Tag Archives: Department of Veterans Affairs

Hoping the VA health system keeps working — well!

You know already that I am a big fan of my pre-paid medical insurance plan provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

My wife and I are venturing back to Amarillo in a few days to get ready for a trip out west in our recreational vehicle. Before we shove off, I have a routine medical examination scheduled with my health care provider at the Thomas E. Creek Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

To date, the VA med center has run like a well-oiled machine. I show up at the appointed time, I wait a few minutes, I get called back, the nurse practitioner gives me the once over, tells me I’m in good health and I’m on my way out the door.

I just received a text message from the Creek Medical Center. It asked me to confirm my scheduled appointment next week. I did.

Then it sent a message immediately after that, ordering me to report to the medical center “15 minutes before your appointment.”

Here’s the deal. My appointment is late in the morning, which means that the VA will have plenty of opportunity to get backed up. That means — at least that’s been my experience over the years with private medical providers — that the later in the day one sees a doc, the longer the wait times. Am I right about that? Yep. I am!

So, my question is this: Is the VA going to ask me to wait 15 minutes longer than I need to wait or am I going to see the health care provider at the appointed time?

I will have faith that the latter is going to happen.

Oh, I do cherish public health care.

Trump gets it right — apparently — with new VA pick

How about this?

Donald J. Trump has nominated a proven administrator to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs. Yep, Robert Wilkie is the acting VA secretary who’s been filling in since the firing of David Shulkin in March over Shulkin’s expensive travel habits.

The president turned first to the White House physician, Dr. Ronny Jackson, to lead the VA. This, despite Dr. Jackson’s lack of administrative experience. Then came allegations of some bad behavior: hostile workplace, over-prescribing of medicine and — oops! — drinking on the job.

Out went Jackson.

Now the president has selected Wilkie. Man, I hope he sails through the U.S. Senate confirmation process and is able to assume the role formally that he has been performing for the past three months.

Let’s not just yet put this nomination in the bank. Trump’s inability to vet these nominees has gotten him into trouble.

The president didn’t vet Jackson’s past adequately before nominating him to lead the VA.

The VA is a huge federal agency that needs an experienced hand to lead it. The agency also needs someone who is clean, ethical, sharp and has the veterans’ issues at the top of his mind at all times.

I am one of those 20 million veterans who is enrolled in the agency’s medical care program. Therefore, I demand a careful selection process when choosing a veterans affairs secretary.

Meanwhile, I will hope Robert Wilkie is the right man for the job. It’s good that senators on both sides of the aisle are much more enthusiastic about Wilkie than they were about Jackson.

My first benchmark for the correctness of this selection is whether Wilkie will reject the notion of privatizing VA functions.

Do not go there. Ever!

Trump wants Sen. Tester to quit because … ?

I’ve said this before and I will keep saying it for as long as I damn well please … but Donald J. Trump doesn’t know what he’s doing or saying.

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., led the U.S. Senate criticism of Dr. Ronny Jackson, the president’s nominee to become secretary of veterans affairs. Allegations surfaced from within the military that Jackson — a Navy admiral — enabled a hostile work environment, that he over-prescribed medication and drank on the job.

Tester called on Jackson — the White House physician — to withdraw his nomination. Dr. Jackson did this week. He pulled out, calling the allegations false and saying they had become a “distraction.”

Fine. Hit the road, Doc. Don’t let the door hit you in the … whatever.

The president, though, once again talked way past the sale by saying Tester should resign his Senate seat. Why? Well, because he was overly harsh in his criticism of Dr. Jackson. Tester, though, is far from the only senator to say Jackson shouldn’t serve as head of the VA. A number of, um, Republicans joined that anti-Jackson chorus, too. Is the GOP president going to ask any or all of them to quit? Of course he won’t. That’s because he suffers from selective indignation.

As for Trump’s call for Tester to quit, it is just so much more malarkey coming from the mouth of the guy whose White House staff failed miserably in vetting Dr. Jackson. All they had to ask him was: Is there anything in your background, given the current climate in Washington, that should cause us any concern?

They didn’t. He did. He’s gone. Tester — and others — called him out.

Mr. President, just go find another VA secretary and this time, be sure he or she is free of the baggage that scuttled Admiral Jackson’s nomination.

VA nominee on the ropes?

So help me I didn’t see this one coming.

Navy Admiral Dr. Ronny Jackson’s nomination to become the next veterans affairs secretary did raise an eyebrow our two. Mine weren’t among them initially.

Now we hear that the White House physician allegedly promoted an inappropriate workplace environment and might have drunk on the job. What’s more, the president of the United States has given Jackson some cover, enabling him to withdraw his nomination if he believes it is in his best interest.

It well might be, given the crescendo of criticism that is building.

The U.S. Senate Veterans Affairs Committee has postponed Dr. Jackson’s confirmation hearing indefinitely. Hmm. I think that spells big trouble. Jackson said he is “disappointed” but adds that he is ready to answer all the questions that will come his way.

