Tag Archives: Veteran

Veterans Are Prime Targets for Phone Scams, Pitches for Upfront Benefits Buyouts

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Con a Vet

Images:  USA Today

“USA TODAY”

“What makes them more vulnerable is technology and patriotism,” said Doug Shadel, lead researcher for AARP’s Fraud Watch Network.

Con artists will tell you, he said, the best way to scam a vet is to pretend to be a vet. In general, veterans may be more willing to trust someone who claims to have served in the military than those who have not.”


“Military veterans are a prime target for telephone scams and even more likely to end up as fraud victims than the general public, according to a new survey released by AARP.

The AARP survey reports that veterans can be victimized twice as often as the rest of the public. The research indicates that about 16% of U.S. veterans have lost money to fraudsters, compared with 8% of others during the past five years.

“What makes them more vulnerable is technology and patriotism,” said Doug Shadel, lead researcher for AARP’s Fraud Watch Network.

November is National Veterans and Military Families Month and a good time to remind vets that a call that seemingly comes out of the blue isn’t really a fluke at all. An amazing amount of information is available on databases and via social media that can help con artists accurately target veterans.

The AARP Fraud Watch Network and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service announced on Wednesday the launch of Operation Protect Veterans — a national campaign to warn the military about scams. Operation Protect Veterans will use ads, email messages, social media and a new website called http://www.aarp.org/ProtectVeterans to get the word out.

Scam warnings are being conveyed by phone, too, using the same tool as fraudsters.

Volunteers from the AARP Fraud Watch Network and the Postal Inspection Service planned to operate a day-long telephone bank — or what the program is calling a “reverse boiler room.”  Instead of hearing from con artists and crooks, vets were receiving calls with tips and information on how they can protect themselves.

Similar phone banks will be run in the months ahead.

Veterans lose money to all sorts of scams, including tech support scams, those involving fake business and job opportunities, and charity scams that play up connections to veterans, according to those surveyed.

About 80% of the veterans surveyed said they have encountered scams that specifically target vets or the military.

“They get all the same scam calls we get, except they also get a lot more of these things that target veterans,” Shadel said.

Here’s a look at some red flags:

Beware of benefits buyout offers

According to the AARP research, veterans who end up as scam victims may have faced a significant financial loss or could be juggling a sizable amount of debt. Some have suffered a serious injury, illness or struggle with mental health or addiction issues.

Scams offer vets cash in exchange for their future disability or pension payouts.

Watchdog groups warn that benefits buyout offers can turn out to give you just a fraction of the value of the benefit and, in some cases, the vet could end up losing eligibility for benefits such as Medicaid and other assistance.

The ads online and elsewhere, however, hold out a different vision — of leveraging a military pension or benefits by exchanging a “future trickle of income for cold, hard cash in your hands today.”

Chad Wright, 46, of Salley, S.C., said he turned to one of these programs to get out of a tight spot when he, his wife and four daughters were threatened with losing their home in 2013.

Wright, who served in the U.S. Army from 1989 to 1994, injured his spine during a parachute training jump. He receives 40% military disability. And he signed a contract with a company called BAIC to get a lump sum upfront in early 2014.

He thought he’d get a fairly large, five-figure payout. But before he got any money, the firm forced Wright to use most of the money to pay off existing creditors. Wright questions whether much of the alleged debt was even his because he was the victim of identity theft, so a thief could have racked up bills by opening credit cards in his name.

He ended up with about $8,000 from the benefits payout.

Wright is a plaintiff in a suit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina in Greenville against BAIC Inc., the Voyager Financial Group, and others.

Wright, who works in a mail room at the VA hospital in Columbia, S.C., said he had no idea that such agreements to purchase military pensions or benefits were prohibited under the Federal Anti-Assignment Acts. He was not aware that the effective rate of interest he’d pay exceeded legal limits.

Exchanging future pension payments for upfront cash turns into an expensive way to borrow. The suit notes that the undisclosed effective interest rates or finance charges charged to veterans who want a lump sum advance on pensions can range between 25% and 47.18%. You’d owe far more over time than you borrowed up front.

Wright said such outfits prey on people who face financial problems, much like payday loan or check cashing outfits.

