Sunday, February 18, 2018

VAMC NORTHPORT - THE WEEKLY NEWS DUMP, PART 2

VAMC NORTHPORT - THE WEEKLY NEWS DUMP, PART 2



The Department of Veterans Affairs looks like it is coming apart at the seams. While I like to focus on our little hospital on the hill in Northport, I cannot ignore what is going on in Washington, DC and the effects on our local situation. To this point, I am going to publish two separate blogs. One will hi-light our local hospital happenings and the other will hi-light the national VA news and Press articles that affect us. So, look for Part 1 & Part 2.






VA Secretary Shulkin 'Misused' Taxpayer Money for Euro Trip: Watchdog

In this Feb. 14, 2017 file photo,




Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin

speaks in the Eisenhower Executive Office

Building on the White House complex in

Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)






Military.com 14 Feb 2018 By Richard Sisk

VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin became the latest Trump administration official to be caught up in a travel expense scandal Wednesday with the release of a watchdog's report that painted his 11-day trip to Europe last July as more of a sightseeing junket than official business.

The trip to Denmark and England that cost taxpayers at least $122,334 was replete with "serious derelictions" on Shulkin's part that included his improper acceptance of Wimbledon tickets and airfare for his wife, according to the report by the office of Veterans Affairs Department Inspector General Michael Missal.

The report charged that Shulkin's chief of staff, Vivieca Wright Simpson, made false representations to a VA ethics lawyer and altered an official email to secure approval of payment of the $4,132 airfare for Shulkin's wife, Dr. Merle Bari, a dermatologist in private practice.

The report also described a "significant amount of personal time" that was mixed in during the trip with meetings on veterans matters in Copenhagen and London.

The personal time included numerous side trips, sightseeing tours, private dinners and tickets to the Wimbledon tennis women's finals, which Venus Williams lost to Garbarine Muguruza.

In addition, a VA aide "effectively acted as a personal travel concierge" to Shulkin and his wife to plan and arrange their personal itineraries during the trip, the IG's report said.

The aide made "extensive use of official time" to make the arrangements, the report said, and "this was time that should have been spent conducting official VA business and not providing personal travel concierge services to Secretary Shulkin and his wife," Inspector General Michael Missal wrote.


The IG's office said the entire trip amounted to a "misuse of VA resources," and referred several allegations from the report to the Justice Department, which has decided not prosecute at this time.

In a letter to Missal, Shulkin heatedly denied the allegations in the report. Referring to Missal, Shulkin said "Your staff's conduct related to this investigation reeks of an agenda. Your portrayal of this trip is overall and entirely inaccurate."

Shulkin charged that the report "draws conclusions based on subjective and arbitrary criteria. "It is outrageous that you would portray my wife and me as attempting to take advantage of the government," Shulkin said, but he agreed to pay back the money for his wife's airfare and the Wimbledon tickets.

The report drew condemnation for Shulkin in a joint statement from the bipartisan leadership of the Senate and House Veterans Affairs Committee, and at least one call for his resignation.

"We believe that public officials must be held to a higher standard, and whether intentional or not, misusing taxpayer dollars is unacceptable," the joint statement said.

The statement was signed by Sens. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, and Jon Tester, D-Montana, the chairman and ranking member of the Senate committee, and Reps. Phil Roe, R-Tennessee, and Tim Walz, D-Minnesota, the chairman and ranking member of the House Committee.

"We are still reviewing the full report, but after our briefing from VA Inspector General Mike Missal, we are disappointed by the details described in the IG report regarding the trip taken by Dr. Shulkin and other VA officials, and we hope that the Secretary will fully address the IG's findings."

Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colorado, a member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee and a veteran of both the Army and the Marine Corps, said in a Tweet that "It's exactly corruption and abuses like this that doesn't help our veterans."

He said that Shulkin, the only holdover in the Cabinet from the Obama administration, "must resign now," adding that President Donald Trump "ran on accountability. It starts here."

Shulkin was the latest high-ranking Trump administration official to be caught up In controversies over their penchant for first-class travel, their use of government and military aircraft, and their activities during trips listed as official business.

In September, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price was forced to resign after he racked up $400,000 in bills for charter flights. Questions have also been raised about the first class travel and official business trips of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and most recently Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt.

The IG's report said that Shulkin told the IG's staff that he found the trip with his wife, three VA executives and a security detail of six "substantively valuable to VA's mission."

