Category: bureaucracy


Last I  checked the excuse for the shuffling that was  going on with  scheduling appointments.  Was not an  isolated incident as it was  being  done in more than one  VA Hospital.  Taking place due to  policies being implemented  to  monitor the productivity and efficiency of Hospital personnel and their respective departments. 

Protocols such as this are generally handed down from corporate hierarchy to regional and then local.   It is doubtful that regional or local management implemented these measures on their own and just happened to coincide with similar incidents in other  hospitals in the same way. 

If these protocols were being implemented and enforced  throughout all VA Hospitals , logic would dictate that  they originated higher up the food chain and that local as well as regional management had a stake in the ultimate outcome of these assessments.  After all ,  corporate politics would dictate that promotions and rewards would directly correlate with the outcome of said assessments as well as departmental records.

To establish unrealistic goals without providing adequate means to accomplish said goals effectively.  As well as establishing a competitive situation without adequate control measures to keep the  overzealous and unscrupulous from doing exactly what has been done.  Is an obvious failure on the part of corporate management, Eric Shineski, in this case.  To gloss over that fact is naive at best and criminal at worst.  But then Mr. Obama is no stranger to criminal negligence , gross ineptitude and just plain ignorance of the actions taking place around him.  So I suppose he can sympathize…..

 

~Desert Rose~

 

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VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst).

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst).

 The Washington Post

 

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House votes 390-33 to speed up VA firings

The House on Wednesday overwhelmingly passed a bill to grant the Veterans Affairs secretary expanded authority to fire senior executives for poor performance.

The measure passed on a 390-33 vote amid allegations that veterans encountered delays in access to medical care at multiple VA hospitals across the country, leading to dozens of deaths. All 33 votes in opposition came from Democrats, including ledership Reps. Steny Hoyer (Md.) and James Clyburn (S.C.). House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) voted to approve the measure.

Under the bill, the VA secretary would be authorized to dismiss senior executives or demote them to the civil service. It would require the VA secretary to notify Congress of such a firing or demotion within 30 days.House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) said the measure would help rid the department of incompetent employees in light of the controversy.

“The committee has received nothing but disturbing silence from the White House and only excuse after another from the Department of Veterans Affairs,” Miller said.

Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.) said the legislation would send a message that the VA would be held accountable.

“It is very important as we go into Memorial Day that we let the veterans know that we appreciate their service. And we also need to let them know that we’re going to do all we can to make sure they have the quality health care they deserve,” Brown said.

An administration official said the White House supports the overall goals of the legislation, but also had concerns that it could have unintended consequences.

 

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Obama vows fix to veterans’ health care troubles

 

WASHINGTON (AP) – With outrage mounting over veterans’ health care, President Barack Obama declared Wednesday that allegations of misconduct at VA hospitals will not be tolerated, and he left open the possibility that Secretary Eric Shinseki, a disabled war veteran, could be held to account.

“I will not stand for it – not as commander in chief but also not as an American,” Obama said following an Oval Office meeting with the embattled Shinseki.

Congress moved to keep up the pressure on the administration, with the House easily approving a measure Wednesday evening that would give the VA secretary more authority to fire or demote the 450 senior career employees who serve as hospital directors or executives in the agency’s 21 regions. The vote was 390 to 33.

Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, sponsored the measure, saying VA officials who have presided over mismanagement or negligence are more likely to receive bonuses or glowing performance reviews than any sort of punishment. He declared that a “widespread and systemic lack of accountability is exacerbating” the department’s problems.

The White House said it supported the goal of seeking greater accountability at the VA but had unspecified concerns about the legislation.

The growing furor surrounding the Department of Veterans Affairs centers on allegations of treatment delays and preventable deaths at VA hospitals. The department’s inspector general’s office says 26 facilities are being investigated nationwide, including a Phoenix hospital facing allegations that 40 people died while waiting for treatment and staff kept a secret list of patients in order to hide delays in care.

The allegations have raised fresh concerns about the Obama administration’s management of a department that has been struggling to keep up with the influx of new veterans returning home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama’s comments Wednesday – his first on the matter in more than three weeks – signaled a greater urgency by the White House to keep the matter from spiraling into a deeper political problem in a midterm election year.

 

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Possible drawbacks of the VA firing bill scheduled for Wednesday vote

The House is set to vote this week on a bill that would give the head of the Department of Veterans Affairs authority to fire or demote senior executives for perceived performance problems without going through the usual administrative procedures.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) added the measure to the weekly docket on Thursday, the same date VA Secretary Eric Shinseki testified about reports that VA health clinics throughout the country have cooked their books to hide treatment delays, some of which may have affected patients who died while waiting for care.

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst).

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst).

Ironically, the American Legion has called for Shinseki’s removal because of the alleged coverups, along with other problems such as a longstanding backlog of disability claims and preventable deaths at various VA hospitals. If the secretary departs, his critics would have to wait for a replacement to fire senior officials for the recent controversy.

Shinseki said during the hearing that he is “mad as hell” about the reported treatment delays, and he vowed to stick around until he improves VA services for veterans or President Obama asks him to resign.

MORE: Shinseki faces tough questions on VA scandal, vows to ‘accomplish a mission’

Although firing VA officials may quell the recent outrage over reported coverups, the Senior Executives Association has raised concerns about the House bill. Below is a summary of the measure’s drawbacks, as outlined in recent statements from the group:

* Due process: Senior executives can appeal firings and demotions to an administrative panel known as the Merit Systems Protection Board, which determines whether the personnel actions were warranted. However, the hearings are informal and the decisions are non-binding for agency executives, unlike with rank-and-file employees.

