Wednesday, November 06, 2013

No safety with ObamaCare

I'm still working my way through Brightness Falls, the novel by Jay McInerney. It's 416 pages so it'll take a little more time.  But it's a great book and I'm loving it.

What I'm not loving is the news on ObamaCare.  Each day is another scandal.  Did you catch David Walsh explaining the latest at WSWS:

In an October 30 letter, Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Kathleen Sebelius revealed that the Obama administration has determined that programs created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are not federal health care plans. This decision, which flies in the face of common sense, exempts the Qualified Health Plans (QHPs) and state-based and federally facilitated Marketplaces from laws banning kickbacks and various forms of semi-legal fraud perpetrated by pharmaceutical companies and other interested parties.

As the New York Times wrote November 4, “The surprise decision, disclosed last week, exempts subsidized health insurance from a law that bans rebates, kickbacks, bribes and certain other financial arrangements in federal health programs, stripping law enforcement of a powerful tool used to fight fraud in other health care programs, like Medicare.”
The Wall Street Journal pointed out that the anti-kickback rules “went into force in 1991 and broadly bar companies from making payments to beneficiaries or other firms to induce business paid for by Medicare and other federal programs. That could range from paying rebates to Medicare beneficiaries for buying specific drugs to paying physicians to refer their patients to a specific imaging facility.”

Can you believe that crap?

He breaks every law.

I can't believe it.

Or how busted and broke ObamaCare is even after every safeguard is removed.

This is a bad program and it needs to be repealed.

 Brightness Falls, by the way is about Russell and Corrine and their friend Jeff.  It's a look at the 80s and the characters are really interesting but it's already obvious Russell lacks Jeff's wild abandon -- which I'm sure will save Russell while condemning Jeff -- and Corrine's the only one with any real integrity.

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Tuesday, November 5, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, a new problem emerges with the election law, a think tank argues US forces shouldn't have left, Moqtada responds to Nouri's attack on him, we look at another VA Congressional hearing exposing another VA failure, and more.

Last week, Iraq's Prime Minister and chief thug visited DC.  Trudy Rubin (Phildelphia Inquirer's syndicated columnist) writes of Iraq regularly and argues that the US should make Iraq a strong ally and then she explains what the term means to her.  As she winds down, she notes:

"We are hard-wired into the Iraqi political system," says Ryan Crocker, the former U.S. ambassador to Iraq, "because we helped create it."
Crocker thinks the administration should help the Iraqis strengthen their counterterror capabilities with better intelligence cooperation, military advisers, and, as the Iraqis are requesting, drones. For those who denounce drones, keep in mind that al-Qaida is blowing up schools, mosques, and markets filled with civilians in Iraq and Syria. If Iraq could hit al-Qaida targets inside Syria, that could save innumerable lives.
But Crocker says military aid alone is far from sufficient. He believes that more attention by Kerry -- along with presidential phone calls -- will be needed to steer al-Maliki and the Sunnis toward political accord. 

I disagree with her column but we'll focus on the above.

Crocker is correct about helping to create the political system.  And it's the US government's inability to walk away or keeps its big nose out that created the current problem.

You had a 2010 parliamentary election.  The winner of the Iraqi people's votes?  Iraqiya, headed by Ayad Allawi.  Nouri refused to step down as prime minister and brought the country to standstill -- a political stalemate that lasted over eight months.  Barack backed Nouri for a second term -- in spite of the Iraqi Constitution and the votes and that little thing known as democracy.  Under his orders, the US brokered The Erbil Agreement, a power sharing contract which gave Nouri a second term as prime minister in exchange for concessions from him.  But although Nouri immediately used the contract to become prime minister, he refused to honor it.  This broken promise is a huge deal and kicks off the crisis period.  For half of 2011, the political blocs indulge Nouri.  By the summer of 2011, the Kurds, Iraqiya and Moqtada al-Sadr were publicly calling for Nouri to honor the contract he signed.  The US government brokered this contract, the White House swore it was a legal document and had the full backing of the US government yet when Nouri refused to honor it, they played dumb and pretended they'd never heard of The Erbil Agreement.

Seeing that the current White House created the political crises, I don't see how you argue they're the ones to fix them.

