The Veterans Affair

I was down in Virginia visiting my parents this past week. We talked a bit about the latest VA scandal. My parents spent their adult life in the military. My dad as an army officer. My mom as an army wife. They know a bit about this topic.

My dad was saying that injured soldiers in recent wars survive a lot more frequently and as a result we have more injured and less deceased soldiers. But we have not, as a country, made the required investment to care for the increased volume of injured veterans.

There is an editorial in today’s New York Times from a veteran named Colby Buzzell. It is worth reading. Colby says:

Politicians and many hawkish Americans are quick to send our sons and daughters to go off to fight in wars on foreign soil, but reluctant to pay the cost.

On this memorial day, it is important to remember both the deceased and surviving veterans. Their sacrifices are the price of freedom and we should commit to support them to the utmost. That we do not is a national shame.


Comments (Archived):

  1. awaldstein

    I couldn’t agree more.For one of my accounts, they did a M day sale.I was thoroughly emasculated by a member of the family who is Israeli, who in no uncertain terms let me know how solemn and respectful this day is in Israel and how bad we are at honoring and taking care of our soldiers.She is so right. We as a culture need this smartening up. I especially feel this being a product of the aftermath of the Vietnam era which even today, is brushed under the carpet of memory.Remembering and taking care of our own is what makes us human and defines who we are. We are not doing well in this respect.

  2. kidmercury

    9/11 was an inside job. that’s all that matters. today especially, but pretty much every other day too.

    1. Richard

      What’s exactly is the best piece of evidence to support this? and what is the rebuttal?

      1. pointsnfigures

        9/11 wasn’t an inside job. That’s stupid.

        1. Richard

          Funny, how “inside” is never defined.

          1. jason wright

            a domestic faction. the United States not united.

      2. kidmercury

        There are too many pieces of evidence that show 911 was an inside job; you can pick what you like. The physics-defying, freefall collapse of building 7, not hit by a plane, is my favorite.Of Course the more meaningful question is the opposite: what is the evidence that the cave dwellers pulled off 911 without govt assistance? The us govt has never conducted a criminal investigation of 911.

        1. Richard

          I don’t know anything about this but Let’s say building 7 was not brought down by fire, Why would any conspiracy need to include building 7 in the first place? If the conspiracy was to run a few planes into the world trade 1 and 2, why in the world would they jeopardize that plan by blowing up a third building?

          1. kidmercury

            In my opinion it is best to take an unbiased starting point and avoid the subject of conspiracy as it is a very emotionally charged word. Instead, we can simply look at undisputed, non controversial facts, and investigate from there. It is not controversial to say building 7 collapsed and was not hit by a plane. So how did or collapse then? Freak natural occurrence? By product of other crashes? Intentional plot? We can ask and investigate, the answers are plainly visible.

          2. Richard

            Here is the problem with that approach: there are just 3 options: building 7 was filled with explosives and was a part of a Terror plot completely uncorrelated with the hijacking, it was filled with explosives and correlated (part and parcel to) with 9-11, it was not filled with explosives but the fall was due to fire. Scenario 2 seems Least Likliest not most. If you can’t come up with a why? What’s the point of speculating on the how?

          3. kidmercury

            why does it seem least likeliest? that is what i mean by removing predispositions and researching the matter yourself. then you will see a few things:1. the fall could not be due to the fire if we assume the basic principles of physics to be true. countless physicists and engineers have examined this and researched it, ae911truth.org2. first responders like kevin mcpadden says there was a countdown to the collapse and first responders were told to go away.3. building 7 was not mentioned in the 9/11 commission report (why?)4. there has never been a criminal investigation into 9/11 (just wars) why?there is a lot more. after fully researching the story, the most plausible explanation i have found is that the plane that crashed in the middle of pennsylvania on 9/11 was meant to hit the third tower. some honest person in the air defense shot it down, so then they had to just use the explosives that were in the building. bomb sniffing dogs were removed from the world trade center the week before 9/11, traces of explosives were found in debris that has been recovered, the majority of debris was immediately destroyed (in violation of nyfd regulations).of course you can keep asking questions, and i encourage that process, although the unfortunate fact of the matter is that the truth is the hardest option to believe…..

  3. Salt Shaker

    This past week I visited the newly opened 9/11 Memorial Museum at the site of the WTC. The building is beautifully designed and the museum’s curation is exceptionally well done. I had some trepidation about going, primarily cause I thought it would be too painful and a sensory overload.The experience brought back a lot of memories of that day and its aftermath. The museum was packed w/ visitors and so eerily quiet you could hear a pin drop. The exhibits are educational, thought-provoking and very disturbing, as one certainly would expect. Hard to believe it’s been almost 13 yrs. Unfortunately, tolerance, respect and understanding of others are words that still carry little resonance in today’s world.On this Memorial Day (and everyday), hats off to our brave military, fire and police personnel, who put their lives on the line for us on a daily basis and frequently encounter the unimaginable.

