Yesterday's snapshot noted the joint-hearing of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees. Appearing before the Committees were VA Secretary Robert Wilkie who was accompanied by VA's Melissa Glynn and Steven Lieberman. Yesterday, we focused on Senator John Tester, Ranking Member, questioning Wilkie while also noting US House Chair Phil Roe's observation, the Blue Water bill (stalled in the Senate) and some of US Senator Patty Murray's questioning. We'll resume with her.
Senator Patty Murray: But I do want to ask about the caregivers program because according to briefings from the VA, the Department has ruled out trying to narrow the eligibility criteria for the caregiver program. But I'm still very concerned that there is a number of issues the VA is looking at that I'm concerned about including changes to the stipend, restricting veterans based on their type of injury or requiring a minimum disability rating. This seems to be VA still focused on keeping people out of the program instead of making it work better for our veterans. And yesterday, NPR reported on several cases where veterans -- including a double and a triple amputee -- were downgraded or kicked out of the program completely, inappropriately. And these are, by the way, not one-off VA cases. We're hearing that this is a continuing problem in the VA's management of this program. When the VA previously downgraded and terminated caregivers, the VA assured me that it had resolved the problems that led to these type of actions but it's very clear that's not true and I would like you to immediately re-instate a ban on downgrades and terminations until VA can demonstrate to us that the serious management problems have been corrected and these type of outrageous errors will not occur again.
Secretary Robert Wilkie: Senator, I will say that caregivers is especially important to me. I am the son of a gravely wounded Vietnam warrior.
Senator Patty Murray: I appreciate that.
Secretary Robert Wilkie: Uh, and I've seen my mother and family, uh, take care of my father prior to his passing last --
Senator Patty Murray: I appreciate that.
Secretary Robert Wilkie: The stories --
Senator Patty Murray: Will you reinstate the ban?
Secretary Robert Wilkie: I --
Senator Patty Murray: Will you reinstate the ban?
Secretary Robert Wilkie: I-I-I'm not familiar with all the rules but I will tell you the National Public Radio story, that, uh, problem was corrected within 24 to 48 hours.
Senator Patty Murray: Those are not isolated cases. We're hearing many of them.
Secretary Robert Wilkie: And-and those cases, is my understanding, have been corrected because of directives from this department that people were not reading the regulations properly. So my promise to you is that I am going to do everything I can to make sure everybody stays in the program. It's that important to me personally.
Senator Patty Murray: Can I have your assurance that no one else will be downgraded or kicked out of the program until you look and make sure that the regulations are being implemented at every level correctly?
Secretary Robert Wilkie: Absolutely, I will -- I will make that commitment and will brief these Committees.
Senator Patty Murray: Okay. And I won't have enough time but I'd like you to give me what your guidance to the program office is and your guidance to the field on how this is being implemented so that we can see what you're telling your staff
Secretary Robert Wilkie: Yes, ma'am.
Senator Patty Murray: Okay and I'm also very concerned about the implementation of the changes to the caregiver program that was passed as part of the Mission Act. Before the expansion can begin, you have to certify that a new IT system is in place and the law required you to have that system in place by October 1st, that was a month and a half ago. This was not a new requirement. GAO's initial recommendation to fix the IT system was made in September of 2014 and the VA has repeatedly assured us that it's working on that issue. I want to know when you will have that IT system in place and make the certification as the law requires.
Secretary Robert Wilkie: The goal is October 1st. I would --
Senator Patty Murray: That was a month and a half ago.
Secretary Robert Wilkie: I would not be telling the truth if I told you I was absolutely certain that given the state of VA's IT system that that date would be met.
Senator Patty Murray: That was a month and a half ago.The date's passed.
Secretary Robert Wilkie: No, I'm talking about -- it's October, 2019.
Senator Patty Murray: No.
Secretary Robert Wilkie: To certify that IT works. Are we confusing two dates?
Senator Patty Murray: That's your new goal. That's not the goal you were given by Congress.
Secretary Robert Wilkie: It --
Melissa Glynn: The timeline to certify the new system is ready is 19 -- October 19.
