Vets Are Muppets

VA Caught Insulting Veterans

Benjamin Krause

In a clear display of contempt and disgust toward vets, VA was caught insulting veteran in training material to prep VA employees for an upcoming Town Hall meeting. The insulting message? “Vets are muppets” was the message — using a slideshow juxtaposing upset and concerned veterans with the insulting caricature of Oscar the Grouch from Sesame Street.

You may be asking yourself, “Why on earth would they do that and what are they preparing for, exactly?”

What VA knows is that for the very first time in the history of the VA, they are being forced to listen to shiploads of complaints about VA abuses and corruption from likely and hopefully hundreds of thousands of veterans.

They are preparing to get an atomic blast of Free Speech from angry veterans in front of a sea of witnesses and media. They are going to have the truth and facts put on display, and there is nothing they can do to prevent veterans from voicing their concerns publicly. So instead of doing the right thing, they chose to pretend vets are muppets.


One slide states, “What to Say to Oscar the Grouch – Dealing with Veterans During Town Hall Claims Clinics.” This is totally and brazenly unethical under VA’s own ethics rules at 38 CFR 0.600 to 38 CFR 0.735-12. Indeed, VA employees do have ethics regulations they are required to follow so long as someone will hold them accountable.

Will American veterans and legal rights advocates tolerate VA’s insult against veterans? I am extremely insulted, and will take a stand against this kind of demeaning and childlike behavior.

But without accountability, exactly how would VA deal with goofy muppet vets who are unjustifiably grumpy? Why would they think the subtext that “vets are muppets” would be useful?

The corrupt suggestion by VA in these unethical town hall training sessions is that abused and angry veterans have no just basis complaining. Their concerns about criminal VA leaders and VA employees who killed our fellow veterans with their pens and bad policies are just silly concerns, after all. This tactic to diminish the importance of this moment for veterans and Americans to observe the First Amendment and to publicly air grievances is a shamelessly brazen. It is a shameless attempt to paint offended veterans as mere dumb stage puppets and to discredit the things veterans will be saying by equating it with kindergarten entertainment.

Did you catch that? They want to change the image of veterans voicing righteous indignation in meetings to that of a make-believe kiddy show.  This lowers the seriousness of the Town Hall meetings to mere entertainment for VA employees. That is the subversive message here.

After all, we all know that Sesame Street is just a fantasy projection for children. The motive is clearly evil and the psychological manipulation is undeniable.


Take a look at what the other slides reportedly stated according to Stars and Stripes:

Most slides touch on routine instructions, including dressing professionally, being polite, showing empathy, and maintaining eye contact.

But the “grouch” theme is maintained throughout.

About a dozen slides include pictures of the hapless, dopey Muppet in the trashcan he calls home. In one, a sign reading “CRANKY” hangs from the rim. In another, Oscar’s face is flanked by the words “100% GROUCHY, DEAL WITH IT.” The suggestion being, you can laugh at Grumpy; he’s just being grumpy.

The presentation includes tips on how to tell if a claimant is nearing an “outburst,” including being accusatory, agitated, demanding, or unfocused. One section on dealing with angry claimants is titled “Don’t Get in the Swamp With the Alligator.” The imagine of a creepy black swamp vermin is the image being put into VA employees minds is seen clearly here. In other words, don’t answer angry questions.

But who will hold these unethical actors accountable?


VA employees should be fearful of Secretary Robert McDonald being more of an “Oscar the Grouch” than any veteran they are forced to listen to during these meetings. Veterans should have many legitimate complaints that are going to make VA employees uncomfortable when their lies and corruption are displayed in public. But, Mr. McDonald can fire their butts for this kind of gross ethical violation or for misleading him or his hand-picked executives. We don’t see how Secretary McDonald has any real choice on this one but to fire the perpetrator(s). And this reality should have VA employees scared.

In response to the slides, VA spokesperson Marisa Prugsawan said she was not sure whether the training was created in their Philadelphia office or VA Central Office. Prugsawan dismissed entirely angry criticisms by veterans groups when she lied about the actual intent of the slide:

“The training provided was not intended to equate veterans with this character,” spokeswoman Marisa Prugsawan said. “It was intended to remind our employees to conduct themselves as courteously and professionally as possible when dealing with veterans and their concerns.”

Get real, Prugsawan, VA employees will take us ‘muppet veterans’ just as seriously as if dealing with Grumpy on Sesame Street. The massage here is nothing short of the reality that VA employees consider concerned veterans to be a joke. They will roll their eyes. They will over speak when we talk. They will interrupt. They will not hear us no more than Oscar the Grouch hears your children talk at the TV.

Do you believe Prugsawan? No one should. This remark is shamelessly dishonest and evasive. The slideshow’s motive was to portray veterans as comical, in a kiddy-like fashion for the entertainment of VA employees.

She and VA employees like her are probably thinking, ‘After all, puppets are not real. He He He. We cannot take seriously anything that dopey cartoon characters have to say. It is all just fantasy stuff.’ So take to few moments to voice your mind to Ms. Prugsawan at her email: [email protected]. Let’s have an Electronic Town Hall today and tell Mr. Prugsawan we don’t buy her flim-flam explanations.