  4. Tom Labus

    That we don’t support them to gain some perverse political advantage is even worse

  5. ShanaC

    As strange as it sounds, I think people would be a lot more solemn if there was a draft. One of the prices of not having one is people don’t see the military as full of humans, because not as many people know someone in active duty

    1. pointsnfigures

      Milton Friedman was correct on the draft. We have the best fighting men in the country and it’s all volunteer. It’s very difficult to get into the military these days believe it or not. They don’t take high school dropouts or deadbeats.

      1. Richard

        At least while I was in high school, some of those who dropped out were above average in intellect.

      2. SubstrateUndertow

        Then here is an idea.Have a mandatory war-draft component that draws from a pool of the more highly educated citizenry.And see how that changes up the military engagement decision making process ?

        1. sigmaalgebra

          “The Selective Service system has national manpower management responsibilities far in excess of merely staffing the armed forces.”. Or, the intention is, stay in school in a STEM field or otherwise contribute to US national security or we have a gun and a pair of combat boots for you.Some of the reasons I was never in the military are that (1) my aptitude test scores were too high and (2) I was already working in applied math and computing on DoD problems. That is, my draft board and the Selective Service system had me just where they wanted me.

          1. pointsnfigures

  …The selective service at the end wasn’t so selective. People that could influence peddle were able to keep their kids out of harms way. It would be worse today.An all volunteer army is the best. Better talent, and more esprit de corps.JLM might be able to weigh in on that a lot better than I.

          2. sigmaalgebra

            > People that could influence peddle were able to keep their kids out of harms way.Nearly guaranteed by the fact that each ‘draft board’ is 100% ‘local’. So, presto, the local town biggies get to call the shots.I did get the impression that my draft board was treating me with kid gloves: I went to a public high school, but it was embarrassingly by a wide margin the best in town — started with a formal garden and then had a lot of bronze, glass, and marble, Greek columns and porticos, etc. MIT came recruiting. Three guys one year ahead of me went to Princeton and ran against each other and some fourth sucker for president of the freshman class. Net the school had to be one of the best in the country. I had a little victory: For 1, 2, 3 on the Math SATs, 1 and 3 were Jewish kids (they knew the best school in town), and I was 2. Number 1 went to Purdue. I also beat number 3 in a shootout at the board in trig class. Number 3 went to MIT. Not me! I started at a college I could walk to; the highest math class they would let me take was beneath what I’d done in high school and not calculus. So, I showed up just for the tests, got a good calculus book, and dug in. For my second year I went to a college with a surprisingly good math department (e.g., I ended up lecturing on Moore-Smith convergence and writing on group representations), and started with their second year calculus from the same text used at Harvard. Did fine. So, I never took freshman calculus! Taught it? As a grad student, yes. Took it? No!The neighborhood was well off middle class, but there were a few people actually wealthy.So, when I got an offer from IBM, my draft board was very clear and friendly: Take the offer and I’d be drafted. Stay in the DoD applied math and computing I was in near DC, and I wouldn’t be drafted. Simple. Clear. Friendly. Nice to know. I doubt that everyone in my town was being treated so well.What the heck: I was deep into computing, the fast Fourier transform, digital filtering, power spectral estimation, numerical linear algebra, exterior algebra, some on the Navier-Stokes equations, and more. My annual salary was about six times what a high end, new Camaro cost, and I had one with a 2.56 rear end and had fun with the pedal to the metal shift from second to third at 100 MPH.

          3. Donald E. Foss

            That works for one of my economics professors. According to him, he enrolled in university to avoid going to Vietnam, graduated and noticed that there was still a war going on, so got his masters degree. When he finished his masters, things were wrapping up but with a masters in economics, you’re more useful/employable if you go ahead and get the Ph.D., which he did. Then the war was over and he had a Ph.D. in econ and became a teacher, on the Governor’s board of economists for Virginia and a top consultant at Ford.From the social engineering aspect of the Selective Service board, that worked out well all around. The Feds didn’t even have to pay for his education.This professor had quite an impact on me and was partly why I added a minor in economics to the 2 majors and 2.5 minors I already had. He told us straight up that there were ultimately two types of people in the world: The Shaftee and the Shafter. Mastering the principles of economics lets you choose which one you’ll be rather than having it chosen for you.

