BULLY BOY PRESS & CEDRIC'S BIG MIX -- THE KOOL-AID TABLE
KIM GANDY MUST BE STRESS EATING YET AGAIN.
IN 2007 BARACK OBAMA TOLD PLANNED PARENTHOOD IF THEY SUPPORTED HIM, "THE FIRST THING I'D DO AS PRESIDENT IS SIGN THE FREEDOM OF CHOICE ACT."
BUT LAST NIGHT, AFTER 100 DAYS IN OFFICE, HE ANNOUNCED THE FREEDOM OF CHOICE ACT WAS NOT "THE HIGHEST LEGISLATIVE PRIORITY."
IN OTHER NEWS, NO ONE MADE A BIGGER ASS OUT OF HIMSELF IN 2008 THAN JAMES CLYBURN. TURNS OUT HE WAS PAID FOR HIS ASS WORK ON BEHALF OF BARACK: BARRY'S NOMINATING HIS DAUGHTER FOR THE FCC.
FROM THE TCI WIRE:
Today Tony Capaccio (Bloomberg News) reported that US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates appeared before the Senate Appropriations Committee -- as did US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton -- and he asked for the 'supplemental' funding of the Iraq War and Afghanistan War (an $83.4 billion request) to be pushed through "as quickly as possible" because by the end of next month, he claims, "we will need to consider options to delay running out of funds" if the 'supplemtnal' is not approved. The money is also needed for Pakistan -- a country the US is not officially at war with but one in which the newly sworn in President Barack Obama bombed as one of his first acts of office. Don't confuse the supplemental with the money the DoD is begging for to carry out wars in fiscal year 2010. That's other money, more money. The US tax payer money which will go down the sinkhole as well. This morning US Senator Carl Levin noted that FY 2010 request at the start of the Senate Armed Services Committee which he chairs, "Most of the changes will no doubt be in the detailed budget for 2010 that we now expect next Thursday and we're also planning on Secretary Gates testifying on that detailed budget the following Thursday which is two weeks ago today." [I left shortly after that to attend a hearing on veterans. Kat has some stuff she intends to note tonight on this hearing which she attended all the way through. Tuesday the snapshot covered the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's hearing on the War Powers Resolution of 1973 and Kat shared her thoughts on the hearing here and here she shared her thoughts on last Thursday's House Armed Services Committee's Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs.]
Most likely the DoD will get all the money they have asked for and they will get with little to no oversight. Underfunded is every other area in American life including veterans health care. And the funding is only part of the problems, there is also the refusal on the part of the VA to be accountable and the refusal on the part of Congress to hold the VA accountable. This morning, US House Rep Michael Michaud declared, "We are here today to talk about the VA's progress on meeting the mental health needs of our veterans. Specifically, we will discuss issues of funding and implementation of the Mental Health Strategic Plan and the Uniform Mental Health Services Handbook." He was bringing the US Veterans' Affairs Committee's Subcommittee on Health hearing to order (click here for his opening statement) and, before the hearing was over, everyone would learn just how little was being accomplished by the VA. The issue of the quality of health care for veterans and those serving was the topic of yesterday morning's House Armed Services Committee's Military Personnel Subcommittee hearing chaired by US House Rep Susan Davis (noted in yesterday's snapshot) as well as yesterday afternoon's US Senate Committee on Armed Services' Personnel Subcommittee hearing. We're going to jump back and forth between this morning's House Subcomittee and yesterday's Senate Subcommittee.
An the morning hearing, Adrian Atizado (Disabled American Veterans) thanked the Veterans' Affairs Subcommitee and the Congress for their "continued support" but then noted, "Nevertheless we believe much still needs to be accomplished to fulfill our obligations to those who have serious mental illness and post-deployment mental health challenges." And you have to wonder why that is?
Yesterday's Senate Armed Subcommittee hearing featured opening remarks by Chair Ben Nelson and Ranking Member Lindsey Graham. Senator Nelson noted that, "We all remember February 18, 2007. The day the first in a series of articles appeared describing problems faced by our wounded warriors receiving care in out patient status. Many of these service members who are wounded or injured in service to our nation were living in substandard facilities, were unaccounted for and were fighting there way through a bungled, adversarial administrative process to rate their disabilities. After they left DoD care, they had to start all over with the VA and many fell through the cracks in the transition. And as a result of these articles and various reports on wounded warriors transition policies and programs, Congress passed the Wounded Warriors Act which was incorporated into the Fiscal Year 2008 National Defense Authorization Act. The Wounded Warrior Act, among many other things, required the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs to work jointly to implement a comprehensive set of policies to improve the care, management and transition of recovering, wounded, ill and injured service members."