The SEA said the House bill would rob employees of the right to recourse when department chiefs wrongly punish their workers. They also noted that accountability processes already exist for senior executives.

Agencies must provide a 30-day written notice when they decide to remove senior executives. The officials can then argue against removal, choose to resign, or return back to work at a lower position. They may also be eligible for immediate retirement.

 

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Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections

Obama Backs Shinseki Amid Calls to Resign (Updated)

VA Budget 03 042313 445x295 Obama Backs Shinseki Amid Calls to Resign (Updated)

Updated 6:22 p.m. | The White House is backing Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki after he faced calls to resign Monday over allegations that veterans died waiting for care in Phoenix and other problems in his department.

“As the President said last week, we take the allegations around the Phoenix situation very seriously,” said Shin Inouye, a White House spokesman. “That’s why he immediately directed Secretary Shinseki to investigate, and Secretary Shinseki has also invited the independent Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General to conduct a comprehensive review,” he said.

“We must ensure that our nation’s veterans get the benefits and services that they deserve and have earned. The President remains confident in Secretary Shinseki’s ability to lead the Department and to take appropriate action based on the IG’s findings.”

Earlier Monday, the American Legion called on Shinseki to resign, although the Veterans of Foreign Wars declined to do so. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said he wants the investigation to go forward first. 

 

 

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Senator demands independent investigation as VA scandal spreads

By Jeremy Schwartz

The chair of the Texas Senate’s veteran affairs committee on Monday called for an independent investigation into allegations that wait time data was manipulated at Department of Veterans Affairs clinics in Central Texas and San Antonio.

Sen. Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, made her comments as the burgeoning scandal over VA patient care reached the Rio Grande Valley, where a former VA doctor accused the department of delaying colonoscopies for veterans with cancer and jeopardizing veterans’ visits to non-VA specialists because the agency took so long to reimburse private providers.

In Austin, Van de Putte demanded accountability from top VA leaders over claims that scheduling clerks were trained to falsely input appointment data to make it appear that waiting times were far shorter than they really are. The VA aims to see patients within 14 days of their desired appointment dates, and medical centers are graded on their ability to hit those targets.

“It appears the motivation for the deception…was a personal pay day in the form of a VA performance bonus,” Van de Putte said. “Someone is responsible. These scheduling clerks didn’t just decide to falsify reports all over the country at the same time…The allegations show a pattern that crosses multiple clinics and shows the actions were condoned at a pretty high level.”

The claims of whistleblower Brian Turner, a VA scheduling clerk who said he saw data manipulation in Waco, Austin and San Antonio, were first reported by the American-Statesman last week.

On Monday, new allegations emerged against the VA Health Care Center in Harlingen, and officials with the VA’s Texas Valley Coastal Bend Health Care System, which oversees the facility. Dr. Richard Krugman, former associate chief of staff at the center, told investigators that “patient care was impacted by the VA’s requirements to cut costs,” according to documents obtained by the American-Statesman.

 

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Cornyn Demands Answers From VA Secretary

May 13 2014

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) today announced on Fox News he has sent a letter to Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki after several reports surfaced of abuse and mismanagement in VA clinics in Texas and across the country.  The letter asks several questions of Sec. Shinseki, and calls on the Secretary to provide answers during his testimony before the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee on Thursday, May 15. A video of Sen. Cornyn’s Fox News interview regarding VA failures can be viewed here. Sen. Cornyn’s questions for Sec. Shinseki include:

“Can you confirm that supervisors at VA facilities in Texas have not and are not ordering employees to ‘game the system’ by concealing wait times?

“Can you confirm that veterans diagnosed with cancer of any kind that requires chemotherapy are provided that treatment in a timely manner by the VA? 

“Can you confirm that any bonuses or pay raises are on hold for senior leaders at VA facilities in San Antonio, Austin, Waco, Harlingen, and all VA facilities where similar allegations have been made?

“Can you confirm that staff at facilities currently under investigation for allegations of falsified reports will not be assigned to investigate other VA facilities? 

“Can you confirm that documents are being preserved at all Texas VA facilities?”

The full text of the letter is below and attached.

May 13, 2014

The Honorable Eric K. Shinseki
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue, NW
Washington, DC  20420

Dear Secretary Shinseki:

I write to reiterate my deep concern regarding the numerous, troubling reports that continue to surface regarding mistreatment of our nation’s veterans at Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities across the country.  These reports indicate that incidents—including the withholding of life-saving care from some veterans—were the result of a culture of cover-ups, indifference as to the health and welfare of our veterans, and a complete lack of accountability that pervades your Department.  Yet, the Administration’s response to these troubling revelations has been lethargic and its inaction puzzling.

During your testimony before the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee on Thursday, I call on you to provide direct, clear answers to these questions:

1.         According to recent reports, you have ordered a “face-to-face audit” of all Department of Veterans Affairs clinics.  Can you describe in detail how you intend for this audit to be conducted, its timeline for completion, and what measures are being taken to ensure these audits are conducted in an independent and transparent manner?  If the allegations are substantiated, what type of action are you willing to take to right these wrongs, and how will the responsible officials be held accountable?

2.         A whistleblower in Texas claims that during his time as a scheduling clerk for VA facilities in Austin, San Antonio, and Waco, he was directed by supervisors to hide true wait times by inputting false records into the VA’s scheduling system.  VA officials in San Antonio deny this, while VA officials in Austin claim employees may have been discouraged from using the electronic scheduling tool that would reveal long wait times, but that those orders did not come from “executive leadership.”  Can you confirm that supervisors at VA facilities in Texas have not and are not ordering employees to “game the system” by concealing wait times?

