MMQB: Except Legion, Senator Burr hammers Veteran Service Orgs
Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), ranking member on the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs had some harsh words for all but one Veteran Service Organization after VA’s appearance before the Committee.
Since I’m taking this Memorial Day off (I will return Tuesday), I thought I would include his press release for all of you. In the mean time, be sure to hug a veteran this Memorial Day even if that veteran is yourself and enjoy Senator Burr’s interestingly harsh and yet well deserved critique.
To the Nation’s Veterans,
Over the course of the last few weeks, there has been a great deal of media coverage—rightly so—of the still-unfolding story coming out of the Department of Veterans Affairs regarding secret wait lists and other problems related to appointment scheduling at VA facilities. Last week, the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs heard from Secretary Shinseki, representatives of some of the Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs), and others.
While a great deal of the media coverage of the hearing has focused on what Secretary Shinseki said, and didn’t say, much less has been seen of the testimony of the VSOs that testified. I wanted to take a brief moment to comment on that testimony.
First and foremost, I must recognize and commend the American Legion, National Commander Dan Dellinger, and the American Legion team for taking a principled stand, before the hearing and during it, and calling for leadership change at the VA. It is clear that the Legion has been listening to its membership about the challenges they face in gaining access to care, and has reached the conclusion that “enough is enough” and the status quo is indefensible. The Legion’s membership has much to be proud of with the organization they support.
Regrettably, the Legion was alone among the VSO that testified in taking such a stand. It became clear at the hearing that most of the other VSOs attending appear to be more interested in defending the status quo within VA, protecting their relationships within the agency, and securing their access to the Secretary and his inner circle. But to what end? What use is their access to senior VA staff, up to and including the Secretary, if they do not use their unprecedented access to a Cabinet Secretary to secure timely access to care for their membership? What hope is there for change within the VA if those closest to the agency don’t use that proximity for the good of veterans across our country?
I believe the national and local commanders of every VSO have the interests of their members at heart, and take seriously their commitment to their members and their organization. Unfortunately, I no longer believe that to be the case within the Washington executive staff of the VSOs that testified. Last week’s hearing made it clear to me that the staff has ignored the constant VA problems expressed by their members and is more interested in their own livelihoods and Washington connections than they are to the needs of their own members.
I fear that change within the VA will not be possible unless and until these organizations also reconsider their role as well as the nature of their relationship with VA.
I read today the DAV’s response to Senator Burr for calling out the DAV for ignoring us veterans.
In their angriest voice, the DAV hollered that they are doing everything they can to help us veterans.
But their recent lobbying actions to Congress and the VA suggest that maybe they may be pretending to roar like a lion when in all actuality they are squeaking like a mouse.
I pulled up the OpenSecrets website to see how much the DAV is lobbying for us veterans.
[OpenSecrets is a research group that tracks money in U.S. politics and its effect on elections and public policy.]
When Obama became President, the DAV pumped around $1.2 million to lobby for us veterans.
Since then, over the last six years, the DAV has contributed less and less each year to press our veterans’ issues.
The chart looks like a plunging cliff of disinterest.
In fact, to me, the annual lobbying by the DAV seems to mirror Obama’s own neglect of us veterans.
Why is this?
Do not let the DAV or any politician make you check your veterans’ privilege!
OpenSecrets: Annual Lobbying by Disabled American Veterans
I have found that contacting the DAV through various means has been an effort in futility. When I first read the title of this blog post I was interested why Senator Burr would speak out against any VSO. His comments are spot on as far as I am concerned. I will not waste my time any longer with the DAV. What a disgrace to the membership!
I seriously think that along with the current “Wait Lists Scandal” in the forefront, the subject of Veteran’s Disability Benefits waiting game and VA’s horrific wait/delay/deny game and runaround strategy should *ALSO* be front and center because they indeed go hand-in-hand. This current matter in news is indeed an atrocity and am in no way minimizing it. However, it could also be the VA’s strategy to use this very issue as a “smoke screen” to make the Veteran’s Disability Benefits atrocious process for Veterans seem “swept under the radar”….again!
Why not hit them with the full pile of crap rather than a spoonful at a time? These VSO’s are VERY MUCH part of the whole delay and deny game of under the guise of “helping Veterans”, they in-fact act as a liaison that creates a further divide between the Veteran and their legitimate claims and the VA.