          4. sigmaalgebra

            > The Shaftee and the Shafter. Mastering the principles of economics lets you choose which one you’ll be rather than having it chosen for you.It was long easy enough to guess the “Shaftee and the Shafter” dichotomy. And I took one course in econ, and my advisor suggested I take another. So, I got up early and went to the 9 AM or some such class. I was a nice student, sat in the front row, took notes, and said nothing. After the class I asked the prof what he was assuming for the free-hand supply/demand curves he was drawing, measurable, continuous, differentiable, differentiable almost everywhere respect to Lebesgue measure, continuously differentiable, convex, pseudo-convex, quasi-convex, etc.? I wasn’t joking, was serious, trying to be a good student, and trying to be nice, bringing up such math assumptions only after class.Later that day I got an urgent message to see my advisor: I was out of the econ course.Once I published a paper that, for some of its content, solved a problem in mathematical economics stated but not solved in a famous paper by Arrow, Hurwicz, and Uzawa. It may be that so far poor Uzawa has yet to get his prize!I didn’t think much of economics, especially as progress on the dichotomy of Shaftee and Shafter.I’ll paraphrase a remark about professors of agriculture by some farmers: A professor of economics is a person who teaches others how to solve the problem of the Shaftee and Shafter that he solved by becoming a professor of economics. Then the student has to wonder if he is the Shaftee and the prof, the Shafter!Eventually I concluded that the best way for an individual to solve for themselves the challenges of the economy is to start, own, and make successful a business. I got this little lesson, sadly, not from my parents but from the world of hard knocks after I had too long been trained to be a ‘worker bee’ or Shaftee.For my next lesson, I discovered that the best aid to success in business is luck. E.g., due mostly just to luck, at one time I came within the thickness of an onion skin of being worth somewhere between $50 million and $500 million in FedEx stock. Yup, my office was next to that of founder Smith, and literally my work saved the company from going out of business, twice. Beyond such luck, one of the ‘biggies’ I brought to the job was that I knew calculus well and knew that great circle distance calculations were really just the law of cosines for spherical triangles. It also helped that I knew PL/I and VM/CMS well, thanks to some DoD money.Now it looks like the secret is to write a mobile, social, local app with a big network effect that teenage girls will take up as a fad for their gossip, especially in ways relevant to their interests in, let me see here, right, boys!, at least for a while, long enough to have the company be acquired, before the teenage girls change their minds, as they are wont to do, and find another fad. To generalize, find a wave and ride it. Sometimes, create a wave and ride it.Then there is the old ‘paradigm’: Find a problem that, if solved, will generate a lot of revenue at low cost to supply and sell the solution. Have a high ‘moat’, that is, barrier to entry. For a part more recent, have the means of providing the solution be mostly just software that one person, the founding entrepreneur, can write. For the barrier to entry, do some original applied math, powerful and valuable for the problem, with some advanced prerequisites. So few people in business have any knowledge or respect at all for such math that direct competition is very unlikely until long after there is plenty of money in a bank. For me, now, I need to get some exercise and then get back to mud wrestling with bad documentation about DLLs, or why Microsoft’s IIS and ASP.NET like my DLL but a simple console application does not!

          5. Donald E. Foss

            While I didn’t sit next to the founder of Fedex, your example about your econ class reminds me of some of my experiences in C and C++ classes and the value of not making the professor look stupid in front of the class. I filed that under “contextual learning”.I also flunked stats in University. Twice. It didn’t help that I was working 3 jobs to pay my way and hardly showed up for class. Now I do more stats work that I ever dreamed (nightmares, really…) of. It’s funny how things can come full circle.The higher you go in econ, the more math there is. Asking an ECN 101 teacher about Lebesgue measure certainly wasn’t going to win you points. Again, it was the wrong context.I appreciate your references back to the importance of math. It is the underpinning of almost everything we do and see, whether we know it or not. Higher level math also trains your brain to work a certain way, and is almost never wasted time.

    2. LE

      Very important point. Out of sight out of mind. (Keep that thought active if you ever decide to go into retail or open a restaurant by the way).That said not a good way to go to have a system where things get done solely because of empathy. Then you get a focus on what you know and you can’t know everything.This also causes waste, such as the waste of the 9/11 memorial. I wasn’t affected by it directly like others, so I am more rational about spending the money in that way for that purpose. But the tentacles of the 3000 killed runs deep so we have what we have now.You can always rationalize spending money unfortunately as in business it’s about spending limited money on the right things and for the right reasons. Emotion should not be one of those guiding principles.

  6. btrautsc

    Very logical analysis by your dad.I hope people are taking a minute today to be thankful that we live in a country with near unlimited opportunity and enjoy safety that is unimaginable in many parts of the world.Also to those startup world folks who are at work today – take some time to reflect, or relax. Or go outside. Our lives are passing us by whether we are in an office, becoming the hottest startup, or fading into oblivion. Time waits for no man.

  7. William Mougayar

    I’m not too close to this issue, but curious to understand what is lacking. Has the government’s Veterans Affairs administration budget been going up or down recently?

    1. awaldstein

      Simple–check the buzz on twitter for a view of what the holiday means or doesn’t.

      1. William Mougayar

        sorry i was out of the loop on that one. i see what’s going on now. thanks.

        1. awaldstein

          As per my comment below, I approved a holiday discount promotion and got skewered by a family member.She was right, I was wrong. The promotion btw was astoundingly effective;)

