Veterans news update for Nov. 4

Veterans news update for Nov. 4

Veterans news updateSEALs told to avoid limelight as ex-SEAL talks to TV (USA Today)
As Fox News advertises that it will broadcast an interview on Veterans Day of a former Navy SEAL who claims to have shot Osama bin Laden, the head of the Naval Special Warfare Command is telling its special operations forces to to stay out of the limelight. The Oct. 31 letter from Rear Adm. Brian Losey and Force Master Chief Michael Magaraci to Naval Special Warfare sailors stresses that they should strive for the respect of their colleagues, not public acclaim. The Tampa Tribune first reported about the letter Sunday. “At Naval Special Warfare’s core is the SEAL ethos,” according to the letter, which the Navy Times obtained. “A critical tenant of our ethos is ‘I do not advertise the nature of my work, nor seek recognition for my actions.’ Our ethos is a life-long commitment and obligation, both in and out of the service. Violators of our ethos are neither teammates in good standing, nor teammates who represent Naval Special Warfare.”

Sanders to VA: ‘Aggressively’ go after managers that lied (The Hill)
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) called on the Department of Veterans Affairs to act “as aggressively as possible” in firing managers that covered up healthcare delays. “Those VA employees who lied or manipulated data and further exacerbated veterans’ inability to access health care must be held accountable for their actions,” Sanders said Sunday. “The VA must act as aggressively as possible in removing those officials from their positions.” Sanders wrote to VA Secretary Robert McDonald as the agency implements a new VA reform law Sanders helped write. The bicameral legislation came following reports that VA officials falsified documents in order to hide long wait times for VA medical appointments.

GAO: VA not ensuring veterans receive outpatient specialty care (Fierce Government)
The Veterans Affairs Department hasn’t ensured that veterans receive outpatient specialty care in a timely manner, if at all, a recently released Sept. 30 Government Accountability Office report says. Based on its review of consults requested from April 2013 through September 2013, GAO found that for 122 of the 150 consults reviewed, care providers did not provide veterans with the requested care in accordance with VHA’s 90-day timeliness guideline. For four of the 10 physical therapy consults GAO reviewed within one VA medical center, between 108 and 152 days elapsed with no apparent actions taken to schedule an appointment for the veteran, the report says. VA officials told the GAO that increased demand for services, and patient no-shows and canceled appointments were among the factors that lead to delays. Those factors also hinder the VAs ability to meet VHA’s timeliness guideline, the report says.

VA gains a place at Alameda Point in California (
The Department of Veterans Affairs officially took ownership of 624 acres of Alameda Point on Monday, which it hopes to transform into a new, one-stop medical and benefits center, a national cemetery and a wildlife preserve. “We are proud that the new One VA facility will call Alameda home,” Mayor Marie Gilmore said during a public ceremony at the Alameda Theatre & Cineplex that included a color guard, speeches and a video offering the history of the former Naval Air Station and renderings of the planned facilities. The complex is slated to include 158,000 square feet of medical clinics and office space and an 80-acre columbarium with enough space to hold the cremated remains of up to 300,000 servicemen and women and their family members. The remaining 512 acres will remain undeveloped and will be managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a California least tern colony and migratory stopover for other birds, with some public recreational access.

Sgt. Tahmooressi’s next challenge: getting care at the VA (The Blaze)
Members of Congress said Monday that while they are grateful for the return of U.S. Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi, who was held as a prisoner in Mexico for seven months, they worry that his next challenge will be getting proper treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from the Department of Veterans Affairs. And given the VA’s poor track record given the VA health care scandal and its efforts to cover up that scandal, members of Congress said they’ll be watching very closely to see how the VA treats Tahmooressi. When asked on Fox News whether the VA would ensure Tahmooressi gets the care he needs, Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said he and others would make sure of it. “They really must step up now, and I think there’s going to be a lot of attention from Congress on this issue,” Royce said. Royce worked with Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) and others to fight for Tahmooressi’s release from Mexico, which held him in prison after he crossed the border carrying guns. Tahmooressi said he crossed the border accidentally, and his diagnosed PTSD was seen as a factor in the incident.

Is the VA hospital in Puerto Rico preparing to take Ebola patients? (
A Veterans Affairs hospital in San Juan, Puerto Rico is conducting an “emergency installation” of air filters for Ebola patients, raising questions about what the government plans for the facility. “This emergency service is for the creation of a Ward to attend suspected patients with the Ebola Virus that have to be quarantine,” explains a document justifying the use of a sole-source contract for the filters, which will cost about $18,000. Manuel Delrio, an employee at the hospital, said by phone Sunday that to his knowledge, no patients at the facility currently have Ebola. “So far, we’re crossing our fingers, but we’ve had no issues at all,” Delrio said.

Report: VA needs help with everything, from hiring to parking (Virginian Pilot)
Outdated technology, understaffed health centers and problems with everything from antiquated scheduling practices to parking continue to haunt the beleaguered hospitals and medical centers in the Department of Veterans Affairs, according to a new report by the Northern Virginia Technology Council (NVTC). The report looked at a six-week period between Sept. 15 and Oct. 29, and found that there are issues in both the work culture — with overwork causing employees to leave — along with a slow and confusing hiring process. It also said the most troubling part of the review is that even though a 2008 Booz Allen Hamilton study found many of the same problems, the report seemed to have been ignored and the problems were never addressed. “The recommendations of this report echo those of the earlier [Booz Allen Hamilton] wait times report and suggest that the issues identified are representative and enduring,” the new report says.

Opinion: Hold VA execs accountable for Legionnaires’ cover-up (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)
In recent weeks, Americans have learned a few lessons about responding to infectious disease outbreaks, as Ebola has made its first appearances in the United States. One of those lessons is that public safety depends upon officials communicating the facts about a potentially dangerous outbreak in a timely and clear manner. The failure to meet that standard has shocked many Americans and undermined trust in the government. But Pennsylvania military veterans who receive medical care from the Department of Veterans Affairs Healthcare System in Pittsburgh probably weren’t completely surprised by the failure, after a 2011-12 Legionnaires’ disease outbreak there left six veterans dead and 16 sickened. Rather than alert affected veterans and their families, Pittsburgh VA officials moved to cover up the outbreak. Now, one of the architects of that cover-up, Deputy Director David Cord, is being promoted to director of the Erie VA — a fact that will lead many veterans to question if anyone will be held accountable for the VA’s failures that killed six patients.

Pennsylvania man says VA failed to tell him about Legionnaires’ disease (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)
The Department of Veterans Affairs waited six months to tell a Beaver County man that he had contracted Legionnaires’ disease in August 2012, the man says in a federal lawsuit filed over the weekend. George Hines, whose hometown and age were unavailable, was being treated for prostate cancer at the VA’s University Drive Hospital and was admitted Aug. 6, 2012, with a fever and pneumonia. The hospital staff discharged him four days later without telling him he had tested positive for the disease, the lawsuit says. The hospital didn’t tell him of the positive test until March 5, 2013, during a meeting that included several other veterans who also tested positive, the lawsuit says. He’s suing the government for negligence.