This is a jump around post with observations on different topics.
First, the carpet. Do they not clean the carpet? I don't mean the senators. I don't expect that John Kerry's like, "Got to make a vote -- oops! It's my day to run the carpet cleaner!" But I was just really surprised by how stained parts of the carpet was. Now it's blue with patterns on it and maybe from certain angles the stains look like part of the patterns? I checked to make sue that I was seeing stains and I was.
Second, why Elaine bailed on me? I had an e-mail asking that, saying, "Man, your gal went back to California, she bailed on you!" It's our vacation. We're doing three weeks and we can be apart a night without falling apart. Elaine is a psychologist. Her practice is strictly vets now and all pro bono. She deals with PTSD all the time in solo sessions and in group sessions. (I'm saying that from what vets tell me about when I hang out in the office. All Elaine ever gives me is "rough day" when it's been a tough one. Otherwise she says nothing and is a stickler for patient confidentiality.) So the point is, Elaine is wiped out by this issue many times a month. I am interested in this issue. She's already up to her neck in it and has been for years. It would not have been relaxing for her to attend the hearing nor would it have been easy. So that's why she flew back yesterday.
Third, I couldn't do it. I couldn't attend these hearings day after day. They make me angry.
For example, today an IG [Inspector General] was on the first panel of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing, Dr. John Davigh. Check out the snapshot for C.I.'s excerpt of the first panel. It's all in there.
Andrea Sawyer is a caregiver to her husband who is an Iraq War veteran, medically retired with a rating of 100% disability. Committee Chair Murray asks a question of him. And as they're talking, Andrea Sawyer's example comes up and he starts pontificating-- when the question was meant for Andrea, it was about her life -- about how she used fee-based care because blah blah blah.
But, as she corrects him, she didn't. She used TRICARE and was able to do that because of her husband's disability rating. Due to that medical retirement, they can't use the fee-based system (as she explains). She knows that. She'd talked about her husband's 100% disability rating prior to the doctor babbling away.
He should have her or he's not listening. If he did hear her, apparently this so-called IG, this expert doesn't know the first thing he's talking about or he'd know that Loyd Sawyer didn't qualify for fee-based care.
They really love to lie, don't they? And to stall. And to try to run out the time clock before the senator can ask another question.
On the second panel?
Committee Chair Patty Murray: Mr. Shoenhard, we heard from the IG [Inspector General] that Atlanta was not prepared to handle the influx of new veterans who needed mental help and this isn't the beginning of this war. It's been going on for a very long time. We've been talking on this Committee for a very long time about PTSD and TBi and the invisible wounds of war and the high number of soldiers who come back and need access. How can it be that the VA was not prepared for this?
William Schoenhard: Uh, Madame Chairman, that's a tremendously important question. In Atlanta and that's true of VISIN 7, we're Atlanta's -- this is one of our fastest growing areas for veterans enrollment. We had there about 7 or 8% increase. I-I, we concur with the IG and I have talked with Mr. Clark who is the director there. We were not as quick as we should have been. And we're going to learn from this. And we're taking this report not just for Atlanta but for other facilities particularly in high growth areas.
And on and on he blabbed. How did he answer her question -- the one he called "tremendously important" -- of "How can it be that VA was not prepared for this?"
Apparently the answer is because there was a small, less than 10% increase.
There were no real answers.
And Committee Chair Patty Murray had to make the point that when they are not seeing a veteran in need in a timely manner, it effects the veteran and it effects the family of the veteran.
The witness palmed it off on another witness. It was a woman with VA. I don't know her name. I grabbed the handouts at the hearing and her name isn't on any. I've got C.I.'s notes but, for shorthand, she draws a face for whomever is speaking. It's quicker than doing their name, just a quick sketch of the face.
Okay, C.I. said it's Dr. Zeiss. Antonette Zeis. That should be correct because C.I. spelled it out for me. She's filling in for Kat at Kat's site and may already be working on her "I Hate The War" over at The Common Ills. (She types much faster than I do. I really do hunt and peck.)
how well the suicide prevention hotline works.
but i want to suggest to you that the ultimate prevention of suicide is to supply the treatment in a timely fashion that our veterans need
So Schoehorn is listing things and Committee Chair Patty Murray asks him< "Are you doing that or are you just identifying that as a problem?"
