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History, Geography, & Military Discuss VA employees actually destroy veterans’ records to ease backlog at the Political Forums; Part of what Ike was telling Americans when he warned while leaving the P.o.t.u.s. office. The Military Industrial Complex isn't ...

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Old 03-08-2017, 03:34 AM
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Default Re: VA employees actually destroy veterans’ records to ease backlog

Part of what Ike was telling Americans when he warned while leaving the P.o.t.u.s. office.

The Military Industrial Complex isn't looking out for any others but itself.

And one day it will decide civilian govt., is crap and take over... So beware people.
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Old 03-08-2017, 08:45 PM
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Cool Re: VA employees actually destroy veterans’ records to ease backlog

House Committee OKs Bill on VA Accountability...

House Committee OKs Bills on VA Choice Program, Accountability
8 Mar 2017 | The House Veterans Affairs Committee approved bills Wednesday to extend and expand the Department of Veterans Affairs' Choice Program and provide for more accountability of VA managers.
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"Whether it's creating a culture of accountability at VA, expanding access to quality care or protecting the rights entrusted to our nation's heroes, these bills will improve the lives of America's veterans and build a better VA," said Rep. Phil Roe, a Tennessee Republican and the committee's chairman. The proposed legislation now goes to the full House for passage. Similar bills are working their way through the Senate. "I am proud to support these important bills and look forward to moving them through the legislative process," Roe said.

Sen. John McCain, part of a bipartisan Senate group backing expansion of the Choice Program, said in a statement, "We simply cannot afford to send our veterans back to the pre-scandal days of unending wait-times for appointments, and I will be working closely with our leaders in the House and Senate to ensure our legislation makes it over the goal line." Another bill passed by the House Committee, the VA Accountability First Act, would give VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin "increased flexibility to remove, demote, or suspend any VA employee, including Senior Executive Service employees, for performance or misconduct."

In testimony to a House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing Tuesday night, Shulkin said he welcomed efforts to give him more authority to remove poorly performing or corrupt employees, and he pressed Congress to extend the Choice Program, which will sunset in August. By then, Shulkin said, the VA expects to have a new "Choice 2.0" program ready to streamline procedures allowing vets to choose private care. Shulkin also said that the VA is looking at ways to begin offering treatment for post-traumatic stress to vets with so-called "bad paper" discharges while awaiting authorization from Congress. "We have some authorities to do that," Shulkin said. "So many veterans are just disconnected from our system. We're going to do whatever we can. We're going to work with you. This is unacceptable, and we shouldn't have to wait for Congress to force the issue."

Veterans advocacy groups have argued for years that vets are cut off from treatment at the VA for the mental health problems that contributed to their less-than-honorable discharges. In his Senate confirmation hearing, Shulkin said the VA must overhaul the Choice Program to allow vets more and better access to community care, but he also pledged that full privatization of the VA would not happen "under my watch." He acknowledged that "we faced challenges" in implementing the Choice Program in 2014 but urged its extension while the VA seeks to correct deficiencies. There is no time to waste," Shulkin said. "Many veterans are using the Choice Program today, and it is important to continue to care for and support those veterans."

House Committee OKs Bills on VA Choice Program, Accountability | Military.com
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VA to Provide Mental Health Care to Vets with 'Bad Paper' Discharges
8 Mar 2017 | WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs will begin making mental health care services available to veterans with less-than-honorable discharges who urgently need it, VA Secretary David Shulkin told lawmakers Tuesday night.
Quote:
"We are going to go and start providing mental health care to those with other-than-honorable discharges," Shulkin testified to the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs. "I don't want to wait. We want to start doing that. Discharges that are other-than-honorable, including a "general" discharge, are known as "bad paper" and can prevent veterans from receiving federal benefits, such as health care, disability payments, education and housing assistance. Lawmakers and veterans advocates have said service members with bad paper were, in many cases, unjustly released from the military because of mental health issues. They estimate 22,000 veterans with mental illnesses have received other-than-honorable discharges since 2009.