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  1. As a ‘Nam vet I’ve been called a lot worse things than Oscar the Grouch. After showing up at a VFW Post when I returned from the war zone, I was told that all of us (Nam vets) were losers and cowards for not fighting to win that war over there and that all of us gave up and ran away! Well, when you’re a ‘Nam vet you quickly realize that we are a very small minority in this country and that the majority is always right! Because the majority is going to tell you just how things are here! I remember being so scared in Viet-Nam that all I could do was shoot back at those enemy (NVA) soldiers. I was too scared of them to get out there and duke it out with them while they were shooting at us. And when we walked toward those NVA soldiers shooting back at them, I was petrified out of my mind! That’s cowardly right there. Remember, the majority is always right! When I ETS’ed out of ‘Nam and got on that freedom bird and left, that was the moment when I gave up, ran away, and lost that war over there. Yep, the majority is always right because the majority RULES!

  2. The VA has such a low regard for us that they have to compare us to Muppet characters now. After I got back from ‘Nam, I was labeled a sociopathic drug addicted loser, and then low-balled on my medical care and benefits; and now this! After 45 years of maltreatment such as that, I’ve developed a perspective and an attitude towards certain things that most people don’t contemplate or even imagine. For instance, I fly the POW/MIA flag in my front yard and never the American flag. The reasoning for that is, I still haven’t made it home from that war yet. I’m like thousands of other ‘Nam vets that are still that way. We’re still MIA!

  3. See what happens when nobody gets arrested for murdering us? Now they mock our orphans and widows with a stupid puppet nobody has to take seriously. At least they should have gone for accuracy and chosen Kenny from South Park.

    Keep mocking us and you’ll end up having to fight your wars with no soldiers at all, and be stuck depending on the cast of Sesame Street–and those of you who sit quietly and allow the VA to get away with this deserve everything you get.

    Maybe you can get Oscar the Grouch to go out and fight ISIS and the Jihad massacre headed your way, because I’m gone after this. No soldier in his right mind would re-enlist after being spit on and mocked, and we’re through being taken for granted.

    You and your stupid puppets can go fight your own fxxking wars from now on.

  4. I actually worked with Marisa Prugsawan at VBMS PMO in DC where she was definietly not liked due to her condescending behavor and attitude toward other employees and contractors. Sad to see her display that attitude to the people she is supposed to help. Im glad she is out of this office and I feel bad that Philly has to put up with her.

  5. This “My Healthy Vet” thing that the VA dreamed up for us hasn’t turned out very good either; making me “Oscar the Grouch” again. At their insistence, I signed up on the My Healthy Vet site and then I found out my PCP won’t post any of my lab results on it nor will he respond to the secure messaging on there! Why the heck did they force me onto it when THEY are the ones who don’t want to use it?!

  6. I think we are more than just a little grumpy. I think we need to organize better and bring press and pressure on the Washington reps to help us before we all die off. No excuse when I have diagnosis from several doctors, Veterans themselves. certifying my PTSD and throat cancer caused by Agent Orange. They need to accept this without some clerk disallowing professional diagnosis. They called me for medical while I was volunteering for two tours in Afghanistan to build in theater hospital with surgical rooms. In Waco they only looked at my combat wounds….not on their list to look at PTSD or Cancer. I just spent another six months in US trying to get claim handled with not success. My file was locked and not even DAV could access. I have been married for over 10 years and still get no increase in money owed….on and on.

  7. How very sad that any VA employee would even think up such a training. I am ashamed to be a VA employee right now.One vet I counsel who had quadruple bypass after developing heart disease related to Agent Orange, only smokes when he comes to the VA. Yes he is grouchy. Who wouldn’t be. He is grouchy in response to how he is treated by some of our staff. He has trouble reading, asks for a list of his upcoming appointments and he gets over 30 pages of past and future appointments. Grouchy , you bet. Let’s try to connect the dots here.I want to see all these people fired. I want to make a video depicting our leaders as Pinocchio.

  8. Mr. Obama stated,he and his administration did not have a strategy yet,for fighting,ISIS. I wonder if that is the only situation he and his administration have no strategy for. I have mixed emotions about being compared to a muppet,and Oscar the Grouch at that,however,if this type of strategy will unite the VETERANS i am all for it. This reminds me of the old adage “The squeaking wheel gets the grease”and through out history it has proven to be a fact. It is time the VA,DoD,CIA,SoD,and all government officials and employee’s to be held accountable and realize why we celebrate George Washington’s birthday. He was a VETERAN,REVOLUTIONIST,and the PRESIDENT of UNITED STATES,being an American is a state of mind and NOT a signature on a document. Keep it up BEN it may be your birthday the veterans and all other Americans celebrate on a future date!!!!!!!