That's when he passed off to Zeis who talked about a new program being developed and Chair Murray wanted to know, "When will you see that how long does it take to collect all those data?" And that was the question on everyone's mind but Zeis had talked and talked without ever providing that.
Once asked, Zeis said she hoped to have it active by the end of the year. Chair Murray wanted to know if then it would be analyzed causing further delays, "My question is does everybody have to wait another year?" Zeis said no and also said that they could make adjustments as they go along this year.
I like Patty Murray, I'm glad she's the Chair. She's a basics, no frills kind of chair. What's going on, what do you need, how can we fix it, why isn't it fixed.
I've been to hearings where people used their time to do a little infomercial for themselves, for instance. She's not that way at all.
Nor is Richard Burr. Like most of the community, I see him as the grouchy uncle saying what needed to be said but everyone else was too scared to. That comes from Kat's reporting because she's really captured that aspect of him in her coverage over the years of him.
But this was my first time seeing him in action and I did wonder, "Will I miss what Kat sees? Will I not get the no pussy footing around, here's the question we need answered, type thing?"
On the second panel, this is how Burr opened his questioning.
Ranking Member Richard Burr: Mr. Schoenhard, how do you define timely for a veteran with a gun in his mouth?
Yeah, he was saying what needed to be said.
And the answers were not forthcoming and he did not hide his displeasure. At one point, he wanted to know if anyone at the VA had "been fired because of some of the issues that have risen from veterans like two that we heard from today?" Answer? The witness sidestepped it.
Burr finally told him, "If you only take one thing away from this, please understand it does not work. There are gaps, there are holes. There are veterans that are falling through the cracks with mental health problems that I don't think went undetected." Instead, he thought the veterans were facing VA employees who "really didn't give a damn if they got the care in a timely fashion or not."
Senator Scott Brown, on the second panel, agreed with Committee Chair Patty Murray that there also needed to be more cooperation with the Defense Department so that when service members became veterans and moved into VA, they weren't lost and knew what to expect and how to navigate the system.
Brown also noted that "these are the most consistent stories I've heard," these veterans stories where someone's contemplating taking their own life or has tried to because he or she isn't getting the care they need despite fighting the VA to get that care. He told Schoehorn that "when you're dealing with people's lives, your response rate needs to be perfect" because every mistake could cost someone's life.
"Everything's great, great, great," he said of the way the VA witnesses portrayed the events in their testimony, "but outside it's not, people are hurting."
Ava has reported on Scott Brown repeatedly because she usually writes it up for my mom's site and Brown is our senator on the Committee. And I've enjoyed her coverage -- much better than anything in the Globe or Herald. And I also enjoyed her piece for Third entitled "Ava spills Scott Brown's dirty secret" but was that a writing exercise (it's a great read) or did it capture Scott Brown? Or did it do both?
I think it did both. I saw the gestures she talked about, saw the mumbles, saw him zero in on key points others missed. I was really impressed.
I voted for Scott Brown in the election. My whole family did. We are Democrats and Socialists. My grandfather (Socialist) led the move (I was co-leader) because we saw it as our chance to say no to ObamaCare. We've already got RomneyCare and we knew ObamaCare wasn't what people thought they would be getting. We were tired of it. We were tired of the attitude that the Kennedy's owned the seat. That did more than anything to harm Democrats in that election.
Martha Coakley (?) was a strong opponent until she won the Dem primary and then began walking back every promise she made. For example, she was going to stand for universal health care and not ObamaCare. Until she won the primary.
So it was take another Democrat who wouldn't show a spine or send a message.
And the attacks on Scott Brown really ticked me off. Especially that stupid rant Keith Olbermann did.
So my family turned out for Brown and we're a big family. BIG. My mom's one of eight children and so am I. "Small" in our family has meant the person only had four kids. (My brother broke that with his one daughter.) We're all over the state and we're union workers and police and fire and nurses and just everyday people. And sitting in the hearing today, I was really proud that we had voted for Scott Brown. He did a pretty solid job.
Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"
VA wasn't able to handle the influx this isn't a new war, this has been going on for a very long time. We've been talking about PTSD and TBI and the invisible wounds of war and the high number of soldiers who come back and need access. How can it be that