Senate Confirms Robert Wilkie as Veterans Affairs Secretary

The Senate on Monday evening confirmed Robert Wilkie as the next secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) in a largely bipartisan 86-9 vote. President Donald Trump said in a statement: ” I applaud the United States Senate for confirming Robert Wilkie as the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Mr. Wilkie has dedicated his life to serving his country with honor and pride. He has displayed great patriotism and a commitment to supporting and empowering America’s armed forces and veterans. Under his leadership, I have no doubt that the Department of Veterans Affairs will continue to make strides in honoring and protecting the heroic men and women who have served our Nation with distinction.” Wilkie currently serves in the Air Force Reserve and was previously in the Navy Reserve. Trump first nominated Wilkie as undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness last July. Prior to that, he served as an adviser to Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC). Before that, he served as vice president for strategic initiatives for CH2M HILL, one of the world’s largest engineering and program management firms. He served during the George W. Bush administration as assistant secretary of defense for legislative affairs and as a special assistant to the president for national security affairs at the National Security Council. He also served as counsel and aide to Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS). During his confirmation hearing last month, Wilkie pledged to try to improve morale at the VA and to make it more adaptive in the face of long-time bureaucratic struggles. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), a senior member of the Armed Services Committee, said he is “confident” Wilkie will do an excellent job.

Let’s hope so!  The VA is a total mess..  So, Mr. Wilke has his work cut out for him.  We wish him success.

VA has fired 500 employees since Trump took office, report shows

The Department of Veterans Affairs has fired more than 500 employees since Jan. 20, when President Trump took office, according to a list of job categories of employees recently disciplined or fired. The list, released by the VA July 3 and updated weekly, has been a way for the embattled agency to be more accountable and transparent about its employee disciplinary process, said U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs David J. Shulkin. The VA is the first federal agency to make this data on employee status public. “Veterans and taxpayers have a right to know what we’re doing to hold our employees accountable and make our personnel actions transparent,” said Shulkin. The VA has been under fire for shuffling controversial and problematic employees and managers instead of firing them, even after the widely publicized VA “wait list” scandal that rocked the agency. So the number of recent firings is surprising to many VA reform advocates. “In the past, the VA was not straightforward on who they were disciplining and who they let retire,” said Dan Caldwell, director of policy for the Concerned Veterans for America, a grassroots veterans’ advocacy organization. “Often the VA would say someone was fired, and we’d find out later that employee was not fired, they were actually just suspended, demoted or had been allowed to retire before they could be fired.” “Very few employees were terminated for the ‘wait list’ scandal – less than a dozen that we know of – even though hundreds or even thousands of people were involved,” Caldwell said.

There is a new sheriff in town, and he’s draining the swamp!

VA building projects in Aurora, Colorado, and elsewhere, riddled with mistakes and cost overruns

There are hospital doors at the half-built ­Veterans Affairs medical center outside Denver that were supposed to cost $100 each but ended up ­running $1,400. There’s a $100-million-and-still-rising price tag for an atrium and concourse with curving blond-wood walls and towering glass windows. And entire rooms that had to be refashioned because requests for medical equipment changed at the last minute and in other cases the equipment didn’t fit. No one had bothered to measure. Not even completed yet, this $1.7 billion facility is already among the most expensive hospitals in the world, and it’s just one of several VA hospital projects that are greatly over budget and behind schedule, according to the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress. “Everything that could have gone wrong did. It’s just an astounding price tag,” said David Wise, who wrote in a GAO report about the Aurora project and VA construction problems in Orlando, Las Vegas and New Orleans. The hospital construction woes are the latest in a long line of troubles that the Department of Veterans Affairs faces, from accusations of retaliation against whistleblowers to a backlog of compensation benefits to reports that wait times for appointments in some parts of the country still haven’t improved. Wait times range from 30 days to more than six months. Last May, President Obama accepted the resignation of VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki in the wake of a coverup of months-long hospital wait times for veterans seeking treatment for everything from cancer to post-traumatic stress disorder. Obama and Robert McDonald, Shinseki’s replacement, have vowed to restore trust in the agency. At a hearing of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee on Wednesday, one of nine held on the Colorado hospital cost overruns and delays, members will discuss whether they should allocate an additional $830 million to finish the project. The GAO report, written by Wise in 2013, highlighted the failure of VA in Orlando to hire specialists in medical-equipment construction who could have ensured that the rooms would accommodate MRI machines and other crucial equipment. Multiple revisions to lists of medical equipment meant plans kept changing, to the tune of $14 million, according to the GAO report. “Think of it like this — you’re building a kitchen,” Wise said. “But you don’t check how big your stove or refrigerator is. You measure too late. And nothing fits, so you have to hack up a whole another piece of wall. That’s very expensive and time-consuming.” The combination of extravagant planning divorced from financial reality and bungled ­execution has bedeviled several recent VA projects, the GAO found.

The VA is a complete disaster. As Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) correctly notes later in this article.. “The VA couldn’t lead starving troops to a chow hall when it comes to managing a construction project.” Exactly!

Nancy Pelosi blames George W. Bush for Veterans Affairs scandal

Nancy Pelosi blames George W. Bush for Veterans Affairs scandal

Lets be honest..  The issues at VA have been going on for a couple decades.  So, PLENTY of blame to go around..and certainly before George W. Bush was President.  As many of you may recall, Bill Clinton (who said he “loathed” the military, when he was in college), was NO fan of the military or vets.  And he didn’t do didly for vets when he was President for two terms, in a pre-9/11 era when he could have.  That said, then Sen. Obama (in his one and only term as a U.S. Senator) made a BIG stink about VA in the 2008 presidential campaign.  So, its not like he didn’t know what was going on a VA.  And, that is what Nancy Pelosi, ever the apologist for Obama, is trying to blur the lines on.  Obama has been President now for over 5 years.  At SOME point, the man needs to take responsibility for his lack of action.  Nice try Nancy..