307,000 Veterans May Have Died Awaiting Veterans Affairs Health Care, Report Says

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800,000 records stalled in the agency’s system, VA’s inspector general found

by Curt Devine | CNN | September 3, 2015

CNN)Hundreds of thousands of veterans listed in the Department of Veterans Affairs enrollment system died before their applications for care were processed, according to a report issued Wednesday.

The VA’s inspector general found that out of about 800,000 records stalled in the agency’s system for managing health care enrollment, there were more than 307,000 records that belonged to veterans who had died months or years in the past. The inspector general said due to limitations in the system’s data, the number of records did not necessarily represent veterans actively seeking enrollment in VA health care.

In a response to a request by the House Committee on Veterans Affairs’ to investigate a whistleblower’s allegations of mismanagement at the VA’s Health Eligibility Center, the inspector general also found VA staffers incorrectly marked unprocessed applications and may have deleted 10,000 or more records in the last five years.

In one case, a veteran who applied for VA care in 1998 was placed in “pending” status for 14 years. Another veteran who passed away in 1988 was found to have an unprocessed record lingering in 2014, the investigation found.

For more than a year, CNN investigated and reported on veterans’ deaths and delays at VA facilities across the country, including detailed investigations in November 2013 and January 2014 examining deaths at two VA facilities in South Carolina and Georgia.

Navy vet loses nose, blames VA delays

Navy vet loses nose, blames VA delays 03:43

The report released Wednesday reveals a web of complications with the VA’s management of health care enrollment data, including a lack of procedures to oversee records, software glitches within the records system and inconsistency in identifying veterans who have died.

The inspector general found the VA’s office responsible for enrollment “has not effectively managed its business processes to ensure the consistent creation and maintenance of essential data.”

Additionally, the investigation states the Veterans Health Administration “has not adequately established procedures to identify individuals who have died, including those with pending health care enrollment records.”

The report said an internal VA investigation in 2010 found staffers had hidden veterans’ applications in their desks so they could process them at a later time, but human resources later recommended the staffers responsible not be disciplined.

Scott Davis, a program specialist at the VA Health Eligibility Center, said thousands more veterans who have returned from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan have not received care because of being erroneously placed in the enrollment system’s backlog.

He said many of these combat veterans have since lost their five-year eligibility for care due to the delay.

VA inspectors say Phoenix was in total ‘chaos’

“People who fought, and who earned the right to VA health care, were never given VA health care,” Davis said. “They literally died while waiting for VA to process their health care application.”

Davis said he alerted both the VA’s inspector general and members of Congress to problems with the Health Eligibility Center records more than a year ago.

He said he also alerted the White House and senior officials at the VA, but was ignored.

VA Deputy Inspector General Linda Halliday said in a statement Wednesday that whistleblowers “have proven to be a valuable information source to pursue accountability and corrective actions in VA programs.”

In a statement, the VA said it “continues the efforts outlined in previous blogs and public responses to contact veterans with a record in a pending status … to determine if they desired to enroll in VA healthcare. We have been reaching out to veterans to let them know the additional information needed so that we may complete their application.”

As of June 30, the VA sent letters to 302,045 veterans asking them to submit required documents to establish their eligibility, and 34,517 of those veterans have since been enrolled for care, the VA said.

“Our mission is to provide timely access to earned health care and benefits for millions of veterans. That is a responsibility that we do not take lightly,” the agency said.

Read the full statement from the VA

In response to issues with the VA’s enrollment records, Rep. Jeff Miller, a Florida Republican and chairman of the House VA Committee, said in July, “(This) troubling news highlights VA’s ongoing mismanagement and calls into question VA’s ability to adequately care for our nation’s veterans.”

“No veteran should ever fall through the cracks when attempting to receive the care they have earned,” Miller said.

Correction: An earlier headline on this story mischaracterized the number of veterans who may have died while awaiting care from the VA.

Disturbing: Is this evidence Obama is building his own military unit?

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Written by Allen West on September 3, 2015

During the Vietnam War it was common knowledge that President Johnson was selecting and approving bombing targets from the Oval Office — the height of micromanagement. One of the concerns I have in prosecuting combat operations against Islamic jihadists is the belief that drones are the panacea for everything.

