Monday, August 13, 2012

Parades and delays (Veterans issues)

This Saturday, Hawley, Pennsylvania becomes the latest community in the US to organize their own parade for the veterans of recent wars.  Peter Becker (GateHouse News Service) reports that Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans will be welcomed home with a parade that "starts at 12 noon and heads down Church Street at Wangum Avenue."  Becker explains, "The parade is being coordinated by the Post 311 Auxiliary.  President Mary Jane Graf states that a picnic will follow for the veterans and military and their families, at the Post, as well as anyone joining in."  Today at the Iowa State Fair, a veterans parade will kick off at ten this morning.

Veterans Day is in November and some communities are planning to utilize that for a Welcome Home for Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans.  November 11th falls on a Sunday this year so Monday  the 12th will find many government offices closed.  Some areas will observe it that Monday, some the Friday before.  As we noted here repeatedly when Rick Perry began criticizing the White House's refusal to stage a Welcome Home parade, Texas had already announced early in 2012 that they would fold Welcome Home into their Vetarans Day events.  (Rick Perry is the Governor of  Texas which is why we repeatedly noted that and that if Perry believed what he was saying -- while campaigning for the GOP presidential nomination -- that nothing prevented him from staging one in Texas right then.)

Ken Alltucker (Arizona Republic News) reports on the Veterans Benefits Administration Phoenix office where they have "mishandled 47 percent of the claims" regarindg "temporary-disability, traumatic-brain-injury and herbicide-exposure claims." The backlog at the office is at least 22,700 claims and the wait time is 360 days.  As you read that, you may, like me remember Allison Hickey praising Phoenix to a Congressional Committee.  Hickey who has told the House Veterans Affairs Committee that at the top of VBA it is her.

"The very top of the benefits administration is me.  I take responsibility for what happens in the Veterans Benefits Administration" -- June 19, 2012 -- as she was attempting to justify the bonuses she was handing out.  Insisting they were necessary while US House Rep. Marlin Stutzman expressed disbelief that while veterans were waiting for their benefits, being part of a huge backlog, Hickey is giving out bonuses.  She could only give the number of a third less than was given out in 2009.  She couldn't say how many were given out in 2009.  She couldn't provide the current figures.

Which made her appearance before Congress a month later (July 18th) all the more unbelievable:

Chair Jason Chaffetz:  Madam Undersecretary, the VA had reported that it awarded $2.8 million to 245 senior executives.  How do we justify that?  I mean, that's a very small group of people.  We've got hundreds of thousands -- close to a million -- veterans waiting in line and 245 people got $2.8 million in bonuses?  How do we justify that?

Allison Hickey: Chairman Chaffetz, thanks for the question.  First of all, I will tell you in VBA, since 2009, we have actually decreased by a full third the number of our SESs that are getting outstanding ratings. So we have done what this administration's asked us to do which is to really scrutinize the ratings that we are giving to our senior executives and bring them down. I'll tell you from a VBA perspective, I have 98 metrics, performance metrics, that I rate every one of our senior executives against.  They are performance based.

Chair Jason Chaffetz:  How --

Allison Hickey:  They are production and quality based.

Chair Jason Chaffetz:  How many --

Allison Hickey:  And in those environments where I do have outstanding leaders, I need to keep those outstanding leaders. They're making a difference for our veterans, their family members and survivors.

Chair Jason Chaffetz:  How many of them -- How many of the people that worked for you go those bonuses?

Allison Hickey:  Congressman, I'll have to bring you the explicit information.  I wasn't prepared to come and talk about bonus structure. 

Her need to get back to Chaffetz with numbers was a joke.  She'd been asked the same questions a month before by Stutzman. 

Seems she should be appearing before Congress between now and the end of 2012 to explain what exactly is going on.  She's told Congress that Phoenix was fixed and clearly it's not.  Who's supervising Allison Hickey?  What leadership and oversight of the VA is the White House providing?  There are some serious questions and serious problems.

Bonnie reminds that Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "The New VP Candidate" went up Sunday morning.   On this week's Law and Disorder Radio,  an hour long program that airs Monday mornings at 9:00 a.m. EST on WBAI and around the country throughout the week, hosted by attorneys Heidi Boghosian, Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights) and topics addressed include demonstrations at the RNC and DNC, an update on Bradley Manning, You Have The Right To Remain Silent, an update on Julian Assange and an interview with Barack apologist Chase Madar about Bradley Manning. 

Heidi Boghosian is the Executive Director of the National Lawyers Guild and we'll close with this from the NLG:

Friday August 10, 2012 marks the 51st anniversary of the day the United States began spraying the defoliant Agent Orange over the southern part of Vietnam. That spraying continued for at least 10 years and caused horrific damage that persists today. The U.S. veterans exposed to Agent Orange have achieved some compensation for their illnesses but the Vietnamese spraying victims are still suffering the deadly consequences alone.
Members of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) will join the Vietnam Agent Orange Relief and Responsibility Campaign on August 10 to mark the 51st year since the spraying began. Starting at 12 noon, NLG members will join people around the world in observing 51 seconds of silence to commemorate of the victims of Agent Orange and the victims of all wars. After that remembrance, the NLG asks members and friends to take action by visiting and signing an orange postcard to Congress supporting the Victims of Agent Orange Relief Act.
According the Judgment of the International people’s tribunal of conscience in support of the Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange, the Vietnamese people exposed to Agent Orange suffer from cancer, liver damage, pulmonary and heart diseases, reproductive defects, and skin and nervous disorders. And today, their surviving children and their children’s children live with severe physical deformities, mental and physical disabilities, diseases, and shortened life expectancies. The forests in large parts of southern Vietnam remain desiccated too, having lost centuries-old habitats to Agent Orange. Agent Orange also continues to contaminate whole water tables and to cause erosion and desertification. Taken together, this environmental trauma is disrupting the landscape across Vietnam and threatening whole species with extinction.
Over the past half-century, the Vietnamese people have sought to hold the U.S. and chemical corporations accountable for their toxic legacy. A 2004 lawsuit brought by Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange in U.S. federal court failed but nevertheless spawned a modern accountability movement. The momentum resulted in the pending Victims of Agent Orange Relief Act (HR. 2634), which attempts to provide medical, rehabilitative, and social compensation to the Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange, as well as remediation of dioxin-contaminated “hot spots,” and medical services for the descendants of U. S. Vietnam veterans and Vietnamese Americans born with the same diseases and deformities.
The United States and the chemical company manufacturers of Agent Orange, most notably Dow and Montsanto, share a responsibility to address the consequences of their illegal action.
The National Lawyers Guild’s advocacy around Agent Orange has been spearheaded by the Agent Orange Working Group, a subcommittee of the NLG International Committee, which works to connect human rights and social justice movements in the United States and abroad.
The National Lawyers Guild was founded in 1937 and is the oldest and largest public interest/human rights bar organization in the United States. Its headquarters are in New York and it has chapters in every state.

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law and disorder radio
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michael ratner