“They’re using people,” he said. “It’s taking advantage of someone’s situation. I wouldn’t want to be the person making money off that.”

Fundraising that benefits telemarketers, not vets

Some sketchy pitches can be made to raise money for veterans where the money you donate can go mostly to pay telemarketers, not vets.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced a settlement Monday involving 24 states and the VietNow National Headquarters, an Illinois nonprofit that ended up being dissolved.

“This settlement rids the country of a veterans charity that deceived donors, helped very few veterans and largely served to enrich its professional fundraisers,” Schuette said.

VietNow — which also used the name VeteransNow — told donors that a minimum of 12% after expenses was given to veterans in a given state, such as Michigan. But the group did not have local programs.

VietNow raised nearly $2 million nationwide. But, Schuette said, most of that cash was paid to fundraisers and less than 5% of the money went to charitable programs, with even less money directly helping veterans.

Vets are encouraged to research groups before giving any money.

An online searchable database is available to research charities at the Michigan Office of the Attorney General site at http://www.michigan.gov/ag.

False claims of additional benefits

Shady investment advisers can claim that a vet could snag additional government benefits by overhauling their investment holdings, according to the AARP warning.

But such claims may not be true and you could end up facing some high fees and expenses. The best bet: Get credible information on how to qualify for veterans’ benefits by contacting your state veterans’ affairs agency. Visit the National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs at http://www.nasdva.us and click on “Links” for connections to individual state offices.

Con artists pretend to be someone official

Veterans are warned to watch out for callers who are pretending to work for the VA and then ask for Social Security information over the phone. Caller ID can be spoofed to look real.

Consumer watchdogs also note that fraudsters have put some fake numbers online that are nearly identical to the number veterans dial to find out whether they’re eligible to use approved health care providers outside of the VA system.

“Veterans call the fake number and a message prompts them to leave their credit card information in return for a rebate. They debit your account, and the vet gets nothing in return,” the AARP site notes.

Don’t fall for a wrong number. The correct number for the Veterans Choice Program is 866-606-8198.”

https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/columnist/tompor/2017/11/09/veterans-prime-targets-phone-scams-pitches-upfront-benefits-buyouts/846696001/

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VA Buying System Archaic & Improvement Slow

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“FCW”

GAO Report:   ordering interface looks like something from when people “first started using computers.”

The VA procurement policy framework as being “outdated and fragmented,” with different procurement regulations covering different parts of the agency. Revisions and standardization of the VA’s overarching procurement regulation isn’t due until 2018.

The Department of Veterans Affairs embarked on an update of its fragmented, overlapping and out-of-date procurement system in 2011. Capitol Hill critics say implementation could be going faster.

“Companies doing business with the VA don’t know what the rules are, and even the VA contracting officers get confused,” said Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) at a Sept. 20 House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing.

Rep. Ann Kuster (D-N.H.) said the way the system works right now is “unacceptable” and that she will be “anxiously waiting” any updates to the system.

Greg Giddens, VA’s executive director for acquisition, logistics and construction, said the agency has “strategies in place that align with GAO’s recommendations” in most areas of oversight concern.

Acting Chief Procurement and Logistics Officer Rick Lemmon said the agency is in the process of developing and launching a new Windows-based ordering interface, to replace the aging, text-based legacy system in fiscal year 2017. The current VA system is integrated with the agency’s homegrown VistA health record system, and is coded using the legacy MUMPS computer language.

Giddens noted that VA is in the midst of a financial management IT initiative, and launching plans for a digital healthcare platform. Both of these efforts “will impact legacy and contemporary supply-chain systems and interfaces, as well as influence system-improvement alternatives and investment decisions over the next two to five years,” he said.”

https://fcw.com/articles/2016/09/21/va-procurement-oversight.aspx?admgarea=TC_Management

 

Congress’s Female Combat Vets Speaking Up On Military Issues

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Women Combat Vets

“THE WASHINGTON POST”

“There are now four female combat veterans in Congress.

And they have something to say about the changing face of the Armed Forces, which is officially open to women joining combat units across the board.

They are a diverse group: Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) is a former Black Hawk helicopter pilot, and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) served in the military police in Kuwait. Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) flew A-10s for the Air Force, and Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) served in the Iowa National Guard.