In Copenhagen, Shulkin said he had a number of meetings on issues related to Danish veterans' health issues and their healthcare system, participated in a roundtable lunch with CEOs of Danish healthcare companies, and visited a veterans' home and hospital.

In London, Shulkin said he participated in a summit on veterans issues including "post-traumatic disorder, rates of suicide and homelessness among veterans, barriers to mental health care, alternative therapies, veteran-centric approaches to the provision of services, and early intervention."

The IG's report said that the 11-day trip included nine full days in Europe, but "there were only three-and-a-half days of meetings in addition to a reception the evening before the start of the London Summit."

In Denmark, the personal activities included "touring Amalienborg Palace for the Changing of the Guard; visiting Christiansborg Palace, Rosenborg Castle, and Frederiksborg Castle; taking a boat tour of Copenhagen from Nyhavn Canal; and shopping in Copenhagen”, the report said.

"There was also an unplanned excursion across the border to Malmo, Sweden, for dinner," the report said.

In London, the personal activities included excursions to the Churchill War Rooms, Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace, and Westminster Abbey; a Thames River cruise; and visits to St. Paul's Cathedral, Tower of London (including the Ceremony of the Keys), the Tower Bridge, Shakespeare's Globe, London Eye, and Windsor Castle.



- anonymous source: “Two weeks before his European trip with his wife, - Shulkin sent out a memo to all about limited government travel to save money.”

Sounds like some folks in DC have a hard-on for little Davey.

- One comment: “Aw poor wittle baby thinks he’s above the law. The same fucking law this asshole crafted to fire bad apples like him. Arrivederci douche bag”

- Shulkin is lawyered up = 3 of them



OOPS! BAD FUCKING TIMING!!


And, this from FOX NEWS...





A Judge under the U.S. Department of Labor

ruled last month that open-air burn pits -- in

which thousands of chemicals were released

into the air after trash and other waste were

incinerated at American military bases in Iraq

and Afghanistan -- are connected to lung disease

and other health issues. (Public Domain)

 

EXCLUSIVE – Court determines military burn pits caused lung disease in service members / By Perry Chiaramonte | Fox News

 The thousands of U.S. military personnel and private contractors whose health was compromised by the dense black smoke of burn pits - and who were then denied proper treatment - may finally be vindicated by a recent court ruling.

A judge under the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office for Workers’ Compensation Programs decreed last month that open-air burn pits -- where thousands of chemicals were released into the air after trash and other waste were incinerated at American military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan -- are connected to lung disease, Fox News has learned.

The decision marks a victory for the nearly 64,000 active service members and retirees who have put their names on a Burn Pit Registry created by the Veterans Administration, bringing them one step closer to getting adequate medical coverage, something that has never been guaranteed. Private contractors who were also exposed to the burn pit toxins also have been denied coverage.

“This case has legitimized the disease”, former contractor Veronica Landry of Colorado Springs, whose case was a part of the recent ruling, told Fox News. “There are many people out there who are still not getting the treatment they need.

“This ruling changes that.”

Veronica Landry, who worked for a

private contractor on Mosul Air Force

Base in Iraq, returned home with PTSD and lung-related

health issues.  (Courtesy of Veronica Landry)

Soldiers have fallen gravely ill or even died from exposure to burn pits in Afghanistan and Iraq, but they are not the only ones who have gotten sick. Civilian workers and private contractors like Landry are also suffering an array of maladies including cancer, respiratory problems and blood disorders and, like military victims, they say they are being ignored.

But private employees don't even have the Veterans Administration to lean on. Landry filed her case with the Labor Department for this very reason.

“I’m really grateful that the Judge looked over our case,” Landry said. “That’s why this is so important. We wanted to make sure that others can get help.”

Landry said in her testimony that she was exposed to smoke from the burn pits “every day” while working at Mosul Air Force Base in Iraq for Kellogg, Brown, and Root [KBG], and that “every plastic water bottle that every soldier drank out of was also burned in the burn pits.”


“I knew what danger I was going to face when I went to Iraq, but I never imagined that I would bring it back home.”

- Veronica Landry

Landry was sent home early after developing PTSD and making matters worse, she started to develop problems with her lungs and other ailments such as migraines, chills and dangerously low blood pressure. She has been in out of hospitals for nearly ten years.

When symptoms flare up, Landry experiences severe pain and wheezing every time she takes a breath due to inflammation of her lungs. Tasks as simple as speaking can cause her to become light-headed when her condition acts up. She also suffers from fibrosis, which causes her to experience shallow breathing and swelling of her legs and feet from pitting edema.