The February 18, 2007 article Nelson was referring to was Dana Priest and Anne Hull's "The Other Walter Reed" (Washington Post) -- click here for the Post's Walter Reed articles and Priest, Hull and photographer Michel du Cille won the Pulitzer for their coverage. Senator Graham noted in his opening remarks, "People care a lot. There's a lot of bureaucracy out there that cares a lot, we've just go to get it focused on doing the best job it can." That was only underscored this morning in an exchange during the final panel as US House Rep Jerry Moran asked the VA's Dept Chief Consultant from the Office of Mental Health Services about something that should have been implemented some time ago.
US House Rep Jerry Moran: The question is, it's been nearly two-and-a-half years since the Veterans Benefits, Health Care and Information Technology Act of 2006 was signed into law. The legislation added licensed marriage and family therapists, MFTS, and licensed professional mental health counselors, LPC, to the list of eligible VA health care providers. I thought at the time that they would provide -- this would be a great opportunity for the VA to expand its ability to meet the needs of veterans and have championed this cause but, two-and-a-half years later, I've seen little evidence that the VA has actually implemented the law. Is there an explanation? A justifable explanation for the delay or am I misunderstood -- understand the situation?
Dr. Amptmette Zeiss: Well we welcome the question. We welcome the question. At this point, we have met extensively with the professional organizations that represent both licensed professional counselors and marriage and family therapists through our office in mental health and have been very impressed with the potential to add these professionals to the team that would serve veterans. The -- the issues are with Human Resources. The law also stated very clearly that new titled -- hybrid titled 38 job series needed to be created for each of these, that they were not -- the law did not allow them to enter through the mechanism of other existing series. So there are a number of licensed professional counselors and marriage and family therapists who work in VA under other series and that has continued to increase and we look forward, as you do, to HR reaching the point of having the qualification standards developed and having the hybrid title 38 job series in place so that they can be hired directly under the auspices of their professions.
US House Rep Jerry Moran: So there's no impediment from the health care side of VA? This is what I would describe as the bureaucratic process of bringing these people onto the payroll?
Dr. Amptmette Zeiss: We do not -- yeah, we certainly support this and have tried to be very available to these organizations and to feed forward information to support the process of developing these new hybrid title 38 job series.
US House Rep Jerry Moran: Mr. Chairman, we've been through this numerous times. We've tried to add professional categories to the VA's list of appropriate providers. Chiropractors are one [example]. It is an enormous undertaking apparently and I would welcome anyone on the committee who would like to work with me to see if we can't get the VA to move in a more expeditious manner. I think this is important. While we're sitting her talking about the lack of professionals, there's an opportunity for these services to be provided and yet, because of the nature of the VA and it's credentially and accounting process, it's not happening. And I think it's not only disappointing to me, to the professionals who want to provide the services, but more important it means that there are veterans who could be served but are not because of the bureaucratic nature of the VA's process.
"Every American wants us to get this right. This has got nothing to do with party politics," Senator Graham declared yesterday with Senator Nelson agreeing "there's nothing partisan about the need for care for our men and women and their families who serve our country in so many ways." So why is it that nearly three years after something should have been implemented, it's not? Don't give that crap about Human Resources. Congress might buy it but no one else will. Congress doesn't work in the real world. They're removed from the day-to-day. Anyone working in any remotely corporate or government setting, however, damn well knows that it doesn't take a year to -- or even six months -- to write up a new classification for employees. More importantly, when you're instructed to do so by Congress, it shouldn't even take you three months to do so. Moran was polite and nice to Dr. Zeiss and he shouldn't have been. There was no reason to or to ask her to work with him on this. As the Deputy Chief Consultant, it is her job to ensure that the process is moving along and if and when it's not, she either makes it move along or she screams bloody murder to Congress to let them know it's not working. She certainly doesn't wait two-and-a-half years to bring it up -- and then only because she was asked. That's ridiculous.
