MMQB: Here’s what the system is doing to veterans


This is your Monday Morning Quarterback, where I set out what’s going on and forecast what we’re planning for the next week.

This week I’m going to talk about a VA product I think is pretty timely called AboutFace. It helps connect veterans suffering from PTSD. I’ll write about problems employers are facing in hiring veterans. And, I’ll cue in California Veterans on what is going on in the Los Angeles Regional Office and LA VHA.


Los Angeles VA: A quick 300 words or less review

First things firs, let’s kick off the LA / Long Beach number crunch.

I am writing about different VA offices through the US to see how they size up. My goal is to give readers enough information to know what to expect, and nothing more. Like war, like football, you need to know what you’re up against. This section will give you that juice.

Los Angeles Regional Office boasts the best Disability Compensation system in California. This is not a compliment, as the state has the worst performance on the West Coast.

Disability Compensation

  • 23,900 claims are waiting for an initial decision. 80% of those are over the 125-day decision deadline. An additional 5,975 claims are waiting on appeal.

Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment

  • Vocational Rehabilitation: LA Regional Office has the 4th lowest “rehabilitation rate” on the West Coast.
  • Less than 80% of veterans do not successfully complete the program.
  • Average days to an entitlement decision is 42 days.
  • It takes 128 days to reach a decision on how the veteran will be trained
  • Soup to Nuts: it takes 170 days to start training in Los Angeles

Health Care: Desert Pacific Hospital Comparison

  • LA has the highest hospital induced blood infection rate
  • LA has the highest rate of ulcers caused by the hospital bed

In all, LA’s VA Hospital is on par with many of the others, however they are unfortunately leading the pack wit the above conditions.

Check out your own Regional Office or VHA here:


Inc’s Magazine on The Challenges of Hiring Veterans

The news doesn’t sound that great on the hiring front, which shouldn’t really surprise anyone other than those nonprofits that thought they could just throw a few million dollars on the employment problem and get it to go away.

Here’s what is going on.

New veteran (meaning post 9/11) unemployment was really high two years ago. In Minnesota, it was around 23%. Then politicians rehashed how they calculated the number to avoid making the military option look dismal for post-military employment.

Two years later, unemployment is still hovering around 10% for new veterans. Female unemployment for Gulf War II veterans is 3 points higher, coming in at 13%. It doesn’t sound like bureaucrats know exactly why the number are still higher than the regular population. The reason behind high numbers is not really part of my commentary on the article, either.

What concerns me is that the DOD has still failed to address the skills gap between actual military service and the requirements of civilian employment

Programs have been created to respond to this issue. Certain government employers are required to overlook certain certificate deficiencies. Other government employers are required to lend veterans an employment preference. Still, higher unemployment persists.

This means one thing: the DOD may need to get off its ass and actually respond by changing its internal policies to ensure military personnel are trained in a way that works for both the military and civilian employment sectors – of course, this is only after the DOD tried to get the entire civilian employment sector to accommodate its 1940s approach to training.

Veterans preference is also another area of shortfalls in states like Minnesota. Here, we are still experience higher than average unemployment despite certain Executive Orders aimed at solving the problem of veteran unemployment. In the near future, I’ll be releasing some information addressing why there is a shortfall. For now, suffice it to say that the policies previously implemented sounded good at the press release, but failed to bring about the corrective effect in actual veteran hiring.

Last week, Inc. Magazine Online published an article on the subject. Aside from what I previously mentioned, veterans are struggling in knowing how to communicate their “soft skills” to employers – explaining how being a top marksman makes you a good manager does not necessarily convert, nor does map reading and trench digging.

These are certain skill types that speak volumes but seem pedantic without a little thought. However, if you think about it, here is what those skills really mean. They mean that the veteran is not afraid to get their hands dirty. It means that he veteran is not afraid to dig in. And, they are not “above” doing tasks that are mundane, so long as they serve the greater objective.

If I had the money to hire veterans with those skills, I’d hire them in a heartbeat. God only knows I need the help! So, to veterans struggling with their resume, try to get at the heart of what those skills really mean. While digging a ditch may not be important, knowing how to keep composed in a heated boardroom meeting might mean a lot. And I can guarantee that most veterans can keep cool under fire, if nothing else.

