US House Rep Brown asked her, "We've heard testimony that access to resources and information for family care-givers is highly variable and there's not any standardized and ongoing training of any formal support network. How would you respond to those concerns?"
Someone doing their job wouldn't appear to need a cheat sheet to answer the question. Someone doing their job.
"Um. Thank you for the question, sir," Dr. Madhulika Agarwal began her response while playing with the mike in what appeared to be an attempt to eat up time. "Um. We certainly are making efforts in doing better outreach about our programs. We've had an initiative known as the Combat Call Center Initiative which was instituted by Secretary [James] Peake last year which reached out to about 1600 veterans who were identified in the seriously ill category during the transition process and were given information on our current program -- particularly about the care management -- case management programs and other services and also offered services at that time. The Federal Recovery Program, again, for the seriously injured veterans . . . this resource . . . has been . . . really . . . I think amplifying in helping us with . . . navigating between the VA, the DoD as well as the private sector. They have a resource directory. Which I think is a useful resource for the care-givers and the families. We have a set of liasons in the military treatment facilities and a case management system which is very knowledgable about the programs that we offer uhm. And we are working to improve and align our outreach through the internet, intranet and MyHealth.web."
The VA contracted out to EDS last year. May 9, 2008, EDS issued the following press release:
Iraq, Afghanistan Veterans Will Be Informed About Health Care Services, Benefits
HERNDON, Virginia -- The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has selected EDS to provide outbound calling services and inbound callback support to facilitate the Combat Veteran Call Center outreach and education campaign to make combat veterans more aware of health care services and benefits available from the VA. Financial terms of the contract were not disclosed.
The Combat Veteran Call Center will increase awareness of the extension of health care and benefits eligibility for veterans of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is the first task order awarded under the General Services Administration’s $2.5 billion USA Contact contract vehicle.
Calls to veterans began on May 1 and will reach out to nearly 570,000 recent wartime veterans over the next six months. Initially, the campaign will focus on about 17,000 veterans who, based on their wartime injuries or illnesses, are considered candidates for care management. During the second phase, about 550,000 Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom veterans who have not yet enrolled for VA health care services will be contacted.
"The Department of Veterans Affairs works hard to provide high quality, prompt and seamless service to veterans," said Don Picard, EDS vice president of federal healthcare. "We look forward to supporting VA employees as they deliver vital services to those who have served our country in its battle against terrorism."
EDS will support the VA's education and outreach campaign through the Combat Veteran Call Center by providing the necessary facilities, staff, equipment, supplies and services. The company’s phone representatives will make initial calls to veterans, interview them to assess their needs, and send information about available VA health care services and benefits. In addition, EDS callers will follow-up with the veteran to ensure their needs are met.
"EDS is committed to supporting the VA's mission to educate and inform veterans of the range of benefits to which they are entitled," said Dennis Stolkey, vice president and general manager, EDS U.S. Government and Public Sector. "It is extremely important to support these men and women who have sacrificed so much for their country."
Did EDS do their job?
Since there have been no outcries, one might guess they did; however, according to the testimony offered by the doctor in yesterday's hearing, they didn't do their job.
Dr. Madhulika Agarwal stated, "We've had an initiative known as the Combat Call Center Initiative which was instituted by Secretary [James] Peake last year which reached out to about 1600 veterans who were identified in the seriously ill category during the transition process and were given information on our current program -- particularly about the care management -- case management programs and other services and also offered services at that time." EDS promised, "Calls to veterans began on May 1 and will reach out to nearly 570,000 recent wartime veterans over the next six months. Initially, the campaign will focus on about 17,000 veterans who, based on their wartime injuries or illnesses, are considered candidates for care management. During the second phase, about 550,000 Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom veterans who have not yet enrolled for VA health care services will be contacted." According to Agarwal's testimony, the second phase never took place.
Did EDS waste government money? Did it fail to complete its project?
