Friday, January 13, 2017

HOMELESS VETERANS - Our National Disgrace

Our National Disgrace
There is some good news, and there is some bad news.
The good news: a few Cities and States have actually reduced the number of homeless Veterans in their population.
The bad news: Most Cities, States, and the Federal Government are still wrestling with solving this problem and coming up with figures that reflect the number of homeless Veterans more accurately. In fact, each and every article I read about this subject quotes drastically different numbers for the same statistical categories.
If you can get past the numbers game, it helps to focus on the root cause and basic solution to this problem. The cause of Veteran homelessness comes from the very people who made them Veterans in the first place; our Federal Government - most notably the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs. The solution entails directing these Agencies to step up and honor their promises to our Military Men and Women, especially when they are now summarily “kicked to the curb” after fulfilling their Military obligations.
Because the Department of Defense sees fit to neglect the future civilian needs of their retiring ranks, far too many Enlisted and Officer Personnel end up re-entering society without the proper tools to lead decent lives. These Men and Women, who have put their lives on the line for our continued freedom, deserve:
          1) to be fully enrolled in the Veterans medical system
          2) fully compensated for any/all disabilities that are Service related
          3) a pro-rated pension
          4) a place to live
          5) jobs where necessary
          6) legal and financial education and advice
          7) full family benefits including medical and mental health, and be            
              granted these benefits for life.
All before they step foot out of the Military and back into civilian life. And, this is just a cursory list of what we, as a Nation, owe those who fight for us. After all, our Military Personnel are our original “First Responders”! By enacting a meaningful Mandatory Military Separation Transition Program problems of homelessness, substance abuse, mental health issues, suicides, and distrust of the Government will be so greatly diminished that we won’t need to have this discussion ever again.
Hand in hand with a true Transition Program comes the much needed overhaul of the Department of Veterans Affairs; most notably the Veterans Health Administration. The current state of the VHA is such that only a small percentage of Veterans dare enter the doors of a VA Medical Center, or Facility. The reasons for that have been well documented and apparently, nobody wants to lift a finger to fix it. Granted, it is not an easy task, but all the necessary parts currently exist to reform this Agency into the best it could possibly be.
Having said all the above, let’s close this out with a look at all those conflicting numbers mentioned at the start. This list was glommed from an internet search on the subject, and all this information is published in the public domain. Simply type in “Homeless Veterans” in your search engine and you will get the same confused maze of statistics I got.
I.        HUD - in 2010 they counted 75,000 homeless Veterans. They claim that       number had shrunk to 40,000 in August 2016. Another 2016 statistic from               HUD claims that there are 39,471 homeless Veterans on any given night in             the Country.
II.      HUD/VASH - claims to have granted over 90,000 rent vouchers to homeless Veterans in the same time span.
III.    New Mexico - claims to have reduced their homeless Veteran population       from 1,000 to 115 from 2015 to present. Note: I have been to Albuquerque               lately and I witnessed substantially more than 115 homeless Veterans in                   that City alone.
IV.     Los Angeles - has a proposal to build 10,000 units for homeless Veterans.       Apparently, they feel they have the need for that many and can fill them all.
V.      Chicago - claims to have housed 3,000 homeless Veterans in 2015 and claims they have only 650 more to go.
VI.     The VA - claims their homeless numbers are somewhere between 76,000     and 50,000. In the next sentence they claim to have served 92,000 in 2009.               In the next sentence they claim there are an estimated 500,000 homeless                 Veterans and they have taken care of 100,000. They somehow call that a                 20% success rate????? You do the math...........
VII.    VA - claims that 83,170 Veterans were homeless in 2015, and they take         care of 262,000 homeless Veterans every year. They also place a lot of
responsibility on private non-profit organizations (VSO’s) to pick up the               slack and do the job the VA is tasked with in their Mission Statement.
Now that eyes are crossed, take a breath and re-read I. - VII. Slowly compare/contrast the numbers here. You will soon appreciate that the left hand has no idea what the right hand is doing. The numbers are all over the place. Somewhere within these misrepresentations is the true story. I will venture a guess that the VA is not the Agency, or entity, that should be tasked with data collection on this subject. The States are more likely better equipped to gather this data and consolidate the numbers into a realistic representation of Homeless Veterans in this Country.

I need to close with the statement:
“The words homeless and Veteran should never appear in the same sentence.”

