Archive for the ‘Veterans’ Category

Murtha Award Ignites Veterans in Protest

March 27, 2009

In one of his last moves before leaving office March 13, then-Navy Secretary Donald Winter quietly awarded 19-term Democratic congressman John Murtha (Pa.) with the service’s highest civilian honor.

By Christian Lowe

Citing Murtha’s “courageous leadership, vision, and loyalty to the men and women of the Department of the Navy,” Winter presented the influential chairman of the House Appropriations Committee’s defense panel with the Navy’s Distinguished Public Service Award, an honor bestowed in “those extraordinary cases where individuals have demonstrated exceptionally outstanding service of substantial and long term benefit to the Navy, Marine Corps, or the Department of the Navy as a whole,” a Murtha release stated.

The award generated little publicity when it was given to Murtha in early March, but as news of the honor trickled out, some veterans groups ignited a firestorm of protest.

Poll: Should the Navy reconsider Murtha’s award

The primary reason for their ire stems from the congressman’s statements in May, 2006, that a squad of Marines who responded to an IED ambush and short firefight in Haditha, Iraq, rampaged through the village, murdering civilians “in cold blood.”

Murtha made those comments in the heat of the 2006 congressional mid-term election campaign, in a move some political analysts saw as an attempt to stoke the anti-war vote for a Democratic takeover of the House. The former Marine and distinguished Vietnam veteran continued his accusations in follow-up media appearances before an official Pentagon and Naval Criminal Investigative Service investigation had been completed.

When the dust settled more than two years later, six of the eight Marines and Sailors accused of crimes in the Haditha incident had their cases dismissed, one was found not guilty and the last has been continued indefinitely.

The Navy did not respond to a request for comment on the award or the backlash from veterans groups by post time.

Murtha has refused to recant his accusations or or apologize to the Marines he accused of war crimes….

Read the rest:

American Democracy With Checks and Balances is Broken; Media, Congress Failing

March 21, 2009

Budgets make policy.  Budgets are policy.

Politics has become, “Listen to what I say, but if you really want to know the truth, dig into where the money goes.”

President Obama is a perfect example of that.  Ignore the speeches: research the budgets.

In the era of sound bites and videos and You Tube, nobody seems to want to do any tough work any more.  So it is easy to lap up the cool aid of political talk and then ignore the budget.

But your money is being spent in the budget.  That is where words turn into actions.

And the Obama budgets so far are full of waste and mistakes and bad policy: that is why congress was told to rush through the stimulus which ultimately created the AIG bonus flap.

Now that’s an outrage.

If $165 million cause that “outrage”, think what a careful review of the other $170 some BILLION may have found?

And because of media acquiessence which had given Obama carte blanche, and a free ride most of the time, our Democrocy is just about broken.

Two legs of our system of checks and balances are paralyzed: Congress and the media.  The AIG snafu should be all the proof anyone needs.

Geithner and everyone who had their hands on the stimulus should be fired because rapid fire legislation and budgeting is almost always bad legislation and budgeting.

You ever do a 5 hour term paper in 20 minutes?

Obama already enjoys a huge Democrat majority in the congress and can get anything he wants: why add rushed legislation and other tricks to the supposedly “deliberative process”?

Because the budgets are hiding many serious problems that, when they see the light of day, can be fixed.

“Inside budgets you’ll find a lot of bad political judgment,” a friend and senior policy advisor told me. “Budget guys aren’t policy guys and political guys rarely have time to read the budget.  When the stimulus raced through the congress without hearings, you had no checks and balances.  Congress gave that role up.  So there were bound to be problems.”

The End of America As We Knew It?


By Philip Rucker
The Washington Post

It was a diverse group of veterans that showed up Monday morning at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Two retired generals, a blind man, three men with prosthetic legs and one in a wheelchair.

They gathered in the historic Roosevelt Room, where Teddy Roosevelt’s Medal of Honor is displayed in a corner. For some veterans leaders, it was their first visit to the West Wing. When President Obama came into the room, he shook their hands, thanked them for their service and asked each for his opinion.

“He kind of blew me away,” said Randy L. Pleva Sr., president of Paralyzed Veterans of America.