At this point, Agarwal is the only one whose made a statement for the public record. Her statements and her delivery of them were questionable at best.
The Committee should have asked her to explain her remarks. Most likely, she would not have been able to do so in the hearing. She merely read from a prepared cheat sheet (even when 'answering' questions). The issue is most likely not EDS but Agarwal who is unable to speak to the Congress about what she allegedly supervises and overseas as an employee of the VA.
We'll close this out by again noting her appalling response regarding a resource for injured veterans and their families.
US House Rep Henry Brown: So you basically have a website that has these services which are available --
Dr. Madhulika Agarwal (overlapping): We're currently working on that
US House Rep Henry Brown: -- and how to get those resources?
Dr. Madhulika Agarwal: We are working on it, sir. It's in -- it's in development phase.
Over six years into the illegal war in Iraq, nearly eight years into the Afghanistan War and Agarwal states a needed and very simple web page is "in development phase."
On the subject of corporations receiving contractors, Pratap Chatterjee offers "Is Halliburton Forgiven and Forgotten? Or How to Stay Out of Sight While Profiting From the War in Iraq" (CorpWatch):
The Houstonian Hotel is an elegant, secluded resort set on an 18-acre wooded oasis in the heart of downtown Houston. Two weeks ago, David Lesar, CEO of the once notorious energy services corporation Halliburton, spoke to some 100 shareholders and members of senior management gathered there at the company's annual meeting. All was remarkably staid as they celebrated Halliburton's $4 billion in operating profits in 2008, a striking 22% return at a time when many companies are announcing record losses. Analysts remain bullish on Halliburton's stock, reflecting a more general view that any company in the oil business is likely to have a profitable future in store.
There were no protesters outside the meeting this year, nor the kind of national media stakeouts commonplace when Lesar addressed the same crew at the posh Four Seasons Hotel in downtown Houston in May 2004. Then, dozens of mounted police faced off against 300 protestors in the streets outside, while a San Francisco group that dubbed itself the Ronald Reagan Home for the Criminally Insane fielded activists in Bush and Cheney masks, offering fake $100 bills to passers-by in a mock protest against war profiteering. And don't forget the 25-foot inflatable pig there to mock shareholders. Local TV crews swarmed, a national crew from NBC flew in from New York, and reporters from the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal eagerly scribbled notes.
Now the 25-foot pigs are gone and all is quiet on the western front. How did Halliburton, once branded the ugly stepchild of Dick Cheney -- the company's former CEO -- and a poster child of war profiteering, receive such absolution from anti-war activists and the media? Of course, the defeat of the Republicans in the 2008 U.S. election, the departure of the Bush administration, and a general apathy towards the ongoing, but lower-level war in Iraq are part of the answer. But don't ignore a potentially brilliant financial sleight of hand by Halliburton either. That move played a crucial role in the cleansing of the company.
Halliburton is in the news cycle. Guillermo Contreras (San Antonio Express-News) reports that "Robert Cain of San Marcos; Craig Henry of San Antonio; Francis Jaeger of Haltom City; David McMenomy of Lampasas; Mark Posz of San Antonio; and El Kevin Sar of Houston" have filed charges against Halliburton stating that "they were poisoned by toxins and emissions from burn pits at U.S. camps in Iraq and Afghanistan".
In today's New York Times, Iraq gets a brief mention in Michael Slackman's write up of Barry O's Cairo speech:
In Iraq, after six years of occupation, missed opportunities and failed promises, there was a heavy dose of skepticism.
In cafes and restaurants, televisions were turned to sports or movies or blared music videos. When a man at a restaurant in Mosul tried to change the channel to the speech, diners shouted at him, "What a stupid speech!" In the Shorooq restaurant in Karbala, a small crowd heckled Mr. Obama as he spoke about Israel. "The most important thing is to accomplish things, not just say them," said Alaa Sahib Abdullah, a 30-year-old lawyer.
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