Source: The Challenges of Hiring Veterans


AboutFace PTSD Help – Videos of Real Veterans

I don’t generally plug things the VA does because it is usually a waste of money or time. However, this website might be different.

Here’s a pretty cool website, AboutFace, that the Veterans Health Administration has set up to help disabled veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

AboutFace is dedicated changing the lives of PTSD sufferers by educating veterans through the use of narrative story. This is great because it combines the best things that Americans like about reality TV shows with treatment.

This About Face site is interesting because it combines potential treatments with real life stores from veterans of all ages and wars. They have an AboutFace YouTube site that relays the stories by veterans about their stories and experiences. Very powerful.

The project is sponsored by the National Center for PTSD:

“We are the center of excellence for research and education on the prevention, understanding, and treatment of PTSD. Although we are a VA Center, our seven divisions across the country provide expertise on all types of trauma – from natural disasters, terrorism, violence and abuse to combat exposure.

Although we provide no direct clinical care, our purpose is to improve the well-being and understanding of individuals who have experienced traumatic events, with a focus on American Veterans. We conduct cutting edge research and apply resultant findings with this mission in mind: to “Advance the Science and Promote Understanding of Traumatic Stress.”

As an aside, I thought society should just re-label it as Post Traumatic Stress and drop the Disorder. After all, I would say that most people who did not suffer from some kind of stress after a traumatic are abnormal. So, if that is true, it can’t really be a disorder, then. These are just my thoughts on the matter.

One of the veterans on our Facebook Group page (Disabled Veterans – Chapter 31 Voc Rehab) posting a link to this VA website. I’d like to give a Shout Out to Norman. Thanks for posting this!


This Week’s Project – Spina Bifida

I’m working on a major public relations campaign for my friend Ron Nesler. He’s been battling with the Dept of Veterans Affairs for years to get care for is daughter.

His daughter has Spina Bifida as a result of her biological father’s exposure to Agent Orange while in Vietnam. All children with this diagnosis are eligible for full comprehensive health care so long as the VA decides they will follow the law. To this point, they have made up every excuse in the book to avoid providing care.

Ron was able to push the House Committee of Veterans Affairs to hold a hearing about the problems in getting care back in 2008. Unfortunately, the Dept of Veterans Affairs reversed its decision despite Congress passing a law that requires the agency to provide full comprehensive health care.

In response, we decided to use online media to fight back. Congressman Michael Michaud was gracious enough to lend his support as the Ranking Member of the House Committee. Now, all we need is a little luck and good timing. Keep this issue in your prayers.

I am attaching the hearings here, so that curious viewers can see what the VA actually said to Congress. We are still not sure why the officials are able to walk free after apparently misleading our elected officials charged with oversight of the agency.


Congressman Ellsworth’s Testimony:


Dr. Cross’ Testimony, including questioning:


Congressional Comments on Affording Veteran Legislation at same hearing:

What is the relationship between Agent Orange and Spina Bifida in children?

Spina Bifida

This is a condition in which the spine of a child fails to close completely during pregnancy. When it occurs, the only solution is to try and close the child’s spine immediately after it is born in order to reduce the risk of the child getting infected and also to retain the existing function of the spinal cord.

Surgery is ideally performed within the first 24 hours of the infant’s life to resolve as much damage as possible.

Most children that are born with this condition normally need a lot of surgery and medical care because paralysis easily results from the injury caused to the spine. However, with modern medical advancements children who are born with the condition can live well into their adulthood. 

Symptoms of Spina Bifida

The symptoms of the condition normally depend on the particular type and the severity of the condition. Symptoms normally include:

  • Nerve damage
  • Inability to walk and complete paralysis
  • Problems with the bladder and the bowels
  • Hydrocephalus, a condition whereby fluid fills the brain.

Agent Orange and Spina Bifida

It is believed that descendants of war veterans that served in Vietnam between 1967 and 1971 tend to have a tendency of getting Spina Bifida. This is because scientific studies have concluded that children born to these veterans are twice as likely to develop Spina Bifida if the veteran was exposure to Agent Orange. As a result, Congress has created to provide 100% coverage of health care costs these children incurred since exposure to Agent Orange likely caused the birth defect.

