DISAMBIGUATION NOTICE: This is the webpage for Veterans for Common Sense (VCS), a non-profit national veterans organization based in Washington, DC – not to be confused with the, “Veterans Coalition for Common Sense,” or, “Florida Veterans for Common Sense,” or the, “Florida Veterans for Common Sense Fund,” which are distinct groups unrelated to VCS.  Read more about us (VCS) here.  

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VCS Among 42 Organizations Urging Senate to Protect Veterans in Higher Education Act Reauthorization

(Washington – October 10, 2019) – Yesterday, Veterans for Common Sense was among 42 organizations representing and advocating for students, families, taxpayers, veterans and service members, faculty and staff, civil rights and consumers, wrote to Senator Lamar Alexander to express concerns regarding his recently introduced bill, the Student Aid Improvement Act. Unfortunately, the bill fails to include any provisions that hold low-quality and sometimes predatory colleges accountable, and better protect students and taxpayers. Any reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA) must include robust consumer protections.

The signatories wrote, “Current law allows for students of color, low-income students, and veteran and active-duty military students to be targeted by, and over-represented in low-quality institutions, too many of which are for-profit colleges. This lack of accountability leads to students who cannot afford to repay the debt they take on, leaves students who took out loans based on misrepresentations and lies by institutions without recourse, and creates perverse incentives to target veterans for enrollment in low-quality programs.”

Read the letter:

https://ticas.org/accountability/letter-from-42-organizations-urging-senator-alexander-to-protect-consumers-and-taxpayers/

Posted in VCS In The News, Veteran Education Issues, Veterans for Common Sense News | Leave a comment

Epic Study of U.S. Army Soldiers finds 600% increases in sleep disorders linked to deployment

(Veterans for Common Sense – Sep. 5, 2019) – An epic-sized study of U.S. Army soldiers found 600-percent increases between 2003 and 2011 in the incidences of insomnia and sleep apnea, with both at least partially linked to deployment. Meanwhile, exposure to combat was also associated with increased risk — albeit smaller (20%) — of developing insomnia, but not of developing sleep apnea.
 
The study by researchers at the online university for military , demographic, deployment, and combat casualty data from all of the more than 1.3 million active duty US Army soldiers who served on active duty from 1997 to 2011.
 
Study results showed a risk of developing either insomnia or obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) more than doubled in deployed versus non-deployed soldiers.

 

According to Mayo Clinic, untreated sleep apnea can result in not just excessive daytime fatigue, feeling quick-tempered, moody, or depressed, but also increased risk of but increased motor vehicle accidents, high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, liver scarring , and complications with medications and surgery.
 
Study results showed the risk of developing insomnia to be increased by a smaller but significant degree – 20 percent – among deployed soldiers. However, there was no difference in risk of developing sleep apnea found between soldiers with and without combat exposure.
 
PTSD and TBI were identified as the likely cause of “a portion” of the dramatic increase in the deployment-associated sleep disorders. However, the researchers noted, “it is essential to determine underlying mechanisms responsible for these very large increases in insomnia and OSA and introduce effective preventive measures.”
 
The study, led by USARIEM researchers Dr. John A. Caldwell and Dr. Harris Liebermanas, compared the 2011 results to earlier 2003 findings.
 
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Congress Pushes to Expand, Focus Burn Pits Treatment Research

Man throwing trash into a burn pit. Photo courtesy U.S. Department of Defense

(Washington – May 3, 2019) – A bipartisan group of Congressional representatives has called for the creation of a new treatment research program relevant to veterans with toxic wounds resulting from exposure to massive open-air burn pits in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the global war on terrorism.

The previously unreported effort to secure funding for a new “Burn Pits Exposure Research Program” was led by three members of the Congressional Burn Pits Caucus, including Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Tex.), Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.), and Rep. Raul Ruiz, M.D. (D-Calif.), co-chair of the Caucus.

Together with more than a dozen other cosigners to a letter to defense appropriators, they called for the creation and funding of  the new medical research program “focused on achieving the improved health and lives of veterans affected by burn pit exposures.”  