Shulkin's announcement Tuesday follows a recent push from Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., to force the VA to provide emergency mental health care to veterans with other-than-honorable discharges. Coffman introduced a bill last month requiring the VA to do so. Shulkin credited Coffman for "changing my whole view of this." The plan was announced in response to a question during the hearing about how Shulkin would attempt to prevent veteran suicides. In addition to providing care to veterans with bad paper, the VA secretary also told lawmakers that he wanted to hire approximately 1,000 more mental health care providers. "Our concern is those are some of the people that right now aren't getting the services and contributing to this unbelievably unacceptable number of veterans suicides," Shulkin said.

He said he's notifying medical centers about the change and that he'd like to implement a program sometime in the next few months. The announcement garnered applause from some congressmen and advocates present at Tuesday's hearing. "So many veterans we see are disconnected from our system, and that's the frustration," Shulkin said. "We want to do as much as we can." A measure that Coffman championed last year, the Fairness for Veterans Act, made it into the National Defense Authorization Act. It requires Defense Department panels that review discharges to consider medical evidence from a veteran's health care provider. Panels would have to review each case presuming that post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, sexual assault trauma or another service-related condition led to the discharge.

It also aims to give the benefit of the doubt to veterans who seek to correct their military records. Kristofer Goldsmith, president of High Ground Veterans Advocacy, has fought for years for discharge upgrades for veterans with bad paper. After hearing from officials with military review boards during a congressional hearing last week, Goldsmith said the Defense Department "isn't doing anything proactive to help." Goldsmith, along with Vietnam Veterans of America – where he also works, has asked President Donald Trump to pardon all post-9/11 veterans who were administratively separated from the military and did not face a court-martial.

VA to Provide Mental Health Care to Vets with 'Bad Paper' Discharges | Military.com
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Old 03-09-2017, 09:03 PM
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Default Re: VA employees actually destroy veterans’ records to ease backlog

And with VA Hospitals in every state plus some with more than one Clinic for Out Reach what is offered can some times be limited. As with the Topeka VA.

Which in late December shut down the Out Reach Mental health for Vets with severe P.T.S.D.
Placing the Pysc in another P.T.S.D. in patient care enlarging this unit from 7 beds to 12 I believe.

Yet several Vets are very upset. As they can't find any non Veteran doctors in the community to handle their cases, which the VA would pay for.

And when I was running the roads of America back in the late 70's into the *0's I was in several VA Hospitals for simple medical care as camping can bring cuts bruises, etc.

And in each they offered different care or units. Some would focus more on the aging WWII Vets as they had more of them than Nam Vets. Others would place their focus on the states many Nam Vets.

As I said not one is the same as the others.
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Old 04-18-2017, 08:37 PM
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Unhappy Re: VA employees actually destroy veterans’ records to ease backlog

Tragic paralyzed vet death...

Paralyzed Army Vet Bled from Feet, Found Dead in Wheelchair
18 Apr 2017 — Virginia authorities are investigating the death of an Army veteran, paralyzed from the waist down, who was found early Monday.
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Virginia authorities are investigating the death of an Army veteran, paralyzed from the waist down, who was found early Monday in a wheelchair outside his apartment complex. Paul Chisholm, 38, showed no signs of trauma other than to his feet, which apparently dragged under his wheelchair, leaving a trail of blood from his apartment, Goochland County Sheriff Jim Agnew said. The blood pooled outside other apartment doors, where he may have sought help. A newspaper carrier found his body.


U.S. Army vet Paul Chisholm

Chisholm's mother said he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and was medically discharged after he was injured in Afghanistan, where he served with the 101st Airborne. After returning from Afghanistan, he was struck by a car, leaving him paralyzed from the upper chest down, Alice Farley said. She described her son as a sweet, thoughtful person who played piano by ear, loved to fish and appreciated a good haircut. "It's a really tragic time for the family," Farley told The Associated Press on Monday evening.

Army service records show he received six awards during just over two years of service. Agnew said the sheriff's office is not looking for any suspects. The medical examiner was working to determine how Chisholm died. Farley said she had no idea what happened to Chisholm. "It's all speculation right now," she said. "The family is waiting to hear, ourselves."

