Category Archives: Veterans’ Issues

How To Explain Why You Hate Poseurs

stolen-valor-SF-phonyCall them what you will — poseurs, wannabes, walts, blowfish, or the World War I vintage term, “four-flusher” — but we hate ’em. Doesn’t even matter if they’re faking our service. A guy who pretends to be a Naval Aviator or a Marine Scout Sniper infuriates us just as much as some goon rockin’ an unearned Green Beret, and we’re pretty sure that the beret goon also gets up the nose of our Navy, Marine and Air Force bros.

That said, it’s easy to discuss this with fellow vets, because we’re all pretty much on the same page, regardless of what heights we scaled (or depths we plumbed) during our time in uniform. But it’s hard to get it across to most civilians. That’s probably why the Supreme Court invalidated the Stolen Valor Act. None of them are actual vets, are they? They’re all Yarvard lawyers. They would never find against a prohibition on practicing law without passing the Bar Exam — that’s something that hits them where they live.

But military service? Meaningless, foreign, distant and contemptible — that’s how the Justices of the Supreme Court see you, and how the vast majority of judges and lawyers see you.

So this article by Scott Faith at Havok Journal, which is almost a year old, is a pretty good resource when some judge, lawyer, or other non-military person looks at you in complete puzzlement when you’re ranting about the medieval tortures you have in mind for some poseur. It’s called “Why Veterans Hate Posers So, So, So, SO Very Much,” and that’s just what it is.

Faith makes a real effort to explain why we loathe poseurs, and who is and isn’t one:

So who isn’t a poser under this definition?  The short answer is, outward appearance on its own doesn’t count, it’s all about intent.  People who wear military-style fatigues to do rugged work like hunting, or simply to stay warm, are not posers.  Children who are obviously too young for military service aren’t posers.  People who wear military-themed clothing, including unit- or qualification-specific shirts or hats, are not automatically posers (do you think everyone wearing an NFL jersey played professional football?).  Legitimate re-enactors aren’t posers, and as for Airsofters… well, that’s debatable.  Anyway, even celebrities who wear stylized military uniforms or hipsters who wear military-style jackets or hats to be “ironic” aren’t posers, they’re just douchebags.  That’s an important difference.

He even creates a taxonomy of four classes of the scrotes. And he runs through the possible solutions, including the all-time favorite:

Unfortunately, the “summarized ass whipping” is not recognized as a legal course of action, so most of the time military posers do not get the punishment they so richly deserve…. So now it’s pretty much an open invitation for military posers, to include well-known celebrity actors like Shia LaBeouf, to carry on however they want.

The fact of the matter is, what most of these guys need is a personal and particularized beating, but the lawyers (see above comments about the vet-hostile ethos of the Supreme Court) won’t let you do that.

So… Big Boy Rules are in effect. Don’t get caught.

A VA Roundup

VA-veterans-affairsAh, the Veterans Administration. Few things are more dependable, for certain values of dependable: it is a veritable Old Faithful of scandal and all the naughty -feasances. The Department of Veterans Affairs always produces more bleak news than a scandal-weary public can consume.

This post could have been double the size, with treble the specific entries, and we last covered VA problems Friday. 

ITEM: What Medical License?

Philadelphia Veterans HospitalThis is from someone known to the blog. Her Grandfather is being treated by a VAMC (Philadelphia) and ran into problems with a specific physician. He insisted Gramps go to dialysis,  something she (with a medical background we won’t specify) thinks is unnecessary. This led to a disagreement with him doing the MD equivalent of pointing at the rank on his collar.

So she looked up his board certification. What board certification? He didn’t have any, even in his specialty (which wasn’t nephrology). That’s not that big a deal, we argued: lots of good doctors aren’t board certified, even though there’s been a push for it for decades.

Then she looked up his medical license. What medical license? It turned out (if we have the story straight), the story was that had had one, but not in Pennsylvania; in any event, his license half a continent away had lapsed. But that story was not true: Dr. Dialynsist appears never to have had a license whatsoever.

It is not a requirement at the VA and at some other .gov medical jobs.

He didn't have one of these.

He didn’t have one of these. Us neither, but then, we’re not seeing his patients.

Dr. Dialynsist did, in fact, complete medical school (and unlike several of his Philly VAMC Colleagues who are products of Monterrey, Grenada, or Santo Domingo, he did it in the United States!) but he never served an internship or residence. VA classes him as a “fellow,” and roughly like a PA or a nurse practitioner, he’s only supposed to be practicing under the direct supervision of a licensed MD.

The situation is more complex and involved than that. But here’s whee we see a glimmer of light. The lady in question left a long voicemail for the head doc of the center, expecting the usual VA stonewall. Imagine her surprise when she got a call back with an apology  for delay — Doc had had a rough period on call, and this was his one day off before things started up again.

He listened. He asked questions. He talked. He explained.

He promised that Dr Dialynsist will be “removed” from the position he’s in. Exactly what that entails, we’re not sure. And that he will take a personal interest in the health of her Grandfather.  And he convinced her he means it.