I’ll never forget when I was told to NOT contact my Congressman because it would only “delay things further”, when in-fact at least in my particular case, placed a fire under the VA and my Congressman’s involvement in lieu of VSO exponentially sped-up process and must add that I had all the documentation and did ALL the work that the VSO was “supposed to do”. Otherwise I have no reason to believe otherwise that now, 4 years later, my claim would more than likely still be sitting or lost somewhere between the VSO and VA Regional Office.
I seriously think the Disability Benefits “WAIT GAME” should be brought again to front and center WHILE this is in the main stream media because Pres. Obama and Sec. Shinseki are NOT doing what they are telling the public they are doing.
In closing, it’s always important to use critical thinking and ask yourself, “what are they NOT talking about?”
In any investigations of the VAMC’s it will take longer then 30 days to do a proper investigation, if the VAMC’s has covered up and hide the true facts of what were really happening in each facility, at best this investigation would only be the tip of the iceberg. The Investigator, will properly have a good meal at each facility, and give them a slap on the hand, and report back to the President, that its not as bad as you think. It would take several Investigators to get the job done proper. In my opinion Government Employee’s should never investigated Government Agencies, the potential of being bias is there, “have you ever heard the paraphrase “It’s good enough for Government work”. The focus of this investigation should be on the Supervisors, and not low level employee’s being threaten with there jobs. At best in my opinion on what will take place is that a lot of employee’s will lose there jobs, commercials on television for va.careers.gov. has already started to occur. The best thing for the veterans, I believe will be the use of other Hospitals near to home, to stop cooking the books.
I have never read this before until today.
Here’s a link to a great article by retired US Marine Corps Major General Smedley D. Butler about how big business profits off of warfare.
General Butler is a two-time Medal of Honor recipient.
The title of his work is War is a Racket.
Here is a summary of his writing:
“War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small ‘inside’ group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.”
Google the Generals’ name and title of his book to find it.
I was profoundly shocked by the General’s astute observation about how war is paid for, by the blood sacrifice of the soldier.
General Butler writes,
If you don’t believe this, visit the American cemeteries on the battlefields abroad. Or visit any of the veteran’s hospitals in the United States. On a tour of the country, in the midst of which I am at the time of this writing, I have visited eighteen government hospitals for veterans. In them are a total of about 50,000 destroyed men — men who were the pick of the nation eighteen years ago. The very able chief surgeon at the government hospital; at Milwaukee, where there are 3,800 of the living dead, told me that mortality among veterans is three times as great as among those who stayed at home.
Boys with a normal viewpoint were taken out of the fields and offices and factories and classrooms and put into the ranks. There they were remolded; they were made over; they were made to “about face”; to regard murder as the order of the day. They were put shoulder to shoulder and, through mass psychology, they were entirely changed. We used them for a couple of years and trained them to think nothing at all of killing or of being killed.
Then, suddenly, we discharged them and told them to make another “about face” ! This time they had to do their own readjustment, sans [without] mass psychology, sans officers’ aid and advice and sans nation-wide propaganda. We didn’t need them any more. So we scattered them about without any “three-minute” or “Liberty Loan” speeches or parades. Many, too many, of these fine young boys are eventually destroyed, mentally, because they could not make that final “about face” alone.
In the government hospital in Marion, Indiana, 1,800 of these boys are in pens! Five hundred of them in a barracks with steel bars and wires all around outside the buildings and on the porches. These already have been mentally destroyed. These boys don’t even look like human beings. Oh, the looks on their faces! Physically, they are in good shape; mentally, they are gone.
There are thousands and thousands of these cases, and more and more are coming in all the time. The tremendous excitement of the war, the sudden cutting off of that excitement — the young boys couldn’t stand it.
That’s a part of the bill. So much for the dead — they have paid their part of the war profits. So much for the mentally and physically wounded — they are paying now their share of the war profits. But the others paid, too — they paid with heartbreaks when they tore themselves away from their firesides and their families to don the uniform of Uncle Sam — on which a profit had been made. They paid another part in the training camps where they were regimented and drilled while others took their jobs and their places in the lives of their communities. The paid for it in the trenches where they shot and were shot; where they were hungry for days at a time; where they slept in the mud and the cold and in the rain — with the moans and shrieks of the dying for a horrible lullaby.
