Veterans Affairs FOIA Policy Provokes Rebuke From Advocates
A secret restriction on internal Veterans Affairs FOIA policy within its Veterans Health Administration (VHA) prompted two veterans rights attorneys to push back this past Monday.
The policy was leaked to the press and surfaced following blanket denial letters sent to NBC News reporters nationwide. The reporters are investigating a fraudulent scheme within VA where the agency used unqualified doctors to conduct brain injury examinations.
READ: Rebuke Of VHA FOIA Policy To Congress
Attorneys Benjamin Krause and Thomas Bandzul, both formerly of Veterans For Common Sense, fired off a letter of rebuke to members of Congress over failures of lawmakers to reign in misguided policy making within the agency.
The rebuke is in response to a VHA Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) policy. That VA policy restricted FOIA responses to reporters. It claimed any released information requested, namely the identities of the doctors who unethically provided the exams, may be used by veterans to harass and intimidate those VA employees. It provided some specific hyperbolic examples that would not be prevented regardless of the release.
RELATED: VA Fights FOIA To Cover-up Growing TBI Scandal
To summarize the policy, it claimed disabled veterans will criminally stalk VA employees if VA released the identity of the doctors who unlawfully conducted TBI exams. But with no release of the identities, veterans and the public must rely on VA being truthful. This is clearly something the agency is incapable of accomplishing when it comes to scandals.
The policy was rescinded but not before it restricted access to the information. NBC reports have yet to receive the information despite the restriction indicating some other potential hold may be in place beyond the initial policy.
Unfortunately, this policy shows VA is focusing more on reinforcing its own paranoia of the veterans it is required to serve rather then ensuring proper training and community outreach within veteran communities.
Here is the letter for your review:
LETTER TO CONGRESS
September 30, 2015
The Honorable Johnny Isakson
Chairman, Senate Veterans Affairs Committee
131 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
Once again, the Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) has delved into an area of controversial behavior, leading the public to believe the leadership in VA, Congress and the White House is absent.
On July 22, 2015, Veterans Health Administration (“VHA”) FOIA Office director Timothy Graham, J.D., created a blanket denial in the form of a memorandum for all FOIA requests from reporters, Veterans and advocates concerning a new scandal. This scandal involved medical leadership within VHA across the country using unqualified doctors and unethical procedures to assess traumatic brain injury. The actions by VHA leadership were in contravention to community medical standards and VA polices. The effect of the scandal was to erroneously assess Veterans with possible traumatic brain injuries, which generally resulted in improper denials. Such denials resulted in improper withholding of desperately needed health care, rehabilitative care, and financial support.
The VA memorandum (“memo”) is a sign VA is circling its wagons to evade accountability now that news media reporters are reporting on the scandal. According to recent reports by NBC News, national newspapers, and local radio, reporters exposed that VA gave Veterans medical and mental health examinations by unqualified medical professionals from 2010 to 2015. VA admitted the people performing the exams did not have fundamental training, certifications, or privileges to complete initial traumatic brain injury (“TBI”) diagnosis. The memo contorts current FOIA Exemption 6 to include a blanket prohibition against disclosure of information about the doctors involved in both this scandal and Camp Lejeune Veterans’ examinations. However, Exception 6 merely references exemptions for disclosing information from a Veteran’s record or a VA employee personnel record. The VA memo claims such “gathering” of information by reporters would facilitate “criminal behavior” by some disabled Veterans. It goes on to indicate the privacy rights of the doctors outweigh public interest in disclosure.
The VA memo further misconstrues the spirit of guidance from former Attorney General Eric Holder to increase access to government data, not restrict access as claimed by VA, here. However, the names and work locations of these employees are already disclosed publicly on VA.gov., and disclosure would not prevent the anecdotal “crimes” the VA memo claims Veterans may engage in should the agency follow FOIA law as written. Put another way, VA employees DO NOT have (with the exception of law enforcement) any expectation of privacy in the manner suggested in the memo. The information sought is not limited to the personnel files of the VA employees or within a Veteran’s records. As such, disclosure is mandatory.
It is clear that the legal interpretation in the memo was biased with the end goal being to evade accountability rather than to follow the law. To borrow from legal scholar Henry Campbell Black, such an “artful” interpretation by VA employees is clearly intended to “give a meaning to the text other than the one he knows to have been intended.” Here, VA is orchestrating an artistic interpretation of the law and White House policy to evade accountability and oversight. To support that goal, VA, through its memo, concocted this unlawful and biased Policy Change to justify withholding vital information from the public and Veterans. However, a mere director within VA does not have authority to Change Policy or narrow regulations that are intended to be broadly interpreted in favor of disclosure. Instead, changes to FOIA regulations that narrow access or rights should generally pass through Notice and Comment Rulemaking under APA to ensure stakeholder involvement and fairness.
Even more problematical are new revelations that the Office of General Counsel (“OGC”) may have directed employees to obstruct FOIA requests from patients, Veteran representatives and the American public. VHA employees indicated the VA memo in question was written under close advisement with OGC. The attempt by VA employees to make Policy Changes in violation of existing law is becoming more commonplace every day. But VA employees do not have the proper authority to make a change to any policy. The OGC does not have the right to tell an employee to intentionally commit an act or do something known to be unlawful. Yet this is apparently the new standard at the agency, which is also in conflict with policies and procedures defined by the Office of Government Information Services (“OGIS”).
VA flaunting of the law, processes and procedures carefully crafted to protect the Constitutional rights of all Americans is a slap in the face of all true defenders of freedom who fought to protect our great country from its enemies.