Landry has been in out of hospitals for

the past decade. Her employer's insurance

company has refused to provide coverage.  

(Courtesy of Veronica Landry)



KBG’s insurance company, AIG, has refused to assist with her medical bills, but the recent judicial ruling made clear that AIG should be covering her expenses.

“This evidence is sufficient to establish Ms. Landry suffers from deployment-related lung disease,” reads a line of the ruling obtained by Fox News. “Ms. Landry need not introduce affirmative medical evidence to show working conditions caused the alleged harm. She need only show working conditions which could conceivably cause the harm alleged.”

The court’s conclusion was that AIG and KBR should be covering Landry’s expenses.

“Employer [KBR] and Carrier [AIG] are liable for all past, present, and future reasonable and necessary medical treatment related to claimant’s work-related post-traumatic stress disorder and deployment-related lung disease,” reads the order.

Landry says she fears the long-term

health issues that could arise from her

exposure to open air burn pits.  

(Courtesy of Veronica Landry)

Officials for Kellogg, Brown, and Root declined to comment on the ruling, instead referring to a previous comment made to back in 2016 when Fox News first reported on Ms. Landry.

“At the limited number of bases where KBR operated burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan, KBR personnel did so safely and effectively at the direction and under the control of the U.S. military,” read the written statement. “KBR complies with all applicable laws and contractual obligations, which includes providing the federally mandated and specified insurance coverage required for employees working overseas supporting the U.S. government.”

KBR insurance provider, AIG, did not respond to requests for comment.

Those in the military community feel that the ruling will help to shine an overdue light on the complications that have arisen for those exposed to burn pit fumes while serving their country.

“I believe this is a case of common sense and victory for military contractors and we can only hope that the same common sense is applied to our military war heroes and their widows,” Rosie Torres, founder of Burn Pits 360, an advocacy group for service members who have fallen ill, told FoxNews.com.

Thousands of U.S. military personnel who

served on bases in Iraq and Afghanistan were

exposed to the dense black smoke from burn

pits where everything from IEDs to human

waste was incinerated.  (Public Domain)

Torres, whose husband, LeRoy Torres, became ill almost immediately after his return from Iraq in 2008, said that the federal ruling grants them evidence that determines that there is a strong association between lung disease and exposure to burn pits.

“Thousands of Veterans have lost their careers, some have taken their own lives, and their widows are left without benefits,” Torres said. “The actual numbers are obscured by a broken system. Unless we address this honestly, unknown thousands even millions will fade into history as the invisible and unacknowledged casualties of our country’s longest war.”

“We are tired of being stuck in a system of bureaucracy.  Being told your lung disease or cancer is psychosomatic, losing your job and being denied benefits is only something the VA can fix.”

While Landry has been able to keep her symptoms under better control through diet and constant care, she fears what the future may bring.

“The progression of my disease is scary for me,” she says. “Will the nodules on my lungs turn to cancer? We don’t know?”

“I knew what danger I was going to face when I went to Iraq, but I never imagined that I would bring it back home.” 

Perry Chiaramonte is a producer with Fox News Channel's Investigative Unit. Follow him on Twitter at @perrych

In other local News...


Bay Shore vet waits on VA to make PTSD ruling...

BAY SHORE -

An Iraq War veteran from Bay Shore says the Department of Veterans Affairs has not helped him with medical bills he has accrued from PTSD-related issues.

Steven Halliday served in the Marine Corps from 2003 until 2007, including 9 ½ months in Iraq. Shortly after returning home, he says he started to experience physical and mental issues.

“I started realizing that I wasn't right mentally. I was having anger outbursts, getting sad and depressed out of nowhere,” says Halliday.

He says he went to the VA Hospital in Northport. At first, they gave him medication that helped, but the depression wouldn't go away. He says medical issues began piling up, leading to two suicide attempts.

“To be at the point where you don't want to live anymore is a horrible, horrible, horrible feeling. And I've been there twice,” he tells News 12.

After years of applying for medical benefits through the VA, he's still waiting for a ruling that his injuries were service-related. He says he's constantly being asked for more documentation.

In the meantime, medical bills have threatened his home and forced his wife to make a GoFundMe page.

"We have exhausted every finance that we could exhaust...it's all gone," says Halliday.

He says the GoFundMe donations have been a "saving grace" until he can get an answer from the VA.

“I'm hurt that my government turned their back on me. They were so quick to ship me off to war, then when you come back, you're just pushed to the back of the line,” says Halliday.