          1. LE

            As per my comment below, I approved a holiday discount promotion and got skewered by a family member.I read your other comment and will repeat it here so it’s in context to what I will say:I was thoroughly emasculated by a member of the family who is Israeli, who in no uncertain terms let me know how solemn and respectful this day is in Israel and how bad we are at honoring and taking care of our soldiers.Were you yelled at?Regarding this I’ve never understood some things.a) How is someone supposed to know exactly what is important in another culture? Is this something you should have known about given your relationship with this family member? My dad was an importer of giftware from Israel, my daughters have spent time in Israel, my cousin was born in Israel, my uncle lived in Israel, and I didn’t know that fact. And even if I did I’m not going to (and re-read this) walk on eggshells worrying that the person I am speaking to might perhaps possibly feel differently.b) Why is it right for someone who is suffering or feels differently than someone else to inflict pain (and anger) on another person for what appears to be an innocent mistake? Because the way you are telling the story it seems as if it was.c) Why does someone take out their frustrations about some society problem on someone close to them? Who is actually more important.Particularly with respect to “c” I am always amazed at how people will jump on someone close to them (friend, relative etc.) because they say something that somehow they feel harms a group or person that has no relation at all to the person being defended?Here is an example. You are friends with “Steve” and go out to lunch. Steve feels strongly about abortion (either way). You say something that is not what Steve believes. Steve gets all pissed at you, in a way that impacts your relationship, in order to defend something that both of you have no control over. What Steve does have control over is his relationship with you and he has just perhaps gone a step closer to ruining it. (Assumption is your statement was not intended to inflame or provoke of course..)That said I’m glad my usual stores were open today (went to the Apple store) and … it’s a free country people can do what they want with the holiday.

    2. John Revay

      I think sheer dollars it has been going up.However after two wars in the last 12 years, I am not sure the $$$ and more so the management in relation to the need has not.

    3. Guest

      Hmm…guessing Canada doesn’t have this problem given universal healthcare.It’s not a function of budget. It’s been a problem for decades.

    4. Matt Zagaja

      WSJ says the budget has been going way up. Unfortunately money isn’t everything in solving these kinds of problems:….

    5. Richard

      Budget had tripped since 2000. Visits to the VA have doubled.

  8. Matt A. Myers

    Both of my grandfathers were in both worldwars. One of them being my mother’s father, both from France, and in the Alsace region – right along the French-German border has quite a history for the region, aside from their wines that I’m sure awaldstein has enjoyed, there was also house-to-house combat in this region.When my father was cleaning up the old floor boards of a house there – a house my great-great-grandparents built, along with many others in the region – he found shrapnel embedded in the full-tree width boards that was the norm then. These houses were “perfect” for house-to-house combat as the walls themselves were 2-3 feet thick and would allow you to likely survive at least one round from a tank. My grandmother’s house also had bullet holes and bullets embedded in the door for a long time before they replaced it later on in her life.My family on my mother’s side were into agriculture as their business. They grew vegetables, fruit, flowers, tobacco, and brewed alcohol – I guess they built houses before then too. I know this is in part where I get my holistic thinking comes from, at least from that gene pool. I only have a single memory of that grandfather, of me sitting on his knee. He drank and smoked his whole life, I imagine which was a coping mechanism for what he had to go through.My grandfather on my father’s side I had more time to spend with, though he never really spoke after the wars – so my memories are sitting on his lap looking out the window and sitting calmly with him hundreads of different times.Relating to taking care of a population, this comes down to resource distribution. War comes down to resource distribution as well. And interestingly enough if everyone had access to the resources they needed, and not controlled by those who want to control their population or badly/dishonestly manage those resources, then I don’t believe war would exist. This is only really possible if the world becomes transparent to know that your neighbour isn’t planning to take over your region or kill off your people or cause them suffering because of a specific belief they hold that isn’t harmful to others – directly or indirectly harming them.I truly feel our resources are unlimited and currently we are in a dis-eased state of capitalism that allows war to thrive. Part of the issue is war is a profitable thing, and where there is profit then there is incentive for people to direct their energy at creating weapons and at creating war and conflict.I don’t have time to write more this morning, though if anyone is interested in reading more I have two blog posts entitled Profit Has No Inherent Value, and another Capitalism And Its Current Disease.http://mattamyers.tumblr.co

  9. Mac

    We are honored to have both the Air Force’s 20th Fighter Wing and the Third Army in our community. (plus we feel pretty safe) These patriots are our friends, neighbors and the parents of the kids in our schools. Their sacrifice and commitment to our liberty and freedom is something we live with daily. A grateful nation needs to honor the promise to take care of them. Period.

  10. SamuelHavelock

    The problem with Technology and Warfare is that technology has accelerated both the propensity to engage in (by virtue of more perfect time sensitive knowledge called ISR) and velocity of combat (by virtue of more lethal weapons and mobility platforms.) Then off course enabling people to survive physical injuries that in prior wars would have left them dead.So that’s two issues.Another big issue among servicemen and women is that modern servicemen and women face deep psychological injury as a function of what technology allows them to see and record. In the old days an artillery section might send “rounds away” and not see the devastation. In today’s environment you watch or initiate combat activities 24/7 on ISR feeds. People are trying to digest personal participation in levels of violence and combat activities that in wars past, were simply not discernible at a personal level.I don’t think that a lot of people understand that technology has created deeper legions of men & women, not just Infantry Soldiers, who are facing levels of psychological trauma independent of physical injury per say.

