Posts Tagged ‘veterans’
June 10th, 2014 at 5:26 pm
Interim VA Chief Adopts Boehner’s Private Option Fix

Last week House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) sent a letter to President Barack Obama demanding that “any veteran unable to obtain an appointment within 30 days [have] the option to receive non-VA care.”

This week it was revealed that 57,000 veterans have been waiting 90 days or longer for care from VA facilities.

But at a time when the White House is dithering, the acting VA chief is adopting Boehner’s approach.

“The interim VA secretary said he would spend $300 million to increase hours for VA medical staffers and contract with private clinics to see veterans who are unable to get care through VA medical centers,” reports the Washington Post.

Kudos to Sloan Gibson, the temporary VA secretary, for leveraging the private sector to care for those who’ve rendered the highest public service.

June 4th, 2014 at 7:00 pm
Boehner to Obama: All Vets on VA Wait Lists Should Get Private Option

“All veterans on waiting lists should be able to easily access care outside the VA without waiting for a potentially corrupt facility to approve their request,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) writes today in a letter to President Barack Obama. “Our veterans should not be left in limbo, relying on what your own audit acknowledges is a ‘systematic lack of integrity within some Veterans Health Administration facilities.’”

As an immediate remedy Boehner calls on Obama to support legislation coming from the House Veterans Affairs Committee that would allow “any veteran unable to obtain an appointment within 30 days the option to receive non-VA care.”

If the president and his congressional allies have a better alternative they better put it forward. Too many veterans are waiting.

June 3rd, 2014 at 5:54 pm
Vet Groups Part of VA’s Dysfunction?

Recently, Yuval Levin wrote a characteristically sober and insightful post about the structural problems afflicting not just the Veterans Affairs hospital system, but the VA itself.

Amid other obstacles to reform, Levin explains why certain veterans groups share some of the blame for the VA’s managerial mess.

It is impossible to overstate the political power of the veterans’ interest groups over the VA. The simplest way to describe it is that they get everything they want, period. There are many powerful interest groups in Washington, but because their domain is carefully limited and politically and culturally sensitive, the vets’ groups have a kind of command of their arena that I don’t think any other sort of interest group approaches. And this is a big part of the reason why the VA is so dysfunctional, because it is not subject to congressional or administrative oversight in the usual sense. It answers fundamentally to the vets’ groups. They often informally review its annual budget request before it goes to OMB. They are uniquely involved in drafting budgets on the congressional side. They are considered a necessary signoff on every major decision. Their firm opposition to something is the end of the story. Their priorities are the VA’s priorities. And yet they are very well positioned to treat failures that result from their own distorting power over the system as reasons to increase their power.

Every successful interest group enjoys a certain amount of leverage to get what it wants, but the power exercised by veterans’ organizations that Levin describes is itself a scandal in need of reform. Somewhere the public’s commitment to serve those who served all got hijacked by lobbyists imposing policy choices that are clearly having deleterious effects on retired and disabled veterans. Any reform of the VA department needs to include whatever measures are necessary to uproot this latest case of regulatory capture.

November 11th, 2013 at 8:12 pm
Remember When Veterans Day Was Celebrated in October?

Kudos to the artful dodgers in the public relations office at the Department of Veterans Affairs. While preparing a lesson for my kids this morning on the history and significance of Veterans Day, I came across this delightful tidbit on the politics that motivated a brief change on when the holiday was celebrated.

“The Uniform Holiday Bill (Public Law 90-963 (82 Stat. 250)) was signed on June 28, 1968, and was intended to ensure three-day weekends for Federal employees by celebrating four national holidays on Mondays: Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Columbus Day,” says the VA’s website. “It was thought that these extended weekends would encourage travel, recreational and cultural activities and stimulate greater industrial and commercial production. Many states did not agree with this decision and continued to celebrate the holidays on their original dates.”