Paralyzed Army Vet Bled from Feet, Found Dead in Wheelchair | Military.com
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VA Tests Partnership with CVS to Reduce Veterans' Wait Times
18 Apr 2017 | WASHINGTON — Some ailing veterans can now use their federal health care benefits at CVS "MinuteClinics" to treat minor illnesses and injuries, under a pilot program announced Tuesday by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Quote:
The new program, currently limited to the Phoenix area, comes three years after the VA faced allegations of chronically long wait times at its centers, including its Phoenix facility, which treats about 120,000 veterans. The Phoenix pilot program is a test-run by VA Secretary David Shulkin who is working on a nationwide plan to reduce veterans' wait times. Veterans would not be bound by current restrictions under the VA's Choice program, which limits outside care to those who have been waiting more than 30 days for an appointment or have to drive more than 40 miles to a facility. Instead, Phoenix VA nurses staffing the medical center's help line will be able to refer veterans to MinuteClinics for government-paid care when "clinically appropriate."

Shulkin has made clear he'd like a broader collaboration of "integrated care" nationwide between the VA and private sector in which veterans have wider access to private doctors. But, he wants the VA to handle all scheduling and "customer service" — something that veterans groups generally support but government auditors caution could prove unwieldy and expensive. On Wednesday, President Donald Trump plans to sign legislation to temporarily extend the $10 billion Choice program until its money runs out, pending the administration's plan due out by fall. That broader plan would have to be approved by Congress. "Our number one priority is getting veterans' access to care when and where they need it," said Baligh Yehia, the VA's deputy undersecretary for health for community care. "The launch of this partnership will enable VA to provide more care for veterans in their neighborhoods."

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a long-time advocate of veterans' expanded access to private care, lauded the new initiative as an "important step forward." "Veterans in need of routine health care services should not have to wait in line for weeks to get an appointment when they can visit community health centers like MinuteClinic to receive timely and convenient care," he said. The current Choice program was developed after the 2014 scandal in Phoenix in which some veterans died, yet the program has often encountered long waits of its own. The bill being signed by Trump seeks to alleviate some of the problems by helping speed up VA payments and promote greater sharing of medical records. Shulkin also has said he wants to eliminate Choice's 30-day, 40 mile restrictions, allowing the VA instead to determine when outside care is "clinically needed."

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Old 06-25-2017, 07:05 PM
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Trump Signs VA Accountability Act...

Trump Signs VA Accountability Act, Gives Pen to Double-Amputee
23 Jun 2017 | President Trump signed the VA Accountability Act on Friday to give the VA more authority to fire poorly performing employees.
Quote:
Double-amputee 82nd Airborne Division Sgt. Michael Verardo was at the White House on Friday to attest to the urgent need to hold Veterans Affairs Department employees more accountable for delayed or poor treatment. With President Donald Trump and Veterans Affairs Secretary Dr. David Shulkin looking on, Verardo told an audience of lawmakers and representatives of veterans service organizations of his struggles with the VA system after stepping on an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan in 2010.

Verardo said he was prepared for the risks and injuries of combat, but "what I was not prepared for was coming home to a broken VA system. I wasn't prepared to wait 57 days for a signature on a piece of paper so that my prosthetic limb could be repaired." "I wasn't prepared to make a three-hour round trip so that just last year they could check to see if I still had my serious combat injuries. I wasn't prepared to watch my wife [Sarah] beg, plead and make countless phone calls so that I could receive what was often basic and necessary medical care." Verardo said he also had to wait three years for the VA to make the promised adaptations to his home in North Carolina to make it handicapped-accessible, "but today is a new day and this administration has fulfilled its promise -- that the veteran is empowered and the veteran is in charge of his or her own care." Shulkin, noting Verardo went through 111 surgeries in his recovery, said, "It's veterans like Michael who are the reason the VA exists. It was heartbreaking to me to hear his story. He had to jump through one bureaucratic hoop after another," but "I'm pleased to say he's waiting no longer."