  11. BillMcNeely

    Colby’s write up was spot on and reflected my own experience.I will add that many of the practitioners at the VA are great folks but the administrators are the ones that kill it.After I was stabilized at the VA after my suicide attempt in 2012 the doctor wanted to transfer me to a 7 week in residence PTSD program . The administrators turned me down for the program because I was not a drug user, alcohol abuser, had not given up on looking for a job,, still married and had not committed a crime.I was bad not bad enough it seemed.I think the doctor’s and I jaw both dropped together. That afternoon I was back at home with medication but with no real roadmap for treatment.One other thing my doctor used to be able to answer the phone now she can’t. The phone just rings and rings with no voicemail.I wanted to discuss dropping 2 of the 3 meds I take and how I could use yoga, organic food and physical activity to replace it. Can’t discuss it with her until July 1.I had to make that decision without her.Which brings me to what folks can do directly for veterans.We appreciate being told thanks for our service but it can be awkward.I encourage everybody to follow up with “What can I do to help you meaningfully?”Mentor or speak at tech programs like Techstars Patriot Boot Camp like Fred did last week.Donate to IAVA, Team Rubicon and The Mission Continues so vets can bring their skills to bear on the community.Answers you might hear are help me get a job. So ask them if they need help with resumes, introduction at companies they are interested and qualified for or advice on career options.Other times the needs are more day to day. Pay a bill directly (electric,rent car insurance etc) or help me with groceries.Others would help me get a loan for a micro business ie to be a Hailo, Uber or Lyft driver. The accelerator i work out of The Garage invested about $1300 so I could use Uber’s Lease to Own program to get a car that I did not have. Through Lyft I have made over $500 the last 4 nights and am on the way to getting caught up on my bills. It’s also allowing me to have room to get DelivrToMe off the ground.I hope this helps.

    1. Salt Shaker

      Thank you for your service and god bless! Your story is both sobering and up lifting.

      1. pointsnfigures

        There are two companies currently in the ChicagoBooth New Venture Challenge targeting vets. One is a loan company that will do P2P lending to active duty personnel. Currently, payday loan companies target them and they can wind up on the wrong side of debt. The other is a company that gets talented vets jobs with companies that need skilled employees with security clearance. No idea how they will do, but they are trying.

    2. Richard

      Yep, any doctor who has trained there knows that the VA is an embarrassment.

  12. Twain Twain

    In SF the veterans issue became more visible and immediate for me. On the bus a gentleman in his 60s was asked by the driver if he got his medical paid for by the government. He replied that he got 10% of it paid because he had “only lost an eye in ‘Nam”.That was just so sad. It raised the question of how many limbs the soldiers had to lose to get 100%.

  13. JLM

    .As a veteran, I ask only one thing — treat us as well as we treat the terrorist population in Gitmo. Treat us as well as we treat terrorists.Terrorists — 1.5 medical personnel per terrorist. 1.5:1Veterans — 1 medical person per 35 Veterans. 1:35JLM.

    1. jason wright

      The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.

    2. Matt A. Myers

      So do you think everyone should be getting 1.5 medical personnel?Imagine if 50% of people’s work related to taking care of others.What a wonderful, healthy, and productive world we’d live in.

      1. Richard

        Start with a Yoga Studio in every VA hospital.

        1. Matt A. Myers

          Sounds good to me. And every prison. Every school, etc..

          1. Michael

            Every Starbucks should have a yoga studio, and in the corner of that yoga studio, there could be a Starbucks (that has a yoga studio, and…)

    3. Thomas

      JLM –You’re the reason our country doesn’t speak Vietnamese. You came back from the trenches and became a millionaire. What is it about this new generation of soldiers that expects handouts and insists on being treated like the POSs that caused 9/11?

  14. JLM

    .The VA scandal is obscene. It is not benign neglect, it is criminal.The VA is the second largest department in the US government — Pentagon/Defense is the largest.It suffers from a top heavy, incredibly highly compensated Jabba the Hut bureaucracy. Doctors and nurses are paid approximately twice civilian norms. Pigs feeding at the public trough. Gorging themselves.The productivity is less than 20% — patients seen per doctor.Gen Shinseki, guy in charge, is not a hospital administrator. He was a General. It has been his for 6 years. He is incompetent as measured by the results. He should be summarily dismissed. He had six years. Six years. SIX YEARS!Guys in charge are supposed to work their deal. You don’t get what you expect, you get what you inspect.Pres Obama does not require evidence to dismiss a Cabinet officer. They all serve at his pleasure. PERIOD. The fact he has not relieved Gen Shinseki is an indictment of Pres Obama’s interest and competence.Approximately 2.5MM persons have served in the War on Terror (Irag and A’stan). 37,000 have served 5 or more tours of duty. 400,000 have served 3 or more tours of duty. Approximately 860,000 have either been served or are pending service. 270,000 have applied for PTSD diagnosis and 150,000 have been so diagnosed. The rest are pendingThe biggest unique injuries are “traumatic brain injury” and PTSD.The scandal is base on people FALSIFYING records pertaining to service levels and keeping two sets of books. These are not crimes of omission or benign neglect. These are criminal acts. In part this has been done to qualify for performance related bonuses. This is crimial venality.Over 40 persons are admitted to have died because of faulty admission procedures and lengthy service intervals.This is obscene.JLM.

