Veterans news update for Oct. 7

Veterans news update for Oct. 7

Veterans news updateVA moves to oust four senior executives (Wall Street Journal)
The Department of Veterans Affairs said that it is forcing out a senior procurement executive, capping a recent push to cull top officials linked to alleged misconduct. During the past two weeks, the VA has started the process to remove the chiefs of its medical centers in Pittsburgh and Dublin, Ga., as well as the director of the Central Alabama VA health-care system after probes tied to the scandal involving veterans’ lengthy wait times for appointments. The department said it would remove Susan Taylor, a top national procurement officer, after a probe found she improperly influenced a contract process for her own gain and then lied to investigators, the VA’s inspector general said. The latest group of executives haven’t officially lost their jobs, a process that involves several steps. It is unclear whether the officials will be given the chance to resign from their positions.

Report: Hawaii Dem missed veterans hearing to surf with reporter (The Hill)
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) missed a hearing on veterans issues in August because she was surfing with a reporter who was producing a profile of the freshman congresswoman, the Honolulu Civil Beat reported. She later used the video associated with the profile as part of a fundraising appeal. Gabbard was scheduled to attend a field hearing being held in Honolulu by the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee addressing issues with the Veteran Health Administration.

Veterans’ group highlights issues for November midterms (Stars & Stripes)
Aiming to make veterans issues campaign issues, the largest advocacy group for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans has released a voter guide for the upcoming midterm elections. Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America is not endorsing candidates but is encouraging members to ask candidates where they stand on six key issues: suicide prevention, VA claims backlog, shortcomings in women’s health care, support for the Helping Veterans Exposed to Toxic Chemicals Act, closing the 90/10 loophole for for-profit colleges, and translation of military skills into certifications.

Project 22 documentary explores the issue of suicide among veterans (WESA-NPR Pittsburgh)
According to the Veteran’s Administration, it is estimated 22 veterans commit suicide every day. This sobering fact served as the impetus for the documentary Project 22. The film chronicles the journey of two combat-wounded veterans across America. They traveled the country to speak with veterans who had contemplated, or attempted suicide, as well as researchers and healthcare providers. Discussing the film is Theo Collins, a law student at Duquesne University, a Marine Corps veteran and an associate producer of the film.

Veterans hospital beefs up supplies after short-sheeting patients (
Veterans Affairs hospital officials in Shreveport, La., used bayou magic to conjure up additional linens, stocking their cabinets last weekend after a investigation exposed the fact that patients were doing without sheets, pajamas and towels. Three employees at the Overton Brooks VA Medical Center told that linens were plentiful at the 10-story facility beginning Friday morning, a day after Watchdog’s story was published. This is in stark contrast to the norm, where linen cupboards are bare on weekends while the hospital awaits its regular Tuesday laundry delivery truck, which travels 125 miles, employees said.

James A. Haley VA director tells employees to answer the phones (Tampa Bay Times)
The director of the James A. Haley VA Medical Center has a message for every one of the Tampa hospital’s more than 4,800 employees: Answer the phone. Veterans calling the medical center often endure long wait times in their struggle to reach someone, hospital director Kathleen R. Fogarty wrote in an email Monday to the employees. That, she said, has to change. “The most basic thing you can do is answer the phone and call veterans back in a timely manner,” said Haley spokeswoman Karen Collins. “That’s the No. 1 rule of customer service.”

VA bonuses may be tied to phony records (KARE-TV)
KARE 11 News has learned the FBI is now interviewing two former workers at the Minneapolis VA who claim that patient records were falsified to cover up life-threatening delays. This, as KARE 11 uncovers millions of dollars in bonuses paid to top VA workers that may be based on phony records. Nearly $23 million in bonuses were awarded in the last seven years to directors and top executives at Veteran’s Administration hospitals, according to Department of Veterans Affairs’ financial data obtained by KARE 11 News. The bonuses were extra pay given to the highest ranking executives, in part for meeting scheduling standards at VA facilities across the country.

Is Marine veteran Andrew Tahmooresi close to being let out of a Mexican jail, or not? (Washington Post)
Andrew Tahmooresi’s mother, Jill, said that the case is still proceeding slowly through the Mexican legal system. Authorities overseeing the case could make a ruling in coming weeks; they recently received independent verification from a Mexican doctor that Tahmooressi has post-traumatic stress, a possible step toward his release. Mexican authorities haven’t yet rested their case against Tahmooressi, a point of frustration for those advocating on behalf of the Marine. A spokesman for his family, Jonathan Franks, said Monday that they “implore” the Mexican attorney general’s office to “to complete the necessary bureaucratic steps to move the case forward.”