Showing posts with label Veterans. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Veterans. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Trump Lies About Everything

 

One of the standout lies from last night's disastrous presidential debate was when Trump made the claim that 308,000 veterans died waiting for care because of something that President Obama and Vice President Biden somehow didn't do.

We all know that Obama and Biden inherited two wars and an avalanche of claims from veterans because of the way Bush and Cheney ran the government. They started those wars and failed to anticipate the results. Thousands of our troops died and many times that number came home wounded and injured. The relentless deployments left far too many men and women with the after effects of multiple tours of duty overseas. Blaming them for what happened with the VA system is ludicrous, especially given the fact that the GOP blocked funding for Veterans as often as possible.

I mean, honestly. What can you do with lies like this?

President Donald Trump’s allegation at Tuesday’s debate that former Vice President Joe Biden’s policies while in office killed hundreds of thousands veterans rests on a five-year-old inspector general report that found widespread problems with Veterans Affairs record keeping but does not directly connect deaths to delayed care from department officials.

The report — compiled in the wake of the 2014 VA wait time scandal where numerous hospital administrators were found to cover up wait times at their medical centers — drew headlines at the time as another sign of incompetence and mismanagement at the embattled department. 

[...] 

Biden disputed both allegations. Trump’s campaign team tweeted out news coverage of the 2015 report in support of the president’s attack just minutes after the debate remarks.

In the report, the VA Inspector General looked into reports of nearly 900,000 pending enrollment applications within the department’s health care system as of September 2014. However, investigators “could not reliably determine how many pending records existed as a result of applications for health care benefits.”

Trump will lie about everything he can come up with. We have never fully appreciated the efforts undertaken by the Obama/Biden administration to solve problems that were dumped on them and exacerbated by Mitch McConnell's obstruction policies. 

Friday, May 30, 2014

Focus on the Record, Not the Man




Charlie Pierce can't get the words out fast enough:

Eric Shinseki resigned today as a result of the unfolding scandal within the Department of Veterans Affairs. This event became inevitable the moment that Shinseki sat down before the Veterans Affairs Committee of the United States Senate. It became clear almost immediately that Shinseki didn't have two votes in that room; Democratic senator Richard Blumenthal who, despite Shinseki's departure, shows no sign of getting this teeth out of this story any time soon, made it quite plain that he wasn't buying anything Shinseki was selling. And thus ends the honorable career of a soldier who was correct about the lies behind the greatest policy disaster of our times, about the essential criminality of the people who launched the invasion of Iraq, but whose primary failures as an administrator were his inability to oversee the people in his department who were directly trying to cope with the flood of casualties that resulted from all of those soldiers that most of official Washington told Eric Shinseki they would never need to create a democratic paradise in Iraq. Irony is the rail on which Shinseki now has been ridden out of town.

Charlie can't help himself--he remembers the neglect of the Vietnam generation. And, neglected they were. But how does that square with what you see above? The VA has tried to modernize itself and deal with the issues that it faces. The VA is a hundred times more available and interactive than ever. And yet, we know for certain that there will always be an institutional distrust and many will fall through the cracks. Shinseki failed to be the Secretary we needed when this transformation was carried out. It's too little too late.

Yes, Shinseki was correct about the need to deploy adequate numbers of troops to stabilize Iraq. But, guess what? Even he was wrong by a factor of more than ten. In order to "stabilize" Iraq after the end of the war, over 2 million fully equipped American soldiers wouldn't have been enough. (Iraq - 26 million people, 1 soldier for every ten civilians, etc = 2.6 million troops for stabilization force).

There is no question--Shinseki was a weak and ineffective leader. We are not quite two years removed from this debacle:

An investigation into two Veterans Affairs Department conferences have led to employees being put on administrative leave and a top official’s resignation as auditors found waste and mismanagement. The VA paid roughly $6.1 million for two conferences in 2011, but the planning was marred by leadership failures and ethical lapses, the department’s inspector general reported Oct. 1.