According to the letter, written testimony last year by the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) said: ‘The use of open air burn pits in combat zones has caused invisible, but grave health complications for many service members…”, with, “clouds of hazardous chemical compounds that are unavoidable to those in close proximity”.

The new program would focus on three specific areas: accelerating the development of treatments for veterans affected by burn pits exposure; improve the definition, diagnosis, and scientific understanding of direct health outcomes resulting from the exposure; and assess other serious health conditions that might also have developed as a result, such as cancers and respiratory diseases.

The newly created program would be created within a unique and growing, Congressionally-directed medical research program funded under the U.S. Department of Defense Health Agency.  The request would elevate burn pits research to its own standalone program, with a Congressionally-specified budget, unique focus, and dedicated staff and mission.

“More independent research is necessary,” the VFW is quoted in the letter as having testified.

“That is why the VFW supports establishing a Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP) specifically for burn pits. The CDMRP has shown progress in identifying causes, effective treatments, and biomarkers for Gulf War Illness, and the VFW is confident a similar program for burn pits will help exposed veterans….”

Burn Pits 360, a veterans advocacy organization, is also quoted in the letter, explaining why it is critical the program be created outside the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), which historically has conducted most government research related to veterans.

“Much of the valuable medical research related to burn pits exposure has been led by researchers at independent, academic medical centers including Vanderbilt University, Stony Brook University, the Deployment-Related Lung Disease Center at National Jewish Health, and others,” the organization said.

Unlike VA, which only funds research projects by VA-employed researchers, the CDMRP  funds highly competitive research proposals by qualified researchers or teams in academia, any government agency, or the private sector.

Currently, burn pit exposure is listed as one of almost 50 topic areas under a broad, “catch-all” medical research program within the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP).  The CDMRP is administered by the U.S. Army’s medical research command at Fort Detrick, Maryland.

If the request is approved by the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, it would be included in the annual defense appropriations bill that then begins its long, complex journey through Congress.

The letter was requested by Veterans for Common Sense, Burn Pits 360, and the Sergeant Sullivan Circle, advocacy organizations that work on behalf of veterans affected by toxic wounds including burn pits exposure.

The Sergeant Sullivan Circle was named in honor of Sgt. Tom Sullivan, a Marine veteran of the Iraq War exposed to burn pits and other toxic exposures.  He was treated at Walter Reed for psychosomatic illness but died in 2009 of his undiagnosed or misdiagnosed toxic wounds , leaving behind his wife and then 3-year-old daughter.

Burn Pits 360 was co-founded by Rosie Torres and her husband LeRoy, who was diagnosed with a debilitating lung condition, constrictive bronchiolitis.  The condition is rare in the general population but frequently found via lung biopsy in veterans exposed to burn pits.

Veterans for Common Sense (VCS) is led by Anthony Hardie and other U.S. veterans of the 1991 Gulf War.  A longstanding leader on Gulf War Illness issues, another toxic wound resulting from Gulf War toxic exposures, he is quoted at length in Joseph Hickman‘s seminal work, The Burn Pits: The Poisoning of America’s Soldiers.

The VA’s official position on burn pits is that “research does not show evidence of long-term health problems from exposureto burn pits, according to a March 6 news report published by the Military Times group.

The full text of the Congressional request is below, and is available for download (PDF) on the VCS webpage.


April 1, 2019

The Honorable Pete Visclosky
Chairman
Subcommittee on Defense Committee on Appropriations
H-405, The Capitol,
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Ken Calvert
Ranking Member
Subcommittee on Defense
Committee on Appropriations
1016 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairman Visclosky and Ranking Member Calvert:

We thank you for your support for the many exceptional medical research programs within the Department of Defense (DoD) Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP), including medical research specific to open-air burn pit exposure under the Peer-Reviewed Medical Research Program (PRMRP). As the subcommittee develops an appropriations bill for FY 2020, we respectfully request the creation of a Burn Pit Exposure Medical Research Program similar to the Gulf War Illness Research Program (GWIRP).

