Join Jim and Greg as they cheer the August jobs report showing nearly 1.4 million new jobs and the unemployment rate dropping well below expectations. They also wade into the anonymous allegations in “The Atlantic” that President Trump uttered disparaging comments about our war dead and wounded veterans. And as Joe Biden starts making public appearances, the cringe-inducing moments come with him. Why does Biden never pay a price for comments that might sink other political figures?
Veterans are still facing long wait times to see doctors at some VA facilities. Those long wait times can mean worse illnesses and injuries.
Of particular concern are veterans who live hundreds of miles or more away from VA facilities and have a difficult time ever seeing a physician.
Now the VA, American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars are teaming up with Philips North America for a pilot program to allow veterans to engage doctors through telehealth technologies and also benefit from artificial intelligence in the medical community.
In this podcast, Philips North America CEO Vitor Rocha explains how this partnership began and how it will work. He also explains the benefits of telehealth and what data will be reviewed from the pilot program to see if it will be expanded.
As our nation formally observes Veterans Day Monday, U.S. Army veteran and former Pentagon official Van Hipp is teaching his children and all Americans why this day is so special and what our veterans truly mean to us.
In an “open letter” on FoxNews.com, Hipp says Americans need to recognize that veterans fulfill the main purpose for which the federal government was created in the first place.
“Always remember that is the primary purpose of our government. And it is American men and women who have worn the uniform – our veterans – who have kept us safe and provided for that common defense,” wrote Hipp.
But Hipp worries that an appreciation of our veterans is diminishing because fewer people have a clear grasp of what those men and women have done over more than two centuries to secure our liberties. He says a survey published in USA Today earlier this year left him stunned.
“Twenty-two percent of millennials weren’t sure of they knew what the Holocaust was and 67 percent had never even heard of Auschwitz. When I read that, I said, ‘We’ve got a problem,'” said Hipp.
Listen to the full podcast to hear more of the letter, and find out what Hipp believes is the most meaningful way we can honor our veterans on a daily basis.
A retired U.S. Marine Corps gunnery sergeant prominent veterans advocate is fuming after new revelations that the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Washington is failing to meet even the most basic medical standards.
Employees at the center are imploring new Veterans Affairs Sec. Robert Willkie to take immediate action to change practices there. They cite rusty medical instruments and bacteria-infected water being used to sterilize equipment.
The employees also report, “Infection rates went up instead of down in veterans’ bloodstreams and in their urinary tracts. Patient satisfaction went down instead of up. Employee satisfaction tanked.”
Jessie Jane Duff served 20 years in the Marine Corps, rising to gunnery sergeant. She is now a senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research.
“This sounds like a third world hospital and yet it’s right at the back door of the VA headquarters itself right here in Washington, D.C. It’s tragic. This is one of the flagship hospitals for the VA,” said Duff, noting the facility is one of fifteen nationwide with the lowest rating.
“If it was a restaurant, it would have been shut down,” she added. “Here is an example of basic healthcare that is being handled in such an incompetent manner. I mean rusty instruments? Water that you can’t even drink from? What is going on? Are we actually in combat? Are we in a MASH unit? Even then, their standards are higher.”
As a result of the VA scandal earlier this decade, funding for the department was effectively doubled. Duff says these conditions are not due to a lack of resources.
“The VA gets the second largest bucket of money next to [the Defense Department]. So this is not a money problem. This is a management problem. It’s an accountability problem. Until you’re able to bring in positive leadership with positive change. with the capability of removing those bad apples that have allowed these problems to fester, then you essentially have a status quo of business as usual,” said Duff.
Duff says legislation signed by President Trump last year does make it easier to fire the “bad apples” and also gives veterans more flexibility to find care outside of the VA system. However, there are still problems, including veterans only getting access to private sector care if they live a certain distance from a VA facility. Private providers are also have trouble getting reimbursed from the VA.
With the bureaucracy grinding the system to a halt and sometimes not even putting clean medical instruments into use, Duff says the American people should take a good look at the VA.
“My question to the American people is, ‘Do you see why government-run health care has never helped those that are using it?’ It sounds like an easy fix. It sounds like a possible solution to problems, but what often happens is when you remove private enterprise from the equation, there is not a sense of responsibility,” said Duff.
She says these problems must be dealt with soon or military enlistments will drop.
“We cannot have a nation where we do not take care of those who sacrificed the most, who signed a blank check with their life or their limb for us. That is critical. Who will volunteer for the military if they ever see that this is the end result in their final years of life or even when they’re only thirty-something years old and need health care,” said Duff.
But what should happen now to make sure we never see similar conditions at another VA facility? Duff says President Trump must make it clear this is unacceptable on his watch.
“This is one thing that President Trump ran on. He stated that the VA bureaucracy was something that needed to be taken care of,” said Duff, who encourages Trump to use his Twitter account to call out those responsible.
Regardless of the public relations strategy, Duff says the problems must be solved. She says the courage of the employees at the D.C. facility is a great first step, but meaningful change must follow.
“I admire them for speaking up and if it is being covered up, let’s crack this open. Let’s get this exposed. Let’s have the media go after it.
