Veterans news update for Oct. 29

Veterans news update for Oct. 29

Veterans news updateVA adds $50 to deceased veteran’s 59-cent bill (Delaware News Journal)
It’s bad enough that the Department of Veterans Affairs billed a deceased Navy vet for 59 cents this summer. Now, the VA has added $50 to that balance – a charge for 2013 outpatient care at the Wilmington VA Medical Center that apparently is legitimate but that was somehow not included on the 59-cent bill sent to him more than a year after that office visit. And you thought this story couldn’t get any better. “So now, the balance is fifty dollars and fifty-nine cents,” said Helena Perry, the widow of David Perry, who died June 5 at age 86. “And to avoid late charges, to pay by 11.20.2014.” The previous 59-cent bill, first noted last month, had also warned of an additional charge — if not paid by Oct. 11. No charge on that amount appeared to have been levied on this latest bill, dated Oct. 16, which arrived Monday at Perry’s home in Avondale, Pa. Mrs. Perry, who’d already provided a VA-requested death certificate, never paid the 59 cents. In addition to noting the bill’s ludicrous nature – the postage alone was 48 cents – she’d been told by a VA customer service to forget about it. Now, it has reappeared – with a substantially larger companion charge.

GOP unhappy with new VA chief (Politico)
Republican senators are having some buyer’s remorse when it comes to new Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald, who was confirmed unanimously this summer. Three GOP senators publicly blasted McDonald on Tuesday for not moving to dismiss Phoenix VA Health Care System Director Sharon Helman, who, along with two other staffers, was put on paid leave in May when revelations about patient backlogs, records falsification and long wait times for appointments swamped former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona and Richard Burr of North Carolina, the Senate GOP’s top man on veterans issues, said McDonald has not followed through on cleaning out senior executives such as Helman — even though a new VA law allows the swift dismissal of top officials deemed responsible for mismanagement.

Augusta VA director to resign (Augusta Chronicle)
Robert Hamilton will resign as the director of the Charlie Norwood Veterans Affairs Center, leaving the embattled Augusta hospital without a leader for the more than 40,000 veterans in Georgia and South Carolina who depend on the federal facility for health care. Hospital spokesman Pete Scovill confirmed in a news release late Tuesday that Hamilton had announced to the Augusta VA’s 2,500 employees his plans to step down Nov. 30 to “focus on more personal goals.” Hamilton is the fourth Augusta VA executive to resign in 18 months, after the departures of chiefs of staff Dr. Luke Stapleton and Michael Spencer and associate director Richard “Toby” Rose. Scovill said an acting director will be appointed to “ensure continuity of operations” until a permanent replacement is found for the hospital that has an annual budget of $379 million and serves veterans from 17 counties in Georgia and seven in South Carolina.

Nurse admits fault in death at N.Y. state veteran’s home (White Plains News Journal)
A nurse who tended to an 84-year-old Korean War veteran who died last year pleaded guilty Monday to a misdemeanor charge of failing to care for him properly, the New York State attorney general said. Joyce Opoku, a licensed practical nurse from New Windsor, New York, was arrested in June after the veteran died at the state Veterans’ Home at Montrose. She pleaded guilty to one count of willful violation of health laws and likely faces probation when sentenced on Feb. 2, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement. Upon entering the plea in Cortlandt Town Court, Opoku also agreed to surrender her nursing license. The 41-year-old, who was charged along with Isabelle Todman, a certified nurse’s aide from Peekskill, originally faced two counts of falsifying business records in addition to willful violation. Todman, 62, was charged with four counts of falsifying business records and three counts of willful violation of health laws. Her prosecution continues, the attorney general said.

Complaint may force recovering vet out of friend’s garage (KATU-Portland)
Paul Ross is just trying to help a buddy, letting him live in his garage in Hood River. But that buddy, a Vietnam vet recovering from heart surgery, may have to move out because of that same garage. Ross built the two-story garage several years ago next to his house, finally winning out over neighbors who complained it blocked their view of Mount Hood. He let 70-year-old Eric Tucci move in after a motorcycle accident sidelined him. A few weeks ago, Tucci had heart problems and needed surgery. He can’t get around much, so Ross and another friend are taking care of him while he recuperates in Ross’ garage. The garage has a bathroom, showers and a kitchen upstairs. Last week, Ross found out someone complained that there was someone living in his garage. He wonders if it’s the same people who didn’t want the garage there in the first place. Hood River County has an ordinance that only allows one residence for a piece of land. So if county code enforcers decide the garage is actually a residence (they’ll inspect the place on Thursday), Tucci will have to move out, with nowhere else to go.

Korean War vet, homeowners association battle over the right to fly the American flag (The Daily Mail)
An Indiana veteran, 82, is told he can’t fly his American flags outside his home because the Homeowners Association says the “flagpole makes it difficult for landscapers to mow the lawn.” Bob Willits, 82, of Greenfield, Indiana served four years during the Korean War and now suffers from both Parkinson’s disease and a lung ailment. Despite his frail condition, his love of his country stands strong and he says that flag’s going to stay right where he put it. To the couples’ chagrin, in early September the couple heard from the Fieldstone Homeowners Association who said that that the flag wasn’t permitted on their property because it wasn’t mounted to their home. WTHR reports that the association offered to fly the Missing in Action/ Prisoner of War (POW/MIA) flag from the community flagpole and they said that Willits could hang his American flag from a bracket above his garage. The other option for the couple is that they don’t move the flag and pay a $500 fine.

Former police dispatcher sues Palo Alto VA (Palo Alto Online)
A former public-safety dispatcher for the VA Palo Alto has filed a lawsuit against the Palo Alto Department of Veterans Affairs for racial discrimination and intimidation after he attempted to report alleged police brutality by one of the officers, according to court documents. Vincent May claims he was purposefully and repeatedly denied employment as a police officer, was verbally and physically harassed, intimidated and retaliated against by a police sergeant who was his superior, according to papers filed on Oct. 14 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Ultimately, May was fired. He said it was after attempting to report abuse by his superior, who allegedly beat another VA employee to the point of hospitalization, according to the lawsuit. Oakland attorney John Burris, who has represented Bay Area plaintiffs in police brutality and wrongful death cases against minorities, is representing May.