3.         An Austin-based surgeon recently contacted my office to inform me he is not accepting any further subcontracts from the VA due to failures in patient care that he has personally witnessed.  Specifically, he saw a veteran in August of 2013 who was referred to him by the VA after they detected a lesion they suspected was cancerous.  Already two months had lapsed between the time they detected the lesion and the time he saw the veteran.  This surgeon performed a biopsy and diagnosed it as laryngeal cancer.  He informed the VA that the veteran needed immediate chemotherapy – that they had a real chance to treat his cancer if they started chemotherapy right away.  Almost two months later, he followed up on his case only to learn the VA never provided chemotherapy, with no good excuse as to why.  The veteran died several days later.  Can you confirm that veterans diagnosed with cancer of any kind that requires chemotherapy are provided that treatment in a timely manner by the VA?

4.         A whistleblower in South Texas who formerly served as associate chief of staff for the VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend Health Care System in Harlingen, TX, told the Washington Examiner this week that roughly 15,000 patients who should have had the potentially life-saving colonoscopy procedure either did not receive it or were forced to wait longer than they should have.  He also claims that approximately 1,800 records were purged to give the false appearance of eliminating a backlog.  Can you confirm that veterans requiring colonoscopies to detect cancer are provided with the procedure in a timely manner?

5.         In 2012, VA medical facilities in Central Texas reported that 96 percent of veterans were seen by providers within 14 days of their preferred appointment date.  In the South Texas region that includes San Antonio, the statistics were even more impressive: 97 percent of veterans were seen within two weeks, according to annual performance reports.  Can you produce documents that show the original dates of veterans’ requests for appointments for 2012?

6.         According to public records, the director of the Phoenix VA hospital, where news investigations have discovered at least 40 veterans died while waiting for care and languishing on secret lists, received more than $9,000 in bonus pay in 2013.  Can you confirm that any bonuses or pay raises are on hold for senior leaders at VA facilities in San Antonio, Austin, Waco, Harlingen, and all VA facilities where similar allegations have been made?

7.         My staff attended a Quarterly Congressional Staffer and Veterans Service Organization Representative Meeting at the Central Texas Veterans Health Care System (CTVHS) Friday, May 9, 2014.  Sallie Houser-Hanfelder, director of the Central Texas Veterans Health Care System, told meeting attendees that, as part of the face-to-face audits you have ordered, a quality systems manager from CTVHS would be sent to another VA facility to assist with investigations there.  Can you confirm that staff at facilities currently under investigation for allegations of falsified reports will not be assigned to investigate other VA facilities?

8.         A former VA employee at the VA Greater Los Angeles Medical Center told the Daily Caller that employees at the Center destroyed veterans’ medical files in a systematic attempt to eliminate backlogged veteran medical exam requests.  The former employee said, “The waiting list counts against the hospital’s efficiency.  He said the chief of the Center’s Radiology Department initiated an “ongoing discussion in the department” to cancel exam requests and destroy veterans’ medical files so that no record of the exam requests would exist, thus artificially reducing the backlog.  In addition, you have been subpoenaed by the House Veterans Affairs Committee over concerns by Chairman Jeff Miller that evidence in Phoenix may have been destroyed after the Committee issued a document-preservation order on April 9.  A top VA official testified on April 24 that a spreadsheet of patient appointment records, which may have been a “secret list” proving misconduct, was shredded or discarded.  Can you confirm that documents are being preserved at all Texas VA facilities?

I look forward to your prompt and detailed responses to these pressing questions.

Sincerely,

JOHN CORNYN
United States Senator

 

 

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Chairman of key House committee agrees to proceed with NSA reform bill

• Judiciary committee chair gives new life to USA Freedom Act
• Bill to overhaul spy agency had been stalled by months of delay

NSA logo
House judiciary committee Bob Goodlatte has agreed to support the surveillance overhaul bill. Photograph: Alex Milan Tracy/Corbis

The chairman of a key committee in the House of Representatives agreed to move on a major surveillance overhaul on Monday, after months of delay.

The decision, by the Republican chairman of the House judiciary committee, Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, breathes new life back into the USA Freedom Act, a legislative fix favoured by privacy advocates to prevent the US government from collecting domestic data in bulk.

The judiciary committee is expected to take action on an amendment encapsulating the provisions of the USA Freedom Act on Wednesday at 1pm. Congressional aides expected it to pass the committee with bipartisan support, setting up a fight on the House floor.

Goodlatte, who had been hesitant to endorse the bill, written by former committee chairman James Sensenbrenner, will now vote for it personally.

Goodlatte’s decision comes despite pressure by the House Republican leadership, which preferred an alternative bill, written by the House intelligence committee leadership, that would permit the government to acquire Americans’ data without a specific prior judicial order for it. Additional pressure came from a desire on all sides to avoid surveillance-related amendments to unrelated, critical bills slated for floor consideration later this month.

An attempt by the intelligence committee and the House leadership to circumvent Goodlatte’s committee and pass the rival bill is said by observers to have galvanised Goodlatte’s decision to move forward on the USA Freedom Act. Internal committee negotiations on modifying the USA Freedom Act for passage intensified after the House intelligence committee unveiled its bill in March.

The Obama administration has yet to take a public position on the House judiciary bill or the House intelligence bill, although President Barack Obama endorsed getting the National Security Agency out of the business of bulk domestic phone records collection in March.

