IG REPORTS DETAIL WHICH VA FACILITIES DOCTORED PATIENT WAIT-TIMES — MILCOM — Two years after whistleblower revelations of manipulated appointment times at the Veterans Medical Center in Phoenix led to findings that the problem was systemic across the Veterans Affairs Department, internal investigations into the matter are finally being released.
The reports, documenting the manipulation of wait-times at VA facilities across 19 states, reveal that in at least seven facilities the dates were falsified per order of supervisors, according to an article in USA Today, which acquired the documents through a Freedom of Information Act request.
The 71 reports are now available for viewing on the department’s website. The VA anticipates releasing another half dozen reports at least. It is also completing 30 site-specific investigations that it will release in the coming months, department spokesman James Hutton said.
The reports finally identify VA hospitals and clinics where appointment data was manipulated. In particular, inspector general concluded appointment dates were manipulated in accordance with supervisor instructions in facilities in seven states, including Arkansas, California, Delaware, Illinois, New York, Texas and Vermont.
REMAINS OF BOMBER CREW MAKE FINAL JOURNEY HOME — MILCOM — At 7:40 a.m. Jan. 25, 1944, five B-24 Liberator heavy bombers from the 308th Bombardment Group, 425th Squadron, took off from their base at Kunming, China, on a routine supply run to India. Their route took them over the Hump, a treacherous eastern stretch of tall peaks in the Himalayan mountains.
At 10:45 a.m., flying at 15,000 feet, the formation “was forced to break up due to extreme instrument weather conditions,” according to World War II documents on the mission. Clouds obscured the mountains’ tree lines; visibility was less than a mile. Each aircraft was on its own, trying to land safely in valleys or at the nearest airstrip.
All five bombers crashed.
Crews parachuted out of two aircraft and survived; a third bomber crashed, with two survivors. The fourth and fifth B-24s — Hot as Hell and Haley’s Comet — disappeared. Their crews were presumed dead.
After many years of work, the remains of some of Hot as Hell’s crew are making their final journey home. A repatriation ceremony is planned next week in New Delhi as part of Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s trip to India.
The return of the remains marks a victory in an incomplete recovery that started with luck and continues through determined persistence.
REMAINS OF KOREAN WAR SOLDIER RETURNED TO US — MILCOM — SAN FRANCISCO — The remains of a Korean War soldier have been flown back to the San Francisco Bay Area more than six decades after he went missing in South Korea.
Army Cpl. Robert Graham disappeared after Chinese forces attacked his combat battalion in February 1951, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Thursday.
Graham was captured and starved to death in a North Korean camp. He was 20 years old.
“Things are finally coming to closure for the family … after 65 years,” said James George, 59, of Fairfield, a retired Marine Corps master sergeant who escorted his uncle’s remains on a flight from Hawaii to San Francisco International Airport on Wednesday.
CALLS FOR CRIMINAL PROBE OF AURORA VA HOSPITAL PROJECT — AURORA SENTINEL — AURORA | U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Aurora, has joined another member of Congress in calling for a criminal probe of the Veterans Affairs hospital construction project in Aurora.
In a letter Wednesday to VA deputy inspector general Linda Halliday and VA Office of Accountability Review director Michael Culpepper, Coffman and Rep. Kathleen Rice, D-N.Y., asked for the respective offices “to make appropriate criminal referrals to law enforcement” regarding the cost overruns and mismanagement on the Aurora project.
The letter comes about a week after Coffman pressed for the full release of the VA’s Administrative Investigation Board findings on the Aurora VA hospital project, which has been delayed and only released in a summarized vesion to Congress.
Specifically, Coffman and Rice want a review of the AIB report and seek to have criminal referrals made — if “necessary and appropriate” — regarding VA officials who provided “knowingly inaccurate testimony” before Congress.
VA PRIVATIZATION REPORT UPSETS VETERANS’ SERVICE ORGANIZATIONS — CRAINS DETROIT BUSINESS — Should the Veterans Health Administration privatize its hospitals and outpatient centers over the next 20 years?
At least eight veterans’ service organizations, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars and The American Legion, say no. Well, they say it stronger than that. Ask a vet and you will get a much more colorful answer.
But a recently released 34-page report from seven of the 15 members of the VA’s Commission on Care calls for VA health care services to begin to be privatized for the nation’s more than 9 million vets.
VA CHIEF GETS PRISON TIME FOR LAP DANCES — DISABLEDVETERANS.ORG — One former VA chief was just sentenced to prison time for stealing federal funds that he used to pay for lap dances, hookers and gambling according to a US Attorney.
US Attorney Barbara McQuade said a former head at Ann Arbor VA embezzled $314,000 in cash and property from 2007 to 2013 when he was fired. The employee’s name was Glenn Alan Bates.