But they are speaking together in Congress just as the Pentagon is implementing sweeping changes to the face of the military. And as they raise their voices, their colleagues are listening to them on issues such as sexual harassment in the military, expanding family leave and planning options for soldiers, and – most recently – whether women should be eligible for the draft.

“There’s still a lot of misperception that exists and a lot of misinformation, though by and large most people are sincerely interested in learning more and hearing more from us” about women in combat roles, Gabbard said in an interview. “We’re coming at this as a continuation of the service to our country.”

The foursome is hardly a sisterhood-in-arms – they are divided ideologically, and their interactions outside of the Armed Services committee rooms are relatively infrequent, although Gabbard and McSally belong to the same morning workout group.

But in a short period of time, the women have become go-to authorities in a legislative arena traditionally dominated by men – and especially male veterans. And their experience in the male-dominated military has taught them important lessons about how to survive in Washington.

“I mean, it [Congress] is a male-dominated institution … so it felt very, um, ‘familiar’ is probably the right word,” McSally said in an interview, laughing. “But I learned a lot along the way in the military on how to figure out how to be credible, respected and effective in that environment, when you are potentially the only woman at the table.”

Of the 102 veterans serving in Congress, these four are the only women.

Each is fiercely proud of her military service and looks back fondly on the bulk of her interactions with fellow soldiers, commanders and underlings in the military. But each also has distinct memories of how being a woman in uniform meant being treated differently.

“There were different missions I had volunteered for, along with other females in our unit, and we were told we weren’t allowed to participate in those missions simply because we were female,” Gabbard recalled of her time as a military police platoon leader in Kuwait.

“When I was overseas, I had two senior officers from another battalion who were not good to deal with,” Ernst said, alluding to overt harassment during her deployment with the Iowa National Guard. “Sexual harassment certainly exists.”

For McSally and Duckworth, the differences were palpable before they even left basic training.

McSally wanted to be an Air Force doctor, but “the reason I decided to be a fighter pilot,” she explained, “is because they said that I couldn’t.”

“It motivated me to just say, you know, this is wrong, and I’m going to be a part of proving that it’s wrong,” she said.

For the female Republican veterans especially, issues pertaining to women in combat can put them at odds with their party leadership. But change from within the system, they say, is part of the job.

“I joke that I believe part of my calling in life is to create cognitive dissonance in people. First it was ‘women warriors,’ and now it’s ‘feminist Republican,’ ” McSally said. “But just to clash people’s stereotypes and make them have to choose.”

“We have very few people that actually have backgrounds in national security,” she continued. “So when I speak on a variety of issues, hopefully they take that into consideration.”

Duckworth has a similar story: She entered the Army speaking four languages and thinking she would become a linguist. But when her superiors told her, as the only woman in her graduating class of ROTC cadets, that she didn’t have to consider combat roles like her male colleagues, she changed her mind.

“It’s why I became a helicopter pilot,” Duckworth said. “And what I love about the military is if you can do the job, then you’re part of that group – at the end of the day, it’s the ultimate meritocracy.”

But as lawmakers, getting people to hear their arguments about women in the military can be hard. Often, the female veterans find themselves repeating the same points to colleague after colleague, person after person, trying to change minds one by one.

The latest issue requiring a sustained persuasion campaign is the debate about whether women should be subject to the draft – something all four female combat veterans favor, even though none of them believe a draft is still necessary.

“It’s about equality,” said Duckworth, a former Army pilot whose Black Hawk helicopter and was shot down over Iraq in 2004.

“If we’re going to have a draft, then everyone should register,” she said.

Male veterans in Congress started the debate as a way of challenging President Obama’s recent decision to open all U.S. military combat roles to women.

But the effort to shock lawmakers into repudiating the new policy backfired when a majority of House and Senate Armed Services committee members supported the change to have women ages 18 to 25 register for the Selective Service.

GOP leaders have tried to stamp out the issue, stripping the draft language from the House’s defense policy bill and releasing a convention party platform opposing women in combat. The question will ultimately be resolved later this year when Congress finalizes a defense policy bill.

But in the meantime, the four women have been pushing back against the most common emotional arguments surrounding the draft — that is, no one would want their own wife, sister or daughter risking her life on the front lines.