The effects of US government help can be seen daily in Iraq.  Today?

National Iraqi News Agency reports a Baiji armed attack left 1 police member and his wife killed,  a Falluja suicide car bombing attack on a police checkpoint left 2 police officers dead and three more injured, a Kirkuk car bombing near Eli Torkmen TV Channel left five people injured, an attack north of Baquba killed Sahwa commander Karim al-Obeidi and his son, an al_Haswah roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier and left two more injured, a Tikrit armed attack claimed the life of 1 police officer and left three more injured, a Samarra car bombing left one police officer injured, a Baghdad bombing claimed the life of 1 person and left two more injured, and a Mosul car bombing left eight people injured.

Those who consider to be peace activists in the US might want to get off their lazy asses -- IPS, I especially mean you -- and get back in public on Iraq.  RAND's just published an argument entitled "Ending the US War In Iraq" that we'll go into tomorrow but for now we'll just note that the US think tank is arguing on behalf of war, on behalf of combat.  IPS is going to have figure out if they're going to keep lying (or staying silent) to protect the White House or if they're going to acknowledge that the unrest in Iraq was caused by the US government's political moves noted above.  When RAND makes a finding, it tends to be the last word. And it will be -- allowing the argument to be that Iraq slid into chaos because the US military wasn't present -- if so-called peace activists don't start using their voices and outlets to make an actual difference.

To those who might complain that we included Trudy Rubin, let alone opened with her, she writes seriously about Iraq all the time.  That I don't agree with her doesn't mean I'm not glad she's out there, probably the only national columnist in the US who writes regularly of Iraq.  Contrast her with The Nation's Robert Dreyfuss who writes about the Middle East (link goes to OpEd News) for three long pages but has no section on Iraq -- despite detailing other countries -- and appears to think reducing Iraq to a reference point is somehow covering it.  And we thought Robert Dreyfuss was crazy when he was with Lyndon La Rouche?

But you don't have to be part of La Rouche Land to bring on the crazy.  Imran Khan (Al Jazeera) writes about Iraq being 'forgotten' and speaks with a Baghdad Operation Command senior official:

I ask him about the very recent trip to the US by Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, and whether it was a success in getting the equipment needed for the security services needed to do their job.
"The prime minister is also our commander in chief and as such has a good insight into what we need, and what we need are sophisticated technological devices to track down an invisible enemy. As you can see this is an open war and the only way to beat him is to be one step ahead of the enemy." 
An open war. It's the first time I have heard such blunt language directly from a senior official in the government or in the military. But this "open war" makes very little headlines across the world any more. Imagine if 30 people a day were dying anywhere else. Imagine if car bombs ripped through a capital city every couple of days? 
This "open war" is as deadly as any. I think back to Ali's words. "A civil war is coming and no one cares about us". 

An open war?  Hmm.  On whom?  It sounds like it's on Sunnis -- Nouri is after all arming and clothing and covering for Shi'ite militias who hunt Sunnis.  And there is also Nouri's disgusting remarks about the need for World War III that he made last Thursday at the US Institue of Peace.  But Imran Khan writes a column where it all sounds 'natural' to him -- thereby demonstrating that he is part of the problem.

Mushreq Abbas (Al-Monitor) also reports on Baghdad security -- but in a fact-based manner:

Security sources told Al-Monitor, “There are around 250 fixed checkpoints in Baghdad and a similar number of smaller or mobile ones. This number reaches around 1,000 checkpoints during major security crises or religious occasions.” Meanwhile, other provinces have fewer checkpoints, and the Iraqi Kurdistan Region has almost none.
A lieutenant at a checkpoint in Baghdad spoke to Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, saying, “We know that we are facing a lot of criticism in the streets, and we are aware that many people see no point in our presence there, especially with the resulting delay and nuisance.”
The young officer, who makes no effort to hide the signs of fatigue on his face, added, “We are discussing the situation almost daily, and prominent leaders often visit us. We give them our remarks, especially regarding the bomb detectors, which we were laboriously trained to use for years. Later, we discovered that they were ineffective.”