This was written in 1935…
DO NOT EVER APOLOGIZE FOR YOUR VETERAN PRIVILEGE
The VA problem still is not being adequately defined.
While we as veterans today remember our lost brothers and sisters who gave the ultimate sacrifice, it is the fact that WHY the federal government treats veterans as poorly as they do that is not being addressed.
In a recent study, “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups and Average Citizens,” by Princeton and Northwestern Universities, it was concluded that America is no longer a republic in which political power resides in the people that elect leaders.
America is now a crony capitalist system of oligarchs who exercise control over us, the general population.
The study found that, “Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence.”
And “Relatively few represent the poor or even the economic interests of ordinary workers, particularly now that the U.S. labor movement has become so weak.”
And “Not only do ordinary citizens not have uniquely substantial power over policy decisions; they have little or no independent influence on policy at all.”
And “Still, economic elites stand out as quite influential – more so than any other set of actors studied here – in the making of U.S. public policy.”
And “More strikingly, even overwhelmingly large pro-change majorities, with 80% of the public favoring a policy change, got that change only about 43% of the time.”
And “Our results speak less clearly to the “third face” of power: the ability of elites to shape the public’s preferences. We know that interest groups and policy makers themselves often devote considerable effort to shaping opinion. If they are successful, this might help explain the high correlation we find between elite and mass preferences. But it cannot have greatly inflated our estimate of average citizens’ influence on policy making, which is near zero.”
And “What do our findings say about democracy in America? They certainly constitute troubling news for advocates of “populistic” democracy, who want governments to respond primarily or exclusively to the policy preferences of their citizens. In the United States, our findings indicate, the majority does not rule.”
And “We believe that if policymaking is dominated by powerful business organizations and a small number of affluent Americans, then America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened.”
SO WHAT DOES THIS ALL MEAN TO US VETERANS?
It means that the VSO’s who have made it into the power circles of Washington politics have forgotten about us Main Street veterans.
These VSO elitists, with their $300,000 annual salaries, have decided that furthering their own financial special interests is more important than helping the veterans they represent.
This is why VSO elitists grandstand every time there is a VA scandal.
They DO NOT CARE about us anymore!
What should we do?
DO NOT EVER APOLOGIZE FOR YOUR VETERAN PRIVILEGE!
Stop voting for political elites, like the Bushes, Clintons, and Obamas of the world!
Vote for Main Street leaders, not political elitists!
Fire Obama, fire Shinseki, and fire our VSO leaders!
War is a racket link for the full article
Really? American Legion at the VA Oakland Regional Office hanged up on me last week when I asked them why they said they were getting my years old claim expedited, then they told me they are NOT even going to ask the VA to expedite it. Then, a Legion supervisor from Los Angeles calls me back and he is worse than the jokers in Oakland, with every excuse imaginable as to why my claim has languished for years. It has languished because the Legion is afraid of the VA, pure and simple. Shinseki is a corrupt mob boss disguised as a wounded general and war hero. I would be interested in hearing from some of his men from the Nam. My guess is he was a taker, a user, and was good at getting himself promoted and made some very serious enemies in the Army and for very good reason. Oliver Stone got dragged through the mud, he came out of it fine, now it is time to do some digging on Shinseki. He needs to be audited along with his top 10 assistant cabinet leaders to find out how much they are making off this scandal, and I don’t want to hear about some other past VA Secretary or what happened at the VA 10 or 20 years ago, only what is going on NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Oh, but there has been change. Instead of Delay, Deny and hope they Die, it’s Delay, Deny. and help them Die. And they’ve now got the stats to prove it. Wonder how many bonuses will go out this year?
The change we need will only come when Dellinger and others walk into VA regional offices and physically pick up paperwork, if it is approvable, simply stamp it approved per VA regulation _____________, then sit down at the desks of VA staff and start entering approved claims into computers! All we have now is talk, and that will get us nowhere as usual! While Dellinger is at it he can demand the arrest of Shinseki on federal charges of conspiracy to commit murder, grand larceny, and so on!
