American Elephants

Backlog of Veterans Claims Piling Up? — Just Destroy Them! by The Elephant's Child

December 30, 2013: The Obama administration’s Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Eric Shinseki said that it is on track to eliminate the disability claims backlog.  For the first time since Barack Obama was elected president, the veterans claims backlog will end this year lower than it began.

Department of Veterans Affairs officials say they’re on track to end the backlog entirely sometime in 2015. At the start of December, the claims backlog —the number of cases unfinished for more than 125 days — sat at just under 393,000 cases. Critics call that an embarrassingly large number, especially considering that the White House pledged to fix the problem almost four years ago. But the peak was 608,000 in March.

Shinseki credits mandatory overtime for the agency workforce and new computer processing systems that pushed to agency to come out of paper to go into electronics.

February 14, 2014: Employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) destroyed veterans’ medical files in a systematic attempt to eliminate backlogged veteran medical exam requests, a former VA employee told the Daily Caller.

“The committee was called ‘System Redesign’ and the purpose of the meeting was to figure out ways to correct the department’s efficiency. And one of the issues at the time was the backlog,” said Oliver Mitchell, a Marine veteran and former patient services assistant in the VA Greater Los Angeles Medical Center.

“We just didn’t have the resources to conduct all of those exams. Basically we would get about 3,000 requests a month for [medical] exams, but in a 30-day period we only had the resources to do about 800. That rolls over to the next month and creates a backlog,” Mitchell said. “It’s a numbers thing. The waiting list counts against the hospital’s efficiency. The longer the veteran waits for an exam that counts against the hospital as far as productivity is concerned.”

By 2008, some patients were “waiting six to nine months for an exam” and VA “didn’t know how to address the issue,” Mitchell said.

VA Greater Los Angeles Radiology department chief Dr. Suzie El-Saden initiated an “ongoing discussion in the department” to cancel exam requests and destroy veterans’ medical files so that no record of the exam requests would exist, thus reducing the backlog, Mitchell said.

Audio from a November 2008 meeting was obtained by the Daily Caller.

“I’m still canceling orders from 2001,” said a male official in the meeting.

“Anything over a  year old should be canceled.” replied a female official
“Canceled or …  your backlog should start at April “07” the female official replied, adding “a lot of those patients either had their studies somewhere else, had their surgery … died, don’t live in the state. …It’s ridiculous.”

Congress has been after the VA for some time, trying to get information, responses, and explanations. This is just the first chapter is a long disgusting story. The government is not dependable. Promises are not kept. Contracts are not fulfilled. Politicians lie and cover up, and promise that which they cannot deliver, in order to get votes. Ethics start at the top.

July 1, 2013: The Backlog:


Politicians Play The Poverty Game by The Elephant's Child
February 25, 2014, 7:18 pm
Filed under: Politics | Tags: , ,

We lose track of reality by misuse of words, deliberate efforts to change the meaning of words, ignoring common sense, and simply not stopping to think things through.

Poverty is much in the news. But do we ever stop to think that as long as we define the poor as the bottom twenty percent of the national income, there will always be the poor.

There is no material poverty in the United States. 80 percent of poor households have air conditioning; three-quarters have a car or truck, 31 percent have two or more. Two-thirds have cable or satellite TV. Half have one or more computers. Forty-two percent own their homes. Poor Americans have more living space than the typical non-poor person in Sweden, France or the U.K.

The Treasury Department divides the American people up into quintiles —  the poor, the lower middle, the middle, the upper middle, and the rich. They are not the same people over time, and income mobility is the norm.  80 percent of people born in households below the poverty line escape poverty when they grow up, some become rich.

Economics Professor Walter E. Williams writes:

The Census Bureau pegs the poverty rate among blacks at 35 percent and among whites at 13 percent. The illegitimacy rate among blacks is 72 percent, and among whites it’s 30 percent. A statistic that one doesn’t hear much about is that the poverty rate among black married families has been in the single digits for more than two decades, currently at 8 percent. For married white families, it’s 5 percent. Now the politically incorrect questions: Whose fault is it to have children without the benefit of marriage and risk a life of dependency? Do people have free will, or are they governed by instincts?

The black illegitimacy rate was only 14 percent in 1940. A slightly higher percentage of black adults were married than white adults according to census data going back to one generation out of slavery, a fact in every census from 1890 to 1940. Avoiding long term poverty is not complicated: 1. graduate from high school. 2. get married before you have children and stay married. 3. work at any kind of job, even one that starts at the minimum wage. A married couple, each earning the minimum wage would earn an annual combined income of $30,000. The poverty line for a family of two is $15,500, and for a family of four, it’s $23,000.