Now, the old veteran is an old man, with an old man’s ills. (Although not, yet, kidney failure). The long-run prognosis for him is the same as the long-run prognosis that that notable physician, Lord Keynes, assigned to all of us: in the long run, we are all dead. But she, at least, is convinced that someone at VA cares about her family member, even though she previously had face time with a guy that visibly did not.

There are good people in the system. There are even good people who haven’t burned out yet (which is as fine a testament to human resilience as there ever was). There’s just always a strong correlation between socialized systems’ disruption of incentives, and bad luck. 

ITEM: Suuure, The VA is All on the Up-and-Up.

Dateline, Cleveland, 24 August:

A Buffalo-based company has agreed to pay a $12 million penalty and to divest itself from a large federal project in California to resolve criminal liability from a kickback scheme for which the former Cleveland Veterans Affairs director was sent to prison.

Cannon Design, in an agreement announced Wednesday by the Justice Department and the Department of Veterans Affairs, admitted to criminal conduct by more than a dozen of its employees who took part in the scheme.

The sweetheart deal, cut by the cronies with VA IG Michael Missal, lets all 12 of the admitted criminals avoid charges and consequences: only the company’s stockholders will take the hit, along with one executive, Mark Farmer, who got two years something for bribing a VA official. (The company has to divest itself of only one ill-gotten VA project. It keeps anything else).

Morgantown FCI -- the country club for connected Federal inmates.

Morgantown FCI — the minimum security country club for 800 “connected” Federal inmates.

Their partner in crime (literally), head of the Cleveland VAMC and later the Dayton VAMC WIlliam Montague, pled guilty in 2014 to 64 felony counts of taking kickbacks into a bogus consulting company he’d set up on the side. In June 2016 he was sentenced to 57 months (4yr 9mo) in Club Fed. He’s now inmate number 59119-060 in Morgantown FCI, dancin’ to the jailhouse rock, just down the hall from his buddy 60514-060, alias Mark Farmer.

This is how the VA works. Is it time to disband it yet?

ITEM: The Union Won the Civil War in 1865. But Against Whom? It Erases the Losers from History.

burningconfedflagThe Washington Times reports today:

The Veterans Affairs Department quietly moved this month to ban flying of Confederate flags from fixed flagpoles at the cemeteries it runs, striking yet another blow against the controversial emblem.

Congress had debated and rejected that change, but the Obama administration decided to move forward anyway, saying it was unilaterally imposing the restrictions.

“In particular, we will amend our policy to make clear that Confederal flags will not be displayed from any permanently fixed flagpole in a national cemetery at any time,” wrote Ronald E. Walters, under secretary for memorial affairs at the VA.

Walters was writing to an individual Congressman, Administration ally Jared Huffman (D-CA), who has sought such a ban, but could not win a majority for it in his house. Emboldened by the victory, he is now free to seek the desecration of Confederate graves in national cemeteries, long an objective.

Like most Washington nabobs, Jared Huffman himself never served in the military of the United States. No ancestor of Rep. Huffman fought in the Civil War.

The VA has politicized the cemeteries of our fallen soldiers — and their honorable opponents. Is it time to disband it yet, and put this sacred ground under apolitical administration?

ITEM: Wisconsin DVA is Channeling the Fed Version. This is Not Good.

The Wisconsin DVA allegedly has been sticking its fingers into the trust fund of a separate establishment, the King Veterans Home, for its near-$40 million surplus, to support general WDVA operations, according to one WI politician.

State Senator Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay, is calling for a federal investigation of mismanagement and a ban on any future transfers of funds from the King Veterans Home to the Veterans Trust Fund or any other state fund.

[R]esidents, staff and family members have reported severe nursing and staff shortages, broken wheelchairs, urine soaked carpet and have raised the possibility that residents are being overly medicated.

“We have veterans who served in Special Forces saying they were treated like cattle and like children,” Hansen said in the press release. “Such treatment is disrespectful and these claims deserve immediate investigation by no less than the federal government.  Until that happens not one dime should be used for any purpose other than fixing the problems at King.”

We’re not personally aware of any SF vets at King, but we don’t know the whereabouts of all our tens of thousands of brothers, so there could be a couple in there. Hansen doesn’t seem like he’s asking anything unreasonable. The WDVA has released a statement that does not seem to be directly responsive to Hansen’s points. It cites US DVA approval of the facilities at King (which is a bit like lobbying Yad Vashem for a medal with Josef Mengele as your character reference).

 

VA: Millions for “Art,” Because…?

VA-veterans-affairsThe Veterans Administration might kind of stink at taking care of veterans, and they might be a little too loose with the purse strings to phonies and wannabees claiming questionable disabilities. But there’s one thing they’re good at taking care of: state-approved, government-funded “artists.” Neil McCabe at Breitbart:

“Included in the expenditures is a 27-foot artificial Christmas tree for $21,500 delivered to Chillicothe, Ohio and two sculptures costing $670,000 for a VA facility in California that serves blind veterans,” according to the report produced by the government spending watchdog Open the Books. Open the Books was established as a legacy of Dr. Tom Coburn’s vigilance over government spending during his Senate career.