They thanked Obama for proposing an 11 percent increase in the budget of the Department of Veterans Affairs and expanding health care to more veterans. But the leaders of veterans service organizations warned the president that their goodwill would vanish if he pursued a budget proposal to bill veterans’ private insurance companies for treatment of amputations, post-traumatic stress disorder and other combat-related injuries.

One Vietnam veteran summoned his deep voice to address Obama, calling the change “a dumb move.” An Iraq veteran said the move would be “a deal-breaker” because it would represent an abrogation of the government’s responsibility to care for the wounded and could jeopardize veterans’ insurance benefits.

After 45 minutes, the veterans posed with Obama for photographs in the Oval Office but left with no resolution. Within hours they set a media campaign in motion. A headline on Drudge Report said Obama was betraying veterans. A top Democratic senator called the proposal “dead on arrival.” An American Legion spokesman railed against it in 42 interviews with conservative talk radio hosts.

On Wednesday, trying to gain control of the situation, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel summoned the same group of veterans back to the White House. “We said, ‘Look, don’t give [Republicans] an opportunity to slam you,’ ” said one veteran, who detailed the conversation only on the condition of anonymity. “I really don’t think there was malicious intent there. I think it was more a matter of a bad political judgment.”

Read the rest:

Aides Attempt to Cover for Obama; White House Not Worthy of Special Olympics

March 20, 2009

President Barack Obama made his difficult week worse Thursday by saying his poor bowling skills are “like the Special Olympics or something,” an athletic competition for people with disabilities. His spokesman quickly said Obama hadn’t intended any offense.


Appearing on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” in California, Obama sought to mock his lackluster bowling skills by saying that he recently bowled a score of 129 in the White House bowling alley.

After the show’s taping and en route back to Washington on Air Force One, Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton told reporters that Obama had “made an offhand remark making fun of his own bowling that was in no way intended to disparage the Special Olympics.”

“He thinks that the Special Olympics are a wonderful program that gives an opportunity to shine to people with disabilities from around the world,” Burton said.

Aside from the regrettable appearance of a president even implicitly poking fun at the disabled, Obama’s comments came on the same day that he had appeared with California First Lady Maria Shriver, an early supporter whose mother founded the games.

U.S. President Barack Obama (L) speaks to host Jay Leno on the ... 
U.S. President Barack Obama (L) speaks to host Jay Leno on the NBC late night comedy show “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” in Burbank, California March 19, 2009.REUTERS/Larry Downing (UNITED STATES POLITICS ENTERTAINMENT SOCIETY)

Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Maria Shriver’s mother and the former president’s sister, founded the athletic competition for the disabled in 1968.

Obama used much of his appearance on the comedy show to discuss the economy but sought to get in some light-hearted quips toward the end of the taping.

He said he had been working on his bowling game just below his new residence and recently rolled a 129.

“That’s very good, Mr. President,” cracked host Jay Leno

It’s “like the Special Olympics or something,” the president replied.

Obama’s bowling skills, or lack thereof, have been a running joke since he fared poorly during an impromptu game at a Pennsylvania bowling alley during the Democratic primary last year.

Obama’s line on Leno was reminiscent of a crack at Nancy Reagan he let slip last year.

“I didn’t want to get into a Nancy Reagan thing about, you know, doing any seances,” he said at a press conference days after being elected last November, a reference to the former First Lady‘s consultation with an astrologer during her time in the White House.

Obama called the elderly Reagan after his comment and apologized about what an aide described as “a careless and off-handed remark.”


From the Washington Times:

St. CLOUD, Minn. | To hear his camp tell it Thursday, President Obama has been in the dark on his administration’s controversial efforts to force veterans to use their private insurance for treatments and to clear the way for large bonuses to be paid to the executives of the failed insurance giant AIG.

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. was the latest to offer the president-didn’t-know defense, suggesting to a Minnesota audience that Mr. Obama was “unaware” of the veterans plan until the president floated it to veterans groups leaders this past Monday and stirred a major controversy.

Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner joined the bandwagon, saying it was he and not the president who deserved the blame for letting the bonuses to American International Group Inc. proceed.