“This will start to look like a reasonable path forward for surveillance reform,” said a congressional aide.

Barely an hour after the judiciary committee announced its move on the USA Freedom Act, the House intelligence committee announced that it will mark up its alternative bill, the Fisa Transparency and Modernization Act, on Thursday.

“This bill directly addresses the privacy concerns many Americans have expressed over bulk collection. The bill ends bulk collection of telephone metadata and increases transparency while maintaining the tools our government needs to keep Americans and our allies safe. We believe this bill responds to the concerns many members of Congress have expressed and can be the compromise vehicle to reform Fisa while preserving important counterterrorism capabilities,” said the intelligence committee leaders, Republican Mike Rogers of Michigan and Democrat Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland, in a joint statement on Monday.

 

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A House committee has voted unanimously to rein in the NSA

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.). (Bill O'Leary / The Washington Post)

A key House committee has approved a package of NSA reforms that would end the spy agency’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records, nearly a year after former NSA contractor Edward Snowden disclosed the program’s existence.

The House Judiciary Committee voted 32-0 Wednesday to rein in the NSA with the USA FREEDOM Act, a measure that places new requirements on the government when it comes to gathering, targeting and searching telephone metadata for intelligence purposes.

In addition to prohibiting the NSA from engaging in what the bill’s sponsors have called “dragnet surveillance,” the bill would also require authorities to get permission from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court on a case-by-case basis. It would establish a panel of privacy experts and other officials to serve as a public advocate at the court. And it would also give businesses more latitude to tell the public about requests it receives from the government for user data.

 

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Senators Seek To Force Approval Of Keystone XL Pipeline

Posted: 05/01/2014 4:10 pm EDT Updated: 05/01/2014 4:59 pm EDT

 

HEIDI HEITKAMP

WASHINGTON –- Senate supporters of the Keystone XL pipeline say they think they have enough votes to pass a bill that would force the approval of the controversial project. A group of 56 senators — all 45 Republicans plus 11 Democrats –- introduced legislation on Thursday that would bypass the Obama administration and grant approval for the pipeline.

Sens. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and Mary Landrieu (D-La.) introduced the bill on Thursday. Democrats Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), John Walsh (D-Mont.), and Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) are cosponsoring it.

Because it crosses an international border, the decision on the pipeline falls under the authority of the State Department. The State Department announced another delay on a decision last month in response to a court decision that invalidated the pipeline’s proposed route through Nebraska, saying that it would wait to decide until there is more clarity on where the pipeline will ultimately run. The legislation would grant approval to “any subsequent revision to the pipeline route” in Nebraska, without requiring further environmental analysis.

“We continue to hear delay, delay, delay from the Administration about the Keystone XL pipeline. I’m beyond sick of it,” Heitkamp said in a statement Thursday. “We have strong bipartisan support in the Senate for this project –- and I’m proud to have recruited support from 10 other Democrats last month. Now, all of those Democrats also signed onto this bill that we crafted to fully approve the construction of the Keystone pipeline. If the Administration isn’t going to make a decision on this project after more than five years, then we’ll make it for them. End of story.”

 

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Deaths tied to VA hospital’s secret list

 

(CNN)

The secret list was part of an elaborate scheme designed by Veterans Affairs managers in Phoenix who were trying to hide that 1,400 to 1,600 sick veterans were forced to wait months to see a doctor, according to a recently retired top VA doctor and several high-level sources.

For six months, CNN has been reporting on extended delays in health care appointments suffered by veterans across the country and who died while waiting for appointments and care. But the new revelations about the Phoenix VA are perhaps the most disturbing and striking to come to light thus far.

Internal e-mails obtained by CNN show that top management at the VA hospital in Arizona knew about the practice and even defended it.

Dr. Sam Foote just retired after spending 24 years with the VA system in Phoenix. The veteran doctor told CNN in an exclusive interview that the Phoenix VA works off two lists for patient appointments:

There’s an “official” list that’s shared with officials in Washington and shows the VA has been providing timely appointments, which Foote calls a sham list. And then there’s the real list that’s hidden from outsiders, where wait times can last more than a year.

Deliberate scheme, shredded evidence

“The scheme was deliberately put in place to avoid the VA’s own internal rules,” said Foote in Phoenix. “They developed the secret waiting list,” said Foote, a respected local physician.

The VA requires its hospitals to provide care to patients in a timely manner, typically within 14 to 30 days, Foote said.

According to Foote, the elaborate scheme in Phoenix involved shredding evidence to hide the long list of veterans waiting for appointments and care. Officials at the VA, Foote says, instructed their staff to not actually make doctor’s appointments for veterans within the computer system.

Instead, Foote says, when a veteran comes in seeking an appointment, “they enter information into the computer and do a screen capture hard copy printout. They then do not save what was put into the computer so there’s no record that you were ever here,” he said.

According to Foote, the information was gathered on the secret electronic list and then the information that would show when veterans first began waiting for an appointment was actually destroyed.

“That hard copy, if you will, that has the patient demographic information is then taken and placed onto a secret electronic waiting list, and then the data that is on that paper is shredded,” Foote said.

“So the only record that you have ever been there requesting care was on that secret list,” he said. “And they wouldn’t take you off that secret list until you had an appointment time that was less than 14 days so it would give the appearance that they were improving greatly the waiting times, when in fact they were not.”

I feel very sorry for the people who work at the Phoenix VA. They all wish they could leave ’cause they know what they’re doing is wrong.
Dr. Sam Foote

Foote estimates right now the number of veterans waiting on the “secret list” to see a primary care physician is somewhere between 1,400 and 1,600.

