Friday, September 25, 2009

More VA screw ups

Nearly a month into the fall college semester, the Department of Veterans Affairs has paid benefits for fewer than half the former Iraq and Afghanistan veterans requesting under the new post-9/11 G.I. Bill, according to a VA estimate.
Keith Wilson, director of the VA Education Service office, said about half of the 50,000 veterans owed money for tuition and expenses have been paid. Others are still waiting .
Another estimated 60,000 veterans are waiting for money under an older version of the G.I. Bill, Wilson says.
"We realize we're not meeting everybody's expectations," he says.

The above is the opening to Gregg Zoroya and Mary Beth Marklein's "Over half of vets still waiting for G.I. Bill money" (USA Today). The money quote, of course, is VA official Keith Wilson declaring, "We realize we're not meeting everybody's expectations." Actually, I believe that's become the motto for officials in the VA: "We realize we're not meeting everybody's expectations." David Zucchino (Los Angeles Times) notes Amber Oberg's expectations. The army veteran has been attending UC Davis for a month. And the promised funding? Hasn't arrived. Oberg states, "I didn't expect to get out of the military and then have to wait and wait for the education money that was promised me. Now she and her kids are in danger of being homeless as she waits for the promised monthly housing payment of $1,736. Across the country, veterans check the mail looking for the promised funding. Audrey Hudson (Washington Times) reports John Kamin has been waiting and thought he had good news yesterday only to open the envelope and discover he was being notified that he might "be called back into active duty." He tells Hudson, "It felt like salt in the wound. That was really disheartening."

A lousy week for the VA continues and you have to wonder at what point they'll find themselves called to the carpet as their obvious and repeated incompetence indicates they need to be.

The homeless problem continues to grow while the VA offers excuses and, no doubt, promises of a toll free number on the way that will be the 'answer' to everything. Thom Patterson (CNN, link has text and video) reports on the homeless veterans and notes the numbers for Iraq War and Afghanistan War veterans could be over 7,000 with the VA estimating "about 10 percent of all homeless veterans are women." Iraq War veteran Angela Peacock shares her story with Patterson which includes raped while serving, PTSD, self-medicating leading to a drug addiction, loss of spouse, eviction from apartment. For more on the issue, we'll drop back to the June 3rd snapshot, when US House Rep Bob Finer chaired the House Committee on Veterans Affairs committee for the hearing entitled "A National Commitment to End Veterans' Homelessness:"

The number of women veterans who are homeless is rising. [Vietnam Veterans of America's Marsha] Four observed, "There certainly is a question of course on the actual number of homeless veterans -- it's been flucuating dramatically in the last few years. When it was reported at 250,000 level, two percent were considered females. This was rougly about 5,000. Today, even if we use the very low number VA is supplying us with -- 131,000 -- the number, the percentage, of women in that population has risen up to four to five percent, and in some areas, it's larger. So that even a conservative method of determinng this has left the number as high as [6,550]. And the VA actually is reporting that they are seeing that this is as high as eleven percent for the new homeless women veterans. This is a very vulnerable population, high incidents of past sexual trauma, rape and domestic violence. They have been used, abused and raped. They trust no one. Some of these women have sold themselves for money, been sold for sex as children, they have given away their own children. And they are encased in this total humiliation and guilt the rest of their lives." About half of her testimony was reading and about half just speaking to the committee directly. Click here for her prepared remarks. We'll come back to the issue of homeless women veterans in a moment.
[. . .]
Marsha Four: I believe, sir, that there are very few programs in the country that are set up and designed specifically for homeless women veterans that are seperate. One of the problems that we're run into in a mixed gender setting is sort of two-fold. One the women veterans do not have the opportunity to actually be in a seperate group therapy environment because there are many issues that they simply will not divulge in mixed gender populations so those issues are never attended to. The other is that we believe, in a program, you need to focus on yourself and this is the time and place to do your issue, your deal. In a mixed gender setting, let's say, interfering factors. Relationships are one of them. Many of the veterans too come from the streets so there's a lot of street behavior going on. Some of the women -- and men -- but some of the women have participated in prostitution and so there's a difficult setting for any of them to actually focus on themselves without having all these other stressors come into play. So we feel that's an important issue.

Lance Springer II died while serving March 23, 2007 in a Baghdad bombing. He was 23-years-old and from Fort Worth, Texas. Marjorie Korn (Dallas Morning News) reports that Evanna and Lance Springer (Lance II's parents) and their children Chris and Michelle will be attending the Weekend of Remembrance in DC which will include a Gold Star Family Dinner tonight, a tribute and picnic tomorrow. From Korn's article:

Springer said one way he copes with the loss of his son is to share his experience with others. He and his wife have become friends with the family of the soldier buried next to their son at the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery.
"There is an instant bond, and we have made several very close friendships with other Gold Star Families," he said.

Meanwhile Kimberly Hefling (AP) reports on siblings whose brothers and sisters died serving in Iraq and Afghanistan preparing for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors in Las Vegas. The organizer's spokesperson is Ami Neilberger-Miller and she tells Hefling, "Your spouse really joins you in life kind of late in life. . . . Your parents will leave you late in your life, but you expect your siblings to be with you through all of this. You expect for them to be at your wedding. You expect for them to be with you when you bury your parents. You don't expect to be watching your family go through that." Her brother, Christopher T. Neilberger, died serving in Iraq August 6, 2007 from a bombing.

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thomas friedman is a great man

oh boy it never ends