Bob McDonald: The VA is critical to medicine and vets (The Baltimore Sun)
Opinion: The VA is uniquely positioned to contribute to the care of veterans with traumatic brain injury (TBI), prosthetics, PTSD and other mental health conditions, and the treatment of chronic diseases such as diabetes and hepatitis. The work we do in these areas, as well as many others, produces results and life changing improvements in care for veterans — and for all Americans and people around the world who suffer from these conditions. Fixing access to VA care is important; we have a plan to do that and are dedicated to implementing it. That process will take time — but it must be done, and we will be successful. Those who fully understand the value of the department in research, training, and clinical care understand that veterans and all Americans need and deserve their VA to continue providing exceptional care to those we serve.
Still failing America’s veterans (The Denver Post)
Opinion: He fell down the stairs and hit his head. The concussion cracked open the wall that, for two years, had kept in the red emotions and black memories from his deployment to Afghanistan. The young veteran’s parents and his friends had no suspicion of his hidden struggles. As a medical student, I was assisting in his care at a private hospital. The VA could not take him: no resources. For an hour, he was back in the war. The next, he knew only his name — the memory of where he was and why he was here, gone. There were verbal outbursts. There were also moments of clarity when he thanked the nurses and commended their professionalism. We knew he was a good kid, a good kid who went through hell, and then was pushed aside by those who sent him. Stories of veterans suffering intermittently float through the media. When you see it face to face, it hurts. Every day in the United States, 22 veterans commit suicide. Colorado alone lost over 940 between 2008 and 2013. People are starting to learn about the delays — an average 285 days in Denver — for a veteran with injuries related to their service to get into the VA system.
Central Alabama VA director removed from position (Montgomery Advertiser)
James Talton has officially been removed as director of the Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System, according to a news release from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Talton was placed on paid administrative leave during an investigation of the administrative and clinical practices of CAVHCS in August. Last week, federal officials recommended Talton be fired for neglect of duty. Talton was removed from “federal service,” the release said. A VA spokeswoman last week said Talton had responded to the request for removal, but didn’t say what his response was.
Veterans get look at emerging VA telehealth system (FedScoop)
The Department of Veterans Affairs provided representatives of some of the nation’s leading veterans service organizations Thursday with a demonstration of the agency’s emerging telehealth system and clinical video telehealth scheduling software, both of which are designed to improve access to VA health services for veterans. VA’s telehealth programs remain among the largest and most comprehensive in the nation, with more than 690,000 veterans taking part in more than 2 million virtual appointments during fiscal year 2014. VA officials presented impressive adoption rates for telehealth services, claiming at least 717,040 veterans had taken advantage of the new technology during the last fiscal year. VA officials said that is a 12.6 percent improvement over the previous year and 45 percent of those who were able to access VA health care services using the telehealth system lived in a rural area where it was difficult to get to a VA medical center.
Report: VA secretary disregards McCain after promising to work with Congress (The Blaze)
Over the summer, incoming Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald promised to discipline officials involved in the scandal that denied thousands of veterans health care services, and promised to work closely with Congress to fix the broken VA. Three months later, those two pledges have gone unfulfilled — McDonald has threatened to fire just a handful of people, and has let some of them escape into early retirement. And on Thursday, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), arguably the Senate’s most prominent veteran, accused McDonald of ignoring his requests for information about progress made in reforming the VA. In September, McCain and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) wrote a letter to McDonald to ask why no one has been fired, and about the implementation of a health care card for veterans to use outside the VA system. On Thursday, McCain and Flake said they are surprised and disappointed that they’ve received nothing in response. “We are extremely disappointed in this lack of a timely response after the positive meeting we had and the assurances you gave us during your confirmation process,” they wrote Thursday.
McCain, other lawmakers blast VA secretary for reform delays (Stars & Stripes)
The VA and its inspector general were hit with new criticism from Congress this week over the handling of records manipulation in the Phoenix veterans’ hospital system. Arizona senators John McCain and Jeff Flake on Thursday said newly appointed VA Secretary Bob McDonald is failing to terminate misbehaving executives such as disgraced Phoenix director Sharon Helman, despite a new law that fast-tracks firings. Meanwhile, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., on Wednesday questioned the VA inspector general’s integrity and independence after a 2008 memorandum was made public showing the IG knew about VA records manipulation in Phoenix years before it blew up into a national scandal.
Arlington National Cemetery is filling up fast. “They can only put so many tombstones,” said visitor Mike Volovsky. On a typical weekday there are about 30 funerals a day. “We just heard three gun shots, that means another soldier was buried. It shouldn’t have happened,” said Julie Giolando, a visitor from Buffalo, N.Y. Twenty-seven acres are being revamped to add space as a part of the “Millennium Project.” Col. Douglas Guttormsen, director of engineering at Arlington National Cemetery, said it is on schedule. The project is adding nearly 30,000 burial spaces. Work is expected to be complete by the summer of 2016.
The Department of Veterans Affairs is issuing new ID cards to service members across the nation but with the new cards come a series of glitches. When Michele Reese went to her mailbox this week, she found one of the new ID cards. The card was for her father, an Air Force veteran. The problem? “My dad died over two and a half years ago.” says Reese. A sad reminder of her dad’s passing, as well as other emotions. “I was disgusted that this came to me, since he’s been gone so long.” said Reese. She filed the paperwork with the VA about her father’s death two and a half years ago. She called them again after the card came in the mail. She was told that the VA uses multiple computer logs for tracking veterans, with little crossover.