The US Embassy in Baghdad posted this statement from US Vice President Joe Biden on yesterday's news of elections in Iraq:

The United States welcomes the passage of legislation today by the Council of Representatives (COR) to govern Iraq’s parliamentary elections. These elections have now been set for April 30, 2014, and the law that passed today was the result of many weeks of negotiation and compromise by all of Iraq’s major political blocs. I applaud the leadership of Prime Minister Maliki, Iraqi Kurdistan Region President Barzani, and COR Speaker Nujaifi in achieving this result.

Upcoming elections give the Iraqi people an opportunity to choose the direction of their country, and the compromises reached today demonstrate the strength of Iraq’s democratic institutions, even in the face of terrorism that seeks to heighten sectarian tension and provoke broader conflict.

As noted in the Joint Statement concluded last week following the visit of Prime Minister Maliki to Washington, the United States is prepared to work as appropriate with the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) to help ensure that the elections are well prepared and produce a result that reflects the will of the Iraqi people.

The United States remains committed to enhancing bilateral relations across all areas covered by the Strategic Framework Agreement, including efforts to “support and strengthen Iraq’s democracy and its democratic institutions as defined and established in the Iraqi Constitution.” It was in this spirit that we welcomed Prime Minister Maliki’s commitment last week to holding these important elections on time.

Iraq today reminded the world that its leaders are determined to find areas of compromise and move their country forward. We congratulate them on this important step, and look forward to further cooperation in the months ahead.

Biden's all ga-ga, isn't he.  Yesterday, we noted problems.  Biden's not concerned, Prensa Latina's not concerned, Rudaw's not concerned,  Al-Shorfa's not concerned, World Bulletin's not concerned, Al Mada's not . . .

Oh, wait.  Al Mada is concerned.  They're doing actual reporting.  Wael Grace reports for Al Mada that the rah-rah election law passed yesterday would actually take the vote away from over 200,000 Iraqi refugees.

How did that happen?  Because UNAMI, the US government and so many more are morons.  This is the issue, please remember, that delayed the passage of the 2009 law.  It's the issue, in fact, the ensured the elections were held late (in 2010).  Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi objected to the law passed in the fall of 2009 exactly for this reason.

Why did no one think, with al-Hashemi out of the country, to protect the interest of the Iraqi refugees?

Because they didn't give a damn.

They just wanted a law passed.  The White House wanted something to point to with pride -- and these days they have so very little to point to.  Dana Milbank (Washington Post) observes:

As President Obama sifts through the wreckage of his health-care rollout, let’s hope he’s having similar reflections about why he didn’t know the launch of his presidency’s signature policy would be so ugly.
In one account of what even administration officials acknowledge is a debacle, the Wall Street Journal reported that Obama’s policy advisers were aware long ago that the president’s promise that “if you like your insurance plan, you will keep it” wouldn’t hold up. “White House policy advisers objected to the breadth of Mr. Obama’s ‘keep your plan’ promise,” the Journal reported, citing a former senior administration official. “They were overruled by political aides, the former official said. The White House said it was unaware of the objections.”
Obama, to borrow Bush’s phrase, heard “nothing from anybody.”

You can also refer to Cedric's "He's worn out his welcome" and Wally's "THIS JUST IN! 2/3RDS SEE THE LIGHT!"

UNAMI"s headed by an idiot who refuses to listen to those under him despite the fact that Nikcolay Mladenov is the newest aspect of UNAMI.  There are people with experience serving under him, with experience and knowledge, he might try listening to them next time.

Yesterday's snapshot noted:

After visiting DC last week, Nouri's back in Iraq.  If anyone wasn't clear that Prime Minister and thug Nouri had returned, they clearly missed his latest attack on a political rival.

In the past, Nouri's mainly targeted leaders who were Sunni or Kurdish (mainly but not solely).  Today, he went gunning for Shi'ites -- specifically cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr.

The Iraq Times reports Nouri launched an unprecdented attack on Moqtada today declaring that he's trying to destroy the country, that he knows ("very well knows") who is carrying out the killings and sectarian warfare in Iraq.  All Iraq News adds that Nouri accused Moqtada of joining foreign countries in plotting against Iraq.  Alsumaria notes that Sadr MP Hossein Sharifi responded that Nouri enjoys hurling accusations at rivals to deflect from Nouri's own failures in leadership.

Nouri al-Maliki:  They also remember the honorable Iraqis who firmly and strongly confronted the terrorists particularly al - Qaeda and they also remember the control of Moqtada’s militia that fostered murder, kidnapping and theft in Basra, Karbala, Baghdad and other provinces .

Wasn't that cute of Nouri to bring up militias and to target Moqtada with militia smears.   Neither should happen. As Tim Arango (New York Times) reported last September, Nouri has armed Shi'ite militias to kill Sunnis in Iraq:

In supporting Asaib al-Haq, Mr. Maliki has apparently made the risky calculation that by backing some Shiite militias, even in secret, he can maintain control over the country’s restive Shiite population and, ultimately, retain power after the next national elections, which are scheduled for next year. Militiamen and residents of Shiite areas say members of Asaib al-Haq are given government badges and weapons and allowed freedom of movement by the security forces.

That group he's backing?  A rival of Moqtada al-Sadr's.

Alsumaria reports Moqtada al-Sadr declared today that his followers should ignore Nouri's attack on him and rise above it with patience and good manners.  An interesting response from Moqtada -- one that projects maturity and leadership.  Looks like someone's a lot more prepared than Nouri for the expected parliamentary elections.

Moving over to the US . . .

"We are here today to examine the issues facing our military and veterans cemeteries.  Our goal in this hearing is to learn more about the operations of the National Cemetery Administration as well as seek the administration's input on several focus issues that I will highlight momentarily,"  US House Rep Jon Runyan declared last Wednesday.  He was speaking at the House Veterans Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs.  He is Subcommittee Chair.  Last Wednesday, we covered the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing --    see that day's "Iraq snapshot," Thursday's "Iraq snapshot,"   Kat's "A very bad Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing," Wally's "Disappointing Chair Bernie Sanders (Wally)" and Ava's "The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee is not cutting it"   -- and I noted I would try to get this hearing in a snapshot by Friday.  I failed.  My apologies, it was a busy week with Nouri al-Maliki visiting the US.  We're covering it now.

The Subcommittee has been made aware of a terrible incident in Indianna in May of 2013, a veteran shot and

Appearing before the Subcommittee were two panels.  The first was made of  up DoD's Patrick Hallinan and VA's Glenn Powers.  The second panel was made up of the Ohio Historical Society's Todd Kleismit, the VFW's Ray Kelley, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors' Ami Neiberger-Miller and AMVETS' Diane M. Zumatto.  We're going to include Rankin Member Dina Titus's prepared statement in full:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding a hearing on this very important topic.  I also want to thank the witnesses for their attendance this morning.
It is my belief that the option of a burial in a VA national cemetery, in the state you call home, is a solemn obligation our government should fulfill.  The National Cemetery Administration has grown dramatically since its creation in 1862 when 14 cemeteries were established to serve as a permanent resting place for those killed during the Civil War.
On July 17 of that year, Congress enacted legislation that authorized the President to purchase "cemetery grounds" to be used as national cemeteries "for soldiers who shall have died in the service of the country."
In 1873, ALL honorably discharged Veterans became eligible for burial.
Since then, NCA has expanded its geographic diversity to better serve Veterans across the country and recent legislation has even further expanded NCA’s reach to rural and urban areas.
There are 131 National Cemeteries in the United States. New York has seven active national cemeteries. Three other states have six active national cemeteries, and Puerto Rico has two.
However, while access has grown significantly, there is still a very large population of Veterans that do not have the option of being buried in one of our nation’s prestigious National Cemeteries in the state they call home.
The state with the largest Veterans population without a National Cemetery happens to be Nevada, home to a fast growing population of over 301,000 veterans.  I represent Las Vegas, home to 170,000 veterans. We also represent the largest area in the country without a National Cemetery.  
In total, 11 states with a combined Veteran population of 1.8 million are not served by a National Cemetery.
The nation’s largest group of wartime veterans phrased this challenge well in stating that, “NCA must be flexible enough in their policies to recognize locations where under current policy, no new national cemetery will be developed, but other factors like geographic barriers or states that have invested in state cemeteries but have not been granted a national cemetery MUST be considered.”
I am in complete agreement with the VFW and thank them for their testimony. While I applaud VA’s efforts to reach underserved populations, I am also concerned that NCA is not working within the local veterans’ community to determine where the placement of rural initiatives should be.
Has the VA asked the Nevada and Idaho veteran community if they agree that the rural initiatives should be in Elko and Twin Falls? I am hopeful that NCA is willing to do the right thing by engaging our local veterans with regards to the placement of these shrines in western states that have long been overlooked by our nation and the National Cemetery Administration.
I also hope that the VA is not looking to use these rural initiatives as a way to appease these states that are not served by a national cemetery and then suggest that they are served by a National Cemetery. Let’s be clear, rural initiatives are not National Cemeteries. These rural initiatives will be operated by contractors unlike National Cemeteries, and are being placed in rural areas, even by western standards, and will serve very few veterans.
It is also very concerning that NCA only surveys the families of veterans who have chosen to utilize a national cemetery, while ignoring those who chose a different option as a final resting place. If NCA is looking to offer options that serve all veterans and their families, this self-selecting survey fails to provide honest feedback.
I am hopeful to hear an update from NCA on any plans they may have to better address our western veteran’s lack of an option to be buried in a National Cemetery. Let us remember all of these veterans and servicemembers served our nation. As such, with over 130 national cemeteries, it is time to open a national cemetery to the 1.8 million veterans that do not have this option. 