As a veteran that had to deal with these issues 42 years ago when I left active duty, I am amazed at the number of people and numbskulls in Washington that actually believe this is a new problem. WWII veterans had to endure these problems as have Korean vets. Granted, ultimately commanders are responsible for everything that goes wrong as well as well as what goes right. So why are the hospital administrators and department chiefs given a free pass? The hard truth of the matter is if the systemic problems are not addressed and fixed, these problems will continue to prevail. Heads will roll over these problems that have been sensationalized in the media. The problem is the wrong heads will be lopped off.
Please don’t anyone in this forum, or anywhere, say the Nazi atrocities analogy does not fit perfectly here! Listen, the Nazis had plans in effect long before they realized they would lose the war, that would cover their asses at war trials. They carefully thought the whole thing through and they actually believed the simple concept, “We were just following orders,” would get them a free pass in front of international war crimes tribunals. We all know how that went for them. Dozens of the top leaders were hung to death, in front of delighted audiences, including victim family members and American war heroes that liberated them. What history usually does not talk about is the thousands of low level leadership executions, right down to privates, that were carried out, some even years later. What we have to realize is the VA is the outright, diabolically evil enemy of veterans everywhere. When you read this you can help spread the word that will make its way to anyone who works for the VA. This time it is going to be different, it already has been different, and it will snowball till radical change, maybe even with the entire collapse of the VA as we know it, and that sure as hell will not be done with Shinseki at the helm, or ANY of his Nazi leadership. These bastards have carefully structured bonus systems, reward incentives paid to doctors and examiners and raters and attorneys to willfully deny, stall, or hinder legitimate claims, simply because they want the money in their own pockets instead of being spent on real, timely health care or distribution in the form of hard earned (as in paid for in blood!) earned benefits. Yes, I know I said “earned” twice in a row! I would bet my life against $5 that Shinseki and his top ten executive assistants have earned in excess of $100,000 a year, with some of them exceed $1,000,000 a year, paid in the form of some incentive or bonus system that is directly linked to misappropriating funds away from veterans into their (VA top leadership) pockets. Spread a rumor, based on fact as you are reading it here, that if you are a top cabinet member under Shinseki, or some kind of clerk with high clearance, and you have ANY information at all about a secret bonus system as I am describing here (and I mean a bonus system that specifically targets legitimate claims and medical need with the purpose of moving them to a secret dead file of some kind) then you better come forward, call or go to your nearest FBI office or maybe VA personnel office if you can trust them, and apply for whistleblower protection. This is the only thing that is going to protect you from going to prison, and possibly even facing the death penalty. Before any of this recent scandal came out and got moving I appealed to doctors at the VA to come forward and tell the truth, and couple of them did, as we all know. This will be proven in the end to be a murder for hire scheme and misappropriation of funds. There is no statute of limitations on murder, so if you think you are going to collect your VA salary forever, or quietly fade away into retirement if you are ever found (any YOU WILL BE found out) out, that you knew about this crap going on, you better run to your nearest whistleblower office, NOW! Stop what you are doing, get off your stupid ass and turn yourself in along with your co-workers, in exchange for immunity. You cannot enrich yourself or even accept one penny in the form of your regular VA paycheck if it can be found that you know how this shit works, and then expect to not be held accountable. Political winds shift and change direction, and you can bet that some group of politicians, on one side or another, or both, will hang you out to dry, right down to the same form of public hanging that was given to Nazi war criminals. This present VA scandal is worse than the Nazis because it’s our own people, who are no more than domestic enemies, who are doing it to our war heroes and veterans! If you think you are smarter than the Nazi war machine was, think again. Get whistleblower protection now, and start talking, no matter how much or how little you know. The Oakland Regional office thinks they are going to get by with their crap, as does every regional office around the country. Oakland VA Regional has several informants inside of it right now, according to my US Congressman Doug LaMalfa’s staff who I and others have been working on a an investigation for some time now. This is your last chance to come forward!
So Sen. Burr thinks that the VSO’s are the problem and not the one who is clearly doing nothing about this (Shinseki, who should be fired and get NO bonus or separation package. Kick him to the curb and get someone who will make heads roll quickly). Great way to turn it on us vets. I guess we are the problem and not the system. Get real. This as well as other problems have been going on for so long that they have become very good at covering this up and then give the “I was unaware of this problem” Yeah right, The list that Ben had on a post about the amount of money the Dr’s make was shocking to me. I found out that the Dr’s I had seen made over $900,000 a year. Yes I put that in right. Five Dr’s that I have seen for my problems make that much and between all of them I still have no idea what is wrong with me. Hey VA, that was money well spent don’t you think. The whole system is a joke. I did notice on that list was the lack of bonuses which makes me think they no longer call them “bonuses” but maybe “performance awards” and that way they will not show up in the bonus column. Just a thought. Stupid VA, I am sure I will be long gone before they find out what is going on. I am still waiting on a test for three weeks now and that was after a week and a half to get it from fee services and it involves a mass that they cannot identify and could have had almost five weeks to spread. Completely unacceptable.