Senator Patty Murray: Okay?
Melissa Glynn: We did miss the October 18 date to --
Senator Patty Murray: So you gave yourself another year?
Melissa Glynn: Well there were two dates. There are two dates, Senator, associated with the requirement. The first date, which was October of this year, was for validating and deploying a new system. We have not deployed the new system. But the certification of that system --
Senator Patty Murray: Have you --
Senator Patty Murray: -- fully defined requirements for that system.
Melissa Glynn: We have fully defined requirements and we're working, as the Secretary mentioned, on user acceptance testing of the system and we are working through that. We do not want to deploy a system until they're thoroughly tested and we're feel is capable of serving caregivers and veterans.
Secretary Robert Wilkie: And I would say that has been the problem identified and talked with -- discussed with this Committee. Uh, GI Bill was a classic case, Senator, uh, of a program being imposed on a system that was incapable of handling it. That's why I had to make a decision to go back to the old system on the GI Bill. The same applies here. The system was not capable of addressing it. Uh, I give you my commitment that I'm doing everything I can and so is the Department to bring the IT system up to modern standards. The GI Bill? We were talking about a fifty-year-old IT system and it's not acceptable. But you have my commitment that we are working with the best minds we can find to make VA a modern healthcare administration --
Senator Patty Murray: Mr. Chairman, I know my time is up. I've been on this Committee for more than 20 years and I always hear that we're not going to get an IT system because there's a problem. Every time it changes, every time there are problems. We've got to get this right. People are counting on it.
US House Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Phil Roe noted that he'd been serving for ten years and had heard the same repeated excuse as well.
I didn't want to break that up, but maybe I should have?
Did we all get that the VA missed the deadline? Back in October 2018? But they wanted to insist that they hadn't because there was also an October 2019 deadline?
Can we try that with the repo people? No, I didn't miss my payment last month because I also have a payment later this month and I might meet that payment? You think that'll work because I don't.
The VA missed the deadline and then they wanted to argue that because there is another deadline -- for a different aspect -- that they hadn't.
A VSO (veterans service organization) is congratulating Wilkie, praising him, for agreeing to not kick out or downgrade anyone while the program is reviewed. Why?
He had to be pressured into agreeing -- by Senator Murray. And first, he wanted to dance around the topic and play dumb there too. If you're going to congratulate anyone, congratulate Senator Patty Murray, she's the one who made it happen.
And the IT excuses? They're getting old. Remember when Barack Obama was going to fix the VA? Remember his promise of the seamless transition -- the electronic record -- that would follow the service member from active duty to veteran status? That would make it easier to receive an adequate disability rating if one was required? Never happened, did it? The VA still can't get it together. They were supposed to be working on it, fixing it, when Bully Boy Bush occupied the White House. They were supposed to be doing it when Barack was president for two terms. The press lapped up every lie Eric Shinseki served up. They even looked the other way when he lied in a Congressional hearing and attempted to pin the blame for the delay on Chuck Hagel. They looked the other way over and over for Shinseki. He's gone now and there's no more debate, he was hideous as Secretary of the VA, he was unprepared, he was oblivious to the needs of veterans.
The press is not our friend, let's quit pretending.
Overseas defense commitments Trump is rolling back: -Syria -Afghanistan Overseas commitments he has questioned: -South Korea -NATO -Iraq Together, they encompass greatest US NatSec threats: Russia, Iran, North Korea, Taliban, Al Qaeda, ISIS
Oh, look, it's self-important Jimmy.
Maybe we'd respect him if he was a journalist. But he's not, is he? He was working for the government under Barack. Journalism wasn't good enough for him. (It still isn't good enough for him -- obvious if you follow his 'reporting.')
The revolving door needs to stop. And I might have some respect for FAIR if they'd argue that position over and over. But they only seem to care when it's journalists who go to work for Republican administrations.
Journalists who go to work in the government are not journalists -- not even if they come back out. They are no longer pursuing truth, they are now under the impression that they must serve the public interest not from a journalism standpoint but from a Daddy Government I Know Best standpoint.