Other examples of the VA’s art spending spree include $6.3 million in taxpayer funds expended at the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System. There, $483,000 went for a large decorative rock and $807,000 was for the site preparation for the rock outside the building. Inside the center, the VA built a $330,000 half arc in the lobby of the mental health clinic, spent $365,000 for a sculpture at the entrance to the pool, and $305,000 for a sculpture in the center’s main lobby. Maybe, the most ambitious of the health center’s art programs was the $285,000 spent for the wall of dozens of rocks that light up to spell out quotes by President Abraham Lincoln and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt–in Morse Code.

And the trend of art spending is just going up.

VA_artwork_spendingRCP_Chart

Half a million here, quarter million there, and pretty soon you’re talking about real money. In fact, Congress forbade them for spending more on art when they’d racked up an $18 million bill on things like this:

At a facility in nearby San Francisco, Veterans Affairs spent $32,000 on 62 framed photographs from the local area, roughly $500 per photo.

A VA facility in Puerto Rico spent $610,000 on artwork and one in Alaska spent $100,000 on a sculpture.

And so the VA stopped, right? Ha. It’s the VA. It just kept on motoring for a couple million more:

In his July 26 letter to Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert A. McDonald and Sen. Mark Kirk (R.-Ill.) pointed out that one year ago, the VA issued a moratorium on art purchases, and then went ahead to spend $1.8 million on artwork. At the same time, the VA is sandbagging billions of dollars in unpaid invoices associated with the Veterans Choice Program. The program is a recent reform that allows veterans to use private sector medical services to mitigate long waiting times and distances between residences and facilities.

VA-Graph-of-High-End-Arwork-Spending-by-Year

(Yes, the two slides appear to show the same numbers, but different totals. The second chart total purports to be exclusively “big-ticket” items). They’ve got the whole thing line-item-by-line-item in a .pdf if you want to dig into it, and one thing we note is that the $17, $18 or $20 million they’ve blown on artwork has been blown only on things that are explicitly labeled “artwork.” If they called it “art work”, “art”, “painting,” “sculpture,” “installation” or just about anything else, it didn’t come up in this search, so these numbers may well be understated.

Of course, it’s nothing compared to the near $100 Billion that the VA spends on salaries. And while they’ve hired ~40k newbies, almost all are bureaucrats, not doctors — and the doctors’ peak salaries are not what’s driving spending; they’re about the same as they were in 2012.

VA bureaucrats vs doctore

In at least some cases that have become known to Congress, they end-ran the art moratorium by billing the art as “special projects”.

No one has yet looked into relationships between the free spenders and the artists. Wonder what they’d find? So far, every rock turned over at VA has exposed waste, fraud, failure and corruption. What combination of those VA Core Values do you suppose lies under this rock?

The organization that launched the investigation, Open the Books, has this on their home page, at the moment:

While up to 1,000 veterans died waiting for VA healthcare; while many calls to the suicide prevention hotline were answered by voicemail; while the healthcare claims appeals process was described as “the hamster wheel”; and while the VA created 40,000 new positions, but hired only 3,600 doctors (2012-2015) – the agency managed to spent $20 million on artwork.

Included in the expenditures is a 27’ artificial Christmas tree for $21,500 delivered to Chillicothe, OH and two sculptures costing $670,000 for a VA facility in California that serves blind veterans. Blind veterans can’t see fancy sculptures, and all veterans deserve to see a doctor.

Open the Books’ Adam Andrjewski has an op-ed at Forbes based on this research, and it’s been picked up elsewhere in the media, too.

Is it time to disband this thing yet?

When Veterans’ Charities are Rackets

snidely-whiplash-close

“I just say ‘for the vets,’ and the money comes rolling in. Mwahahaha!”

It seems like one of the most common types of charity fraud is the bogus veterans’ charity. Here. we’re not even referring to something like the Wounded Warrior Project, which basically aims to enrich insiders and professional fund-raising scamsters, but does incidentally help vets. We’re talking about scams that never help anybody but the guy collecting the money, who pockets it.

A scam charity seldom ends as it should, to wit, with indictments, trials, and prison sentences. Who’s going to investigate it? The Department of Justice is maxed out as the legal arm of the Black Criminals Lives Matter movement; the FBI has its hands full as the partisan political police,  if we’re to take recent appearances of James Comey at face value.

If you’re lucky, it’s exposed by ambush journalism, but journalists are more likely to share a social milieu with the charity Ponzis and Madoffs, which is why there is the balance there is, of laudatory and cautionary ink spilled on the Wounded Warriors Foundation racket.1 That is the task of a journalist in this twenty-first century: to fellate the comfortable and micturate upon the afflicted.

