Veterans news update for Oct. 20

Veterans news update for Oct. 20

Veterans news updateYounger veterans bypass VFW, American Legion for service, fitness groups (Washington Times)
Kate Hoit served eight years in the Army Reserves, including a tour in Iraq, but when she tried to join her local Veterans of Foreign Wars chapter, someone asked whether she needed an application for military spouses instead. Now, Ms. Hoit said, she will never join the VFW or the American Legion. She said the organizations are unwelcoming and out of touch with the needs of post-Sept. 11 veterans who served in Afghanistan and Iraq. “I’m not going to go the VFW or the Legion and drink and smoke cigarettes,” she said. “I want to be out in my community.” Her complaint is echoed by other veterans of the war on terrorism, who see the venerable veterans groups as fraternities of older men from previous wars. The new generation of veterans instead is gravitating toward groups organized around activities such as running or volunteering, and groups that allow nonmilitary members to take part as well.

Fewer veterans running for congressional office (Air Force Times)
The number of veterans in Congress has been steadily dropping in recent election cycles, but the legislative branch’s meager military credentials could take a major hit this year. According to an analysis from the nonpartisan Veterans Campaign, only 183 of the 865 major-party candidates up for election to Congress this year boast military experience. It’s the first time in recent memory that fewer than 200 veterans were on the campaign trail in the congressional races. Based on recent polling data, those sparse figures could drop the total number of veterans in the House and Senate to under 100 for the first time since the 1950s, when World War II veterans began seeking office for the first time. The current Congress has only 106 lawmakers with military experience, and Veterans Campaign Executive Director Seth Lynn said he expects that number to drop by up to 10 percent next year.

VA officials try to address veteran complaints (The Tennessean)
Some veterans who detailed their grievances about VA hospital care during a town hall meeting in Nashville last month are still awaiting responses as officials work their way down a list. Juan Morales, director of the Tennessee Valley Healthcare System for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, told them to “fill out a form,” promising his staff would follow up. The town hall meeting on Sept. 22 was one of four such briefings he scheduled in the wake of a congressional investigation about delays veterans faced nationwide trying to see doctors. The VA system in Middle Tennessee reported some of the longest wait times in the nation to see specialists.

Topeka VA human resource office locked in battle mode (Topeka Capital-Journal)
Retired Col. Robert Bloomquist served 32 years in the military but was unprepared for combative, retaliatory leadership encountered at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ human resources office in downtown Topeka. He said unprofessional conduct was a hallmark of administrators controlling the office of Workforce Management, which the VA headquartered in Topeka to provide guidance on employee relations and personnel development at centers working directly with veterans across the United States. “I have never witnessed such a level of turnover of highly qualified people, hostility and disregard for the welfare of the employees,” said Bloomquist, who was dismissed from Workforce Management after raising questions internally about VA management decisions. A series of federal employment complaints and legal actions have been initiated against officials, current and former employees said. They said staff who fell out of favor with upper management were subjected to humiliating criticism and retaliation by supervisors.

VA morale low, but actions by new boss could change things (Washington Post)
Despite all its recent controversy, the Department of Veterans Affairs generally provides good health care to its patients. Attitudes of VA employees toward their agency, however, are ailing. If Secretary Bob McDonald needed any more confirmation that he waded into a quagmire when he took over the department in July, he got it with VA’s 2014 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, which was released Friday. It shows a drop from the previous two years in the percentage of staffers responding positively to a key question: “Considering everything, how satisfied are you with your organization?” A feeble 52.8 percent said in the survey, which was completed in mid-June, that they were satisfied. That’s down from 55.1 percent in 2013 and 2012. Better, but not really good, news comes with the question: “Considering everything, how satisfied are you with your job?” This year, 63.5 percent said they are satisfied, down slightly from the previous years. Similarly, more than 61 percent said they would recommend VA as a place to work in each of the years.

VA defining dismissal down (Wall Street Journal)
Editorial: President Obama and Congress agreed this summer on a bill that made it easier for the VA to fire incompetent officials in return for $16 billion in additional spending to address long patient waiting lines caused by the agency’s incompetence. That looked like another case of government rewarding government failure, and now we learn that two officials targeted for dismissal as part of the VA investigation are retiring instead. The law gave new secretary Robert McDonald the ability to fire immediately, but the VA says it gave the targeted employees a five-day period to respond so the dismissals would hold up in court. The VA retirees will all presumably suffer no reduction in federal retirement benefits.