Veteran Administration- Corrupt To The Core

Much attention has recently been logged on veterans, veteran suicides, and the Department of Veteran Affairs.   While there seems to be an ever lacking source of funds for veterans – that would not apply to the employees of the Department of Veteran Affairs.

With an annual budget of $180 billion and nearly 378,000 employees, they still decry fowl as they lay open an empty proverbial wallet…   And the efforts of a relatively quick research expedition might answer – why.

Factoids:  There are 150 VA hospitals, 820 VA clinics, 300 counseling centers, and 5.5 to 6 million patients.  Wait time for a medical decision is anywhere from 120 days to a year.  Whoa cowboy.  Brakes on.   Socialist, medicine requires a ‘one year’ wait list.   Similar to other nationalized, socialized medicine in Social countries. 80% of veterans are white, 11% are black and 6% are Hispanic – by comparison, the US census registers; 12.7% black, 17.8% Hispanic and 61.8% white.   A bit skewed.

How many of the 378,000 employees are doctors and nurses?

Apparently, according to the Government Accounting Office – they don’t know.  They believe there may be at least 11,000 doctors, and roughly 80,000 nurses and nurse assistants.  That would leave 287,000 VA employees unaccounted for, or 76%.  The doctor to patient ratio extrapolates to 1 doctor for every 545 VA patients.  The national average of doctor to patient ratio is roughly 1000 to 2500 patients per doctor.

Obviously we have a problem Houston.  The VA employs 2-4 times as many doctors as the public sector and yet is abysmally deficient in care, wait times are catastrophic, but wait – there is another interesting phenomena… pay scale.

Payscales of RN’s and doctors vary by state.  In the public world, California nurses have the highest average pay rate of $102,000.  The lowest is South Dakota at roughly $57,000 full time.   But within the VA, the payscale for California nurses is significantly higher with base pay reaching $164,200.  In addition, since they are government employees, their pay is supplemented with full pension derivatives and a host of benefits unavailable to public sector RN’s.

It is no different for doctors.  A ‘staff physician’ in the VA can make upwards of $264,000, in the real world that salary is roughly $190,000 to $214,000 which would not include that lovely lifetime pension.

With inflated salaries, benefits and pensions absorbing the budget, it is no wonder veterans are short changed.  It used to be that the government pension was to support a significantly ‘lower’ wage compared to the public sector.   Skews skewer.

Why are doctors unable to cope with their patient load when it is roughly ½ to ¼ of the real world?   That would be called ‘nationalized medicine’.  It is defined by labor unions who likely tally the number of hours a military doctor or nurse may work, divided by the infinite number of holidays, sick days, vacation days, and break times interspersed into this very tawdry Nationalized Medicare For All – system.

But even more catastrophic is the fact that roughly 76% of the VA employees are not medical at all, but likely ‘administrative’.   How much of the $180 billion is spent to officiate…the administrators is an unknown because these departments are not transparent.   Government accounting 101.  Make it so ridiculously convoluted that a public center CPA, such as I was, can not make heads or tails of the train wreck without spending wayyyy to much of my time.   This is the true hypocrisy.

In 2015, the estimated cost for medical care for veterans was $55.4 billion out of a total budget of $164 billion.   One Third.

But the VA benefits are not used just for medical care, they are supposed to provide Home loan Guarantee, Insurance, Vocational Rehab, Education, Disability Compensation, Pensions, and burial and maintenance benefits.  That’s a whole lot of Socialist Spending.

The backlog that has received the most criticism is the agency designated to determine if a veteran is even qualified to receive disability benefits.   Mismanagement is monumental.  In 2009, President Bush proposed that 86.5% of the total budget be allocated to medical.  As in VA Hospitals.  The result?   Cost overruns have doubled and quadrupled initial budgets pushing deadlines for construction out years.  Unions have infiltrated and demanded continued pension and benefits for veterans convicted of crimes.   Dead people still receive compensation.  And the VA really has little idea who they employ, how many, in what capacity, and for what purpose.  The system has been broken for decades, and yet each time the train wreck reaches the public and media, the result is to throw more money at ‘it’ and thus ‘away’.

This is the finest example of “Medicare For All”.

The New and Improved GI Bill gave 100% education scholarships to veterans who had served “three years”!   And veterans who have served 10 years can transfer all their entitlements to their spouse or children.

Drip.  Drip.

The VA’s last published Freedom of Information data was 2012-2013 – and it earned a grade of D.  What the HECK?

Who is at fault?