Sadly, the current scheme is really a continuation of a history of VA thumbing its nose at the law, as acknowledged by the Federal Circuit two years ago. Nat’l Org. Of Veterans Advocates, Inc. v. Sec’y of Veterans Affairs, 725 F.3d 1312 (Fed. Cir. 2013). There, VA was caught promulgating a rule that impeded on the due process rights of a Veteran. That same rule would have resulted in an unlawful divestment of property in the form of benefits from many other Veterans if left unchallenged. The action by VA was clearly an unlawful act created with the intent to deprive Veterans of their vested property rights without due process of law. The Court ultimately rebuked VA for failing to keep its promises to Veterans and even threatened sanctions for its unlawful behavior. Later, it was revealed that the failure affected many Veterans for many years.
In conclusion, VA employees continue to defy existing laws and make unsupported policy changes at a whim. VA leaders and employees alike continue to promote protection for themselves over the interests of Veterans, at all costs. Congress MUST act to STOP this runaway train wreck called VA. OUR Veterans are suffering at the hands of a few malicious and self-centered individuals whom have come to believe no one will hold them accountable. Some years ago, one VA Director of a Regional Office once told me:
“You can tell the Secretary what I’m doing wrong for all I care. Secretaries come and go, Presidents come and go, but I’m still here and I’m going to continue to do things my way. If you don’t like it, too bad.”
This Director was blatantly abusing his authority over an individual veteran and intended to continue doing so. This is the prevailing attitude in VA and clearly the status quo.
In response to this persistent behavior, we respectfully seek your action to stop these practices and protect the interests of Veterans impacted by unlawful Policy Changes by VA employees and VA leaders.
Benjamin Krause, Esq.
Krause Law, PLLC
Thomas Bandzul, Esq.
Veterans and Military Families for Progress
cc: Copy List
Senator Jerry Moran, (KS)
Senator John Boozman, (AR)
Senator Dean Heller, (NV)
Senator Bill Cassidy, (LA)
Senator Mike Rounds, (SD)
Senator Thom Tillis, (NC)
Senator Dan Sullivan, (AK)
Senator Patty Murray (WA)
Senator Bernie Sanders (VT)
Senator Sherrod Brown (OH)
Senator Jon Tester, (MT)
Senator Mazie Hirono, (HI)
Senator Joe Manchin, (WV)
Rep. Jeff Miller (FL), Chairman
Rep. Doug Lamborn (CO)
Rep. Gus M. Bilirakis (FL), Vice Chairman
Rep. David P. Roe (TN)
Rep. Dan Benishek (MI)
Rep. Tim Huelskamp (KS)
Rep. Mike Coffman (CO)
Rep. Brad Wenstrup (OH)
Rep. Jackie Walorski (IN)
Rep. Ralph Abraham (LA)
Rep. Lee Zeldin (NY)
Rep. Ryan Costello (PA)
Rep. Amata Radewagen (AS)
Rep. Mike Bost (IL)
Rep. Corrine Brown ( FL), Ranking Member
Rep. Mark Takano (CA)
Rep. Julia Brownley (CA)
Rep. Dina Titus (NV)
Rep. Raul Ruiz (CA)
Rep. Ann McLane Kuster (NH)
Rep. Beto O’Rourke (TX)
Rep. Kathleen Rice (NY)
Rep. Jerry McNerney (CA)
Rep. Tim Walz (MN)
Secretary Robert McDonald, Department of Veterans Affairs
Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, U.S. Department of Justice
 Attorney General website “As the lead federal agency responsible for implementation of the FOIA across the government, the Department of Justice is especially committed to encouraging compliance with the Act by all agencies and to fulfilling President Obama’s goal of making this Administration the most open and transparent in history.”
 5 USC 552(b)(5)
 Black, Henry, “Construction And Interpretation Of The Laws.” West Publishing, St. Paul, MN, (1896), 6.
 This is a direct violation of the United States Code (USC) 5 USC § 552, Public Law (PL) 110-175 (The Open Government Act), 38 USC 501 (b)(1), and several sections of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) within VA. (38 CFR §§ 1.552a,(f)(3); 1.578.
 Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. §§ 601-12)
 OGIS Regulations and Procedures – Notices- OGIS Privacy Act System of Records Notice
Don’t know why my comments were buried. I watched the live feed and the $68 million spent was according to the policies of the Congress– NOT the VA. My understanding, is that this study was commissioned over a year ago, before the current secretary and administration. Is very useful stuff and should definitely be acted upon to benefit our many veterans- but why did they hire someone to solve the problems and not give him time or support to solve them?
According to that article that “The Military Advantage Blog”, “Stars &Stripes” and others reported on, VA WAS the ‘purchaser’ of that “$68 million, 4,000 page report”!
Also, McDonald already knew what the outcome would be, if you had read the article in its entirety.
Therefore, McDonald just “wasted millions of taxpayers monies” AGAIN! Monies which could have benefited veterans!
When are you going to stop defending a person who has shown multiple times he doesn’t care about us!!!!!
How can someone pay that kind of money on a report! Paper don’t cost that much!
I did many reports and it only cost my time! Report’s are only fact finding!
This is a major rip off of the American people and us veterans, no wonder they keep asking for money, it seems he (Bob McDonald) does not know how to get reports with the people he heads up!
Anyone that spends that kind of money, must be forced to explain how in the hell a report costs so much!
Someone made a shit load of money, Bob this is real money or do you not give two cents if you are bankrupting the department of veterans affairs Veterans!
I bet Bob McDonald and his pasties would rather spend billions on stupid stuff, than ensure veterans get what they really need! Compensation, for their injuries!
Why are our officials in Washington twittering their fingers! Put a stop to the VA spending this sort of money on meaningless matter and place the money where it belongs! It belongs to veterans that became disability serving this country!
How can someone intusted to care for veterans sleep at night, knowing veterans deserve those monies to live and care for their families!
