Government

Marco Rubio and Jeff Miller Tackle Veterans Affairs Reform

By: Kevin Derby | Posted: February 12, 2014 3:55 AM
Marco Rubio and Jeff Miller

Marco Rubio and Jeff Miller

Two Florida Republicans teamed up on Tuesday to launch an effort to reform the federal Veterans Affairs Department.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., the chairman of the U.S. House Veterans Affairs Committee, introduced the VA Management Accountability Act of 2014.

The legislation would give VA secretaries the ability to fire or demote senior VA department officials based on performance. Rubio’s and Miller’s bill would give the VA secretary the ability to fire or demote senior executive service (SES) officials in the department. As of fiscal year 2012, there were 448 SES officials in the department.

Rubio and Miller pointed toward the recent deaths of 31 veterans at VA facilities, which could have been prevented, and the lack of accountability VA officials faced in the aftermath as to why this bill was needed.

“Widespread lack of accountability and a mounting disability benefits backlog has left many of our veterans without proper care, even resulting in the tragic and preventable deaths of at least 31 veterans," Rubio said on Tuesday. “The least we can do in return for our veterans’ courageous service and sacrifice is ensure that they receive the quality care and treatment they deserve. This bill equips VA leaders with the tools needed to address and correct the problems at hand. Giving the VA secretary complete authority to manage executives based on their performance discourages career employees from evading appropriate punishments and helps restore the public’s faith in the organization.” 

“This legislation would give VA leaders a tool to address a problem that continues to get worse by the day. VA’s widespread and systemic lack of accountability is exacerbating all of its most pressing problems, including the department’s stubborn disability benefits backlog and a mounting toll of at least 31 recent preventable veteran deaths at VA medical centers across the country,” Miller said.

The Panhandle congressman insisted most VA employees were doing their jobs and helping America’s veterans.

“While the vast majority of VA’s more than 300,000 employees and executives are dedicated and hard-working, the department’s well-documented reluctance to ensure its leaders are held accountable for mistakes is tarnishing the reputation of the organization and may actually be encouraging more veteran suffering instead of preventing it,” Miller said. “With all the problems VA hospitals and regional offices have recently had and new issues continually arising, we need to give the VA secretary the authority he needs to fix things. That’s what my bill would do.”

Rubio’s and Miller’s legislation has won the backing of AMVETS (American Veterans), Concerned Veterans for America, and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.



Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com.


Comments (11)

Dr. Kenneth Tennant
5:16PM MAR 25TH 2014
Why is this 100% "Service-Connected" DISABLED American Veteran, that hasn't been gainfully employed since being honorably discharged in 1987, still fighting the SSA for ssdi benefits ? The SSA determined disability in 1991 but the ALJ Failed to follow established law & on remand, Refused to comply with the directive: REMOVE the mechanical grid. Instead, the ALJ attempted to REINFORCE the questionable grid using a deceptive technique (MMPI) that published experts report is "INAPPROPRIATE" for people suffering with non-exertional impairments, like mine. Where is the oversight of the SSA ? They promised several times to "EXPEDITE" these cases. Oct 2010 and again last month. What do they mean by "EXPEDITE"? Pull another fast one ? Kenneth Tennant, Communist Iowa. KTennantDC@Gmail.com PLEASE SHARE THIS
c4cfed
3:21PM MAR 15TH 2014
Lawsuit Alleges that Federal Investigative Agency Refused to Probe Claims Involving Destruction of Veterans' Healthcare Records.

In an amended lawsuit filed Tuesday against the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, a former employee who is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and a Coalition For Change, Inc. (C4C) member, tells of alleged discrimination, retaliation, destruction of veterans’ patient records and how the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), an agency which is supposed to protect federal employees from reprisal for whistleblowing, failed to take action.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California (Case No. CV 13-6030-ODW), alleges that the U.S. Marine Corps veteran Oliver Mitchell was removed from his job at the Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Greater West Los Angeles Medical Center after his efforts to timely schedule patient exams and to expose the destruction of medical records.

According to the February 25, 2014 article in the Washington Examiner Department of Veterans Affairs purged thousands of orders for diagnostic medical tests en masse to make it appear as if its decade-long backlog had been eliminated.