Bureacracy.  The Swamp.  In the Government, a Budget is a request based on the use of the previous budget.  If all the budget was used, and more is needed, no one questions the use.  And so we see ridiculous cost overruns for green atrium aquariums and architects who envision the Taj Mahal in designing the Hospitals that are not available for actual use because the tile was imported from Sri Lanka and got lost on the way as it was transported by a Chinese company that had to divert shipment to Venezuela…

And all the hospital equipment?   It was inadvertently sent to Germany via The Netherlands where it was offloaded and trucked to the Ukraine so that Chocolate King, Poroshenko, can resell it to the US via Iran.  At a premium.

While the veterans die in the parking lot.

Memorial Day – To My Daddy

Dear Daddy,

I wanted to thank you for sacrificing your life, your health, your honor, your emotions, your heart, your limbs for this country that we call the Land of The Free. I wanted you to know that everything you did ‘mattered’, it made a difference, it gave hundreds of thousands, and perhaps millions the chance to live when you had to die.

I wanted to say that the burning hole that filled your heart was not in vain and that despite the vagrancies of a few self consumed children, there are many, more than many, who truly appreciate that you gave your life so that we could live. Do not be grieved. Do not be fearful that we are a fallen country, that your sacrifice was in vain, for even if you saved one life, it was more than anyone else can claim. What we seem to have forgotten is that to save even One, is worth the consequence of that action.

I wanted to say that even though you had such a short life, and you had such high spirits to find salve for the brokenness inside you, you made a huge impact on one life – mine. When I am down, I think of you. When I am in trials, I think of you. When I am melancholy, I look at your picture and I find peace. You were an amazing dad. An amazing man.

You were stricken with multiple cancers. You suffered miserably. Your heart was broken by the terror you witnessed, and yet, you were able to try and put it behind you, more pain, more suffering, more violence than most experience in twenty lifetimes. Thank you daddy. I wish I could soften that pain.

I think of you every day even though you passed nearly forty years ago. I think of how you were my personal savior, my hero, my strength, my rock amidst the storms. I miss you terribly and wish you could help guide me through my own trials, but take comfort in knowing that you are still with me in spirit, if not in the physical form.

Thank you daddy.

I know that sometimes you had fun while serving this country, sometimes you found humor, and sometimes you found death and hardship, but you persevered – until God took you while you were yet so young, I know that you watch over me every single day of my life. I want you to know that your sacrifice means everything to us even if some of us don’t see it – but have patience, one day, I believe they will come around and see how much you gave for them, for me, for all of us. One day, they will come to understand that each man is unique to his calling, and that while there are the few who fail, there are many more who are so incredibly self sacrificing, so giving, so focused on making this world a place of good, that the Hillarys and the Obamas and the Bills and the Nixons and the Jacksons, and the Johnsons, well they are just a fly to be swat in the scheme of things. They are nothing. The proverbial specks of sand…

I wish you could be here today with your grandchildren and great grandchildren and even great-great grandchildren! What a legacy you have created, a vine of love, and of honor and of respect, that I can not ever be anything but humbled by your heart.

Thank you daddy.

I wish I had been older and wiser and could have asked you more questions, and listened harder, learned deeper and held your hand more often. I wish I could have you near me now in my trials and ask for your advice. I will forever hold you as my hero, and will try to honor your name through my children, their children, and for generations beyond. I will pass on everything I know in stories and anecdotes and hopefully, your memory will be passed for eternity to come.

Dear Daddy, I really wish you were here with me today, because I’ve made so many stupid mistakes and I think maybe I would have been better if you had been there to guide me and set my path straighter. Because right now it really, really sucks.

I wish the military had been brighter and more compassionate toward their people. I wish that you had not been a guinea pig in the Nevada nuclear tests. I wish that I could have learned more than the whisper of time I was given. I wish you could have had the wishes you wished for in your life and that maybe I could have shared some of those with you.

But most of all – I wish you were here with me today to take away the pain and make it right like you always did – because you were my – hero. And I miss you so terribly.

Veterans: Would The Real Wounded Warriors Please Stand Up!

I was a pacifist, and then I was a warist. I believed that war was necessary in order to rid the world of evil, but now I think I have moved full circle back to pacifist. In the process, I have become somewhat resentful, certainly not toward the soldiers, but definitely toward the ambivalence of the military and the politicians that sign mortality and wound certificates without even an ounce of compassion.

When the media talks about Afghanistan and Iraq, too often the same faulty statistics are offered concerning deaths. Death is a sacrifice. Death has lost its moral compass. But rarely does the media talk about the wounded, the number wounded, the magnitude of the wounded and the unbelievably intense trauma that is inflicted on those lives – forever!

We talk about the drones, how they have eclipsed reality by giving the deaths and bombings a surreal existence. But I think war has become surreal. It is televised and we don’t blink, we don’t cry, we just change the channel.

