Let’s Get To The Very Bottom Of This Crisis At The VA

DoD photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden

At a Senate hearing last week, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki faced a firestorm from Veterans Affairs committee members and from national veteran service organizations over the recent allegations of a national VA scheduling crisis resulting in serious harm and even death of our nation’s veterans.

VA policy states a veteran must receive an appointment within 14 days, however, recent reports across the country and most recently in Phoenix, have found schedulers are booking appointments for patients that do not even exist, zeroing out wait times, and booking multiple patients for the same appointment.

The overarching message coming from committee members and veteran service organizations was “enough is enough” and it’s time for a wake-up call. They and all veterans are frustrated and tired of hearing the same sad stories of veterans not being provided the very best care and the excuses of why no action was taken to address these issues.

According to Sen. Patty Murray (D-Washington), these continued allegations prove it is time for a system wide culture change at the VA where leaders and all employees admit where there are problems. She stated, “We need decisive action; to restore veteran confidence, establish a culture of transparency and accountability, and finally end the practice of intimidation.”

Ryan Gallucci, Legislative Director of Veterans of Foreign Wars, provided some of the most inspiring testimony saying in part, “It’s been a month and we still don’t know all the facts of what vets were delayed care and what vets died waiting for care.” Ryan said, “Vets deserve the truth and not fake promises on quotas, wait times, and investigations. It is the duty of every VA employee to ask for help or step aside.”

Secretary Shinseki has instructed the Director of Veterans Health Administration to conduct a national review of all scheduling compliance and will receive assistance from President Obama’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy, Rob Nabors, to oversee the review.

While I applaud Shinseki’s national response, I along with lawmakers and many veteran leaders, are concerned the review is lacking. There has long been a culture of secrecy and intimidation at the VA and it is time to put a stop to this immediately. I truly believe Shinseki when he testified Thursday he is “mad as hell” and is saddened by these troubling allegations. Furthermore, I believe he is the right person to lead the VA through this crisis. His impeccable record speaks for itself and I trust he has the very best interest of our veterans at heart.

That being said, I believe what is required in order to start to bring culture change to the VA is for a national independent review to be conducted at all 150 VA medical centers, the over 800 outreach clinics, and 300 vet clinics nationwide in order to fully understand the issues and challenges.

Furthermore, this independent review should highlight any facility directors, senior level managers, or employees at any level that have either directly violated VA policy or contributed to a culture in which employees feel intimidated to go against VA policy.

I understand some will argue a national independent review of that size brings with it a large expense to American taxpayers, but let’s think about what we are asking for. Is it not the duty and responsibility of our country to fully support our veterans who sacrificed blood, sweat, tears, and even death in the defense of freedom?

Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), who understands first-hand the sacrifices our nation’s heroes face, commented, “How we care of those who risk everything for us is the most important test of a nation’s character.”

I think I speak for all veterans in saying the oath we took to support and defend this nation against all enemies we took with pride, responsibility, and duty. The duty to fight for the very freedoms all Americans hold true to their heart. Our history as a nation is comprised of heroic stories and tales of veterans from all wars who gave everything to allow you and me to live free today.

We don’t require medals, awards, or pats on the back. All any of us ask is for our country that we love and fought for to fulfill their duty and promise to us when we return. The promise as a nation that you have our backs just as we had the backs of those we served with. The promise to provide sufficient medical care for any and all injuries sustained in battle. The promise of our community to be there for us when we come home.

It’s time for every single American to take personal responsibility to ensure veterans in our communities receive the support and opportunities we would want for ourselves and for our own families. I call on all Americans to reach out to their elected officials and voice their frustrations and concerns on the care of veterans in our country. It is true we have failed and at times failed miserably as a nation in the past to fully support our veterans, however, today we have the opportunity to right those wrongs.

We have the opportunity to create a culture at the VA that is centered around the care of the veteran and not on metrics. A culture of trust, transparency, and accountability. A culture all veterans deserve.

Brian Hall served nine years in the U.S. Air Force and currently works as a Financial Analyst in New York City. 
"It's kind of like the equivalent of dropping a soda can into canyon and putting on a blindfold and going and finding it, because you can't just look down and see it," diver Jeff Goodreau said of finding the wreck.

The USS Eagle 56 was only five miles off the coast of Maine when it exploded.

The World War I-era patrol boat split in half, then slipped beneath the surface of the North Atlantic. The Eagle 56 had been carrying a crew of 62. Rescuers pulled 13 survivors from the water that day. It was April 23, 1945, just two weeks before the surrender of Nazi Germany.

The U.S. Navy classified the disaster as an accident, attributing the sinking to a blast in the boiler room. In 2001, that ruling was changed to reflect the sinking as a deliberate act of war, perpetuated by German submarine U-853, a u-boat belonging to Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine.

Still, despite the Navy's effort to clarify the circumstances surrounding the sinking, the Eagle 56 lingered as a mystery. The ship had sunk relatively close to shore, but efforts to locate the wreck were futile for decades. No one could find the Eagle 56, a small patrol ship that had come so close to making it back home.

Then, a group of friends and amateur divers decided to try to find the wreck in 2014. After years of fruitless dives and intensive research, New England-based Nomad Exploration Team successfully located the Eagle 56 in June 2018.

Business Insider spoke to two crew members — meat truck driver Jeff Goodreau and Massachusetts Department of Corrections officer Donald Ferrara — about their discovery.

Read More Show Less
(CIA photo)

Before the 5th Special Forces Group's Operational Detachment Alpha 595, before 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment's MH-47E Chinooks, and before the Air Force combat controllers, there were a handful of CIA officers and a buttload of cash.

Read More Show Less

The last time the world saw Marine veteran Austin Tice, he had been taken prisoner by armed men. It was unclear whether his captors were jihadists or allies of Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad who were disguised as Islamic radicals.

Blindfolded and nearly out of breath, Tice spoke in Arabic before breaking into English:"Oh Jesus. Oh Jesus."

That was from a video posted on YouTube on Sept. 26, 2012, several weeks after Tice went missing near Damascus, Syria, while working as a freelance journalist for McClatchy and the Washington Post.

Now that Tice has been held in captivity for more than seven years, reporters who have regular access to President Donald Trump need to start asking him how he is going to bring Tice home.

Read More Show Less

"Shoots like a carbine, holsters like a pistol." That's the pitch behind the new Flux Defense system designed to transform the Army's brand new sidearm into a personal defense weapon.

Read More Show Less

Sometimes a joke just doesn't work.

For example, the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service tweeted and subsequently deleted a Gilbert Gottfried-esque misfire about the "Storm Area 51" movement.

On Friday DVIDSHUB tweeted a picture of a B-2 bomber on the flight line with a formation of airmen in front of it along with the caption: "The last thing #Millenials will see if they attempt the #area51raid today."

Read More Show Less