If our leaders are so smart, why do they act so dumb and noncaring about how veterans are really been treated without regard to their wellbeing!
Come on Bob McDonald do the right thing and stop letting other people do your thinking for you or are you a follower and not the leader the veterans deserve and demand!
The title of that $68 million 4,000 page “report” is;
“VA Chief to Hill:
The Health Reforms You Seek Are Here”
I found it on
“The Military Advantage Blog”
written by Tom Philpott
published on October 8, 2015
It was also in “Stars & Stripes” and other sources as well!
It’s a great read. It shows just how abusive and wasteful VA truly is with taxpayers monies. And how VA, from top to bottom, doesn’t give a rats behind about veterans.
Another article to Google is;
“McDonald Pans Proposed VA Governance Board, Says That’s Congress’ Job”
by Bryant Jordan
Oct 7, 2015
“Military dot com”
In my opinion,
seems McDonald is getting to be more like a politician each day. You know- “Pass the Buck onto someone else and lie to and about everything!”
On a side note, have you noticed that for MORE than a few months now, how VA isn’t putting out current “newspapers” (Army, Navy, Marine Times etc., etc. and Stars & Stripes) for veterans to read?! I wonder if it could be because these ‘papers’ are letting readers know the truth about VA!?
@James and to all,
Remember, our government only allowed enough monies to run through “December 11, 2015” at which time the U.S. of A is broke, AGAIN.
And Obama has threatened to “veto any defense bill”! I’m sure he will also veto any bill that funds VA! If nothing is done by then, “God help this Grand Old Lady” we call “The United States of America!”
They need to get rid of bad employees and the government can save so much money, IT would make trump blush!
The United states could fix our dams, roads ect and still have enough money to ensure veterans receive their disability monies, veterans shop too so the money would be spent and all would benefit and homeless veterans would not be homeless!
And veterans care would be the way, it was meant to be!
Greed will be the downfall of this country and then everyone will have to pay the price! Criminals are being made into heroes, when they should be in jail!
Hey!!! I read the same article and it was clear that the Congress did the report and NOT the VA. I listened to the live feed, and it seems that Congress had policies that demanded this study before the current secretary ever took office.
At Crazyelf from John, I need to let Ben know about somethings going on at Long Beach VA such as them tampering with my medical records, Lying about when my medications are coming and they damn near Killed me a couple times now. The Doctors are incompetent etc. I would like ben to tell me who to get this information to and how to do it. I have stories that are fantastic and I am sure others to also. This place should be shut down. The Director of the Hospital Fired along with a number of Doctors. I asked for CVs of the so called specialists at Long Beach and getting stonewalled….no response from a soul.
You or ben can contact me at [email protected] I am Attorney John F Thompson Jr in California and been a lawyer for over 40 years now. Thanks crazyelf….
Here’s a great current article concerning how an airline pilot was royally screwed by VA!
“KC pilot sues VA for. $35M after misdiagnosis”
Oct. 6, 2015
by Sam Hodgson/Bloomberg
Seems “William Royster” (pilot) was misdiagnosed with “bipolar disorder” back in 2004. Then VA tried their best “to conceal the facts that would show otherwise”, until 2013-14. He “lost his wings”, according to the article.
He lost his very lucrative job, because of VA physicians not doing their jobs. I hope he gets all those involved at that VA fired over their incompetence!
And if it’s proven that VA tried to “coverup” his misdiagnosis, I hope those involved go to prison!
I’m going to paraphrase something “Dr. Phil” once said. “It’s not the mistake that gets someone in trouble (most of the time). It’s when someone tries to cover it (the mistake) up, that gets them in trouble!”
VA should take that as a lesson. If they (VA) could learn from that, things would (or may be) so much better!
Only the problem(s) I see, they (VA) don’t want to learn from their mistakes. They just keep making them and continue to cover them up and continually get caught!
I agree with the remark, I got mine and forget that many other veterans did not get theirs!
The veterans that were able to get the VA to listen, should advice veterans struggling with obtaining their disability on ways they were able to get the VA to listen!
In my case, I had to hire a lawyer Kenneth carpenter.
Mr carpenter deals with PTSD veterans, he is out of topeka Kansas.
It’s troubling to know veterans must hire an attorney to obtain justice!
Ben been doing a great job and I for one, is very proud of him for having the guts to stand UP for his fellow veterans!
I also am an older veteran and fighting the VA and never giving up, has made me a stronger person and it hurts me deeply to know that there are probably thousands of veterans in the same boat!
Some veterans are so worn out fighting the VA, they now feel powerless and I understand those frustrations!
So for those that don’t think they can not continue the fight! Don’t worry about it as your brothers and sisters will fight for you for now and once you feel you are ready, we will be here for you!
Veterans have more power than they think and truth will over come those who think they are above the law.?
They will have a rude awakening once our leaders see through their charade of lyes and cover-ups!
Veterans need justice and we veterans must let our elected officials know we are tired of being ignored and on veterans day go to Washington and peaceful march at the capital and invite the public to join us! Via news coverage!
Very well said James. Hopefully we, the older vets, will still be around to help!
There’s also another “breed of veteran” which should be mentioned. Those who want others to do their work for them. They don’t want to get off their lazy asses and do anything. Those vets I have NO use for. They don’t listen to their brothers and sisters over the egregious acts committed by VA. I’d go on, only I believe we all know those kinds of veterans!
I got this email today through military dot com. It’s an article by Tom Philpott on “The Military Advantage Blog”.
The title is,
“VA Chief to Hill: The Health Reforms You Seek Are Here”
published on October 8, 2015.
Check out the “comments section” also.