The investigation has led to the resignation of John Sepulveda, VA’s assistant secretary for human resources and administration (HR&A). He stepped down a day before the release of the report, which criticizes the department’s questionable spending at two Florida conferences.


The IG found that Sepulveda failed to provide proper guidance to senior executives in his organization related to the conferences. Further, his statement was contrary to his memo to the VA’s chief of staff, in which he wrote his office was controlling costs. According to several people, Sepulveda also had seen a video in whcih an actor parodied a famous scene from the movie "Patton," starring George C. Scott as Gen. George S. Patton. The video cost nearly $50,000 to make, and Sepulveda denies having seen it.


“His hands-off approach contributed to a lack of communications between HR&A senior executives resulting in confusion and a dysfunctional execution of roles and responsibilities,” the IG wrote in the report. Largely, “senior leadership accepted little responsibility for fiscal stewardship.”

When you have an inspector general who tells you that "senior leadership accepted little responsibility for fiscal stewardship," you know you have a problem. But did Shinseki carry out a VA-wide audit and go looking for more examples? Did he go beyond allowing an official to resign (he should have fired the person outright) and ensure that these practices weren't being carried out everywhere? No, because we now know that bonuses for administrators were still being paid out well into this calendar year. Despite overwhelming evidence that there was a culture of greed, incompetence, and poor fiscal stewardship, Shinseki left the people in place who ended up bringing him down.

Shinseki is also the man who, in June of 2001, decreed that everyone in the Army would wear a black beret on their head, eliminating the common sense use of the soft cap. This was one of the most selfish and stupid acts carried out by someone trying to change the Army uniform. A beret does not instill pride. A black beret on a soldier's head in a motor pool is the stupidest Goddamned thing imaginable.

Stop thinking that because Shinseki got one thing sort of right he was a saint. He failed to properly lead and administer the Department of Veteran's Affairs. He failed on the information technology front, allowing contractors to waste millions on systems that failed to deliver. He presided over a period of extreme stress in the VA but he also failed to ensure that there were people in place to honestly deal with and report back on that stress. Every single administrator that got a monetary bonus on his watch for running hospitals into the ground while Veterans died is his responsibility. He should have ensured that nobody got a bonus for hiding bad numbers. His lame attempt to carry out an audit of these facilities was too little way too late.

The man's record before taking off the uniform is irrelevant. His tenure wearing a blue suit was a disaster. Neither political party really cares about Veterans anyway. When this blows over, more will die and a grateful nation will refuse to raise taxes to care for the people dying on the waiting lists that are going to be a little more public but left to languish in the hands of whoever can finagle their way into another cushy job doing nothing on the VA's dime.

And That's Not the End of It





“To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan..."


Shinseki is gone:

In the end, even Eric Shinseki knew he had to go, President Barack Obama said Friday in announcing the resignation of his only Veterans Affairs secretary over a growing scandal involving sometimes deadly waits for care at VA hospitals.


Obama went before reporters shortly after meeting with Shinseki at the White House and said the retired Army general told him that "the VA needs new leadership" to address the widespread problems chronicled in new reports this week, adding that Shinseki "does not want to be a distraction" to fixing the situation.


"That was Ric's judgment on behalf of his fellow veterans, and I agree. We don't have time for distractions. We need to fix the problem," Obama said.

When the boss has to leave under a black cloud, it sends a clear message to the underlings--you're next. The reason why it makes sense for Shinseki to leave is because the greedy, incompetent administrators below him need to be washed out of the VA like the fleas and lice they are, clinging to their bonuses and their schemes to profit personally while failing America's burgeoning corps of Veterans.

That's why I called for him to quit or be fired--there's no other way to remove the terrible, terrible management below Shinseki's level at VA. Someone new, someone tough, and someone with a clear mandate to remove incompetence and fraud from the ranks has to be empowered to do so. Shinseki was not that man anymore.