Doctor: It’s a ‘frustrated’ staff

“I feel very sorry for the people who work at the Phoenix VA,” said Foote. “They’re all frustrated. They’re all upset. They all wish they could leave ’cause they know what they’re doing is wrong.

“But they have families, they have mortgages and if they speak out or say anything to anybody about it, they will be fired and they know that.”

Several other high-level VA staff confirmed Foote’s description to CNN and confirmed this is exactly how the secret list works in Phoenix.

Foote says the Phoenix wait times reported back to Washington were entirely fictitious. “So then when they did that, they would report to Washington, ‘Oh yeah. We’re makin’ our appointments within — within 10 days, within the 14-day frame,’ when in reality it had been six, nine, in some cases 21 months,” he said.

November: A dire situation in South Carolina

Thomas Breen was so proud of his time in the Navy that he wanted to be treated only at a VA facility, his family says.

In the case of 71-year-old Navy veteran Thomas Breen, the wait on the secret list ended much sooner.

“We had noticed that he started to have bleeding in his urine,” said Teddy Barnes-Breen, his son. “So I was like, ‘Listen, we gotta get you to the doctor.’ “

Teddy says his Brooklyn-raised father was so proud of his military service that he would go nowhere but the VA for treatment. On September 28, 2013, with blood in his urine and a history of cancer, Teddy and his wife, Sally, rushed his father to the Phoenix VA emergency room, where he was examined and sent home to wait.

“They wrote on his chart that it was urgent,” said Sally, her father-in-law’s main caretaker. The family has obtained the chart from the VA that clearly states the “urgency” as “one week” for Breen to see a primary care doctor or at least a urologist, for the concerns about the blood in the urine.

“And they sent him home,” says Teddy, incredulously.

Sally and Teddy say Thomas Breen was given an appointment with a rheumatologist to look at his prosthetic leg but was given no appointment for the main reason he went in.

Read More and Watch Video Here

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Veterans dying waiting for healthcare

Are we fulfilling our promise to veterans?

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Bloomberg

 

U.S. Strikes at Putin’s Inner Circle With Sanctions as Fight Over Ukraine Intensifies

 

The Obama administration today imposed sanctions on seven Russian officials and 17 companies linked to President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle over the crisis in Ukraine.

The list includes Igor Sechin, OAO Rosneft (ROSN) chief executive officer, and Sergei Chemezov, director of State Corporation for Promoting Development, Manufacturing and Export of Russian Technologies High-Tech Industrial Products, also known as Rostec, and banks such as InvestCapitalBank and SMP Bank.

The travel bans and asset freezes announced by the White House were levied in coordination with the European Union, which said today it’s adding 15 more names to the list of 55 individuals previously sanctioned. The identities of those targeted by the EU weren’t immediately disclosed.

The U.S. and EU say Russia hasn’t lived up to an accord signed April 17 in Geneva intended to defuse the confrontation between the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian separatists. The U.S. warned it’s prepared to levy additional penalties to hit the broader Russian economy if Putin escalates by sending troops into Ukraine.

“The goal here is not to go after Mr. Putin, personally,” President Barack Obama said earlier today at a news conference in the Philippines. “The goal is to change his calculus with respect to how the current actions that he’s engaging in in Ukraine could have an adverse impact on the Russian economy over the long haul.”

Photographer: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Pro-Russian activists break through the gate in front of TRK Donbass television station… Read More

Export Restrictions

The U.S. also expanded export restrictions on defense technologies and services and revoked previously approved export licenses.

A Snapshot of Ukraine’s Past and Future

The new sanctions list includes Oleg Belavantsev, Putin’s presidential envoy to Crimea; Dmitry Kozak, deputy prime minister of the Russian Federation, and Evgeniy Murov, director of Russia’s Federal Protective Service and an army general.

Most of the companies on today’s list are tied to Gennady Timchenko or brothers Arkady and Boris Rotenberg, who were placed on a sanctions list on March 20. They include the Volga Group, which is controlled by Timchenko, and InvestCapitalBank and SMP Bank, which are controlled by the Rotenbergs.

One of the most prominent individuals on the list is Sechin, 53, who was Putin’s colleague at the St. Petersburg mayor’s office before rising to become the head of state-run Rosneft. Over the past decade he has built it into the world’s largest publicly traded oil company by output and reserves.

Photographer: Maxim Shipenkov-Pool/AP Photo

Russian President Vladimir Putin enters for his meeting with Royal Dutch Shell’s CEO… Read More

Company Ties

Rosneft, in which British oil company BP Plc holds a 20 percent stake, isn’t being sanctioned. The Russian company also has exploration projects with other international oil producers, including a venture with Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) to drill a multibillion-barrel prospect in Russia’s Arctic Ocean.

 

Read More Here

 

 

Full coverage of the Crisis in Ukraine:

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Bloomberg

U.S. Sanctions Target Putin Allies’ Companies, Rosneft’s Sechin

The U.S. imposed sanctions on seven Russian executives and officials and 17 companies controlled by four of President Vladimir Putin’s allies as the crisis in Ukraine escalates.

The following is a list of those targeted.

*Igor Sechin

Sechin, 53, has worked with Putin for more than two decades, starting the St. Petersburg mayor’s office in the 1990s. He was appointed chief executive of OAO Rosneft (ROSN) in 2012, having served as board chairman since 2004. Sechin oversaw the company’s growth over the past 10 years into the world’s biggest publicly traded oil producer by output, largely through acquiring Yukos Oil Co.’s assets and TNK-BP.

