Veterans news update for March 16

Veterans news update for March 16

Veterans news updateIt’s not over: Veterans waiting months for appointments (CNN)
Thousands of veterans who are patients at the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System have been waiting months just for an appointment, CNN has learned. What’s more, administrators in charge of the massive VA facility in greater Los Angeles may have been hiding wait times, and may have misled Congress on the delays and exactly how long veterans are being forced to wait for care, according to new information obtained by CNN. This revelation means that the scandal over delays in care and wait times for veterans is apparently not over. And the changes promised by the VA and the Obama administration may not be working. The detailed new evidence comes from the Los Angeles VA’s own internal documents obtained by CNN, and numerous medical and administrative sources confirmed the information. It is particularly significant as the Greater Los Angeles Veterans Medical Center is the nation’s largest VA health care system, caring for hundreds of thousands of U.S. veterans. The VA documents show more than 12,700 appointments, which the VA calls consults, had been waiting more than 90 days to be addressed, as of mid-January. Even new patients seeking care at the Los Angeles VA for the first time can wait months to see a doctor there. Records show on January 15, more than 1,600 veterans who were new patients were waiting 60 to 90 days for appointments. Another 400 veterans have waited up to six months, and 64 veterans had been waiting six months to a year for their appointments. The documents provided to CNN show the lengthy wait times are still happening, within the last several months, and sources say the backlog is happening even now. And yet last month, the VA’s acting director for the Western region overseeing the Los Angeles VA told Congress that veterans who are new patients there only have to wait a few days for appointments. “The average wait time for a new patient right now is about four days,” Dr. Skye McDougall, the acting director of the Desert Pacific Healthcare Network, Veterans Health Administration, testified before the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. But McDougall’s statement is simply not true. According to the Los Angeles VA’s documents dated January 15, the actual average wait time for new patients at the VA was 48 days. A half-dozen medical and administrative sources inside the LA VA system corroborate these waits.

Veterans should pay taxes like everyone else (Slate)
Commentary: “There are the constant standing ovations at sports stadiums. There is the jump-to-the-front-of-the-line privileges at Amtrak and airline ticket counters. There is federal legislation to incentivize employers to hire veterans and White House pressure on federal agencies to do so. And now comes another, increasingly prevalent way to show appreciation for those who’ve served in the military: exempting them from taxes. A growing number of states have moved to, or are considering, exempting military pensions from state income taxes. As the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday, no fewer than 19 states are now considering legislation to create or expand tax breaks for veterans, with 65 bills toward that end pending in state houses. Last year, Iowa passed a full exemption and Nebraska enacted a partial one. Already, nearly half of all states don’t tax military pensions at all (this includes the seven states that don’t tax personal income, period), and 20 more states partially exempt them; there are only seven states left with no exemption for veterans. And with nearly 2 million Americans collecting military pensions, the exemptions come at a substantial cost to state coffers: In Maryland, a proposal by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan to exempt the 50,000 military pensions in the state from income taxes would cost the state $34 million in revenue and local governments $22 million, at a time when both are already facing a fiscal crunch. Proponents of the exemptions cite two different arguments on their behalf—without reckoning with the fact that the two arguments are contradictory.

VA whistleblower: ‘Fear of retaliation is still alive and well’ (Politico)
Whether President Barack Obama thinks things are getting better at the Phoenix VA may depend on whether he talks to patients or staff. Current and former employees at the veterans hospital that spawned a nationwide scandal last year warn that a culture of sloppy service and reprisals against whistleblowers persists and should make vets think twice before renewing their trust in the agency. “Fear of retaliation is still alive and well,” said Katherine Mitchell, a doctor who reached a settlement with the Veterans Administration last year over claims that she was marginalized after drawing attention to problems in Phoenix’s emergency room. In Phoenix, whistleblowers say they still don’t feel safe reporting problems. Brandon Coleman said his Motivation for Change program for troubled vets was shut down and was placed on administrative leave on accusations of threatening assault after he reported problems at the facility. (He denies the allegation.) He said issues like inadequate supervision for suicidal patients persist to this day. “All these employees that tell me horror stories about things that are going on are scared to come forward,” Coleman said in an interview. Coleman said McDonald asked him to submit a proposal for preventing retaliation and promised to personally look into his situation. But Coleman, himself a disabled veteran, said it was hard not to be skeptical. “I’ve been told that a million times,” he said.