What I believe we have here is a developing “distraction” that is going to yank attention away from the work that Dr. Jackson is supposed to do on behalf of the nation’s 20 million military veterans; I am one of them and I believe he needs to be focused exclusively on that important work.

Hostile work environment? Over-prescribing of meds? Drinking on the job?

Good grief! This is on top of the criticism that Dr. Jackson hasn’t run an agency anywhere near the size of the monstrous bureaucracy that is the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Donald Trump is right: Whether he stays in the game is Dr. Jackson’s call. I won’t be a bit surprised if he pulls away from this big job.

And that brings up another question: Why can’t the president find competent and squeaky-clean folks to do these jobs?

Where are all the stars seeking to work for Trump?

Donald Trump is fond of proclaiming that he has to fend off the “many” top-flight government administrators who are seeking to work for the Trump administration.

He said recently that despite the exodus of members of his personal team of legal eagles, he’s got the pick of the best lawyers in human history to represent him.

Are we clear on this? However, after dismissing Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin earlier this week, Trump hired the White House physician — Admiral Ronny Jackson — to lead the massive federal agency.

It am forced to ask: Where are the all-stars lining up to work in the president’s administration?

Admiral Jackson is a perfectly competent physician. He has served three presidents: George W. Bush, Barack H. Obama and now Trump. I don’t doubt he is smart.

He is an active-duty flag officer in the U.S. Navy, which gives him some knowledge and appreciation of veterans’ issues.

But … he’s never administered anything, let alone the nation’s second-largest government agency that employs more than 300,000 individuals who are serving the nation’s 20 million veterans.

Expertise? Intimate knowledge of nuts-and-bolts administration? Political savvy? It’s all lacking in this fellow.

Still, the president who said he would surround himself with “the best people” has turned to someone whose sole qualification for this critical job is that Donald Trump likes him.

This is how you build a “fine-tuned machine” to run the federal government? I, um, think not!

Privatize the VA? Never!

David Shulkin isn’t going quietly away from his job as secretary of veterans affairs. Indeed, he is firing back, claiming it “shouldn’t be this hard to serve your country.”

What’s more, he is telling the world that one of the reasons Donald Trump fired him is because he resisted efforts to privatize the nation’s second-largest federal agency.

Oh, my! How many ways can I implore the government to avoid privatization of the Department of Veterans Affairs? Let me start with this: Don’t even think about it!

There are roughly 20 million American veterans alive today. Many of them rely on the VA for services for which they are owed. By the government!

I get that many vets who live in rural communities have difficulty at times obtaining medical care from the VA; they live long distances from the nearest VA clinic. Thus, comes some of the impetus to privatize medical care and other services currently provided by the VA.

As Shulkin wrote in the New York Times: The private sector, already struggling to provide adequate access to care in many communities, is ill-prepared to handle the number and complexity of patients that would come from closing or downsizing V.A. hospitals and clinics, particularly when it involves the mental health needs of people scarred by the horrors of war. 

I now will say this another way: The government that sent young men and women to potentially die in service to their country owes them the best care possible. Period! A government that accepted these Americans’ voluntary enlistment or drafted them for service must remain responsible for their health care.

I happen to be one of those Americans who once wore the uniform in service to the country. I am enrolled in the Department of Veterans Affairs health care program administered in Amarillo, Texas. I visit the Thomas E. Creek VA Medical Center for routine medical checkups.

What’s more, I do not consider it a “free” medical service; I consider it a “pre-paid” service that I earned by giving my country two years of my life. My country sent me into a war zone in the spring of 1969. I returned home and finished my tour of duty.

I will not accept the idea that the government that sent me to war now can hand over medical care to a private provider. I disagree with this form of privatization the way I disagree with private prison management. A government that spends money to arrest, charge, try and convict a criminal should also be responsible for housing that criminal — for the rest of his or her life if necessary.

The VA serves men and women who gave plenty in service to their government. It now falls on the government to repay that service by caring for these individuals — and to provide care in the most competent manner possible.

Why the delay in selecting ideal Cabinet?

The White House reaction to David Shulkin’s departure as veterans affairs secretary prompts a question from yours truly.

Donald Trump is moving “closer” to fielding an ideal Cabinet, the White House press office said after Shulkin submitted his resignation — apparently at the president’s request.

So, the question is this: Why didn’t the president pick an ideal Cabinet when he was transitioning into the office in late 2016 and early 2017?

Shulkin is the eighth Cabinet officer or close White House adviser to quit or be fired in just 15 months into the Trump administration. They’re dropping like flies in the West Wing and in agencies throughout the executive branch of the federal government.

The president vowed to surround himself with the “best people” as he was forming the executive branch leadership. If we are to believe the White House’s latest assertion about Trump’s desire to move closer to an ideal Cabinet while filling key White House advisory posts, then are we also to assume that the president has failed in keeping this particular promise?

Admiral Ronny Jackson, the White House physician, is the new nominee to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs; Jackson has examined the past three presidents and delivered a sparkling medical critique of Trump’s physical health. That’s fine. I’m sure he’s a fine doctor. He does lack governmental administrative experience, although I’ll endorse the president’s assessment that as an active-duty military officer, Admiral Jackson has a keen understanding of veterans issues. I wish him well.