It is important to note that Spina Bifida affects one in every 1000 American children.

The main active ingredient in Agent Orange is a substance called Dioxin. It is also found in several other herbicides. Dioxin is the ingredient that is presumed to have the effect of causing Spina Bifida and cancer among other conditions.

Benefits of children with birth defects

As previously stated, Children who suffer from Spina Bifida are eligible to receive VA benefits if they meet the following criteria.

  1.  Children or offspring of war veterans that served in Vietnam between 1962 and 1975.
  2. Offspring of Veterans that were in or near the Korean demilitarized zone between September 1967 and august 1971.
  3. The child must have been conceived after the first time that the veteran entered the said zone.

Children who fall under this category qualify for support and vocational training. In case you have a child that might be eligible for these benefits, you can assist them by filling out the appropriate forms and getting them the medical and other assistance that they may need.

It is important to note that Spina Bifida is more often than not a permanently disabling disorder. It is therefore very important to get all the help possible to help manage it and any diseases that result from it.

Here is the VA Spina Bifida Page for more information.


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  1. How about since all we that have served were under the IMMOBILE, set-in-stone, Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ); WHY cannot the Veteran Administration uphold that SAME “uniform standard” at each and EVERY VA Regional Office and at every level of the VA to most importantly even the VA Health System?
    I know there’s “supposedly” gov’t code they are to stick to when making evaluation decisions, but WHY does it really seem to be at the whim AND EVEN MOOD of a particular physician, etc.?
    Seems to be a no-brainer that if such an uniformed code of ethics/rules that not ONLY applied to we Veterans, but as equally well to ANY VA employee/official so that it would not matter if your claim were in North Dakota or North Carolina; the liason of the LAW would do as it does in Active Duty–whether an officer or enlisted, all equally held under same binding law!
    What I am trying to say is the VA simply lacks basic discipline and CORE VALUES and until change happens on a really uniformed, all-encompassing way from the top-down, it seems futile that “change” will occur from the “bottom-up”, save from revolution–but that would be stomping on our own feet and also futile.
    If each Veteran were to FLOOD our Congressional Reps/Senator’s, regardless of party, and enlighten them repeatedly of the ugly truth as a Band of Brothers and Sisters, I really think it would be a force they would have to reakon with.
    As it is, they WANT us to become PASSIVE…Ben, please do not drink the coffee or anything offered in your many meetings fighting the good fight with gov’t officials! “Being nice to the VA” commentary is unfortunately very passive-aggressive, which never works when dealing with those that DEPEND and COUNT on Veterans to be exactly SO!
    Again, we need to as Veterans work collectively to cause change. After all, that’s exactly how this Great Country was made ours–not by being passive to the English, otherwise we would have a Queen currently, rather than a President.