VA names new customer service panel (Marine Corps Times)
The Veterans Affairs Department’s new MyVA Advisory Committee, designed to help officials provide better customer service for patients and beneficiaries, includes a host of business and health experts but only a few veterans advocates. The group, announced Thursday as part of President Obama’s visit to the Phoenix VA medical center, will meet several times a year, with the goal of providing short-term and long-range priorities to improve VA operations and services. Its first meeting will be next month. In a statement, VA Secretary Bob McDonald called the committee “incredibly important” to improving his department’s outreach to veterans. “Each of them understands that VA must improve customer service and focus the department on the needs of our veterans,” McDonald said. On the panel are: Josue “Joe” Robles Jr., Michael Haynie, Herman Bulls, Teresa Carlson, Dr. Richard Carmona, Dr. Delos “Toby” Cosgrove, Dr. Laura Herrera, Chris Howard, Nancy Killefer, Fred Lee, Dr. Eleanor “Connie” Mariano, Jean Reaves, Maria “Lourdes” Tiglao, and Robert Wallace. Click the headline line to learn more about each.

VA ordered to repay bonus to former Phoenix VA director (Stars & Stripes)
In another hit to its reform effort, the VA was ordered to repay bonus money this week that it had reclaimed from Sharon Helman, the disgraced former Phoenix health care system director at the center of its nationwide wait-time scandal, according to court documents obtained by Stars and Stripes. An administrative law judge ruled that the Department of Veterans Affairs must by Tuesday repay Helman $5,624 garnished from her wages while she was on administrative leave and faced termination. The VA removed Helman in April and attempted to fire her after audits found secret patient wait lists in Phoenix and at facilities around the country used to hide long delays in care. But an appeals judge found it did not have grounds to fire her for hiding delays, and instead backed her firing for taking gifts including Beyonce tickets and a trip to Disneyland. The garnishing of Helman’s wages to recoup the bonus pay was “premature” because the VA did not provide her a hearing first as required by federal law, Administrative Judge Alan Caramella wrote in the Feb. 25 decision. The former director was notified in June that the VA was taking back the money, which is paid out to many of the department’s senior executives for good performance, according to the court documents. That month, Helman told the VA she would request a hearing to dispute the move but the department spent several months directing her elsewhere for the case documents without explanation. Meanwhile, it took the money from her pay from August to November, despite her official request for an appeal hearing in October, the court found. The judge’s decision is a blow to VA efforts at accountability for the scandal at key time.

At Phoenix VA, Obama says there is more work to do for veterans (ABC News)
Amid persistent complaints about veterans’ health care, President Barack Obama acknowledged lingering weaknesses Friday in the federal government’s response to the chronic delays and false waiting lists that triggered a national outcry over the Veterans Affairs health system last year. Obama said that while VA Secretary Robert McDonald is “chipping away” at the problem, it was clear there was still more work to do. “It’s important that veterans know that somebody’s got their backs, and that if there are problems that we’re not being defensive about it, not hiding it,” Obama said. In his first trip to the Phoenix VA hospital whose practices sparked the scandal, Obama announced the creation of an advisory committee to recommend further steps the VA could take to improve veterans’ access to health care. Obama met with veterans, VA employees and elected officials, including Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake, Arizona’s two Republican senators. He said lawmakers specifically raised questions about the slow pace of implementing a new law meant to increase health care choices for veterans. Mental health and suicide prevention are also areas of concern, he said. “Trust is something you can lose real quick,” Obama said, promoting the need to restore trust and confidence in the VA system. But, he added, “Every veteran I talked to today said that the actual care they received once in the system was outstanding.”

Phoenix VA head talks meeting with President, next steps for VA (ABC15-Phoenix)
The President announced a new committee to make changes for veterans at a roundtable meeting at the Phoenix VA Friday. After meeting with President Obama, the interim Phoenix VA director put the work still ahead into perspective. After several whistleblowers came forward to ABC15, alleging issues with suicide prevention and emergency room safety, the interim director brought in a team to help them make changes. He says they are moving in the right direction. It’s been nearly a year since the VA scandal broke—and Friday the President joined veterans, VA employees, lawmakers and the VA Secretary at the Phoenix VA. “It was a very exciting day. We were honored to have the President,” said interim VA director Glenn Grippen. Grippen inherited a hospital under the microscope four months ago. “I think everyone in the room with the President expressed they’d seen some improvement, but we all agreed we still need to improve a lot more,” he said. As of now, the VA says wait times are down by half– and in just over seven months, more than 476,000 appointments were scheduled at the Phoenix VA. “We’re hearing positive feedback that our master plan is a good plan, we just need to implement it and outreach to more veterans,” Grippen said. Some veterans don’t buy the good news. “Things have been getting worse, not better. And I see with other veterans how they’re falling through the cracks,” Cindy Hutto said.

