A longtime Memorial Day weekend tradition to honor veterans is now canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, but there are persisting calls to bring it back. For decades, the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and other groups have devoted part of the holiday to place small American flags at the graves of veterans and those who have given the ultimate sacrifice as a way to honor our country’s war heroes. Yet this year the Department of Veteran’s Affairs has prohibited public events at the sites because of COVID-19. The Boy Scouts and other groups have been barred from carrying out the mass flag placements. On Long Island, N.Y., where more than 500,000 veterans are buried at two national military cemeteries, there are demands for the VA to reconsider and rescind the ban. “If we can’t figure out a way to make sure we are placing flags at their graves to honor them, then something is seriously wrong,” said Suffolk County executive Steve Bellone, whose county includes the sprawling Calverton and Long Island National Cemeteries, which hold more veterans than any other military cemetery in the nation, including Arlington National Cemetery. Bellone is confident that officials can carry out a plan that would keep the Scouts safe. “What we’re asking the VA to do is, rather than have a blanket policy across the country, allow the national cemeteries at the local level, to make this determination in conjunction with the local health department,” he said..
Fair enough, and agreed.. As a vet myself, I find this whole blanket policy ridiculous and offensive on oh so many levels. Besides, c’mon.. Give the kids some masks, and have them wash their hands when they’re done, for crying out loud. And, they’ll be outside getting that Vitamin D, which is what is helping kill this Wuhan nonsense anyway. Hopefully the VA Secretary will fix this bs. For more on this developing story, click on the text above.
As senators consider the nomination of the next secretary of veterans affairs, they should first reflect on the story of an Army veteran named Jason White. White served our country in Afghanistan, where he was severely injured by an IED explosion. His spine was crushed, and he suffered a traumatic brain injury, but thanks to the skill and training of our nation’s brave combat medics, he survived. Yet on his return to the home front, he battled the hidden wounds of war — insomnia, depression and the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder. He was not alone. Four members of his unit killed themselves after they got home. And after struggling with his mental and physical wounds for five years, White decided to do the same. One day in 2016, he came home, put a pistol to his head and pulled the trigger. He would be dead today if his gun had not jammed. His wife rushed him to the local Department of Veterans Affairs clinic in Colorado Springs for emergency psychological intervention. Incredibly, she was told that her husband would have to wait six months to see a therapist. As Jason White told the Gazette in Colorado Springs, “They knew I was suicidal, and still it was six months to talk to someone.” Fortunately, a few days later, White was told he could be referred to a private psychologist through the Veterans Choice Program that Congress established in 2014 after a series of scandals in which patients died while waiting for care at VA facilities. He began seeing Dr. Michael Sunich, and that treatment saved his life. “Without him, I probably wouldn’t be here,” White told the paper. But Sunich kept a secret from White. He was treating White for free, because the company VA picked to manage the Veterans Choice Program, Health Net Federal Services, failed to pay his claims. Others were not as lucky as White. A November 2017 VA inspector general report found that in Colorado Springs, “staff did not take timely action on consults, did not provide timely care in a response to consults, underreported wait times and inappropriately closed consults” for veterans with for post-traumatic stress disorder. The inspector general further found that “veterans in an estimated 210 consults were inappropriately denied an opportunity to receive care through VHA’s Choice Program.” The Trump administration came into office promising to fix this by expanding Veterans Choice. During the 2016 campaign, Trump declared, “Veterans should be guaranteed the right to choose their doctor and clinics, whether at a VA facility or at a private medical center.” One reason David Shulkin was fired as secretary of veterans affairs (aside from his ethics violations) was his resistance to the president’s desire to expand Veterans Choice. This is why the president’s choice of Navy Rear Adm. Ronny L. Jackson to succeed Shulkin was so inspired. Shulkin was a hospital administrator with decades of management experience, and his predecessor Robert McDonald was chairman, president and CEO of Procter & Gamble. And yet on their watch, Jason White and countless other veterans fell through the cracks. Jackson understands what veterans such as White are going through because he has been a combat medic in the field treating severely injured warriors. He served in Taqaddum, Iraq, as an emergency physician in charge of resuscitative medicine for a forward-deployed surgical shock trauma platoon. He has been there when a helicopter landed carrying a solider whose body had been torn apart by an IED, and he’s been covered in their blood as he struggled to stabilize them and save their lives. No other nominee to run VA has seen the plight of our wounded warriors in the war on terrorism up close like he has. Jackson understands what our vets went through on the battlefield, because he was on the battlefield with them. He understands their mental and physical wounds, because he has treated them. Jackson’s nomination hearing has been postponed because of last-minute allegations that he created a “hostile work environment.” Of course, they should be investigated, but it is highly suspicious that, after he served as White House physician for Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Trump, these allegations are suddenly arising now. Whether Jackson withdraws his nomination or stays and fights, this much is clear: We’ve tried management gurus at the top of VA, and it didn’t work. What VA desperately needs right now is a leader, not a manager. Veterans Affairs as an institution is bleeding out. It needs a combat medic..
Indeed.. Thanks to Marc Thiessen, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) for that spot-on op/ed. These 11th hour unsubstantiated allegations against Adm Jackson are alarming to be sure. IF any of them are true, he should pull himself out of the running. BUT, if they are all just bs, then he should stick to his guns and go through the confirmation process with his head held high. He has received the highest recommendations from THREE presidents (i.e. George W. Bush, Obama, and now Trump) of both political parties. So, if these last minute allegations were true, then why weren’t they brought up years and years ago? Lots of questions… Regardless, Marc’s overall point is well taken. We need a soldier or sailor “flag officer” (i.e. general or admiral) with combat medic experience in charge of the VA; not another bureaucrat politically-appointed manager. That’s all the VA has had for over a decade, and they’ve all been disasters.
A pair of Department of Veterans Affairs officials who defrauded the VA for $400,000 will not face any criminal charges, despite an inspector general’s request that they both face a criminal investigation. In an inspector general report made public in September, Diana Rubens and Kimberly Graves were both accused of manipulating a VA program meant to ease the strain of moving agency employees between cities. The watchdog referred the matter to the Department of Justice for a criminal inquiry. But prosecutors in the U.S. attorney’s office for the District of Columbia ruled against pursuing charges late last week, the Houston Chronicle reported Tuesday, effectively eliminating any possibility that the two officials will face consequences for their actions. The VA declined to fire Rubens and Graves in November. Although the agency planned instead to demote the embattled officials, a paperwork mistake spared the two from even that minimal punishment. Members of the House Veterans Affairs Committee are keeping tabs on the situation, an aide said. However, the VA has not offered Congress any updates on the case other than a statement confirming the disciplinary process had restarted after the botched initial attempt to demote Rubens and Graves.
Wow… More of the same from this corrupt Obama Administration. If this were the private sector these two would have been fired on the spot, and probably charged criminally. But, noooo.. Same thing with the out-of-control EPA which screwed up at the Gold King mine, dumping MILLIONS of gallons of toxins into a Colorado river, turning it orange. Just fathom if some private citizen or company did that, they’d already be in jail and heavily fined. But, those EPA officials responsible haven’t received so much as a letter of reprimand. It’s typical federal government waste, fraud, and abuse of our hard-earned tax dollars. And the liberal media and Democrats still don’t understand why Americans are fed up with their wasteful, bureaucratic, and corrupt federal government which they promote as good and effective. Unreal..