Two Steves joined the hearing.  US House Reps Steve Daines and Steve Stivers do not serve  on the Subcomittee but were allowed to sit in.

US House Rep Steve Stivers:   My first question is for Mr. Powers.  You may know that I'm the sponsor of the Honor Those Who Served Act which is HR 2018 involving headstones.  At a Subcommittee hearing on April -- in April of this year, Mr. Muro [VA's Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs Steve Muro]  testified that the VA is currently viewing its regulation that allows only the next of kin or a person authorized by them in writing to apply for a VA headstone.  Congressman Daines and I are very interested in this subject due to civic minded folks in both Ohio and Montana that have actively sought to procure headstones for deceased veterans in our areas.  And I'm just curious what the NCA has done in recent months to review and remedy the regulation because what's happening is it's preventing folks from receiving headstones if you can't identify a next-of-kin, whether they are homeless veterans whether they are folks who have been deceased for generations and you can't identify next-of-kin.  And I'm just curious what you are doing to review the overly restrictive application process and try to fix this so that our veterans can have honorably marked graves?

Glenn Powers:  Thank you, Congressman.  We are actively engaged in a comprehensive review and subject -- on the subject that you talked about -- which is a rewrite of the existing regulations.  We, uh,  -- A-a-a regulation was created in 2009.  The regulation looked at -- and there was a concern that very well intended people were asking for headstones markers and we were removing the families the equation.  Then we found out some headstones and markers were ordered without the family's being aware of that.  However, uh-uh-uh as you pointed out, uh, we-we-we're determined that -- along from the information that we're gathering from your constituents -- from the Veterans Service Organizations -- particularly your constituents -- and-and you have a number of them in Ohio and I believe we're-we're going to hear from them --  

US House Rep Steve Stivers:  You will 

Glenn Powers:  -- about some of the great activities that they have done in Ohio to recognize veterans.  Uhm . . .

US House Rep Steve Stivers:  And I would urge you to look at HR 2018, you know it essentially lays out a process that allows the families first to make the decisions and if you can't identify next-of-kin, it allows Veterans Service Organizations, military historians, other, uh, civically engaged folks that can find documentation to present to the VA to get a headstone.  I understand that it's inappropriate to circumvent the families but I think that if you'd take a look at what we proposed in HR 2018 and Congressman Daines is the co-sponsor and we'd love to have you review -- whether that's the final review -- but we'd love to have you look at it for consideration.

Glenn Powers:  And-and we have. And-and-and -- Uhm, I-I think -- and I would-I would-I would tell you right now that Mr. Murrow had the senior leaders quite recently engaged for a number of hours looking at, uh, uh,the proposal and-and-and the regulation.  The bottom line is we need to do this right

US House Rep Steve Stivers: Yes.