The House Veterans’ Affairs Health Subcommittee received testimony last year recommending the creation of peer-reviewed medical research program dedicated to burn pit exposure modeled after the successful GWIRP. Written testimony submitted by the VFW stated: “The use of open air burn pits in combat zones has caused invisible, but grave health complications for many service members, past and present. Particulate matter, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds and dioxins – the destructive compound found in Agent Orange – and other harmful materials are all present in burn pits, creating clouds of hazardous chemical compounds that are unavoidable to those in close proximity … More independent research is necessary. That is why the VFW supports establishing a Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP) specifically for burn pits. The CDMRP has shown progress in identifying causes, effective treatments, and biomarkers for Gulf War Illness, and the VFW is confident a similar program for burn pits will help exposed veterans…. ”

Written testimony from Burn Pits 360 stated: “CDMRP is important for this treatment-focused research for several reasons. First, CDMRP has the ability to fund any qualified research team, not just those employed by the funding agency. By contrast, VA’s medical research program is solely intramural and open only to VA-employed researchers. Much of the valuable medical research related to burn pits exposure has been led by researchers at independent, academic medical centers including Vanderbilt University, Stony Brook University, the Deployment-Related Lung Disease Center at National Jewish Health, and others. Second, CDMRP includes in all levels the active participation of consumer reviewers — patients (or their caregivers) who are actually affected by the disease. This is of critical importance. VA offers no opportunity for similar involvement in research decision­making by the patients who are ultimately affected by such decisions. Finally, CDMRP has already shown its effectiveness with regards to other complex post-deployment, toxic exposure health conditions including traumatic brain injury (TBI) and Gulf War Illness (GWI), including through its emphasis on collaboration, treatment focus, and effective two-tiered peer review.”

We recommend a Burn Pit Exposure Medical Research Program develop a collaborative, inter-institutional, interdisciplinary, GWIRP-like research consortium while also funding other relevant research focused on achieving the improved health and lives of veterans affected by burn pit exposures, including the following goals, which may also help current and future military servicemembers similarly exposed:

  • Accelerating the development of treatments and their clinical translation for affected veterans (e.g., lung, brain, injury, symptoms, diseases, prevalent comorbidities, etc.);
  • Improving definition, diagnosis, and scientific understanding of the pathobiology and symptoms resulting from these exposures, including identifying biomarkers of exposure, exposure effect, and illness;
  • Assessing comorbidities, including the incidence, prevalence, early detection and diagnosis, treatments for, or any unique factors related to exposed veterans’ respiratory conditions (e.g. constrictive bronchiolitis, pulmonary fibrosis, etc.), cancers (e.g., lung, etc.), or other diseases.

We respectfully request that you provide the necessary resources in the FY20 DoD appropriations bill to establish this program. Furthermore, it is critical to the program’s success and accountability that it be a stand-alone program within the CDMRP and not be combined as a topic area within broader, less-targeted research programs. Our goal is not research for research’s sake, but the development of knowledge to guide recovery for veterans still suffering following their exposure to these airborne hazards. Thank you for your consideration of our request.

Sincerely,

JOAQUIN CASTRO                                               PETER T. KING
Member of Congress                                              Member of Congress

RAUL, RUIZ, M.D.                                                 TULSI GABBARD
Member of Congress                                              Member of Congress

JENNIFER GONZALEZ COLON                        HENRY C. “HANK” JOHNSON, JR.
Member of Congress                                              Member of Congress

PETE WELCH                                                         ILHAN OMAR
Member of Congress                                              Member of Congress

GREGORIO KILILI CAMACHO SABLAN        DARREN SOTO
Member of Congress                                              Member of Congress

ABIGAIL D. SPANBERGER                                 DONALD S. BEYER JR.
Member of Congress                                              Member of Congress

A. DONALD MCEACHIN                                      MIKE SHERRILL
Member of Congress                                               Member of Congress

CONOR LAMB                                                         PETER A. DEFAZIO
Member of Congress                                               Member of Congress


 

Posted in Burn Pits, Legislative News, Research, Toxic Wounds, Uncategorized, VCS In The News | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

97 Members of Congress push for Gulf War Illness treatment research funds

(Washington – April 4, 2019) – With scientific advances now regularly breaking related to Gulf War Illness, 97 members of Congress pushed this week for more treatment research for the debilitating condition that affects as many as one in three veterans of the 1991 Gulf War.

