Wednesday, July 30, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Advice for the new VA secretary

By
From page A8 | July 07, 2014 |

MEMO TO: Veterans Affairs Secretary-designate Robert A. McDonald

RE: The VA’s crisis is even worse than you think!

Your good news is that the White House, Congress and Department of Veterans Affairs are no longer in denial about the reality that things have gone terribly wrong in the VA hospitals. Indeed, all America finally knows the systemic shame of VA hospitals’ treatment delays, faked records and cover-ups.

And apparently, the monstrous job of fixing the VA is yours. Republicans are praising your experience as Procter & Gamble’s CEO. Your Senate confirmation seems assured.

But the publicly released summary of White House deputy chief of staff Rob Nabors’ excellent tough-truth VA report to the president, which focused mainly on VA hospitals, leaves one major concern: Your news bosses probably still haven’t grasped the full breadth, depth and pervasiveness of all that was allowed to go so wrong, for so long, at the VA.

VA pension and benefits claims bureaucracies are failing our military veterans and their families as shamefully as the backlogged VA hospitals are.

PENSIONS: Bill, a severely wounded World War II veteran, had a postwar career in the post office. When he died in January 2011, his widow, Diane, simultaneously sent the VA and U.S. Postal Service all the vital documents, requesting her share of both pensions as Bill’s surviving spouse.

USPS immediately calculated Diane’s pension share and her first check arrived when Bill’s would have, in February. But half a year went by without a VA pension check. As her living expenses mounted, the VA asked for documents she’d already sent. I’d heard of Diane’s plight, asked a VA official about it; Diane got a phone call from the VA the next day. Diane’s first VA pension check arrived in August.

I asked a top VA official why the VA couldn’t simply do what the USPS did for the widow. The official launched into a long explanation about VA lawyers and the need to determine if Bill died due to old war injuries, which would mean a larger pension. So I naturally asked: Couldn’t the VA instantly pay her the base pension? And then pay her more, retroactively, if it proved to be a service injury death?

The VA official’s eyes widened, he slapped his palm down on the conference table, then scribbled a note to himself. Yes, he said, that’s a better way to do it. He’s a good person; but his managerial mind has been shaped by the VA’s cultural mindset. Changing that mindset is the new VA secretary’s most urgent challenge.

BENEFITS: When VA claim adjudicators issue denials – as they often do – an appeals process begins. The appeals court remands some 60 percent of the claim denials back to the adjudicators for reconsideration due to one mistake or another. And it all starts over again. The top level appeals court has ruled the denials of the VA adjudicators and next level board of appeals were right in a mere 24 percent of the cases that got to the court. No wonder the VA’s benefits claim backlog was recently reported to be one million.

HOSPITALS: Here’s a proposal – give veterans a Vet-Med card that works like a Medicare card, and pays for treatment where service is best and waiting times are brief. Not all hospitals need to provide top-level treatment for all maladies. In cities, some hospitals send major cardiac and cancer cases to another hospital specializing in those problems.

At the start of the Obama presidency, I sought to persuade the new VA secretary, Gen. Eric Shinseki, to focus on the full scope of VA failings. I’d just written a book chronicling sad cases of VA delays and denials of benefits and treatment. But back then Shinseki was in denial about what the book – titled, “Vets Under Siege: How America Deceives and Dishonors Those Who Fight Our Battles” – was warning.

Back then he didn’t believe the subtitle. And especially, he probably didn’t grasp the validity of my conclusion that an adversarial mindset had permeated the VA. Too many employees saw their jobs as assuring veterans didn’t get benefits they didn’t deserve. I urged that VA employees must see themselves first as veterans’ advocates, tasked with what they’d earned. Nothing more, but surely nothing less.

Even in his last days, Shinseki told Congress there were only a “limited” number of “isolated” cases where VA hospitals falsified delay records. Only in his last hours did the four-star general admit he’d been deceived by a “systemic … overarching environment and culture” within the VA.

There is one way our new bold VA secretary can change the VA mindset — by changing the VA’s name. Let all VA employees know, first and foremost, they now work for the Department of Veterans Advocacy.

Martin Schram, an op-ed columnist for McClatchy-Tribune, is a veteran Washington journalist, author and TV documentary executive. Readers may send him email at martin.schram@gmail.com.

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 2 comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • DanielJuly 07, 2014 - 8:27 am

    By the way vets are still dying due lack of healthcare and the "progressives" don't care other than it makes their deity Obama look bsd

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • DecemberJuly 21, 2014 - 10:30 am

    You truly have never worked for or been in a process where Congress governs and controls what you do and how it is done. 1st before you start barking about employees you need to understand the process. second yes it takes time to do things right when you do not have enough employees to do the job. Everyone is always yapping about government on one hand but then tying their hands on the other sit back and shout up until you know what the process is.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
.

