Category Archives: Dept. of Veterans Affairs

“Communism will win” officer receives Other Than Honorable discharge

Spenser Rapone

Good riddance.

Read about his discharge here.

About the Other Than Honorable (OTH) discharge, from Wikipedia:

“An OTH is a form of administrative discharge. This type of discharge represents a departure from the conduct and performance expected of all military members.

Recipients of OTH discharges are barred from reenlisting into any component of the Armed Forces including the Reserve and National Guard components.

Generally, in order to receive VA benefits and services, the Veteran’s character of discharge or service must be under “other than dishonorable” conditions (e.g., honorable, under honorable conditions, general) as stated by VA policy. However, individuals receiving another-than-honorable or bad conduct discharge may qualify for VA benefits depending on a “Character of Service Determination (CSD)” made by VA.

If the veteran has either a service-connected injury or illness, at least two years of active-duty service, or has received at least one Honorable discharge they will be able to enroll in the VA health care system. The VA will submit Form 7131 (Information Exchange Between VA Regional Offices and Medical Facilities) and make a character of service determination to decide if their service was “Honorable (for VA purposes)”, “Honorable (for medical purposes)”, or “Dishonorable”.

Veterans with an OTH discharge who qualify for VA Healthcare are eligible to submit claims for disability compensation pay, participation in educational, volunteer, and vocational rehabilitation programs. Other Than Honorable recipients are eligible for Montgomery GI Bill benefits if they have completed at least one honorable discharge and may be eligible for Post 9/11 GI Bill Benefits if the VA determines their service to be “Honorable (for VA purposes)”.

At least this guy won’t be allowed a platform in the military any more.

See also:

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Photo depicts veteran lying on the ground while waiting for care at the VA

vet-sleeping

UNACCEPTABLE. Heads need to roll for this.

From WSBTV: (DURHAM, N.C.) A couple posted photos on Facebook and said veterans waited for hours in pain inside the Durham VA Medical Center.

Stephen McMenamin, a former U.S. Marine, was there for treatment, and his wife took the pictures. “My wife found it upsetting, so she took a couple pictures,” he said.

He said a veteran on the ground was using his bag of medication for a pillow after being denied an available reclining chair.

The nurse started yelling at him, telling him he can’t do that. He’s like, ‘I can’t get up and I won’t get up. I will be here until you can see me. Can I please have a blanket?’” McMenamin said. That Facebook post was shared more than 80,000 times.

McMenamin said they started hearing from other veterans and their families. “All these people, and it was, you know, it’s been kind of heartbreaking,” he said.

The hospital’s chief executive nurse responded and told McMenamin that the matter is being investigated.

Rep. Robert Pittenger said this just reaffirms his push to hold VA employees more accountable. “It’s absolutely tragic,” he said. “It’s frankly reflective of what we’ve seen from the VA, and that’s why I sponsored last year and this year, the VA Accountability Act.”

Commander of the North Carolina VFW said things in the state have improved drastically, but he said if an investigation confirms what is depicted in these photos, then the staff responsible should be fired. “There’s no question about it, I mean, there’s no acceptable reason why this should have happened,” Commander Doug Blevins said.

Statement from the Medical Center Director DeAnne Seekins:

“We take seriously any allegation of poor service. I was made aware of a regrettable incident that occurred in our Emergency Department over the weekend and am thankful someone cared enough to share the incident with us. Our mission is to provide the highest level of health care to Veterans, so upon learning of the incident, I took swift action. The employee was immediately removed from patient care pending the results of an internal review.

h/t Twitchy

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Florida VA hospital left deceased veteran in shower room for 9 hours, report finds

There IS NO EXCUSE for this. Wait until you see what the hospital said about it. Warning: My response to them is NSFW.

misadministration

From Fox News: An internal report blames staffers at a Veterans Affairs hospital in Florida for leaving the body of a deceased veteran to decompose in a shower for nine hours and then trying to cover it up.

The 24-page report concluded that hospice staffers at the Bay Pines VA hospital failed to provide appropriate post-mortem care to the veteran’s body, Fox 13 Tampa reports.

The report found hospice staff put the veteran’s body in a hallway and left it there for an unspecified time, the station reported. Staff then put the veteran’s body in the shower room and did not “check on the status of the decedent…for over nine hours.”

suzanne-klinker-va-bay-pines

The Medical Center Director for Bay Pines, Suzanne Klinker. From her bio,”With dedication to the organization’s I CARE values of integrity, commitment, advocacy, respect, and excellence, she oversees health care delivery for the entire organization which includes one large medical center, eight outpatient clinics and 4,000 employees with an operating budget of more than $700 million.” Contact the women dedicated to respect and excellence at 727-398-9300.