“It’s my responsibility,” Mr. Geithner said, taking the blame just days after the White House leaked reports that it didn’t know about the bonuses until after they were issued.

The efforts to shield the president from the fallout of early administration missteps has opened a door for Republicans to cast doubts on the competence, credibility and discipline of the new White House.

“We have the president saying he takes full responsibility and then saying it’s not his fault,” said Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican.

Mr. Kyl and other top Senate Republicans tweaked the president for finding the time to fill out an NCAA basketball tournament bracket and appear on Jay Leno’s “Tonight Show” while anger was boiling over in Washington over revelations of the bonuses and while the nation’s credit markets remained in crisis.

“This administration seems to have disdain or very little time for the hard work of governing,” said Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican.

Read the rest:

Obama Plans to Charge Wounded Heroes for Treatment

March 17, 2009

The leader of the nation’s largest veterans organization says he is “deeply disappointed and concerned” after a meeting with President Obama today to discuss a proposal to force private insurance companies to pay for the treatment of military veterans who have suffered service-connected disabilities and injuries. The Obama administration recently revealed a plan to require private insurance carriers to reimburse the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in such cases.  

“It became apparent during our discussion today that the President intends to move forward with this unreasonable plan,” said Commander David K. Rehbein of The American Legion. “He says he is looking to generate $540-million by this method, but refused to hear arguments about the moral and government-avowed obligations that would be compromised by it.”

Read the rest:

Contact: Craig Roberts of The American Legion, +1-202-263-2982 Office, +1-202-406-0887 Cell

Bloomberg: “No NYC Veteran Will Be Homeless”

February 13, 2009

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Jim Nicholson, and Homeless Services (DHS) Commissioner Robert V. Hess today announced an historic agreement between the City of New York and the VA to help end veteran homelessness in the City. Under the agreement, the City will place 100 veterans into permanent housing in 100 days. Veterans Affairs and the City will also convene a Task Force that will report back in 100 days with a strategic plan to end veteran homelessness in New York City. The Task Force, whose inaugural meeting was held following the announcement, will develop long-term plans for new joint VA-New York City street outreach teams, a new joint VA-New York City homeless intake center, and additional health care, mental health treatment and substance abuse treatment for eligible veterans. The announcement was made at the Borden Avenue Veterans Residence in Queens, the first veterans-only shelter established in the United States. 

From New York City

“No veteran should be sleeping on the streets or in shelters in New York City,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “Our City and our country owe a debt of gratitude to our veterans, and those who have had the misfortune to become homeless deserve our help to get back on their feet. I hope our new partnership with Veterans Affairs will become a national model.”

 “This agreement represents another positive step forward in our fight to eradicate the scourge of veteran homelessness from our streets,” said Secretary Nicholson. “Our veterans have served us all by taking the oath to preserve liberty and protect our way of life, and we must and will continue to work together to repay our grateful nation’s debt to these valiant defenders. I appreciate Mayor Bloomberg’s leadership in combating veteran homelessness, and we at VA look forward to working with the City of New York on this initiative and others that serve America’s veterans.”

“No one who has served and fought for our country should have to live on the streets,” said Commissioner Hess. “With the VA’s help and support along with its valuable resources, we can make sure that doesn’t happen in New York City. That’s why we’re making 100 permanent housing slots immediately available for our veterans.”

“Housing 100 homeless veterans in 100 days is a great step toward the City’s goal of ending veteran homelessness,” said Office of Veteran Affairs’ Executive Director Clarice Joynes.  “I commend Mayor Bloomberg, Secretary Nicholson, and Commissioner Hess for their bold commitment. We are all grateful for the sacrifices made by our veterans in service to our City and our country, and we are committed to assisting those who have fallen on hard times.”

Read the rest:

Military veterans’ mental traumas

December 28, 2008

More that ever before, the wounds of war are of and in the mind and the Veterans Administration has been learning how best to provide treatment…

“Wars are supposed to end when the last shots are fired, but some of our new veterans will unfortunately have to cope with internal demons that may last their lifetime,” said Joe Davis, spokesman for the Veterans of Foreign Wars.