President Trump gives the pen he signed the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017 to Purple Heart recipient Michael Verardo during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House

Following his own remarks, Trump signed the Veterans Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, empowering Shulkin to bypass existing civil service rules at the VA in the hiring, firing and promotion of employees. Trump then handed the pen to Verardo. "In just a short time, we've already achieved transformative change at the VA -- and believe me, we're just getting started," the president said. "The enthusiasm for the Veterans Administration and for making it right for our great veterans has been incredible, and I want to thank all of them." "As you all know all too well, for many years the government failed to keep its promises to our veterans," Trump said. "We all remember the nightmare that veterans suffered during the VA scandals that were exposed a few years ago" at the Phoenix VA Medical Center. "Veterans were put on secret waitlists, given the wrong medication, given the bad treatments, and ignored in moments of crisis for them. Many veterans died waiting for a simple doctor's appointments. What happened was a national disgrace," he said. "And yet, some of the employees involved in these scandals remained on the payrolls. Outdated laws kept the government from holding those who failed our veterans accountable," Trump said. "Today, we are finally changing those laws -- wasn't easy, but we did have some fantastic help -- to make sure that the scandal of what we suffered so recently never, ever happens again."

The Accountability Act, he said, "gives the secretary the authority to remove federal employees who fail and endanger our veterans, and to do so quickly and effectively. It's been a long time since you've heard those words. Those entrusted with the sacred duty of serving our veterans will be held accountable for the care they provide." "At the same time, this bill protects whistleblowers who do the right thing. We want to reward, cherish, and promote the many dedicated employees at the VA," Trump said. The bill had the support of the veterans service organizations and the bipartisan support of lawmakers in the House and Senate. "This bill finally corrects the archaic and broken civil service system that has prevented the VA secretary from removing bad actors, and strengthens protections for whistleblowers who are committed to the health and well-being of veterans," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said in a statement.

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Old 07-10-2017, 06:15 PM
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Angry Re: VA employees actually destroy veterans’ records to ease backlog

Funding for the VA Choice program will run out next month...

Quick Action Needed From Congress on VA Choice Program
10 Jul 2017 | Funding for the VA Choice program will run out next month unless Congress acts.
Quote:
Congress is returning this week from the July 4 recess under deadlines for action on an array of budget issues, including authorizing funding for the Veterans Affairs Department's Choice program. Funding for Choice, which allows veterans flexibility in seeking private health care, will likely run out by Aug. 7 unless lawmakers act to provide a fix, according to VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin. The department initially proposed paying for Choice with cuts to the Individual Unemployability program, a lifeline to more than 225,000 elderly and disabled vets, but backed off the plan after an uproar from vets and veterans service organizations.

Currently, the Choice program allows veterans to use private care if they can't get an appointment with the VA within 30 days or they live more than 40 miles from the nearest VA facility. Shulkin has pledged to expand the program and lift some of the restrictions under a revamped Choice program expected to be unveiled later this week. The new plan would be included in the VA's budget for fiscal 2018, which begins Oct. 1. In his proposed budget, President Donald Trump called for $2.9 billion in new funding for Choice in fiscal 2018 and $3.5 billion in fiscal 2019. Meanwhile, the VA is faced with funding Choice past Aug. 7, which will leave Congress with only three weeks to act before the traditional August recess. Shulkin has urged Congress to pass emergency stopgap funding for the Choice program or give him the authority to transfer funds out of other VA accounts. Currently, he cannot transfer funds.


Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin speaks on April 27 in Washington. His department is taking a more active role in combating drug thefts at VA hospitals.

At a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing last month, Shulkin made clear that he will no longer be looking at cuts to the Individual Unemployability program to pay for Choice. Shulkin said that cuts to IU had been one of several options that the VA had considered to keep funds flowing to Choice and expand the program, but "as I began to listen to veterans and their concerns, it became clear that this would be hurting some veterans." He said the IU cuts would amount to "a take away from veterans who can't afford to have those benefits taken away. I'm really concerned about that," Shulkin said. "This is part of a process. We have to be looking at ways to do things better, but I am not going to support policies that hurt veterans."