The VA Hospital in Northport did not respond to repeated attempts to comment on Halliday’s situation.


AND...


Navy vet: Northport VA didn't provide post-surgery pain meds

Posted: Feb 14, 2018

 

Replay

Navy vet: Northport VA didn't provide post-surgery pain meds

A Navy veteran from Speonk says the Northport VA Hospital failed to give him any post-surgery pain medication after his knee replacement procedure.

Navy vet: Northport VA didn’t

provide post-surgery pain meds

Posted: Feb 14, 2018 7:30 PM EST

Updated: Feb 14, 2018 7:31 PM EST



SPEONK -

A Navy veteran from Speonk says the Northport VA Hospital failed to give him any post-surgery pain medication after his knee replacement procedure.LIVE

A Navy veteran from Speonk says the Northport VA Hospital failed to give him any post-surgery pain medication after his knee replacement procedure. 

John Fink says the operation went off without a hitch, but that he had to deal with "horrific" pain in the aftermath. 

"After my surgery, I was supposed to get a morphine drip and unfortunately, according to what they told me, the authorization was lost in the computer," said Fink. 

He says he was without any pain medication for 3 ½ hours. 

Fink says a Northport VA doctor told him the computer glitch was part of a pattern that has affected other patients. 

"They blame it on a computer. I blame it on the administrator of the hospital for not addressing this issue and putting in a secondary protocol to prevent this from happening," said Fink. "Especially knowing it's happened to other veterans and not just myself."

A spokesman for the Northport VA told News 12 that privacy restrictions prevent them from publicly discussing individual patients' care, but said they will look into the case. 

Fink says he's speaking out because he hopes what happened to him won't happen to another veteran in the future.

"We served our country to support the rights and liberties of every civilian…we deserve more than we're getting," says Fink. 

2 Comments




This is a systemic problem with the VA Medical Center in Northport. The entire hospital is in a downward spiral and has been for the past thirty years. The services and buildings are deteriorating at an alarming rate, and the staffing is also being decimated. What we have here is no longer a hospital. It is, for now, simply a glorified Medical Clinic. Apparently, VA doesn’t even want a “Clinic” to exist, either!









I believe that story completely. A lot of patient care has changed with computers. Nothing is ordered unless it's in the computer. No one has time to hold a patient's hand anymore - now they have to hold the mouse.






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HEY....VA!
MY LITTLE GIRL DOESN'T LIKE YOU VERY MUCH!

VAMC NORTHPORT - THE WEEKLY NEWS DUMP, PART 1

Campus news from our little hospital on the hill.
Just a quick note:
The Department of Veterans Affairs looks like it is coming apart at the seams. While I like to focus on our little hospital on the hill in Northport, I cannot ignore what is going on in Washington, DC and the effects on our local situation. To this point, I am going to publish two separate blogs. One will hi-light our local hospital happenings and the other will hi-light the national VA news and Press articles that affect us.
So, look for Part 1 & Part 2.
 PART 1 - 

1) 2/12, Monday - In reference to the "Blow Hole" in Room 124 of Bldg. 65 - from an employee :
Yeah! Saw the plumbing crew in the bowels of building 65 & it must’ve backed up into building 6 what a fucking mess there was a huge flood.”
Note: maybe they figured out what a steam trap is, how it works, and what it looks like...they’re blaming the explosions and water leaks on bad plumbing/piping design (which is their VA design, by the way). They’re also blaming the steam explosions on the fact the steam plumbing is tied into the water feed to the swimming pool. That’s just so much bull crap on a number of levels! Or, from their alternate universe, the blow hole in the floor of room 124 in bldg. 65 is due to a pipe “banging” on the ceiling in the basement; according to Louie “The Lip” Errichiello & “Mr. Fix It” Mark Brown engineering. I want to know what these people are smoking....really!....I want some.




2) 2/12, Monday - Louie “The Lip” appointed ‘Acting’ Chief O’Engineering!

3) Picked up from an email - "Glassdoor" the online job listing service re. VA job openings 
Headlined comment = “where all of the losers work”.
Just sayin’!

4) New pictures from the mess in bldg.. 65

 more coming.......

 5) And, this from an fundraising email - the signature line = 
                                Lindsay “The Loud Mouth” Maurer
                                Director, Donor Operations, USO 
- Oh Hell, tell me it isn’t true!  
- Does this shit run in the family???

6) “The Whisperer” has been detailed to Primary Quad 1-A to learn all about PACT-RN for a month. I guess she forgot how to ask triage questions and take vital signs. How long has she called herself “Nursey”? (34 years!?) This must be Scotty "Lock The Door" and his re-education program!



