The House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Health held a hearing yesterday about whether or not the VA's improving on the issue of caregivers and the caregiver act that the Congress passed. The Chair of the Subcommittee is Ann Marie Buerkle and the Ranking Member is Michael Michaud. I told C.I. I would grab the third panel.
That was the VA's Deborah Amdur and I think the key moment was when Chair Buerkle asked Amdur about the money in terms of backdating payments? Buerkle pointed out the long time the VA took to implement what Congress passed. What should happen?
A straight forward question. Amdur couldn't answer. Maybe she was afraid offering her opinion would force the VA's hand? I don't know.
But she went on about how "we have had that issue reviewed and it has been discussed and under consideration" and blah, blah before saying that possibly they could backdate it to when the application was first filled out.
"We are taking those very seriously," she insisted but her answer didn't say that to me.
Chair Buerkle wanted to know if it was case-by-case or everyone should be retroactively reimbursed and Amdur insisted it would most likely be across the board for all.
She offered to brief the Subcomittee regularly and she seemed very on message. But I kept thinking about the problems that had been listed in the hearing and how someone as on-the-ball as she self-presented should have been aware of problems and have dealt with them before the hearing. For example, Debbie Schulz takes care of her son Iraq War veteran Steven Schulz who was injured by a bombing in Falluja. Amdur looked at Schultz' testimony that her inspection was done by someone who didn't know if she (or her son) was the veteran and hadn't even read the file, Amdur looked on this as an opportunity she said. It allows her, she said, to go back to that facility and review what needs to be done.
Why aren't those reviews already taking place?
The VA just started implementingthe caregiver program. And they don't think they need to be reviewing it and evaluating it?
It takes Debbie Schulz explaining a problem to Congress for the VA to learn about it? What about all the families Congress will never hear from?
The other thing that stood out?
Jon Runyan is a Republican member from New Jersey. I meant to ask C.I., "Are those two young men behind him his staff?" Whoever they were, I kept waiting for Runyan to turn around and tell them to sit still.
I do understand that Congress doesn't stop for a hearing. I do understand that someone will need to whisper something to a senator or representative during a hearing.
But the two guys behind Runyan were just having a conversation. Not once but throughout the hearing. And okay, I'm not saying, "RUDE!" It might have been important and work related. But they knew they were right behind Runyan and their talking and head jerks and moving was especially distracting when Runyan was speaking. So you'd think they would have at least gotten silent when he was speaking since they knew everyone was looking at Runyan when they were right above his head and they could so easily distract.
But they didn't get quiet.
I don't know that he had a statement that would make the news (or that did). But if there was some New Jersey media in the room (maybe there was, maybe there wasn't, I don't know) and they had shot some footage, I think that most angles would have included those two guys. And they never shut up. I just really kept waiting for him to turn around and say, "Can you take this outside?"
Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"