“It’s a ‘gotcha’ — because ‘women shouldn’t be in combat. … I’m going to make your daughter sign up,’ ” Duckworth said, shrugging. “Great. I’ll go register her right now, she’s 18 months old.”

Said Ernst: “I believe we all need skin in the game, and my daughter will turn 18 here in a little over a year. And certainly — do I think she should sign up? Yes, I do. So it is personal to me.”

The issue of women in the draft is just one of many traditionally driven by male veterans on topics such as wars, weapons systems and persistent reports of sexual assault in the military.

Congress’s female veterans rarely agree unanimously on any major military issue other than the role of women in combat, now playing out in the debate over the draft.

All favor instituting standards and policies that would help recruit and retain more female troops.

But they differ over how to address the scourge of sexual harassment in the services, and the extent to which the government should shoulder the cost of more parental-leave and fertility-assistance options for enlisted soldiers.

On the question of fertility assistance, Duckworth, Gabbard and McSally support a new Pentagon pilot program to help service members continue to have children even if injured in combat. But Ernst says it’s not always feasible to pay for such measures — desirable as they may be — while the Defense Department is in a budget squeeze.

They are also divided on how to respond to sexual assault in the military, an issue of heated debate in the Senate, where Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) – neither of whom served in the military – have been driving the standoff over whether cases should be prosecuted outside the chain of command.

Democrats Duckworth and Gabbard support Gillibrand’s approach to take such cases out of the chain of command and hand them over to a military prosecutor. Gabbard has led that legislative effort in the House.

But Republicans McSally and Ernst who has dealt with a situation in which a soldier under her command was accused of rape – both said they are seeing enough progress to allow commanders to consider the issue.

Still, both took deep breaths before answering this question, adding that they reserved the right to change their minds if the military does not continue to significantly improve in this area.

The four have, however, found common cause in less politically divisive initiatives, such as McSally’s bid to secure burial rights for female World War II pilots at Arlington National Cemetery, a bill that became law this spring.

As for the draft and women serving in combat roles, all four are united in advising their colleagues against typecasting.

Some of the four would also like to use their influence to shed light on lower-profile issues affecting women in the military.

Elements of basic procurement may have to change, Duckworth said, recalling how the cut of her flight suit made the prospect of going to the bathroom while on mission a near-impossibility. As women move into new combat roles, the Pentagon and defense contractors will have to make changes to accommodate women’s bodies.

Establishing achievable but fair performance standards for women is more complicated than it seems, Ernst warned.

Even haircut policies can cause a problem, McSally said. Letting women evade the traditional buzz cut “can add to resentment” or allegations of special treatment for women, she said.

Some things, the female veterans argue, will just be worked out in time as the military matures to accept and promote more women, such as Air Force Gen. Lori Robinson, who in May became the military’s first female combatant commander.

“As we get more women from my generation who served in combat roles and who actually saw real combat move up … you’re going to see some of the problems get more attention and be resolved,” McSally said.

But generational changes come slowly. And so all four are committing themselves to a long road ahead.

“I’ve lived through this nonsense for 26 years,” McSally said, referring to stereotypes about women in the military. “It’s a part of my journey in service. If you’ve got to change people’s minds one at a time, then you need to do it.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/wp/2016/08/02/congresss-four-female-combat-veterans-are-speaking-up-on-military-issues/?utm_campaign=Defense%20EBB%2008-03-16&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Sailthru

A Hidden World Growing Beyond Control

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“WASHINGTON POST”

“The top-secret world created in response to Sept. 11, 2001, has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs or how many programs exist within it.

The system put in place to keep the United States safe is so massive that its effectiveness is impossible to determine.

These are some of the findings of a two-year investigation by The Washington Post that discovered what amounts to an alternative geography of the United States, a Top Secret America hidden from public view and lacking in thorough oversight.

The investigation’s other findings include:

* Some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States.

* An estimated 854,000 people, nearly 1.5 times as many people as live in Washington, D.C., hold top-secret security clearances.

* In Washington and the surrounding area, 33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since September 2001. Together they occupy the equivalent of almost three Pentagons or 22 U.S. Capitol buildings – about 17 million square feet of space.