Veterans’ group poo-poos Obama administration’s new VA commission (The Blaze)
The nation’s leading conservative veterans’ group on Friday accused President Barack Obama of punting on the problems that still surround the Department of Veterans Affairs, by setting up a commission to once again study ways to improve the broken department. During a visit to the Phoenix VA system, Obama was expected to call for a commission made up of private-sector, non-profit and government officials to focus on how to improve the VA. “The members of this new advisory committee have experience in customer service, large-scale organizational change and advocacy for veterans and include business leaders, veteran service organizations members, and health sciences and academic professionals,” a White House official said. But the Concerned Veterans for America said that’s just more of the same, and that it ignores legislation passed last year that already gives the VA the tools to manage itself. “[W]e are disappointed – but hardly surprised – that he has in effect punted the search for solutions to yet another committee,” CVA legislative director Dan Caldwell said. He added that last year’s legislation already created two commissions aimed at fully reviewing the VA. “The need for yet another advisory entity is hard to justify and this appears to be nothing more than another attempt by the White House to give the appearance that President Obama is engaged on the issue of VA reform,” Caldwell said. “America’s veterans don’t need another cosmetic study of the myriad of problems plaguing the VA.”

Obama stuck in VA echo chamber (The Arizona Republic)
Editorial: “President Barack Obama’s planned visit to the Phoenix Veterans Affairs hospital — ground zero of the VA’s worst-ever health-care scandal — has been billed as a quest for input from reformers. If there is to be any genuine, lasting and positive reform coming from this failure to care for American veterans, the real reformers need to gain the president’s ear. The president needs to hear from more than those who advocate more of the same, albeit with a lot more money. But they don’t appear to have been invited to the president’s round table Friday. Concerned Veterans for America has produced the most significant reform proposal for the VA hospital system, advocating that the enormous government division turn over much of its operations to the private sector while emphasizing care of maladies unique to the military. No CVA representative was invited to the president’s table at the Phoenix VA, although the Washington-based group expressed its eagerness to participate. Meanwhile, numerous service organizations are raising questions about the VA’s willingness to implement the “Choice Card” plan — the $10 billion program approved by Congress last summer to help veterans poorly served by the VA.”

VA bills aim to rescind tainted bonuses (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
Some VA employees who received bonuses might have to return the cash under legislation that’s working its way through Congress. Lawmakers want to authorize the new secretary of Veterans Affairs to rescind bonuses. The aim is to recoup payments from employees who falsified records of wait lists for health care appointments. Maintaining short wait times was one of the criteria for bonuses. The effort stems from reports last year that dozens of veterans died while waiting for care from the Phoenix facility where employees were found to have manipulated wait lists. A federal investigation later found that wait lists were being altered at other facilities, too. By voice vote last week, the House approved a bill allowing VA Secretary Robert McDonald to recoup bonuses from any VA employees who were found to have contributed to poor veteran care. Meanwhile, the Senate is teeing up its own version of the bill. The Senate version is narrower in that it would apply only to employees involved in the wait-list scandal. It also provides a means for employees to appeal decisions to the Merit Systems Protection Board, the governing body for civil servants. Lawmakers from Pennsylvania have been vocal proponents of the bills. Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair, stumped for passage in the House, and Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., is pressing his chamber’s Veterans Affairs Committee to bring the proposal to the upper chamber’s floor for a vote. “When some VA employees engaged in dishonest reporting on care and manipulated wait lists to satisfy criteria for bonuses, they dishonored the veterans they serve and thousands of other hard-working VA employees,” Mr. Toomey said. “Those bonuses [were] earned based on lies and they should be recouped.”