I would think that many of those engaged in malfeasance would have the decency to retire or quit in the weeks ahead. Many of them won't. They will cling to their lifestyle and continue to do nothing to take care of Veterans. They will continue to ride out the clock. They should not collect any more bonuses, however, and every administrator paid a bonus over the last ten years who presided over a hospital with secret wait lists and things of that nature should be prosecuted for fraud. Their bonuses should be paid back and their retirement benefits should be irretrievably revoked.

The Department of Veteran's Affairs is about benefits, after all. I don't think anyone who screwed Veterans and got paid should be able to retire on a comfortable pension and with full health care. I think that they should be cast out into the real world where so many dying and sick and Veterans have lived since coming back from Vietnam and wherever else. They have had no safety net. They have seen the promises made to them turn into a blizzard of paperwork, crushed under the heels of people who don't care about them while making three figure salaries, getting eight weeks off a year, and being paid ridiculously inflated personal performance bonuses.

To them I would say, welcome to the reality you were charged with improving. Screw you. You're on your own.

This does not end with Shinseki. This ends when the frauds and the thieves who cost this man his job are scrambling to find someone to take care of them while they cope with the aftermath of their personal pity party. This ends when a former bigwig administrator from the Phoenix VA Hospital has to use Coinstar to pay for meds at a discount grocery store in the middle of nowhere.

Monday, May 19, 2014

John Fund is a Serial Liar




Have you had enough insanity already for one week? Well, get ready for more.

John Fund has decided to weigh in on the Veteran's Administration scandal, and he uses this opportunity to rail against single-payer health care as opposed to the stupidity of actually creating many more Veterans than can be taken care of or treated. He wants you to know that single payer is the devil and ignore the fact that the VA has struggled because of the inability of Congress to fund the government and that is has been cut by repeated Republican Party efforts to stop providing benefits to the American people.

I mean, full stop--these are the people who shut down the government. That's what they care about--destroying the infrastructure that would normally provide health care to Veterans. Their ideology trumps giving the VA the resources it needs. And now a resource-starved VA has been exposed as a den of bonus-giving thieves, which probably justifies the Republicans but, really--what we have needed for years is more oversight and accountability. Kind of hard to have that when we're holding our eighth round of hearings about Benghazi.

These are the people who have denied funding bills and improvements in the VA health care system. These are the people who have no problems starting wars and creating millions of Veterans and then abandoning them while wearing an American flag lapel pin.

John Fund is doing a cartwheel here. The VA has a problem, and that problem is entirely because we havea single payer health care system in America. What kind of nonsense is that? Well, it's the kind peddled by serial liars in order to keep people from getting access to health care.

You see, the problems with the VA are apparent to everyone--there are too many Veterans and the people who are charged with taking care of them are incompetent. The VA's problems have nothing to do with single payer health insurance because the VA is a benefit, not an option. It has to be provided to Veterans. Thus, it has to be rationed because we're not charging Veterans for their health care costs.

Eric Shinseki's incompetence is why he should be fired. He's a good man who has had a difficult job. But the problems with the VA's information architecture and the ballsy bonuses paid to far too many inept and corrupt administrators means that the system has to be flushed of flunkies and useless people. The hallways of the VA are actually full of them--I have seen them myself. If you don't believe me, go see for yourself. Oh, wait. You can't unless you have a special visitor pass and access to the facility. But, if you can get one, go see haplessness in action.

The intellectually honest argument is thus--there are too many Veterans and we need a more efficient system of taking care of them. The John Fund argument--driven by decades of stupidity and lies--is this:

The veterans’ hospital scandals now in the news in the United States show just how bad things can get when the pressure of patient demand and waiting lists affects bureaucratic behavior. As many as 40 veterans reportedly died at a Phoenix veterans’ facility because they couldn’t get the care they needed. VA administrators there and at other hospitals apparently covered it up by establishing secret waiting lists and falsifying reports.