* Many security and intelligence agencies do the same work, creating redundancy and waste. For example, 51 federal organizations and military commands, operating in 15 U.S. cities, track the flow of money to and from terrorist networks.

* Analysts who make sense of documents and conversations obtained by foreign and domestic spying share their judgment by publishing 50,000 intelligence reports each year – a volume so large that many are routinely ignored.”

http://projects.washingtonpost.com/top-secret-america/articles/a-hidden-world-growing-beyond-control/

New Veteran’s Prescription Drug Law

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Vets and Addiction

Image: aforeverecovery.com

“MILITARY TIMES”

“A new law designed to curb opiate and heroin abuse.

It includes tougher prescription guidance for Veterans Affairs medical facilities nationwide.

Sought by the family of Marine veteran Jason Simcakoski, who died of an accidental overdose at the Tomah, Wisconsin, VA Medical Center in 2014, the changes are designed to strengthen VA pain management guidance and training, improve prescription oversight and promote alternative therapies.

Under the bill, VA must ensure that its prescribers are schooled in the latest practices and that all medical facilities stock overdose countermeasures such as naloxone and establish pain management teams to oversee opioid prescriptions for veterans with non-cancer-related pain.

“The bill recognizes that too often, these drugs have been used inappropriately and ineffectively, and because they are so powerful and so addictive, this inappropriate use is very dangerous,” said Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., a sponsor of the veterans provisions.

The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, which passed the Senate on Wednesday by a vote of 92-2 and is expected to be signed by President Obama, authorizes $181 million in new funding for a range of measures designed to fight the national opiate abuse epidemic.

The bill requires the VA to ensure health care providers can access and provide information to state prescription databases. It also gives patient advocates more independence by providing an avenue for reporting patient concerns outside the hospital’s chain of command.

It promotes alternatives to incarceration for those with substance abuse issues, to include grants to expand veterans treatment courts, and it broadens the number of health care providers who can oversee patients prescribed medications for opioid addiction by allowing some nurse practitioners and physician assistants to facilitate treatment.

Simcakoski died Aug. 30, 2014, in the Tomah hospital’s short-stay mental health unit from “mixed drug toxicity,” having taken 13 prescribed medications, including several that cause respiratory depression, in a 24-hour period.

Staff psychiatrists had added new medications to Simcakoski’s lengthy list of prescriptions in the days preceding his death and according to Baldwin, both Simcakoski and his family members had questioned staff whether the treatment was appropriate.

Veterans also told a Center for Investigative Reporting journalist that distribution of narcotics was so rampant at Tomah, they nicknamed the place “Candy Land” and the center’s chief of staff Dr. David Houlihan the “Candy Man.”

According to Baldwin, the patient advocacy measures in the new legislation were most important to the Simcakoski family.

“In Jason’s case, he and his family questioned the treatment. But nevertheless, the patient advocate answered to the prescribing physician and the hospital chief of staff. That’s not independence,” she said.

According to a 2014 VA inspector general report, the Veterans Health Administration issued 1.68 million prescriptions for opioids to 440,000 outpatients, or 7.7 percent of all VA patients, in 2012.

The IG found that 13.1 percent of those prescribed opioids had an active substance use issue and 7.4 percent of patients taking opioids also had a prescription for benzodiazepine — a combination that can cause respiratory depression and death.

In 2012, the Center for Investigative Reporting published an analysis showing that VA prescriptions for opiates such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, methadone and morphine have increased 270 percent over the past 12 years.

The investigation also found that on average, VA has issued more than one opiate prescription per narcotic-prescribed patient for the past two years.

Baldwin said the Simcakoski family worked hard to make sure the VA provisions were included in the final bill, and she praised their efforts.

“This bill may have a real impact on the chances of [a veteran] becoming addicted,” Baldwin said. “My goal is to prevent Jason’s tragedy from happening to other veterans and their families.”

http://www.militarytimes.com/story/veterans/2016/07/14/anti-addiction-bill-includes-va-measures/87083870/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=DFN%20EBB%207.15.16&utm_term=Editorial%20-%20Early%20Bird%20Brief

Considering the Role of the Defense Industry on the 4th of July – 2016

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Free Download at “Academia. edu

In 1968, Ken Larson came home from serving two US Army tours in Vietnam, having been awarded five medals, including a Bronze Star.