The report also found that a staff member then “falsely documented” the incident, Fox 13 reported.

The investigative report said that leaving the body unattended for so long increased the chance of decomposition.

“The report details a total failure on the part of the Department of Veterans Affairs and an urgent need for greater accountability,” Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., told the station. “Unsurprisingly, not a single VA employee has been fired following this incident, despite a clear lack of concern and respect for the veteran. The men and women who sacrificed on behalf of our nation deserve better.”

The unnamed veteran died in February after spending time in hospice care. The hospital’s Administrative Investigation Board ordered retraining for staff.

Hospital spokesman Jason Dangel told the Tampa Bay Times hospital officials view what happened as unacceptable.

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Texas VA medical center accused of falsifying veteran wait times

Another VA scandal for Obama’s record.

misadministration

From Fox News: A Houston VA hospital altered records to hide lengthy patient waiting lists even as a national scandal regarding treatment of veterans was unfolding, a federal watchdog charged in a scathing report released this week.

Officials at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston and its associated clinics altered records to make it appear that hundreds of appointments canceled by staff were really called off by patients, according to the VA’s Office of Inspector General. The federal audit determined the changes were made to hide unacceptable wait times as VA hospitals around the country were under fire for neglecting patients.

“As a result, VHA’s recorded wait times did not reflect the actual wait experienced by the veterans and the wait time remained unreliable and understated,” the report noted.

The audit was performed after the IG received an anonymous tip saying officials instructed staff to incorrectly record cancellations. Records showed 223 appointments were incorrectly recorded as patient cancellations between July 2014 and June 2015.

The report did not point the finger at the facility’s top leadership. It determined that two previous scheduling supervisors and a current director of two affiliated clinics “instructed staff to incorrectly record cancellations as canceled by the patient.”

Of the 223 cancellations, 94 appointments were put off an average of 81 days. But because the cancellations were improperly attributed to patients, no delays or backlog was evident in the center’s electronic scheduling system, according to the review.

Most damning about the report is that the improper behavior followed a stunning national review that revealed widespread corruption at VA facilities across the nation — from rejected medical claims to delays in treatment and cover-ups by high-level officials. In May 2014, U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki resigned from office amid the fallout from the controversy.

“These issues have continued despite the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) having identified similar issues during a May and June 2014 system-wide review of access,” the report stated. “These conditions persisted because of a lack of effective training and oversight.”

Officials at the center took issue with the findings in a statement to FoxNews.com Thursday. “The … report did not substantiate any case of Houston VA Medical Center senior leaders intentionally manipulating scheduling data,” said Maureen Dyman, the center’s communications director.

Supervisors and staff have undergone extensive training in scheduling practices in the last two years, Dyman said. Supervisors now conduct monthly audits of appointments scheduled, and officials at the center regularly meet with schedulers to make sure their practices are properly understood, she added.

David Maulsby, executive director of the Houston-based group, PTSD Foundation of America, told FoxNews.com that his organization maintains strong relationships with a number of people within the Houston-area VA, like social workers. But, Maulsby noted, the latest government audit reflects a system that is “clearly still broken.”

Obama_laughing

“We have seen on many occasions these types of things happening — appointments getting lost or wait times extended for very important things,” Maulsby said. “Until Congress is willing to give the ability to fire the people who need to be fired, this will perpetually be the problem.”

“The greater problem is that our veterans, who have already borne the cost of war, are now required to bear the cost of not receiving the care they deserve,” he said.

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Deepak Chopra: Trump is “emotionally retarded, maybe mentally retarded”

If you aren’t angry about our almost $20 TRILLION debt, the Obamacare mandate, the Iran Deal, the Veterans Administration scandal, the IRS targeting TEA Party organizations, and the multitude of ineptness coming out of this administration and congress, maybe YOU are emotionally retarded.

chopra

From PennLive: Deepak Chopra, one of the most recognizable figures in alternative medicine, said Donald Trump is popular because he’s giving our collective psyche permission to express the darkest demons.

“I would never say this unless I believed it was 100 percent true, but he represents the racist, the bigot, the one who’s prejudiced, the one who is full of fear and hatred, the one who represents emotional retardation of a three-year old,” Chopra said during a conservative radio show this week, according to The Daily Beast.

Chopra, who regularly practices yoga and meditation, said the presumptive GOP nominee is full of fear. “He is angry. He has a lot of hatred. He pouts, he’s belligerent, he’s emotionally retarded,” he said, according to The Daily Beast.

Chopra said he wouldn’t describe anyone as “retarded.”