    1. Richard

      Having had a few friends who spent time in the VA as physicians (residents), you are 100% correct.

    2. Salt Shaker

      Shinseki may have been one hell of a general, I honestly don’t know, but he’s blatantly incompetent for this role. Cronyism may be okay when naming foreign ambassadors, but not when running the VA, an historically inept institution. A great field general or strategist doesn’t make for a great hospital administrator. It looks like too many of these performance based bonuses are just rubber stamped w/ limited or no real accountability. Certainly 6 years is long enough to assess a prob and implement changes. Loyalty is an honorable trait, stupidity isn’t. Obama has to dump Shinseki.

    3. LE

      Doctors and nurses are paid approximately twice civilian norms.I don’t even have to research that to know that there is no way that is true. Makes absolutely no sense at all. Where are you getting that from?(Does some research):http://forums.studentdoctor…Having helped someone negotiate a similar position recently I can assure you that this pay at the Philly VA is way way low for a similar position at an area medical center:…Older:(2004)http://www.washingtonpost.c…

    4. sigmaalgebra

      Gee, why not give us a hint of what you really think! What a cesspool. “The right way; the wrong way; and the Army way” and in this case the Army way is worse than the wrong way.Holly S**T. Definite FUBAR. SNAFU.This thread alone should get some changes, but somehow I doubt it will. What the heck does it take to move the White House? Facts? Somehow I suspect not. Big political stink? Maybe: Sounds like time for a Million Vet March on the White House.BTW, “Guys in charge are supposed to work their deal. You don’t get what you expect, you get what you inspect.” — I kept and indexed it. I’ll remember that one.

    5. Dan

      The issue(s) are many and not restricted to the VA. I used to design/install enterprise scheduling systems at hospitals around the country and one of the most depressing experience I had was with a county system in CA that had a 4-5 month waiting list. We tried everything we could think of to improve operational processes to get the numbers down and every effort was met with “we don’t have the people”. We had to install the system in the county jails as well – the prisoners had better access than the non incarcerated indigent. It is of course not as simple as just adding more care givers, but that’s part of the solution.Lack of access to appropriate care is a massive issue and is a symptom of writing off segments of our population. It is unconscionable, especially for our veterans.On another note, this discussion had me recalling an IRS hearing last year where a contractor receiving VA benefits was eviscerated by a double amputee veteran and IL congresswoman.

    6. Pete Griffiths

      “Doctors and nurses are paid approximately twice civilian norms”good god – is that true?

  15. panterosa,

    Let’s not forget mental health please. With my cofounder’s day job in Psychiatric residency, I hear enough to know it’s not just bodily injuries. Our society is still competitive enough to disrespect mental health as some kind of personal failing, with maybe only a shred more respect for a veteran with PTSD. It’s truly appealing how we can be so cruel.With parents who either fought in or lived through WW2, I know how a generation is affected by how veterans are treated. We simply must take care of our own.

    1. SubstrateUndertow

      “We simply must take care of our own.”Should be amplified toShould honour the implicit contract made with members of the military when they were asked to go off and put their lives on the line !If those costs were considered/calculated upfront as equally mandatory as the direct operational costs of the wars themselves the decision to engage militarily might be made in a more sobering way.

  16. JLM

    .Memorial Day is intended to honor and observe the sacrifice of men who died serving the Nation. It is all about our war dead. It is a day of solemnity.We do not CELEBRATE, we OBSERVE Memorial Day. It is a national day of mourning.Do not tell a Veteran “Happy Memorial Day”.Veterans Day is intended to honor living Veterans who served.We CELEBRATE the living. Feel free to tell a Vet — Happy Veterans Day.JLM.

    1. awaldstein

      You are right of course–technically.I agree with you 100%.But the truth is in the practice of the culture itself and that is simply not the view from the street.

    2. Donna Brewington White

      This helps me to understand some ambivalence I was feeling about this day… or rather how to “celebrate” it. Observing… that feels right.

  17. Kirsten Lambertsen

    I can think of few things that would have support from all political sides, but giving our veterans the very best care and support (not just medical) is one of them.So why don’t we do it? For the very worst reasons.

    1. Dave Pinsen

      What reasons? I don’t think any elected official wants veterans to be treated badly. The problem I think is the lack of accountability and institutionalized neglect that seems to go with government-run health care.It’s not limited to VA hospitals. There have been cases in recent years in Britain’s national health service where patients have literal died of thirst in government hospitals.

  18. Richard

    This is a very complicated issue. I would suggest that those joining the military be required to work in the VA for one year prior to training. They can then experience what life may be like after serving. I would also require career military personal to serve one year out of every 5 in the VA. This would bring some of the discipline of the military into the chaos of the VA. The problem with the VA is also part physician talent, part nursing talent, part admin, part efficiency, part moral, part lack of recognition (when’s the last time we thanked those working in VA hospitals), and part the short comings of medicine.PS Military Industrial Complex has been given a free ride on this one as well .

