Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Billboards in Indianapolis: “VA is lying, veterans are dying”

Billboards in Indianapolis : “VA is lying, veterans are dying”

The billboards read: “VA is lying, veterans are dying” and are the product of Ron Nesler, a southern Indiana Vietnam veteran whose Facebook group “VA is lying” now has more than 19,000 followers.
The digital billboards, which were placed near the Indiana State Fairgrounds and at Interstate 465 and Michigan Road, were paid for through donations and can cost about $1,000 a month, according to Mike Stinfer, a former Marine associated with Nesler’s group.
“It came about as way to voice our concerns. (It’s) a movement – a peaceful movement to show that us veterans have kind of had enough of the rhetoric with Veterans Affairs,” Stinfer said in an interview Tuesday.
Stinfer, who lives in Warsaw, Ind., has his own issues with the VA. He says after his tour in Iraq in 2003 he had trouble obtaining his medical records and has since had issues obtaining the VA benefits he’s earned.
“Quite frankly, let’s just call it what it is – these are atrocities to veterans,” Stinfer said referring to issues surrounding the VA.
The group has financed similar billboards in Arizona, Minnesota, Illinois, Georgia and Florida. Indiana is just the latest state to earn them.
“We feel that Indiana is a place that needs to get better. Not just operational wise for the VA but care-wise,” Stinfer said.
The VA has been riddled with criticisms in recent years from allegations of mismanaged care, to long wait times, to poor record keeping.
VA Secretary Robert McDonald toured Indianapolis’ Roudebush VA Medical Center in July touting its improvements. Just a year ago, Roudebush VA Medical Center was among a handful of VA facilities under investigation for its care and long wait times. An I-Team 8 review of the recent data shows while most veterans are being seen within 30 days of scheduling their appointments, there are 140 vets who haven’t been seen in more than three months, according to data from the Veterans Health Administration.
Nationwide, 40,000 veterans have waited more than three months to seen. That’s up from 25,000 this time last year.
After repeated attempts seeking a comment about these billboards, Pete Scovill, a spokesman for the VA’s Roudebush facility, released a statement that read:
“The Richard L. Roudebush VA Medical Center works tirelessly to provide the very best, most appropriate healthcare for our Veterans.  While we respect the freedom of speech rights of those who may not agree with laws and regulations which govern our health care system, we do regret the negative atmosphere they have created.”
Each year the Richard L. Roudebush VA Medical Center provides service to over 62,000 Veterans.  The vast majority of the Veterans we serve  are proud to receive their health care in our Medical Center.
VA employees are servants of our nation’s heroes.  We are not perfect but we truly respect an honor our Veterans. We appreciate the help , WISH-TV and their colleagues in the Indianapolis media provide to communicate with Veterans and ensure they know we are here to provide service they have earned and deserve.”

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

U.S. Military Resort in Germany Tightens Eligibility Rules

Edelweiss Lodge and Resort in Garmisch, Germany

Troops, retirees and their families living outside Europe no longer can directly book stays at the Edelweiss Lodge and Resort in Garmisch, Germany, following a recent review of the eligibility regulations.
Under the rule change, the only way for individuals living outside Europe to stay at the Armed Forces Recreation Center resort is as a guest of an eligible person, or if they have been living in Europe — on temporary duty, for example — for at least 30 days.
During an internal review, officials determined that rules related to the Status of Forces Agreement between the U.S. and Germany were not being followed, said Bill Bradner, spokesman for the Army Installation Management Command, which operates the AFRC facilities that are open to members of all services.
“It is an unfortunate development, and we’re so sorry this may limit lodging options for service members and retirees visiting Europe, but we must comply with the SOFA agreement,” Clesson Allman, general manager of the Edelweiss Lodge and Resort, said in a statement.
Those who made reservations before June 10 may still stay at the resort, one of four AFRC facilities worldwide but the only one in Europe.
For active-duty members stationed in Europe, there aren't any new restrictions or requirements for reserving rooms.
According to the regulation that defines eligibility for the Edelweiss, military retirees living in Germany are authorized to use the resort once they have the proper tax authorizations from the German government.
Active-duty members and retirees who don’t live in Europe must spend at least 30 days in Europe and have verification of eligibility from German customs officials before they can make reservations.
Active-duty and retired troops also can stay at the Edelweiss as guests of someone who has lived in Europe for at least 30 days. In that scenario, eligible patrons of the resort are allowed to sponsor up to three rooms, and must be present during their guests’ stay.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

VA Slammed for banning cell phones

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) apologized on Wednesday for temporarily implementing what it called an “ill-advised” policy at some medical centers that banned veterans from bringing cellphones to appointments, according to a statement provided by the VA to the Washington Free Beacon.
Photographs emerged earlier this week showing official signs at VA medical facilities stating that a veteran would have his or her appointment cancelled if they bring with them a cellphone.
The photos, first published on the blog Disabled Veterans, depict of a list of “prohibited items.” Included within that list, along with guns, knives, and backpacks, is a photo of an iPhone.
“If brought to your appointment [these items] will result in the cancelation of your exam(s),” reads the flyer, which bears the VA’s official logo and slogan, “Defining Excellence in the 21st Century.”
These flyers were included in appointment packages to veterans, according to a VA official who spoke to the Free Beacon and disclosed that the flyers would be “immediately discontinued.”
“The flyer included in Veterans’ Compensation and Pension (C&P) appointment letters at the VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System’s (ECHCS) Golden community based outpatient clinic were ill-advised,” The VA official said in a statement.
Exams will not be cancelled if a phone is brought to a C&P appointment, the official made clear.
“All C&P program managers across the system have been informed that the distribution of these, or similar, flyers should be immediately discontinued,” the official said. “The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) goal is to provide veterans with the care and the opportunities for health that they have earned through their service and sacrifices.”
The flyers had originally caught some vets off guard and prompted Disabled Veterans’ Benjamin Krause to criticize the VA.
“The decision is a violation of due process and numerous laws protecting the rights of disabled Americans,” Krause wrote.
“The key here seems to be that VA forgets that veterans are also Americans who are protected by the Constitution and who also possess unalienable rights,” he adds. “Did we sign our rights away forever by fighting our country’s battles?”
Moreover, Krause wrote, “the leaflet does not explain what to do if the veteran is prescribed use of an iPhone or backpack as an accommodative device that helps the disabled veteran with a disability.”