“But he’s bringing out the worst in me, because I, too, am fearful of what would happen to the United States of America and the rest of the world if, God forbid, he became president,” he said, according to The Daily Beast.

However, after briefly regretting his own negative thoughts, Chopra upped the ante. “Maybe I was too kind when I said he was emotionally retarded, maybe he’s mentally retarded too,” he said.

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Seattle worker treated “like dirt” for exposing government fraud

In this photo taken May 12, 2016, Commerce Department employee C.J. Jackson poses for a photo in front of the Henry M. Jackson Federal Building where she works, in Seattle. Jackson, a federal employee who helped expose a fraud in which an Army veteran lied his way to a Purple Heart and hundreds of thousands of dollars in government benefits, was punished for supposedly violating the man's privacy. Jackson says she's spent $20,000 on legal fees to fight off the discipline. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

In this photo taken May 12, 2016, Commerce Department employee C.J. Jackson poses for a photo in front of the Henry M. Jackson Federal Building where she works, in Seattle. Jackson, a federal employee who helped expose a fraud in which an Army veteran lied his way to a Purple Heart and hundreds of thousands of dollars in government benefits, was punished for supposedly violating the man’s privacy. Jackson says she’s spent $20,000 on legal fees to fight off the discipline. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

From the Seattle Times: A federal employee in Seattle helped expose a fraud in which an Army veteran lied his way to a Purple Heart and hundreds of thousands of dollars in government benefits.

Her reward? The agency Cristina Jackson works for repeatedly tried to punish her for what it said were violations of the man’s privacy, according to an AP review of hundreds of pages of personnel and investigative records.

U.S. Commerce Department officials proposed suspending her for at least a month — even as they reached one of two settlements with the veteran. Darryl Lee Wright was paid for skipped work and legal fees he incurred complaining about a hostile work environment.

They tried to downgrade Jackson’s annual rating, then proposed a shorter suspension.

Jackson says she has racked up $20,000 in legal bills fighting the discipline. The Commerce Department, which did not respond to requests for comment, has refused to reimburse her.

“To this day I don’t understand it,” Jackson, 55, said. “What does ‘vindication’ even mean when the agency I work for doesn’t see it that way?”

Wright, 48, pleaded guilty to federal charges in February, more than six years after Jackson told her bosses that he had submitted fake National Guard orders to be paid for a week of missed work. He’s due to be sentenced in August. Through his lawyer he declined an interview request.

Darryl Lee Wright

Darryl Lee Wright

“Cristina Jackson’s willingness to come forward was critical to uncovering the truth,” Assistant U.S. Attorney David Reese Jennings said. “But for her actions, law enforcement would not have had what they needed to uncover the fraud.”

Wright joined the Economic Development Administration, a job-promoting agency within the Commerce Department, in 2008. His absences quickly mounted, and he announced he was dealing with PTSD stemming from service in Iraq.

Jackson, the office’s administrative director, oversaw his attendance records. Late in 2009, Wright asked to convert missed work into paid leave for “emergency” National Guard duty. The orders he provided were unsigned or didn’t have his name.

Jackson, who previously worked in administrative roles with the Navy and Army reserve, asked for more documentation. He told her to check with the Washington National Guard.

With permission from her boss, that’s what she did. The Guard determined Wright “purposely falsified Washington Military Department orders to defraud his civilian employer,” according to a December 2009 investigation report .

The Commerce Department began planning to fire Wright, according to a memo written by Jackson’s immediate boss.

But Wright went on the offensive. In 2010 he accused Jackson of violating the Privacy Act by informing the National Guard about his PTSD, the records show. The federal law governs disclosure of personal information kept by federal agencies.

Officials quickly reached the first settlement with Wright. They agreed to allow him to convert up to 240 hours of missed work to sick leave, paid $5,500 for his legal fees, and even required Jackson and others in the office to take a class about PTSD and other combat injuries.

After Jackson learned about that settlement, she filed a complaint with the Commerce Department’s inspector general, who in 2011 recommended Wright be disciplined “based on the gravity of his misconduct.” Those findings made their way to federal prosecutors.

In a 2014 indictment, they alleged an audacious scam stemming from a single lie: that Wright was injured in Kirkuk, Iraq, on Aug. 30, 2005. Wright, then a first lieutenant with the Idaho National Guard, was near a battalion headquarters building when two rockets landed about 100 yards away, he and others in his unit wrote. Their reports referenced no casualties. “As far as anyone on our team getting hurt, no, that didn’t happen,” then-Capt. Mark Moeckli said last month.

But in 2010, Wright successfully applied for a Purple Heart. In his paperwork, he claimed he “was violently thrown and knocked unconscious from the percussion of the rockets’ impact.”