7) VA, local & national, is  no longer commenting on the Liver Fluke issue or the collapsing infrastructure, buildings, and mechanical systems of our toxic environment here in Northport. Apparently, a full “gag” order from Scotty “Lock The Door” & our "Dear Leader", Dr. Davey Sulkin’, is in full operational mode.

8) Dr. Binu John, Richmond VAMC, Infectious Disease Dept. I had a very nice phone conversation with him. He has spoken to Dr. Psevdos, Northport Infectious Disease Dept. According to Dr. John, the Journal that published Northport Fluke report is third rate and compromises the validity of study ("no one will take it seriously", said Dr. John.).
"Infectious Diseases in Clinical Practice" 
Dr. John has blood & tissue samples from Vets who died of Cholangiocarcinoma, and he wants to run a research study based on blood and tissue samples from live and deceased Veterans known to have contracted the cancers linked to this family of parasites. Only, VA won’t give him any money for a further study, as they publically claim they fully support. VA now  claims there are no funds available for such research. Dr. John needs $122k to run his proposed study in Richmond. Isn't that about what our "Dear Leader" Shulkin’s trip to Europe cost?
 
9) “Wee” Willy Sainbert is back.
He has been relegated to house arrest;
i.e. telecommuting as a "Buck Private"
doing menial tasks for HR.
Apparently one employee said of the genital picture he texted to a staff member - “The name “wee” Willy is aptly descriptive of what I saw in the picture.” The texted picture was captioned; “why all the ladies want me.” And he still works at VA!?? Why stop with "Wee" Willy? Maybe we can find a spot for Anthony "Little" Weiner, too!

10) “Chatty” Cathy is collecting more plaques for her office door! She now wields the “DENIAL” stamp for the Veterans Choice program at Northport. This stamp has been used early and often in the past, and there is no reason to believe that “Chatty” won’t continue the VA tradition of denying Veterans access to healthcare. The song remains the same!

11) Then, there’s our "Dear Leader", little Davey Shulkin, again, who is feeling the heat for misuse of Veterans’ funds to frolic around Europe last year.
His Chief O’Staff, “Vivacious” Vivieca Simpson, has bolted due to the scandal.
Little Davey is all lawyered up (three of them) so he can try to continue riding the gravy train.
Vivieca’s replacement is Peter “The Piper” O'Rourke from the VA Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection .
Peter "Piper" O'Rourke will serve as VA's permanent chief of staff, ensuring that the department works closely with the White House going forward.
Ah yes, the cream always rises to the top! Wasn’t our "Dear Leader" involved in crafting the legislation aimed at ousting the bad apples at VA? Naughty, naughty boy, Davey!






12) Scotty "Lock The Door" is hustling to find Asbestos Training reports from Engineering & EMS. Seems like the OSHA inspectors are crawling up his butt on this. Lorraine G.??? is the go-to-gal for collecting reports that probably don’t exist. Tell me there’s going to be a flurry of “back-dating” fictitious reports this weekend; reports that never existed. What the Hell, it’s going to be one of those indoor type weekends, anyway! Forge away, VA forge away...

13) Apparently, I have been included in the nickname sweepstakes. My new moniker is OSHA; Oh Shit Hutch Again. I’m loving it!! So, add it to your VA Team Roster:
Independent Watchdog - 
Chief O’Shit -     Hutch “The Man From OSHA” Dubosque  

WHAT WE'RE WATCHING:
1) Catch this upcoming taped interview on Liver Fluke and the Northport VAMC. Ed Aulman is the Veterans' Representative in Rep.Tom Suozzi's Huntington office and Sabrina Lacy runs the Suffolk County VFW's. And, look who's large and in charge here...my man, Mo! I just love his "curriculum vitae". 

2) What are our wonderful "Hospitalists" up to these days? Are they still practicing "Veteran-Centric" medicine?

3) How's the "Telemedicine" thing coming along? It's all gone strangely silent, again!

4) We always have an ear to the ground on the "musical bed" situation. Who's chasing after who this week?
5) Here's looking at you, baby! Smile, you're on Scotty's Candid Camera.
6) When the Hell is someone going to fix this damn toilet? It's going on three years, now. Waddya say there....Louie "The Lip"?


7) Where's Sasha the Fire Dancer when you need her?


HEY....VA!
MY LITTLE GIRL DOESN'T LIKE YOU VERY MUCH!