MMQB: VA Should Eradicate The Wait List, Not Religion
In another perverse example of distorted priorities, there is a new focus at VA headquarters on 810 Vermont Ave. Now, VA will not only eradicate the wait list, it will also eradicate religious symbols with renewed focus across the country.
In response to reports from Veterans Affairs chapels across the country, DC lawmakers sent off a letter of inquiry to Veterans Affairs (VA) for answers. We as Americans are coming to a crossroad regarding religion and apparently VA is as well. Our culture and its military are diverse. How should we handle it? Should we hide our respective faiths and keep them private?
While the Army is going one way by allowing Muslim soldiers to wear turbans, VA is going the opposite direction by removing faith specific symbols. Rather than embracing diversity, VA chose to instead literally cover up all religious symbols, such as crucifixes, versus the other option – to be inclusive of all faiths and their respective symbols.
In light of the current scandals, I think all veterans need as much prayer, thoughtfulness, and kind wishes as possible to beat back the criminal treatment of veterans nationwide. Perhaps openly displayed symbols would serve as a reminder to some of the criminals working at VA that there is a higher power? In my mind, the matter of faith should be open and certainly not covered up should the individual choose to do so.
We will cover this and more in this Monday Morning Quarterback for Veterans (MMQB). Hi and welcome to this MMQB. I am your host, Benjamin Krause, creator of DisabledVeterans.org. This is the leading source online for veterans benefits news, using new cyber advocacy tools to help reach veterans anywhere, anytime.
This week we will cover:
- VA’s attack on religious symbols
- Nepotism at contract manipulation in VA Memorial Affairs
- CBO: Bill to extend VA care would cost $35 billion
- Noteworthy news from last week
- Upcoming Congressional hearings
Current Veterans Affairs News
VA should eradicate Wait Times, not religious symbols
If VA officials have their way, VA chapels will be devoid of religious symbols when no one is using the facility. According to an inquiry to the agency, in a misguided effort to encourage inclusion and religious neutrality, VA ironically intends to remove all expressions of religion from its chapels.
“The purported rationale for this policy is to facilitate efforts within the VA to uphold and protect the religious freedom rights of all individuals seeking to use its chapels for worship, meditation, or reflection.”
More than 20 lawmakers recently filed a formal inquiry with Veterans Affairs Secretary Sloan Gibson seeking answers to questions about the policy and how it was created. It is called VHA Handbook 1111.02: Spiritual and Pastoral Care Procedures.
I have a simple solution to VA’s current fetish to eliminate religious symbols from chapels across the nation.
When there are Muslims present, have Muslim symbols in view. When Jews are present, have Jewish symbols out. When Christians are present, have Christian symbols present. When atheists are present, remove the symbols. When all are present, have all symbols present. However, covering up symbols will serve to eradicate religion, not ensure inclusion of anyone with faith.
Instead of embracing all, VA has chosen to embrace none. It has sought to remove symbols including crucifixes from view in facilities while veterans suffer from a lack of timely health care and benefits. Clearly the goal is nothing more than an example of poor prioritization of VA resources at a time when the nation needs to focus on keeping its veterans from being killed by VA malpractice.
More deeply, they can say what they want. In my mind, by removing faith symbols, VA is embracing humanist secularism rather than the diversity of its veteran population.
Read More: https://www.cleveland.com/open/index.ssf/2014/07/the_new_veterans_administratio.html
More VA nepotism and manipulation in contracting
Agency watchdog VA OIG published a redacted report last week detailing favoritism, contract steering, and related illegal behavior by former VA Memorial Services chief Steve Muro prior to his retirement.
The report summary said:
We concluded that Mr. Steve Muro, former (retired) Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs, NCA, VACO, engaged in a prohibited personnel practice when he created a position within NCA and preselected an employee, who was also a friend, for that position. Over a 3-year period of time, the employee planned to retire several times, but when retention incentives and quality step increases (QSI) no longer enticed him to remain, Mr. Muro created a promotional opportunity which raised the employee’s salary by approximately $10,000 annually, thereby increasing the employee’s retirement annuity by about $400 each month.