Bates supervised the Veterans Canteen Service and the VCS Patriot Store at the facility.
According to the US Attorney’s office:
“He stole the cash receipts of sales of commemorative military hats to veterans and others by volunteers at the VAMC. And he stole the cash receipts of several vending machines there. Bates deprived the VA’s Veterans Canteen Service of needed revenue and used it instead to patronize a strip club in Columbus, Ohio, where he paid for lap dances and sex. He also used the stolen funds to gamble at casinos.”
The judge also ordered Bates to served two years of supervised release and to pay restitution in the amount of $314,000. So after he serves his time, he will still be paying back his debts to the country.
Good for him.
UNAPPEALING: BACKLOG PERSISTS IN RESOLVING VET HEALTH APPEALS — ST. LOUIS AMERICAN — The VA town hall meeting held recently in North St. Louis County fetched the largest attendance yet, with veterans resolved to speak about health care issues rather than passively provide questions in writing, with staff selecting which (non-controversial) questions to answer aloud. Vets were asked not to speak specifically about their medical conditions to protect their privacy and to write questions or comments on cards provided to them.
Several administrators from the St. Louis Regional VA Office, VA medical and patient care, and Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery began the two-hour meeting by updating the audience the perceived vs. actual time it takes to get needed and follow-up medical appointments, construction progress at Jefferson Barracks, and progress on the backlog of health benefit claims and appeals processing.
VETERANS OMNIBUS BILL MOVES AHEAD, DESPITE BREWING FIGHT — MILITARY TIMES — The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee chairman says he’s confident Congress can still pass a veterans omnibus bill by Memorial Day, despite a brewing fight over new accountability measures for VA employees.
Details of the massive reform measure still have not been made public. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., said he spoke Tuesday to committee Democrats and the White House to build support for his omnibus draft, which will include not only the employment rules but also changes to the VA Choice Card program, new caregivers support, and a host of other issues.
“We have a great bill,” Isakson said. “Hopefully the president will get on board. If anybody needs it, he needs it, and our veterans deserve it. I’m optimistic, more so after our conference call.”
VETERANS GROUPS FIGHT STIGMA ASSOCIATED WITH HEPATITIS C — NPR — More veterans say the military gave them hepatitis C during the Vietnam War. They say the virus was spread via a vaccination jet injector gun, and the same gun was used on hundreds of soldiers.
PINELLAS AIR FORCE VETERAN PLANS VA AGENT ORANGE FIGHT IN D.C. — WFLA — As U.S. forces fought their way through Vietnam’s jungles, rice paddies and villages, enemy fire often pinned them down. That’s where the F-4 came in. The interceptor fighter-bombers often plowed the road for American troops.
In 1970-71 Tom Jenkins, a U.S. Air Force mechanic and crew chief, readied F-4’s for the war.
“To drop bombs on Vietnam, they would come back and you would work on them,” Tom said.
Tom, now 71, was stationed at the Ubon Royal Air Force Base in Thailand. There he and others met a different enemy.
“In fact they’d talk about you’re standing in Agent Orange, ‘Don’t worry about it. It’s not toxic. It won’t hurt you,’” Tom recalled. He claims Agent Orange was used to knock down the foliage around the perimeter of the base, where he stood guard and worked on engines. He says he also wore frayed asbestos suits and, while serving as a crew chief on the F-4’s, stood on or near the plane during radar checks, exposing him to radiation. U.S. forces sprayed Agent Orange to kill vegetation where the enemy hid.
Exposure to it continues to kill Americans who served there.
DECISION TIME NEARS FOR EASING THE SURVIVOR BENEFIT OFFSET — MILITARY ADVANTAGE BLOG — This could be a pivotal legislative year for more than 60,000 surviving spouses of service members who either died in retirement from service-connected ailments or injuries or died while serving on active duty.
The armed services committees will be deciding whether to continue to ease a sharp loss of survivor benefit payments for these widows by extending or even bolstering their Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance (SSIA) which is due to expire on Oct. 1, 2017.
At the other end of the spectrum of options, this one perhaps requiring a budget miracle given its projected cost of $7 billion over the next decade, Congress could decide to protect these surviving spouses more fully by ending the so-called SBP-DIC offset, which the SSIA was created to ease.
2 VETERANS EMBARK ON EPIC MISSION TO BE THE FIRST COMBAT AMPUTEES TO CLIMB EVEREST — TASK & PURPOSE —
Two veterans who lost limbs in the Global War on Terror set off to become the first combat amputees to the reach the top of the world.
Two United States military veterans, Chad Jukes and Charlie Linville, are attempting to make history by being the first combat amputees to climb Everest.
In 2006, Jukes was serving as a an Army staff sergeant in Iraq when he lost part of his right leg to a roadside bomb, reports USA Today.