HOW ‘THE FRACTURED REPUBLIC’ HELPS US UNDERSTAND THE VETERANS AFFAIRS SCANDAL — FEDERALIST — Since the scandal at the Department of Veterans Affairs first broke in 2014—leading to the resignation of then-VA Secretary Eric Shinseki—a public debate has been simmering over what, exactly, should be done to fix the VA.
This debate is fundamentally a good thing. In a political system such as ours, debate is crucially important to addressing problems, and few problems are so grave and morally meaningful to a national community as how its veterans are treated. Policy details matter, and most participants in the debate are sincere in their positions and seeking to do right by veterans.
But sometimes we can become so engrossed in the details that we forget the bigger picture. In light of this, it might be useful to try to see how the debates over VA reform fit into the larger context of American social and political life in the twenty-first century.
In his new book, “The Fractured Republic: Renewing America’s Social Contract in an Age of Individualism,” political scientist Yuval Levin, a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, lays out a fairly comprehensive political-cultural history of the twentieth century. While Levin does not address VA issues specifically, understanding this history and applying his analysis will help people understand how we got to where we are on a range of cultural and political issues, including the debates that swirl around VA reform proposals.
The Age of Consolidation
The twentieth century dawned with a political movement known as progressivism. The aim of the movement was, ostensibly, to lead the American republic into modernity, “progressing” past what they considered to be the outmoded constraints and institutions of the Constitution of 1787. This progress effectively consolidated power at the federal level—progressives believed the complexities of the modern world could no longer abide the inherently dispersed nature of federalism and checks and balances.
Rather, they aimed to unify the country by first undermining the authority of a range of sub-federal institutions, including state and local governments and so-called “civil society” institutions, such as churches, local schools, local communities, fraternal organizations—that is, those organizations which comprise, as Levin puts it, the “middle layers of society” between the state and the individual—and second, by elevating the executive over the other branches of the federal government to streamline its function.
World War II further served to unify and consolidate power at the federal level. This consolidation of political power also led to a cultural consolidation—what Levin refers to as “The Age of Conformity.” This is essentially the stereotypical image of the 1950s: conformist and simple, the product of a mass-produced culture. This is ironic in some ways: the “conservatism” of the 1950s was, in no small part, the product of the consolidation wrought by the Progressive Era.
This consolidation led to a certain confidence in technocratic governance, with government experts effectively and efficiently administering a range of social programs for the entire nation. During this time the VA hospital system as it currently exists was developed. To be sure, its roots go much further back, and can be traced to the very early colonial period. But Congress birthed the VA in its current form in 1921, creating the Veterans Bureau and consolidating all of the various veterans programs that had been established following World War I. In 1930, the bureau was transformed into an administration until 1989, when it became a cabinet-level department.
CAMP LEJEUNE VETS ELIGIBLE FOR BENEFITS — WALTERBORO LIVE — From the 1950s through the 1980s, people living or working at the U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., were potentially exposed to drinking water contaminated with industrial solvents, benzene and other chemicals.
You may be eligible for VA health benefits if you served on active duty or have family members who resided at Camp Lejeune for 30 days or more between Aug. 1, 1953 and Dec. 31, 1987.
Veterans who are determined to be eligible will be able to receive VA health care for 15 qualifying health conditions at no cost to the veteran (including copayments).
VA is also reimbursing family members for eligible out-of-pocket medical expenses related to the 15 covered conditions. VA can only pay for treatment after you have received payment from all your other health plans.
15 Qualifying health conditions include:
- • Esophageal cancer
• Breast cancer
• Kidney cancer
• Multiple myeloma
• Renal toxicity
• Female infertility
• Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
• Lung cancer
• Bladder cancer
• Myelodysplastic syndromes
• Hepatic steatosis
• Neurobehavioral effects
Veterans must file a claim for disability compensation for health problems they believe are related to exposure to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. The Department of Veterans Affairs will decide these claims on a case-by-case basis. If you were previously denied, you may file for a re-evaluation.
Enrollment is required to receive VA health care. Contact the Veterans Affairs Office to enroll. You may also apply online at vet.gov or call 1-877-222-8387 for assistance.
The Colleton County Veterans Affairs Office is located in the Bernard Warshaw Complex at 219 South Lemacks Street, Suite 124, Walterboro. If you wish to file a claim for benefits or need other assistance regarding VA benefits, please stop in or call 843 549-1412 to schedule an appointment. We will be happy to assist you.
