Freedom Isn't Free

Freedom Isn't Free

28 July 2014

D-Day and H-Hour

   As you may have heard, The Veterans Committees of both the Senate and the House of Representatives have agreed on a compromise of their separate bill proposals.  What's that? You say this calls for rejoicing?  Well, maybe a little.  If you want to rejoice that something positive actually happened in the hallowed halls of our Federal government.  But you see, this is just D-Day. It's not H-Hour. 
   D-Day is the day when an operation is supposed to start.  The best example is, of course, D-Day.  By that I mean 6 June 1944.  But D-Day wasn't the name of the operation.  The name was Operation Overlord.  It is remembered as D-Day because it was the largest operation ever undertaken by a group of countries. 
   OK, sorry for the very brief history lesson, we'll get back to it in a little bit.  But, yes a compromise has been reached.  It's not what acting VA Secretary Sloane Gibson wanted ($17.6 Billion) but its close.  $17 Billion over 3 years.  It contains funding for Veterans who live too far away from a VA medical center or have waited more than a month for an appointment.  It also contains funding to hire more doctors, nurses and other medical staff.  The bill also grants the VA Secretary the power to fire senior executives. That's right, the secretary couldn't do that before.  It literally took an act of Congress for the VA Secretary to be able to control the bureaucrats that run (and have ruined) the Veterans Administration. 
   Let me back up a second.  I said "it took" an act of Congress.  Actually it will still take an act of Congress.  That's where we get into H-Hour.
   H-hour is on Friday.  That's when all of the elected Senators and Representatives in Washington, D.C. will be leaving for recess.  So, if this compromise isn't voted on by Friday, it wont happen.  That's right.  None of this will happen unless both the Senate and the House vote to pass the bill.  Also by Friday, the Senate has to vote to confirm Robert McDonald as the new Secretary of the VA.  Now, I'm sure they have a lot of other things to do, but we have to make sure they pass the bill. So I'm again asking that we rally the troops again to call their elected Senators and Representatives and tell them (or at least their voice mail) that we want this bill passed. 
   In announcing the compromise, House Veterans Committee leader Jeff Miller (R-FL) said "the VA is not sacred--Veterans are."  This, more than anything else, I agree with.  The next thing I agree with is that Sanders said that this compromise bill "starts the conversation".  He is correct.  This is not the end of the VA Scandal, just as D-Day of Operation Overlord wasn't the end of World War II.
   Let's remember, the VA Scandal has grown from the tragic deaths of Veterans at a VA Medical Center in Arizona into problems and investigations at other medical centers across the United States, including more than two years worth of claims that have never even been looked at in a Philadelphia claims processing center.  
   That's why Veterans organizations are taking a "wait and see" approach to the compromise.  Dan Caldwell, legislative campaign manager for Concerned Veterans of America (CVA) said the politicians have to address what the actual mission of the VA is. 
   Daniel Dellinger, National Commander for the American Legion, said " it would be a great mistake to see this legislation as a one-time fix for all the woes that have been hobbling VA's performance and credibility."
   We can only hope and see if the politicians do understand that this is the start, not the ending, of the VA Scandal.  Also, the next Secretary of the VA must not only use the power to fire senior bureaucrats, but they must bring those responsible for the VA Scandal to a court of law.  Veterans died and others have waited far too long for the care that this nation promised them. 
   That is all.

22 July 2014

Tactical Strategy?

