The Department of Veterans Affairs waited until just before 5 pm on the Friday before Labor Day weekend to release eye-popping job vacancies data: the agency currently has a whopping 45,239 overall vacancies, 40,456 (89%) of which belong to the Veterans Health Administration.
Any veteran who's had to deal with insane wait times at their local VA medical center know that staffing at the agency has a direct impact on its ability to deliver effective care to patients, a subject that drew the ire of Montana Sen. Jon Tester, ranking Democrat on the Senate Veterans' Affairs committee, during an interview with the Washington Post back in April.
“It’s crippling our ability to deliver health care to our vets,” Tester said at the time. “ It’s effectively pushing veterans outside the system.”
But the new VA vacancy report, legally mandated under the recently-passed VA Mission Act to increase personnel transparency at the beleaguered agency, is disturbing for two reasons.
Back in April, VA spokesman Curt Cashour stated that there were "more than 33,000 full-time vacancies as of early March," per the Washington Post, adding that the department "has added nearly 15,000 slots since Trump came into office." Given the well-documented problem with VA hiring and retention detailed in a December 2017 Government Accountability Office report, this makes the successes touted by the VA increasingly suspect.
Dropping a legally required transparency report at 5 pm before a holiday weekend is what's known as a "Friday news dump," a move designed to avoid media attention surrounding potentially negative news stories. It's a classic DC public relations news: if you have to stand up and say something bad, try to do it when nobody's listening. It's also shady as hell!
To be clear, this is not a problem specific t0 the Trump administration: a 2015 analysis by USA Today found that, under then-VA Secretary Bob McDonald, the VHA alone boasted some 41,500 job vacancies for medical professionals, more than the number listed in the agency's Friday news dump.
That said, Trump did inform Congress on Thursday that he was canceling the 2.1 pay raise for civilian federal employees set for January. Chances are that won't do wonders for recruiting and retention, especially for high-demand medical specialists — and that means things are only going to get worse before they get better for patients who rely on the VA for care.
Photo: US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia
A former sailor who was busted buying firearms with his military discount and then reselling some of them to criminals is proving to be a wealth of information for federal investigators.
Julio Pino used his iPhone to record most, if not all, of his sales, court documents said. He even went so far as to review the buyers' driver's license on camera.
It is unclear how many of Pino's customer's now face criminal charges of their own. Federal indictments generally don't provide that level of detail and Assistant U.S. Attorney William B. Jackson declined to comment.
Carson Thomas, a healthy and fit 20-year-old infantryman who had joined the Army after a brief stint in college, figured he should tell the medics about the pain in his groin he had been feeling. It was Feb. 12, 2012, and the senior medic looked him over and decided to send him to sick call at the base hospital.
It seemed almost routine, something the Army doctors would be able to diagnose and fix so he could get back to being a grunt.
Now looking back on what happened some seven years later, it was anything but routine.
U.S. Army Cpt. Katrina Hopkins and Chief Warrant Officer 2 James Rogers, assigned to Task Force Warhorse, pilot a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter during a medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) operation at Camp Taji, Iraq, Dec. 18, 2018. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Javion Siders)
U.S. forces must now ask the Iraqi military for permission to fly in Iraqi airspace before coming to the aid of U.S. troops under fire, a top military spokesman said.
However, the mandatory approval process is not expected to slow down the time it takes the U.S. military to launch close air support and casualty evacuation missions for troops in the middle of a fight, said Army Col. James Rawlinson, a spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve.
The soldier who was arrested for taking an armored personnel carrier on a slow-speed police chase through Virginia has been found not guilty by reason of insanity on two charges, according to The Richmond-Times Dispatch.
Joshua Phillip Yabut, 30, entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity for unauthorized use of a motor vehicle — in this case, a 12-ton APC taken from Fort Pickett in June 2018 — and violating the terms of his bond, which stemmed from a trip to Iraq he took in March 2019 (which was not a military deployment).