I am back and that is what it is.

19 Sept 2016.

So I am coming back to writing. There is so much I want to cover: The elections. sex trafficking and sexual violence, foreign policy, “terrorism, veterans issues,  society and matters of war and peace.   I have had so many issues living in my head and I have to talk about them. Plus, a lot of people want me to get back to writing.

See a lot of ignorance as well that I have to call out. We have the least qualified presidential candidate to ever run for president tying in the polls with arguably the most qualified candidate to have ever run.  Sex trafficking and violence hasn’t gone anywhere and  Black Lives Matter is talking about serious issues that need to be discussed. You all know how much I love talk about war and peace as well as foreign policy  and there is so much to cover there. I also need to talk about the great American freak out that is called terrorism:   Be afraid of the boogie man boys and girls.

So yeah, I am back here. I hope to write here at least once a day though would like to write more than that. I am also getting back to my other blogs My Journey into Film and Schroyboy so I have a lot of writing ahead. I want writing to be apart of my everyday life. I want to be known for my writings and the only way to do that is to write and write well. I know a lot of people want me to start again and I know this is what I am suppose to be doing.

Advertisements

Congress needs to put veterans first

Today, the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee will hear testimony on the Commission on Care’s final report on reforming the Veterans Health Administration. The Veterans Service Organizations and the Department of Veterans Affairs were not invited to participate in today’s discussion. That’s too bad — the VA and the VSOs could have provided compelling details to back up the commission’s call for congressional action.

From my perspective, the report is overall a validation of the course the VA has been on since I took the helm over two years ago. The president and I agree with 15 of the report’s 18 recommendations, and the VA has already accomplished or has been working on 12 of these through our ongoing MyVA transformation. That includes the report’s main recommendation: building a high-performing integrated health system combining VA care and VA-purchased community care. We are already moving in that direction, and our efforts are already improving veterans’ access to healthcare.

Last year, veterans completed nearly 4 million more appointments than the previous year. In March, they set a record for appointments completed at the VA: 5.3 million, 730,000 more than March 2014. That same month, the VA issued 268,000 authorizations for care in the community — twice as many as March 2014. In July, 96 percent of appointments were completed within 30 days of veterans’ preferred dates, 85 percent were completed within seven days and 22 percent were completed the same day.

The average wait time is around five days for primary care, six days for specialty care and two days for mental healthcare. Ninety percent of veterans we’ve surveyed are “satisfied or completely satisfied” with the timeliness of their care. Just 3 percent say they are dissatisfied. That’s still too many, and we won’t be satisfied until no veteran is dissatisfied.

I doubt there will be much mention of these achievements at today’s hearing. I also doubt there will be much discussion of the commission’s finding that VA care compares favorably in clinical quality to care in the private sector. The Independent Assessment came to the same conclusion, but some people have more to gain by ignoring the facts than by a full and open examination of them.

The commission did not recommend privatizing VA healthcare. Neither has any VSO. Privatization would be a boon for private-sector healthcare companies, including those represented on the commission, but as seven leading VSOs told the commission in April, it “could threaten the financial and clinical viability of some VA medical programs and facilities,” which would “fall particularly hard on the millions of veterans who rely on VA for all or most of their care.”

I strongly disagree with the commission’s recommendation of an independent VA board of directors. The Constitution won’t allow it, and, to me, as a business executive, the idea doesn’t make any sense. It would only make matters worse by complicating the bureaucracy at the top and spreading the responsibility for veterans’ healthcare so that no one knows who’s ultimately responsible.

The fact is, we already have a board of directors: Congress. If Congress worked the way it should, nobody would be talking about adding another layer of bureaucracy.

Veterans need Congress to do its job as a board.

Last week, I sent the Senate and House Veterans’ Affairs committees a detailed letter outlining urgent actions needed just to maintain current levels of care. These include approving the president’s 2017 budget request to keep up with rising costs and medical innovation; extending authorities to maintain services like transportation to VA facilities in rural areas and vocational rehabilitation; fixing provider agreements to keep long-term care facilities from turning veterans out to avoid the hassle of current requirements; and ending the arbitrary rule that won’t let the VA’s dedicated, conscientious medical professionals care for veterans for more than 80 hours in any federal pay period.

Only Congress can fix these problems, just as only Congress can modernize our antiquated claims appeals process. We have submitted to Congress a modernization plan developed with the help of VSOs and other veterans advocates. We have also submitted a plan to consolidate our many community care programs to make community care easier for veterans, providers and the VA.

We need Congress to act on these proposals.

The Senate Appropriations Committee has at least approved a budget nearly equal to the president’s request, and the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee has unanimously approved the Veterans First Act. The act isn’t all veterans need. It doesn’t address appeals. But it’s a start.

The act is aptly named. It’s time to put politics, ideology and special interests aside. It’s time to put veterans first.

McDonald is the secretary of Veterans Affairs.

The truth about tuition free college.

Here is the truth tuition free college: It makes total economic sense. First, graduates, like many veterans with the GI Bill, come out of college debt free. What does this mean to the real economy? Well it frees up capital, that would have been spent paying back loans, that is spent in the real economy. The one you and I live in. People spending money, not tax cuts to the rich, actually create jobs. Secondly, you have highly educated work force that will create new businesses and technologies; which creates jobs; which turns to more spending and tax revenue which pays for college tuition.

Then, the question of how do we pay for it? Well those people are going to go out and get jobs, make money and spend money. This money will be taxed. Thus paying for itself.  This is why the GI Bill doesn’t cost the tax payer money.   And that is why it makes economic sense.

Now who would be against this? Very simple: Wall St.  You see banks give out student loans and tact on high interest rates that the students have to pay back. This is money that is not being spent in the real economy. This is houses that are not being bought. This is jobs that are not created.