American Veteran News 07.09.16

AMERICAN LEGION DOWNPLAYS DEATH OF VET WAITING FOR CARE, CALLING HIM A MOOCH — DAILY CALLER — In an attempt to downplay the toll of long wait times at the Department of Veterans Affairs, leadership of the American Legion denigrated a veteran who died of cancer after waiting more than a year to get treatment, emails show.

Barry Coates died this year after the VA wouldn’t schedule him for a colonoscopy for more than a year after he went to a VA hospital with rectal bleeding. By the time the VA finally gave him an appointment, the cancer had spread too far. Before he died, he testified before the House of Representatives about lengthy wait times at the VA.

In April 2016, Louis Celli, the Legion’s director for veterans affairs, wrote, “Barry Coats washed out of basic training and rode the VA system until he, quite tragically, died of cancer. His story was somewhat sketchy, but inflammatory. The House loved having a dying witness to slam VA during the height of the scandal.”

The email was addressed to other American Legion employees, strategizing that “it would be distasteful for us to say anything” publicly.

Whether or not Coates had a distinguished service record, of course, VA staff did not know that and did not use it as a basis for providing slow treatment.

In May, Legion leadership told the U.S. government that it opposed giving some veterans the option of seeing a private doctor, the same week it took a survey of its members that found they overwhelmingly wanted that choice.

The Legion’s top brass told The Daily Caller News Foundation that it threw out the survey results because surveys aren’t comprehensive, and veterans weren’t savvy enough to know that private-sector doctors don’t always provide perfect care either.

They wrote a letter stating that if vets could choose between private doctors and VA ones, they feared VA facilities would shut down for lack of use. Facilities would only be underused, of course, if the vast majority of veterans opt for private care — which, despite the survey, they are contending is not the case.

Currently, vets can see private docs only in some cases when the VA doesn’t have the capability to treat them. But the union opposed even that, and the VA has failed to reimburse private doctors, leading many to refuse to take new veteran patients.

Celli has also testified before Congress, supposedly giving input on what veterans want, as the spokesman for a large veterans organization.

The Legion’s positions have consistently mirrored those of the VA employees union. Union protections have even kept people like the nurse’s aide accused of beating a patient to death on payroll in order to await trial.

Celli told TheDCNF he was merely responding to an article lamenting Coates’ plight penned by Peter Gaytan, a former Legion staffer who has since gone to work for another veterans group, Concerned Veterans For America. The email obtained by TheDCNF had one other sentence in it: “It is a HUGE risk for him to invoke Barry Coats.” Celli claimed the rest of his email was “simply relating [Gaytan’s] direction” when he worked there to note “hypocrisy.”

In a statement opposing changes to the VA this month, the Legion praised the VA bureaucracy, saying “ Over the past two years, VA has transformed customer service, community engagement, and lessened wait times.”

In October 2014, 2,780 appointments were listed as being on a waiting list more than four months, while as of last month, nearly 10,000 had been waiting that long, according to the latest data from VA.

The stats also break down average wait times into three different categories of appointments. All three have gotten longer.

MOST SUICIDES BY US VETERANS ARE BY THOSE OVER AGE 50 — REUTERS — Well over half of U.S. military veterans who took their own lives in 2014 were aged 50 or older, the government reported on Thursday in a study indicating that combat trauma predating the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan still accounts for many veteran suicides.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs analysis, which shows the suicide rate among veterans climbing over the past 15 years, is based on millions of records and is touted as the government’s most comprehensive examination of the issue to date.

President Barack Obama has joined veterans groups in singling out as a national priority the prevention of suicide among veterans, who the study says are at a 21 percent greater risk of taking their own lives than other Americans.

The latest report said 20 former members of America’s armed forces died of suicide each day on average in 2014, down slightly from a previous study that put the daily average at 22 in 2010.

Of the veterans known to have committed suicide in 2014, the latest year for which such data was available, 65 percent were at least 50 years of age, old enough to have served in the 1990-91 Gulf War, the Vietnam War or previous conflicts.

YEARS AFTER HIS DEATH IN PEARL HARBOR, SAILOR HONORED — AP — CARLISLE, Ind. — Paul Andrews Nash is finally coming home, nearly 75 years after paying the ultimate sacrifice at Pearl Harbor.

The sailor from Sullivan County is receiving an official burial Saturday with full military honors in Carlisle. A ceremony will take place at 2 p.m. at the Odd Fellows Cemetery on Indiana 58.

