At the end of last week, the big news should have been about the Defense Dept refusing to attend a Congressional hearing on burn pits. VA's presence was requested and they attended. DoD's presence was requested but they didn't attend and numerous Committee members commented on the no-show.
At THIRD, we offered "Hold Trump accountable for his Defense Department."
It should have been a major media story but the media doesn't appear to care about US veterans. Oh, they'll offer up empty slogans but they don't really want to report.
Which is how one of the biggest scandals continues to take place with no media coverage.
I said we'd return to the House hearing and here it is.
US House Rep Julia Brownley: Furthermore, until a fully operative integrated electric health record system is set up between the two agencies, VA will continue to be beholden to DoD's willingness to cooperate.
What's she talking about?
It's an important tool. VA House Committee Chair Phil Roe noted in the hearing, "I think we have an opportunity to watch a population throught its life."
Yes, it is a wonderful tool, one that could help countless veterans.
"I hope we do it right," Roe added.
He has to hope that because it is still not a reality.
When we first started attending the VA hearings in Congress and reporting on them here, Bully Boy Bush occupied the White House. And back then, an EHR -- electronic health record -- was going to happen -- Congress and the White House were going to make sure.
Then, a few years later, Barack Obama was elected president. During the campaign, one of the things he spoke of was the need for the EHR.
The EHR, you may remember, was a medical record that would start with a service member's induction into the military. It would follow the service member throughout their time in the military. Once they left the military, it would follow them through the VA.
Former US House Rep John Hall was among the members of Congress who understood that an EHR would be very helpful to veterans. Not only would an EHR prvent medical records from being lost, it would also allow a veteran to get a full disability rating much easier. There would be no struggle to go back and get records and testimony on what happened ten years ago in spot X. You'd have it on your EHR and you would get your full disability rating, not a partial one based upon what paperwork you (the veteran) could provide or find years after the incident.
On the campaign trail, then-Senator Barack spoke of the importance of this and how it would be easy to do.
So, explain it to us, how did Barack spend two terms in the White House and leave without the ERH being implemented?
And where was the press?
I know where we were. Check the archives, we called out this failure to implement the EHR repeatedly -- year after year -- right here.
Money was being spent on this effort -- US tax dollars -- and it wasn't happening.
Let's drop back to the snapshot for May 30, 2014 which noted that the inept Eric Shinseki was resigning as VA Secretary:
Shinseki, at the start of his tenure as VA Secretary, was tasked with determining whether or not his computer system would change -- one had to. DoD and VA were supposed to offer a seamless transition for those going from service member to veteran. How? They'd do it with electronic records. But the two systems couldn't communicate -- this was all determined before Barack Obama was sworn in for his first term as President of the United States. So one of the two would have to change.
Shinseki chose not to. He also sat on this issue that Congress poured billions of dollars into. He's been Secretary of the VA since 2009. This was supposed to have been handled immediately. Robert Gates told him to do what he wanted and the Pentagon would adapt. Then Leon Panetta became Secretary of Defense. He told Shinseki that whatever Gates had already approved was fine. And still nothing. Then Chuck Hagel becomes Secretary of Defense.
Something finally happens.
Hagel's not shedding any tears today over Shinseki's departure. Not after Shinseki tried to blame him to Congress.
April 11, 2013, Shinseki appeared before the House Veterans Affairs Committee which was irritated by the budget request coming to them late and not coming to them in full because, as they pointed out, what the administration submitted did not include all the costs -- even if you set aside issues of discretionary spending, the VA 'budget' request was a joke. Ranking Member Mike Michaud noted the money that was being poured into the VA -- others did as well but he's the one who asked for a status on the electronic health record. And this is where Shinseki chose to lie. There was no progress, he admitted, but that was because Chuck Hagel hadn't added any input.
What the hell was that? It's so high school cafeteria. Did he think it wouldn't get back to Hagel that the House Veterans Affairs Committee was vocal about the fact that there was no progress on this issue despite the funds provided for it in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and now 2013?
It had nothing to do with Chuck Hagel. Good for Hagel that he wasn't going to stay under the bus. He complained to Barack who had a sit-down with Hagel and Shinseki to ensure that a decision was made and there was no 'confusion' about the status.
If you're not getting what a little bitch move Shinseki pulled before Congress, grasp that Hagel was confirmed as Secretary of Defense on February 26, 2013. Not two months later, Shisenski was blaming a multi-year delay to starting the program on Hagel.
You think this delay doesn't matter? Iraq War veteran Travis Fugate testified at the Wednesday morning hearing. From his opening statement:
In 2006, I went for a follow-up visit with an ENT doctor at the Lexington VA Medical Center. The nurse brought him a big stack of my paper military medical files, and he told her, “There’s absolutely nothing relevant that I need in there.” He told me the anatomy of my sinuses was so disfigured, he didn’t know what in my face tissue was natural and what was artificially implanted. He said he wouldn’t feel comfortable doing any further procedures, I trusted that decision because my experience was that the medics and Army doctors are all professionals, and I was used to putting my faith in them.