Glenn Powers:  The correct way.  And-and-and-and it involves a significant rewrite of a number of regulations over time, we believe.  We also believe it involves recrafting our forms that people request this benefit to make them more explainable about what we're asking.  In the case of historical aaspect, the kind of documentation we would require and because of the-the  aspects --

US House Rep Steve Stivers:  I think that's great and we want to give you some time to do it but I'm going to continue to pursue HR 2018.  I don't want to have to put it into the law but if it doesn't get fixed any other way, we will fix it.

For those who may be confused, it is currently a regulation.  If Congress has to get involved, it will become a law.  Like any Department in the federal government, the VA wants to keep the ability to write regulations.  So they should get off their lazy butts and fix the problem.

Let's note the proposed bill:

HR 2018 IH


1st Session

H. R. 2018
To amend title 38, United States Code, to identify the persons who are eligible to request headstones or markers furnished by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and or other purposes.


May 16, 2013

Mr. STIVERS (for himself, Mr. TIBERI, and Mrs. BEATTY) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs

To amend title 38, United States Code, to identify the persons who are eligible to request headstones or markers furnished by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and or other purposes.
    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


    This Act may be cited as the ‘Honor Those Who Served Act of 2013’.


    (a) In General- Section 2306 of title 38, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following new subsections:
    ‘(h) A person may request a headstone or marker to commemorate a decedent under this section if the person is--
      ‘(1) the decedent’s next of kin;
      ‘(2) a person authorized in writing by the decedent’s next of kin to make such request;
      ‘(3) a personal representative authorized in writing by the decedent to make such request;
      ‘(4) in the case of a decedent for whom no person described in paragraphs (1), (2), or (3) may be identified, a State veterans service agency, a military researcher, a local historian, or a genealogist or other person familiar with the research sources and methods necessary to prove the identity of the decedent; or
      ‘(5) in the case of a decedent who is a veteran who served on active duty in the Armed Forces at least 62 years before the date on which the headstone or marker is requested, any person.
    ‘(i) In the case of a request for a headstone or marker under this section for a decedent for whom insufficient information exists regarding the religious beliefs of the individual to select an appropriate emblem of belief for the headstone or marker of the decedent, the person requesting the headstone or marker may request a headstone or marker without an emblem of belief.’.
    (b) Effective Date- The amendment made by subsection (a) shall apply with respect to a request for a headstone or marker submitted after the date of the enactment of this Act.

GovTrack offers:

This bill was assigned to a congressional committee on May 16, 2013, which will consider it before possibly sending it on to the House or Senate as a whole.
Introduced May 16, 2013
Referred to Committee May 16, 2013
Reported by Committee ...
Passed House ...
Passed Senate ...
Signed by the President ...
14% chance of getting past committee.
2% chance of being enacted.

Only 11% of bills made it past committee and only about 3% were enacted in 2011–2013. [show factors | methodology]
6 cosponsors (4R, 2D) (show)
House Veterans' Affairs
The committee chair determines whether a bill will move past the committee stage.

So let's recap.  Under the current VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, a new regulation was created in 2009 which is harming the honoring of veterans who have passed away.  In April of this year, the VA's Muro told Congress that the VA was in the midst of a comprehensive review.  All these months later, Glenn Powers of the VA shows up and tells Congress that . . . the VA is in the midst of a comprehensive review.

Forget that this isn't a difficult issue to solve.  Remember that Shinseki's VA is responsible for the screw up to begin with.  That should mean you take ownership of it and you get off your ass and you fix it.  Fix it doesn't take months.  You come up with a regulation within a wee, you put it through legal, you get feedback within the department and you've got a regulation within 30 days.

There is no leadership at the VA.

Equally true, they have no response to the proposed bill.  The bill was introduced in May.

There's no excuse for this nonsense.

But it's typical.  It's what we complained about last Wednesday, how the VA is not following the rules, not providing timely feedback on laws, etc, etc.

There's no excuse for this and that's especially true when Shiseki implemented this regulation.  If this effected one veteran, it would matter.  The Subcomittee used the figure of 200,000 for the number of homeless veterans currently.  That's a low number.  That's a number for veterans who have no where but homeless shelters.  There are many more homeless veterans who move couch to couch among friends.  Were any of them to die under the current policy, they would also be at risk of no marker on their grave.