So when a reporter actually does his freakin’ job, it’s a glory to behold, as in this persistent reporter for a Los Angeles TV station, facing charity scammer Jason Wirtzer, who collected hundreds of thousands of dollars for a fake charity that was supposedly going to teach vets to fly.

CBS2 investigative reporter David Goldstein asked Wirtzer how many veterans he’s been able to help through the charity.

“We’ve got about 25 in the system right now,” Wirtzer said.

“How many vets have you trained?” asked Goldstein. “None, right?”

“I’ll tell you what, I’ll let you talk to my attorney if you want,” Wirtzer replied.

Now, a guy like Wirtzer, who’s up to no good, may actually have an attorney. But it’s more likely that his “attorney” is what internet wags call a “cartooney”: the imaginary lawyer behind most internet “I’ll sic my attorney on you!” threats. Reporter Goldstein found real people ripped off by this soi-disant “charity”:

Paul Williams, a retired Army pilot, told Goldstein he still has his raffle tickets purchased, he thought, for a good cause.

Via Skype from Alaska, Williams told Goldstein he twice bought raffle tickets from Winged Warriors.

“Well, even if I didn’t win, I am still supporting troops,” he said.

Williams may not have won, but San Miguel resident Mark Donnelly told Goldstein he saw his name on the Winged Warriors Facebook page as the runner-up.

“I got a phone call saying I was the second-place winner,” said Donnelly, who added he was supposed to win a pair of pilot headsets worth $1,000 but never received them.

“Anyone that uses veterans or any other type of organization to try and run a scam to make money for themselves, that is just pretty upsetting,” Donnelly said. “It’s too bad that those type of people exist.”

Yeah, we’d support the death penalty for this, but we’d never get it past the supreme court. Social milieu and scammers, again.

The plane Donnelly and others were hoping to win was this 1975 Beechcraft Sierra , which had been put up for sale by Bob Hancock of Lake Havasu.

According to Hancock, he cut the price and agreed to sell the plane for just under $50,000 when Wirtzer offered to buy it to raise money for vets.

“I thought it was awesome,” Hancock said. “A lot of military in my family, and I’m a flight instructor and I even volunteered to give free instruction if they wanted to come out to Lake Havasu, so I was thrilled.”

But the transaction never went through after all three Winged Warriors checks bounced, meaning Wirtzer never owned the plane that claimed was being raffled off to raise money for vets.

A spreadsheet included in a lawsuit filed against Winged Warriors by the website designer who claims he was also stiffed shows nearly 4,500 tickets were sold across the U.S., bringing in almost $175,000.

According to California Franchise Tax Board, Winged Warriors is not recognized as a charity, and the Attorney General’s Office told Goldstein it’s not registered to hold raffles.

But Wirtzer was doing just that when we caught up with him a few weeks ago in Marina del Rey, this time offering another plane on the Winged Warriors website being raffled.

“Can you prove that you’ve trained 25 vets?” Goldstein asked. “You can’t, can you?

“I’d like to, I’d like to,” Wirtzer said.

“You’d like to but you haven’t, right?” replied Goldstein.

When asked if he’s scamming people, Wirtzer said: “Absolutely not.”

“You claim to be raising money for vets, you claim to be training vets, raising money for veterans,” Goldstein said. “Where’s the money going?”

“To the programs,” Wirtzer replied.

“What programs? You basically said you weren’t training vets, were you?” asked Goldstein.

At that point, Wirtzer sped off on his bicycle, pedaling away from any more questions.

Wirtzer: "Curses! Foiled again." (File photo).

Wirtzer: “Curses! Foiled again.” (File photo).

Wirtzer could learn some lessons on “brazening it out” from some of our public figures, eh.

But for Hancock and likely many others who may have been caught up in Wirtzer’s raffles, there’s no question about Wirtzer’s motives.

“He is the worst scum of the earth,” said Hancock. “I can’t imagine anybody being worse than what he has done to these veterans.”
David Goldstein

via CBS2 Investigates Licensed Pilot Linked To Veteran Raffle Scam « CBS Los Angeles.

Note that while the guy is violating just about every charity solicitation law in the California state penal code, none of the state’s small army of regulators and cops could be bothered to look into it. Steal $175 from a 7/11,  the police will at least take a report and look at the surveillance cameras. Steal $175,000 from veteran-supporters with a scam charity, and the sound of crickets is deafening. Wirtzer is exposed not by the vast resources of the multibillion-dollar state government or of the trillions-throwing tribunes of the Fed, but by some local TV station’s news shop where you can probably count the investigative reporters on your thumbs. Kudos to Dave Goldstein, for scooping the slumbering FBI.

Charity Navigator, the  nonprofit watchdog, maintains a list of scam charities. (They put it a little more mildly, “Fake Charities,” and they like to say the charity has a “Donor Advisory” on it).  Not surprisingly, Wirtzer’s “Winged Warriors” is on the list. The whole list is here. It has 35 soi-disant charities on it; these 10 purport or purported to be servicemembers’ or veterans’ benefit charities.