  19. pointsnfigures

    Yup, it’s a shame. There is a way to solve it. It’s to spend the money differently. Instead of trying to erect a huge govt apparatus to take care of veterans, we ought to give each veteran a generous voucher to spend on top rate insurance. They’d still have no or little money out of pocket and be able to use the slightly more competitive private health system (which is screwed up too).I have met many veterans, especially WW2 vets. War has changed a lot since then. As a country, we should always be slow to war, and then take care of them when they come back.If your family member was involved in WW2, buy them a brick at the National World War Two Museum: http://www.nationalww2museu…Here is a photo I took last night.

  20. Dave Pinsen

    I forget who said it, but the VA as a separate government department may be part of the problem. Taking care of veterans ought to be the job of the department that made them veterans, the Department of Defense (formerly – and more accurately – called the War Department). From a budget perspective, it would also make the full cost of expeditionary wars more obvious.Also, Shinseki was unimpressive as Army chief of staff and has failed to impress as head of the VA. Jobs at these levels should be based on merit and competence, not diversity concerns.

  21. zanne stevens

    God Bless our Veterans! For if not for their bravery and fortitude we would not be here today. . .

  22. Emily Merkle

    Why don’t we all take a moment from this string and write a letter or email to the VA Administration expressing our discontent / disillusionment / outrage / ideas for solutions/ personal stories / etc. Would be more productive. I am going – includes social media…. – phone numbers, itemized

  23. LE

    On this memorial day, it is important to remember both the deceased and surviving veterans. Their sacrifices are the price of freedom and we should commit to support them to the utmost. That we do not is a national shame.Agree 100%.However:Politicians and many hawkish Americans are quick to send our sons and daughters to go off to fight in wars on foreign soil, but reluctant to pay the cost.Don’t just look at the politicians and hawkish Americans as the bogeyman.There are thousands of people who work for the VA that knew what was going on (and in fact may have been able to file a qui tam lawsuit possibly) [1] that didn’t do or say anything.Nobody went to the NY Times with this story nobody went to 60 Minutes.Nobody got together with other VA employees and wrote a protest letter (I will assume) and everyone for the longest time kept their mouth shut. What about those people? They absolutely deserve some of the blame.If things suck, say something and do something. Hard to believe this was happening and the office clerks or nurses or schedulers etc. (who probably all went to church every weekend) just went home everyday and took their kids to soccer. This is all to me just a part of the mediocrity of the masses.[1]

  24. LE

    Meanwhile the 9/11 Memorial apparently cost $700 million and will cost $60 million a year to operate. You know it’s one of those knee jerk things that politicians love to get behind.…Compare to Pearl Harbour [1] (even adjusted for inflation) and you can see this is a huge waste of money:…So you say “Oh but there were these private contributors keep that in mind?”To which my answer is “money going to one cause is money not going to another cause which may be more worthy”.[1] Not that I need to compare because a waste is a waste.

    1. pointsnfigures

      I believe they said it was all private money.

    2. awaldstein

      Mismanagement and a mess–yes.A value at any cost for the city, the country and the world–no question. Overdue but essential.

  25. LE

    My dad was saying that injured soldiers in recent wars survive a lot more frequently and as a result we have more injured and less deceased soldiers.This problem of course extends way past the battlefield and into the rest of medicine as well.An Uncle of mine died in the 60’s from some gastro condition that they can easily solve today. Everyone is being kept alive longer.Every see how people waddle around and just cover up all their problems with drugs? These are people that would have likely died much earlier but are able to be kept alive today by modern medicine.My father in law was smoking a cigar yesterday. (So was my brother in law). My father in law said to me something like “wow my pulminologist would totally yell at me I’m not supposed to do this!”. I’ve also seen many diabetics totally disregard their obvious dietary restrictions given to them by doctors. Was in Starbucks this AM and saw some fat lady waddle around to pick up her Venti sugary drink with whip cream.I can’t even begin to name the number of younger people that I see with serious belly fat (dangerous) that simply use medication to take care of what (in many but not all cases) dietary restrictions should take care of.There really isn’t a group or lawmaker to blame about this. It’s just human nature.

  26. Emil Sotirov

    Not a day for politics, but the life and health of our soldiers is an extension of our politics. In this sense, it would be infinitely more efficient to absolutely stop doing “ground troop” wars. Clinton’s Yugoslavia air-only campaign and the initial Afghanistan action combined with the newer drone tech should become the new military doctrine/paradigm. The Iraq war was not only needless but also executed as a 20th century war (stupid people in the White House can do a lot of damage).Sorry for the politics… but again – soldiers’ fate depend on it to begin with.

  27. Philip Smith

    Fred, please thank your parents for their service

  28. Tyler Hayes

    This is no small problem. 20% of the medical records people pull in in Prime are from the VA.That is staggering to me.

  29. David

    I am sorry to hear that the VA is going through troubles. I had two clinical rotations in a VA and my impression is that it worked well.The VA has done very well with some preventative medicine which much of the rest of the country has not been so good at. For example, since 2000 the VA has increased its patients with controlled hypertension increase from 46% to 78%.http://circ.ahajournals.org

  30. Pete Griffiths

    Vascular surgery and antibiotics have kept soldiers alive to face physical and mental disabilities.It is indeed a scandal. And doubly so that so often it has been those who most fervently wrap themselves in the flag that have blocked funding.