The suit claims that Mitchell once worked as a Patient Services Assistant in the VA’s Imaging Service, Radiology Section and that he was allegedly asked to destroy medical requests for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans and computed tomography (CT) scans.

The lawsuit alleges that in November 2008 VA officials schemed to hide the medical request records backlog of veterans waiting for care; and in June 2009, Mitchell filed a complaint of reprisal for whistleblowing with the OSC disclosing: the VA backlog, patient wait time, death threats received, improper handling of medical request by Service Chief, improper gender discrimination by immediate supervisor and the providing of MRI and X-Ray exams for non-veteran patients.

The lawsuit further details allegations of reprisal Mitchell reportedly endured after refusing to destroy veterans' patient records and after filing multiple complaints with the VA and the OSC. In the complaints Mitchell expressly alleges his work station was moved to a storage closet, he was placed on endless reassignments, denied job training, subjected to forced mental health evaluations, wrongfully placed on absence without leave (AWOL), threatened with gun violence, and threatened with force by the VA Police. (Mitchell v Shinseki, VA EEO Case Number 200P-0691-2009102570, VA EEO Case No. 200P-0691-2011-101903, VA Office of Inspector General Case No. 2010-02453-HL-052, and OSC Case No. MA-09-265).

An accounting of what allegedly transpired after Mitchell blew the whistle on VA has also been captured on his blog entitled: A Whistleblower’s Story. It details how VA officials allegedly conspired to book newer patients first even after recognizing it was not good health care.

Mitchell, a member of the Coalition For Change, Inc. (C4C), disclosed in his recently filed complaint that the OSC failed to investigate his claims of VA abuse. Mitchell provided C4C with an email reply, dated 2013, from the OSC. The email from the OSC revealed the investigative agency would not be taking any action on Mitchell's allegations.

About The Coalition For Change, Inc. (C4C)
The Coalition For Change, Inc. (C4C) is a Washington, DC based civil rights volunteer organization and support group comprised of present and former federal employees who have been injured or ill-treated due to workplace discrimination and /or reprisal. C4C recently produced a YouTube video to expose how an internal broken workplace system harms the public. The video is entitled --Veterans Affairs Dishonoring America's Veterans and Civil Servants.
Dr. Kenneth Tennant
12:24PM FEB 13TH 2014
Why is this 100% Service-Connected DISABLED American Veteran NOT getting any social security disability benefits ? I applied & was determined disabled in 1991 but systemic incompetence, dishonesty, lack of objectivity, congressional indifference (Iowa delegates; Jim Leach, Jim Nussle, Bruce Braley and now Dave Loebsack) over the past 23 YEARS have Delayed, Deceived and denied my benefits. In 2013 the SSA ODAR office in Peoria IL said they will schedule a hearing. That was 3 months ago and still not even a scheduled hearing ? Don't get me wrong, three months is not like 23 YEARS of waiting for someone to Re-Open my old case & CORRECT the CLEAR & UNmistakable ERRORS. Google: Kenneth Tennant (Domestic Terrorism: USA vs Veterans and the First Amendment) & You Tube: AMERICAN VETERAN Discarded and Forgotten. - Dr. Kenneth Tennant (563) 355-7073 or KTennantDC (at ) gmail (dot) com please share this
Tom Holloran, Hotel 2/1
6:38PM FEB 12TH 2014
Amen-! It is long past due.
Wes Compton
4:22PM FEB 12TH 2014
During my 25 years of VA health care as a retired military Vet., I have experienced great care and service from most of the caregivers and I feel more secure and comfortable with the VA care than from the price gouging and uncareing medical Dr's outside the VA that I had treatment from. From Attitude to accurate medical, the VA is usually head and shoulders above the outside medical care.
Western Sage
1:33PM FEB 12TH 2014
This is just another attempt to try to change the government into a private company in all but name, something it can never and should never be. One can only imagine how "well" the VA would treat our veterans if promotion and job security at the VA were determined by the agency's bottom line. This is a very bad idea from some politicians with an agenda that doesn't mesh with what's best for our veterans. I would urge the few veterans organizations that have expressed support for this idea to reconsider and change their positions.
JimS
12:52PM FEB 12TH 2014
These two main war costs off the books rubber stampers, with little to nothing for the veterans of, 'tackling' veterans affairs?! Thanks, but no thanks, for the joke!!!!!!!!!
What shouldn't even be in the budget negotiations, and never should be untill we fully fund like the 'free wars', and cuts to, anything to do with Veterans'! But for the conservative decades long mindset it always is, it's all in the records, obstruction and lack of policy especially at times of war and occupations and the years after, on us Vets!!