We further found that Mr. Muro engaged in preferential treatment of an NCA contractor, Ms. Patricia Noonan, President of Noonan & Associates, when he developed a less-than arm’s-length relationship with her; when he continued to communicate with her via email and telephone after being given guidance to cease those communications; misused his title when he gave her an unfair competitive advantage by providing her a letter of recommendation, which she used to procure additional NCA contracts; and when he improperly supported her in her efforts to obtain additional VA contracts. Further, he gave preference to select NCA employees seeking advancement when he reviewed and edited resumes they initially sent to Ms. Noonan for her review, which she forwarded to Mr. Muro for his input.
We also found that NCA improperly gave Ms. Noonan sole-source contracts to provide one-to-one services to NCA employees promoted or seeking promotion. NCA’s Head of Contracting Activity (HCA) told us that the contracts were established to assist NCA employees in their professional development; however, we found this type of training is readily available through VA’s Learning University (VALU). NCA paid Ms. Noonan $250/hour for each contract, which included her meeting with the employee, observing that employee do a presentation, providing feedback, and doing telephone counseling, as well as helping the employee write their individual development plan (IDP).
Read More: https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/federal-eye/wp/2014/07/18/vas-former-cemetery-chief-hired-friend-and-hooked-up-contractor-report-says/
CBO: Community health care VHA ‘fix’ too expensive
The CBO determined the cost of new proposals to open up community fee services for veterans over the next two years would cost $35 billion from 2014 to 2014. In the proposal, VHA would provide fee service care for veterans when the wait for VA care is too long.
Congressional Republicans support the measure, at least in theory. Congressional Democrats are more wary due to a fear that competition will reduce the overall size of VA’s internal budget and its number of union employees.
After discussions with committee staffs, the Congressional Budget Office did lower its cost estimate for the Senate bill (HR 3230) to $35 billion in direct spending over 10 years. But CBO cautioned this new estimate ignores any costs from higher usage of VA care after October 2017, even if triggered by the bill’s design. In an earlier cost estimate, CBO said VA health costs could spike by $50 billion a year if as many as two million veterans are enticed to drop current health plans to seek VA-paid care from local docs.
The VA’s new plan to address the wait-time crisis includes expanding VA medical staff by 10,000 personnel, including 1,500 physicians, over the next three years. That sounds like a lot, Gibson said, but it’s only a three percent hike to the Veterans Health Administration current staff of 300,000.
Read More: https://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com/story/news/local/alabama/2014/07/20/va-asks-congress-open-floodgates-private-care/12905281/
Summary of events of last week
Burr lambasting of Secretary Gibson
Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) lambasted Secretary Sloan Gibson for erratic and knowingly false data provided under oath by VBA executives earlier in the week. Burr was highly discouraged not only by the testimony from Under Secretary Allison Hickey, but from the agency’s publication of falsified ‘success’ numbers following her erroneous testimony.
‘Remedial’ Phoenix VA training slap in fact
One former VA employee reported that the only remedial training VA schedulers have had to endure was a mere online training course for part of a day. At the end of the course, the VA supervisor handout out answers to the test prior to taking it, which made the exercise a complete joke regarding the agency’s monitoring of training usefulness and success.
VA illegally spied on Congressional Staffers
During a committee inspection of the Philly VA was kicked off which staffers realizing VA was spying on them with live mics and video recordings running while they surveyed the facility. Staffers demanded to be moved from the spying room once they realized what was going on. Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL) hammered agency nitwits over the overtly hostile treatment of his staff and whistleblowers over falsified numbers and illegal destruction of veteran benefits documents..
House and Senate Committee Hearings
JUL 24, 2014 | House Hearing
As a Secular Humanist, I have no problem with other folks belief systems… unless they try to make me conform to their particular morality. Personally I find any religious symbols in public funded buildings/organizations offensive.
I wonder why the VA thinks it is necessary to standardize chapels when so many other potentially life-saving procedures across the VISNs and their constituent entities are not yet standardized. For example, why aren’t Veterans Advisory Councils administered in the same way for every VAMC (e.g., same number of veteran members, same number of congressional staff members, same frequency and duration of meetings, same purpose, same VAMC staff members in attendance, opportunity for questions to be submitted by stakeholders, etc.)?