*Sergey Chemezov

Chemezov, 61, heads Rostec, the state corporation that owns arms exporter Rosoboronexport and holds stakes in more than 660 other civilian and military-industrial manufacturers. He is chairman at titanium producer OAO VSMPO-Avisma and OAO Uralkali, the world’s largest potash producer, and is on the boards of automaker OAO AvtoVAZ, controlled by Renault SA-Nissan, and OAO Kamaz, part-owned by Daimler AG.

Chemezov has known Putin since the 1980s, when the Russian leader served as a KGB officer in Dresden, then East Germany.

*Dmitry Kozak

Kozak, 55, a deputy prime minister, was in charge of Russia’s preparations for the Sochi Winter Olympics and is now overseeing the development of Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula that Russia annexed from Ukraine.

*Vyacheslav Volodin

Volodin, 50, has served as the first deputy chief of the presidential staff under both Putin and now Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, replacing Kremlin ideologue Vladislav Surkov in 2011.

*Alexei Pushkov

Pushkov, 59, heads the foreign affairs committees of Russia’s lower house of parliament and supported the annexation of Crimea.

 

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Bloomberg

Russian Billions Scattered Abroad Show Trail to Putin Circle

Outside a Moscow stadium one night in 2006, deputy central bank chief Andrei Kozlov was walking to his car after playing soccer when two men opened fire, pumping bullets into his head and neck and killing his driver.

Days before the murders, the man leading Russia’s fight against money laundering had shut down a scheme used to funnel $1.6 billion of dirty funds abroad, including at least $112 million via Vienna-based Raiffeisen Zentralbank Oesterreich AG, according to Russian and Austrian investigators.

It was a trickle in a flood of illegal outflows that would reach $52 billion in 2012 alone, according to former central bank Chairman Sergey Ignatiev. Such flows are now in the cross hairs of President Barack Obama’s efforts to penalize Vladimir Putin for annexing Crimea and to halt his incursions into Ukraine. Obama signed a law on aid to Ukraine this month that includes a clause that allows the U.S. to go after assets of Russian officials and their allies who are deemed complicit in “significant corruption.”

“This is a declaration of war by the Obama administration on the current governing Russian elite,” Ariel Cohen, senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a Washington-based research group, said by phone from New York. “There will be a lot of people potentially targeted.”

Photographer: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg

The two-headed eagle symbol of Russia’s central bank sits on ruble banknotes… Read More

Money Game

One possible weapon in this new battle is Dmitry Firtash, 48, the billionaire Ukrainian and major Raiffeisen client who was arrested in Vienna last month on U.S. bribery charges, according to Mark Galeotti, a Russian organized crime expert at New York University who advises regulators on money laundering.

A longtime ally of Viktor Yanukovych, the ousted Ukrainian president who fled to Russia in February, Firtash made his fortune as a middleman in OAO Gazprom’s secretive gas trade with Ukraine, conduit for 15 percent of Europe’s supply and the most corrupt country on the continent, according to Transparency International. He’d be an invaluable asset to the U.S. if he agrees to cooperate because he knows how Russian officials have shifted billions of dollars into banks abroad, Galeotti said.

Financial Warfare: an Alternative to Military Force

“Firtash knows the way the game is played, the way the money is moved,” Galeotti said in an interview in Moscow.

Ignatiev told lawmakers last June that money laundering in Russia, ranked the most corrupt major economy by Transparency International, was so pervasive that fighting it consumed more of his time than formulating monetary policy. In his last address to parliament before stepping down after a decade in the post, he highlighted one network in which 1,173 shell companies channeled $24 billion to foreign banks.

‘Almost Anyone’

About half of all illegal capital flight, including bribes to bureaucrats and revenue from criminal syndicates, “appears to be controlled by one well-organized group of people,” Ignatiev told the Vedomosti newspaper in a rare interview in February 2013, without elaborating. Ignatiev, 66, is now an adviser to his successor, Elvira Nabiullina.

The wording of the new U.S. law is so broad it could apply to “almost anyone” close to Putin, 61, said Masha Lipman, an analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Center who’s co-written academic articles on Putin with former U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul.

The U.S. today imposed sanctions on 17 Russian companies and seven individuals, including Igor Sechin, CEO of OAO Rosneft, the country’s largest oil producer. That adds to the more than two dozen officials and billionaires penalized last month for being what the Treasury Department called part of Putin’s inner circle.

‘Body Blow’

An agreement to disarm pro-Russian rebels and anti-Russian groups in Ukraine that both countries signed with the U.S. and the European Union is on the brink of collapse. Secretary of State John Kerry said Russia was trying to impose its will on Ukraine by the “barrel of a gun and the force of a mob.”

Russia is already on the verge of recession, so the U.S. can inflict major damage with industry-wide sanctions, according to John Herbst, a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.

“Even without European support, U.S. sanctions against the Russian financial sector would deal a body blow to the nation’s economy,” Herbst said by e-mail.

 

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Bloomberg

U.S. Said to Sanction Seven Russians, 17 Companies

The Obama administration will sanction seven Russians and 17 companies, including some involved in the financial, energy and infrastructure sectors, according to a congressional official briefed on the actions.

President Barack Obama said today in Manila that the U.S. is “moving forward with an expanded list of individuals and companies that will be affected by sanctions. They will remain targeted. It will also focus on some areas of high-tech defense exports to Russia.”