“I’ll tell you right now, President Trump is not going to tolerate veterans dying on his watch due to a lack of care run by the very system, by the very people he has now appointed. I expect that he will be very aggressive about this,” said Duff.
As America pauses for Veterans Day this weekend, a leading advocate for improving the VA system that cares for those who have served this nation in uniform says the VA system has made made some important improvements in the first year of the Trump administration but she says some badly needed reforms are happening far too slowly.
Jessie Jane Duff served as a gunnery sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps. She is now a senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research. She gives the Trump administration a ‘B’ grade thus far in improving the health care system for veterans.
Duff says Veterans Affairs Secretary Dr. David Shulkin has made progress on some bureaucratic issues, including closing down 430 vacant buildings around the nation and another 284 that were underutilized.
“That can save $23 million a year. That money can now be going to health care or receiving mental health care for these veterans,” said Duff.
She says other efficiencies are also now in place.
“They have improved same-day services for primary and mental health care at all of their medical centers. They’re making it easier for veterans to file online health care applications. They’re receiving eight times as many online applications this year. That’s good,” said Duff.
Duff also applauds collaborative efforts with the private marketplace to allow veterans to get minor health care needs, such as flu shots, taken care of outside of VA facilities. Veterans living in rural areas more than 40 miles from a VA hospital also have greater access to private sector health care.
She is also encouraged that Shulkin is informing the public of any disciplinary actions within the VA in real time.
“They also became the first agency to post information on employee disciplinary actions online. That’s a must. How many times did we hear about disciplinary actions after the fact, after they had either resigned from a position or transferred to a new job. They had covered up in the past,” said Duff.
But while those positives are making life easier for veterans, other major priorities are moving at a glacial pace. Duff says is taking entirely too long to implement a modern system to seamlessly transfer medical records from the Department of Defense to the VA.
“This ordeal, which should have been corrected ten years ago, has fallen on President Trump’s lap and on Secretary Shulkin’s lap, is apparently going to take another eight years,” said Duff.
Another major frustration is the slow turnaround on veterans’ health care claims. She says in a digital world, the kind of backlog we see at the VA is simply unacceptable.
“There should not be any kind of backlog. A backlog means you’ve been waiting over 125 days for your claim to be addressed. In my opinion, it should be no more than a 30 to 60, no more than a 90-day turnaround,” said Duff.
“We’re not sending anything by the Pony Express anymore. We’re not even sending anything by the Postal Service anymore. Everything is electronic. Everything should be expedited and that should immediately shave off 30 days,” said Duff.
While Duff is adamant about the turnaround times, she admits forcing standards on bureaucrats often leads to the scandals we saw just two years ago.
“The problem when you give these deadlines is you start having people fraudulently putting down numbers. That’s what created the basic backlog in the first place,” said Duff.
So while progress has been made at the VA in 2017, Duff says there are still great concerns.
“It’s just very dismaying to me to see that these things still are going to take long to happen. How many more veterans are going to die waiting? How many more veterans are not going to get adequate care?” asked Duff.
While she hopes to see rapid improvement on issues like claim turnarounds and record transfers, Duff warns that a federally-run health care program is always going to have problems.
“The fear I have is that government health care is always going to be muddied down with government bureaucracy,” said Duff, once again urging the VA to partner with outside health care providers.
“Let Blue Cross or whatever health care system that’s willing to take on veterans that are away from hospitals. Let’s get this moving,” she said.
A new report shows the Department of Veterans Affairs is failing to answer calls on the Veteran Crisis Line, leaving many veterans waiting 30 minutes, a federal performance that one prominent veterans advocate says should leave the American people “disgusted.”
The VA’s own inspector general issued the report Monday. First created in 2007, the Veterans Crisis Line is designed to have 10 percent or fewer of the calls roll over into overflow call centers. However, from April through November of 2016, 28.4 percent of calls went to those call centers, with many waiting 30 minutes for someone to speak to them. In October, the rate was 34.9 percent.
“It’s disgusting. Every American should be absolutely disgusted with this rate for a suicide hotline. I’m just kind of numb to a point where the VA is just the gift that keeps on giving when it comes to giving me an opportunity to come out ans scream and yell,” said retired U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant Jessie Jane Duff, who is now a senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research.
“I am frustrated beyond belief. I understand this is a new administration. I’m willing to give the new secretary of the Veterans Administration an opportunity to correct these issues. But I do hope that bringing this forward in the first 50 some odd days of this administration, they’d take it very seriously,” said Duff.
She says veteran suicides are a major problem and forcing vets in crisis to wait long periods is not helpful.
“They have 20 veterans a day killing themselves. Twenty veterans a day; this is by the VA’s own stats themselves. So then to put them on hold for 30 minutes. Do you not think that’s not potentially contributing to the suicide rate?” asked Duff.
The report also shows the VA is distorting the wait time for veterans by declaring that calls forwarded to overflow centers are never really on hold.
“To have them wait 30 minutes is ridiculous. And then the excuses they give. They said they’re not being put on hold because they were re-routed to an overflow center. They said, ‘Well, we didn’t put them on hold.’ Quit patting yourself on the back. To a caller, that was waiting 30 minutes. In that time they could have pulled the trigger or driven off the bridge,” said Duff.