Led by Representatives Gregorio Sablan (D-N. Marianas) and retired Lt. General Jack Bergman (R-Mich.), the bipartisan group of 97 members of the U.S. House sent the letter to the defense appropriators calling for “the necessary resources to continue this vital and effective” Gulf War Illness treatment research funding.

“By congressional design, [it] is a unique medical research program narrowly focused on the vision of improving the health and lives of Veterans with Gulf War Illness,” they wrote, calling it “a model of how to conduct treatment­ oriented research to address a challenging illness” that “is succeeding where earlier programs failed.”

They also noted that, “two-thirds of GWIRP studies are still in progress,” but “there is a growing body of GWIRP-funded study results, many published in peer-reviewed scientific journals, that demonstrate steady advances of GWIRP’s goals of identifying underlying mechanisms, diagnostic markers, and treatments.”

Included among the 97 cosigners were the Chairman, Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.), and Ranking Member, Rep. Phil Roe, M.D. (R-Tenn.), of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, along with most of its subcommittee leaders and a majority of its members.

The request was supported by a myriad of veterans service organizations. With advocacy led by Veterans for Common Sense, they include: the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Veterans for Common Sense, Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), AMVETS, Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), Blinded Veterans Association (BVA), The Enlisted Association (TREA), Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), National Gulf War Resource Center, Bum Pits 360, Sgt. Sullivan Circle, and the National Vietnam & Gulf War Veterans Coalition.

###

UPDATE:  A parallel effort has succeeded in the U.S. Senate.  Led by U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), one-fifth of the Senate joined her in supporting continuation of the treatment-focused, patient-inspired Gulf War Illness Research Program.  

Read the full signed letters in PDF below, and see which Senators and Members of the House put their full signed support behind ill and suffering Gulf War veterans:




Posted in Gulf War Updates, Legislative News, Veterans for Common Sense News | Leave a comment

U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin and Jerry Moran Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Expand Access to Chiropractic Health Care for Current and Former Military Personnel

Bipartisan bill requires TRICARE to cover chiropractic services for military retirees and members of the National Guard and Reserve

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Jerry Moran (R-KS) today introduced bipartisan legislation to expand chiropractic health services for military retirees and members of the National Guard and Reserve. The Chiropractic Health Parity for Military Beneficiaries Act would require TRICARE to cover chiropractic services for all military service members, both active and retired, and non-activated reservists.

Currently, health care programs through the U.S. Department of Defense, including TRICARE, do not cover chiropractic care for military retirees and non-activated reservists. Senator Baldwin’s bill continues her bipartisan efforts to address the opioid epidemic by expanding access to complementary and integrative health services (check out under eye masks), which includes chiropractic care, for members of the military and veteran communities to treat chronic pain.

“Military retirees, reservists and National Guard members have served and sacrificed for our nation and the freedoms we all cherish. We all have a shared responsibility to do right by them,” said Senator Baldwin. “I’ve heard from Wisconsin veterans who are in desperate need of chiropractic health services so they can access non-opioid pain management care and live healthier lives. My bipartisan legislation with Senator Moran would make sure these individuals can get the health care benefits they’ve earned and deserve.”

“Many of the retired servicemembers and Reservists who served our country have sustained back and other neuromusculoskeletal injuries that can be treated through chiropractic care,” said Senator Moran. “However, the Department of Defense offers limited access to chiropractic care for Active duty and certain members of the Reserve Component – leaving many in need at a disadvantage. I’ve long advocated for increased access to chiropractic care in the VA, and this legislation will similarly increase access to chiropractic care for all military enrollees by expanding TRICARE coverage for retirees and all reservists. The men and women who have served our nation deserve access to the same care they received while on active duty, and I’m pleased to introduce legislation that makes certain they do.”

