Daily Caller runs my response to opinion piece, Phoenix Town Hall held
Several of the more controversial (and wrong) of the assertions made my that writer included:
With Father’s Day approaching and VA Secretary Eric Shinseki’s resignation last week, I am reminded of a promise my late Dad (WWII vet, bronze star medalist) demanded I make when I was in 8th grade: That I never send him to a VA hospital. I expect if my Dad were here today, he’d be calling me to say ‘see, I told you.’ My question: where were the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars when the problems began to bubble up last year and earlier this year?
And the incorrect assertion that somehow we had a vested interest in the VA and claims advocacy:
Why would the service organizations be cautious in criticizing the VA? It’s because a little-known but major function of the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars is helping veterans or their families file for benefits and representing claimants in the VA appeals process. And while by law they cannot charge for helping someone file a claim, they can charge for representational services if the claim is denied and appealed.
Federal law also puts a “reasonable” fee arrangement at twenty percent of past due benefits (benefits the claimant would have received if a positive outcome had resulted at the first step in the decision process).
Anyway, yesterday Daily Caller was kind enough to give me the opportunity to respond. Based on the number of comments (zero) it doesn't look like it is resonating the way I had hoped, but I did want to defend my beloved employer.
Last week the Daily Caller published an opinion piece by Joanne Butler, a Senior Economics Fellow at the Caesar Rodney Institute of Delaware, titled “The VFW and American Legion’s Veterans Affairs Conflict.” Whatever minimal research went into this poorly crafted piece, both Ms. Butler’s “facts” and the resulting conclusion bear no resemblance to reality and the political system we operate under in the United States.
Having worked as an appellate VA review representative, a lobbyist, a war reporter, and a magazine writer (as well as a stint as an infantryman in Afghanistan) I felt I needed to respond with some facts about the Department of Veterans Affairs, the historical legacy if the issues which are currently in the news, and what role the American Legion and other Veterans Service Organizations (VSO’s) have played in trying to get these problems fixed.
The “conflict of interest” cited in Ms. Butler’s title revolves around a “fee arrangement” which appears in federal law allowing those who had represented claimants in administrative benefits proceedings to be compensated. However, no such conflict exists in actuality, as the American Legion has never once applied for or received compensation from either the federal government or those veterans who would win their case. In fact, were an employee to receive such a “bonus” it would violate our policies and that individual would immediately be seeking new employment.
Anyway, if you get a chance, CLICK HERE and go read the entire response.
Meanwhile, we held another town hall meeting in Phoenix last night, and based on the picture a buddy of mine sent, it appears it was packed:
The American Legion, a leading veterans' advocacy group seeking reform in the wake of the Veterans Affairs health care scandal, returned to Phoenix for a standing-room only town hall meeting Monday night at which local veterans continued to assail the embattled agency.
"We told the veterans we would be back to get them the services they deserve," said Verna Jones, the moderator and national director of the veterans affairs and rehabilitation division of the American Legion.
Jones, whose organization held a similar Phoenix town hall in May, told the crowd of nearly 150 people that the VA scandal was bad, but that it was time to move past it.
"The VA is broken, but it takes all of us to fix it," said Jones, whose group was one of the first to call for resignations of top VA officials. "It takes all of us to get the VA back on track."