Veterans news update for Oct. 13

Veterans news update for Oct. 13

Veterans news updateArmy vet not allowed to hang jacket on US Airways flight (San Francisco Chronicle)
Thousands of people took to Twitter to express their outrage over a U.S. Airways flight attendant who refused to allow an Army veteran to hang his decorated jacket on a recent flight. On Flight 1930 between Portland, Ore., and Charlotte, N.C., First Sgt. Albert Marle asked a flight attendant to hang his navy-blue Army Ranger and combat veteran’s jacket to stop it from wrinkling, according to WSOC-TV. The unnamed attendant refused saying the closet is reserved for first-class passengers. Marle didn’t question her response and without making any fuss he politely returned to his seat. Passengers who witnessed the incident did make a fuss, however, offering Marle their seats in first-class so he could hang his jacket.

Veterans issues crack top 10 in political advertising (USA Today)
The fallout from revelations about poor veterans’ health care has helped vault veterans’ issues into the top tier of political issue ads for the first time in an election year. “There’s never been an opening like the VA scandal has provided for non-veterans to talk about veterans in their advertising before,” said Elizabeth Wilner with Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group. “Voters are more sensitive to the needs of veterans this cycle than they have been in the past.” Veterans’ care burst into the national debate this year when it was revealed that dozens of veterans’ hospitals were plagued with bureaucratic problems that prevented veterans from receiving timely care. As a result, Congress approved a $16.3 billion veterans’ care bill this summer to help ease those delays. The issue lingers on the campaign trail.

American Legion boss: Vets have earned federal hiring preference (Navy Times)
The American Legion has a message for federal workers upset over veterans preference rules: Get over it. “Those who have served in uniform have earned such preference,” American Legion National Commander Michael Helm said in a statement. “Helping those who have served in uniform, especially disabled veterans, get jobs is a policy that must remain in place.” Helm’s message comes about two months after the release of a report by the Merit Systems Protection Board on veterans hiring practices by the government, which found growing concern among civilian government workers about the advantages given to applicants with prior military service. The findings have gained new media and congressional attention in recent weeks.

2nd Alabama VA official under termination proceedings (Stars & Stripes)
The Veterans Administration has begun proceedings to fire a second official at its troubled medical centers in central Alabama. Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs Sloan Gibson announced Friday that termination proceedings had begun against Dr. Cliff Robinson, who was put on paid administrative leave in August from his position as chief of staff at the Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System. Gibson announced last week that termination proceedings had begun against James Talton, who was also placed on leave in August from his position as director of the Central Alabama VA.

VA: No evidence of false data in former Marine’s death (Associated Press)
The VA reports that an internal investigation found no evidence that a Minnesota veteran’s appointment data was doctored after he died, three members of the state’s congressional delegation said. Acting VA Inspector General Richard Griffin wrote to the lawmakers that the investigation found no evidence of falsified or manipulated records in this case of former Marine Jordan Buisman. KARE-TV reported last month that VA records showed a neurology exam for Buisman, 24, was rescheduled four days after his death. Buisman’s family believes the record was falsified to hide alleged delays in his care and has filed a wrongful death claim against the VA. But the investigation found that Buisman, who had epilepsy, called the Minneapolis VA’s automated system, through which patients can request changes to their appointments, from his cellphone number on Nov. 26, 2012. He died later that day after having seizures. Four days later, a scheduler canceled Buisman’s neurology appointment and tentatively rescheduled it for Jan. 17, 2013, but was unaware he had died.

13 disciplined, 5 fired in veterans home sexual harassment case (Cedar Rapids Gazette)
Lawmakers and members of the oversight board for Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown are questioning why they are just now learning about an internal sexual harassment probe that included more than 100 interviews, 13 disciplinary actions and five discharges this summer.  The investigation comes after an October leadership change and allegations of not being transparent about bullying, sexual harassment and culture woes that have haunted the Veterans Home in recent years. “It’s always concerning if there is this large investigation and nobody knows about it,” said State Sen. Steve Sodders, D-State Center, who represents Marshalltown residents. “It’s concerning.” The home, which has about 600 residents, provides care and services for Iowa’s veterans and their spouses. The publicly-funded home for veterans is the only one like it in Iowa.

Changes at Wilmington VA raise concerns (Wilmington News Journal)
Union clinicians at the Wilmington Veterans Affairs Medical Center fear that a recent reduction in surgical capability and other changes are signals the facility could lose its independent status, will continue shrinking and become a branch of the much larger Philadelphia VA hospital. The Wilmington director doesn’t say it won’t. Rather, she says with conviction, that she hasn’t heard it being talked about during meetings at the regional and central office level. “Each VA has its little niche that they provide, and they help each other out – and so that’s still ongoing,” said Robin Aube-Warren during an interview Friday. “But there is nothing that I’ve ever been made aware of that there were any discussions about changing our role and having us fall under Philly, or anything like that.”

VA earns certification for whistleblower protection after retaliation complaints (Washington Post)
The Veterans Affairs Department has earned certification for whistleblower protection in a sign that the agency is correcting widespread problems with retaliation against employees who reported wrongdoing. The announcement came just days after the Office of Special Counsel, a small agency that investigates federal whistleblower claims and runs the certification process, announced that the VA had settled retaliation cases with three workers. The VA said it earned the certification in part by requiring supervisors, managers and executives to complete training on whistleblower rights and protections every two years. It also posted information about prohibited practices and whistleblower rights on a new Web site and at agency facilities.

VA patients who refuse referral left with costs (Wilmington News Journal)
Veterans who decline a referral from the Wilmington VA Medical Center to Philadelphia or another VA facility will be responsible for any medical costs they incur by going elsewhere for treatment, Wilmington officials say. That’s a matter of eligibility requirements, said Robin Aube-Warren, Wilmington’s director. But the referral decision is not a cut-and-dried call. Timeliness, and factors such as the need for family support, are taken into consideration, she said. And if the VA can provide the care, but can’t do so in a timely fashion, outpatient care in the community is an option, she said. If timeliness is not a factor, patients declining more distant care will have to pay.

Ohio VA employees got big bonuses (Associated Press)
A newspaper investigation has found that Ohio Veterans Affairs hospitals paid out nearly $6.5 million in bonuses to employees in the past year. The Dayton Daily News reports that the bonuses went to more than 6,000 employees of the state’s five VA hospitals during a year the agency was criticized for long veterans’ waits for health care and workers falsifying records to cover up delays. Bonus payouts at Ohio’s VA hospitals dropped from nearly $7.7 million in 2013 to $6.5 million in federal fiscal year 2014, which ended Oct. 1. The average bonus in 2014 was $700. Federal reforms passed by Congress after a summer of outrage over how long veterans were waiting for care have limited the budget for VA bonuses.

Judge awards $725,000, turns screw on VA hospital in malpractice suit (Arkansas Business)
A U.S. District Court judge in Little Rock recently found that a surgeon at the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Little Rock had botched a surgery and awarded the 75-year-old patient $725,000. Walter Paul Hoover of Webb City, Missouri, sued the U.S. government in 2011 after a surgery in 2009 “caused complete paralysis of his quadriceps,” Judge James Moody Jr. wrote in his order on Sept. 18. Hoover said in his lawsuit that he fell and injured his back in 2009. During the surgery to repair his back, surgeons Drs. Jeffrey Oppenheimer and Dennis McDonnell at the John L. McClellan Memorial Veterans Hospital in Little Rock “misplaced screws into Mr. Hoover’s spinal canal,” according to the lawsuit filed by Hoover’s attorney, George Wise Jr. of Little Rock.