For years and years, the American Legion has had an “action team” that dutifully travels the US and “inspects” the Regional Offices we have now come to know and love as “Veterans Service Centers”. After the millions of dollars spent on the new drive through features for filing in the 90’s, VA has been proactive and added electronic filing as well. Now VA can lose it and legitimately say they never received it from you. It’s called presti-“digital” manipulation.
AmLeg considers their Go-Team a much-sought after plumb. You get to travel from city to city. You get to meet with other Vets and show off your hats. AmLeg has a lot of Posts with bars/restaurants and everybody wants to buy drinks for you. It’s a win-win job. There are 57 Veterans Service Centers-not counting the AMC on Eye Street NW. in DC. Imagine taking a trip to Manila, Philippines in December? How about packing the .338 Win-Mag. to Anchorage during the moose rut? If you take three days at each one and allow for vacations and National Holidays, you can start at the first Regional Office you visited exactly one year later and continue this
charade parade endlessly. I figure they pack the spinning rod gear, start in Togus in June when the small mouth bass are voracious and work their way over to Fort Harrison, and the Northern Tier trout fishing. Fall is perfect for Winston Salem and dove/quail hunting. It’s nice to then catch the sunny southern weather in winter and swordfish or blues in the Gulf of Mexico.
Which is why we’re even talking about this. AmLeg showed up as announced at the Seattle Veterans Prize Fulfillment Center recently and got the cold shoulder. This was not taken well by the AmLeg guys so they retreated to the nearest post, ordered beers and got Alpha 6 Actual on the horn for the “Now what?” briefing. The silvers are running up in the Juan de Fucas and Seattle is being intransigent. A fine how do you do.
Veterans should not find this surprising. As most know, we are renowned for going postal or NASDAQ depending on which part of the country uses which pejorative. That Vets tend to do it inside or in front of VA facilities makes for messy problems and slippery floors. To remedy this, the VAROs have resorted, for the most part, to corraling Veterans into a waiting room with lots and lots of bulletproof glass and easy to clean floors. This is simply for the safety of everyone involved and should not be negatively construed as being adversarial or anti-Vet. In fact, with the way VA hierarchy treats it’s AFGE employees, the B/P glass may be there for them as much as irate Vets.
This “moat around the castle” scenario is just more of the locked cockpit-door idea on Regional Offices. If Vets can’t get in, they just commit hari-kiri in the waiting area. I’m sure this idea came out of the sixth floor Vermont Ave. hallway suggestion box. The whole idea of the Department of Veterans Affairs is contained in its very name. Perhaps we should gift the VBA a Hooked on Phonics© course and they can learn how to sound out what they’re there for in the first place. We spent three or four years of our lives-some twenty- obeying rules and regulations. When it comes time to cash in the check and collect on the promises, VA tends to pull up the drawbridge and become inaccessible. Kind of like your Service Officer about a day after they get your Power of Attorney.
AmLeg has suddenly encountered the same mentality we get every day and they are shocked. I say shocked. The VA folks are up to their ears in bad publicity, the VBMS is operating more slowly than 1990s dialup or crashing several times a day and the friggin’ AmLeg guys with the funny hats want to come in and wander around unattended. The VA can’t have this. I was there in 2011 on the eleventh floor-the inner sanctum- awaiting my Board hearing. We were assigned a DRO minder who engaged in small talk and tried to ascertain if I was a NASDAQ-kind of guy. The metal detector had already revealed my ballpoint pen daggers and I had been relieved of them before we ascended from the first floor. Imagine having so much adjudication time to burn that they could afford me my very own GS-13 DRO officer? She even brought Cupcake some coffee.
Unfortunately for the AmLeg entourage this year, the VA has tightened up. No more bonuses. No smiles and high-fives in the hallway. Spartan conditions reign. Sequestration probably forced them into using Instant Folger’s in their cup instead of hopping the elevators down to 3 for a Starbucks run. With everyone in such a dour mood, did the AmLeggers honestly believe the VSC Manager was going to greet them with open arms and “Hail, Fellows. Well met!” gusto? Wake up and smell that Folger’s , dudes.
We are discovering the obvious truth as VA rearranges the musical chair statistics each month. The backlog is merely growing more tentacles like Medusa. Boldly Going Where No Federal Agency Has Gone Before is beginning look like yet another innovation up on blocks. To add insult to injury, The VA’s very own Office of Inspector General (VAOIG)- the one tasked with unmasking misfeasance- is busy investigating the Veterans Service Center in Cairo adjacent to Denial River. I understand that there are VAMCs and CBOCs throughout the land that are deficient in opioid medication management, but they need to keep hammering on the backlog agenda. From what we’ve read also, I suspect that the OIG should be reviewing VAMC sanitary protocols in their operating rooms .
To be truthful, we need to examine this backlog dilemma like a watchmaker. AmLeg is just one part of the puzzle. If they notice a better way to build a mousetrap while they are there, then the trip was worth it. Remember, they were the first ones to question why there would be a shredder right there in the C-files storage room at the Dayton Veterans Service Center as early as 2006. Once noted, the VAOIG was able to nip the shredding fiasco in the bud by 2009. Nothing gets by the OIG. Eventually they form a posse and head out to investigate.
As for Under Secretary Allison,nobody-least of all her- wants to be holding the bag on January 1, 2015 when they have to start prevaricating and saying “Hold the phone, Congressman Miller. 2015 is 365 days long. We never actually said what actual day in 2015 we’d attain 125-day/ 98% accuracy- so back off. Hear?”
For the record, here’s what Seattle looked like as of February 18th, 2014. Yep. 18,078 Vets. Sounds like much ado over nothing at Fox News.
For the record, we haven’t had 25,000 Vets waiting since August 08th, 2012. Well, unless you count the ones waiting for a SOC. And the ones waiting for a Board hearing. Or the ones waiting to have their appeals certified to go to DC. If you count all of them, it’s waaaaay over 35,000 but VA doesn’t count them that way. It’s far too depressing and besides, it’ll all be fixed by 2015 anyway so what’s the big hullabaloo?