Tavis Smiley Tackles VA Media Manipulation In Radio Interview

Tavis Smiley

Benjamin KrauseWell known NPR talk show host Tavis Smiley asked some penetrating question about the current VA scandals on his radio talk show last week. He became the first national talk show host to cover VA media manipulation on the air.

Smiley’s executive producer initially contacted me following his review of the coverage Foreign Policy gave this website about problems in the Obama administration’s vetting process. His goal was to gain a nonpartisan perspective on the VA scandals and proposed fixes on The Tavis Smiley Show.

The scandal that led to the resignation of Eric Shinseki as Secretary of Veterans Affairs was back in the news this week with the release of a devastating internal audit on the scope of mismanagement at VA medical centers. Attorney and journalist Benjamin Krause, founder of disabledveterans.org, joins us to offer his perspective.

Here is the actual Tavis Smiley interview.

We talked about:

  • VA Wait List and criminal investigations
  • Agency credentialing problems
  • VA’s manipulation of media, monitoring of Congress
  • Secretary Sloan’s primary initiatives to fix VA quickly


Voc Rehab Survival GuideBenjamin Krause is an award winning investigative reporter, Veterans Benefits Law attorney, and disabled veteran of the US Air Force, where he served in its Special Operations Command. He attended Northwestern University and  the University of Minnesota Law School using VA Vocational Rehabilitation.

While in law school, Benjamin won his decade-long fight for full disability benefits and now helps others do the same with this website and his guide, the Voc Rehab Survival Guide for Veterans. Since its first publication in 2011, the guide has helped the veteran community receive millions in untapped benefits through the VA Chapter 31 Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment program. 

Connect with Benjamin on  Google+,  Twitter,  Facebook and LinkedIn.

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  1. My belief everyone that is Veteran should Contact their Senator office what should be passed to like it do I am doing it right now the one Cosmetic Dentistry Dentist like Clear Choice Dentistry does for Dentistry Care the Veteran never heard of Clear Choice Dentistry go on you Computer to look up Clear Choice then you Veterans who reads this their is no Cosmetic Dentistry Dentist like Clear Choice at a Veteran Medical Center in United States please also Spread the word……Semper Fi.

  2. Shut ’em all down now. The VA is worse than a bad charity. I bet not even 10% actually goes to veteran care.

  3. The VA is low balling VETs that had delays in healthcare. The low balling create a none reporting to the department of justice and this will also create a none reporting of the number of delays in healthcare Witnin the VA.

  4. My belief this website should be up to date plus get in touch with your Veterans Senate Committee to suggest to express how to improve Veterans Healthcare unless someone believe this is just a chat room other than what I am saying. …..Semper Fi.

  5. Ben, is there any proof that money and manpower is being used by the VA to manipulate the media? It seems that every government agency now adays has some kind of misinformation department to manipulate the media or diffuse stories that should be an outrage to every American and get exposed for it, but they never seem to break unless the media has no choice that they can not deny like what the AZ VA was doing even though they were reluctant to report on it.

    We need to identify the resources. I know there was a firm called “Melt Water” (not sure of exact spelling) that were consultants to hundreds of government agencies until they were exposed back in 2008 – 2009. the gov’t agencies were spending taxpayer dollars on contracts for gov’t agencies as a tool to lie and put their agencies in good light when it was not true. I don’t believe anyone was held accountable for misappropriating funding since this was not approved by Congress.

  6. Ben, the va has been fairly good to me until my case manager got demoted because he was making waves. Since then my new case manager has really been dragging his feet. I had a complete knee replacement in Aug 2013 and applied for disability and it is just sitting somewhere. I was at the VA clinic in Huntsville last month talking to a veteran and he informed that he was given 100% within two month. My rating at present is 90%. I have had 5 surgeries on both knees since I retired. I was on jump status for 22 of the 23 years I was in service. I received a letter from VA saying that they had received my application. I then called and asked what was the normal wait time.was approximately 1 to 1 and !/2 yers. Thanks for listening to me sincerely Clarence mATHEWS

    1. Hi Clarence, look up U.S.C. 38 section 5107 ( d ) it is the law/rules governing “medical nexus or benefit of the doubt clause ) read it then take the appropriate steps. It may very well be the 10% your missing. Charlie

    2. I Think I was intentionally shot up with penicillin Because of my religion at the time I was in the service. My religion and my penicillin allergy was on my dog tags back in the 70s. Do I have a strong case against the V.A.

  7. There is really not much more to be said. The VA is going to do whatever they want because the people being “SCREWED” ARE NOT very POWERFUL(financially or politically) so there is no real “PRESSURE” to change SOP.
    THE SYSTEM used to work fine, until all the OVERSIGHT COMMITEES, ETC. NOW you have so much PAPERWORK to fill out before you are seen, there is no time for MEDICAL SERVICE.

  8. Ben, so I have question for you. About 1 1/2 ago the va dr. who had been my primary care physician who had been so for over 10 years either was suddenly fired ( I doubt this, he was a fantastic Dr.) went to the private sector, or simply moved. I received a postcard telling me I had been switched, I have NEVER received a request from the va to see my new primary care Dr. Is the va required to arrange an appointment in any certain time frame ? A year and a half seems a bit long don’t you think ? I don’t go to the Dr. unless I am sick it’s a waste of taxpayer/our money. Are they supposed to make me an appointment or was I to take it on myself to make an appoint , sick or not ?

    1. I would think that they fulfilled their obligation to notify you with the letter and thus it being your responsibility to make a PCM follow up appointment. That being said, my VA PCM is at a CBOC in rural Kansas. She is an ARNP and she has a RN case manager that follows up on every veteran in her panel, reaching out to the veteran to get them appointed with the PCM. That outreach helps provide quality care, improve outcomes and reduces healthcare costs like repeat hospitalizations. Why the VA does not utilize nurses for their entire population is beyond me. This sort of outreach is a best practice model for 21st century healthcare as part of the patient centered medical home model.

      1. Thanks for that valuable input. I agree that, due to the national doctor shortage, which is worse in rural areas, we need to make better use of “physician-expander” personnel like nurses, physician assistants, etc. Also, if the VA is incapable of providing a timely appointment due to lack of staffing, the veteran should be instructed to visit the non-VA provider of their choice and the VA should pay that bill. To the extent that the veteran has other healthcare insurance (e.g., medicare, Tricare, employer insurance, etc.) then the VA should bill those carriers for the care provided by either the VA or the non-VA provider. These policy changes would incentivize the VA to compete with the non-VA providers on a more level playing field and would give the VA more revenue (other funding streams) to enable them to attract the best staff and operate the best facilities. However, if the VA refused to respond to these incentives, then they deserve to have all their patients be treated elsewhere with the VA becoming just another claims adjudicator or bill-payer.

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