   In the military there are two ways to get a job done, and they both work hand in hand.  Tactics and Strategy.  An overall strategy cannot work unless the low level tactics are used to make the strategy a success.  When you are in Basic Training you have no knowledge of what is going to happen next, that's tactical knowledge and as a "boot" you have none. The strategical end of Basic Training is graduating and becoming a Solider, Marine, Airman or seaman.  Yes, you may know that tomorrow you will be going to the rifle range but you probably didn't know about the O dark thirty PT session planned early the next morning.  Those things can be nasty! The rifle range (and the countless PT sessions held way too often early in the morning) are all part of the tactical training every military recruit needs to make the strategy of graduation day a successful one.
  Where is this guy going with all this? Well, I just want to make sure that everyone that reads this blog knows I don't expect a snap of someone's fingers and the problems at the VA will be solved.  Just as the VA problems didn't just begin within the last year, those strategical solutions to for the VA won't come to a successful completion for years or longer.
   Even now, VA centers in Philadelphia & Baltimore are coming under scrutiny.  There are more problems than just medical backlogs, as almost any Veteran knows, and they are all around the country.  The sheer magnitude of the VA Scandal can be found in the latest headlines of the media.  Acting Secretary Gibson is asking for $17.6 Billion to help fix the problems in the VA. 
   The request has apparently given some fiscal conservatives with a bad taste in their mouths.  While I am a conservative in just about every sense of the word (OK I do like some reggae music, I admit it), I will say that the VA problems existed during just about every conservative Republican administration that has existed since I was born in 1967.  Indeed, this is not a problem just for conservatives but for liberals too.  Very little, indeed if anything, was done to fix the VA during any administration.  Hope that alleviates the bad taste.  Yes, it will take money to fix the VA scandal, but that is not all it will take.  It will take changing the way the VA operates in just about every way.  That means the bureaucracy must change.  That takes time.  And a strategy. 
   In the meantime, the American Legion has taken steps with the VA to create (tactical) crisis centers in areas where the root of the medical appointment backlog are the worse.  More whistleblowers are coming forward and, as I pointed out earlier, the problems are becoming more evident all across the country.
   While holding a preliminary hearing today,  The Senate will hold a confirmation hearing in the full Senate for Robert McDonald before they go in recess at the end of the month, supposedly. I hope that happens.  Because the strategy will ultimately be a big part of what McDonald brings to the VA. 
   What we the people have to do is keep up the tactical firefight by keeping this in the public's eye.  Letters to the editor.  Talk radio programs.  Blogs.  Tweets.  Facebook posts.  This is not a new problem but it is in the media spotlight right now. That is our tactical advantage.  Make no doubts about it, this is as grassroots as it gets.  We have to keeping putting wood on the VA scandal fire so it is noticed.  So it is fixed  The VA scandal started decades ago.  It starts to end now.  Our Veterans are owed that much.
That is all.   

14 July 2014

Take the initiative

   If you've ever served in the military, you've witnessed a 1st Sgt. standing in front of a company going off.  An entire company at parade rest listening with rapt attention while their top NCO explains to them how, where and/or why they have found themselves in a formation listening to a 30- or 40-year veteran of the military tell them how far their collective head is up their ass.  Usually, you know when you hear there's going to be a formation.  Its usually at an unusual hour for a formation, like say 0300 hrs. on a weekend.  Maybe you've heard scuttlebutt about Pvt. So-in-so enjoying the courtesy of a bunk at the M.P.'s fine quarters (Navy guys call it the brig).  Or maybe you've just walked into a barracks that is trashed beyond even the low expectations of cleanliness held in many third world countries.  You know as you file into formation its going to get heated.
   Right from the start, this is going to be one of those rants.  But I don't want to preach to the choir.  Most of the times that Top Shirt is trying to get his soldiers motivated in one of the most tried and true ways that he knows.  Yeah, this is going to be one of those rants.
   What the hell is being done with the VA Scandal?  I ask you because I certainly don't see anything being done.  Yes, I understand there have been some changes. Yes I know that the politicians are holding their Congressional hearings to "get to the bottom" of the scandal.  But, the truth of the matter is, not much is being changed as of right now.
   Why/ you may ask.  Well, look at the (political) immigration scandal at our Southern border. Well, look at the (political) trips the President is making.  There's ISIS (or ISIL I'm still not sure what the acronym is for the rising caliphate where Veterans' blood was spilled within the last 12 years) and there's Israeli airstrikes against Hamas (or is it Ham-Ass?Again,I'm not sure).  And, somewhere in the background are Veterans who are still waiting for care.  Or, there's other programs run by the VA that are also under mismanagement. None of that is new to Veterans, absolutely nothing. 
   While there are fewer hard news stories in the media (when it is covered) there are editorials in various media outlets. One excellent editorial from the Ft. Worth Star Telegram is here. And this is where we can take the initiative and make sure our Veterans get the care and all the other things promised to them, that they deserve.  Ladies and gents, its time to take the pen, keyboard, or phone and make sure the local populace understands that the VA Scandal is alive and tied up by the same politicians and bureaucrarts that enabled the scandal to exist at all.
   Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper.  Call a local radio talk show.  Call the comment line for your local radio/t.v. station.  Let them know that there are still Veterans waiting for medical care.  That there are still Veterans waiting for benefits that have long been promised but are always short on delivery. Keep this alive on social media.  Lets get #VAScandal trending.  And, as always, let your U.S. Senators and House Representatives know that it is still a burning topic.  If they want to continue living it up in Washington, D.C. they'll listen (at least when its election time).  And maybe, just maybe, enough of the politicians will start talking about it that the President will use his pen or his phone to do something about it now.  Wouldn't that be something.
That is all.

  At one time or another you will realize you can't count on the government to do just about anything right.  Luckily for those Veterans returning wounded there are organizations like Fisher House Organization.  I encourage anyone and everyone to support the organizations that help our Veterans while the politicians hem and haw about what to do.  Thank you.

