I'm covering the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing from this morning. Scott Brown's Rebecca's senator. (Bill Nelson is my senator. The one I claim anyway. Also, he's up for re-election and I have no problem endorsing Bill Nelson. If Florida's your home too, please consider voting for Senator Nelson.)
The VA is not providing veterans with the care they need. Last year, they stumbled upon a solution: LIE.
Just lie and the Senate committee will go away. Just lie and no one will notice or comment. Just lie.
So that's what the VA has done.
However, the Office of Inspector General did research -- at Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Patty Murray's request. And the IG found out that the VA has told Congress wait time (for appointments) had been decreased. It really hadn't.
But lie and no one will know until you're caught. That's the VA administrators approach.
So that's just one of the problems -- the wait time.
There's also the 3,000 or so jobs they need to fill. And VA offered excuses on that.
They have trouble filling the spots.
Iraq War veteran Nick Tolentino used to work for the VA and he exposed the lie there. He explained that the VA gets special funds. They then say they can only hire a doctor for a year or two years. Tolentino explained that doctors and other health care workers don't want to leave their jobs to go to work for the VA if it's a one-year thing. Why aren't the positions being advertised as permanent and not temporary?
VA doesn't want to lose the special funding. Building the cost into their budget would mean it was a budgeted item. They'd rather risk that in a year or two they don't have the funding then provide any job security apparently.
Brown's other big issue was that the country's in a fiscal nightmare. And yet the VA -- which has had one scandal after another -- is handing out bonuses.
There's been the failure to send out the GI Bill checks. There's the alarming suicide rate of veterans. There's lying about the time wait for appointments. We could go on and on. So the point is, bonuses are being handed out.
You might not think it's a big deal. Do you know how much the VA gave out last year in bonuses?
Remember this is on top of the salary and wages they paid. In 2011, Brown noted that the VA paid out $194 million in bonuses. Nearly $200 million dollars. Brown asked what the average salary was for someone receiving a bonus and the VA's William Schoenhard wanted to take that for the record.
On top of that, Schoenhard felt the VA deserved credit for keeping the number so low. Brown was shocked and asked if Schoenhard was saying that in years prior to 2011 over $200 million was paid in bonuses? Yep.
This is ridiculous and Tolentino agreed. Brwon didn't understand how, with all the problems at VA, anyone in management was qualifying for bonuses, let alone how VA was justifying paying out almost $200 million last year alone.
Now here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"