@lholman: You have made the best point I’ve read on this stream of articles. I have always wanted to know more about these so-called Veterans Advisory Councils. I have only seen mention of them here and there over the years and never have spoke with anyone who ever sat on a council. Can you tell me more about what they are all about and what goes on at these council meetings or if anything ever comes out of them beneficial to veterans??
Hope you signed up for message reply notifications.
I have attended VAC meetings at two VAMCs in the same VISN. They each have a different way of conducting the meetings. I learned of a third VAMC in the same VISN that terminated its VAC meetings all together. The message that every VAMC director, and all of his/her staff, needs to understand is that the VA exists to serve veterans. Therefore, everyone who draws a paycheck from the VA works for veterans. To have the VAMC making decisions about services to veterans without closely collaborating with veterans is having the tail wag the dog. Veterans need to volunteer to serve on VACs and then prepare themselves to make meaningful contributions at those meetings. The VACs comprise another level of accountability. If the veterans learn that their VAMC is starved for resources, then the veterans need to take that up with their own U.S. Senator and U.S. Representative.
Well, here I am, a bit different, raised Catholic, but my mom, and my Irish Priest Father Hunt, I asked a question. “Is only one faith right?” I was very young when I asked that, because I remember a girl in kindergarten who was a Jehovah Witness. All I knew, she did not have to do the morning ritual with a flag, she never was at school for any type of celebrations. Father Hunt reply? “Seek out and understand all faiths, because it is good to know AND learn how they practice their beliefs. This was in the 1960’s and I dare say way ahead of his time, especially being from Ireland! My mom, a free spirit that way as well, so I have, and still do, learn as much as I can regarding all faiths. It is not the faith that is wrong, but the human who interprets the faith in a wrong fashion. Example, you say Satan, well Satahn, as pronounced is no fallen angel, but ones own EGO. I find that can be quite the case with these hoodlums in the Government. And my Facebook I must confuse a whole bunch of people who see it because to me, there is no right, and there is no wrong. TOLERANCE is what we need. Now, I had a sticker on my old car, it had said the word “coexist” with religious symbols. But I live in Texas, ready to get their “Dixie Flag Car Plates,” and I can hear my speech professor go damn crazy over that! To say it is our history, I consider it a history we should realize “what it was about!” But, here, we already have the bible hour in schools, which yes, I disagree with. Because you must teach all or you must teach none. It is intimidation of those who have other faiths and is the minority of the class, “what next Texas, shall we put our faith on our clothes too? ( for years I have stated this about this state, “meet you KKK, no robes no worries!) because I have seen them, and it takes me way back to my own childhood and best friend.
I have all kinds of bibles too. And one thing I just happened to open a page it talks about a soldier, he requested Jesus ( hate to tell you, he was Jewish and that is not his name!) to come to his home his son was dying, typical response he stated, and so the soldier was on his way home when his servant/slave met him and stated the boy lives. The soldier asks, “what time did this happen?” The servant/slave responded, “1p.m.” The soldier stated that was the time he talked to Jesus.
Now, I can’t help it. I have to use a logical approach reading this text, “did these people all wear Timex Iron Man watches too?” Now a sun dial or shadow I get we can do an approximation of time, but it does not mention if the day was sunny, cloudy or rainy, so how do we know the “exact time?”
I bought this bible, many versions I have, because it really had a beautiful cover in leather, but still exact time?
What faith do I have, tough question, eclectic is probably the best answer. But, I will respect those who are the gentle souls to do the work or praise, or not believe in something higher, as long as it is for the right reasons, and not reasons to inflict your faith onto another, which we know just had happened in the Supreme Court. Hobby Lobby, they also have a store full of FUNDALMENTALISTS books too! I shall say this, a woman’s healthcare is between her and her doctor, as well as the right to choice. I surely hope this country doesn’t divide, as many states wish to, and I sure hope we don’t get more women who “fell” after a botched up abortion either self inflicted or a back street butcher.
I am not against anyone’s beliefs, as long as their heart is in the right place, their minds as well, then let us just “coexists” in peace.