I took an Oath to serve my country and protect her from all of her enemies.  Although retired from the military now, I am an OathKeeper.  Find out more about the OathKeepers here.

07 July 2014

Bring Back Our Marine

   I spent part of the weekend at an IndyCar race.  Selling programs at race as Pocono Raceway is the major fundraiser for my son's Boy Scout Troop.  While I was there I was able to talk to a few members of the group Rear Area Support Foundation (RASF).  They have a moving Global War on Terror Wall of Remembrance.  I would invite you to check out when this wall will be coming to an area near you.  You can find group's website here. The wall memorializes Veterans who have sacrificed their lives during the Beirut Bombing all the way up to Operation New Dawn. Thanks for the time I spent talking to you Derek, I look forward to talking with you and interviewing you about RASF and the AMVETS sometime soon.
   Tomorrow Marine Sgt Andrew Tahmooressi will have his day in court in Mexico.  I am hoping and praying (as I'm sure you are as well) that this will be the beginning of the end of his time in captivity in Mexico.  It was a wrong turn in more ways than one. 
   The media coverage of this has been a mixed bag and the third side of the story, the truth, hasn't been told in its entirety.  Moreover, our government hasn't really done jack for Sgt Tahmooressi.  Kind of what the government has done for Veterans suffering due to the VA Scandal.  No one has lifted a pen or a phone during either event.  Inaction is often more noticeable than action.  This is one of those times.
   I'm not a big fan of inaction.  And I want to do something to possibly help Sgt Tahmooressi.  We have all heard about the calls to boycott Mexico.  That can be impractical and, at the same time, may be unhelpful.  I am not calling for a boycott.  What I am calling for is for readers of my blog to call and email the Mexican Embassy in Washington, D.C. and ask that their government grants Tahmooressi his freedom.  No threats of boycott.  No foul language.  Just a simple request that one of our countrymen be granted freedom after he made a wrong turn at the border.

Phone number of Mexican Embassy in Washington, D.C.
email address for the Mexican Embassy in Washington, D.C.
Sgt Tahmooressi fought for our country and was prepared to pay the ultimate price for our country.  He deserves his freedom.
   Thank you for reading my blog.
That is all.
I write this blog as apolitical as I can.  One of the main reasons this blog is in existence is because of am online friend of mine who write his own blog here.
I retired from the military in January of 2009.  My Oath that I took at the start of my military career doesn't retire.  I'm an OathKeeper.  Find out more about the OathKeepers here.

04 July 2014

Freedom isn't free

   Happy Independence Day!
   I'm posting today because its going to be a busy weekend but also because Independence and freedom have a lot to do with today's blog. Let's get down to it.
   The VA Scandal
   A day doesn't go by that more and more is uncovered about the scandal.  Any Veteran has a personal story or knows of a story from a fellow Veteran about long wait times, that's nothing new.  It's freaking horrible and has to stop.  Hopefully, once confirmed McDonaldwill be able to change that.  Only time will tell. 
   New is the fact that there is finally a link between the VA bonuses and the crime of making Veterans wait longer because of appointment requests being put into a desk drawer or otherwise forgotten.  The link to that story in the USA Today is here. Over $380,000 paid to officials involved (go ahead tell me they didn't know) in the waiting list VA Scandal. This includes the medical inspector for the VA himself!  The names listed are only a partial list of those involved and its time to press charges.
   That's where this next story comes into play.  Are these enough to "fix" the VA? No, not hardly.  However, its a start.  Notice in the blog report that the VA has switched around $390 mil for private hospitals to help alleviate Veterans waiting for care.  That's a drop in the bucket as far as most Veterans are concerned and the politicians in Congress have to act to make this more of a solution than it is right now.  O that's right, Congress is on recess.  If you see any of them while they are home, please let them know they need to make sure our Veterans are treated better that illegal immigrants walking into our country from Mexico.  The thought of Veterans living on the streets, no job and no healthcare is enough to make my blood boil!
   Bring Back Our Marine
   Now for the part of my blog about independence.  We have a US Marine that is falsely imprisioned in Mexico and we need to bring him back home to America, the land of Independence and Freedom!  Currently SGT Andrew Tahmooressi has a hearing set for 9 July.  This news article from the L.A. Times gives a current run down on the Tahmooressi's situation.  I will have more about Tahmooressi in my next blog.  I'm hoping he will be freed next week.  It is a travesty that he isn't a free man now.
   Please enjoy your Independence Day holiday.  Remember that you enjoy the freedoms we have in this country because men and women have paid the ultimate price to protect and dend our country.  God Bless the USA!
That is all.