But ridiculous was who else was on the panel with her this morning. Yesterday, Senator Graham was rightly noting that we should (he said "would") hold people who are supposed to be providing the care responsible for the level of care they provide. Well then explain how Ira Katz not only sat on the fourth panel but remains employed by the VA?
Exactly one year ago US Senators Daniel Akaka and Patty Murray (who both serve on the Senate Vetarans Affiars Committee, with Akaka being the Chair) were calling for Katz to be fired. Why the hell is he still employed by the VA? For those who've forgotten, you can refer to this original CBS New report, this update and this report by CBS News' Pia Malbran which notes:
For months, CBS News has been trying to obtain veteran suicide and attempted suicide data from the VA. Earlier this year, the agency provided CBS News with data that showed there were a total of 790 suicide attempts in all of 2007 by veterans who were under the VA's care. On February 13, however, Katz sent an e-mail indicating the total number of attempts was much higher. The e-mail was addressed to his top media advisor Everett Chasen and entitled, "Not for the CBS News Interview Request." Katz wrote: "Shh! Our suicide prevention coordinators are identifying about 1000 suicide attempts per month among veterans we see in our medical facilitates." He then asked "is this something we should (carefully) address ourselves in some sort of release before someone stumbles on it?" In another e-mail message, Katz told the VA's Under Secretary for Health, Michael Kussman, that there are "about 18 suicides per day among America's 25 million veterans." This is a figure that the VA has never made public.
And let's drop back for the April 25, 2008 snapshot:
Thursday on the Senate floor, during a vote on the Veterans' Benefits Enhancement Act, Murray stated the following:
And just this week, we got more evidence that the Administration has been covering up the extent of the toll this war has taken on our troops. Internal e-mails that became public in a court hearing show that the VA has vastly downplayed the number of suicides and suicide attempts by veterans in the last several years. Last November, an analysis by CBS News found that over 6,200 veterans had committed suicide in 2005 -- an average of 17 a day.
When confronted, VA officials said the numbers were much lower. But according to the internal e-mails from the VA's head of Mental Health -- Dr. Ira Katz -- 6,570 veterans committed suicide in 2005 -- an average of 18 a day. The e-mails also revealed that VA officials know that another 1,000 veterans -- who are receiving care at VA medical facilities -- attempt suicide each month.
Mr. President, these numbers offer tragic evidence that our nation is failing thousands of veterans a year. And they reflect an Administration that has failed to own up to its responsibilities, and failed even to own up to the true impact of the war on its veterans.
What is most appalling to me is that this is not the first time the VA has covered up the problems facing veterans who sacrificed for our country. Time and again, the VA has told us one thing in public -- while saying something completely different in private. It is outrageous to me that VA officials would put public appearance ahead of people's lives. Yet, Mr. President, it appears that is what has happened again.
When we -- as members of Congress -- sit down to determine the resources to give the VA, we must have a true picture of the needs. And if there's a problem, we have to act. It's our duty -- and the duty of the Administration -- to care for veterans. By covering up the true extent of that problem, the VA has hindered our ability to get those resources to the veterans who need them. That is irresponsible, and it's wrong.
Senator Daniel K. Akaka has joined Murray in calling for Ira Katz' resignation.
So why is he offering testimony to Congress this morning and why the hell should anyone believe a word he says? April 24, 2008, Senator Murray questioned the VA's deputy chief and explained, "I used to teach preschool, and when you bring up a 3-year-old and tell them they have to stop lying, they understand the consequences. The VA doesn't." And when people like Ira Katz remain in their jobs, they never will understand the consequences. The most embarrassing moment in this morning's hearing -- and there were many -- was when US House Rep Jerry McNerney declared, "Dr. Katz, I certainly want to thank you for your service to our country through our veterans." What world is he living in? In what world has Dr. Katz earned a "thank you" for his "service . . . through our veterans"? He hasn't been and what that indicates is McNerney needs to do a lot more work before showing up at hearings. That is shameful and it is offensive. The man should have been fired. Bad enough that he wasn't. But he certainly hasn't done a damn thing to warrant public praise from the Congress.
US House Rep Vic Snyder: In your statements you make reference to the need to perhaps add other employees to CBOC [Community Based Outpatined Clinic] to handle mental health issues is -- did I read your statement right?
Ira Katz: Well there's been extensive enhancements in VA mental health staffing including staffing in CBOC.
US House Rep Vic Snyder: How do you -- how do you do that when those are private contractors that have got a set amount of overhead? You can't just pick up the phone and say, 'Put on two more people.'