Let me be clear, drones are not a strategy, although they do create nice talking points of one guy killed here, five guys killed there, oops, an American and Italian hostage killed here. But what I find most interesting about the Obama administration reliance on drone usage is that the liberal progressive left would be going apoplectic if a Republican presidential administration were using similar tactics.

As reported by the Washington Post, “The CIA and U.S. Special Operations forces have launched a secret campaign to hunt terrorism suspects in Syria as part of a targeted killing program that is run separately from the broader U.S. military offensive against the Islamic State, U.S. officials said. The CIA and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) are flying drones over Syria in a collaboration responsible for several recent strikes against senior Islamic State operatives, the officials said.

Among those killed was a British militant thought to be an architect of the terrorist group’s effort to use social media to incite attacks in the United States, the officials said. The clandestine program represents a significant escalation of the CIA’s involvement in the war in Syria, enlisting the agency’s Counterterrorism Center (CTC) against a militant group that many officials believe has eclipsed al-Qaeda as a threat. Although the CTC has been given an expanded role in identifying and locating senior Islamic State figures, U.S. officials said the strikes are being carried out exclusively by JSOC. The officials said the program is aimed at terrorism suspects deemed “high-value targets.”

“These people are being identified and targeted through a separate effort,” said a senior U.S. official familiar with the operation, referring to the British militant, Junaid Hussain, and others killed in a recent weeks. Spokesmen for the CIA and the U.S. Special Operations Command, which oversees JSOC, declined to comment. Other officials would discuss the program only on the condition of anonymity.”

Imagine, if you may, a Republican president running a “secret” drone program which was uncovered in the news media. Heck, I think we all remember the days of Abu Gharaib front page stories and pictures of U.S. troops killed and the death count — when was the last time you saw that despicable practice? I can tell you, it ended when their guy entered the White House.

Here is the issue. There are a couple of principles of war — unity of command and unity of effort. Now, a “secret” drone program violates those two maxims because it’s not a part of an overall strategy to defeat ISIS. Then again, we need a strategy in the first place. And the wanton killing of a social media guru means little if the overall capacity of the enemy is not being degraded — that is a violation of unity of effort.

Sadly, the Obama administration has failed to realize that killing a guy here and a guy there doesn’t stop a vile, savage, and barbaric ideological foe. If that were the case, al-Qaida would have collapsed with the killing of Osama bin Laden, and it has not. Is there a place for drones on the battlefield? Absolutely, but they need to be implemented at the operational and tactical levels — not from far away.

These drones need to be coordinated with the on-the-ground commander and his intent for the combat theater of operations — then again, who is in charge on the ground leading the effort against ISIS? After all, at last count nearly 3,000 troops have been committed to…well, I don’t know what to call it in Iraq.

So is President Obama trying to create his own little military unit that he can control and make sure they’re carrying out his politicized objectives? Has Obama via General Valerie Jarrett and Susan Rice developed a formation to carry out orders coming directly from the White House — and not from U.S. Central Command led by Army General Lloyd Austin?

As WashPo states, “The decision to enlist the CIA and JSOC reflects rising anxiety among U.S. counterterrorism officials about the danger the Islamic State poses, as well as frustration with the failure of conventional strikes to degrade the group’s strength. Against that backdrop, the Obama administration has turned again to two of its preferred weapons against terrorist groups: the CTC, which pioneered the use of armed drones and led the search for Osama bin Laden, and JSOC, which includes the elite commando unit that carried out the raid that killed the al-Qaeda chief.”

So in lieu of a comprehensive strategy, have the CIA and JSOC become Obama’s personal Praetorian guard dedicated to carrying out his plans that in essence provide a facade over his failures to contend with the ISIS issue?

It cannot be debated that President Barack Obama made what will be one of history’s greatest strategic blunders in withdrawing all American forces from Iraq. This is a result of associating one’s campaign rhetoric and political ideology with national security and foreign policy — a serious no-no. And Obama will not admit his error but has to maintain an appearance of doing something — but that something must be highly controlled. Remember the definition of the Obama administration foreign policy is “don’t do stupid s!@t.” Too late!