  31. Andy Ellis

    At the moment I have the privilege of treating active duty service members and their families abroad. Even in wartime, only a fraction of our base population is deployed at any given time. Yet, knowing that a guy you saw for a pre-deployment exam may not return in one piece is a sobering thought. Living in Europe affords one the opportunity to walk amongst towns that were caught up in the fighting in my grandfather’s war (WWII). The town where I live still has shrapnel embedded in the buildings from the Battle of Britain. I have gone to the same pub for pints that the brave men of the Eagle Squadrons found respite amidst the chaos of war (and incidentally where Watson & Crick celebrated the discovery of the double helix).There is waste in any large government body and there are days where my frustration with the inefficiencies of the systems we have to work with are astounding. However, the opportunity to help ensure the safety and well being of the young men and women that ultimately show up to work in order to stand between our country’s enemies and our freedom humbles me and makes my concerns seem small. It breaks my heart that this same population could end up back in the States with real problems and nowhere to turn.Memorial Day is a time for reflection and remembrance but there is no point to looking backward with no plan of action going forward. History is not studied for its own sake. This community has the resources (ability-wise) to help create better systems to track and treat the Armed Forces. Sure, they sign up as able-bodied and able-minded youngsters but years of service takes a toll. Additionally, the giant machine of the military can institutionalize anyone; the structure and discipline all exists within a context of very concretely defined roles of not just work, but life.

  32. Salt Shaker

    Afghanistan was def part of “price of freedom,” while the wheels fell off the bus with Iraq, a contrived, misguided invasion w/ no sound evidence to support the mission. Revisionist history now spins as the need to neutralize a madman since no WMD were found. Blatant criminality. Wonder in hindsight what the citizens of Iraq prefer—Saddam or anarchy? We force our will too broadly internationally, often when not needed or welcome.

  33. Kirsten Lambertsen

    I was thinking about this, too. And I think a major effort to support our veterans and exposing how badly they’re treated could actually also be the best way to prevent future unnecessary wars.After all, one of the reasons veterans are swept under the rug is because the PTB’s don’t want us thinking about why they’re hurting in the first place.

  34. LE

    These are really two separate issues. Even if we had only 60% of the veterans the systemic VA systemic mediocrity wouldn’t have treated those 60% any better.

  35. sigmaalgebra

    > ” Their sacrifices are the price of freedom”I disagree. It’s the price–at least in my lifetime–of decisions that have had nothing to do with our freedom, the best interests of the country, or the people who serve it.Ah, come on, Charlie; that’s not nice. Of course, literally you are correct, but look at it this way: The soldier, e.g., the enlisted man (now also woman), often has to sweat it out, Or as Bradley told Patton in the movie,”He doesn’t share in your dreams of glory, he’s stuck here. He’s living out every day, day-to-day,with death tugging at his elbow.”.Or as in the movie ‘The Battle of Britain’,”We can leave strategy to those with egg on their hats.”Point: The poor guy at the bottom of the heap is not in a position to argue with LBJ, Nixon, Kissinger, Westmorland, Wolfowitz, Cheney, Bush 43, Obama, etc.In the soldier’s position, for all he (she) can do, it remains the case that essentially,”Their sacrifices are the price of freedom”.Or, they serve or they don’t, largely independent of whatever nonsense is in the White House or from leaders “with egg on their hats”, and if they don’t serve and we do really need them then we will understand quickly the price of freedom.Or, they serve, and sometimes their service really is the price of freedom and not just from, say, Wolfowitz claiming,”… take several hundred thousand U.S. forces, I think, is far from the mark”. Or, Wolfie, maybe you’d like to go over there and police a civil war between Shiites and Sunnis, fighting a proxy battle between Saudi Arabia and Iran, ambitious fundamentalist religious leaders, out of work former Saddam soldiers with access to nearly unlimited artillery shells for roadside bombs, various international opportunists, common criminals, street gang leaders, etc.? Saddam warned us that without him we’d have a heck of a time running the place, but of course Wolfie knew better.Then there was Bush 43’s quasi-well informed,”The Iraqi people are plenty capable of governing themselves.”So, just hold some elections, and we’ll be out’a here, right? Bush got that from Wolfie, right?Or Cheney’s”Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.”uh, where clearly Cheney was thinking of the “gas bombs” from the 1933 movie ‘King Kong’.And who could ever forget the profound international wisdom on dominoes falling from SE Asia all across the Pacific and landing in San Diego, right “best and brightest” Rusk, and, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today? I mean, those dominoes were just like Munich, Part II, right?There was a lot of crapola coming from the White House that the poor guy/gal “stuck here” and paying “the price of freedom” didn’t get to consider. We have to understand that sometimes that guy/gal “stuck” there really is protecting our “freedom”. So, it is up to us to honor them just the same.For LBJ, Rusk, Bush 43, Cheney, etc., there should be a special place in Hell right up close to the main bonfire.