Member Kel sent this in to me this morning. I read a small blurb about it in the fishwrap yesterday morning but ignored it as more bloviating on vA’s part in an effort to take our consciousness off their myriad shortcomings vis a vis the backlog. After reading the whole article in its entirety, I was awestruck by the condescension of the participants to this dog and pony show.

First let me say that I am heartened by any effort to help homeless people and more so where it involves Veterans. Please don’t take this for a diatribe about all things vA. What disturbs me is the cavalier attitude of the article and what this bike ride is supposed to accomplish:

 The funds raised by the trek will go towards purchasing “home starter kits” for Veterans that include dishes, bathroom necessities, cleaning supplies, air mattresses and passes for public transportation so that the Veterans can travel to medical appointments and job interviews.

Stay with me on this but where are these homeless Veterans expected to park all these amenities if they are homeless? This seems to be putting the proverbial cart before the horse. Absent purloined shopping carts from Kroeger’s, they are going to have a hard time packing it up in suitcases and toting it to job interviews. Sometimes the most well-intentioned acts have less than perfect outcomes.  Remember the Mars spacecraft whose altimeter was set for meters but the computer was programmed in feet? SPLAT!

When fashioning cures for homelessness, the focus needs to be on hard, concrete solutions to the root cause and a path back to normalcy. High-flying panaceas like bike rides and Meet and Greets at the Wall are fine for a photo op. They could better save the planet, curb global warming, conserve gas, and husband their resources by staying in Huntington and have cookie bake sales with a side helping of car washes. It’s called being pro-active.

Now for the subject of Dog and Pony shows (with no disrespect intended for my dogs and pony).

>Riders aging (sic) from their late 30s to early 70s departed Saturday at 7:45 a.m. from the starting line of the West Virginia 5k in Huntington where Huntington RO Homeless Program Coordinator LeeAnn Bills addressed a crowd of approximately 1,000 people. At a stop on their first day, riders attended a ceremony hosted by the office West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin. (D&P Shows #1 & #2)

>The Ride will end on Thursday at the Vietnam Memorial on the National Mall. West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin and Janice Jacobs, Department of Veterans Affairs Deputy Undersecretary for Disability Assistance, plan to meet the cyclists at the finish line of their 85-mile final day ride. (#3)

>The riders will also meet with West Virginia Congressman Nick Rahall the following day.  “No veteran should be without a roof over their head. In this nation of plenty, where we sleep at night comforted by the sense of safety our Armed Forces provide, homelessness among veterans is a travesty,” said Congressman Rahall, who is a senior member of the House Military Veterans Caucus.(#4)

> A strong (vA) employee contingent also saw the riders off on their ride on Saturday.  (#5)

Talk about a full dance card. And perhaps that’s part of the problem. If these vA employees devoted this time as a donation at work to some of the more intractable claims from homeless Vets seeking benefits, perhaps those individuals wouldn’t be homeless. Idle conjecture on my part, granted.

My point is simple. Americans are more than willing to open their wallets to these endeavours. They may be poor themselves but they are legendary givers. What we have here is a situation where some altruistic individuals have a desire to help others but are caught up in the spirit of the moment. Bike rides are fun so let’s combine a four day jaunt to DC with a homeless theme. Gee, did they invite any homeless folks to ride with them to symbolize hope? Negatory, pilgrims.

The VA Employees Association held two catered lunches this spring and raised over $500 for fuel for the support vehicle which is carrying food, changes of clothes and other supplies as (sic) for the cyclists.

I’m going out on a limb here but I’m betting the vA contingent of cyclists will not be sleeping under the stars on this foray. If fact, I’d go so far as to say they’ll be tucked in at a Motel 6® with air conditioning to keep them fresh and rested for the rigors of the days ahead.  I won’t be rude and ask who’s paying for the rooms. I suspect it will come from the fund solicited to help the ones they are cycling for. You have to break a few eggs to make an omelet.

I commend Mr. Hill and the vA Employees Association for their desire to help homeless Vets. I only feel that his (and their) efforts could be better spent on pastimes closer to home. As most homeless folks have no TV, they will miss out on the primetime coverage that West Virginia newsies will devote to the arrival and glad handing at the Wall. Money spent on motels, food and gasoline to and fro could be better spent on actual housing for  Vets and their assimilation into normal society. I realize that might not capture the imaginations of the “News and film at six!” crowd or have the same cachet as a vA dispatch about how much concern they feel.

vA has developed a public relations program the likes of which rival the best Madison Ave. ad agency. They are becoming the past master of the sound bite. All well and fine. While this garners a lot of headline space, it is empty of the one ingredient sorely needed to accomplish what it is aimed at. Actions speak louder than words. But actions have to be shaped to the circumstances. Hence, collecting money and assembling home starter kits for the homeless is pointless. That is what Goodwill stores are for. Remember the $600 Air Force toilet seats for C-5 cargo aircraft? The sixty dollar screwdriver that looked and felt like the $2.49 offering at Tru-Value®? The parallel is obvious.

Habitat for Humanity, while a dog and pony show in its own right, is an example of  Hillary Clinton’s admonition that it takes a village. Nevertheless, results ensue even if it takes that many. A sixpack of cyclists riding their $2000.00 custom bikes to DC followed by two Ford Excursions full of Gatorade and clean clothes and jerseys bearing military logos is cheap and degrades the men and women it is purported to assist. Imagine Bill Gates and Warren Buffet inviting the Koch brothers and half of Hollywood to a big 30 course dinner with a surf and turf theme- all in the name of helping the homeless Vets. I’m sure some serious money could be amassed but they wouldn’t invite any of the great unwashed who selflessly served to ensure their right to lobster.

Enjoy your freedom today and remember who brought it to you. If you see a homeless person, Vet or not, perhaps the meaningful thing to do would be to give them a small down payment on a future or a meal. Let’s worry about the home starter kits for Vets a little further down the road after their claims are adjudicated and their financial picture is a little more settled.

And that’s my Dog and Pony show for today… courtesy of Molly and Dude.

P.S. No offense but the author of the vA article, Richard Allen Smith, described as a “Web Communications Specialist” should read his own copy before pushing print. “Aging” used in any context means the riders are aging as they cycle to DC. Let’s hope arthritis doesn’t set in en route! Perhaps he meant to say “ranging in age from…” Gosh. I wonder if I could get a job as a WCS, too? Do you get to sign all your correspondence with a WCS afterward? All these queshuns.

About asknod

VA claims blogger
This entry was posted in All about Veterans, HOMELESS VETERANS and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. KC says:

    Here’s the juice… no matter how many claims they may have “errored”, they will all have certificates of humanitarian/community effort to add to their list of accomplishments come evaluation time. Which goes a long, long, way towards that bonus. Ask me how I know this to be fact?

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