Obama’s “secret” drone program is less about being effective against the enemy (officials said the secret drone program so far accounts for only a handful of strikes, a tiny fraction of the more than 2,450 conducted in Syria over the past year. That broader U.S.-led assault, which also includes an additional 4,000 strikes in Iraq, has relied on conventional bombs to dislodge the Islamic State from territory it has seized) as it is about presenting the appearance of doing something when actually little is being done — hence a falsified intel report from US CENTCOM. The hypocrisy continues in what the progressive left will allow “their guy” to do — imagine a President George W. Bush “secret” drone program?

Once upon a time, erstwhile MSNBC commentator Keith Olbermann — anyone heard from him lately? — referred to JSOC and U.S. Navy SEAL Team VI as Vice President Dick Cheney’s assassin squad. So what has changed in that characterization? Simple, now Obama is using them.

Worst refugee crisis since WWII

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Europe’s migrant crisis has been dubbed the worst since WWII with a record number of 107,500 migrants crossing the EU’s borders in July. Tens of thousands of people are fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and North Africa to start a new life in Europe, but many meet a tragic end there.

  • 03 September 2015

    19:18 GMT

    On Thursday, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini used some harsh rhetoric when asked by a journalist in Luxembourg to comment on the photo of a three-year-old Syrian boy who drowned in an effort to find asylum in Europe.

    “I am a little bit fed up of the fact that politicians are called to react emotionally. Our job, as I said, is to take decisions rationally, being consistent and coherent with our emotions,” she responded.

    “So I think, I’m sure, all of us are shocked seeing that kind of picture but I expect not only for us to be shocked but also for all of us to be responsible enough to take the consequential decisions that are needed.”

  • 19:01 GMT

    Hansjoerg Mueller, member of the Alternative for Germany party (Alternative für Deutschland) told RT that human tragedies, like the one with a Syrian 3-year-old boy found on the Turkish coast, is misused by Western media and politicians. ‘The migrant crisis will lead to split of the EU much quicker than predicted by economists,’ he added.

  • 17:43 GMT

  • 16:49 GMT

    Hungarian authorities have suspended all trains going to and from Budapest, according to statements from the Polish, Czech, and Slovak railways.

    Travelers will need to take local services to complete their journey to the country’s capital. Those services will depart from the town of Szob, near the Slovakian border.

  • 16:41 GMT

    Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris has offered to buy an island off Greece or Italy to help hundreds of thousands of refugees.

    “Greece or Italy sell me an island, I’ll call its independence and host the migrants and provide jobs for them building their new country,” he wrote on Twitter.

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    He told AFP that there are “dozens of islands which are deserted and could accommodate hundreds of thousands of refugees.”

  • 16:35 GMT

    Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban says Hungary would build a barrier at the Croatian border if migrants began flowing that way, Reuters reports.

  • 16:32 GMT

    Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann says he is summoning the Hungarian ambassador for talks over the refugee crisis in the country.

    “The Geneva Human Rights Convention must be respected by all EU states,” Faymann said in a statement. “Asylum is a human right that applies in all EU states.”

    “People who are fleeing war and persecution have a right to asylum and to be treated respectfully.”

    “We can only solve this great humanitarian challenge together in a strong Europe – with humanity and solidarity.”

  • 16:30 GMT

    During a phone call with his Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vucic on Thursday, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban discussed the refugee crisis at the country’s borders with Serbia and Macedonia, Orban’s press chief Bertalan Havasi told MTI.

    Orban reportedly informed Vucic about new legislation on border controls due to soon be passed by the Hungarian parliament. The laws would allow for police and army units to be dispatched to the border as of September 15.

    The Hungarian prime minister met with European Parliament President Martin Schulz in Brussels on Thursday.

    “We Hungarians are full of fear, people in Europe are full of fear because they see that the European leaders, among them the prime ministers, are not able to control the situation,” Orban said after the meeting.

    “I came here to inform the president that Hungary did everything possible in order to keep the regulations. We create just now in the Hungarian parliament a new package of regulations, we set up a physical barrier and all these together can provide a new situation in Hungary and in Europe from 15 September. Now we have one week of preparation time,” he added.