For 36 years thereafter he participated in the design, development and production of large scale weapons systems under Federal Government and Foreign Military Sales Contracts.

He worked in several different disciplines for the companies that produced these weapons, negotiating and controlling the associated contracts with procurement agencies in the U.S. Armed Forces and allied countries. 

“ODYSSEY OF ARMAMENTS”  is a free Academia.edu download below, detailing the twenty-five weapons and communications systems to which Ken was assigned and the twelve companies that produced them.  Many are in use in the Middle East today.

His  account supplies the reader with personal insights into the management of the US Government Military Industrial Complex, the largest of our federal agencies and a principle contributor to our national debt. 

https://www.academia.edu/9606784/Odyssey_of_Armaments

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Ken Larson

 

Ghosts of Vietnam: Reports of Spitting on Veterans

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“WASHINGTON POST”

Veterans wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan were staying at the Laketown Wharf resort in Panama City during a recent retreat when they and the American flag allegedly were urinated on by fraternity brothers also staying there for spring break.

One of the veterans also reported that he and his service dog were spat upon — an act that particularly hearkens back to the Vietnam War, when troops said they were deeply hurt and outraged that anti-war protesters did so.

Linda Cope, the founder of Warrior Beach Retreat, told reporters this week that the college students also threw marshmallows at the veterans’ cars and broke flags off their vehicles.

The executive director of the fraternity involved, Zeta Beta Tau, released a statement Thursday saying that the organization is aware of the reports, and said “there is no doubt that some of our members engaged in ugly and unacceptable behavior.” Activities at two chapters, the University of Florida and Emory University, have been suspended while an investigation continues. Three members of the fraternity already have been expelled.

“On behalf of our entire organization, I want to apologize to veterans, both those who were in Panama City Beach, and those who have felt the pain from afar, as well as to their families and all who support the Warrior Beach Retreat and had worked to make it a positive and meaningful occasion for attendees,” said the fraternity’s executive director, Laurence Bolotin. “I am deeply saddened that the actions of our members ruined this special event and failed to show the respect our military and their families so deserve.”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2015/04/24/ghosts-of-vietnam-fraternity-brothers-expelled-after-reports-of-spitting-on-veterans/

THE VA – AN UPDATE BY A SERVICE VETERAN ON DEPARTMENT PROGRESS AND PROCLIVITIES

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                                                                        Records Backlog at a VA Center
 
HISTORY
In September of 2012 this site published an article on the VA and its efforts to improve services to veterans as well as support small business. It was noted from personal experience that excellent care was being received by those in the system but that there was a growing backlog of cases and lack of an effective process to support getting a faster rate of entrance by those returning from the battlefield.
Also noted were disturbing trends in outlandishly expensive conferences and ridiculous video productions, wasting funds earmarked for veteran care. Red flags were going up in the Inspector General office regarding mismanagement of small business set aside programs as well.
UPDATE 
 
Much as occurred since September of 2012.
Last month (January 2015) I visited the VA in Minneapolis for a blood analysis in connection with my annual physical. I marveled at the hundreds of personnel who were going through the blood draw process at 8AM that morning. Polite technicians handled everyone carefully and courteously. My test results were on my doctor’s computer for my 11 AM appointment that day.
In 2012 I used the VA hospital courtesy center computers for veterans, finding them hopelessly out of date, security-bound and barely functioning. During my January 2015 visit I found beautifully functioning high speed computers and a courteous attendant serving many veterans at the the center
.
On my most recent visit I also went to the department that handles I.D. Cards and applied for a new one, having been informed my card was out of date. I was attended by a sharp technician who checked my credentials, transferred by data, took my picture and processed my application inside of 20 minutes and I was behind several others.
We who are in the system are still receiving fine service. 
 
But the massive number of returning veterans has strained the VA Health Care System to the point where the Department Secretary has been fired. A corporate executive from outside the system has been placed in charge. The department has been massively reorganized into 5 regions across the country to deal with a scandalous scenario of wait times and neglect in services for incoming veterans.
 
