VA’s Tommy Sowers Dishes Out Backlog Blame

Tommy Sowers MSNBC Morning Joe

Pointing fingers everywhere be inward, VA Assistant Secretary Tommy Sowers slams the the past, blaming VA’s predecessors for the disability backlog.

Sowers jumped onto MSNBC Morning Joe right after Paul Rieckhoff slammed VA for its disability backlog failures the morning prior.

I am not sure if this is the best approach. It makes VA appear like they are losing the battle for the minds of the American public and the American veteran. Maybe they are.

Here is the clip:

130327 Morning Joe Clip Tommy Sowers

These past weeks, VA has aggressively moved to downplay negative press about the backlog and the lack of substantive progress. God only knows how much their public relations budget is.

Here is what we know. We know that people like Tommy Sowers and Allison Hickey did not “do it.” We know Tom Murphy, head of Disability, did not do it. These folks have not been around for a long enough time to know what the impacts of their policies will be.

We do, however, know that the VA has not exactly been straight with us in front of Congress. When Congress asks straight questions about these programs, especially the software platforms, VA will not answer the question straight on. I can only wonder, “why not?”

Paul Rieckhoff put it best yesterday on MSNBC.

“We don’t know [what’s wrong]. We’re looking from the outside, right? It’s like looking at a broken down car on the side of the road and [asking] what’s wrong with the engine? … Everything they have asked for Congress and the veteran service organizations have given them. But the numbers continue to go up.”

Here is the clip:

130326 Paul Rieckhoff Morning Joe

The fact is, whenever Congress holds an oversight committee hearing, they refuse to swear in the VA official who testifies. That’s right, for those of you newcomers. The VA is not under oath to tell the truth when it testifies before Congress.

There may be two reasons for this. First, it could be because Congress trusts that VA will tell the truth. However, after viewing just one oversight hearing you will know that Congress does not trust that it is getting the truth.

Here is the second possible reason. Congress does not want the VA to tell the truth. One former VA did tell the truth. He told Congress that VA needed more money. He was fired.

The problem is likely that VA is doing as much as it can with the little money it has. VA has been understaffed and under funded for years. Even in a good year when VA does get a spending increase, it is still well under what the ideal budget would be.

I think the fact is that Congress and the Presidency do not want the VA to be straight with the American people because otherwise more tax dollars would go toward veterans. Instead, the money goes in the other direction.

While America has in many ways failed her disabled veterans over the years, it has not shied away from creating disabled veterans by fighting numerous foreign wars we cannot afford.

Bass tacks, if we really want VA to tell us what is really going on, we need them to be under oath. That way, no one can get fired. That’s my overly simplistic and altruistic theory.

Here’s my premise as to why that matters. It’s rather hard to fire someone when they are under oath to tell the truth. That would be retaliation, and I’m pretty sure it would be illegal.

That’s my answer. VA must be under oath to allow the truth to come to the surface. That way, we can know what is really going on.

To Secretary Shinseki, please pop the hood of that broken down car that is the disability backlog system and let the American public have a look.

Who knows, maybe the car might finally get fixed before that 2015 deadline.

Similar Posts


  1. There are many answers, many obvious & some well hidden. My observations being a Korean Vet giving me years of observation is attitude by all of VA from Oval Office to Janitors. Each & every VA Clinic & hospital have long lists of proprietary rules made up for their facility only. Most are made up in each individual clinic often spreading to other clinics within the facility. I have often suggested changes be made to the way it is being done in other facilities as it seems to work better in other facilities to hear that I do not know what I am talking about, who do I think I am, do you think you know better than our staff that have been doing this for years, etc., etc. Very belittling. All, & I mean all, facilities are set up & run for the VA personnel, usually the doctors or the heads of the clinics. My take is it is a VA facility set up for the care of disabled vets mainly, but rules are not for the vet. All rules are made up for staff. If the facility is set for & charged with our care, why do they not set most of operational rules set up for the benefit of the vet not personnel. They collect paychecks for working there for our care, but they set rules up for their convenience not the vets & in the name of more efficient care for the vets, which is a lie. Example, Dallas VA for service connected vets entitled to travel pay is automatically set up through the computer when vet checks in, then on way out go correct office & sign paper. In Shreveport even if disabled you must remember to tell the clerk when you check out of the clinic, if you forget you will have to come back up to the clinic, travel down to a team so & so at the far side of hospital to check in, go back to lobby get into a usually short line & sign paper. On crutches I resent any extra steps I must take. I live approx. 120 miles from Dallas & Shreveport. I am on Narcotics around the clock & many nights have sleeping problems, but both hospitals seem to delight in asking me to be there at 7:15 or 7:30 in the morning for appointments. I asked veteran advocates at both hospitals if it would be possible to put an asterisk on my computer log to ask that they give later in the day appointments. It saves my having to call to cancel & reschedule usually at a much later date. Dallas girl jumped up and asked ‘who the Hell do you think you are, we have all kinds of vets to take care of, not just you’. Shreveport was nicer, but still a ‘no’. Shreveport asks that vets check in a clerk’s desk at a maximum of 15 minutes before appointment, meaning if you drove for 2 1/2 hours, find parking spot even with disabled plates, get up to clinic, then watch clock possibly losing seat to get up & go sign in. Why can you not just sign in as you pass the clerk’s desk for my convenience, not his ?. Similar they ask for a 7:30 group appointment time for psychologist clinic for new or renewal of anti-depressant medication. After first time I refused to go & explained why also said I would do without the medication. My Primary Care doctor changed medication so she could get some one else to approve it. Why is it so hard for them to bend. THEY WORK FOR THE VA TO GET THEIR PAYCHECKS, THAT IS YOU & I, not in outside practice.

  2. I work for the St. Louis Regioinal Office, specifically, in the education department. In my opinion it is an internal issue that has to do with the system itself. To process an education claim you have to process the paper application, scan it into a system, tell the system what it is, then create a folder on the veteran. That in itself isn’t hard but extremely time consuming; the fact that you need to use 3 or 4 different computer programs that don’t talk to each other isn’t helping. The VA wants to go paperless but still offers veterans the option to submit paper claims. Now, the arguement for that is, some veterans don’s have computers or access to the internet. My rebuttal to help get this going is go to a local VFW or other organization and have them help you or bring your information to a Reginal Office and have them fill it out. Set up an area with computers or designate some education personnel to do this. It might take up more bodies but it will help reduce the back log if these computer systems and applications are updated. this could also be done with both the VHA, VBA, and other departments within the VA. the problem is money. No one wants to pay for this overhaul up front which would save time and money in the long term but instead want to focus on short term solutions. I am no expert, just my thought and some system improvements but what do I know.

Comments are closed.