What are the wounded statistics? Interestingly, the military does not keep a tally. I imagine that is a choice. For if the tally were talked about more, it would show a reality that we would rather quash. My father, a Colonel in WWII who led a tank battalion, never spoke of the war – ever. I understand why. Because bringing it to the surface would be reliving it again and it was so enormously horrific, he wasn’t sure he could survive mentally.  But his horrors didn’t end there, he was an officer in the Nevada nuclear tests, and as an officer, required to stand at full attention while observing the fallout. He became a casualty of that test.

I recently read the article of the Iraq vet who deployed 6 times, 2 with his dog. They both suffered from the war, he with traumatic brain injuries and PTSD, the dog with PTSD. But they kept each other together, that is, until the dog was shot and killed in Powell, Wyoming. What will he do without his dog? The last link to a world gone completely crazy.

Of the 1.5 million men and women deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, outside of the military statistics, the estimate of wounded is upwards of half a million – or one third. A list of the injuries is cataclysmic: traumatic brain injury, hearing loss, breathing disorders, loss of limbs, chronic pain, heart damage, lung damage, Leishmaniasis, a parasitic disease caused by the bite of a sand fly native to the Middle East, which causes liver damage, spleen damage, and ultimately death, bladder, kidney and genitalia injuries, neuroendocrine damage, constrictive bronchitis, tumors, lymphoma, the list is most certainly endless.

And yet, we barely bat an eye…  Their lives will never be the same. Because they fought in a war. Their purpose? You and I.

But it isn’t just a lack of empathy for our soldiers, the attitude extends everywhere in some kind of odd self entitlement in which we expect their submission and renunciation of their lives for ours.  Fire fighters and law enforcement officials sacrifice continually, and we simply accept that is their duty while appreciation is rarely forth-coming. While the death rate for these civil servants is low on average, the injury rate is high. In 2013, nearly 64,000 firefighters were injured while on duty, and over 49,000 police officers. So next time you think about Black Lives Matter, consider Soldiers lives, Firefighters lives, and the lives and injuries inflicted on our law enforcement, because death isn’t the only marker of forfeiting your life. Just ask the ones who can no longer live the life they once did…

Waiting for healthcare from a VA system that is broken. Living off a stipend. Where is the respect? The honor? The glory for all they have actually DONE? Their contribution? How horribly wrong is it to focus on a color instead of an action! Why are we so righteous about a color instead of the men and women who serve us, die for us, and face heinous injuries on our behalf?

I recently had a confrontational commentator argue that a system that is in vital disrepair is not at fault because every large institution is broken to some degree and therefore the victims, (children in this case we argued), should just be thankful for what they get. Instead he felt it necessary to attack my values. Really? So how many casualties of a system do there need to be before we have empathy, before we say, it’s too much? Have we really become so apathetic?

VA healthcare is not free to veterans. In fact, in the case of Army Ranger Bessler, his medical care for the brain injury was not tended to by the VA at all. It was Governor Rick Perry who stepped up and upon hearing of his plight, offered to help pay for a ‘private treatment program’. Why wasn’t it covered by the VA?

In 2016, the VA budget will be $168.8 billion! The budget has increased 72% since 2009, so where does it all go?  Salaries?  Waste?  Why do veterans fall between the cracks?  We have countless organizations that claim to supplement the VA care. Why? Wounded Warrior is one of the most well known, but it has come under a lot of fire for misrepresentation, a high CEO salary, and an advertising budget that is more important than actually helping the vets. Some vets reported that the ‘help’ they got was a backpack and a water bottle – and that was it.

As an accountant, I thought I’d take a look at Wounded Warriors’ financials:   First, most noteworthy, is the fact that they have over $307 million in assets!   A whole lot of unspent money is not the marker of a charitable charity! Having ripped apart the Clinton Foundation’s ‘program expenses’, let’s see how these guys stand up:

In 2014, the Alumni Association expenses labeled “Warrior Assistance and Support” accounted for

.9% of the total expenditures, matching their ‘supply’ budget and budget for ‘Membership Fees’.

The largest portion of the budget was spent on “Salaries and Compensation”, followed by “Media”, followed by

‘Meetings and Events’. Even under their Program entitled “Combat Stress Recovery”, the expense apportioned to

‘Warrior Assistance’ was even more feeble coming in at .2%!

Total Warrior expenses for all Functional spending amounted to .3% or $962,097. By comparison they spent $4,344,000 to purchase property and equipment (an asset, not an expense) and $115,000,000 for investments, upping their total investment portfolio to just under $250,000,000.

So who is the real casualty here; Black Lives Matter … or the Real Wounded Warriors?

Will The Real Wounded Warriors PLEASE STAND UP!