“The first Veterans Day under the new law was observed with much confusion on October 25, 1971,” the entry continues. “It was quite apparent that the commemoration of this day was a matter of historic and patriotic significance to a great number of our citizens, and so on September 20th, 1975, President Gerald R. Ford signed Public Law 94-97 (89 Stat. 479), which returned the annual observance of Veterans Day to its original date of November 11, beginning in 1978. This action supported the desires of the overwhelming majority of state legislatures, all major veterans service organizations and the American people.”

It’s not hard to understand why so many people were upset. In a previous part of the very same historical write-up, the VA mentions that since 1954, November 11 had been the universally celebrated day Americans celebrated its military veterans. The date is rooted in Armistice Day celebrations that commemorated the end of hostilities in World War I that “went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.” I.e. November 11, 1918.

And yet, despite all this, Congress tried to rewrite history so that federal workers could get a few extra guaranteed three-day weekends. I’m glad to see that grassroots opposition to such an inane federal power grab quickly and decisively resulted in a total repeal.

I’m also glad to know that this interesting piece of American history was included on a government website. I give a heartfelt hat tip to the nameless content writer who gave this husband and father hope that the same fighting spirit alluded to can still be summoned for even greater affronts to freedom today.

November 21st, 2012 at 4:47 pm
Thankful for Armed Services

At a conference in Colorado earlier this week on defense and foreign-policy issues — a conference sponsored by the Heritage Foundation and the El Pomar Foundation — there was plenty of food for thought on a host of topics. But as we move into Thanksgiving, I’ll focus here on how we should give thanks — and more than thanks, give the right sort of assistance — to those, less than 1 percent of the population, who wear this nation’s colors while bearing arms to protect us.

One of the most galvanizing speakers at the conference was Col. David W. Sutherland (Ret.), former special assistant to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and now a full-time advocate for service personnel and veterans.

“We’re not victims,” he said. “We’re veterans. We don’t need pity; we need opportunity.” Veterans, he said, need “recognition and ‘connection’.”  They need education, employment, and access to health care. The approximately 50 percent of veterans who emerge unscathed from their service make better workers, have more education already, earn more money, and overall just make better citizens. But some 50 percent of veterans suffer from wounds physical or mental; they too can, and usually do, make more productive workers and citizens, but they need outreach from the community to help get them re-engaged with civilian life.

An average of 350,000 active-duty service members transition out of the military every year — but next year, some 1 million will do so. The Veterans Administration does a good job providing services to vets once the vets are in the VA system — but, alas, the average time for processing initial claims is an astonishing three years. Those just happen to be the three most important years during which a veteran either does or doesn’t re-engage productively. Obviously, in addition to improving the VA’s screening process to make it more helpful, more efficient, and in some cases less outright antagonistic, the VA should also do a much better job at helping veterans connect with the tens of thousands of non-profits and other agencies that provide all sorts of assistance, opportunities, etcetera.

Meanwhile, the rest of us can reach out to veterans by helping them navigate their return to civilian life. Business owners and human resources professionals, in particular, should recognize that  the training veterans receive and the character they build mean they often have far higher “upsides” as employees than the ordinary job applicant might offer — even if, on the front end, for those 50 percent who are somehow wounded by their experiences, it might take a little extra effort to integrate them into private-sector systems.

All of this is by way of poor summary of the gist of the powerful message, based on a galvanizing presentation, from Col. Sutherland. I’m actually not doing justice to the tenor of his message, which was far more upbeat than I can capture — far more focused on how veterans make superb assets to almost any organization or community.

So let’s be thankful for their service — and let’s show our gratitude by reaching out in every way we can to bring those veterans back more fully into our workplaces, our communities, our lives.

Happy Thanksgiving.

August 16th, 2012 at 4:31 pm
Podcast: Hiring Our Heroes Initiative Helps Veterans and Military Spouses
Posted by Print

In an interview with CFIF, Bryan Goettel, Director of Communications for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Hiring Our Heroes program, discusses the nationwide grassroots initiative to help veterans and military spouses find employment in the private sector.

Listen to the interview here.