(Janet D. Smith is the director of the Colleton County Veterans Affairs Office.)
VA DENYING NEARLY 1 OUT OF EVERY 3 VETERANS’ EMERGENCY CLAIMS — WSAW–
Fearing the Department of Veterans Affairs would deny his claim, a disabled Pittsville Gulf War veteran avoided going to his nearest emergency department during a recent medical scare.
“My pillow was covered in blood,” said Jerry Zehrung, who has lived with a constant infection risk since having his hip resurfaced eight years ago.
“My wife looks at me and she’s panicked,” Zehrung said. “Her first instinct was, ‘let’s get you to the emergency room’ and my first instinct was ‘who’s going to pay the bill?’”
NewsChannel 7 Investigates discovered a VA executive admitted there are a large number of denied veterans’ emergency treatment claims.
In February, VA Assistant Deputy Undersecretary for Health for Community Care, Dr. Baligh Yahia testified before a Veterans’ Affairs subcommittee. Yahia told members of Congress that during the 2014 budget year approximately 30 percent of the 2.9 million emergency claims filed with the VA were denied.
Of those 870,000 denied claims, 7,000 came from Wisconsin veterans, according to a VA representative who confirmed the number with NewsChannel 7 Investigates.
Yahia broke down the denied claims during his February testimony. He said:
• 89,000 were late
• another 98,000 were not emergencies
• 140,000 were denied because a VA facility was determined to have been available
• 320,000 more claims were denied because the veteran was determined to have other health insurance that should have paid for the care.
In total, about one-out-of-every-three veterans’ emergency claims were denied during the 2014 budget year.
TRIO OF PA. VETERANS AWARDED LONG-OVERDUE MEDALS — S&S — It’s never too late.
That was the theme Thursday at U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta’s district office on Church Street in Hazleton, Pa. where the Congressman congregated with veterans and families who were long overdue for some earned recognition.
“It’s such a great honor for us to give these veterans their recognition with these citations and medals,” he began. “We always put our veterans first. They are the real American heroes and without them we wouldn’t have the freedoms we have today.”
Barletta presented the medals to three local Pa. veterans: Myron M. Diehl Jr. of Hazleton, Pa.; James N. Richert of West Hazleton, Pa.; and the late Kenneth H. Wenner of White Haven, Pa. Their families took part in the medal ceremony.
Diehl served in the U.S. Navy during the Cuban Missile Blockade of 1962 aboard the USS Peterson. He was awarded the Navy Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, and the Navy Expeditionary Medal.
“I feel pretty proud,” he said. “Very proud to have served my country.”
Richert, a U.S. Air Force veteran from 1971 to 1974, served in the 56th Security Police Squadron at Nakhon Phanon Royal Thai Air Force Base.
I feel pretty honored, even 42 years later,” Richert said. “I saw many places during my service, from Texas, to North Dakota, Thailand and beyond. It was a real education, all of the different cultures.”
MILLION VETERAN PROGRAM RESEARCH WILL CHANGE THE WAY WE STUDY TROOPS’ HEALTH — T&P — VA’s Million Veteran Program will build one of the world’s largest medical databases by safely collecting blood samples and health information from 1 million volunteers.
A quick and easy blood donation can help pave the way to better healthcare for veterans — and also provide answers to complex medical questions — through a new gene study program conducted by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The Million Veteran Program, which launched in 2011, is a national, voluntary research study by the Department of Veterans Affairs to research what kinds of roles genes play in overall health. The program is a part of the White House Precision Medicine Initiative, and aims to help the VA better understand diseases (such as cancer and diabetes) that impact those who have served. According to Dr. John Concato, one of two principal investigators for the MVP, the project may be able to expedite the science of customizing disease prevention and treatment to individual patients and illnesses.
“Conducting research to improve health care is not new to VA. For example, the first antibiotic treatment for tuberculosis was developed and tested by VA in the late 1940s,” Concato wrote in a VA blog post. “That program has since completed more than 175 studies evaluating risk factors or treatments for heart disease, cancer, mental health, and many other disorders.”
FAMILY SEEKS ANSWERS IN ARMY VET’S OVERDOSE DEATH — JOURNAL SENTINEL — Last fall, Cole Schuler, a 26-year-old former U.S. Army Ranger from the Fox Valley, checked himself into the inpatient drug rehabilitation unit of the Clement J. Zablocki Veterans Affairs facility in Milwaukee.