As I commented yesterday, this is just more of the same bull we have heard before. Until McDonald does his job, as Secretary of VA, and fires those who do not follow all of the rules and regulations set forth by federal law. Nothing will change.
Each VA, across this country does what it wants. I myself, with my wife present, have heard VA employees, physicians and administration, state, quote, “All VA’s are run differently!” Basically, telling us, and millions of veterans, “they can do what they want, anytime they want, however they want with impunity.” This has got to stop. Many, not all, VA employees have this mindset. In my opinion, until criminal charges are brought, trial dates are set and the many are found guilty of federal crimes against veterans & taxpayers. VA will continue down this road to deny veterans of proper medical care. And spend taxpayers monies with disregard to anyone.
I also want to state. With this ‘letter’ Ben and Thomas Bandzul, Esq. sent recently to all in Washington. I believe as others do, there’s more than meets the eye here. I believe VA is hiding, and circling their wagons, because they are guilty of something more sinister!
I believe, it will see “daylight” soon. Nothing can stay hidden forever!
I want to add.
Keep an eye on the news today. Obama is flying to Oregon, on the taxpayers dime, to make a speach about his wanting more gun control. According to the citizens of Roseburg, “He is not welcome!”
Check out the many online articles,
“Obama Not Welcome In Roseburg, Says Local Newspaper Publisher”
Not only do the citizens, parents of the deceased and wounded not wanting him there. The “Top Sheriff (John Hanlin) and Top local Police Chief doesn’t want him there!” They feel he is “stepping on the graves” of the fallen. They have made it clear they will not follow any law, on gun control, he tries to impose, by an ‘executive order’, on their rights under the “2nd Amendment of the Constitution!.
Hey, know you are a Cinci lover like me, but think you are wrong about the $68 million. I just read the military.com article you referenced, and it was clear that it was Congress that wasted that money and not the VA.
It is congress fault for giving the VA the money and deserving veterans get nothing but remorse!
Any money given to VA should have been allocated to veterans that the VA denighed their claims for forty years or more and hid the veterans records and the VA having them all along, lying about the veterans records being burned in the st Louis fire!
How many veterans were told this and it was not true! That’s criminal and violates ethics, morality and violates the veterans civil and constitutional rights!
They need to stop hurting veterans for personal gain!
Their time is almost up,with the deficit almost 20 trillion and enough to run until Dec ,What all & I mean All in DC are letting happen is High Treason ,and just like the Nuerenberg Trials all these assholes saying they were just following orders ,That shit don’t fly .what ever happened with Checks & Balanaces who is supposed to step up when Government is out of control .God Be with us God Bless America ,because she’s been Hurt Bad
You are correct Doc. Within the last few days I read an article about China, Brazil and other buyers of US debt are dumping it at a very rapid pace. All the while those in DC are whistling along merrily.
This is absolutely outrageous how the VA is trying to bastardize FOIA law to prevent this disclosure. Even more outrageous is their clear attitude that every single veteran has criminal intent towards the VA for whatever reason. This is not VA FOIA law that they can change on a whim, but federal law that applies to ALL federal agencies.
Ben, I hope you keep us updated on this. I get the sense that the VA is covering up something huge with their actions here. This is not simply denying veterans benefits. This is not an issue of not having enough money to hire people qualified people to conduct TBI exams. I think this is the tip of the ice berg regarding any exams or medical care, and the VA using unqualified hacks to either conduct any exam, or to provide medical care as well using unqualified hacks throughout the entire VA. That ultimately leads to the question of where their budget is going, and who is benefiting from it.
I would believe any judge hearing a lawsuit against the VA for this would rule against them and laugh it out of court in about 10 minutes. Question is, who will file it, and will the media be interested in joining such a suit to prevent it from becoming common practice at other agencies.
What the HE!!??? We have a Congress???
You’re right- most of
Congress who is only interested in promoting their own careers and keeping their cushy jobs!!!
The ‘new’ outlaw conservative congress will listen to these demands? The trends don’t look so favorable right now.
We can all hope!
This is my experience with a FOIA (Document 15-07436) I filed with the VA on March 4, 2015. This pertains to Claims that were submitted citing Prostate Cancer as being caused by the exposure to Toxic Materials and the consumption of contaminated water. Early on, all claims submitted citing Prostate Cancer were denied. As I read later documents, there was a change showing some claims now being approved, but the number of claims being denied was still very high. I became curious as to what had changed in the approved/denied procedures and why some passed and others did not? I requested copies of the test documentation and pass/fail criteria. VA signed for the FOIA on March 10, 2015. allowing a few days to get started, the clock started on March 17,2015. Federal regulations require the receiver of a FOIA to respond back within 2 the FOIA0 working days. I submitted emails requesting a status report on May/15/2015, July/ 6/2015 September/ /2015. As of today, VA is now delinquent 129 days in responding to the FOIA and has not answered any requests for status report. On August 28, 20-15 and September 18, 2015. The VA said someone is now working on a response. No letter of explanation as to why they are so delinquent. If the VA does not want to respond to me, I see in this posting, other agencies that will want to ask the VA why the VA has ignored the Government Directives. I also provided this to Representative Jeff Miller, Chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee to see if might use this as an agenda item at his next hearing with the VA.
Send the FOIA receiver another letter citing FOIA law. As I recall, any federal agency is required to respond with the documents requested within 20 days or they must respond with a request to you for an extension, and they must state the reason why they want the extension.
I have submitted many FOIA requests to the VA, DOD and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. While only 1 took almost 2 years for the DOD to respond, all had to provide the information requested. The DOD response delay had to do with them initially ignoring my request hoping I would go away, they then claimed the information was classified, which was a delay because my request did not ask for the classified information I knew they had. They eventually responded with what I wanted with a box full of papers and a CD containing all I wanted in electronic format.The NRC FOIA resulted in them calling me and trying to scare me with how much responding would cost me…almost $3000.00. I asked them for a fax number so I could send them a copy of the press release I would send to the media stating the NRC was charging disabled veterans for access to information pertaining to their health problems. I got over 8000 pages free of charge.