    1. I am currently dealing with the re-evaluation of my Disability rating. The Doctors in charge of the re-eval have no idea about the illness they were put in charge of examining. They didn’t read my file, One doctor wouldn’t even look at the info from Walter Reed and said he was just there to ask a few questions and not to worry it wasn’t anything that other Vets with the same illness haven’t been asked. Three days later, I received a letter saying they were going to reduce my 100% to 0% and the other combined ratings would still leave me @ the 60% mark and Oh by the way “We are Thankful for your service”. I have requested a local hearing and I filed a complaint against the so called Doc. I may be a puppet to them but maybe it won’t be so funny when we all stand together and put them on the unemployment line.
      v/r Thompson,G USN (Med Ret)

  9. I’m sure that I’ve been considered “Oscar” on more than one occasion. At this point, I simply expect the worst and am pleasantly surprised if I encounter anything else.

    I may sound like a broken record if anyone has been reading my posts, but I take issue with one thing that Ben states here. He mentions that the corrupt weasels at the VA should fear McDonald. He’s right only to a point on this.

    The new legislation only strengthens the director’s powers to fire or discipline senior executives. The culture of corruption permeates all levels at the VA.Until someone has both the authority and the resolve to clean house from the deputy director level all the way down to hourly employees, this will never get substantially better.

    We need something like Reagan firing hundreds of air traffic controllers to really get the attention of the people at the VA. What this video indicates to me is an attitude that the VA is simply biding its time and waiting for the recent furor to blow over. IN a couple of months, it can return to its corrupt, dysfunctional business-as-usual.

    1. Steve I think you and I are using the same defense mechanism. Always expect the worst from these people and be pleasantly surprised if you receive something different. I think that’s pretty good advice for all veterans.

    2. Reagan was a racist corporate whore. Firing anyone is a MONEY thing especially if you are supposed to be a leader – not an actor. BEST tax breaks for the rich EVER IN THE HISTORY OF THE USA. RAY-GUN is why Washington is now broke and corporate. Screw Ronnie the CLOWN. Stop being brainwashed into thinking some big guy cares about you. Put down the Kool aid your diabetes is showing. Corruption, liars and money in the un-united states of advertising. MONEY DOES NOT CARE IT ONLY CORRUPTS. CLAIM A POLITICIAN IS “GOOD” WE ALL THINK YOU ARE A LOSER AND A LIAR. GET A CLUE. STOP SUPPORTING CORRUPTION. THE RICH PAY NO TAXES. THE CONGRESS IS USELESS. AND THEY ALL KEEP GETTING RICHER!!!
      Doofus wants to cheer for millionaires, what a moron.

  10. get one of your state rep.s to try and call that number if you can, let then find out how hard it is to get any thing done by phone, i too called them many times, took day,s to get any one, you leave message,s on there machine and they are not returned, or you get a smart ass on the other end and they hang up on you,had this happen many times to me

  11. I too became Oscar the Grouch. I went to several appointments at the VA for my service connected disabilities. Keep in mind, I am a Priority 2 listed veteran, therefore the only costs I am responsible for any medical treatment from the VA is my medication co-pay. What do they do? They bill my insurance provider for the services they performed for my service connected disabilities. I was outraged. The lady who helped me was very calm and polite and helped me straighten out the situation. She saw the error in the billing and got it straightened out. I was “Oscar the Grouch.” Wouldn’t you be too?

    1. Scott, they have been screwing me the same way for years… I called my insurance company and they didn’t even give a $hit.. The VA is full of crap, usless PoS. When are they going to fire people… They never will, they are letting all the senior people retire with FULL PENSION… The department of OIT that runs the computers is the worse.. Illegal contracts and employees stealing and taking money from long time friend of these contracting companies. Look into OIT. criminal. Stephen Warren is the next assclown that needs to go… PoS.

  12. What Mrs. Prugsawan and the whole VA health system forgets, is that they are here to “HELP” the veterans, not “DEAL WITH” veterans. This is a customer based industry and we are the customers. The VA treats us as numbers, not people. Every case is different. Every person is different. To say this about all veterans is blatant disrespect. This is the VA spokesperson who said this. They are supposed to be the voice of reason when tensions are high. The last thing they should do is put down one of the sides.

  13. As a veteran, I must admit to becoming “Oscar the Grouch” at the VA on many an occasion. One time was when I spent three days in a row calling the VAMC to schedule a primary care appointment ( they mail you those appointment reminder letters for you to call in and schedule you an appointment ). Well, I called the 800 number on the letter every day for three days in a row anywhere from 5 to 8 times every day and couldn’t get an answer. The wait time over the phone lasted anywhere from a minimum of 22 minutes to a maximum of one hour and 10 minutes and still I couldn’t get through to anybody. So, on the fourth day I decided that after three days of this, no one there was going to answer their phone at that 800 number and so then I had to make the 59 mile ( one way ) drive over to the VAMC and go up to the desk where the appointments are scheduled at, and make my appointment. I was in a little bit of a foul mood from all of this, and yes, I was Oscar the Grouch about it!…..I have to wonder just how many “Oscars” like me Ms. Prugsawan has created where she is at!

  14. Gee, I dunno. Did my I.Q. Of 135 drop after the service and I became a Veteran?
    I think my “Facebook” new face states all I have to say! We are pleading the fifth! 🙂

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