Veterans currently eligible for the IU benefit have a 60 to 100 percent disability rating through the VA and are unable to secure a job because of their disability. IU allows them to receive the highest compensation rate. The budget proposal would have removed veterans from the IU program when they reached the minimum age for Social Security. About 225,000 veterans aged 60 or older could have been affected by the cut -- about 7,000 of them over the age of 80. "It shouldn't have been proposed to begin with," Veterans of Foreign Wars National Commander Brian Duffy said of the initial plan to cut IU. "Balancing budgets on the backs of veterans is something the VFW will never tolerate."

http://www.military.com/daily-news/2...e-program.html
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VA Employee Disciplinary Actions Are Now Public Information
8 Jul 2017 | WASHINGTON -- Officials said the list is an attempt at transparency after action by Congress to give the VA secretary new disciplinary power.
Quote:
The Department of Veterans Affairs made public Friday a list of employee terminations, demotions and suspensions that it will update weekly, which agency officials said is an attempt at transparency following action by Congress to give the VA secretary unprecedented disciplinary power. Veterans, and anyone else interested, can now see a list of disciplinary actions taken against VA employees since President Donald Trump took office Jan. 20. The list can be found at va.gov/accountability. "Veterans and taxpayers have a right to know what we're doing to hold our employees accountable and make our personnel actions transparent," VA Secretary David Shulkin said in written statement. "Posting this information online for all to see, and updating it weekly, will do just that."

The list, posted online Friday, contained the occupation, VA region, the date and type of disciplinary action for approximately 800 VA employees disciplined since Jan. 20. For privacy reasons, the VA is not posting employees' names. The initiative is part of the new VA Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection that Trump created in April with an executive order. Navy and Air Force veteran Peter O'Rourke is directing the office and advising Shulkin on the discipline of VA managers and employees.


The seal affixed to the front of the Department of Veterans Affairs building in Washington.

Shulkin gained more firing authority after Trump signed legislation June 23 establishing more repercussions and a faster firing process for VA employees. Trump, Shulkin, and many veterans and supporters of the legislation said the new rules would allow the VA to root out poor-performing employees and a perceived culture of corruption in the department. The VA's move to make disciplinary action public information will "shine a light on the actions we're taking to reform the culture at VA," Shulkin said in the statement. Shulkin also announced Friday that he would require a senior VA official to approve employee settlement agreements of more than $5,000.

Members of Congress expressed skepticism last year that the VA was overusing employee settlements to silence whistleblowers. A congressional inquiry found the VA had paid $5 million to settle disciplinary action disagreements between July 2014 and September 2016, Federal News Radio reported at the time. Shulkin said the VA would settle with employees "only when they clearly have been wronged or when settlement is otherwise in veterans' and taxpayers' best interests." "We're changing to a culture of accountability at VA, and this is an important step in that direction," he said.

http://www.military.com/daily-news/2...formation.html
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Old 08-14-2017, 05:50 AM
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Cool Re: VA employees actually destroy veterans’ records to ease backlog

Granny says, "Dat's right - The Donald cleanin' up the VA backlog mess...

Congress Approves Bill to Address VA Claims Backlog
12 Aug 2017 | Congress has sent the president a bill aimed at trimming a rapidly growing backlog of veterans' disability claims.
Quote:
The House approved the bill by voice vote Friday during a brief session, sending the measure to President Donald Trump. The House is on recess, but a handful of lawmakers gaveled the chamber in and out of a session that lasted less than five minutes. The veterans' bill, approved by the Senate Aug. 1, would reduce the time it takes for the Department of Veterans Affairs to handle appeals from veterans unhappy with their disability payouts. The measure is part of an ongoing effort to reduce a longstanding claims backlog and is a priority for VA Secretary David Shulkin, who calls the appeals process "broken."

Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said he was pleased at the bill's passage. "When it comes to putting our nation's heroes first, there can be no doubt that Congress has been hard at work," Roe said. Besides the claims bill, Congress also approved a measure to remove time restrictions on veterans' use of GI Bill benefits and cleared a $3.9 billion emergency spending package to fix a looming budget crisis and extend a program that allows veterans to receive private medical care at government expense. Trump is expected to sign all three bills.


On disability claims, the measure passed Friday would overhaul the appeals process, allowing veterans to file "express" appeals if they waive their right to a hearing or the ability to submit new evidence. The VA could test the new program for up to 18 months until Shulkin could certify it was ready for a full rollout with enough money to manage appeals effectively. Lawmakers hope the legislation ultimately will reduce average wait times to less than a year.

Currently, veterans can wait up to five years or more to resolve appeals over disability claims. "For too long our veterans and their families have faced unacceptable delays during the VA's benefits claims appeal process," said Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. The legislation offers no immediate fix for the bulk of the 470,000 appeals claims in VA's backlog; the changes would apply almost entirely to newly filed appeals. The VA provides $63.7 billion in disability compensation payments each year to about 4.1 million veterans with disabling conditions incurred during their military service.

Congress Approves Bill to Address VA Claims Backlog | Military.com
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Report: New Mexico VA Office Denies 90 Percent of Gulf War Claims
14 Aug 2017 - A Veterans Affairs office during the 2015 fiscal year denied more than 90 percent of benefit claims related to Gulf War illnesses
Quote:
A Veterans Affairs office in New Mexico during the 2015 fiscal year denied more than 90 percent of benefit claims related to Gulf War illnesses, marking the ninth-lowest approval rating among VA sites nationwide, according to a federal report. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' Albuquerque office denied 592 of 640 Gulf War illness claims in 2015, which is the latest yearly data available, The Albuquerque Journal reported earlier this week. The report released in June from the Government Accountability Office found approval rates for Gulf War illness claims are one-third as high as for other disabling conditions. The Gulf War illness claims also took an average of four months longer to process.


A visitor leaves the Sacramento Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Rancho Cordova, Calif.

Gulf War illness was first identified in soldiers returning home from Operation Desert Storm and Operation Desert Shield in the early 1990s. But it has been found to afflict soldiers who have served in other parts of the Middle East since then as well. The illness includes a wide variety of symptoms and conditions, from fatigue and skin problems to insomnia and indigestion. It is believed the conditions may be the result of exposure to burn pits, oil well fires or depleted uranium weapons during service. The report concluded that instituting required training for medical examiners, clarifying claim decision letters sent to veterans and developing a single definition for the illness would increase consistency in approval rates and reduce confusion among staff and veterans.

Currently, a 90-minute training course on Gulf War illness is voluntary. Only about 10 percent of the VA's 4,000 medical examiners had completed it as of February, according to the report. Sonja Brown, acting associate director of the New Mexico VA Health Care System, did not say how many of the Albuquerque medical examiners have completed the course. "The Gulf War Examination training is currently on the curriculum for our medical examiners with a due date of 8/10/2017 to complete," Brown wrote in an email. "While I don't have a percentage of those completed, I can tell you that the training is being taken." The VA plans to make training mandatory, with all medical examiners expected to complete the program by October.

http://www.military.com/daily-news/2...ar-claims.html
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Old 08-21-2017, 02:11 PM
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Default Re: VA employees actually destroy veterans’ records to ease backlog

My local newspaper has had several articles relating to the VA and it's failure to serve our Veterans in a timely fashion these last 8 days.. Part of the problem is how top managers are moved in and out of positions to avoid direct blame for prior management failures.

So the right to fire is for lower level VA employees and nothing is going to really change till the top management can be held responsible and let go...

In today's article a whistle-blower has halted [related to above post] about 380.000 e-mails/letters to recent veterans closing out their attempts to be enrolled in VA Health Care and gain help.

Get on this Trump....
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Old 09-13-2017, 06:26 PM
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VA to Shorten Benefit Enrollment Program Window to Expedite Claims...