*Your comments on this subject will be greatly appreciated!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Trump’s Secretary of VA Nomination

Dear Mr. Zeldin,
If indeed this quote is attributable to you, I applaud your thoughts, attitude and efforts toward fixing the VA system. I thank you for participating in the House Subcommittee Hearing at the Northport, NY VA Medical Center last September. 
From the looks of it, you and the rest of the Congressional Panel quickly recognized that you were being lied to for two and a half hours by those testifying before you under Oath. I have the same feeling that Dr. Shulkin got the very same impression when he visited Northport last spring amidst the turmoil of our Operating Rooms being shuttered. 
Let me assure you that nothing has changed since you were here last. The same bad actors are performing the same heinous acts against Veterans as they have done for the last decade, and more. I am in absolute wonderment on how a person with a B.A. in Recreation (a gym teacher) becomes the top administrator of anything, let alone a Hospital.
I am astounded when I realize that less than 20% of Long Island's Veterans are enrolled at the VA Medical Center in Northport, NY. I understand that, even with the influx of younger Veterans, the enrollment is in a steady decline. This speaks not of Veterans needs, or choices. It speaks of a total failure of the management to properly conduct the business of running a Healthcare Facility. 
The golf course is nice; the monuments and plaques are nice; the flashing LED red lights on the STOP signs are nice; and, even the solar panels over the back parking lots are nice. But, Veterans don't need these things. What Veterans need is quality, comprehensive healthcare that is delivered on time, every time with a zero tolerance for deviation. We also deserve, and have earned, the right to be respected by those who deliver these services from the top to the bottom of the ladder. 
We need to sit down and have a heart to heart discussion about this situation before the whole Hospital literally and figuratively comes crashing down around us. Were that ever to happen, I don't want to hear anyone complain about the soaring rates of substance abuse, overdose, and death within our Veteran population.
You know where to find me, and I invite you  and Tom Suozzi to do so in the very near future.
Hutch Dubosque, President
PTSD Veterans Association of Northport, Inc.
PO Box 194, Northport, NY  11768
Rep. Zeldin Statement on President-Elect
Trump’s Secretary of VA Nomination
Washington, DC -
Congressman Lee Zeldin (R, NY-1) issued the following statement today regarding President-elect Donald Trump’s nomination of 
Dr. David Shulkin as the next Secretary of Veterans Affairs:
"The Department of Veterans Affairs desperately needs so many reforms on multiple fronts to improve the standard of care for veterans. After several opportunities to interact with Dr. Shulkin these past two years, I'm confident that he is fully aware of the many challenges that currently exist. What I am eager to be assured of though is that he is actually going to do everything that needs to be done about it. The President-elect has constantly committed over and over again towards reforming the Department of Veterans Affairs and has shown a solid understanding of what needs to be fixed at the VA, while consistently reaffirming his commitment towards actually making those much needed changes. I would hope and expect that the President, Congress, media and American public will hold Dr. Shulkin's feet to the fire to ensure he follows through and does not fail in any capacity whatsoever with this new mission. He certainly wasn't my number one pick to be the next Secretary of Veterans Affairs, but I'll be the first in line to shake his hand and say thank you if he seizes this opportunity and makes the absolute most of it in the best interests of Long Island's veterans, the Northport VA and the entire community nationally of all America's sons and daughters who answered the call to serve our great country in defense of our freedoms and liberties."


Dear Hollywood celebrities

Dear Hollywood celebrities,
It’s time to wake up now.
News flash! 

The only reason you exist is for my entertainment. Some of you are beautiful. Some of you can deliver a line with such conviction that you bring tears to my eyes. Some of you are so convincing that you scare the crap out of me. And, others are so funny you can make me laugh uncontrollably.
But, you all have one thing in common.
You only exist and have a place in my world to entertain me.
That’s it. 
Nothing else!
You make your living pretending to be someone else. You play dress-up like a 5-year-old. Your world is a make believe world. It is not real. It doesn’t exist. You live for the camera while the rest of us live in the real world. Your entire existence depends on my patronage. I crank the organ grinder, and you dance. 
Therefore, I don’t care where you stand on issues. Honestly, your opinion means nothing to me. Just because you had a lead role in a movie about prostitution doesn’t mean you know what it’s like to be a prostitute. Your view matters far less to me than that of someone living in Timbuktu.
Believe me or not, the hard truth is that you aren’t real. I turn off my TV or shut down my computer, and you cease to exist. Once I am done with you, I go back to the real world until I want you to entertain me again.

§  I don’t care that you think BP executives deserve the death penalty.
§  I don’t care what you think about the environment. 
§  I don’t care if you believe fracking is bad. 
§  I don’t care if you call for more gun control.
§  I don’t care if you believe in catastrophic human-induced global warming. 
§  I could not care less that you supported Hillary for President. 
Get back into your bubble. I’ll let you know when I’m in the mood for something pretty or scary or funny.
And, one other thing. What was with all this “I’ll leave the country if Donald Trump wins”? Don’t you know how stupid that made you sound? What did you think my reaction was going to be? I better not vote for Trump or we’ll lose Whoopi Goldberg? Al Sharpton? Amy Schumer? Go ahead; leave. I don’t care! Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on your way out.
Make me laugh. Make me cry. Even scare me. But, realize this, the only words of yours that matter are scripted — just like your pathetic little lives. I may agree with some of you from time to time, but in the final analysis, it doesn’t matter. In my world, you exist solely for my entertainment.  
Bite me!