I want to circle back to my original question: Why didn’t the president select a top-tier roster of Cabinet officials and critical White House advisers when he took office?

Oh, I forgot something. That requires a president to do his homework and to rely on the best advice from the “best people” he has assembled to make these critical decisions at the outset.

Or, to put it another way: The president should have employed some “extreme vetting” techniques in assembling his team.

VA to get an initial test of its level of care

I have sung the praises of the Department of Veterans Affairs operation here in Amarillo, Texas. I stand by the praise I have given the staff at the Thomas E. Creek Veterans Medical Center.

I stood by them while all hell was breaking loose throughout the VA in connection with the scandalous treatment veterans were getting at other medical centers. The scandal cost Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki his job.

I’ve been fortunate since enrolling in the VA health program about three years. I’ve enjoyed perfect health. I visit the Creek center twice each year; I get in and get out quickly; the nurse practitioner I see gives me a clean bill of health; the staff is courteous, professional and efficient.

All that said, I’ve developed a slight hiccup. My health, while still quite good, isn’t pitch perfect at the moment. My left leg hurts … constantly. I visited the Creek medical center this past week for my regular visit and told my nurse practitioner about my problem, which arose while my wife and I were traveling back east in June. She diagnosed it quickly: I have nerve problem stemming from my lower back, causing the pain to shoot down the front of my left leg. It hurts constantly throughout my quadriceps muscle.

The VA called today. I have scheduled a visit next week for some physical therapy. I am unclear about what might lie ahead after my physical therapy sessions have ended. Maybe they’ll be able to deaden the pain in my leg. If not, then I might need to have my leg and back examined with an MRI so they can determine the precise source of the pain.

None of this is life-threatening. I don’t even consider it a serious ailment; it’s more of an annoyance than anything else.

This hitch in my git-along, though, does represent the first legitimate test of the medical care I can expect at the Thomas E. Creek Veterans Medical Center.

My optimism remains quite high. The president of the United States has made veterans care a “top priority.” I appreciate his stated commitment. If it goes well, I’m willing to give him all the credit he deserves. If it doesn’t, well, he’ll hear about that, too.

I’ll report back to you later.

Thank you, Mr. President, for keeping this promise

This red-blooded American veteran wants to thank Donald J. Trump for keeping a campaign promise.

He is going to sign a bill into law that seeks to crack down on those who fail to provide adequate service to military veterans and extends whistleblower protections for those who rat out the violators. The law will give VA officials greater authority to fire failed employees and will, according to CNN, “protect those who uncover wrong doing at the agency.”

Read the CNN.com story here.

The Department of Veterans Affairs was rocked in 2013 and 2014 by reports of veterans dying in Phoenix, Ariz., after they endured interminable delays in getting medical care; the VA worsened it by covering it up. The scandal cost Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki — a retired Army general and former Army chief of staff — his job.

I was among the millions of Americans¬† horrified by the news and the fallout. Indeed, I happen to have a dog in that fight — as I, too, am a veteran who happens to get excellent care at the Thomas Creek Veterans Medical Center in Amarillo. Then again, I’m fortunate, in that I haven’t gotten seriously ill since signing enrolling in the VA system in 2015.

The bill the president is going to sign into law won bipartisan support in both congressional chambers; the Senate approved it by a unanimous voice vote.

Trump said during the 2016 campaign that the VA was the “most corrupt” agency in the federal government. I think he might have overstated that by a good bit. Still, it doesn’t matter now.

The president vowed to take care of veterans and I appreciate that he’s going to make good on that pledge.

Palin emerges in Trump Cabinet search … finally!


Therrrre she is!

Sarah Palin has come out of hiding. The former half-term Alaska governor — and 2008 Republican vice-presidential nominee — now might be in the running for a spot in Donald J. Trump’s Cabinet.

For what post, you might ask? Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

And what, you also might ask, are Gov. Palin’s qualifications for that post? About the only thing I can come up with is that her son served a couple of tours during the Iraq War, then came home and got arrested on weapons charges, to which he pleaded guilty. Palin then blamed the Obama administration for ignoring veterans’ health care issues and suggested that was the cause of her son’s legal troubles.

There you have it. That’s all the qualification the president-elect might need in this highly critical position.


Palin has not distinguished herself since she and Sen. John McCain lost the 2008 presidential election to Sens. Barack Obama and Joe Biden. She has starred in her own reality TV show, been a contributor to the Fox News Channel, been the subject of some gossip tabloids, watched a few of her kids get into trouble with the law.

My biggest concern for the president-elect, if he’s seriously considering Palin to head the Department of Veterans Affairs, is whether she’ll “go rogue” in the manner she did while running as Sen. McCain’s VP running mate.

We keep hearing how Trump doesn’t much cotton to subordinates stealing his thunder. The way I see it, Palin has made a bit of a habit of doing that very thing.

Still, the idea that Trump might even be thinking about placing Palin in his Cabinet suggests — to me, at least — that the GOP talent pool available to the president-elect is mighty thin.