Care Package Campaign
Disabled Veterans of America
I Care Foundation
Paralyzed American Veterans
Spotlight on Heroes
United Soldiers Outreach LLC
United States Disabled Veterans
United States Handicapped-Disadvantaged
Veterans Helping Nevada Veterans
Winged Warriors

Bottom line: before you give, check Charity Navigator, and your state’s registry of charities, first. Not to mention giving the charity’s name a bing with your search engine of choice.

Notes

  1. For another example, consider charity racketeer and socialite Pari Livermore, who received a laudatory profile about her work as a matchmaker who fund-raises for “Spotlight on Heroes” — a nonexistent charity — in the New York Times. Written, as usual, by a reporter in her own cozy social circle — a “lifestyle” or puff-piece hack. When a reader investigated and found the charity nonexistent and Miss Livermore a fraud, the Times haughtily refused to run a correction and still continues to promote Miss Livermore and her bogus charity. Dean Baquet, then Times editor, contemptuously dismissed a critic, saying, “You will notice in the stories about this particular charity that there are some people quoted praising its work.” — in other words, testimonials offset facts, when the Times is defending one of its staff celebrity-fluffers.

The Eagle has Landed

Safely. In a clump of brush. After being saved with 150 precisely delivered rounds of .22LR from a scoped 10/22. Jason Galvin, an Army vet of Afghanistan, stepped up to do the right thing for the national symbol.

If that’s all pretty confusing to you, maybe you better just watch the video.

The eagle, named Freedom (what else?), is recovering and vets at the University of Minnesota are cautiously optimistic about his chances. If he comes to be released back into the wild, Jason and Jackie Galvin have asked one thing: could you bring him back home, to our lake?

Without the rope, this time.

A Petition for Veterans

vets_in_support_2aIf you oppose further gun bans consider this petition by USAF and SOF JAG vet David “Bo” Bolgiano. Bo was one of the rare ones who actually used his legal powers for good, not evil. He was looking for 1,000 signatures for a petition to counteract the misrepresentation by certain politically partisan retired officers (whom he calls out by name, as you’ll see below) who support applying gun bans

Whereas, certain former military officers – specifically Generals David Petraeus and Stanley McChrysal and Commander Scott Kelly – have recently formed an anti-Second Amendment, pro-gun control group to fund and support efforts to strip their fellow citizens of their inherent right to keep and bear arms; and,

And, since Bo is a lawyer, there’s a metric crapton of more “whereases” in there, and it winds up:

NOW THEREFORE, the following current and former members of the Armed Forces of the United States hereby Petition all in government and positions of power to stand firmly behind their oath to defend and protect the Constitution from all enemies foreign and domestic, which includes that sacred document’s acknowledgment of the Individual Citizen’s inherent Right to Bear Arms; and,

We formally denounce the actions of those people – including misguided brethren veterans – who wish to disarm law-abiding Americans.

Or, hey, you can go with Petraeus who lost to the Islamists, but conquered a floozie (who went on to write the Authorized Biography of General Dreamboat).

The petition is online at ipetitions.com. That site is fairly ate up; if your name contains punctuation (like, say, the period after your middle initial?) the code can’t handle it. And once you have stripped your name of offending symbology, and signed, it tries to get you to give ’em money.

Even When They Hire Vets, VA Still Screws Up

Duckworth celebrates buying off VA whistleblowers on Friday

Duckworth celebrates buying off VA whistleblowers on Friday

Even when they hire veterans, the VA screws up. Illinois politician Tammy Duckworth is definitely a vet, but all she did at VA was squander money.

Item: $5.2 Million to Crony Firm for PR

The Senate confirmed Duckworth as assistant secretary of the Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs (OPIA) at the VA April 22, 2009. She served from April to June, 2011, when she resigned to run for a House seat.

After Duckworth left, the inspector general produced a report in 2014 that found OPIA blew $5.2 million on a contract for “services that lacked a specific connection to VA’s strategic outreach objectives,” and despite OPIA’s best efforts, the office could not prove that Woodpile’s outreach campaigns “yielded any increases in the use of VA healthcare, benefits, or services by veterans.”

During Duckworth’s tenure, a memo from Jan. 11, 2010, stated that OPIA needed a contractor to take on the task of a rebranding campaign, as no one on staff had the ability or expertise. In July of that same year, OPIA handed Woodpile a $5.2 million contract for “outreach campaigns,” but the inspector general report found numerous invoices that did not “clearly link to accomplishment of VA outreach goals.”

OPIA did not implement any performance metrics to assess the effectiveness of Woodpile’s work.

via Under Tammy Duckworth, VA Wasted $5.2 Million In Single Deal | The Daily Caller.

Ever seen a contract without any specific deliverables? The “connected” firm that connected themselves with this opportunity did.

Nice work if you can get it, as the old song says.

ITEM: Whistleblower Retaliation, Take I

That wasn’t all. She’s been credibly accused of joining VA officials in retaliating against whistleblowers:

Veterans Affairs whistleblowers Germaine Clarno and Dr. Lisa Nee claimed that Rep. Tammy Duckworth did little to respond to their claims of mistreatment of veterans and corruption within the Hines VA.