I wonder, how much that cost the tax payers from the hoodlums we have in D.C.? Again, money to be spent elsewhere, and wasted for nothing. I won’t go into the nepotism crap, hell BEN, that’s gone on for ages in the civil service sector, no shock factor there!
Have a great week! And PEACE OUT! 🙂
I think it is time that we veterans become part of this mess. From what I can tell, we are all adults and yet we have no say on what goes on with us. We can’t decide what or where the fixing needs to be. We need to be somewhat as a union of vets who have a say in “our” healthcare. We have to trust that the leaders of the groups that support us will do what we want (by groups I mean the VFW, American Legion, DAV, ETC…). And while they sometimes do I have to wonder if they (these groups) are getting “something” in return for agreeing with or aligning with some parts that really do need fixed. I would like to be able to say that my problems have not been addressed in the last three visits to my Dr. and the Patient Advocate doesn’t care. She tells me to just wait and see what happens. I know that now all of us can have a say during a hearing or something like that, but we need to be able to have a say and a vote on some of these issues. We are the ones that are going to get the good or bad end of the stick. I for one am tired of getting the bad end of the stick and not having my view or opinion heard. We need to get rid of most if not all of these people and start over with a better system. A system that is harsh to anyone involved in doing something wrong. If you are part of something that is not right with the system then you are fired, no severance package, no retirement, no unemployment, nothing, not one red cent. You are gone and someone will take our place. It is that simple. We need a say in this. I can’t get something done because my Dr. wants to keep his spending down to make him look good even though he has examined me and agrees that there is something that is not right within my body. And his treatment is to just wait and see what it does and then they might look at it again to see if something needs to be done. No, you need to do something now because my growth has been getting bigger and is hurting more and more. At least I have private insurance now and will go to my other Dr. soon and I will see what he says and then we will see what happens with my current worthless, penny pincher, VA Dr. and how my next appointment will most likely have me escorted out of the building. And yes I have let the Patient Advocate know on all of my things that have been done wrong and I get the same answer. I have even went above her but I have not heard back from that yet. Now they want to open a other new can of worms to get rid of the other problem of the waitlist and what else they found with that. Total BS.
I think this sucks. I think it all sucks. I know the va will never change because VETERANS can’t get together as one strong community when you have assholes turning the VETERANS fight for their benefits into a political rally for a specific political party. When serving and in conflict there are no political party politics in my sights or anyone else’s. Stop the political poll playing and be a leader for all VETERANS. There should be one goal and that be VETERANS total accountability and full benefits without the bullshit fight. Our service records and service medical records should be the only evidence needed. Followed by great customer service and great medical follow up for all injuries incurred in service.
Oswaldo would have you believe that the VA scandal is not political.
I guess I will need to remind him about how Obama has politicized us disabled veterans from the very moment he took office.
Remember in January of this year when Obama held our veterans benefits as hostage to tax breaks for illegal aliens?
These illegal invaders were collecting billions of dollars in improper payments at the expense of veterans who lost their military pensions.
But, hey, since many of Ben’s readers voted for Obama, it would make sense that they would continue to deny, delay, and defend Obama, even if that means blindly supporting his anti-veteran agenda. (Yes, the same strategy the VA uses against us veterans)
But, c’mon, folks!
How many times do you have to be screwed over by Obama before you realize that you are being used as convenient VA cannon fodder?
It’s perplexing that so many veterans honestly believe that Obama cares about them, the disabled veteran who has served their country and now expects their military contract to be reciprocally honored by a man who has a long history of callously using veterans for his own political benefit.
But I’m not going to break it gently to you.
OBAMA DOES NOT CARE ABOUT US DISABLED VETERANS!
This is why Oswaldo is so wrong in his visceral rejection of my factual postings, he wants to believe in the political spin of Obama’s promises that everything will be alright one day, maybe.
Instead, Oswaldo blames veterans who get the truth behind the lies, deception, and political thievery of men like Obama who use and abuse veterans at will.
Yes, Oswaldo, you are right in one part, in that nothing will ever change at the VA.
However, Oswaldo, you are ultimately wrong because you deliberately fail to recognize that your vote for a man who promised you Hope and Change condemned you to the misery that you complain the most about, a corrupt and scandal-plagued VA, caused by cunning and manipulative politicians, like Obama.