For two years, things were OK. I went back to community college, and I started being active with many different disabled sporting events and programs where I had chance to meet other injured OIF veterans, and attended the Blinded Veterans Association national convention in August 2007 and returned to other BVA OIF peer group meetings since.
Then in November 2008, three weeks before finals, I had to call my dad at 10 p.m. to tell him I thought I had one of those headaches that the doctors at Walter Reed warned me about. They said the damaged sinus and orbit area around my left eye could lead to a severe infection in area around my sighted eye. He took me to the ER, and I was in the hospital for 10 days with a serious infection. The upper left hemisphere of my face was so swollen that my eyelids swelled together, that was the last time I had any sight.
In December I had been told that when sinus infections cleared maybe some vision would return like before. I strongly believe today the lack of having my eye surgery records in an electronic joint registry where both VA and DOD medical staff can find out immediately what treatments and surgery was done could have made a difference.
In January, I returned to Walter Reed, where the doctors would have better access to all my surgery trauma records. I saw a retina specialist, and within five minutes, he’d scheduled a five-hour surgery the following day for detached retina and bleeding in left eye. Then, I have had more surgeries, the last one March 6th 2009 where they again tried to save my damaged retina because of another detachment but it failed and have no eye sight since then.
He strongly believes "the lack of having my eye surgery records in an electronic joint registry where both VA and DoD medical staff and find out immediately what treatments and surgery was done could have made a difference." 2008? That's before the transition was supposed to take place. If everyone had gotten on it (the electronic record) sooner, his vision probably could have been saved. It's very sad that everyone didn't and that he lost his vision. But this could be any number of veterans with the same issue or others. That's why the electronic medical record is needed. And the system's still not up and running. How many more have to suffer? The failure to implement this system falls on Shinseki.
Over a year before (April 2013), we'd offered "Seamless transition? Shinseki wasted the last four years." There was no excuse for it. Leon Panetta, as DoD Secretary, told Shinseki he'd agree with whatever worked. He was all for stating it. Shinseki was the hold up.
Later when Barack met with Hagel and Shinseki, the understanding was that the issue would immediately move forward. It didn't. A year later, Shinseki finally resigned.
All this time later, the EHR still isn't a reality.
The foot dragging was bad in 2013 when it effected a smaller number of veterans. Now it's effecitng a lot more. Each year, in fact, the number effected increases. I can go back to 2006 with Congress asking the VA and DoD to get this implemented. That's 12 years ago and there's still no EHR. This is a scandal and the only bigger scandal on this topic would be the refusal of the press to seriously cover it.
Dropping back to last Thursday's hearing . . .
US House Rep Mark Takano: Dr. [Ralph] Erickson, last month, as you know, the VA entered into a contract with Cerner to support its efforts to modernize its electronic health records system. With the development of a system where VA and DoD may share -- while -- while the development of a system where VA and DoD may share electronic health recordfs will directly increase the quality of and access to healthcare for veterans, it will also significantly improve the healthcare solutions as it will allow for the mining and analyzing of date on a much larger scale. The impact this type of date is likely to have on VA's research arm will be incredible.
It would be, if it ever happened. It would be able to pin point health clusters and issues that were developing and had developed. But, for that to happen, the EHR would have to be implemented and you can't implement something when, as Erickson noted, it is still "under development."
Again, this is a serious issue and it's one we've covered for years. It would be really great if this issue -- that everyone agrees is needed -- could be resolved and the EHR could be implemented. Maybe someday.
And maybe someday soon Iraq will have a prime minister?
AP notes, "Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose coalition won the largest number of seats in last month’s parliamentary elections, has announced an alliance with an Iran-backed coalition ahead of marathon negotiations to form a new government." (See yesterday's snapshot for more on that merger.)
Moqtada teaming with Hadi al-Amiri is generating a lot of discussions, such as the one below.
The merger has left former prime minister and forever thug Nouri al-Maliki scrambling. AL-MANAR reports that Nouri's trying to form alliances with anyone and everyone. He's insisting (after he did so poorly in the May 12 elections) that he's trying to re-form the National Alliance -- that would be the grouping he long ago walked out on to form his own State of Law Coalition for the 2010 elections. He's wooing everyone.
Nouri al-Maliki former Iraqi prime minister asks to reconciliate with Sadr.
For those who've forgotten -- the ground shifts so quickly in Iraq -- it was about a week ago when Nouri was forming an alliance with Hayder al-Abadi with the intent to leave Moqtada out in the cold.
The following community sites updated: