American Veteran News 03.18.16

VA FINALLY MOVES TO FIRE DISGRACED PHOENIX EXECUTIVES… BUT IT COULD STILL TAKE TWO MORE YEARS — It’s been the better part of two years now since we first learned of the outrageous situation at the Phoenix, Arizona VA where veterans were kept on secret waiting lists for months or years to hide the fact that they weren’t able to get in to see a doctor. That revelation led to a deeper look at the agency where one scandal after another has turned up since then. When the details of the original scandal were revealed, three executives at the Arizona facility were identified as being responsible for the horrific lack of care our veterans were seeing and the cover-up of their misdeeds. They were Lance Robinson, Brad Curry and Dr. Darren Deering.

VA ARKANSAS SUPERVISORS GO UNPUNISHED FOR WAIT TIME MANIPULATION — A government watchdog confirmed serious wait time manipulation at VA facilities in Arkansas, yet not a single supervisor received any kind of discipline for their involvement, according to documents obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation. So far, only two low-level employees have been disciplined in the form of a temporary written warning. The investigation clearly found that the scandal, which mostly affected the medical center in Little Rock, had “both non-supervisory and supervisory VAMC employees were improperly scheduling patient appointments by manipulating the appointment dates in the VA computer system.” Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System spokesman Debby Meece told Arkansas Online that employees were disciplined as a result of wait time manipulation. She declined to say exactly what the punishments consisted of, but claimed they were “not insignificant.” With internal documents in hand, the nature and scope of the punishments is now clear, throwing Meece’s claim into complete disrepute.

BOMBSHELL VA REPORT SHOWS SUICIDAL VETERANS RELEASED FROM HOSPITAL OR IGNORED — PHOENIX (KPHO/KTVK) – A bombshell new report on the Phoenix VA has been leaked. The reports tells of suicidal veterans who tried to check in for help, only to be turned away. Once those vets walked out the door, whistleblowers say they vanished. “They could be dead, could have gone home and put a bullet in their head. Again we have blood on our hands,” said whistleblower Brandon Coleman. He’s passionate and on a crusade for change. Coleman says he’s personally witnessed suicidal veterans walking out at the Phoenix VA, and no one was held responsible for it. “Oftentimes these veterans were eloping. It was well known throughout the VA that veterans were eloping from the emergency department. I got tired of it,” he said. Coleman took his complaints to the Office of Special Counsel and says he continues to face backlash and retaliation. It turns out in the final report signed by former Chief of Staff Robert Nabors, employees were found negligent. The report states that they did not adequately monitor emergency department patients with suicidal ideations, and didn’t correctly complete a suicide risk level assessment for at least one veteran.

BRINGING THE WAR HOME: THE RISING DISABILITY CLAIMS OF AFGHANISTAN WAR VETS — The recent ABC TV series on the Afghanistan war recounts the deaths of 41 Australian soldiers on active service. Unfortunately, the impacts of wars do not end when soldiers return home. Almost 100 times that number have now claimed war-related disabilities, including for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), hearing loss and musculoskeletal diseases. If past wars are a guide, the toll of disability will continue to rise for many decades to come. Every few months, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs releases updated information about accepted claims of veterans for war-related disability. Claims among Afghanistan veterans are rising rapidly:

CHUBBUCK MAN GETS PRISON FOR DEFRAUDING DISABLED VETERAN OF $260,000 — POCATELLO — A Chubbuck man was sentenced Wednesday in U.S. District Court to 18 months in prison for defrauding a disabled veteran and the federal government of nearly $260,000. Travis John Attanasio, 54, also will get three years of supervised release and U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge ordered Attanasio to pay $259,563 in restitution, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Idaho. Attanasio pleaded guilty to charges of wire fraud and theft of government funds on December 1. According to court proceedings, Attanasio admitted that between June 29, 2012, and October 30, 2014, he defrauded a disabled veteran and the federal government. Attanasio volunteered to serve as the fiduciary for the veteran, and instead of conserving the victim’s funds and monthly benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs, he spent them at various retail and online vendors, U.S. Attorney Wendy J. Olson said in the release.

VA UNVEILS NEW SES ACCOUNTABILITY OPTIONS AS SENATE FAST-TRACKS VETS OMNIBUS — The Veterans Affairs Department is changing its tune on new accountability provisions that it wants Congress to include in a forthcoming comprehensive legislative package. New proposals from VA Secretary Bob McDonald would reclassify medical center and Veterans Integrated Service Network directors, as well as other health care executives, under Title 38. The secretary would have the authority to hire, set pay, appraise and discipline those senior executives. The VA also is proposing an overhaul of the current, expedited disciplinary appeals process under the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014 (Choice Act). Most senior executives at VA not in the medical field would remain under Title 5, McDonald said. But he wants Congress to authorize the presidentially-appointed members of the Merit of Systems Protection Board — rather than MSPB administrative judges — to decide disciplinary appeals cases. “Because of the restrictions in the Choice Act, the judges in the MSPB, I think if they were here to defend themselves, they would say the 21-day limit, the fact that they couldn’t provide any remediated punishment, hemmed them in,” McDonald said during a March 15 legislative hearing before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. “The changes that we’ll make will add greater clarity and give more weight to the secretary’s interest in the process.”