He was trying to kick an addiction to opioids. Instead, 11 days into his stay, he died of a heroin overdose at the center.
“There was just a lot of shock and anger,” said Schuler’s older brother, Wyatt. “We thought he was somewhere safe. It was like, ‘How does that even happen?'”
Questions continue to swirl over Schuler’s death. The overdose is being investigated by the VA, local law enforcement and the Milwaukee County district attorney’s office, according to a letter sent last month by U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin to the top official at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
The VA Office of Inspector General is also investigating Schuler’s death and related procedures.
VANDALS DEFACE WINTHROP LUNCH WAGON THAT BENEFITS VETERANS — CENTRAL MAINE — WINTHROP — The mobile lunch wagon that is usually parked across from American Legion Post 40 and next to the town beach was vandalized late Wednesday night, say volunteers who run the small canteen and spend its proceeds on efforts supporting local veterans.
When Tina Bowden, one the facility’s managers, arrived at the wagon Thursday morning, she found that vandals had come at some point during the previous night and used human feces to write a crude message on the wagon, she said.
The words “Serving all veterans of all wars” are already painted on the front of the lunch wagon, but Bowden said the vandals used feces to write an expletive before “veterans” and the words “you die” after it.
The vandals also left trash lying around the wagon, tampered with a picnic table that sits next to it and unplugged the extension cord that provides the wagon’s electricity, leaving more than $100 worth of frozen and refrigerated food to spoil over the next few hours, Bowden added.
On Friday morning, Bowden and John Brennan, a Gulf War veteran who also oversees the lunch wagon, were both still appalled by the scene they encountered a day earlier.
“It’s taking from the veterans that angers me,” said Bowden. “They wrote with feces on there. That’s very disrespectful.”
TRUMP WANTS PRIVATE HEALTH CARE FOR VETERANS — GAZETTE — In his first 100 days as president, Republican nominee Donald Trump says he’d open private hospitals to veterans frustrated by long wait times at Veterans Affairs hospitals, and he’d support a first-in-the-nation test program in Colorado Springs that pays for vets to receive private health care.
“I like that idea,” Trump told members of The Gazette’s editorial board Friday. “We’re going to have people sent to local doctors and local hospitals who are just dying for work. And we’re going to have them taken care of and we’re going to pay the bill, and it will be a lot cheaper than what’s happening now.”
Trump said he would immediately hire better managers for the Department of Veterans Affairs if he were elected.
“The Veterans Administration is a total disaster,” he said. Using one of the trademark lines from his reality TV show, Trump said “I’d fire them (current managers) and say ‘sue me.'”
PA. VETS CREATE PROJECT TO HELP PHILADELPHIA’S HOMELESS — S&S — Joe Prete, who grew up in Norristown, Pa. spent much of the years 2006 to 2014 as an Army infantryman in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, he’s a home contractor and has applied to become a police officer in his hometown.
His friend Markus Ismael spent five years in the Air Force in the 1990s, and now works in technology services at the Hill School in Pottstown, Pa.
Prete, 29, and Ismael, 45, met on Facebook, drawn together by their military service and their participation in a 12-hour endurance event based on experiences of Special Forces soldiers.
Their latest mission is far different from any that either veteran has undertaken before.
$1 MILLION GRANT FROM WELLS FARGO FOR FINANCIAL CAPABILITY PROGRAM BENEFITING VETERANS — DIVERSITY INC — Washington, DC – July 28, 2016 –Wells Fargo & Company has donated $1 million to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®) to help support the Sharpen Your Financial Focus® (Sharpen) initiative. Through the Sharpen program, consumers are able to address their primary financial challenges and set a path toward their financial goals through targeted education and counseling. The grant will focus on financial education for military servicemembers and veterans. The program consists of the following:
MyMoneyCheckUp® is an online self-assessment. Available in English and Spanish, it helps increase a client’s awareness of their own financial activities and overall financial health, and provides ways to help.
Customized One-on-One Financial Reviews take place with an NFCC Certified Credit Counselor. These sessions are intended to help clients establish goals and a personalized action plan.
COMPUTER CODING SCHOLARSHIPS FOR VETERANS — DISABLED WORLD — The demand for professional computer coders continues to grow and the U.S. Department of Labor predicts that by 2020 there will be 1.4 million coding jobs available in the American workforce. To enable U.S. veterans to tap into this pipeline of opportunity, LaSalle Computer Learning Center in Tampa is offering full scholarships to its Web Application Development Diploma Program, which teaches how to code.