I agree with you 100%. It has been 3 years since fluid started to build up in my body and the VA still cant tell me why it’s happening. It has spread to my feet now and I can barely walk and all they can do is prescribe more medication. My health has declined drastically since they became my healthcare provider in 2003. I had one ailment and now I have several. It is a disgrace the amount of money they pay their doctors for the substandard care we receive.
I think Sen. Burr has something with the Amer. Leg. How can he say that they were the only ones that listened to their members. This’s pure BS. I think some of the others gave testimony that echoed the same as the Amer. Leg. Maybe it was because the Amer. Leg. was first at the table, the Sen. had used them before or has some other relationship with them but there were only a couple of org. reps. that were buddies with the system or didn’t need to be there. The guy in for the Ed. Dept. Why was he there? The guy representing the Vietnam Vets was useless as well as the guy from the Paralyzed Veterans of America (he had such a cocky attitude with his answers that I would never use him or his org.) I feel sorry for the Vietnam Vets if this is how they’re treated. This guy sat there & gave answers that were slow & made no sense. The others did OK. I thought the VFW rep. had some good points on how to use or allocate the money needed to help the system. the Amer. Leg. did OK as well. The whole thing was just to calm people down & give them a “show”. The “Panel” was mad & seemed to want things done now & not later. Box checked. the orgs. said what the public wanted to hear, box checked. The only box that didn’t get any type of checkmark was for the Veteran. Ours was never even on the page to get checked. they did damage control and I give it a month & you will hear nothing about this. It’ll be swept under the rug as it has been in the past. Anyone who thinks something will actually change better wake up. We are last, bottom of the barrel, the stuff that is below the slime and always will be. I feel sorry for my fellow vets as we will always be the lowest class. We deserve so much better Thank you Gov.
My closest ties with any VSO is with the Vietnam Veterans of America. But, every time I have approached the top leadership of that organization to report wrong doing by VA officials that is robbing veterans of health care or benefits, I have been told by VVA leadership the VVA can’t OPENLY criticize VA, because they must preserve their friendly relationship with VA in order to “help veterans.”
What THIS vet needs is protection from that sort of “help.”
These men at every major VSO, American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Vietnam Veterans of America, Disabled American Veterans, and more are all guilty of being compromised by the DC political power structure just so they could enjoy the many perks that the politicians handed out to them to simply “play along.”
In simple terms, they have betrayed their fellow veterans and prostituted themselves for nothing but a fistful of dollars, perks that only Capitol Hill insiders know of, and access to Eric Shinseki any time they wanted. Why have they been so silent in the face of these scandals over the past 10 years alone? That’s the price they had to pay to stay in the game and enjoy the benefits that only they had access to. To say it more bluntly, they screwed their fellow veterans and offered them up on the altar of selfishness and compromise.
Senator Burr is 100% spot-on with the hypocrisy and duplicity by the VSOs. These extremely serious and horrifying problems at the VA have been there for years, and yet none of these Washington, DC big shots at the VSOs ever said much about it. Their House & Senate VA committee testimonies over the years can best be described as milquetoast and weak in light of the serious problems that have grown exponentially over the past decade alone. I was always miffed over how weak and insubstantial their testimony or prepared statements were when they came before the committees.
And then I started to learn just how much the executives at the DC VSOs were all in an exclusive little club and had no intention of losing their membership and access to it.
Instead, when you look hard enough, you will find all manner of “connected” veteran-owned small businesses (VOSBs) whose owners are the well-connected friends of these DC VSO executives and who profit handsomely by their connections. I learned of this through another sportsman who was at one of the hunting lodges in Virginia where all these conspirators had come to hob-nob and party — on all the monies donated by many Americans for the appeal by the VSOs based on public sympathies for veterans.
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