Nash was aboard the USS Oklahoma when it was sunk by Japanese torpedoes on Dec. 7, 1941. The 26-year-old was among 429 crew killed.

Part of his remains were positively identified in February as the military continues to match names with unknown crew members that were buried in Honolulu.

The family had the option of postponing the ceremony in the chance a full set of remains are identified.

“But no,” said Lisa Ridge, Nash’s granddaughter. “We’ve waited long enough.”

There were about 1,300 crew aboard the Oklahoma when it was sunk. A civilian helped rescue 32 wounded sailors.

In the years following the attack, 35 fallen seamen were positively identified and buried, according to the U.S. Department of Defense. The ship was righted in 1943.

All unidentified remains were removed and interred in two Hawaii cemeteries.

They were exhumed in 1947 in an effort to identify them. Dental records helped preliminarily name 27 crew, but all proposed identifications were denied by the government, according to the defense department.

The unidentified remains were later buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu.

AS VA TACKLES VETERAN SUICIDE, ITS IMAGE PROBLEM CONTINUES TO HURT DOC RECRUITMENT — GOV EXEC — Veterans Affairs has hired nearly 800 psychologists and psychiatrists since 2014, but it still struggles to attract all kinds of doctors because of the department’s image problems, said the VA undersecretary of health.

“Our applications for clinical positions across the board are down 78 percent,” since the patient wait times scandal erupted two years ago, said Dr. David Shulkin, during a Thursday call with reporters about the department’s latest suicide data on veterans. “I don’t have a specific number for what percent are mental health professionals, but yes, it has been a challenge for us.”

Shulkin unveiled some of the data from the VA’s most comprehensive look at veteran suicide, which will be fully released at the end of July. The study, which examined more than 55 million veteran records from 1979 to 2014 from all 50 states, showed that on average 20 veterans a day kill themselves. A much less exhaustive 2010 study analyzed roughly 3 million veteran records from just 20 states, and concluded that on average 22 veterans a day took their own lives. That statistic was widely reported, but found to be misleading given the size of the study. Shulkin said the VA is going to input the 2010 data using all 50 states to see whether the estimate of 22 vets was accurate.

COMMISSION TO VHA, CONGRESS: BLOW UP EVERYTHING! — FEDERAL NEWS RADIO — Decent doctors and nurses working in a vast, bureaucratically dysfunctional system. That’s my interpretation of how the Commission on Care views the Veterans Health Administration. It’s hefty, 300-odd page final set of 17 recommendations stops short of calling for Congress to privatize Veterans Affairs, or it’s biggest bureau.

But the commissioners do say this: VHA’s actual health care, generally as good or better that that delivered by the private sector, “is inconsistent from facility to facility, and can be substantially compromised by problems with access, service, and poorly functioning operational systems and processes.” They go on to recommend what amounts to the organizational equivalent of a military operation to flatten everything and then rebuild.

Commissioners give the impression that VA has a brick and mortar problem. Anchored in big, old-fashioned hospitals, it lacks enough flexibility to offer more localized care, in more fine-tuned facilities. Even now, VA is trying to finish another albatross of a gigantic, billion dollar hospital outside of Denver. Indirectly, the Commissioners chide Congress on that score. I remember a long-ago VA information technology chief saying in a speech, never forget that each of the VA’s 200-odd hospitals is a big plum in someone’s congressional district.

ONE REASON SO MANY VETERANS ARE HOMELESS? THEY CAN’T AFFORD LAWYERS — WASHINGTON POST — David Garrett returned home from war to find he had no home. A disabled veteran from Maine who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan, Garrett soon fell into homelessness. After almost a year of camping out, he found an apartment he could afford by negotiating a deal in which he paid lower rent in exchange for paying four months in advance. When his landlord sold the building, the new owner said he found no evidence of Garrett’s prepaid rent and tried to evict him. Facing homelessness once more, Garrett needed a housing solution. But to get one, he urgently needed something else: a lawyer.

With nearly 50,000 veterans sleeping on the streets each night, it’s clear we are failing to serve those who have served our country. But the solution isn’t as obvious as it might seem. Veterans don’t need simply more doctors and shelter beds; new research shows that veterans need lawyers to fight on their behalf as well.

According to a new study from the Department of Veterans Affairs, at least five out of the top 10 problems leading to homelessness among veterans cannot be solved without legal help. The study surveyed more than 6,000 homeless veterans and service providers, asking them what services veterans need to become stably housed. The survey found that many veterans are able to secure food, medical services and substance-abuse treatment. But for problems that require legal assistance such as fighting evictions, upgrading military discharge status or restoring a driver’s license, many veterans are not receiving the help they need. Legal assistance is often critical to ensure that veterans find justice and get the benefits they have earned — and can keep a roof over their heads.