European Union representatives have discussed similar penalties, a European Commission spokeswoman said. The announcements of expanded measures came as Gennady Kernes, the mayor of Ukraine’s second-largest city Kharkiv, was shot in the back and rushed to hospital for surgery. It also followed the seizure of international military inspectors by pro-Russian separatists last week.

In the worst confrontation with the U.S. and its European allies since the Cold War, Russia has started military exercises on Ukraine’s border where the North Atlantic Treaty Organization says Putin is massing about 40,000 troops in a potential preparation for invasion. That conflicts with an April 17 agreement signed in Geneva aimed at solving the standoff, according to U.S. and EU officials.

Photographer: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Pro-Russian activists take control of TRK Donbass television station on April 27, 2014 in Ukraine.

‘Expanded List’

“Later today, there will be an announcement made, and I can tell you that it builds on the sanctions that are already in place,” Obama told a news conference in the Philippine capital Manila today. “We are going to be moving forward with an expanded list of individuals and companies that will be affected by sanctions. They will remain targeted. It will also focus on some areas of high-tech defense exports to Russia.”

The U.S. list may include people inside Putin’s inner circle such as Alexey Miller, chief executive of gas-export monopoly OAO Gazprom and his deputy Alexander Medvedev, as well as Igor Sechin, CEO of oil company OAO Rosneft, according to people familiar with developments.

Representatives of the 28 EU states met to discuss extending a “stage two” black list, spokeswoman Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen said in Brussels today. German Deputy Foreign Minister Gernot Erler said in an interview on ZDF television yesterday he had “the impression” that the EU would extend visa bans and asset freezes to “maybe another 15 people.”

Asset Freezes

“We’ve already taken action, we’ve already introduced travel bans and asset freezes on certain individuals,” U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said in Paris after meeting his German, French, Italian and Spanish counterparts. “European countries are discussing further such action today following the statement from the G-7.”

 

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Armed men outside an administrative building in Slovyansk, Ukraine. American officials say Russian troops or pro-Russian separatists under Moscow’s influence control such buildings. Credit Genya Savilov/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State John Kerry has accused Russia of behaving in a “19th-century fashion” because of its annexation of Crimea.

But Western experts who have followed the success of Russian forces in carrying out President Vladimir V. Putin’s policy in Crimea and eastern Ukraine have come to a different conclusion about Russian military strategy. They see a military disparaged for its decline since the fall of the Soviet Union skillfully employing 21st-century tactics that combine cyberwarfare, an energetic information campaign and the use of highly trained special operation troops to seize the initiative from the West.

“It is a significant shift in how Russian ground forces approach a problem,” said James G. Stavridis, the retired admiral and former NATO commander. “They have played their hand of cards with finesse.”

The abilities the Russian military has displayed are not only important to the high-stakes drama in Ukraine, they also have implications for the security of Moldova, Georgia, Central Asian nations and even the Central Europe nations that are members of NATO.

The dexterity with which the Russians have operated in Ukraine is a far cry from the bludgeoning artillery, airstrikes and surface-to-surface missiles used to retake Grozny, the Chechen capital, from Chechen separatists in 2000. In that conflict, the notion of avoiding collateral damage to civilians and civilian infrastructure appeared to be alien.

Since then Russia has sought to develop more effective ways of projecting power in the “near abroad,” the non-Russian nations that emerged from the collapse of the Soviet Union. It has tried to upgrade its military, giving priority to its special forces, airborne and naval infantry — “rapid reaction” abilities that were “road tested” in Crimea, according to Roger McDermott, a senior fellow at the Jamestown Foundation.

The speedy success that Russia had in Crimea does not mean that the overall quality of the Russian Army, made up mainly of conscripts and no match for the high-tech American military, has been transformed.

“The operation reveals very little about the current condition of the Russian armed forces,” said Mr. McDermott. “Its real strength lay in covert action combined with sound intelligence concerning the weakness of the Kiev government and their will to respond militarily.”

Still, Russia’s operations in Ukraine have been a swift meshing of hard and soft power. The Obama administration, which once held out hope that Mr. Putin would seek an “off ramp” from the pursuit of Crimea, has repeatedly been forced to play catch-up after the Kremlin changed what was happening on the ground.

“It is much more sophisticated, and it reflects the evolution of the Russian military and of Russian training and thinking about operations and strategy over the years,” said Stephen J. Blank, a former expert on the Russian military at the United States Army War College who is a senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council.

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American Forces Press Service

 News Article

Stavridis Presses for More NATO-Russia Dialogue

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 25, 2013 – Noting increased cooperation between NATO and Russia in several key areas, the top NATO and U.S. European Command commander emphasized today the importance of working through stumbling blocks in what he called a “complicated partnership.”

In a blog post, Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis cited concerted efforts by both parties since NATO’s 2010 summit in Lisbon, Portugal, where the alliance’s 28 heads of state and government agreed on the need to pursue “a true strategic partnership” between NATO and Russia and noted in the strategic concept that they expect reciprocity from Russia.

Stavridis recognized several areas where increased cooperation has shown signs of paying off: counterpiracy; support for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, military exchanges and training exercises, counterterrorism and counternarcotics, among them.

“Overall, we enjoy cooperation and some level of partnership in a variety of important areas,” he said. “On the other hand, there are clearly challenges in the relationship.”

Stavridis noted Russia’s objections to the European phased adaptive approach for missile defense. “Russia sees the NATO missile defense system as posing a threat to their strategic intercontinental ballistic missile force,” he said. “We strongly disagree, and feel that the system is clearly designed to protect populations against Iran, Syria and other ballistic-missile-capable nations that threaten the European continent.”