  • 16:00 GMT

    French President Francois Hollande is currently hosting a meeting on the refugee crisis at Elysee Palace in Paris.

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  • 15:58 GMT

    Greece’s caretaker government is expected to ask the European Union for about €700 million (US$776 million) to build infrastructure to shelter the thousands of refugees arriving on its territory each day, Reuters reports.

EUROPE MIGRANT SHOCK

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The pictures show a small boy lying face down in the sand on a Turkish beach as an official stands over him.

The child, who is thought to be Syrian, has drowned in an apparent attempt to flee the war ravaging his country.

They are extraordinary images and serve as a stark reminder that, as European leaders increasingly try to prevent refugees from settling in the continent, more and more refugees are dying in their desperation to flee persecution and reach safety.

The Independent has taken the decision to publish these images because, among the often glib words about the “ongoing migrant crisis”, it is all too easy to forget the reality of the desperate situation facing many refugees.

The boy, pictured below being carried by the official, is one of 11 Syrian refugees feared dead after they drowned trying to cross the Mediterranean on two boats bound for the Greek island of Kos.

A Turkish rescue worker carries the young boy, who drowned during a failed attempt to sail to the Greek island of Kos (Reuters) A Turkish rescue worker carries the young boy, who drowned during a failed attempt to sail to the Greek island of Kos (Reuters)
One of the boats was carrying six Syrians when it sank after leaving Akyarlar, in a desperate attempt to cross the 5km Aegean straight to Kos that represented their best chance of entering the EU.

According to Turkey’s Dogan news agency, three children and a woman from the small boat drowned. Two people survived after swimming back to shore in life jackets.

In Britain, David Cameron and Philip Hammond have been criticised for the “dehumanising” language they use to describe refugees.

The Prime Minister described refugees coming to the UK as a “swarm”, and later said he would not “allow people to break into our country”.

Hammond, the Foreign Secretary, said refugees were “marauding” around Calais. Amnesty International called his comments “shameful”.

Aylan Al-Kurdi and his older brother, Ghalib, died yesterday when their dinghy sank off the coast of Turkey Aylan Al-Kurdi and his older brother, Ghalib, died yesterday when their dinghy sank off the coast of Turkey (Qattouby/Twitter)
The pictures, and the tragedy they convey, are hard to ignore, and now senior politicians are calling on Cameron to do more to tackle the crisis.

Labour leadership front-runner Jeremy Corbyn told The Independent: “Nobody could fail to be moved by this harrowing and heartbreaking image.

“It should remind us of the situation facing millions of people desperately fleeing a terrible civil war.

“The government’s response to the refugee crisis has been wholly inadequate, and we are being shamed by our European neighbours.”

Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat leader, told The Independent: “Enough is enough. These pictures are beyond horrific. They are the wake-up call David Cameron needs.”

He was joined by Yvette Cooper, another contender for the Labour leader post, who told The Independent: “It is heartbreaking what is happening on our continent. We cannot keep turning our backs on this. We can – and must – do more.”

Along with Afghan citizens, Syrians make up the bulk of the people fleeing conflict in their homeland to seek a safer home in Europe.

Read more: The two charts which shame Britain
Syrian refugees Britain has taken would fit on Tube train
Six charts that show where refugees are coming from

But while images of desperate refugees emerge almost every day, the attitude of Europe’s policymakers and much of the public have continued to harden.

Read more: This is how desperate refugees are to enter the EU
Germans stage pro-refugee rally with ‘refugees welcome’ banners
May says migrants should be banned from entering the UK

Hungary has continued to build its razor-wire fence blocking off the 170km length of its border with Serbia, and on Wednesday police in Budapest blocked refugees from boarding trains to Germany for a second day running.

In the Czech Republic, some 200 refugees with valid train tickets were hauled off a train bound for Germany and given registration numbers, in permanent marker, written on their arms.

In the Netherlands, the government has announced a toughening of its rules that would see failed asylum-seekers cut off from food and shelter within “a few weeks” of being handed a decision.