“On behalf of the 45,000 members of the National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS) and the nearly 500,000 soldiers and airmen of the National Guard, NGAUS is pleased to support this legislation addressing Chiropractic health care services for as part of the TRICARE program. NGAUS continues to advocate to close the current gaps in healthcare coverage for our National Guard service members. NGAUS believes this legislation is an important step in affording our reserve component service men and women the ability to access the types of healthcare their active duty counterparts receive. We would like to thank Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Senator Jerry Moran of Kansas for taking the lead on this initiative and for their continued support of our nation’s service men and women, especially our reserve component soldiers and airmen, in the National Guard and Reserve,” said J. Roy Robinson, Brigadier General (Ret.), President of the National Guard Association of the United States.

“Chiropractors have become valued members of the military healthcare team. Their non-drug, non-addictive and noninvasive approach to pain management is particularly relevant today for people who wish to avoid the risk of addiction from prescription opioid pain medications. This legislation will ensure that military retirees in the TRICARE system have access to the same effective, non-drug options for their pain,” said Dr. Ray Tuck, President of the American Chiropractic Association.

“As a member organization of the National Military and Veterans Alliance, the Armed Forces Retirees Association (AFRA) is pleased to collaborate with many other military and veterans service organizations in support of this legislation.  Many retirees benefited from chiropractic care while on active duty and these injuries need continued treatment upon retirement. Your legislation will provide continuity in care for retirees while also making chiropractic coverage available to certain reservists, recognizing that they often suffer from the same injuries as their active duty counterparts,” said Ted Painter, Executive Director of the Armed Forces Retirees Association (AFRA) and Co-Director of the National Military and Veterans Alliance.

“We deeply appreciate Senator Baldwin’s and Senator Moran’s work to help our military, and Veterans for Common Sense is in strong support of the Chiropractic Health Parity for Military Beneficiaries Act. Medicare already covers chiropractic care, but our career military retirees and their survivors and dependents can’t get it through TRICARE unless this legislation is enacted. And, I’ve experienced firsthand the benefits of chiropractic care, including improved mobility, chronic pain relief, and improved quality of life — all without addictive pain drugs or expensive and risky back surgery. This inequity literally hurts our military and must be fixed,” said Anthony Hardie, National Chair & Director of Veterans for Common Sense.

The Chiropractic Health Parity for Military Beneficiaries Act is supported by the American Chiropractic Association, the Military Officers Association of America, the National Guard Association of the United States, the Air Force Sergeants Association, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Veterans for Common Sense, and the following members of the National Military and Veterans Alliance: American Military Society, American Retirees Association, Armed Forces Marketing Council, Armed Forces Retirees Association, Army and Navy Union, Association of the United States Navy, Military Order of Foreign Wars, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Military Order of World Wars, Reserve Officers Association, Society of Military Widows, The Independence Fund, and The Retired Enlisted Association.

More information about the legislation is available here.

***

SOURCE:  Press Release, Nov. 14, 2018

Posted in Legislative News, VCS In The News, Veterans for Common Sense News | 1 Comment

Veterans for Common Sense plus 26 VSO’s oppose Dept. of Education rule that protects predatory for-profit schools over student veterans 

(Washington, D.C. – August 31, 2018)  Today, 27 veteran and military service organizations  including Veterans for Common Sense, AMVETS, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), Student Veterans of America (SVA), Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) submitted a public comment opposing key provisions of the U.S. Department of Education’s rewrite of the 2016 federal student loan Borrower Defense rule.

The public comment expresses

“…serious concerns about the impact of the rule on military-connected borrowers who were defrauded by predatory schools. As we wrote to you in July and September 2017, the Department should strengthen, not undermine, student protections.  In brief, we believe that the proposed rule effectively ends student loan forgiveness for the vast majority of defrauded students by introducing unwarranted restrictions on access to relief. The Department acknowledges that there will be significantly fewer claims under the proposed rule compared to the 2016 rule, reducing its claims processing workload. The corollary to the anticipated workload reduction will be to incentivize the aggressive recruiting of military-connected students by predatory schools that will escape accountability for the misrepresentations they rely on to encourage students to enroll.”

The public comment also includes quotes from veterans who have Borrower Defense applications pending at the Education Department, and includes an image of a redacted letter from ITT Tech to a veteran who had filed a complaint with the US Department of Veterans Affairs.  (In addition, nearly 10 veterans whom Veterans Education Success helps filed their own public comments about their experiences, and those are here.