NATO and Russia also disagree over Russian forces stationed in Georgia and NATO’s role in Libya, Stavridis said.

“We maintain that we operated under the U.N. Security Council mandate to establish a no-fly zone, provide an arms embargo and protect the people of Libya from attacks,” he said, calling NATO’s actions “well within the bounds of the [U.N.] mandate and the norms of international law.

“Russia sees this differently,” Stavridis continued, “and whenever I discuss this with Russian interlocutors, we find little room for agreement. This tends to create a differing set of views about the dangerous situation in Syria as well.”

Stavridis noted Russian Ambassador to NATO Alexander Grushko’s stated concerns that these differences — and the installation of NATO military infrastructure closer to Russia’s borders — threaten to unravel progress made in their relations.

“Notwithstanding differences on particular issues, we remain convinced that the security of NATO and Russia is intertwined,” Stavridis said, quoting the NATO strategic concept agreed to in Lisbon. “A strong and constructive partnership based on mutual confidence, transparency and predictability can best serve our security,” it states.

Stavridis recognized areas in which the growing NATO-Russian relationship is bearing fruit:

– Counterpiracy: Loosely coordinated efforts by NATO and Russian ships have reduced piracy by 70 percent over the past year and caused the number of ships and mariners held hostage to plummet in what the admiral called “a very effective operation.”

– Afghanistan support: Russia contributed small arms and ammunition to the Afghan security forces and sold MI-17 helicopters and maintenance training to the Afghan air force. In addition, Russia provides logistical support, including a transit arrangement that helps to sustain NATO-led ISAF forces and redeployment efforts.

– Military exchanges and exercises: Russian service members are participating in more of these engagements with the United States and NATO. These exchanges, including port calls in Russia, have been well-received by both militaries, Stavridis noted.

– Arctic cooperation: Russia is collaborating with other members of the Arctic Council, including the United States, Norway, Denmark, Canada and Iceland, to ensure the Arctic remains a zone of cooperation.

– Counterterrorism: In the lead-up to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, NATO is offering assistance and information-sharing via a variety of channels, Stavridis reported.

– Counternarcotics: NATO and Russia are working together to stem the flow of heroin from Afghanistan, a high priority for Russia.

Expressing hopes that NATO and Russia can continue to build on this cooperation, Stavridis said areas of tensions and disagreements need to be addressed.

“No one wants to stumble backwards toward the Cold War, so the best course for the future is open discussion, frank airing of disagreements, and hopefully seeking to build the ‘true strategic partnership’ set out in the NATO strategic concept,” he said. “Clearly, we have some work to do.”

 

Contact Author

Biographies:
Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis
Related Sites:
NATO International Security Assistance Force
U.S. European Command
Special Report: U.S. European Command

 

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AEROSPACE

 


by Staff Writers
Kuala Lumpur (AFP) April 18, 2014

Malaysia and Australia will sign a deal specifying who handles any wreckage from missing flight MH370 that may be recovered, including the crucial “black box” flight data recorders, local media reported Friday.

Malaysia is drafting the agreement “to safeguard both nations from any legal pitfalls that may surface during that (recovery) phase,” the New Straits Times reported.

The government hopes the deal can be finalised soon and endorsed in a Cabinet meeting next week. Canberra is studying the memorandum of understanding, it said.

“The MoU spells out exactly who does what and the areas of responsibility,” civil aviation chief Azharuddin Abdul Rahman was quoted as saying.

Azharuddin added that Malaysia would lead most of the investigation, with Australia and others helping. Details of the MoU will not be made public, the report said.

Azharuddin and other officials could not immediately be reached by AFP.

The Malaysia Airlines flight carrying 239 people inexplicably veered off course en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8 and is believed to have crashed in the southern Indian Ocean far off western Australia.

But a massive international search has failed to turn up any wreckage so far.

 

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Nomi Prins Author of “All the Presidents Bankers“ on Upcoming Collapse

Nomi PrinsBy Greg Hunter’s USAWatchdog.com

Best-selling author Nomi Prins warns, “Never before have the Government and the Fed collaborated so extensively by propping up the banking system to the detriment of the population.”  Prins lays out a long history of the relationships between U.S. Presidents and bankers that date back to Teddy Roosevelt and JP Morgan.   On her new book titled “All the Presidents’ Bankers,” Prins contends, “That connection with Teddy Roosevelt was a very powerful established entity between two people that has allowed all this stuff that has happened in the last hundred years to really happen.  The friendships, the social ties, the idea that the bankers could sort themselves out with Treasury Department help if it needed to.  Of course, it’s epic now.  All of that was solidified then.  Banks being hands-off with respect to the oval office was all solidified then.  We’ve only been consolidating that message throughout the century since.”   

Fast forward to JFK and the bankers of the day, and Prins points out the banks in the early 1960’s didn’t want a gold standard to restrict them.  It is dollar debasement history as Prins explains, “If bankers have a peg, if they have to put gold or any type of asset behind it or have any restriction, they don’t like it.  So at the time, they weren’t working on trying to demolish the regulations that happened from the 1930’s to separate bank speculation from depositors, but they saw something else, and that was getting off gold.  They really worked to push JFK off of gold.  JFK was a little less friendly with the bankers.  JFK, when he did invite bankers to the White House, he would have very short meetings.  It was like hello, goodbye and thank you.  Where LBJ, who came after JFK, was very friendly to the bankers and opened the White House to the bankers.”  

 

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