We forecast the above situation.  It is principally due to the fact that the 5 armed forces medical records systems are not connected to the VA Health Care System and the government contractors who have attempted to develop a system to connect them have failed miserably. 

“Next Gov”

Defense and VA Scrap New Electronic Health Record after estimated costs ballooned to $28 billion. By Congress’ count, the doomed effort – a result of the 2008 Defense Authorization Act – already cost taxpayers more than $1 billion. “
 

THE FUTURE
Congress is focusing on firing personnel as a remedy. In our view that is symptom-like remedy, not a solution.
We now have a corporate bureaucrat in charge of the department who is running it like a corporation, reorganizing and establishing a 5-headed bureau under him. There will no doubt be 5 separate fiefdoms to manage. Who knows what will happen to requirements for IT as existing IT system designs get split 5 ways?
Government contracting services companies are continuing to have a field day, growing rich and failing in the classic fashion we saw with the Obama Care roll out.  Success is not a money-making proposition for these firms.  They get their monthly bills paid as they march hundreds of service workers into government buildings to catch the latest whim of the civil service program managers as they change specifications depending on which way the wind is blowing in the massive bureaucracy.
We believe those who are lucky enough to have entered the system will continue to received good care.

We pity those younger or seasoned injured and ill who are knocking on the door and waiting to get in.

The Citizen and the Citizen Military – What Lies Ahead?

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Military pay raises are minimal, high profile overstuffed general officers and admirals are bad for morale (revolving door and pensions higher than career pay). What is the mix of technology and manpower required to fight today’s wars? How do we acquire, train and retain what we need? Reserves and National Guard involve long term multiple deployments with no assurance of a future for those who return.  We now have a chairman of the Armed Services Committee that wants to go to war with everyone:

John Mccain on Foreign Policy

The following are 3 perspectives from experts:

Can YOU answer the Citizen’s Question at the end?

PERSPECTIVE 1 – From a Military Man

Mark Seip a senior Navy fellow at the Atlantic Council recently noted the cultural and conception gap that exists between America and it volunteer armed forces:

“From the military side, many of us feel that we are unique to our generation in our calling; that we rose above the self-absorbed stereotype often associated with both Gen Xers and Millennials to protect our nation. We accept significant time away from our families, often subpar working conditions compared to our civilian counterparts, and average pay in relation to the skills we possess in order to wear the uniform. Moreover, as our nation’s warrior corps we assume a level of risk since time immemorial, that our occupation entails a distinct possibility of loss of life. Our service therefore requires a level of confidence and self-assurance to do our jobs and take the risks required.

Second, the widening gap is a function of exposure, both in numbers and in proximity. As Fallows points out, 2.5 million served in either Iraq or Afghanistan. To provide context, according to an NPR study 8.7 million served in some capacity in Vietnam. Furthermore, during Vietnam the majority of the generation at that time had fathers and mothers who served in some capacity either in WWII, Korea or both. Today, however, the actual number and/or the tangential family tie to the military is lower, reinforcing the distance between those in service and the rest of the nation.”

The Military/Civilian Gap 

PERSPECTIVE 2 – From a Military Contractor

Eric Prince, the former CEO of Black Water continues to insist that private security employees working for the U.S. government in warzones should be tried under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, instead of the civilian criminal justice system.

“It’s quite different for a jury that is 7,000 miles away from the warzone, looking at a split-second decision made seven years earlier in a warzone, minutes after a large car bomb goes off.” Prince said he hopes the guards’ convictions can be successfully appealed. “The last chapter is not written yet.”

Although he quit the business, Prince still sees a future for the private security business.

“The world is a much more dangerous place, there is more radicalism, more countries that are melting down or approaching that state.” At the same time, the Pentagon is under growing pressure to cut spending and the cost of the all-volunteer force keeps rising, Prince said.

“The U.S. military has mastered the most expensive way to wage war, with a heavy expensive footprint.” Over the long run, the military might have to rely more on contractors, as it will become tougher to recruit service members. Prince cited recent statistics that 70 percent of the eligible population of prospective troops is unsuitable to serve in the military for various reasons such as obesity, lack of a high school education, drug use, criminal records or even excessive tattoos. In some cases, Prince said, it might make more sense to hire contractors.”