Freedom Isn't Free!! We Paid For It!! American Veterans!!

"12 years also is a long time. We now have a lifetime responsibility to a generation of service members, veterans and their families." Dr. Jonathan Woodson 11 Sep. 2013: 'With 9/11 Came Lifetime Responsibility'

"If military action is worth our troops’ blood, it should be worth our treasure, too" "not just in the abstract, but in the form of a specific ante by every American." -Andrew Rosenthal 10 Feb. 2013

Where were the 'offsets' to federal spending as the rubber stamping, much more then the off the books wars with no-bid contracts, was going on and claiming 'patriotism' for?

'Cost of War' site {real and estimated costs}: "Total US federal spending associated with the Iraq war has been $1.7 trillion through FY2013. In addition, future health and disability payments for veterans will total $590 billion and interest accrued to pay for the war will add up to $3.9 trillion." 19 March 2013 © 2011 Watson Institute, Brown University

David (CBS News) Martin: "Then there's the financial cost. To date, the Pentagon has spent more than $500 billion on the war in Afghanistan. A defense spending bill the Senate is expected to pass this week would add another $80 billion to that." 17 December 2013

USN All Shore '67-'71 GMG3 Vietnam In Country '70-'71
JimS
12:53PM FEB 12TH 2014
“Why in 2009 were we still using paper?” VA Assistant Secretary Tommy Sowers “When we came in, there was no plan to change that; we’ve been operating on a six month wait for over a decade.” 27 March 2013

More disturbing in relation to even before and through the early years of the Afghanistan, quickly abandoned missions of, and Iraq occupations, this:

ProPublica and The Seattle Times Nov. 9, 2012 - Lost to History: Missing War Records Complicate Benefit Claims by Iraq, Afghanistan Veterans
"DeLara's case is part of a much larger problem that has plagued the U.S. military since the 1990 Gulf War: a failure to create and maintain the types of field records that have documented American conflicts since the Revolutionary War."

Army Says War Records Gap Is Real, Launches Recovery Effort

The War On Military Records
"12/10/2013 - The era of big data has arrived on the battlefield and we need to find new ways to deal with it."

And meanwhile, as those served don't like to Sacrifice themselves, the country ignores and support the ignoring of the results of war on those who served in theater and carry that politically by blaming the Veterans Administration led by the political ideology seeking to privatize for corporate profit, the peoples responsibility:

Army Times Oct. 16, 2008 - VA claims found in piles to be shredded

CNN iReport October 25, 2008 - House Vets' Committee To Probe VA Shredder Scandal

Tampa Bay Times Oct 27, 2008 - Hundreds of VA documents improperly shredded, review finds {Tampa Bay Times search page and series of articles}

CBS News February 11, 2009 - Veterans' Claims Found in Shredder Bins
techy
11:37AM FEB 12TH 2014
They don't want to fix anything..they just want facetime...go away this is not a political playing field to win votes...just leave it alone...you will only make it worse...If you want to help...go tell egghead boy wonderstone and Patty Murray..to stop beating military retirees out of money with their 1% Bulls hit plan.
John Zotto
11:01AM FEB 12TH 2014
I have always been treated well by the VA but 448 SES positions means at least 2 GS-15, 3 GS-14, 6 GS-13, per SES which means an an unacceptable amount of money spent on manpower and not enough on operations. Senator Rubio is not my favorite senator but maybe top heavy management needs to be cut.
Anon
10:53AM FEB 12TH 2014
Many present day getting established politicians have used veterans and veterans issues as a platform to establish political credibility. Tom Daschle former democrat leader in the US senate did, so did Obama, and Patty Murray of Washington State. This is an insult considering all the problems veterans have today 2014 with the VA nothing has changed maybe the VA has gotten worse. Congressional Veterans Affairs committees seem to accomplish nothing other than campaign tools to get elected or re elected.

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