US House Rep Steve Daines:   I am here today because of these very troubling stories that have come my way and come to my attention from the veterans in my home state of Montana. At the Yellowstone Community Veterans Cemetery in Laurel, Montana, just outside of Billings, just this year alone, there are 8 veterans who've been buried who have no markers.  In each of these eight cases, all of the proper papers was presented but they were denied.  The VA explained that with the exception of state or national cemeteries, all requests for a headstone must be signed by a veteran or the veterans' next-of-kin.  Now we have groups, veterans groups, back home like Missing in America, The Patriot Guard Riders.  They stand ready to honor these veterans and have done so in the past but because of this revised policy, I think Mr. Powers mentioned from 2009, they can no longer provide a headstone to honor the sacrifices of our veterans.  I'm the son of a US Marine and I was taught very early on the importance of commitment and sacrifice -- but also the importance of honoring these veterans who served their country honorably and the lack of justice we see here upon their passing.

So there are 8 in one cemetery, just one, who would have markers right now if Eric Shinseki had stopped wasting time and taxpayer money and actually done something for veterans?

There were many other important issues raised in the hearing.  To note only one, US House Rep Belo O'Roarke focused on the shoddy cemetery his district got, "Nobody wants to kneel on gravel when they're visiting a grave site at Fort Bliss.  You got to Arlington which is just absolutely beautiful and lush by comparison.  I don't know that we need to have Arlington in El Paso but we should have something that, uh, commemorates the level of sacrifice, the level of respect that's owed to those who gave so much to our country and to their families who also sacrificed as well."

Still on veterans' issues, Iraq War veteran Patrick Murphy served in the Congress after serving in Iraq. In Congress, he was honestly misled (lied to) about Don't Ask Don't Tell (he was told there was leadership in the Senate -- there wasn't).  He was lied to and he was played.  It happens to all of us -- usually several times.  Murphy got played but refused to play the fool.  When he grasped what was what, he used his remaining time (he'd lost re-election) in Congress to accomplish a promise he made.  Because of Murphy, more than any one else in the House or Senate, Don't Ask Don't Tell got overturned and gay men and women can now serve openly in the US military.  The State Dept today ran a column Murphy wrote for Stars and Stripes.  We'll note the openingL

Patrick Murphy is a retired Army captain and Iraq War veteran who served in the U.S. House of Representatives as a Pennsylvania Democrat. He is working for the Department of State in support of efforts to secure ratification of the Disabilities Treaty. This op-ed originally appeared in Stars and Stripes.
Everyone who has worn the uniform of the United States knows that fighting for our country doesn’t stop when deployment ends. Our duty to our fellow soldiers, and our fellow citizens, is a lifelong promise made when we joined the greatest fighting force the world has ever known. It is a promise I made proudly nearly 20 years ago and one I intend to keep by fighting for the tens of millions of disabled Americans and the millions of disabled American veterans.
I am standing up for them, and a generation of servicemembers returning home from a decade at war, by calling for the passage of the Disabilities Treaty. This critical international agreement will make it easier for our veterans to study, work and travel overseas.
I served in Baghdad from June 2003 to January 2004. I led convoys and saw firsthand the courage and sacrifice made by my fellow soldiers. When I returned home, I saw the same from our vets. Many of them left arms and legs on the battlefield in service to this country, and they deserve our continued support.
The Disabilities Treaty is a commonsense step that we can take to keep faith with our disabled veterans. It will put the United States in the driver’s seat as we promote our standards for accessibility and equality of opportunity in other countries, making it easier for our wounded warriors and their families to take advantage of opportunities abroad.
I know there are a lot of urgent issues that consume our leaders in Washington. Believe me, as a former congressman, I felt the pull of those issues day in and day out. But what treaty advocates are talking about isn’t pie-in-the-sky internationalism. There are 55 million disabled Americans in this country, including 5.5 million disabled American veterans. Ratifying this treaty is real to them and their families.
So why join the treaty? As I saw in Iraq, Bosnia and in many other countries in which I’ve traveled, accessibility standards overseas aren’t nearly as good as our own. In fact, while 42 International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) members in Afghanistan have ratified the treaty, many of them still have barriers for people with disabilities that make finding jobs or getting around a day-to-day challenge.