NEW DATA, BUT NO NEW NAMES FOR VETS’ SUICIDE PREVENTION ORGANIZATIONS — MILCOM — What do actor Cuba Gooding Jr., comedian Rob Riggle and mixed martial arts hall-of-famer Randy Couture have in common?

They’ve all been known to publicly sport black rings on their index fingers inscribed with “22Kill” — a slogan designed to raise awareness about the number of veterans who take their own lives every day. That 22-per-day number, extrapolated from a 2009 Department of Veterans’ Affairs report, has long been the subject of criticism by those who say the number is inaccurate and the data old.

On Thursday, the VA released new, more comprehensive data that indicates 20 veterans die by suicide a day, a figure that alters the 22-per-day statistic but still places the rate 21 percent higher than that for American civilians.

But for 22Kill, the veterans’ suicide prevention organization that makes the popular trigger-finger rings, this new data won’t prompt a change in the name, or the mission, officials said.

TRUMAN APPRECIATED JAPANESE-AMERICAN SACRIFICES IN WWII — THE EXAMINER — Seventy years ago, on a rainy summer afternoon in July 1946, President Harry S. Truman decorated members of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, a Japanese-American unit that had seen combat in the European and the Pacific Theaters during World War II.

In a ceremony on the Ellipse, south of the White House grounds, the president walked past the troops, surveying and saluting them. The group included four wounded soldiers, including one in a wheelchair, Wilson Makabe, with whom the president shook hands. Truman presented the unit with its seventh Presidential Unit Citation and said, “You fought not only the enemy, but you fought prejudice – and you have won. Keep up that fight, and we will continue to win – to make this great Republic stand for just what the Constitution says it stands for: the welfare of all the people all the time.”

The 442nd consisted of Nisei, Japanese-Americans born in the United States. The event was personally important to Truman, who was determined that it would go forward despite the bad weather. When asked if he would cancel his appearance, he reportedly replied, “Hell, no, after what these boys went through, I can stand a little rain.” (Photographs of this public occasion can be found on the Harry S. Truman Library’s photograph database at

HOUSE BILL WOULD MAKE IT EASIER TO FIRE VA EMPLOYEES — FEDERAL SOUP — The chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee this week introduced a bill that would make it easier to discipline and fire employees at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“The biggest obstacle standing in the way of VA reform is the department’s pervasive lack of accountability among employees at all levels, said committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.). “Until this problem is fixed once and for all, long-term efforts to reform VA are doomed to fail. “

Among other things, the VA Accountability First and Appeals Modernization Act (H.R. 5620) would eliminate the Merit Systems Protection Board from the appeals process for VA senior executives, moving those appeals to a new internal Senior Executive Disciplinary Appeals Board.

TRANSLATING YOUR MILITARY RESUME FOR A CORPORATE AUDIENCE — MILCOM — As veterans make up 29 percent of MBA@UNC’s student population, I work with many students on translating their military resume so it makes sense to a civilian audience. Many of these students, who have incredible experience, worry that nobody will understand or value the work they’ve done because it’s very specific to the military.

The good news is that when you get right down to it, most people don’t really understand other people’s jobs. Think about the last time you tried explaining what your spouse, best friends, or siblings do at their jobs. Unless they happen to work in a very similar role at a very similar company, your description likely sounds vague, “She works in IT as the project manager … leading a team … that does computer stuff.” Hiring managers and recruiters are people, too. They don’t know the intricacies of every position — military or otherwise.

VALLEY FORGE FACE OF AMERICA ROUTE INSPIRES DISABLED MILITARY VETERANS — MARKET WIRED — SAN ANTONIO, TX – The popularity of national non-profit World T.E.A.M. Sports’ annual Face of America bicycle and hand cycle ride from the Pentagon to the historic Civil War battlefields at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania encouraged launching of a companion route in 2016. This new route, beginning at George Washington’s Revolutionary War winter camp at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, attracted 70 riders in its first year, including disabled military veterans from San Antonio, Texas’ non-profit Operation Comfort.

Team Operation Comfort included 12 riders in the April 23-24 ride to Gettysburg, seven being veterans with disabilities ranging from amputation to Post-Traumatic Stress to Traumatic Brain Injuries. The team also included Operation Comfort’s Founder and Executive Director Janis Roznowski.


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