President-elect Barack Obama (L) introduces retired General ... 
President-elect Barack Obama (L) introduces retired General Eric K. Shinseki as nominee for Veterans Affairs secretary during a news conference in Chicago, December 7, 2008.REUTERS/John Gress (UNITED STATES)

Service members returning from Afghanistan and Iraq increasingly are suffering from mental trauma that dampens their homecomings, hobbles their re-entry into civilian life and imperils their continued military service – a situation the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has sought to address with treatment, counseling and even drug experimentation.

But even as the VA has worked to provide quality health care for millions of veterans at its facilities across the country, it has endured a series of failures – from not notifying test subjects about new drug warnings to ignoring safeguards during experiments. Those failures have damaged the reputation of the agency charged with supporting vulnerable veterans.

But it also has compromised the speedy recovery of those vets.

By Audry Hudson
the Washington Times

President-elect Barack Obama, who has named retired Gen. Eric K. Shinseki as incoming VA secretary, will have to deal with those long-standing discrepancies in the agency, as well as seek out new solutions to remedy the mental health problems plaguing an ever-growing population of veterans.

“Wars are supposed to end when the last shots are fired, but some of our new veterans will unfortunately have to cope with internal demons that may last their lifetime,” said Joe Davis, spokesman for the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Read the rest:

Dear President-elect Obama: America’s Healthcare Nightmare — 90% Failure Rate Sector

December 18, 2008

American healthcare has a secret few want to face; conditions “worse than Federal prison” in some cases.

American nursing homes and healthcare for the elderly dehumanizes, degrades, demeans and even harms the people that paid for middle-class and middle-aged Americans and their many luxuries.

After visiting a friend in a nursing home yesterday, my companion said, “That place is worse than Federal prison.” 

My friends are “retired convicts,” as one said.  He told me he’d rather be on death row than in the nursing home facility we visited yesterday.

Our friend in the nursing home wasn’t sure he was getting the proper medications, hadn’t had a bath or shower in weeks and a human waste bucket that had been next to his bed for days stood close to his cold breakfast.

And he’s one of the lucky ones.

More than 90 percent of  nursing homes were cited for violations of federal health and safety standards last year, and for-profit homes were more likely to have problems than other types of nursing homes, federal investigators say in a report issued last September.

The report last September by Daniel R. Levinson, the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services said 17 percent of nursing homes had deficiencies that caused “actual harm or immediate jeopardy” to patients.

The veterans of  World War II, for example, the people Tom Brokaw called the  “Greatest Generation,” sometimes live out their last days of their lives in their own filth — and in facilities paid for mainly by your tax dollars and your insurance companies.

Tom Brokaw by David Shankbone

The poorer you are in America the more likely you are to become  neglected, unwashed and uncared-for as an older prerson put away in a nursing home.

You can bet Tom Brokaw won’t end up living in aged squalor.

We’ve visited hundreds of nursing homes over the past year.  Some good.  Some bad.  Some deplorable.

But our overarching impression is this: while you are making money and lots of it, America loves you.  After your energy and money runs out you’ll be treated like an African refugee from Darfur.

There is now a move to rate nursing homes nation-wide.  We support this effert.

The nursing home “industry” is opposed to ratings and angry.

The system “is poorly planned, prematurely implemented and hamhandedly rolled out,” said Larry Minnix, president and chief executive officer of the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, an industry trade group.

If you’ve been in a below average nursing home lately, you’ll likely support the new rating system — any new rating system.

Nursing home industry worries about new ratings


90% Of Nursing Homes Cited For Poor Care, Violations; 17% Do Harm

By Robert Pear
The New York Times

More than 90 percent of nursing homes were cited for violations of federal health and safety standards last year, and for-profit homes were more likely to have problems than other types of nursing homes, federal investigators say in a report issued on Monday.
About 17 percent of nursing homes had deficiencies that caused “actual harm or immediate jeopardy” to patients, said the report, by Daniel R. Levinson, the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Problems included infected bedsores, medication mix-ups, poor nutrition, and abuse and neglect of patients.