No one is suggesting that such scandals are widespread in the general health-care system. But they should serve as a warning sign of what could happen as the pressure to ration, inherent in all government-managed health care, is applied to the general population.

Never mind how funny it is for a conservative who bemoans government spending to launch a rant about rationing health care, what Fund really has a problem with is the distant history of Barack Obama:

This is the record of many single-payer health-care systems, and both Obama and the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, have said that establishing a single-payer system is their long-term goal. In 2003, Obama, then an Illinois state senator, toldan AFL-CIO conference: “I happen to be a proponent of a single-payer universal health-care program. . . . But as all of you know, we may not get there immediately.” Similarly, Majority Leader Reid told a PBS interview show in Nevada, in October 2013: “What we’ve done with Obamacare is have a step in the right direction, but we’re far from having something that’s going to work forever.” When he was asked by a panelist whether he meant that ultimately the country would need a health-care system that abandoned insurance as the means of accessing it, Reid said: “Yes, yes. Absolutely yes.”

There you have it--when he was the State Senator from Illinois, he was already scheming to destroy the Veteran's health care system. Except, of course, when he was opposing the Iraq War.

I mean, come on. WTF? If you don't want to have to pay all that money to take care of Veterans, stop starting wars and creating millions of them. If you're John Fund and if you supported the War in Iraq, you don't get to bemoan the costs of the VA because, as Colin Powell says, you went into Pottery Barn and shit the bed, son.

Fund has long been an unethical serial liar:

MSNBC
SHOW: HARDBALL 21:00
January 31, 2003 Friday


MATTHEWS: John Fund, do you know what turned him [Colin Powell] around from a man who is perceived by the public to be dovish to a man who is the hard line fellow, very much like his fellow Cabinet members, Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney?


JOHN FUND, “THE WALL STREET JOURNAL”: Complete frustration Chris. He basically decided that Saddam Hussein was never going to come clean, that the process was completely flawed.


You know the same people who believe that global warming is absolutely proven and they’re not going to listen to anything else are the same people who will accept absolutely no evidence that Saddam Hussein is hiding something and including weapons of mass destruction. Colin Powell basically finally threw up his hands and said we have to act because the alternative is to let Saddam Hussein win the game, set and match, and the world cannot be blackmailed that way. ‘

How can anybody read anything by this man and not wonder how it is that he still has any presence at all in the media, conservative or otherwise? How is it that he did not slink away in shame and go peddle apples on skid row after 2006?




John Fund. Wrong about everything and not afraid to lie about it some more.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

A Criminal Conspiracy Within the VA Medical System




Horrible:

At least 40 U.S. veterans died waiting for appointments at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care system, many of whom were placed on a secret waiting list. 


The secret list was part of an elaborate scheme designed by Veterans Affairs managers in Phoenix who were trying to hide that 1,400 to 1,600 sick veterans were forced to wait months to see a doctor, according to a recently retired top VA doctor and several high-level sources

How hard is it to be accountable for what's going on? If you're the person in charge of the VA hospital, you raise your hand and say, "we're in trouble and we need help." That doesn't mean that VA in Washington D.C. has to fire that person--just the opposite. It means that resources have to be allocated to help keep veterans alive.

Instead, we have a criminal conspiracy to destroy evidence and hide the problem. The cover-up is worse than the crime, right? No, the crime was that forty veterans died because a handful of people put their careers ahead of what was right and let them die.

How much do you want to bet that monetary bonuses have landed in the checking accounts of everyone involved on a regular basis for years? How much would you put down against the chance that the management was paid exorbitant salaries for years while this went on?

Tell me again why Eric Shinseki still has a job. The VA leadership should be flushed completely out of the system and replaced with people who care and who can be accountable. Not just at his level--immediately below it as well. Whoever supervises the VA hospital system should be cleaning out their office right this minute. The VA cannot tolerate a continuation of failure. And it should seek out people who actually deal with and solve problems like adults. Shredding evidence? What is this, Wall Street? No, it's the VA medical system. People die when careerism takes over.