THE ONLY WAY TO CHANGE THE VA IS BY VOTING AGAINST MEN LIKE OBAMA!
Yeah ok. You would like for me to tell you who I voted for what reasons I have for voting the way I choose but that would strongly take away from the reality of this blog. This is a VETERANS blog created by Mr Krause for what seems to be a place to expose the VA of its corruption and malpractice towards VETERANS. Unfortunately its been my 30+ years of dealing with the VA that gives me the right and experience to post my views about the shit the VA has put myself and millions of other VETERANS through and it has happened through the Republican and Democratic control of government. So to blame one man for the 60 years of VETERANS mistreated experiences is absolutely not a presidential fault rather a VETERANS fault for waiting 30+ years to be finally heard. If we fall apart now with the divide and conquer tactics of a political science hack such as yourself would be a great setback as Mr Krause and many of us whom have been very loudly speaking out for over 20 years now. So with all due respect to your status as a brother Veteran I say to you, “kiss my Puerto Rican American ass and go throw your freshman political agenda at a political blog that wants to hear it! ” If you can’t help here then don’t waste the time your taking to break a forward momentum VETERANS movement in here or on my watch! Help out or go away!
Actually, I blame Obama and his failed liberal agenda for my personal negative experiences at the VA.
And I do not advocate for Democrats or Republicans.
Only to make people consider that their traditional black-n-white voting behaviors are what has made the VA the way it is.
And of course, if my postings are so offensive to you, then do not respond to them.
I absolutely will not be offended by your right to post your anti-VA comments.
And I absolutely could care less if you are offended by my postings.
There in lies the problem … you are not offended by my anti – VA comments and you shouldn’t if you carro a veteran on the VETERANS side of the issues. Secondly, the fact that you don’t care about how your comments affect the VETERANS fight and unity in this issue confirms the fact that your interest in this blog is not for forward momentum in the present VA / VETERANS attempt at making things right for you and your fellow VETERANS rather your interest is to divide the veterans and hamper the momentum of progress for VETERANS. I say this because you haven’t shown your face in this fight or blog rather your ass!
Many veterans act like goldfish that swim round and round in a VA toilet bowl because that is all that they know how to do.
Unfortunately, there is also a horn-beaked octopus that lives in this VA toilet bowl and it constantly seeks out this defenseless prey by grabbing them with its flailing, suction-cupped tentacles.
Its insatiable hunger to feed is all-consuming; in other words, to be the biggest predator in the VA toilet bowl, it needs to eat all the goldfish swimming round and round.
And golly-gee-whiz, this octopus squeezes a goldfish here, a goldfish there, and then consumes them all at its watery leisure.
Yep, this ‘Federal Octopus’ is the Department of Veterans Affairs.
And because it is a gigantic federal bureaucracy, this federal octopus feasts on all these poor goldfish in a VA toilet bowl in order to sustain itself.
Victor Davis Hanson describes this ‘Federal Octopus’ this way:
Government always grows, sometimes even more rapidly under Republican than under Democratic presidents. But under President Obama we are seeing something a little different — the creation of a partisan, semi-autonomous government that seems to exist for the benefit of its employees and the larger ideological agenda of the present administration.
Take the Veterans Affairs scandal. Delays in providing care were covered up by false record keeping. This criminal fraud contributed to the death of several veterans. The falsification of records also meant both that the scandal would not quickly come to light and that veterans would continue not to receive needed care. No matter: 65 percent of VA executives nevertheless received merit bonuses, among them those at the dysfunctional Phoenix VA Health Care System, where the largest number of veterans died. Overall, 80 percent of VA executives received very high performance rankings for overseeing a scandal-plagued agency. An outsider might conclude that the Veterans Affairs bureaucracy existed not so much for its client veterans as for the fossilized bureaucracy that so poorly runs the hospitals.
So what does that mean to the poor defenseless goldfish swimming round and round in a VA toilet bowl?
Until we, as veterans, decide to stop feeding the octopus, meaning to stop voting for the octopus-lovin’ politicians, expect more federal bureaucrats to keep on crappin’ in this VA toilet bowl of goldfish swimming round and round.