In July, the New York Times reported that the Education Department planned to gut the Gainful Employment rule requiring minimum job success for career colleges in an article entitled, “Betsy DeVos to Eliminate Rules Aimed at Abuses by For-Profit Colleges“.  Similarly, Military Times reported, “Vets Could Be Hurt by Proposed $13 Billion Cut to Student Loan Relief.”

During both the 2016 and 2018 rulemaking negotiations, robust discussion occurred around key issues related to defining the standards and process for borrower defense, including eligibility, group discharges, time limits, the appropriate misrepresentation standard, evidentiary requirements, financial responsibility protections, and forced arbitration. Student and veterans’ advocates urged the Department to (1) focus on the systemic nature of misrepresentation by predatory schools by establishing a standard and process with minimal barriers to loan relief; (2) put in place financial responsibility standards that deter schools from engaging in risky behavior to ensure that taxpayers won’t be left holding the bag for student loan discharges; and (3) allow students to exercise their constitutional right to bring claims to impartial judges and juries.

Rather than protecting students and taxpayers, the proposed rule incentivizes bad behavior by predatory schools, sending the message that (1) few students will actually be eligible to file a borrower defense claim; (2) schools can engage in risky behavior with a reduced likelihood of being asked to provide financial guarantees to protect taxpayers from the cost of loan discharges; and (3) students will have no alternatives to forced arbitration, which exists primarily to shield predatory school behavior from scrutiny by both the public and by the U.S. Department of Education.

# # #

Veterans Education Success, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting and defending the integrity and promise of the GI Bill and other federal education programs for veterans and servicemembers.  Veterans for Common Sense is an active member of with the Veterans Education Success coalition.

 

Posted in Legislative News, Veteran Education Issues | Leave a comment

80 Organizations urge U.S. Dept. of Education to implement a strong borrower defense rule

(Washington, DC – August 31, 2018) — Yesterday, 80 organizations and advocates working on behalf of student servicemembers and veterans submitted joint comments to the U.S. Department of Education on the proposed negotiated rulemaking to rewrite the borrower defense rule.  The organizations include Student Veterans of America, Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), Veterans for Common Sense, and veterans, higher education, consumer, and civil rights organizations.

The comments express emphatic support of strong borrower defense rules that hold colleges accountable and help make students whole. Borrower defense rules, which protect students and taxpayers from fraud, deception and other misconduct by unscrupulous colleges, both provide relief to students who have been cheated by illegal conduct and deter illegal conduct by colleges.

The comments urge the Department of Education to:

  • Create a fair process to provide relief to students who have been harmed.
  • Do not force harmed borrowers to default in order to apply for relief.
  • Protect borrowers’ right to their day in court.
  • Retain students’ ability to get a fresh start when their schools close.
  • Retain financial incentives designed to hold colleges accountable and protect taxpayers.

Click here to read the join comments letter to Secretary Betsy DeVos

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Home-health provider cuts off services to veterans when the VA fails to pay its bills; Veterans for Common Sense weighs in

(Londonderry, N.H. – August 14, 2018) — The Boston Globe today highlighted the serious negative effects on veterans of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) failing to pay its bills from healthcare providers, in an article entitled, “Home-health provider cuts off services to veterans when the VA fails to pay its bills.”

According to the story, “VA had failed to pay nearly $60,000 in bills dating to late last year” to a New Hampshire in-home healthcare provider, resulting in the service being cut off to veterans after more than eight months of VA delinquency and no end in sight. How to reduce the anxiety? visit Amazon.com.

Veterans for Common Sense weighed in on the situation from a national perspective:

The sprawling agency, the second-largest in the federal government, has faced repeated criticism for delayed payments to contracted companies and individuals. The concerns raised by the Sullivans — no answers to questions, long waits on hold, confusion even among VA officials about the agency’s payment system — have been voiced by a wide range of critics from veterans to lawmakers.