Deflecting blame infuriates Duff as much as the incompetence.
“Who is going to be held accountable for this. The staff obviously doesn’t get fired. There’s obviously minimal recourse for the veterans who are left on hold. What are they left to do. Reporting it doesn’t seem to be getting them anywhere,” said Duff.
Duff says this seems like an easy fix.
“You would have to centralize where this system is located and you would have to enable it with an efficient and effective staff. They should be like a 911 call center. 911 does not place you on hold. It’s as simple as that. It should be considered an emergency,” said Duff.
Duff says something like this should be effectively addressed in three months or less. She also wants the VA to focus on care for veterans instead of trying to take away their second amendment rights because they’ve been deemed mentally incapable of handling their own financial affairs. The Justice Department imposed such an order and legislation is now underway to reverse that ruling.
“Mentally defective does not equate suicide, and if the VA cares so much about suicide, why aren’t they answering their phones,” said Duff.
When it comes to confronting union and freeing up the VA secretary to remove ineffective or incompetent personnel, Duff wants to see major results within a year. She says Secretary David Shulkin deserves a chance to do the job, but she says results should determine how long he stays there.
“For the bigger things. I expect (results) in a year. I’m not even talking midterms. If this doesn’t get corrected, somebody needs to be removed from this position and we need someone who’s willing to do the deep dive and go in there and dig,” said Duff.
Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America get a kick out of Dianne Feinstein declaring Roe v. Wade of being a “superprecedent.” They’re also frustrated as the VA’s inspector general shows far too many veterans are being forced to wait a long time on the Veterans Crisis Line. And they weigh in on the Blaze suspending Tomi Lahren for telling ‘The View’ that being pro-choice is consistent with conservatism.
Republicans in Congress are fired up by the chance to accomplish big things in the early days of the upcoming Trump administration and move away from the crisis budgeting that faces them once again in the lame duck session.
Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla, who gained notoriety nearly two years ago by posing an intraparty challenge to then-House Speaker John Boehner, says GOP members are itching to get things done.
“I can tell you the enthusiasm and the excitement up here of getting things done is higher than I’ve ever seen,” said Yoho, who is wrapping up his second two-year term. “The optimism is tremendous. Even the members that served under (George W.) Bush said they’ve never seen it like this.”
He says part of the excitement was the promise from Vice President-Elect Mike Pence that lawmakers would be very busy in the early days of the Trump administration.
“He said, ‘I hope you guys are holding on and you’re ready to work because this guy that is going to be president is unlike anybody you’ve ever worked with before. He’s got unlimited energy. We want to roll back the majority, if not all, of the executive orders. We want to repeal and replace Obamacare and we want to adapt the tax reforms that the Republicans have teed up and ready to go,'” said Yoho.
“He said we’re going to do all that in the first 100 days,” said Yoho.
Even thornier issues such as entitlements lie ahead, but Yoho says a united GOP can make progress on those elusive goals as well.
“The biggest thing is having a common vision and goal that you’re trying to accomplish. We’re at a point in this country where in 5-10 years our mandatory spending is going to consume over 80 percent of what we spend as a nation,” said Yoho.
“We’ll be at a situation like Greece, Spain, or Portugal, where the situation dictates what you have to do as far as austerity measures and the reforms you have to make in programs. We have time to be proactive and change that,” said Yoho, who says this GOP Congress will not end up spending more and growing government like it did from 2005-2007, the last time Republicans controlled Congress and the White House.
While admitting some tough decisions will have to made on some aspects of entitlement and spending reform, he says some parts of the solution should be easy, starting with mandatory spending that isn’t essential.
“One of the things that’s mandatory spending is $88 million to save the wild horses out West. I’m a veterinarian, worked on horses all my life. I’m very cognizant and want to take care of the horses, but it shouldn’t be mandatory spending,” said Yoho.
He also sees places to trim entitlement spending.
“We’ve got people receiving Social Security benefits that have never paid into it. We’ve got people from other countries getting Social Security Disability Insurance. These things have to be looked at. Then you take the fraud and abuse out of these things. There are billions of dollars that can be saved by doing some very simple things and fixing the low-hanging fruit,” said Yoho.
Even before Trump takes office, Congress must work with President Obama to pass a short-term government funding bill. Current funding runs out Dec. 9. Yoho expects a continuing resolution to pass that would extend government funding until March. The Trump administration would then be in office to negotiate future spending. However, Yoho points out that subsequent spending debate would coincide with a high stakes debate over raising the debt ceiling.
Yoho hopes that a Trump administration will bring an end to omnibus budgeting that often end up with Republicans holding their noses and voting for prominent Obama priorities such as funding Planned Parenthood and sanctuary cities.
The current lame duck session is already a success for Yoho. Earlier in the week, the House passed his WINGMAN legislation, also known as H.R. 5166. The bill gives Congress access to claims filed by veterans with the Department of Veterans Affairs and gives lawmakers and their staffs the ability to explain what else veterans need to fill out or put members in position to pressure the VA for resolution of the claims.