The issue of epidemic veteran suicide, veteran disability case backlogs and Executive branch inaction is not new to the White House. The President always seems to have plenty of ink to make the US Constitution look like a warped Rorschach test, especially when salvaging his failing policy agenda. However, when it comes to Veterans issues, Obama's quill is dry, and his phone does not seem to be picking up any signal.
Recently, I received a press release from the Veterans Service Organization Iraq and Afghanistan of America (IAVA). The IAVA has issued a demand for the President "to issue an Executive Order addressing the often plagued coordination of records and care between the Department of Defense and the VA (Veterans Affairs)."
Not able to reach the IAVA for comment, I reached out to Retired Navy Veteran Lauren Price---Public Affairs Representative from the veteran advocacy group Veteran Warriors for her expert analysis of the issues referenced in the IAVA press release. Lauren and her group "Veteran Warriors" are intimately involved in Congressional efforts to overhaul the VA for both veterans and the US taxpayer's benefit.
Price "applauded recent Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) actions on Capitol Hill this week to bring to the forefront of national discussion, the horrendous losses the veteran community is suffering from veteran suicides."
As always Price was very outspoken about the issues plaguing the VA, which contribute to VA backlogs and veteran suicide rates. She was also just as candid with her criticisms of the "VA's continuous misleading actions and statements" an went on to caution anyone naively accepting VA explanations and massaged statistics suggesting the endemic problems were finally about to be addressed.
Every Wednesday Price's organization publishes a weekly report detailing the misrepresentations and propaganda oozing from the cracks of an inept Department of Veteran Affairs. It is called "Wasteful Wednesdays Workload Report." For anyone looking for the honest skinny on VA blather you can find it here.
According to Lauren Price:
"When the claims backlog peaked last spring at over 1 Million claims, the President made a public comment, but did nothing else. When reports came out that 19 Veterans died directly due to VA negligence, the White House was silent. It remains so, in the face of the VA's steadfast refusal to cooperate with Congress, the media, VSO's or advocates. The silence continues in the face of deliberate under-reporting of claims inventory, violations of the Freedom of Information Act, and outright refusal to take responsibility for the actions of those charged with caring for our nation's heroes."
In a nutshell, each and every time the spot light is turned on, the VA simply throws more taxpayer money at flawed solutions. In the last three years, this has led to VA squandering close to one Trillion dollars on failed experiments in VA IT improvements designed to improve claims processing. Meanwhile, the VA all but ignored or delayed any Congressional oversight recommendations for changes or VA overhaul.
It seems the VA leadership is becoming comfortable with the luxury of answering to a protective President, not Congress and certainly not the American people. These days, cabinet level posts make incompetent bureaucrats bullet proof. When their failures become too much for the public to handle (or border on criminal negligence) they simply retire and go back to Honeywell (Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Shinseki's projected retirement home) or some other private sector vulture feeding at the public corpse. It seems the graves they fill become a distant memory, the day they exit the White House.
So where is the pen and the phone when our veteran community needs its Commander in Chief?
Executive Orders were designed for just this specific purpose. They give the President the flexibility to manage his Executive staff in times of national crisis. To re-direct resources and set policy for his cabinet level officers and the departments the steward. Apparently an estimated 22 veteran suicides per day and hundreds of thousands of backlogged VA disability claims do not rise to the level of crisis in an Obama Administration.
Just citizen petitions, intrusive freedom of information requests and anything that might undermine the illusion of Obama successes.
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