And let us not forget when Obama and the other Democratic politicians and their supporters decided to remove all references to God from their 2012 party platform!
So it should come as no surprise that the Democratic Party is hell-bent on purging God from our lives and replacing it with the forced idolatry worship of Big Government.
BTW, Obama is not just killing Jesus in America, he is now refusing to exclaim to the World that there is no Christian holocaust happening right now in the Middle East.
Breitbart news recently reported, “The Middle East expert went on to explain that the mainstream media is in full support of the White House narrative “that the President single-handedly killed Osama Bin Laden, and that Al Qaeda is now on the ropes; therefore, jihad must be shriveling up around the world.” This myopic strategy of only targeting Al Qaeda has provided great opportunities for other jihadists and has given rise to ISIS.
THE “EVIL ONE” WANTS TO CONVINCE THE WORLD THE NIETHER he OR GOD EVEN EXIST. WHAT BETTER WAY THAN TO REMOVE RELIGIOUS SYMBOLS, I MEAN WE ALREADY ACCEPTED REMOVAL OF PRAYER FROM SCHOOLS, RELIGIOUS SYMBOLS FROM GOVT /PUBLIC BUILDINGS.(OTHER THAN CHURCHES) BUT WE STILL “HONOR” OLD GLORY.
JUST AS SATAN DID AGES AGO, MAN WANTS GOD’S GLORY. WE NEED TO BE VERY WATCHFUL OF THESE ANTI-RELIGIOUS MOVES.
Obama has now ordered his national militarized security forces to give the hundreds of thousands of recent alien invaders immediate and unrestricted access to Big Box religious leaders throughout America in preparation for mass amnesty.
The requirement for this amnesty is the pledge to worship Obama in the Church of Big Government by voting for his policies that bring absolute control over our lives.
The Big Box religious leaders in return win over millions of new tithing criminal congregates at the expense of law-abiding American citizens who will see their already bankrupt communities caught up in a frenzied torrent of crime, disease, and anti-American sentiment.
And for us, the disabled veteran, we will be denied the opportunity to worship and practice our religious faith in VA hospitals in order to keep us demoralized and repressed.
Obama, as the faux-messiah, is now effectively politicizing God in a strategic political ploy to create millions of new illegal Democrats who will not and will never speak out against the chronic disenfranchisement of our wounded warriors in America.
We disabled veterans are now officially forgotten by the Great Satan of the United States.
Morning Ben: We have to push for veteran committees at every VA facility that have access to all management meetings. The only way to get best transparency is to have veterans sit in on management decision-making. They will recoil with horror on hearing this. That’s good. Shocks work good. We also need to have formal corporate-type records of all decision-making.
This newest lie is what they are doing smothering all religious expression is what is good for all veterans. Says who? Nobody has surveyed all us veterans and asked for our opinions. These are our facilities, right? They don’t think so. This is more blatant progressive/socialism with a pro-Muslim twist.
It won’t be hard to rally the mainline Protestant groups to protest this super anti-Christian nonsense. The brazenness of it is wicked. They think that God doesn’t exist and doesn’t matter. No combat vets that prayed after battles agrees with that.
As usual, they could care less what all the vets think and want.
Until there is a complete survey of all veterans getting care at VA facilities, the VA must not be trusted for any thing they say. The empirical basis of the direct mail surveys was a response rate of 4-6% out of maybe 300,000 tops. So they say that 18,000 vets speak for the current 5.9M vets, and 709,000 non-vets. VA’s actual total patient load is 6.6M, so they say. Only 9.1M vets are “enrolled” so not to lose any VA benefits due to ObamaCare. That’s a difference of 2.5M vets. But they throw all these figures around to confuse everyone. Glad its not us.
Time for a full independent audit of the entire VA, top to bottom.
Who knows, we might find phantom employees in the closets at 810 Vermont Ave, NW, Wash, DC. Or phantom staff at all VA facilities. Anything is possible.
I think we are finally on to the answers. Its all in the True Numbers.
When will they realize that NO ONE believes their data sets anymore?
Is that sociopathic or pathological deceit, or What? OMG.
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