Jim needs to sit his ass down.
Murtaza Hussain (BLACK AGENDA REPORT) observes:
As public attention has waned, it has become easier for the U.S. government to obscure its own role in helping foment violent crises that have sent waves of desperate refugees streaming across the world. It has also helped deflect attention from wartime expenditures that are now estimated to have sucked up over $6 trillion in public funds — money that could have done much good in a country that is starving for infrastructure and public health spending.
While Americans continue to search for explanations for their own eroding domestic national stability, the wars that continue to rage outside of public notice may help explain some of the ugly direction of U.S. politics in recent years.
“There is a perverse dynamic at play, in which we’re killing more people, creating adverse consequences like mass displacement and refugees, and then banning those very people from our shores,” said Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project. “We really need to question both the fairness and necessity of these policies, which are inflicting devastating human costs abroad while harming our own civil rights at home.”
That's a reality Little Jimmy can't share because he's not a journalist, he's a government employee temporarily laid off, waiting to be re-installed in the next Democratic administration. He will not tell the truth, he will not offer anything that might offend. There should be a petting zoo for these neutered 'reporters.'
I agree with Jill's call.
End the war in Syria. End the war in Afghanistan. End the war in Iraq. End the war in Yemen. End the war in Somalia. End the war in Libya. End the war in Niger. #NoMoreWar
And, sorry to go there, Jill, but I'm not FAIR, I actually am fair. That means I applaud you for the Tweet above but I damn well remember that in 2016 and 2012, you refused to address the wars seriously in your campaign -- there was no speech, there was nothing more than a sentence or two. So, Jill, I'm glad you found your voice. I hope you don't lose it again. It's a real shame that you had two presidential runs and didn't use either to call out the ongoing wars.
Okay, Liz Sly is a journalist, an actual one.
"There is a question of trust. This will cause many governments to rethink their alliances with a superpower that can just abandon them and leave them in the lurch and throw them under the bus" - Iraq's ex FM Hoshyar Zebari on another US betrayal of Kurds
At THE WASHINGTON POST, she writes:
Guess what? Grow the f**k up and defend your own damn selves. You've been pathetic and I'm not going to pretend otherwise. The US government has repeatedly betrayed you, the Kurds, since the start of the Iraq War. Did you get that article implemented to resolve Kirkuk yet?
It's part of the Iraqi Constitution and it was supposed to take place no later than the end of 2007. Eleven years later and nothing.
And remember when Barack Obama insisted that even though Nouri al-Maliki lost the 2010 elections, he would get a second term? Remember that contract that Barack told you the US would stand by, the concessions Nouri made to get that second term? Yeah, you were going to get that article finally implemented.
Now the fact that it was required in your own Constitution didn't make Nouri do it but now because Barack was going to make sure it happened, you believed it would.
Because you acted like idiots. Barack didn't stand by it -- or anything in The Erbil Agreement. It was a lie. You are repeatedly tricked and lied to. And we've cited, repeatedly, the Pike Report (US Congressional report) which demonstrates that Henry Kissinger was lying to you and using you under Richard Nixon.
If you're repeatedly lied to and you keep believing? You're a stupid idiot. I'm sorry to speak bluntly but maybe this time you'll finally wake up to the truth.
When your areas are bombed by Turkey, we call it out here. Does the US government? No. Not under Bully Boy Bush, not under Barack Obama and not under Donald Trump.
At some point, you really need to buy a clue.
They know you fold, they know you compromise, they know they can take you for granted. So they repeatedly have. That's on you.
Your Peshmerga -- when the Talabanis leave them alone -- can fight ISIS. That's your fighting force, use it. Stop pretending you need US forces. I'm not going to keep playing.
US forces need to be out of Iraq. The Kurds need to wise up to reality, the US government has never been their friends. As Aimee Mann says, wise up.
The following community sites -- plus Jody Watley and Cindy Sheehan -- updated:
can our nation just grow the f**k up already?
40 minutes ago