Solano News

 
Solano County Fair set to open Wednesday

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A1 | Gallery

Marketing study looks at Berryessa resorts

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A1, 2 Comments | Gallery

 
Police arrest suspected intruder

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A3, 6 Comments | Gallery

Activity is Medicine program coming to Suisun senior center

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

 
Library teens plan summer reading party

By Glen Faison | From Page: A3

Fairfield tries to end Cordelia Road detour

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A3, 15 Comments | Gallery

 
Caltrans makes I-80 lane change

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A3, 5 Comments

 
 
Big-rig crash shuts down freeway onramp

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A5, 2 Comments | Gallery

 
Big-rig driver strikes telephone lines in Fairfield

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A6, 5 Comments | Gallery

 
Icon sends first A5 into the skies on maiden flight

By Susan Winlow | From Page: B7

 
‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ primed for big screen

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A7 | Gallery

Fairfield police log: July 27, 2014

By Glen Faison | From Page: A12

 
Suisun City police log: June 27, 2014

By Glen Faison | From Page: A12

Fairfield police log: July 28, 2014

By Glen Faison | From Page: A12

 
Suisun City police log: July 28, 2014

By Glen Faison | From Page: A12

Weather for Wedneday, July 30, 2014

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B14

 
.

US / World

Hamas demands for cease-fire and Israel’s concerns

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1, 1 Comment

 
Israel hits symbols of Hamas rule; scores killed

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

Fist bumps less germy than handshakes, study says

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2, 3 Comments | Gallery

 
California lifeguard injured by lightning improves

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

PG&E charged with obstruction over San Bruno blast

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Chevron California refinery overhaul up for vote

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

New California fines for wasting water take effect

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

 
4 charged with murder in death of USC student

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8

Crews make gains on 2 California wildfires

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8 | Gallery

 
Tuberculosis patient who refused care is arrested

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8 | Gallery

Last crew member of Enola Gay dies in Georgia

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

 
Poll: Immigration concerns rise with tide of kids

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9 | Gallery

US, Europe impose tough new sanctions on Russia

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10 | Gallery

 
Shelling adds to mounting civilian toll in Ukraine

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Generation of tanners see spike in deadly melanoma

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12, 1 Comment

 
Senate confirms McDonald as VA secretary

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12 | Gallery

Body of young stowaway found in US cargo plane

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

 
Report: Health premiums rose significantly in 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12, 1 Comment

Highway, bridge money at risk: Senate to vote

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

 
Senate bill would end NSA phone records collection

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

Liberians in US worry about Ebola outbreak

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13

 
Top doctor dies from Ebola after treating dozens

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13, 1 Comment

.

Opinion

What kids don’t know would shock you

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11, 34 Comments

 
Cemetery support committee thanks sponsors

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11

 
Red light camera fate now uncertain in state

By Thomas Elias | From Page: A11

Obscure state agency creates big money problems

By Dan Walters | From Page: A11

 
Some people have missed the drought memo

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11, 17 Comments

.

Living

Today in History for July 30, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: July 30, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

What to do when ‘it’ hits the fan

By Barton Goldsmith | From Page: A2

 
I like Liam, but I think he’s interested in another girl

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: B5

Horoscopes for July 30, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: B5

 
A healthy afterschool snack that eats like a treat

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

A do-ahead dinner to make back-to-school smoother

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
You too can bake artisanal quality bread at home

By Elizabeth Karmel | From Page: B6

.

Entertainment

Music aside, Queen of Soul is pumped for fair food

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Sarah Palin launches online subscription channel

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7, 2 Comments | Gallery

‘Sharknado’ sequel has bite and lots of laughs

By Frazier Moore | From Page: A7 | Gallery

 
TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

.

Sports

Fairfield Indians blank Next Level Athletic to win SRL tournament title

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
NCAA settles head-injury suit, will change rules

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

49ers WR Brandon Lloyd enjoying return to NFL

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Schaub settles in as Raiders starting QB

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Husband arrested in death of NBA player’s aunt

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Triple-A brawl results in 11 suspensions

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Broken water main floods UCLA; 5 people rescued

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

49ers sign former Cardinals RB Alfonso Smith

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Vin Scully to return for 66th season in LA in 2015

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Mudcats tie Vacaville Admirals

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

 
No joke: Kings’ Cousins hopes for Team USA shot

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Liriano fans 11 in Pirates’ 3-1 win

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Athletics rally for 6 runs in 9th, beat Astros 7-4

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
This date in sports history for Wednesday, July 30, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

.

Business

Study: 35 percent in US facing debt collectors

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

 
Stocks end lower ahead of economic data

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Twitter 2Q results soar, stock flies high

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
McDonald’s could be liable for labor practices

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Food writers subpoenaed in ‘pink slime’ lawsuit

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
.

Obituaries

Robert Dale Myers Sr.

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Jeanetta M. Hale

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

Patricia Jo McDonald

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Jack L Hudack

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

.

Comics

Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5