Wright also claimed Social Security disability benefits, insisting he was frequently bedridden. Social Security paid his sister to be his live-in caregiver, though she performed no such service. By May 2013, the siblings were bringing in benefits totaling $10,000 per month, prosecutors said.

Meanwhile, Wright was employed by the Commerce Department until 2012, coaching high school basketball in the Seattle suburb of Woodinville, and serving on the planning commission in Snoqualmie, the city east of Seattle.

Jackson’s direct boss, A. Leonard Smith, defended her. In 2011, when he learned a human resources investigator proposed suspending Jackson for at least a month, he wrote a blistering memo, calling the investigation of her “severely deficient.” He noted that the Privacy Act typically does not bar the release of information gleaned outside agency files and that Wright had spoken freely about his purported medical condition.

“It is an egregious mistake to penalize an employee who has done nothing in this case other than what is expected of her position,” Smith wrote. The 30-day suspension was never imposed.

“They were false charges with regard to C.J., if you want my opinion,” said Bettye Atkinson, Wright’s former supervisor, who retired after 40 years at the Commerce Department. “A lot of this was handled out of the D.C. office and they didn’t listen to us in the regional office.”

The department did eventually propose firing Wright. In response, his attorney blamed Wright’s actions on war injuries and recommended in 2012 the department allow him to pursue a disability retirement instead. A settlement that year resulted in his departure from the agency.

But Jackson’s troubles continued. Even after receiving Smith’s memo, Thomas Guevara, the Economic Development Administration’s deputy assistant secretary for regional affairs, docked her annual rating for 2011 and in early 2012 proposed suspending her for two days. Guevara declined to answer questions from the AP.

Jackson’s lawyer, Saphronia Young, helped have Jackson’s excellent annual rating re-instated, but the proposed two-day suspension has not been withdrawn, Young said. “She went from being this highly regarded, stellar employee with an unblemished record to being treated like dirt,” Young said. “It’s just not fair.”

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Lawmakers furious at DOJ move that could protect fired VA official

Talk is cheap lawmakers. DO something about it!

Obama and Lynch


From Fox News: Lawmakers are fuming over what they describe as a “shameful” decision by the Justice Department that could help the former head of the scandal-scarred Phoenix Veterans Affairs hospital get her job back.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch, in a letter sent Tuesday, notified House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., that the DOJ would not defend a key provision of the Veteran Affairs reform law, passed in the wake of the scandal over officials covering up long patient wait-times.

The provision in question had helped uphold the expedited firing of the Phoenix official at the heart of the scandal, Sharon Helman.

Sharon Helman

Now, lawmakers say Lynch’s decision could put Helman back on the job, as she pursues a lawsuit against the government.  

Helman had been fired in November 2014 amid criticism not only over the wait-time cover-ups at the Phoenix VA but also unreported gifts. Congressional critics warn the DOJ move is a blow to accountability. 

“The effect of this reckless action is clear: It undermines very modest reforms to our broken civil service system supported in 2014 by the president and an overwhelming majority of Congress,” House Veteran Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., said in a statement Wednesday night.

Lynch stressed in her letter that the DOJ will “continue to defend the vast bulk” of the law, including against Helman’s other legal challenges. But she said the DOJ would not defend the provision that denied Helman an appeal after a judge upheld her removal. 

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, criticized the decision. “The Obama Administration’s decision to disregard the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act with regard to Sharon Helman – who led the Phoenix VA during the scandal in care in which at least 40 veterans died – is shameful,” McCain said in a written statement Wednesday.

Helman was fired as part of a crackdown in the wake of the national scandal over long wait times for veterans trying to get medical care and falsified records covering up the delays.

“When Congress passed the Veterans Choice Act, a key provision allowed for incompetent and indifferent executives whose inaction allowed veterans to die to be more easily fired. Now, even after the President signed this provision into law, his administration is refusing to defend this measure of accountability,” McCarthy told CNN Wednesday.

Helman, who led the hospital from 2012 to 2014, as well as two other high-ranking officials, were placed on administrative leave amid an investigation into allegations that 40 vets died while awaiting treatment at the hospital. The scandal also led to the ousting of former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and the creation of the new law that overhauls the veterans’ health care system.

Helman is suing the federal government to win her old job back and as part of that argued the congressional reforms unconstitutionally denied her a step to appeal her dismissal.

“While this matter is still pending in federal court, we will immediately begin exploring legislative remedies to thwart the Obama administration’s blatant advocacy on behalf of those whose mismanagement, malfeasance and crimes may have contributed to veteran and taxpayer harm,” Miller said. 

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