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One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. -- Plato (429-347 BC)

Thursday, May 22, 2014

NYT Criticizes Obama On VA Scandal | Number of Dead Veterans Could Be More than 1,100

Vets Experience Death by Delay of Service
Today in Washington, D.C. - May 22, 2014:
The Senate reconvened at 10 AM today and began a period of morning business.

At 1:45 PM, the Senate will vote on confirmation of the nomination of David Barron to be United States Circuit Judge for the First Circuit followed by a vote on adoption of the conference report on H.R. 3080, the Water Resources Reform and Development Act.

This afternoon, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) asked unanimous consent to pass the bipartisan House bill allowing more VA accountability, but Senate Democrats objected.

Yesterday, the Senate voted 68-27 to confirm Stanley Fischer to be a Member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve.   Also yesterday, Democrats once again used the precedent they set when they broke Senate rules to change the number of votes required to invoke cloture on a nominee via the nuclear option. They used this procedure to invoke cloture on the Barron nomination by a vote of 52-43.

The House reconvened at 9 AM today. The continued debate on and at 11:04 PM passed 303-121 H.R. 3361 — "To reform the authorities of the Federal Government to require the production of certain business records, conduct electronic surveillance, use pen registers and trap and trace devices, and use other forms of information gathering for foreign intelligence, counterterrorism, and criminal purposes, and for other purposes."

They then proceeded to debates on amendments for H.R. 4435 — "To authorize appropriations for fiscal year 2015 for military activities of the Department of Defense and for military construction, to prescribe military personnel strengths for such fiscal year, and for other purposes." The voted and passed 325-98 the bill at 12:17 PM.

No other bills are scheduled today and the House will adjourn in a few hours after floor speeches, The House will reconvene tomorrow, May 23, 2014, at 3:00 PM.

VA Scandal:
The Dayton Daily News reported, "[T]he VA settled many cases that appear to be related to delays in treatment. A database of paid claims by the VA since 2001 includes 167 in which the words "delay in treatment" is used in the description. The VA paid out a total of $36.4 million to settle those claims, either voluntarily or as part of a court action. . . . The Dayton VA in 2009 paid out $140,000 for a 2006 claim that was described as "Failure/Delay in Admission to Hospital or Institution; Medication Administered via Wrong Route; Failure to Order Appropriate Test. A pending $3.5 million claim from March 2013 was filed by a man who says delayed treatment of his wife's cervical cancer resulted in her death in March 2012." Dayton Daily News added, "The number of dead veterans could total more than 1,100 from 2001 through the first half of 2013 -- including 16 at the Dayton VA Medical Center and 11 at the Cincinnati VA -- according to records obtained via Freedom of Information Act."

Not even the left-wing New York Times editorial board can hide its displeasure with President Obama’s handling of the growing VA scandal. The NYT editors write today, “When America sends men and women to fight, it owes them an enduring debt, starting with competent and timely health care and disability benefits when they leave active duty. President Obama expressed outrage on Wednesday at recent charges of wrongdoing in the Department of Veterans Affairs’ health care system. . . . But expressing outrage is hardly enough for a president who, as a candidate in 2008, criticized the agency and vowed to improve care and address backlogs. It is past time for a more visible personal commitment to right these wrongs as well as strong White House support for legislation that would make it possible for top agency officials to fire those responsible for wrongdoing. The allegations that veterans’ hospitals around the country manipulated data or created secret waiting lists to hide long delays are disgraceful. Those concerns initially focused on veterans’ medical facilities in Phoenix, but now involve 26 facilities in several states, including Colorado, Texas and Wyoming. . . . The department runs the largest health care group in the country, overseeing 1,700 hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and other facilities. Critics say it is an entrenched, sclerotic bureaucracy that suffers from a lack of innovation and a structure in which the health care and disability divisions are often working at cross purposes. . . . [T]he buck stops with Mr. Obama, who pledged to build a ‘21st-century V.A.’ The White House says that while participation in the veterans’ health system has jumped 16 percent since 2008, the huge backlog of cases has, in fact, been reduced. Even so, Mr. Obama’s Republican adversaries now have fresh ammunition to use in questioning his management skills, and even some Democrats, such as Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat of Connecticut, have declared themselves ‘fed up and impatient.’”