SINCE 2008, TENNESSEE HAS CELEBRATED VIETNAM VETERANS’ DAY EACH MARCH 29 — This country has been involved in some type of war or police action or whatever since the early days of 1775 and maybe even back further. Some have been “popular,” if that’s a word that can be used to describe killing and mass destruction that goes along with what seems to have become the national pastime worldwide. Some have been necessary. World War I was a necessity, just as World War II was. It is somewhat ironic that WWI was declared the “war to end all wars”, yet shortly afterward, Adolf Hitler began to rattle his chains in Germany and the Japanese began inroads in the Asian area of the planet. And the next thing we knew, we were again up to our armpits in alligators who were intent or dominating the world. Obviously, the “war to end all wars” didn’t. This reminder of the hunger of men for power and world domination finally came to an end about 1945.

NEW MISSOURI HOUSING COMPLEX SERVES HOMELESS VETS — CARTERVILLE, Mo. — Lisa Woody’s cozy duplex now has an American flag flying out front and a yellow ribbon tied to one of the posts on the front porch. But not so long ago, Woody didn’t have a home to display her patriotism. She was one of the nearly 50,000 veterans in the United States who are considered homeless, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness. Woody said she lived in her car with her dog, Bella, in the Galena, Kansas, area for nine months. Now, she can put a more positive spin on the experience, describing it as being “like camping out.” Woody attributed her new outlook to her renewed faith “and this,” she said, as she gestured around the living room of her new duplex in Carterville. “I can smile now; getting this place has made everything turn around,” she said. Woody, 43, is a tenant in Patriot Park, a housing complex for homeless veterans completed late last year.

BILL WOULD REIMBURSE COMBAT-INJURED VETS FOR TAXED SEVERANCE PAY — Lawmakers on Thursday filed legislation intended to prevent states from taxing severance pay of combat-injured veterans, which one senator claims has resulted in some $78 million improperly taken from veterans. The money being taxed is the one-time lump sum disability severance pay veterans receive from the Defense Department, a payment that is not supposed to be taxed and would not be but for a glitch with the DoD’s automated payment system, according to lawmakers. “Most troubling is that we learned the government had known about this problem for decades yet continued to take this money from thousands of disabled veterans,” said Tom Moore, an attorney and manager of the Lawyers Serving Warriors Project at National Veterans Legal Services Program. “The sad truth is that the government essentially stole $78 million from disabled combat veterans because of an accounting problem it’s known about for years.” After looking at all the legal options, NVLSP determined that the only way to fix the problem was through legislation, Moore said. That legislation was filed by Sens. Mark Warner, D-Virginia, and John Boozman, R-Arkansas.

VA CASH-OUT REFINANCE FOR MAJOR EXPENSES — A loan can provide eligible borrowers with cash out of the equity from their homes to pay for major expenses and combine debt. In a cash-out refinance situation, the borrower refinances his or her mortgage with a higher principal balance and acquires the cash generated from the transaction. Borrowers who have been making their scheduled monthly mortgage payments may have begun to build equity in their homes. With most mortgages, scheduled payments for the first couple of years are applied primarily toward interest. If a house holds its value or increases in value, there may be some equity built up that the borrower can cash in on. Cash out of equity from a VA refinance is often used to pay off college loans, pay off credit cards, car loans, pay medical bills or make home improvements. Important expenses like these can often be refinanced into the mortgage at a lower interest rate than with short-term financing avenues. Sometimes a VA cash-out refinance loan can also provide a lower interest rate and monthly payments if the conditions are right. Borrowing money against a home is a major decision, which should be undertaken carefully with the long term financial picture in mind. Watch for our next article about in this series. More information about refinancing with a VA loan to get cash out of equity can be obtained by speaking with a VA mortgage professional.

ARMY, LAWMAKER CLASH OVER ARLINGTON EXCLUSION OF FEMALE WWII PILOTS — WASHINGTON — The acting secretary of the Army said Wednesday that not even President Barack Obama has the executive power to allow a group of pioneering female World War II military pilots to be interred at Arlington National Cemetery. Reversing the Army’s new exclusion of the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots will require legislative action by Congress, said Patrick Murphy, who gave the blunt assessment under questioning in the House by Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., a former combat pilot. “I know it is not the answer you want to hear but that is the answer,” Murphy said. It was the latest in a growing controversy over the Army’s decision last year to deny above-ground urn space in the cemetery to the female veterans who stepped forward from 1942-1944 to train pilots and ferry combat aircraft. Though not considered active-duty military at the time, the pilots have since received the Congressional Gold Medal, veterans benefits and renown as role models for females serving today.

COUPLE BUYS PURPLE HEART AT GOODWILL FOR $4.99, SENDS TO HERO’S FAMILY — A husband and wife in Arizona spotted a deal when they uncovered a Purple Heart with a $4.99 price tag at a Goodwill store, but they said they had a duty to find the real hero who received the medal, local media reported Wednesday. At first, the couple in Mesa had just one clue: the name inscribed on the back, Eual H. Whiteman, KNXV reports. Laurie Hardy said she soon learned Private Whiteman died in 1991, but that he may have surviving relatives who could tell his story. Hardy continued her search on Saturday by posting a photo on Facebook. The post made its way to a group called Veteran Buddy Finder. Eventually their search led them to the World War II veteran’s former sister-in-law Phyllis Lawson in Missouri, KNXV adds.


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