Veterans in Denver see cut in caregiver funds (The Denver Post)
The Department of Veterans Affairs medical center in Denver has generated more appeals than any other VA hospital for denials of financial assistance to those caring for injured soldiers in their homes. The program, intended to help spouses and other relatives provide care to war veterans seriously hurt since 2001, has been growing rapidly nationwide. Yet the Denver hospital and its satellite offices in cities including military-heavy Colorado Springs have reduced the numbers of approved caregivers since May. Revocations — when the VA notifies caregivers that they no longer qualify for assistance — are occurring at a higher rate in the Rocky Mountain region, which includes Colorado, than in all but one of 21 regions in the nation. As of last month, caregivers to 221 veterans in the region had been revoked since the program started in 2010, with 491 still getting assistance. Jay “Jeryl” Adams of Colorado Springs is one of those veterans. Adams survived two combat tours in Iraq but returned home a damaged soldier. A decade later he suffers seizures followed by bouts of incontinence. He attempted suicide by swallowing 54 anti-anxiety pills, compelling his wife, Lauren Adams Tkacik, to keep his medicines locked. His weight has ballooned from 180 pounds to more than 400. He relies on Lauren to help him take medicine, change clothes, shave and shower, make a sandwich, leave home. For two years, the caregiver program paid Lauren $1,467 a month to provide that help. In November, however, she was dropped by the Denver medical center. Its letter offered a one-sentence reason: Her help was “no longer needed based on a reassessment.”

Devastating effects of ‘Candy Land’ reach beyond veterans (LaCrosse Tribune)
On a clear August morning, Amish carpenter William Miller and his family climbed into their black horse-drawn buggy and headed out to the nearest big-box store, a 16-mile journey from their central Wisconsin farm that takes them two hours. They never made it. Less than a mile from their destination, the buggy was rear-ended by a 1997 Dodge Caravan. The van wasn’t moving fast, but as it passed by, it suddenly swerved, knocking the carriage on its side. Miller and his son, John, were fine. But his wife, Elizabeth, who was cradling 6-week-old Ada Mae, was thrown from the carriage and landed on top of her daughter. Ada Mae stopped breathing. An autopsy would list the cause of death as “crush injury to the chest.” A year later, after the driver pleaded guilty to homicide, William Miller wrote to the sentencing judge. “Words like grief, helplessness, anxiety, fear and lonesomeness come to mind,” he wrote. “I would have scarcely thought it possible such a small infant could have left such a void. And the consequences and results have been far reaching and long lasting.” At first glance, the 2009 crash that killed Ada Mae would seem to have nothing to do with problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Tomah 60 miles away, which earned the nickname “Candy Land” for its skyrocketing rate of opiate prescriptions. Some veterans called its chief of staff, psychiatrist Dr. David Houlihan, the “Candy Man.” He was in charge for nearly a decade — and was one of the hospital’s top prescribers. But the man behind the wheel of the Dodge van that day was a Marine Corps veteran, and he was stoned on painkillers and tranquilizers from the Tomah VA. Brian Witkus was a known addict who “would fall or injure himself,” court records say, to get “more pills or a higher dose of medication.” His doctor, Witkus says, was Houlihan. Ada Mae’s death is one of dozens of tragedies that begin to hint at how the flood of narcotics from the VA scarred this region.

Senator disciplines top two aides for Tomah VA missteps (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)
U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin announced Friday that she has demoted her state director and docked her chief of staff one month’s pay for bungling complaints about the troubled Tomah VA Medical Center. Bill Murat, her veteran chief of staff, will take a one-time cut of more than $14,000 this year. He earns $169,000 annually. In addition, Doug Hill will lose his job as Baldwin’s state director to become her outreach boss. Hill’s salary will be sliced from $131,300 annually to $80,800 a year — a cut of more than $50,000. Earlier, Baldwin fired her deputy state director and bumped another staffer from handling veterans issues for the Wisconsin Democrat. His pay was not reduced. “Mistakes were made,” Baldwin said in a Friday interview, providing her first substantive remarks on the controversy. “I have taken actions commensurate with the mistakes,” she continued. “I want to assure my Wisconsin constituents that we take their concerns seriously.” The disciplinary actions were taken in response to an internal review of her staff’s handling of whistle-blower complaints about overmedication and other problems at the Tomah hospital.