According to their allegations, Duckworth was largely unresponsive to evidence related to veteran mistreatment and inadequate investigations conducted by the VA’s inspector general.

Clarno claimed that, although she approached Duckworth “many” times, the congresswoman did little to respond to her claims.
“I never felt that [Duckworth] wanted to hear exactly what was going on,” Clarno said. “I really thought going to Tammy Duckworth, that she would be the one who would stand up and say this has got to stop.”

But hey, anybody who works for VA gets one accusation of wrongdoing these days… it’s not like there’s a pattern of ab–  oh, wait:

ITEM: Whistleblower Retaliation, Take II

Duckworth also faces charges of retaliation against two employees at the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs. The employees filed complaints alleging mistreatment and abuse of veterans at IDVA facilities during Duckworth’s tenure. Trial is set to begin on April 4.

The trial was rescheduled, and would have run just before this fall’s election, in which Duckworth, currently in the House, is hoping to unseat liberal Republican Mark Kirk from a Senate seat. For gun voters, it’s a nearly meaningless election because Kirk and Duckworth are identically hostile to gun owners and identically committed to sweeping gun bans. Indeed, Kirk, a nominal Republican, more usually votes with Democrats, but the Republicans want to re-elect him for the sake of retaining their Senate majority.

But there isn’t going to be a trial, because Duckworth and her lawyers folded on Friday — after blowing some $2 million of the State of Illinois’s money covering her legal flanks — dumping money on the plaintiffs to buy a gag order in the settlement paperwork, and to avoid having to testify under oath:

Embattled Democratic Rep. Tammy Duckworth (Ill.) settled on Friday a years-long legal dispute surrounding allegations the lawmaker wrongly retaliated against employees during her tenure as the head of Illinois’ Department of Veterans Affairs.

Duckworth, who is battling to unseat Sen. Mark Kirk (R., Ill.) this November, was accused of silencing state whistleblowers by humiliating them, giving them poor performance reviews, and eventually terminating the employees.

Duckworth’s legal fees may have cost taxpayers nearly $2 million, according to a FOIA response from Illinois’ attorney general.

Kirk’s camp accused Duckworth of settling the case to avoid incriminating herself at trial.

The Chicongo Trib writes:

Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office, representing Duckworth in the case, said in a statement that during a pre-trial settlement conference in Downstate Union County “it became clear that we could resolve this matter… for nuisance value — saving the state the costs of lawyers preparing for and trying the case.”

Lisa Madigan is the career pol daughter of career pol and uber-fixer Mike Madigan. She’s a close ally of Duckworth, as is BOP Inmate Number 40892-424 at the Federal Correctional Institute, Englewood Colorado. From the same Trib story:

Duckworth had been appointed to head the state’s veteran’s agency by now-imprisoned former Gov. Rod Blagojevich following an unsuccessful run for Congress against U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam of Wheaton in 2006.

The Blagojevich connection, and allegations raised in the lawsuit, had prompted Kirk to accuse her of hiring “goombahs” at the former governor’s direction, and he questioned whether she wanted to avoid testifying. Duckworth has said she wanted to get all the facts out but was prevented from speaking about the case while it was being litigated.

She wanted to get all the facts out, until she had everyone else muzzled by court order. Well played, we must admit.

The Trib also dances around the root of the problem in Illinois: the pervasive, bipartisan culture of corruption, the so-called Chicago Way. (Remember how Inmate Number 40892-424 got to Englewood? He more or less held an auction for the Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama on his ascension to the Supreme Personality of Godhead Presidency).

Duckworth [tried] to fire 22-year state employee Christine Butler from her administrative job …. Duckworth later reversed that decision after being told that she first had to follow written disciplinary procedures and instead issued a reprimand with a paid suspension against Butler.

Human resources secretary Denise Goins alleged complaints about her boss were ignored and led to an unfavorable performance review that prevented her from receiving a raise. Goins had said Duckworth urged her to “do your job and keep your mouth shut.”

Goins and Butler, who both continue to work at a veterans home, also say they were punished for speaking out after Patricia Simms, the acting administrator, allowed unauthorized people to care for a resident. The two state workers had originally sought compensation of at least $50,000, as well as other financial penalties.

Simms was and is a Duckworth/Blagojevich/Madigan ally. Note that this is a whole other case from her retaliation against Clarno and Nee.

It looks as if Madigan paid 100% of Goins’ and Butler’s legal fees, no questions asked, cutting the deal with the attorneys behind their nominal clients’ backs. Hey, it’s the Chicago Way.

If you’re a vet, or one of the VA docs who treats ’em, what do you think matters more to Duckworth: veterans’ health and lives, or her own career?

Who knows what heights she’ll ascend to by the time her old sponsor gets sprung from Englewood (currently scheduled for 2024)?