Since LBJ’s War on Poverty the nation has spent about $18 trillion at the federal state and local levels of government on programs justified by the “need” to deal with some aspect of poverty. Poverty is a political game. Promising to help the poor is a good thing. Making the poor dependent on government is not. A poor person who is offered a job at the minimum wage that promises a brighter future, would lose money by going off welfare. But you don’t climb the economic ladder on government handouts. The government is not dependable. Once welfare is granted the amounts may be cut at any time depending on budgeting. There is little political interest in addressing the basic causes of poverty. Which is why the failure to talk about it honestly is so unfortunate.

So you have increasing the minimum wage. Government will make the poor less poor by ordering their employer to pay them more. A full time minimum wage worker at $7.25 is earning more than the poverty line. The minimum wage here is $9.25, and goes mostly to teenagers whose family incomes are around $50,000. You will notice that the politician who is proposing to raise the minimum wage has no skin in the game. He just gets to preen and get votes from people who think he’s doing something nice.

Obama Engineers America’s Global Retreat by The Elephant's Child

For Obama, the world’s major events might as well be happening on the planet Pluto. Russia is re-establishing itself in its “near abroad,” and working with Iran to project a neo-Soviet agenda from Southwest Asia to the Mediterranean. China is inexorably asserting sovereignty over the Western Pacific. As Islam’s Sunni and Shia factions tear at each other’s vitals, they seem to agree only on contempt for America.
Angelo Codevilla, Professor emeritus of international Relations, Boston U.

Historian Niall Ferguson wrote in the Wall Street Journal about “America’s Global Retreat.” It is the U.S. geopolitical taper that is stirring world anxiety. To see the geopolitical taper at work consider President Obama’s comment Wednesday on the horrific killings of protesters in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev: “There will be consequences if people step over the line.”

Obama watched passively when the Iranian people rose up against their theocratic rulers in 2009. He was caught off-balance by the illusion of an “Arab Spring.” When crowds swarmed in Tahrir Square in 2011, calling for the ouster of longtime U.S. ally Hosni Mubarak, he backed the government led by Mohammed Morsi, after the Muslim Brotherhood won the 2012 elections. Then he backed the military coup against Morsi.

Syria has been one of the great blunders of post World War II American foreign policy. When he might have intervened effectively, he hesitated, When he did intervene, it was ineffectual. His non-threat to launch airstrikes if Congress agreed handed the initiative to Russia. Assad isn’t handing over his chemical weapons.

The result of this U.S. inaction is a disaster. At a minimum, 130,000 Syrian civilians have been killed and nine million driven from their homes by forces loyal to the tyrant. At least 11,000 people have been tortured to death. Hundreds of thousands are besieged, their supplies of food and medicine cut off, as bombs and shells rain down.

He sent Joe Biden to negotiate a “Status of Forces” agreement with Iraq, which failed, and the troops were pulled out anyway, leaving Iraq to fall apart and Al Qaeda in Iraq to take over Fallujah. If you recall, Obama claimed to truly understand the world because he lived in Indonesia until he was 10. Other than that he proclaimed Iraq to be a “dumb war” and wanted to close down Gitmo at once. Whatever it was – was Bush’s fault. The reason to be in Afghanistan was to get bin Laden. Obama has announced our withdrawal, so the Taliban can plan the timing for their takeover.

We’ve had reset buttons, and a “pivot” from the Middle East to the Asia-Pacific is the closest we have come to a strategy. Ambassadors are chosen for the amount that was donated to Obama’s election and re-election, and have never visited the countries to which they are assigned.

Peter Wehner says that Obama is Consciously Engineering America’s Decline. “[H]e views the weakening of American power as a downright positive thing, as a contributor to peace and stability, and a means through which America will be more respected and loved in the world.”

Henry Kissinger once observed: ” Those ages which in retrospect seem most peaceful were least in search of peace. Those whose quest for it seems unending appear least able to achieve tranquility. Whenever peace—conceived as the avoidance of war—has been the primary objective … the international system has been at the mercy of [its] most ruthless member.”

Keith Koffler, veteran White House reporter asked plaintively “Does Obama Have Any Foreign Policy Successes?” The answer seems to be a resounding NO. Try to find a country with whom our relations have improved.

Winston Churchill, May 2, 1935, in the House of Commons:

It is possible that the dangers into which we are steadily advancing would never have arisen …[but] when the situation was manageable it was neglected, and now that it is thoroughly out of hand, we apply too late the remedies which might have affected a cure.

There is nothing new to the story. It is as old as [Rome]. It falls into that long, dismal catalogue of the fruitlessness of experience and the confirmed unteachability of mankind. Want of foresight, unwillingness to act when action would be simple and effective, lack of clear thinking, confusion of counsel until the emergency comes, until self-reservation strikes its jarring gong — these are features which constitute the endless repetition of history.

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