Trailblazer Allison Hickey faces her toughest battle: Veterans Affairs (The Washington Post)
Driving along the winding roads of the U.S. Air Force Academy, Allison Hickey looks out at the snowy forested mountains of the campus, a place she first came to by bus as a teenager almost 40 years ago, and admits it still haunts her. Hickey, 57, now a retired brigadier general and one of the highest-ranking women at the Department of Veterans Affairs, was in the first class of female cadets to graduate in 1980. They endured frequent threats from male classmates, she recalled. She was once cornered by a male cadet yelling: “If I could take you behind a barn right now and beat the you-know-what out of you, I would.” Her time at the academy made her “very uncomfortable.” It was a feeling that would stick throughout her trailblazing career, bedeviling her but making her stronger, a leader. The feeling grew acute in the past year because, as the undersecretary for benefits, she has been at the center of the storm swirling around VA over the long wait times that veterans face for benefits and treatment. An influential member of Congress has called for her resignation. As she deals with the fallout of the worst scandal in VA history — concerning the falsification of patient wait times — Hickey also is confronting another troubled legacy: the double standard and, at times, hostility that many female veterans say they face inside the VA system. Their population has soared past 2 million, and Hickey has been wrestling with the bureaucracy to make VA more welcoming for them, for instance by getting disability benefits for female veterans who suffered sexual assault in the military.

Treasury Department faults VA in feud over employee (The New York Times)
Inside the federal bureaucracy there are 72 inspectors general charged with combating waste, fraud and abuse at their agencies. Now two of them are embroiled in an acrimonious and highly unusual dispute that centers on a senior employee who has worked for both the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Treasury Department. The feud began in December, when the inspector general of Veterans Affairs issued a scathing report about the employee, a former procurement official in the department, that alleged serious misconduct. The official, Iris Cooper, had recently taken up a senior procurement job at the Treasury Department, whose own inspector general began a review of the allegations. Among other things, the initial report accused Ms. Cooper of improperly steering millions of dollars in uncompetitive contracts to a company run by people she knew, and of having had a “lack of candor” with investigators. Now, the Treasury inspector general, Eric Thorson, has completed his investigation, and he has issued some incendiary findings of his own. Not only did Mr. Thorson find the allegations of improper or unethical conduct by Ms. Cooper to be unsupported and “refuted by witnesses with firsthand knowledge,” he suggested that there may have been ulterior reasons for the charges. Five Veterans Affairs witnesses interviewed by Mr. Thorson — four of them no longer at the agency — stated that another procurement official, Jan Frye, “sought to retaliate against Ms. Cooper after Ms. Cooper testified against Mr. Frye in an Administrative Investigation Board for creating a hostile work environment.” The accounts were contained in a letter that Mr. Thorson sent last week to the chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, Representative Jeff Miller, Republican of Florida. The five also stated that Mr. Frye boasted about his ability to get the V.A. inspector general’s office “to investigate anyone he wanted.” And four of the witnesses said Mr. Frye claimed to have “special influence” with an official at the inspector general’s office who wrote the harsh review of Ms. Cooper. Mr. Thorson concluded that the witness testimony “calls into question the integrity” of the Veteran Affairs inspector general’s office “in this particular matter.”

Loophole in GI Bill is windfall for helicopter flight schools (Los Angeles Times)
For some flight schools that train helicopter pilots, the GI Bill that took effect in 2009 was a windfall the government never intended. Helicopter schools had been struggling financially, and the bill excluded them from direct funding. But after finding a loophole in the law that allows them to train military veterans completely at government expense, with no cap on what they can charge, the schools rapidly expanded. They now collect tens of millions a year in taxpayer dollars. For two years of training to become a pilot, the government often pays more than $250,000, over twice the amount non-veterans pay at many schools, The Times has found from interviews, government documents, price lists and flight school contracts. At one flight company — Utah-based Upper Limit Aviation — records show 12 veterans whose training had cost the government more than $500,000 each. Upper Limit’s fees make it the costliest education of any type funded by the GI Bill. The company will collect roughly $36 million this year from the government, based on its current enrollment and estimates it submitted to the state of Utah. The company and others funded largely by the GI Bill train pilots who eventually could fly for oil companies, medical transport services, tour operators and other industries. The Post-9/11 GI Bill, which pays for recent veterans to go to college, had blocked flight training businesses from direct funding because Congress did not want to pay for schools not offering educational degrees. But the law placed no limit on payments for veterans pursuing degrees at public colleges and universities. By working as contractors for public institutions, the flight companies could turn on a revenue stream unprecedented in their industry. The public schools, most of them community colleges, welcomed the opportunity to enroll veterans and offer them degrees in aviation.