 

Now This is a VA Case to get Angry About

VA-veterans-affairsThis is a single-source report, so take it with a grain of salt. But if this is true, VA doctors wouldn’t amputate a wounded vet’s excruciatingly painful lower leg. Instead, they wanted to take him the Candy Man route, which he refused.

To get the amputation, David Cross had to go to a clinic willing to do the elective amputation — in Mexico.

How good is VA medical care, that vets go to Mexico to get around it?

Ask yourself how much pain you could endure in a limb before you would voluntarily beg to have it amputated. The answer would have to be a lot, right? Well David Cross has been dealing with this kind of pain for six years with no help from the VA, besides medication being thrown at him and repetitive tests being ran.

In 2009, David Cross was hit with a 1000lb IED in Afghanistan, which resulted in over six years of asking the VA to do something about it the injury sustained to his leg and foot.

“I was injured back in 2009. Injuries forced me to retire in 2012. I have tried multiple tests and without any help from them (Buffalo VA). I ASKED for amputation knowing it could help me, and they refused to do it. Instead, they wanted me to use opiates, which I refused to take. Then they wanted to try more tests and after six years of tests, I said no. They still didn’t want to do the surgery.”

What did he do about it? Mexico. With the help of the LT Dennis Zilinksi foundation, he managed to travel from NY, all the way down to Mexico in order to have the procedure performed.

via Crossing The Border For Amputation. (Gruesome foot-in-a-bucket photo at the link).

Now, there may be more to this that we’re not seeing. VA’s hands are tied by HIPPA, so we don’t get to hear his VA doctors’ side of the story. Maybe they had ethical issues with an elective amputation. Maybe they had other issues. Maybe they’re holding out hope for therapies now in trials. We don’t know.

And maybe they don’t think this amputation will help Cross with his pain. We’ve known more than one amputee who continued to feel pain in the amputated limb, long after it had gone the way of all medical waste. But again, we don’t know and we can’t know. It could be any of these things, or something else entirely. (“Damn it, Jim, I’m not a doctor. I’m a weapons man.”)

Or, it could be that the VA is just as messed up as a screen door on a submarine.

VA Blamed for Suicide Attempt

VA-veterans-affairsThis latest “VA outrage” seems to us to be a stretch. It’s a tragedy, but the only way to place it all at the feet of the VA is to deny that the vet has any responsibility to help himself.

This young man survived two tours in combat, survived stepping on an IED that left him permanently disabled only to come home and find that the VA is a bigger enemy to U.S. military veterans than the Taliban and ISIS combined.  They’re certainly responsible for more deaths of servicemen than the Islamic terrorists.

Uh, that’s a little hyperbolic, we think. What specifically happened?

This Marine reached out to the VA for help.  He called their “crisis hotline” repeatedly and got a runaround.  He got upset and they told him to call back when he calmed down.  It probably never occurred to them that he was calling a “crisis hotline” and it’s their job to calm him down.

We have to say the “crisis line” operators, who as far as we know are volunteers with zero to minimal training, are in a jam here. On the one hand, they can get crucified for calling the cops, which tends to wind up with some SWAT team full of non-vet Tacticool Tommys showing up, flexing for the cameras, and blowing the vet away at the first opportunity so they’re home in time for dinner. On the other, they can get crucified by not stopping some guy from shooting himself.

Er, how about crediting the vet with a little agency here. We didn’t shoot him. You didn’t shoot him. His momma and his poppa and his Uncle Sam didn’t shoot him, and neither VA, nor their hotline contractors, nor the contractors’ lonelyhearts club call takers shot him, either.

Who shot him? That’s the guy who needs to take responsibility.

You can bet that no one in that call center will lose their job for their criminal treatment of this young Marine.  No one will probably even be spoken to harshly.  They’re the VA, they care about bonuses not veterans.

Look, a government job is a job that can’t be lost. It’s an entitlement, like welfare. There’s nothing to be gained by raving about it. We should probably be thankful occasional government employees do cross over that invisible red line, and become, however rarely or temporarily, government workers. Then, given Starr’s Law1, we should probably be thankful that government workers actually working is as rare as it is. As some wag once said, thank God we don’t get all the government we pay for!

Fortunately, he survived his suicide attempt.  Twenty-two other veterans don’t survive theirs every day.

Good thing he did not succeed, but we have our doubts about that number, actually. It smells bad, like the idea that one in five college women is raped. Really? The only proper response to that is not sending your daughter to one of those colleges. Likewise, if so many vets are whacking themselves, you probably want to stay away from other vets. Those guys are nuts!

Hopefully he will get the care he needs to get back on track to a productive life.  He can do it. He’s got the mental toughness to make it.  He just needs some help.

That last is a sentiment we can fully agree with.

The question is, will the VA provide it or will they continue to ignore the needs of this young man and tens of thousands of others like him?

via VA Drives Quadruple Amputee Hero to Shoot Himself **BREAKING**.

The mistake is this: expecting the VA to do a damn thing for you. Even in this case, the guy seems to have had no to minimal help from VA compared to what private foundations have done — which pretty much comes down to veterans doing it for veterans.