  2. I am actually one of the MANY unfortunate cases where the military doctor’s gave me not only non-properly screened blood products in a surgical procedure, but ALSO the nice little gift of both HEP B and HIV+. It was the consistant Red Cross Bllod Drives in which I had always donated my rare blood type on base AND waited the appropriate time post surgery to donate again and consequently was deathly ill for whole 30 days on convelescent medical leave in my home town’s hospital; but the VA only said my by-then anxiety-induced chronic IBS was *all* it was, even after labs at base Dr. THEN I rec’v. a CERTIFIED letter from the Red Cross to IMMEDIATELY take that letter to my base Dr. because they found Hep B and possibly HIV infection in my blood AND since I had given so long and am not in any typical risk group, the Red Cross suspected it had to do with my recent surgery and transfusion!!!!! I made a copy of that letter and kept it, thank God, as it was an undeniable error that I often have wondered how many other’s this has happened to. Interestingly, in my service-connected award letter, they had the AUDACITY to rate the HEP B **ZERO PERCENT SVC. CONNECTED** until at a “future date when the Hep B may affect my health DIRECTLY! I use civilian Dr.’s with Medicare as since I have service connected and won SSDI years before the VA acted, one can only rec’v SSDI AND VA Disability with no offset if it is Service-Connected and P&T. I should note that this did nothing but amplify anxiety levels, ruin any realistic hopes of getting married and raising kids! Also, the VA would not recognize my civilian Infectious Disease M.D.’s tests that showed I had such a mutant strain that I was already resistant to all but a few available meds and they are not even on the VA’s “Formulary”….i really want to believe i was one of the few this happened to but I happen to know several Veteran Health locations in past decade sent mass mailings to tune of thousands telling Veterans to get tested for Hep B, Hep C, AND HIV because of both unsterile dental environment AND Colonscoptomies (sp?)…I do wish to remain anonymous because I finally won my benefits but talk about a huge disservice to veterans!!
    My civilian gastro enterologist happens to be an ex USAF Lt. Colonel Medical Dr. and he disclosed to me that when the war went direction of Afghanistan, with Vets returning from iraq, he thought he would apply to a newly built VA Health Center here as they needed people in his field. He told me they told him flat-out he was OVER-QUALIFIED!! He indeed told me I was better off not using the hack medical Dr’s that most of whom the VA hires are from places overseas that if they were to try to work in civilian medical arena, they would require at least 3 more years of training AND get this….the VA **WAIVES** these hack Dr’s medical residency requirement so they ARE INDEED using Vets to “learn on” or as the Smashing Pumkins song, “RATS IN A CAGE”….! Took alot of guts to write this but since Ben mentioned blood product infections, I wanted to assure other Vets it is unfortunately true and the VA actually claims to be the “LARGEST HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IN USA FOR HIV/AIDS”…pretty frakkin scarey!!!

  3. My thoughts are this what we need is the veterans version of the AARP! It is clearly a war! First thing is to stop anyone new from becoming a victim. Get the money to counter the recruitment adds on TV. The service’s promote Duty, Honor, commitment. The leadership of the VA has none of those attributes. So the first order of battle is to make sure our ranks do not grow any larger.
    Second is funding every person who enters the any service carries a “risk” the Congress must fund each enlistment with a contingent liability so the funds for care are not subject to the whims of young men and woman who willingly let “the others” do the fighting.
    Whatever problems we have with the VA it is not an accident management produces the organization. The war against us did not just happen it was planned! Our problem is not that we do not know the problems our problem is we do not have anyone’s attention yet.

    1. I am ready to try out this web site of Ben’s as a rallying point for veterans. I have had pure Hell, just with the VA IGNORING my communications for years. Ben is the VERY FIRST person I have seen set up shop as a veteran advocate, who actually has the courage to stand up to the VA and say what’s TRUE, instead of of what the VA Big Shots want to hear. Ben speaks for ME as a Vietnam war veteran, and he is the first one thast has ever had the cojones to do so.

      1. Ron, Ben may very well be the guy but if he is? He does not have a large enough voice until you and I have an office on K street the VA management and the Congress will proceed as they wish. First determine the situation (the VA thinks of vets as expenses) The VA has determined it is more cost effective to hire lawyers and fight us tooth and nail and then lose than pay the “benefits (read deferred payment) we have earned through service). What then is the most effective way to counter act the situation
        ( how can we change the VA?) while there are a number of ways the fastest and most effective is to cut off new troops ( be sure the kids who are enlisting are aware of what lies ahead) and gather enough in numbers and money to give guys like Ben the platform and voice they need to drive the change. I am a fat old balding man in St. Louis and lost a great number of my brain cells to old age and other things and I can figure it out surly younger and smarter guys can get it done!! NO ONE SEEKING WHAT IS OWED BY THE AMERICAN TAXPAYERS THROUGH THE VA IS CONFUSED ABOUT WHAT THE PROBLEMS ARE!! ENOUGH OF THE PROBLEMS ALREADY how are we going to effect the solution? That is the real question! The VA does not want to change SO WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO ABOUT EFFECTING CHANGE? That is the question not how big somebodies balls are but can they and will they lead us to victory?

  4. For years, I was a sergeant in the US Army. At the NCO Club, when someone misrepresented facts, no matter how POLISHED their delivery, we called it a LIE. That is WHY the VA hires EX officers and NOT ex sergeants.

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