This comprehensive program will cover what local area employers are looking for Junior .NET Web Application Developers.
“Military families and veterans have been an important part of the Tampa Bay community’s fabric for many decades contributing to its strength, diversity and vibrancy,” said LaSalle’s Associate Director and Military Liaison, Kasandra Perez. “We want to give back to the many men and women who have served and continue to serve our community and our nation by helping them develop a highly coveted, in demand skill for the current job market.”
VETS AND SERVICE MEMBERS CAN ATTEND THESE 11 MAJOR EVENTS FOR FREE IN AUGUST — T&P — Vet Tix has tickets to 11 major events around the US in August for veterans, service members, and their families.
Want to go to a major league baseball game? How about a country music concert? What about taking your kids to a monster truck show? Do you want to go for free?
Every week, in cities across the United States, tens of thousands of tickets are available to veterans, service members, and family members of those killed in action, enabling them go to major sports games, touring concerts, and a whole host of other ticketed events. And all the tickets are free, except for a very small delivery fee.
The opportunity exists because of our commitment at the Veteran Tickets Foundation, Vet Tix, to help put veterans and service members (including Reserve and Guard) in empty seats at games and events across the nation.
YOUNGSTER’S MISSION IS TO PAY RESPECTS AT VETERANS’ GRAVES — JEFFERSON PUBLIC RADIO — A lot of 10-year-old kids spend their free time watching television and playing video games. But Preston Sharp spends most of his in cemeteries. Every Sunday since last November, Preston and his mother have made a trip to Redding Memorial Park to show appreciation — not only for their own family’s veteran, but for all of the military veterans laid to rest there.
JPR’s Victoria Reed got a first-hand look at Preston’s determination to honor the sacrifices that members of the military have made for their country
I’m standing at McDonald’s Chapel in Redding Memorial Park, where pairs of American flags and red carnations stand out against hundreds of headstones across the cemetery’s green lawn. At 9:30 a.m. the sun is shining brightly and it’s already 90 degrees. But that doesn’t bother 10-year-old Preston Sharp, who’s out here at least once a week, rain or shine, to honor veteran’s graves.
Preston got the idea to do this after last Veteran’s Day, when he visited his grandfather George Sharp’s grave and noticed that there weren’t any flowers or flags on the graves of other veterans. This bothered Preston. His mother, April Sharp, shares what he said to her.
WORLD WAR II EPIC TELLS STORY OF LEGENDARY ARMY MEDIC — T&P — The trailer for “Hacksaw Ridge” a new film by Mel Gibson, tells the story of Desmond Doss, a conscientious objector who was awarded the Medal of Honor.
A new trailer for the World War II film “Hacksaw Ridge” follows the story of an unlikely hero Desmond Doss, a conscientious objector who served as a medic in the Army and was awarded the Medal of Honor for his incredible bravery and selflessness.
The film is directed by Mel Gibson and the trailer has the flash and action you’d expect from the director of “We Were Soldiers.” In the opening scenes, bodies cartwheel through the air, and while the battlefield effects come across a bit showy, it’s the story of Desmond Doss that’s likely to be the most intriguing and compelling part of the movie. After all, here’s a man who braved hell on earth to save his fellow soldiers, and he did it without a weapon.
Played by Andrew Garfield in the film, the real Doss was a devout Seventh Day Adventist. The film seems likely to focus on his spirituality and how it meshed (or didn’t) with military life. Doss refused to carry a weapon, work or train on Saturdays, and didn’t eat meat. Even in the face of harassment from his squadmates, and his commanding officer’s attempts to get him booted from the Army, Doss stayed true to his beliefs.
10 THINGS TO BRING TO A JOB INTERVIEW — MILCOM — You got the call — you have an in person interview! Perhaps you’ve had a phone interview first, where you shared highlights of your background, experience, and skills with a recruiter at the company. Likely, you also helped them understand how your career in the military uniquely qualifies you for the job you are pursuing.
Now comes the in person interview, where your appearance, words, body language and materials will be evaluated in addition to your background. Prior to the interview, review your research (on the company, industry and interviewer), gather directions to the meeting, and be sure to keep the phone number of the person you’ll be meeting with close by. When you get to the interview, leave your research notes, phone numbers, and directions in the car.
To ensure the best success at a job interview, be sure to bring these things with you: