American Elephants

The Pentagon and the Veterans Administration, and Performance Issues. by The Elephant's Child


The Veterans Administration scandal is heating up. General Eric Shinseki appeared before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee to give the typical bland administration response. The VA has always been committed to providing “high quality and timely” care to veterans —while noting that there were reports of “performance issues.” Well, yes.

The medical needs of veterans who have served their country honorably are falling victim to wait-list fraud in at least seven Veterans Administration facilities around the country. A VA social worker and employee representative in Chicago told CBS News that there were secret waiting lists designed to hide the fact that veterans were not receiving medical care that was timely, and sometimes no care at all.

In Phoenix close to 40 veterans may have died while waiting too long for colonoscopies and endoscopies that could have diagnosed their cancers while they were still treatable.

At the Cheyenne VA Medical Center, a Telehealth Coordinator described how patients were always listed as receiving appointments within a 14-day window no matter when the appointment was first requested nor how long the patient actually waited. At least 19 vets in Columbia S.C. and Augusta Ga., died in 2010 and 2010 waiting for appointments.

In the meantime, Private Bradley Manning, who was convicted of leaking national security secrets to the “anti-secrecy” website WikiLeaks. Manning has been diagnosed by military doctors with gender dysphoria, the sense of being a woman in a man’s body. Bradley has chosen to change his/her name legally to Chelsea, and asked for hormone therapy and to be able to live as a woman. The Pentagon is trying to help.

Pentagon press secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said: “No decision to transfer Pvt. Manning to a civilian detention facility has been made, and any such decision will, of course, properly balance the soldier’s medical needs with our obligation to ensure Pvt. Manning remains behind bars.”

High quality and timely care, and, um. “performance issues” indeed. How about “priority issues”as well.

ADDENDUM: Sec. Of Defense Chuck Hagel has announced that they are reconsidering hormone therapy for Manning at a time when they are sharply drawing down the Army. The VA is a different department, but at least somebody realizes that this looks bad just now.

ADDENDUM II: 5/16 , According to Breitbart: Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has formally approved the request of Pvt. Bradley Manning, convicted for leaking 750,000 classified documents to WikiLeaks, to be temporarily transferred out of military custody in order to undergo expensive hormone therapy and surgery to become a transgendered woman. Manning’s taxpayer funded request to change his name from Bradley to Chelsea was approved last month by a Kansas court. Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby denies the claim, saying no decision has been made.  We will get answers eventually.

In the meantime, the VA scandal is unfolding. Secretary Shinseki dramatically fired the head of hospital operations, but the gentleman was planning to retire this summer anyway. Obama has nominated someone who was in charge of another hospital where veterans died while awaiting treatment. The ability to cover up unpleasant facts is still limited.  We will get answers eventually.

The Department of Agriculture Wants To Buy Submachine Guns! by The Elephant's Child

Republicans talk a lot about the horrors of Big Government, but I’m not sure that most people know what we are talking about. Why is big bad? What part is too big? Why the fuss? And what difference does it make? The impetus today was notice of a solicitation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The Department has a requirement for the commercial acquisition of submachine guns, .40 Cal. S&W, ambidextrous safety, semi-automatic or 2 shot bursts trigger group, Tritium night sights for front and rear, rails for attachment of flashlight (front under fore grip) and scope (top rear), stock-collapsible or folding, —30 round capacity magazine.

They want the submachine guns to have a sling, be lightweight and have an oversized trigger guard for gloved operation. Note the plural ‘guns,’ but there is no mention of the numbers of submachine guns that are required, or just who the Department is planning to attack, for these are surely assault weapons.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture!

The question everyone would ask is— what the hell does the Department of Agriculture need with submachine guns? And why does the Department of Education need a SWAT Team? Why did the BLM descend on the Bundy ranch with some 200 armed troops? They could have easily called on the local sheriff’s department to arrest Mr. Bundy and bring him in for failing to pay his grazing fees.

We are seeing way too many incidents of U.S. government SWAT teams descending on ordinary businesses, guns drawn, with trumped-up charges. Gibson Guitars comes to mind, and the Sacketts case in Northern Idaho that went all the way to  the Supreme Court when the EPA falsely claimed their property was a wetland. There are dozens of such cases, if not hundreds.

The government has reached a pinnacle of overreach. They are doing way too many things that they should not be doing at all. The government should not be doing those things which private enterprise can do better and less expensively. Everyone would probably have their own list of what should be eliminated, but the Department of Education, the Energy Department, the EPA would be high on my list. The First Lady should not be planning school lunches, and the curriculum should be the task of local school boards.

Instead, the administration is downsizing the military— the Army is going to reduce their active duty force by another 30,000 in the next 17 months to drawdown forces to 450,000 by 2017. This is ostensibly because of budget pressures. Yet the number one task of the Executive Branch is national security in a time of rising danger in the world to which the administration seems oblivious.

Misguided priorities, ideologically dispensed funding, taxpayer money diverted  to cronies, and government money directed to political purposes. The promised transparency never appeared and waste and fraud are covered up. The bloated nature of the nation’s capitol just keeps expanding, and with each expansion, oversight diminishes. At a certain point no one any longer knows where the money is going, what the departments are really doing, or how to shrink the government enough so we can actually understand what they are doing. Big Government does not do anything well, and some things they do so badly, they should be forced to turn it over to private enterprise at once.

ADDENDUM: The USDA has also solicited “The commercial acquisition of ballistic vests, compliant with NIJ 0101.06 for Level IIIA Ballistic Resistance body armor.”

They ask for body armor that is gender specific, lightweight, with trauma plate/pad (hard or soft), and concealable carrier. The order includes tactical vest, undergarment (white) identification patches, accessories (6 pouches), body armor carry bag, and professional measurements.

Huh. SWAT Team!

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