VA to Shorten Benefit Enrollment Program Window to Expedite Claims
13 Sep 2017 | Servicemembers will have less time to claim disability compensation before leaving the military but should get benefits faster.
Quote:
Servicemembers will have less time to claim disability compensation before leaving the military but should get benefits faster under changes being made by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Starting Oct. 1, troops who want to resolve disability claims before leaving the military must enroll in the "Benefits Delivery at Discharge" program 90 days from separation rather than the current 60 days, the VA announced this month.


A service member shelves patient medical records at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D.

Quick Start, a program launched in 2008 that allows troops with 59 or fewer days left to begin their claims process, will also end, the VA office at Yongsan Garrison, South Korea, told Stars and Stripes this week. "The VA's goal is to process disability claims for those leaving active duty so they have a decision on their claim the day after they leave," manager Thomas Gwaltney said. Late-filed claims mean veterans will be waiting an average of 90 days after separation to get a decision on benefits, he said. "Many claims are not complete when servicemembers leave active duty," Gwaltney said. "Submitting disability claims between 90 and 180 days before separation will ensure claims can be fully developed."

Troops enrolling in the benefits program will need to be at their duty station for 45 days after enrolling to make sure they can attend medical exams, said Yongsan VA representative Steve Tucker. Those who miss the deadline can still file claims through the VA's "eBenefits" program after they leave the military, but might have to wait 18 months for a resolution, he said. A smarter option is to file a claim while still in uniform, Tucker said. "By filing here and getting their exams done they can ensure they receive their disability claim right after separating," he said.

VA to Shorten Benefit Enrollment Program Window to Expedite Claims | Military.com
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Lawmakers: 'Unreliable' VA Mail Data a Symptom of Larger Issues
13 Sep 2017 | WASHINGTON -- A House subcommittee criticized the VA for inaccurate and unreliable reporting of how much it spends on mail.
Quote:
A House subcommittee criticized the Department of Veterans Affairs on Tuesday for inaccurate and unreliable reporting of how much it spends on mail, which lawmakers contended is a sign of larger management issues at the agency. The VA reported spending about $355 million on 200 million pieces of mail in 2016 -- making it one of the top spenders on mail in the federal government. But that's not likely to be the true amount, according to a Government Accountability Office report that states VA spending data is "questionable." "After a look at facility-by-facility data, bizarre and anomalous numbers immediately jumped out, and it begged the question whether anyone had ever reviewed and questioned the information," said Rep. Jack Bergman, R-Mich., chairman of the oversight and investigations subcommittee of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs.

The General Services Administration collects information from all federal agencies about how much they spend on mail. The 2015 and 2016 data from the VA omitted spending totals from most of its 1,055 community-based clinics nationwide, as well as its 300 veterans centers and its National Cemetery Administration, the GAO found. Some data was also inaccurate. Bergman brought up one instance of the Atlanta VA Medical Center in Decatur, Ga., reporting it spent $11,257 to send one package. The VA said the true cost was $112.57, and the error was created when someone misplaced a decimal typing the information into the agency's system.

Rep. Ann Kuster, D-N.H., the ranking Democrat on the subcommittee, said the VA's failure on a "simple and routine" task like recording mail spending information "is a sign of a larger problem." "VA has outdated systems requiring manual data entry, increasing the chance of human error. Employees lack training they need. Programs lack goals," Kuster said. "I believe this is indicative of a large r problem. VA must examine the root causes."

John Oswalt, who works in the VA's information technology office, conceded each of the thousands of VA locations across the country have their own practices for reporting how much they spend on mail. The system needs oversight from VA headquarters, he said. Part of the problem was caused a few years ago when the VA began mailing prescriptions to veterans, leading to a surge in the amount of mail going out, Oswalt said. "We were asleep at the switch, and we let this behemoth go," he said. "Now, we're bringing it back under centralized authority." Improving the system will require updated technology, Oswalt said. Information technology has been designated a serious problem for the VA for the past two years. The GAO has previously described IT systems at the VA as "old, inefficient and difficult to maintain."

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