Inspectors received 37,150 complaints about conditions in nursing homes last year, and they substantiated 39 percent of them, the report said. About one-fifth of the complaints verified by federal and state authorities involved the abuse or neglect of patients.

About two-thirds of nursing homes are owned by for-profit companies, while 27 percent are owned by nonprofit organizations and 6 percent by government entities, the report said.

The inspector general said 94 percent of for-profit nursing homes were cited for deficiencies last year, compared with 88 percent of nonprofit homes and 91 percent of government homes.

Read the rest:

Obama’s Choice of Gen Shinseki For VA: Good or Bad For Vets?

December 10, 2008

General Eric Shinseki gained controversey, even noteriety, when he predicted that the invasion of Iraq would take a lot more troops than the number predicted by Defense Secretary Rumsfeld.  When asked about the appointment of General Shinseki to head the Department of Veterans Affairs on “Meet the Press,” part of Barack Obama’s answer was, “He was right” about the troop numbers.

I thought at the time: being right on that one issue doesn’t make a person the best leader of the Veterans….


From the Washington Post

My own view is that Shinseki is a shrewd choice.  He is an honorable man — he has handled his retirement much better than the anti-war faction has — and he will give the VA post a higher profile than it has had in the past.  Ironically, his sky-high reputation will give him authority to serve as something of a check on the Administration if they move in ways detrimental to Veterans.  What is your view?Read the rest:

President-elect Barack Obama (L) introduces retired General ...

President-elect Barack Obama (L) introduces retired General Eric K. Shinseki as nominee for Veterans Affairs secretary during a news conference in Chicago, December 7, 2008.REUTERS/John Gress (UNITED STATES)

Obama: No person ‘more qualified’ than Shinseki to head VA

December 7, 2008

President-elect Barack Obama formally announced Sunday that retired Army Gen. Eric Shinseki is his pick to be secretary of Veterans Affairs.


Obama names Shinseki as choice for VA chief 

“There is no one more distinguished, more determined, or more qualified to build this VA than the leader I am announcing as our next secretary of Veterans Affairs — General Eric Shinseki,” Obama said at a press conference. “No one will ever doubt that this former Army chief of staff has the courage to stand up for our troops and our veterans. No one will ever question whether he will fight hard enough to make sure they have the support they need.”

Read the rest:

Rumsfeld nemesis Shinseki to be named VA secretary

December 7, 2008

President-elect Barack Obama has chosen retired Gen. Eric K. Shinseki to be the next Veterans Affairs secretary, turning to a former Army chief of staff once vilified by the Bush administration for questioning its Iraq war strategy.

General Shinseki Is A Spectacular Pick!

Obama will announce the selection of Shinseki, the first Army four-star general of Japanese-American ancestry, at a news conference Sunday in Chicago. He will be the first Asian-American to hold the post of Veterans Affairs secretary, adding to the growing diversity of Obama’s Cabinet.

“I think that General Shinseki is exactly the right person who is going to be able to make sure that we honor our troops when they come home,” Obama said in an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press” to be broadcast Sunday.

NBC released a transcript of the interview after The Associated Press reported that Shinseki was Obama’s pick.

By Hope Yen, Associated Press WriterShinseki’s tenure as Army chief of staff from 1999 to 2003 was marked by constant tensions with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, which boiled over in 2003 when Shinseki testified to Congress that it might take several hundred thousand U.S. troops to control Iraq after the invasion.


Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, belittled the estimate as “wildly off the mark” and the army general was ousted within months. But Shinseki’s words proved prophetic after President George W. Bush in early 2007 announced a “surge” of additional troops to Iraq after miscalculating the numbers needed to stem sectarian violence.

Obama said he chose Shinseki for the VA post because he “was right” in predicting that the U.S. will need more troops in Iraq than Rumsfeld believed at the time.

Read the rest:

In this July 21, 2000 file photo, then Army Chief of Staff Gen. ... 
In this July 21, 2000 file photo, then Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki talks with reporters Pentagon in Washington. Democratic officials say President-elect Barack Obama has selected Shinseki to be the next Veterans Affairs secretary.(AP Photo/Kamenko Pajic, File)