did not rate this case prior to the veterans death because the issue was intertwined with several of the Veteran’s other claims and due to our overall workload.”
Source: WISH TV
Obama signs increase for veterans’ COLA by 1.5 percent
In a sign of defiance against tradition, President Barack Obama signed into law an increase for veterans’ COLA of 1.5%. Generally, Congress has not passed this kind of legislation, at least for the past couple years.
In response, many veterans across the country say, “Woopty-do” in unison. While increases are nice, they are currently being well outstripped by the rise of inflation.
Currently, the Federal Reserve is actively “printing dollars,” which has the impact of driving the value of the dollar down. Basically, this means the Fed is buying the government’s own debt. This results in an increase in the supply of dollars.
A lower valued dollar would be great for a country that does not import everything. It would result in exports to other countries to be cheaper for those other countries.
Take China for example. They export a lot and also import quite a bit. If the Yuan goes down in value relative to the dollar, their exports to the US are cheaper. It also means that their imports for production and consumption are also more expensive for the Chinese.
For America, a country that no longer makes anything, this could spell bad news since the trend shows no sign of reversing. We will continue to notice a gradual increase in the cost of goods at stores across the US.
So, while Obama has done a decent thing by increasing veterans’ benefits payouts by increasing COLA for us, the better thing would be to keep COLA where it is at and stop devaluing the currency.
Source: Army Times
Obama enacts 1.5 percent veterans’ COLA