“This story of health care givers dropping out because the VA doesn’t pay its bills is common,” said Anthony Hardie, director of Veterans for Common Sense, a national advocacy group. “It’s hard to fault the company. It seems like there’s more interest in shuffling deck chairs at the VA than ensuring that the health care needs of these 16 veterans are met.”

According to the story:

“After giving the VA ample notice that we cannot continue this practice, we are now forced to temporarily discontinue services to the Manchester VA veterans until the balance is paid in full and we receive assurances that timely payments will follow in the future,” [the provider] wrote.

US Representative Annie Kuster, a New Hampshire Democrat who co-sponsored legislation signed this year to improve access to VA health care, wrote VA Secretary Robert Wilkie on Friday to demand he take “immediate action and pay all overdue claims to providers in New Hampshire.”

***
August 27, 2018 — Another version of the story was published by HomeCareDaily.com, entitled, “A Dysfunctional VA Makes It Difficult for Some Veterans to Retain Home Care Services.”

Posted in VA Healthcare Crisis Updates, VCS In The News, Veterans for Common Sense News | Leave a comment

Veterans for Common Sense plus 41 VSO’s oppose VA plan to waive federal ethics law for for-profit colleges

 (Washington, DC – June 20, 2018) — Today, 42 veterans and military service and other organizations including Veterans for Common Sense sent a letter (available here) to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) opposing VA’s plan to waive federal ethics law for for-profit colleges.  The letter also urged VA to meet to chart a path forward. 

Background: 

In September 2017, VA proposed to waive Ethics Rules to allow for-profit colleges to give gifts, dividends, profits, ownership interests, salaries, wages to VA employees (Fed. Reg. notice here).    (See, e.g., September 2017 New York Times:  Veterans Agency Seeks to Scrap Ethics Law on For-Profit Colleges)
 
Many organizations including Veterans for Common Sense sent letters to VA in October urging VA not to waive the federal ethics law: 
  • 21 national veterans and military service organizations (Oct. 13, 2017) (click here)
  • Veterans Education Success (providing important historical and legal information) (Oct. 13, 2017) (click here)
  • 21 education, civil rights, and consumer organizations (Oct. 13, 2017) (click here)
  • Walter Shaub, former Director of the Office of Government Ethics, and Campaign Legal Center (Oct. 12, 2017) (letter here)
  • Center for Responsible Ethics in Washington (Oct. 12, 2017) (click here)
  • American Federation of Government Employees (Oct. 12, 2017) (click here)
  • Consumer organizations (Oct. 11, 2017) (press release here; letter here)
  • Service Women’s Action Network (click here)
  • Student Veterans of America (Oct. 9, 2017) (click here)
  • Veterans Student Loan Relief Fund (Oct. 14, 2017) (click here)
  • U.S. Senators Murray, Brown, Durbin and Warren (Oct. 5, 2017) (news release here, letter here)
  • U.S. Senator Carper (Oct. 6 2017) (click here)
  • The Century Foundation (Oct. 5, 2017) (click here)
  • Individual veterans at for-profit colleges share their experiences and object to VA’s proposal (click here)
After receiving this pushback, VA dropped its plan.  (See, e.g., October 2017 AP NewsBreak:  VA Abruptly Drops Plan to Suspend Ethics Law)  
 
New Development:
In May 2018 VA presented to veterans & military service organizations its revised plan to waive the federal ethics law for for-profit colleges to give gratuities, dividends, wages, salary, profits, and ownership interests to most VA employees.  This new letter sent today addresses this issue.
Posted in Veteran Education Issues, Veterans for Common Sense News | Leave a comment

VCS assists with Burn Pits Policy Recommendations in Testimony

Veterans for Common Sense has assisted Burn Pits 360 in policy recommendations for the written statement for the record for a Congressional hearing entitled: “An Assessment of the Potential Health Effects of Burn Pit Exposure among Veterans.”

Burn Pits 360 testimony (PDF): https://docs.house.gov/meetings/VR/VR03/20180607/108367/HHRG-115-VR03-20180607-SD003.pdf

Hearing archive: https://docs.house.gov/Committee/Calendar/ByEvent.aspx?EventID=108367

Posted in Burn Pits, Legislative News, VCS Congressional Testimony | Leave a comment