Veteran sparks argument over U.S. flag flying at a McDonalds (The Baton Rouge Advocate)
An Army veteran threatened on Saturday to call hundreds of veterans to protest unless a Walker, La., McDonald’s restaurant agreed to fly its U.S. flag at half-staff in honor of four National Guardsmen killed in a helicopter crash. The demand made by U. S. Army veteran Douglas Ducote, CEO of Veterans United for Justice, a Walker-based veterans group, led to an argument that only ended when the police arrived. The incident began Saturday at about 6 p.m. when Ducote drove past the restaurant and noticed its U.S. flag was being flown at full height. That didn’t sit well with Ducote, after a Black Hawk helicopter crashed Tuesday off the Florida coast during a training exercise, killing the four Hammond-based Louisiana National Guardsmen and seven North Carolina-based marines on board. In the crash’s aftermath, Gov. Bobby Jindal ordered state buildings to fly U.S. and state flags at half-staff. Ducote acknowledged in a post on his group’s Facebook page Sunday that the governor’s order does not extend to private businesses. Still, Ducote decided to give the fast-food restaurant a call to see if it would lower its flag voluntarily. When he did, though, an employee told him the request was “above something that she could handle herself,” Ducote wrote on Facebook. The employee told him to call the restaurant’s Baton Rouge corporate office on Monday — and hung up. Ducote said he served four combat tours as a helicopter flight engineer and was not going to be so easily dissuaded. He made the first U-turn he could find, walked up to the front counter of the McDonald’s and demanded to speak to a manager — in a confrontation that a woman recorded and posted on YouTube. “Would you like me to have about 200 veterans standing outside your restaurant in an hour, protesting that you won’t lower that flag?” Ducote can be heard saying in the video. “We can’t do nothing like that,” the employee said. “We have people over us and we can’t do that.” “It’s a flag,” Ducote said. “It’s on a pole. You just lower it at half-mast and you’re done with it. Do you think McDonald’s is going to fire you for doing that?” Walker Police were notified of the disturbance at the restaurant, said Capt. John Sharp, a department spokesman. In the video, an officer can be seeing walking into the restaurant and leading Ducote out. “I’m a veteran too, but … you can’t do what you’re doing here,” the officer told Ducote. The incident ended without an arrest or citation issued, Sharp said.

Veteran waits 57 years for benefits, has new hope (KJRH-Tulsa)
Veteran Ronald Martin says it’s taken years to compile 2,200 documents for benefits and 57 years later, he still doesn’t have VA benefits. Six months ago, Martin stood up and told the VA just how upset he was at a town hall in Muskogee, Okla. Still, he said the problem hasn’t been fixed. Martin served in the Navy and says he seriously injured a knee on a ship in the 50s. “I bled a lot. Then they just took a regular needle and thread and sowed it up,” said Martin. Since then, he’s filed several claims and appeals, but still he waits. For the past year and a half, the Veterans Administration has worked to reduced the benefits backlog. It stood at 800,000, now, it’s about a third of that. Thomas Murphy, the Director of Compensation Services and Pension, says the VA is trying to prevent future delays by eliminating some of the paperwork. “Up until now, a veteran could simply write a letter, longhand and mail it to the VA. We were trying to figure out what that veteran was looking for. This would trigger a series of letters back and forth, asking questions, asking for evidence,” said Murphy. To make sure all the information is there, veterans filing new claims will have one form to fill out, but for existing cases, like Martin’s, the new form won’t help. This is just for new claims. The one form filing requirement goes into effect March 24. After we mentioned the 57 year old case to Mr. Murphy, the D.C. office immediately started examining his case.

Former VA employee charged with identity theft (WSAU-Madison)
The VA system is dealing with a problem that has nothing to do with Tomah or prescription drugs.  A 23-year-old former employee at the VA Hospital and Clinics in Madison, Wis., is accused of stealing the identities of patients by taking their checking account numbers. Elizabeth Feng of Madison is no longer a lab technician at the Madison facility. Investigators say Feng used the checking and VA account information to obtain credit cards illegally. An investigation began nearly a year ago after Feng’s boyfriend tried to pay Madison Police for parking tickets, and he was told to pay in cash because of fraudulent payments previously made for the same car. Police have issued a warrant for Feng’s arrest. She’s charged with identity theft, misdemeanor theft and unauthorized opening of mail.