Monday, January 9, 2017

VA Workers Got Millions in Unjustified Incentives

All this while Veterans wait with a thumb up their butt and sucking on eggs! Somebody’s got to go to jail!!

VA Workers Got Millions in Unjustified Incentives
Stars and Stripes | Jan 07, 2017 | by Nikki Wentling
The Department of Veterans Affairs handed out more than $30 million in employee incentives in one year without justification, and it will continue to overspend if changes aren't made, according to a report released Jan. 5 by the agency's internal watchdog.
The findings are the result of an investigation by the VA inspector general's office into how the department was using funds to attract and retain employees. Inspectors initiated the investigation after allegations that the department was giving out too many incentives to VA executives without cause -- a charge Republican lawmakers and VA leaders have quarreled about in recent years.
"The VA has limited assurance that it is using [recruitment, relocation and retention] incentives effectively and strategically to acquire and retain talent," the inspectors' report stated.
Inspectors found $30.7 million of $66 million spent in fiscal 2014 to recruit, relocate or retain employees was not fully justified. At that rate, they estimated the VA could give out $158.7 million in unsupported incentives through September 2019. Inspectors concluded VA officials did not always confirm the incentives were being used to help fix workforce gaps or were necessary to recruit and retain employees.
The VA also failed to recoup about $784,000 of incentives that were awarded on conditions that employees then did not meet. Inspectors estimated the VA could fail to collect another nearly $4 million through fiscal 2019.
Meghan Flanz, acting assistant secretary for VA human resources and administration, responded to the report by saying her office has started to take corrective measures and the department has already updated some of its procedures and internal controls to avoid giving out incentives haphazardly.
The findings were issued about two weeks after Deputy VA Secretary Sloan Gibson sent a letter to Congress urging lawmakers lift spending restrictions on employee bonuses that were put in place last year.
Limits on how much the VA could spend on bonuses and other awards to employees were worked into the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016, which addresses the nationwide opioid epidemic.
Gibson called the restrictions "counter-productive," "unwarranted" and a hindrance in hiring and retaining high-quality employees. Because of them, he said, employees would see a 30-percent cut in performance-based awards this fiscal year.
"[It] defies logic that Congress should so severely limit employee awards and incentives, for VA alone, at such a pivotal time in our transformation," Gibson wrote.
After the wait-time scandal in 2014, in which veterans were found to be waiting long periods for treatment, the VA started a concentrated effort to hire more medical staff. But the department has been giving out incentives without confirmation that they were helping to fill gaps in the workforce, the inspectors' report stated.
As an example, inspectors cited one $51,316 relocation incentive awarded in October 2013 to fill the vacancy of director at the Hudson Valley Health Care System in Montrose, New York.
Hiring officials said the incentive was necessary because of high turnover in the facility and a lack of qualified applicants. But inspectors found the position was not vacant for an extended period of time and the job was not well advertised.
"We found this relocation incentive was based on inaccurate information and was not justified," the report states. "We determined the position was not hard to fill or subject to leadership turnover."
In addition, the VA had not created workforce plans in many cases to ensure they could eventually get away from handing out incentives, inspectors found.
"While there are no limits on the number of years an employee can receive retention incentive payments... retention incentives are not intended to be used long term," the report reads.
As chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, former Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., was one of the VA's main critics. He's previously said the department gave out bonuses with "reckless abandon."
Most of Congress' complaints have centered on incentives to VA executives.
"Clearly, the judgement of VA leaders is clouded by their continual obsession with cash bonuses, awards and incentives for employees even in the face of ongoing scandals plaguing the agency," Miller wrote in response to Gibson's letter.
Of the 1,546 recruitment incentives given out in fiscal 2014, two went to senior executives. They totaled $97,000 and were not properly authorized, inspectors found. Nineteen of 727 relocation incentives were given to executives, and they totaled $728,000 that was not justified.
Of 1,719 total retention incentives given to VA employees, 11 went to executives. Ten of those incentives were given without a workforce plan, meaning $227,000 in retention spending was not supported, according to the report.
Flanz wrote in the report that the VA was working to establish a talent management program for executives that would include workforce management plans, "reducing the risk of long-term reliance on retention incentives."
Many of the incentives went to hard-to-fill positions such as medical officers, nurses and psychologists. However, in some cases, they were not fully justified, the report states.
Inspectors did credit the VA for decreasing the amount spent through the recruitment, relocation and retention fund. In fiscal 2012, the VA spent $115 million on recruitment, relocation and retention. In fiscal 2015, the department spent $67 million. Those amounts are only a portion of the total amount the VA gave out in performance awards those years.