Blumanthal isn’t the only Democrat losing patience with the Obama administration on the VA crisis. Reporting for the Atlanta Journal-Cosntitution, Jamie Dupree writes, “Hours after President Obama made his first remarks on growing troubles inside the Veterans Administration in over three weeks, cracks began to appear among his supporters in Congress, as some Democrats for the first time publicly called for the ouster of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. ‘The first person to fire is the Secretary,’ said Rep. David Scott (D-GA) in a speech on the House floor that was filled with anger and frustration over the VA. ‘I was terribly disappointed with President Obama today,’ Scott lamented, saying he saw ‘no sense of urgency’ about stories that started out in Phoenix but have grown quickly in the last few weeks. ‘Mr. President, we need urgency,’ Scott said, his voice rising in the Well of the House. . . . Scott was not the first Democrat to go on the record calling for Shinseki to be forced out, as his colleague Rep. John Barrow (D-GA) had a few hours earlier demanded similar action. ‘Unfortunately, this administration has fallen short in providing the kind of care that our veterans have earned,’ said Barrow. The bookends of Scott and Barrow - from the same state, but polar opposites in terms of politics - showcased how this VA issue has become more than just a story about one health center in Arizona. . . . ‘I do think it's time to give someone else an opportunity to lead the agency and begin the rebuilding process to ensure these issues never happen again,’ said Rep. Barrow, one of the few Blue Dog Democrats left in Congress.”

But whether the VA Secretary is Shinseki or someone new, the Secretary needs the power to hold officials in the department accountable. Today, though, there’s so much red tape that firing people is particularly difficult. CBS News reports  that the House passed a bill to fix this problem last night. “The House overwhelmingly approved a bill Wednesday that gives Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Eric Shinseki and future VA secretaries increased power to fire or demote senior VA officials in an attempt to reduce red tape that can stretch out the process of removing an ineffective staffer from their position. The VA Management Accountability Act of 2014, authored by House Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla. . . . It passed by a vote of 390 to 33. ‘This legislation would give VA leaders a tool to address a problem that continues to get worse by the day. VA's widespread and systemic lack of accountability is exacerbating all of its most pressing problems, including the department's stubborn disability benefits backlog and a mounting toll of at least 31 recent preventable veteran deaths at VA medical centers across the country,’ Miller said when he introduced the bill earlier this year. . . . Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., has introduced a companion bill in the Senate that is still being considered by the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.”

On the floor today, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell called on the Senate to quickly pass this bill as a first step to addressing the VA scandal. “This scandal appears to be a failure of a huge magnitude, and the people we represent are demanding [the president] rise to the challenge. Our veterans are counting on him to work with both parties to get to the truth, and to pursue solutions that can make things better. Solutions like the VA reform bill that passed the House just yesterday with a strong bipartisan majority. That legislation, which I’ve co-sponsored and which Senator Rubio has led on, would make it easier to remove high-level VA employees for performance failures. It’s a smart idea. There’s no reason for us not to pass it quickly here in the Senate. And the President should call for its passage right away too. That would be a positive step forward for him. A small one, but a positive one. Even though, for some reason, the White House has been ambivalent about the bill.”

He also expressed his frustration at President Obama’s handling of this crisis. “Just how widespread is this failure to treat our veterans? We need answers from the President and his Administration. But the White House claims the President didn’t really even know about the latest scandal until hearing about it in the news. Even though a top official testified he knew of inappropriate scheduling practices at VA health clinics – as far back as 2010. It sure raises a lot of questions. But you know, it’s a curious thing. President Obama, the most powerful man in the free world, always seems to be the last to know about what’s going on in his own Administration. From the Obama Administration’s IRS scandal to its Obamacare website fiasco, just about every time the President claims to be in the dark until the wrongdoing surfaces on its own – usually in the press. The pattern is incredibly worrying. And if it really is true that he learns so much through the press – if he really knows that little about what’s going on in his own administration – then he needs to get re-engaged. Right now.”

Tags: IVA, Veteran Administration, dead veterans, delay of service, secret lists, death panels, Washington, D.C.,  To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. and "Like" Facebook Page - Thanks!
Posted by Bill Smith at 12:59 PM - Post Link


Anonymous Gojko Kasich said...

Yo, New York Slimes . . . bet if you axe your heroin [sic] Hille the @‪#‎nt‬ . . . think she'd say "What difference does it make?"

Anonymous Susan Gates said...

Unnecessary Obamacare.


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