Since the VA wants to play games, I’m wondering how they would respond to every veteran reading this submitting a FOIA to their local VA asking for the qualifications of every provider at their hospital.
Additionally, they should submit the names to the Medical Boards in each state where they are from and request an audit of their claimed qualifications
Ray, I see you’ve contacted Miller. Are you in Florida?
Myself, and other veterans, have contacted him over a myriad of issues concerning VA here! We have never had a response, EVER! I wish you luck brother!
Just remembered, Miller is in just about every DAV magizine issue. That should be a clue to you about his loyalties, and where they lie.
Check out the website
I had one of my State’s Senators, Sherrod Brown, go to bat for me and found his office to be incredibly Veteran Friendly and effectively helpful. I suggest writing his office an email (it’s on his official website and one of the ‘good guys’ all things veterans/military), and make him aware as well of what’s going on and that Rep. Miller has not responded back and all the FOIA stuff.
Politicians tend to chew on other Politicians esp. around an election year. Perhaps Rep. Miller is part of the problem?
Why else would Congress (Rep. Miller) not even ask for qualifiers for the VA’s sudden unanticipated budget deficit half way through year and they seemed to just hand them more money, from the Choice Program, with very little fight and absolutely no accountability.
Anyway, someone else to write.
Crazyelf, since your Mrs is on Twitter, find Miller’s Twitter account, then send a tweet to him asking why his office won’t respond, and put a couple of local media Twitter contacts in your message. I bet you get a Twitter response asking you to contact them within 12 hours.
To namnibor & 91Veteran,
Trust me, the Mrs., and I, have used MANY avenues concerning this and other important issues plaguing veterans by VA! We are in constant contact, twitter, facebook etc., etc., with many local/national news outlets and representatives in our state legislature. We even email news outlets & representatives in other states.
We want anyone who will listen to realize what VA is doing to our veterans nationally. VA must capitulate. They must be made to understand egregious acts against veterans WILL NOT BE TOLERATED at any level.
I’m sure the taxpayers and veterans, nationwide. are just as upset as the wife and I over VA’s blatant disregard of human life. The more of us who contact our reps and let them know their “term as a representative” is at an end. Because at the next election they WILL BE VOTED OUT if they refuse to do their jobs now.
Americans are pissed at our elected officials, when I vote this year the current administration in Colorado will not get my vote!
New blood is needed and hopefully they will care about the citizens of these here United States and uphold the laws and hold those in power responsible and fire them or put them in jail!
I am in VA and my Congressman is Randy Forbes R. He and Miller are very close friends. I am contacting both to hopefully get a response. Thanks for the suggestion to fire off another email to the VA stating the regulation that they had 20 days to respond to the initial FOIA. I will also contact the other agencies that are listed. The bottom line with the denying/approval is that denials are saving the VA dollars. The limited number of approvals may be token amounts to eliminate suspicions. Ignoring an official FOIA and totally ignoring all follow up contacts has got my attention.
Do us a favor and find out what you can on how the VA disruptive committee works!
Regulations, requirements, what constitutes disruptive behavior and if proof is needed to to punish a veteran!
Who has authority to punish that veteran?
Do they have regulation requiring proof, or can you say a veteran did something and tell the disruptive committee and they do not ask for any proof.
See if investigation is required into getting all the facts before punishing the veteran!
Last see what a veteran can do, to defend themselves! Thanks
Let me see if we can help each other out
The VHA has directives, and they do what directives doe…DIRECT. Use the information given you in the military and use THEIR system to your advantage.
VHA Directive 2010-053, “Patient Record Flags,” December 3, 2010.
FROM Dept. VA Office of Inspector General:
In addition to the PRF policy, in September 2012, VHA issued a new directive intended to establish “a unified policy describing the management of all individuals in VHA facilities whose behavior has, or could, jeopardize the health or safety of others, undermine a culture of safety in VHA, or otherwise interfere with the delivery of health care at the facility.”6 This policy broadly addresses incidents and behaviors committed by not only patients, but also patient family members, employees, contractors, and visitors. It also includes specific focus on sexual assaults in VA facilities.
The above quote, and more, can be found in the report from OIG
READ and share…
I like what you wrote COULD be, are they now fortunate tellers!
The VA flagged me for disruptive behavior because a VA did not like me personally!
They had no evidence of me every being disruptive and used hearsay! Could IS not a reason to hurt veterans!
If that is the case NO veteran is safe and you just confirmed this!
IF the VA is unable to verify the facts, leave the veteran alone! In order to punish someone they must provide proof and not punish the veteran because he could become disruptive!
How many veterans have been falsely accused, according to this language, I bet thousands!
I have to admit that the more I read about stuff like this, the more dismayed I am by what VA gets away with. I’m an old combat vet, Viet-Nam. I’m in my late 60’s now. I just don’t have the strength or enough zeal left in me to have to fight this agency anymore now. The deck has always been stacked against veterans, and the maze of corruption within the VA is so difficult to have to traverse through and put up with. Mr. McDonald isn’t going to change any of that. That’s for sure! May God have mercy on all of us!
God bless us all as veterans who gave our all. I do think McDonald (a businessman and not a politician- saw him on Politico) can make a difference in this huge quagmire, but we didn’t get here in a few years, and many will be needed to make the significant difference. To me it is huge that the antiquated computer system that has been in place for decades, is finally being overhauled to help prevent the horrible backlog. Also thousands of additional doctors and nurses will be a huge help. Hope you get the help you deserve- and soon.
What kind of BS are you spouting? There is no IT, computer or other problem causing the delays in claims adjudication and you know it. Your continued support of McDonald, who I as well as others had confidence in, suggest you work directly for him. Sorry to burst your bubble, but he’s turned into a useless lying hack. He truly forgot his code.
Knock it off, McDonald is not helping veterans. He is part of the problem.
He even tried to “pass the buck back at Congress ” recently by spending $68 million taxpayers monies for a 4,000 page “report” that he already knew the answer of. Google:
“McDonald Pans Proposed VA Governance Board, Says Thats Congress’ Jobs”
by Bryant Jordan | Military dot com
Oct. 7, 2015
McDonald, and everyone below him, needs a fast track to a prison cell. His blatant lies are catching up to him. He has never told the truth. I believe he doesn’t know how to tell the truth. That, by definition, IS a “compulsive liar”!
Even his leaving (fake retirement) P&G was a lie. It’s been reported by news medias, his departure was forced.
So, Wade, quit trying to defend a person who is indefensible…..
@91veteran- sorry to burst YOUR bubble- there have been huge problems with antiquated technology and nothing streamlined-among other things- and I don’t work for anyone but myself- and have been retired for years. I thought the $68 million was spent by Congress for the report-not the VA. Am I wrong?
BEN: PLEASE PUT TOGETHER A SIMILAR LETTER, IN THE FORM OF A PETITION, THAT ALL VETS AND OTHERS CAN SIGN! THEN, SEND THE PETITION TO CONGRESS AND ALL THE MAJOR PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES!
P.S. The petition needs to be less than one page long. I bet we can get a million signatures!
That is an idea that could be very effective
Million signatures on one page? Who and why only one page! This makes sense, besides the signature, have letters from veterans with what has happened to them by the VA and handed to the president! Shit is supposed to run down hill.!
Two things, first,
The defense bill is going to the President. He’s already threatened to veto it.
The people of that town in Oregon doesn’t want Obama to come there. They want to grieve by themselves. Which is understandable. There was an article concerning this yesterday from a newspaper out of that town. So far over 2700 people have pledged to come and protest Obama’s arrival. They were asked not to bring “rifles”. And if they want, they can “wear pistols”! They, the citizens, of that town want to say, “[they] are against gun confiscation!” Which they believe that is what Obama wants to do. They, the citizens, believe Obama wants to use his ‘executive power’ to rid the “Constitution” of the “2nd Amendment”!
I hope all on here understands this implication. “We the People” will no longer matter if “We” don’t stand up and tell our elected officials- NO MORE DAMNIT! Quit breaking the law!
Go get ’em!
Just one VERY minor thing — I’ve noticed that in the last two posts I’ve read that you have used the phrase “reigned in.” The correct spelling for this is “reined.” I know it’s minutiae, but it’s something that spellcheck won’t catch, and it may cause some people to denigrate your very legitimate messages. Not criticizing — just trying to help.
Very, very good letter Ben. And a long, long copy list – which is good. It seems to me, however, that you are going about this unilaterally. That is a tough thing to do and may not have legs enough to go past these people’s desktops – to be saved for a rainy day’ so to speak. Would you consider approaching this debacle multilaterally by trying to stack up some input from, let’s say, The Brain Industry Association of various states or Project Star or non-VA rehabilitation facilities across the country that treat TBI and will make it clear to those that ask them that the doctors (physiatrists, neuropsychologists, etc.) who are qualified to treat brain injuries should have experience and specialized credentials to do so, and it is up to the provider to steer the patient to these people with that knowledge. The VA doesn’t do that and doesn’t act on “best practices” that the rest of the world acts on. They can twist the argument that they are providing “doctors and personnel) that are quite competent as doctors and that is what they have available, and that is good enough, and that they broke no law. That will take forever to argue that with them.
The fact is, TBI treatment is a mystery to everyone, bar none. It is a field that is newly being recognized by providers trying to treat brain injury and residuals occurring afterward. This presents an opportunity to actually break open this topic wide apart to everyone, not just the veteran community. But you have to do this with other organizations ” multilaterally”
Maybe Trump for Veterans would also be interested in what’s going on in this sphere also. Maybe. A phone call to his veterans hotline will make one decide if he might be able to use this or suggest alternatives. Maybe. Maybe. And maybe.
I’m working closely with a different org on this one, but I am obviously always open to anyone proactive enough to contact me for the purpose of joining forces.
Groups being involved would be helpful, but I would suggest lining up additional legal resources in Washington for FOIA lawsuits would be prudent. I believe Mark Zaid would be helpful, or the NVLSP. Or any media legal organizations who help with these issues.
Cause of Action seems to a formidable group to align forces with, because it ties into DOJs ineffective response to criminal actions at VA. The elected officials need to be targeted for accountability. The recall petitions are effective but these get lost intentionally, unless they get certified by a court with jurisdiction.
Word coming out of from some expert SSA attorneys for those who file benefits for the ill.injured/disabled, is that congress works to make sure VETS get their social security. I ask why doesn’t the congress work as hard to make sure VETS get their VA benefits?
Between VETS & IW’s, most just get SSA benefits but not the benefits owed by employers & the DOD/VA. This is for employers including the DOD/VA who are being given a pass by congress to just put us on SSA that we as tax payers paid into and the employers and the DOD/VA do not have to do their due diligence on their financial responsibilities to pay out on injuries illnesses, disabilities or deaths and then also denying health care or any voc rehab.
BTW, injured/ill/disabled workers are parted out with disability rating 10-100% as are the vets but yet 100% for SSA..It’s always amazing as to how that works. not disabled enough for employers or the DOD/VA but yet we qualify for SSA. HMMM.
The one thing for VETS is that you are not off setted should you get your VA benefits where as disabled workers are. In many instances they off setted twice. One for receiving WC that they don’t get and the other for having dependents
There is a National Economists Organization for the legislation WHO know how to rig the numbers so one group is disenfranchised over another with the same pot of money out of the SSA, It’s called divide & conquer while putting us all in the poor house with no medical care or future training. Something is rotten in D.C as usual and who votes for all of it? WHY, it’s congress. Who votes for congress ,we do. This is yet another reason why third parties are not encouraged to be voted for. In CA, It is now a just a two party voting machine. Not much to chose from.
Has anyone else noticed the ‘treat’m and street’m’ attitude of our PCPs? Is the VA merely an extension of ‘military health care’ and less?
Most facilities are run by an incompetent, unaccountable, and usually arrogant m.d., and the nurses bow to their authority without recourse. My 7th or 8th, A D.O. was told by the ‘doctor in charge’ that he gave up the right to be a doctor when he became a VA employee…he quit as he said he would.
Have everyone figured out just how we’re lied to, everything from available treatments to medications they lie and tell you are unavailable? What’s truly sad, when these issues are brought to the attention of the ‘powers that be’, you WILL, as I have, get your record flagged, and your email access shut down…got to love the ‘disturbance’ boards!
McDonald has not, and will not, ever have our interest at the forefront, it’s a ‘good ole boy’ organization, that promotes ‘team players/liars’ and destroy all others.
I’m 60, still recovering from nine years of medical abuse/neglect, and I doubt that in my lifetime I’ll see any real reform. Best thing for we veterans, would be to turn the VA hospitals over to the communities they are in, and funnel the tax dollars to run them to the community…
Thanks to Ben, and all others, that keep the pressure on. Ben, if you have a suggested course of action for we veterans, it’d be nice to hear so we can implement.
Still the VA is stating veterans are disloyal, possible murders, lyiers, cheats, stockers, fakers, can’t be trusted and need to be arrested for disagreeing with them!
When in fact all the above are perpetrated by VA management!
The VA has gone above and beyond the call of duty to ensure the veterans get as little as possible, to ensure they get their bonus!
The VA management is so corrupt, they would throw every veteran under the bus, if it would benefit them personally!
Again the only way to correct their illegal ways is to hold them accountable and federal charges placed upon them and prosecuted and placed where they belong!
Enough of them ripping off the veteran and destroying so many veterans lives!
When I speak with veterans that I do not know personally and ask them how the VA is treating them, every one of them look me in the eye and then look down and most say nothing good about the way they have or are being treated!
Dirty shame! And there are our sons and daughters being released from active duty, who have major problems like PTSD, tbi and if they should display those symptoms and act jumpy, the VA will punish them for having those disabilities and report them to the disruptive committee and punished!
Are you kidding, these veterans are crying out for help and what they get is threats and the police called and the veteran tackled and a shot of thorizine put in their butt and become zombies!
They call this the thorizine shuffle! The veteran shuffles and drules and pees his pants and they will leave him like this all day!
Sad but ALL to true!
Here’s what “Wade” was referring to when he mentioned $68 million spent on a 4,000 page report to Congress.
Google this article,,,,,
“McDonald Pans Proposed VA Governance Board, Says Thats Congress’ Job”
by Bryant Jordan of Military dot com
Oct. 7, 2015
McDonald is ‘passing the buck’ off to Congress. It’s his damn job to make sure ALL VA’s follow the fucking rules and regulations set down by Congress. Not the other way around.
To: McDonald, if you can’t do your job, get the fuck out!
There are many (1,000’s) below you who need a quick exit from VA employment and a quick entry into prison. You have failed miserably as a Secretary of VA!
Great Job Ben!
These MFs have to “GO HOME” for good! (of course , after been jailed for their crimes)
Thanks for keeping the pressure on them. My experience has been nothing but a nightmare having every critical medical issue that has been diagnosed by specialist (while still in the military denied, ignored or reported as normal by unqualified VA staff is the norm. no wonder they are afraid to show there faces.
“[A new secretary seems to have evaluated the problems and made some major headway in just one year in this massive organization- which is remarkable, since Congress has done nothing for decades!!]”
The “new secretary” (if you are referring to VA Sec. McDonald), has NOT made some major headway in on year! THESE THINGS have ONLY come to light because of Ben Krause’s and others’ reporting and investigative reporting as well as Veterans across the USA reporting these things. To be clear… NOT Sec. McDonald!!!!
The new VA Secretary has only perpetuated the corruption and hides behind the scenes and is about as present and available to Veterans as either the “Tooth Fairy” or “Easter Bunny”…
Perhaps I read your comment for content incorrectly? The VA Secretary has been caught red-handed lying before Congress, to Veterans, and The American Tax Payer.
Has **anyone** yet to date heard *what exactly* Sec. McDonald achieved or not, when he recently flew to Hawaii under the official premise “To End Veteran Homelessness In Hawaii”….at a time when his ass should have been directly IN FRONT OF CONGRESS ANSWERING QUESTIONS…and at that same time he was avoiding Congress he sent those below him in his stead TO TELL CONGRESS THEY HAD A HUGE BUDGET DEFICIT HALF WAY INTO BUDGET YEAR…AND SENT PEOPLE BELOW HIM TO DEMAND MONEY BE REMOVED EARMARKED FOR THE VETERAN’s CHOICE CARD PROGRAM…and they indeed DID steal a huge chunk of cash from it and NEVER QUALIFIED WHY THE BUDGET DEFICIT EXISTED then when pushed on matter had the audacity to BLAME Vietnam War Veterans…FOR GETTING OLDER!!!!
To be clear…this VA Secretary only at first did he make a grandiose gesture by making his personal cell phone number public for Veterans as well as Under Sec. Hickey’s…many months have passed since they started ignoring those calls as well…and now this VA WIDE scam of using non-qualified VA Employees to do Traumatic Brain Injury medical exams in order to effectively deny earned benefits…is NOTHING LESS THAN WAR PROFITEERING.
I vote that the VA’s OFFICE of GENERAL COUNSEL be REPLACED ENTIRELY BY THE OFFICE OF SPECIAL COUNSEL and VA OIG have the teeth of the DEPT OF JUSTICE.
As it stands, it seems the VA OIG is nothing more than a half-filled moat around the VA System where the VA is more or less protected by a public relations spin machine on overdrive.
Good job, Ben and all else involved. We need to keep our law makers reminded that the VA cannot arbitrarily change policies to play DAMAGE CONTROL and at the expense and chagrin of Veterans they are supposedly there to SERVE.
namnibor, let’s not forget after McDonald’s “Hawaii”(vacation), he went directly to Alaska and was humiliated by veterans there.
His inability, or wanton disregard, to do what’s right for veterans and taxpayers is pitiful. All he cares about is his (and everyone below him) “blood money”!
Hopefully, this national investigation into TBI’s, and other egregious acts committed by VA, will bring McDonald and the rest of the cronies to their knees. It might also put a bunch in prison.
On a side note, it’s been reported federal prisons, nationwide, are going to release nonviolent minor druggies back into society. Down here in Florida, I hear they might release 6,000! This is somewhat good news. Because now the prisons have room for VA employees (from top to bottom)!
The problem with releasing 1000’s of “non-violent prisoners early because of prison overpopulation” is that **many** of these so-called “drug offenders” will in a heartbeat go back to doing home invasions to steal controlled meds and unless a weapon is used, THAT is actually considered “NON-VIOLENT”…so what they are stating are actually half-truths. This has happened before and in my State, these thugs released learned so MUCH more devious criminal ‘schooling” while in prison, there was about a 70% return to prison rate for indeed ‘violent criminal behavior’…which entails stealing parts off cars, siding off houses, et al, to fund drug habits indeed stronger than just MJ.
This release of 1000’s across the USA is only a “cost saving measure” and most of the prisons are now operated by Private Contractors, and it’s all about pinching pennies out their a$$e$.
I just suggest to not entirely believe the hype and message of “non-violent drug offenders”….most of which had plea deals that got the heinous charges dropped, which were indeed, violent.
Troll Alert…on yesterday’s thread…you will identify it as a post made today very early hours by someone thinking Under Sec. Hickey is the bees knees for Vets…I’s say another VA Employee….I called him out on it as well.
namnibor, I do understand your reserve on letting “nonviolent drug offenders” out of federal prison.
I only mentioned it in the sence that it would give more room for VA employees a chance at filling up their bunks. And at the same time, they would get a chance to meet “BUBBA”! Do you realize how many veterans are in prison. Who would love the opportunity to “meet and greet” some a$$hole they had to deal with once?!
namnibor, Let me be frank, I’m not saying that would happen. But there has been many movies (based on reality), novels and news articles concerning this “fact”!
namnibor – That was probably me that was saying General Hickey was doing a good job. She has been making things happen for a lot of Gulf War Vets when we write to her and ask her for help and to say she is not competent is disingenuous. She has helped a lot of us get what we were entitled to and so has Dr. Clancy. If you had a problem and wrote to either of them, then you would probably get it taken care of. If you haven’t then I don’t expect you to complain about her. I don’t know what the bees knees are, since that was probably before my time, but I do know that she has helped this Veteran significantly and is continuing to help many of us on the Gulf War Illnesses FB page. You got a problem with that? I am not a VA employee and resent the fact that you shoot off your mouth without thinking. I made those comments praising General Hickey, so back off. I don’t expect to get snide remarks because someone is too cynical to understand that people are helped, unlike some of the rest of the VA employees who don’t help, and she should get some recognition for it. So it you don’t like it, then how about keeping your trap shut….
As stated before we all know there are VA employees who really do care and do a good job!
The problem is there are too many employees that are hurting veterans and those employees have to be out of a job and or in jail!
Were always glad to hear when the system works and those employees who do care, should not have to be afraid of loosing their job, IF and when they see the wrong thing going on and their afraid of management and retaliation!
There is nothing wrong with giving praise, when it’s deserved! Get the bad actors out of the VA, management knows who they are and fail to discipline them properly! (Fire them) and another veteran will be spared the wrath of that disgruntled employee!
@DL- That was not you…that was person posting under name “Roger Taylor” yesterday. Good to hear you and a few others may be getting the help they need!
However, what kind of ‘ethics’ ignores the huge problems in the system when they have the very position to facilitate change?
I do not fall in with the school of thought of “I got mine, so all is okay”…I consider all of us Brothers and Sisters as veterans and if one or a handful are being given the runaround, deny, and hope to die wait game…then it’s a sickness in the system, hence the term ‘Systemic’.
If you read “Roger Taylor’s” post yesterday, you will see it was painting VA Under Sec. as farting rainbows and all is great in VA Land.
Ignorance Is Bliss is not acceptable. Sorry you were inadvertently offended but it was not by me directly, and I will say what I want…that thing called freedom again. No Treading Allowed.
What is the “blood money”??
Did you call the number? What happened?
$68 million is quite a price to continue to investigate the VA and should have been spent on veterans!! A new secretary seems to have evaluated the problems and made some major headway in just one year in this massive organization- which is remarkable, since Congress has done nothing for decades!! Congress needs to be on the team, STOP the politics and career moves, and support our veterans!!!!!
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