 Eric Prince on Future Wars

PERSPECTIVE 3 – From a Military Analyst

“DEFENSE ONE” Notes:

“The film “American Sniper” about legendary Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle broke box office records this holiday season when the picture earned a million dollars in five days on only a handful of screens. It is time we grappled with America’s actual wars and their real-time, life and death consequences, once again with as much dedication as we line up to watch them play out on the big screen.

The military may be fighting a war. Or wars. But we, as a country, are not. In USA Today’s list of its most read articles of 2014, neither the war in Afghanistan nor the simmering fight in Iraq – to which U.S. troops are headed back – cleared the top 10. The same is true for Yahoo’s list of its most searched stories. No Iraq or Afghanistan in sight.

It is nearly inconceivable but somehow true that in the 2013 government shutdown, death benefits for the families of those killed in action fighting for the United States also shut off.”

 The Movies Vs. Real War

Citizen’s question: Could or should we reinstate the draft?

When All Else Fails – Reorganize – Largest Reorganization in Veterans Administration (VA) History

Standard

VA ICARE Brand“DEFENSE ONE”

“The Veterans Affairs Department is reorganizing its labyrinthine structure into a single, five-region national framework as part of a large-scale effort to improve services to veterans and reduce an entrenched bureaucracy responsible for mismanagement throughout the organization.

The department’s organizational realignment is part of what officials are touting as the largest reorganization in the VA’s history, sparked by last year’s scandal involving excessive patient wait times and the falsification of appointment scheduling records.

Microsoft Word - MyVA Regional Map.docx

“The regions, when complete and fully mature, will allow us to create a more cohesive and singular department from the veteran perspective,” said Scott Blackburn, director of the MyVA program management office in the department. “VA components will have better internal coordination and the ability to leverage shared services and experiences.” Blackburn said the realignment also would help the department offer enhanced training to employees across VA to better serve vets, as well as improve coordination and communication among workers.

(Related: Report Finds VA’s Monitoring System is Not Doing Its Job)

The current VA structure varies widely among the agencies and internal offices within the department. For instance, the Veterans Benefits Administration, which oversees benefits including compensation, home loans and education, is made up of four regions. The Veterans Health Administration has 152 medical centers within 23 Veterans Integrated Service Networks throughout the country. The National Cemetery Administration has five Memorial Service Networks and a central office. Several internal staff offices, including public affairs offices and information technology, have their own structures and are sprinkled across the United States.

“A lot of the whole point [of the realignment] is to internally sync up our structures for better coordination and more efficient operations,” Blackburn said during a Monday conference call with reporters. Bob Snyder, executive director of the MyVA program management office, said VBA, VHA, and NCA led the discussion on the realignment, settling on five regions after considering other options.

Practically speaking, however, the impact of this change on vets and employees at this point is not yet clear. But slashing VA jobs isn’t part of the plan to streamline the enterprise, Snyder said.

“This [realignment] is not about losing jobs,” Snyder said, responding to a reporter’s question. “There’s more than enough work to do across the VA that we need everybody we’ve got, and then some. Depending on what analysis you look at, we’ve got significant shortages in many of our specialties. This is not about cutting jobs.” Snyder added that the department is conducting “a thorough analysis of the positions we have.”

Both Snyder and Blackburn reiterated throughout the press briefing that the announcement was a “first step” in a long process, and that more analysis is necessary before a final plan is implemented.

“We want to make sure we are communicating early, often and honestly,” Blackburn said, responding to reporters’ confusion over the practical effects of the realignment, and officials’ inability to offer specific details right now. Blackburn said the VA would continue to share information about the plan as it unfolds.

As Secretary Bob McDonald said when he officially announced the reorganization in November, the goals is for vets to “know who to contact, know where to go on the websites, know what benefits are available” so that they can “easily connect with us to get the benefits and the services that they’ve already earned and deserved.”

The “MyVA” approach is designed to rebuild trust with vets, employees and the public. It revolves around five main areas: improving the veteran experience; improving the employee experience so they can better serve veterans; improving internal support services, such as human resources and financial management; establishing a culture of continuous improvement; and enhancing strategic partnerships.”

http://www.defenseone.com/management/2015/01/va-announces-major-department-realignment/103818/?oref=defenseone_today_nl