Ira Katz: Some clinical based -- some community based outpatient clinics are contract based. Most are VA owned and operated with federal employees.
US House Rep Vic Snyder: So you don't do that to the ones that are contract based?
Ira Katz: We're committed to enhancing services, ensuring we provide or make available the services that veterans need. Whether we provide them by VA employees, by contract or fee based or other mechanisms.
US House Rep Vic Snyder: May I just add for the record then, why don't you respond to the question: How do you do an enhancement of mental health services at a privately contracted CBOC since they have a contractual arrangement with a set overhead?
Ira Katz: I will have to take that for the record, thank you.
How typical for Ira Katz, unable to answer a question. The Office of Inspector General's Dr. Michael Sheperd (testifying on the third panel) noted, "One of the issues which we cited and which the previous panel cited is, for example, in terms of provisions of evidence based treatments for PTSD. In the absence of knowing who you've provided these treatments to, whether they've done part of these treatments, completed these treatments, whether they've opted not to pursue these treatments -- in the absence of a data system that's able to capture that, you really down the road don't know -- you don't have the structure you need to make outcome judgments in terms of evidence based therapies for PTSD." Considering Ira Katz' history and the VA's history in general on PTSD, it's very difficult to see this problem as anything but an effort to distort the 'help' being given for PTSD and make it appear far more sufficient than it actually is. Dr. Sheperd note, "We think there's a real urgent need for VA to adjust their data [. . .] to allow for what type of services were provided, not just that a service was provided." And it's a real shame that obvious point has to come from outside the VA. Dropping back to yesterday's Senate Subcommittee, many important stories were shared on the first panel which was made up of veterans and the spouses of veterans. We'll note this exchange because it does go to the huge costs that are pushed onto veterans and their families. Kimberly Noss is the wife of Scot Noss. Scot Noss was 29-years-old and serving in Afghanistan when the MH-47Chinook Helicopter he was flying in crashed February 18, 2007. Kimberly Noss was on the first panel.
Senator Kay Hagan: Dr. Noss, I have a question for you. You husband is currently, I think you said, is in Tampa, so he's still in the -- in care?
Kimberly Noss: Yes, he is. He's still in patient in Tampa, the Polytrauma Unit.
Senator Kay Hagan: And what do you -- when he -- will he leave? Will he be sent some place else? What's his long term prognosis of where he might go?
Kimberly Noss: He's going home with me.
Senator Kay Hagan: He'll be able to come home?
Kimberly Noss: Well we're going to make it where he can come home. I don't believe in putting him in a nursing facility for a long term.
Senator Kay Hagan: Well then from the standpoint of any sort of financial help to you at that point and time, what is -- what is the VA established for that?
Kimberly Noss: They do have a benefit package that Scott will receive every month and it is a substantial amount of money; however, the net income will be -- will be small because you have to take into consideration our bills that we will incur in a month. For example, I know of a family who has a quadriplegic -- he's quadriplegic and he's on a vent and because of the 24 hour having power source, the venelator, and his bed -- has a special type of bed that's hooked up to power, they're electric bill is over a thousand dollars a month. And because of that, the special care that Scott's going to have to receive because of his injuries, even though the essential amount of benefit money that will come in per month, what we're going to have to pay for bills is large so the net is going to be small.
Katz will remain in his job, the Noss family and many others will continue to struggle but Robert Gates will get every dime (of American tax payer money) he is requesting. There have been no changes in our national priorities. Bully Boy Bush has been replaced with Bully Boy Barack and any differences between the two are merely cosmetic. Last night Barack held a press conference. Corinne Reilly and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) note Barack falsely asserted last night that "civilian deaths . . . remain very low compared to what was gong on last year." The reporters explains that "statistics kept by McClatchy show that in Baghdad alone, more than 200 people have been killed in attacks so far this month, compared with 99 last month and 46 in February, according to a McClatchy count. The last time McClatchy recorded more than 200 civilian deaths in one month in the capital was more than a year ago, in March 2008." Sam Dagher and Sudad al-Salhy (New York Times) note that throughout Iraq this month, the number of Iraqis killed thus far comes to "at least 300". Violence has been on the increase in Iraq starting in February after the latest waves of Operation Happy Talk told us January was a turned corner and peace was blooming like daises throughout Iraq.
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