But how is the VA responsible for him trying to kill himself? We don’t see it. At some point you have to help yourself, and when it gets too hard, find yourself some help.

Notes

  1. Starr’s Law: “Everything the Government touches turns to shit.” Attributed to Ringo Starr.

Lower the Flag, Get the Sack

Allen Thornwell

This evocative portrait of Allen Thornwall was shot by Observer photog John Simmons.

This is one of those times when a company seems to have done something that answers conclusively the question of whether their management is stupid, or evil. In the case of Time Warner Cable, the answer is, “both.” (This probably won’t shock cable subscribers — does anybody but the paid actors on TV ads even pretend to like any cable company? — but their undoubtedly bottom-drawer customer service has nothing to do with this). Mike Gordon in the Charlotte Observer:

When Charlotte veteran Allen Thornwell lowered his employer’s American flag to half-staff on Memorial Day, he says he did not think to ask permission or consider the possibility that he had done anything wrong.

Instead, the 29-year-old former Marine, who served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, says he was thinking about his country, the meaning of the holiday and his best friend, Geoff, another Marine who killed himself two years ago after returning stateside.

On Tuesday, Thornwell was fired. A manager at the placement service that arranged the vet’s job at Time Warner Cable in Charlotte told him that the company was disturbed by Thornwell’s “passion for the flag and (his) political affiliation.”

Thornwell also took his outrage to Facebook, naming Time Warner and posting a video.

Contacted this week, Thornwell said he remains in shock over what happened.

“I’m not even mad right now,” he says. “I don’t know what kind of moral compass you need to fire a veteran on Memorial Day for lowering the flag.”

A Time Warner Cable spokesman confirmed Friday that the former Marine “was no longer under contract” with the company but declined further comment

via Charlotte vet says he was fired for lowering flag on Memorial Day | The Charlotte Observer.

The flag in question. Allen Thornwell photo. (Hey, at least they have a flag. Who expected that?)

The flag in question. Allen Thornwell photo. (Hey, at least they have a flag. Who expected that?)

It would be one thing if the company was saying that Thornwell is making it up. Instead, they’ve shut up and hunkered down, which is exactly what a stupid company would do. And an evil one. And, most especially, a guilty one.

Thornwell has hired an attorney, and he seems to have gotten just the right one, a veteran himself:

Charlotte attorney Murph Archibald, whom Thornwell called after the incident, says his client should have never lost his job.

“It’s disgraceful,” says Archibald, a Vietnam vet. “He didn’t do anything wrong. He’s a veteran working on Memorial Day who corrected what he thought was a disrespectful flying of the American flag … I would have taken it down myself.”

Whether Time Warner Cable was improperly displaying the flag during the country’s annual tribute to its dead veterans is a matter of debate. The U.S. Flag Code, which offers guidance on how to fly the flag during holidays, says the banner should be at half-staff until noon on Memorial Day then returned to its normal position. Thornwell said the incident took place around 2:30 p.m.

Did you know that? We didn’t know that. Most businesses and government offices around here lower it all day. Guess we’re all wrong.

Thornwell, who was discharged in 2014, said he was aware of the holiday protocol but was moved to lower the flag anyway. He wishes now that he had asked permission.

“I didn’t think of it as the property of Time Warner Cable,” he says. “It’s everybody’s flag.”

 

He was a radioman in the Marines and is a techie of some sort, so perhaps some reader, some patriot, or some member of the incredible extended USMC network can hook an honorably discharged vet up.

And the rest of us should probably read and reread the thoroughly-reported and balanced story  by the Observer’s Mike Gordon. The story contains much more information about the incident and Thornwell, and a genuine attempt to understand both sides of the firing (hard when one side will not talk to you). It adds up to one of the most sympathetic looks we’ve seen at the military-civilian cultural chasm. Gordon closes:

Thornwell strongly disputes the notion that he fits the stereotype of the displaced and brooding vet. He does acknowledge that he is still dealing with post-traumatic stress and other emotional problems left from his service, but he says his actions at the flagpole were never excessive.

In fact, Thornwell attributes his behavior to deeper emotions he felt throughout the day about his country, his dead friend and his own service. For the first time in his life, he says, he understood the true meaning of Memorial Day, and he felt it, too.

Now he needs a job.

First, he would like an apology – for him and other vets.

We don’t need an apology. We believe — thanks to Mike Gordon’s in-depth story, and you should Read The Whole Thing™ — that it’s all possibly a misunderstanding between two well-meaning camps. You wouldn’t get that if you just teed off from the short version of this story on Fox News, which also credits Gordon’s story, but (perhaps because of the relentless cut, cut, cut of TV news) omits the details, both the ones that make you sympathetic to Allen Thornwell and those that make you understand, if not sympathize, with the Time-Warner nervous Nellies who made him walk the plank.

Hey, at least they have a flag. Who would have expected that, after seeing how the entertainment industry in general treats soldiers and Marines like something stuck to the soles of their Italian shoes?