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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  May 26, 2014 6:41pm-7:21pm EDT

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look them over here it with the recent scandal and the time concerns and the care delays, they will expand them and see ways they will take the trans-outside private hospitals. a lot of details have to be big move for the veterans administration. it is something veterans groups have had concerns about over the years. just tell well the v.a. can work. there is a momentum swinging now to see how much these scandals, just how long veterans have to wait. there is recognition the v.a. might not have enough folks to help everyone. >> we heard over the weekend, on "newsmakers," our program, from the chairman of the senate veterans affairs committee, the independent from vermont, saying i am open to that, allowing that's to go outside the system, but not permanently. he was very clear he and others would not support some sort of privatization and this would only be short-term. why is that? guest: there is a lot of concern
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about privatization. veterans groups have been concerned for years, the idea that we need to dismantle the v.a. and get rid of this. veterans groups in america really like having their own veterans health care system. they like having that idea. there have been many other agencies and industries right now to move to privatization. with the momentum right now it seems inevitable. there is more flexibility, without dismantling the v.a. that is what we will see in the
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coming months here. host: how does the system work? if you are a veteran returning from war, how do you get into the v.a. health care system? guest: you have got several different levels of priority groups that veterans can fit into. the v.a. becomes a catch-all internal system for just about all of these folks. if you are someone who just recently returned from war, you have got five years of free health care with the v.a. this is going for any number of psychological appointments, ob/gyn for female veterans. just about anything you can think of. dental care, service related, we have done a little different. just about anything, the folks who get put into different categories, you do not have anything related to their time and experience, and are pretty high earners.
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these folks are on private systems working through their own employer at this point. it is a massive system. you have got over 1700 health care sites through the v.a. and the country. 8.7 million veterans. the v.a. said recently 85 million health appointments last year. we are talking about a system that encompasses a lot and has a lot of different moving parts. host: what types of different facilities do veterans have access to? guest: hospitals, outpatient clinics, mobile clinics, it depends on where you live. if you live in a major city, you're talking about a major hospital for private care. rural areas, 60, 100 miles away,
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if they can get to something like that. there are outpatient clinics and handshake agreements with local facilities to get some of those resources to folks. host: who oversees these facilities? guest: the veterans health association. i am you're aware with the recent scandals, the head resigned early. he was forced out because of concerns about what the weight time issue has become. host: what is that person's role? guest: that is the number one person to oversee health issues with the v.a. the secretary is in charge of the entire department. there is a nominee pending in the white house right now. when secondary six -- szymczak he was in the second -- one secretary szymczak he was in the
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senate, there was concern he seemed to be talking about the larger issue but they knew of specific problems that had come out there. you could see the concern on a lot of senators faces that if you knew about these things, why has this not been addressed better? host: what about the role of congress overseeing the health care system? guest: congress is trying to figure out where they dropped the ball and have been ignored. a lot of fights going on in the house and senate. the house veterans affairs committee in the last week issued a subpoena, a second subpoena to several top v.a. officials. they are concerned there is not enough information about what it has happened in the phoenix system. that is where the health care time scandal started. they are worried a few documents may have been destroyed and e-mails going back and forth have not been provided to congress and they just do not
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have an idea of what the problem was. since then, new subpoenas. wednesday and friday, one of those two days, they will see folks come in. the senate is doing the same thing in the meantime. just about every day, talking about what the current concerns are. host: when it comes to money, let's look at the proposed budget for the veteran's affairs department. a 6.5% increase from last year. $68 billion, largely for health care, a 3% increase. how has the money for health care, $68 billion, how has that changed over the years?
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has it been increasing? guest: since 2004, the entire budget was only $64,000. billion. in just 10 years, we have seen a genetic growth in the amount of money. this is one of the concerns of congress now. when folks from the v.a., the hill, they have said time and time again, this is what we need, this will fill our goals, and congress has been generous with the money and met a steady increase, after you have seen from troops in iraq and afghanistan coming back. we saw the v.a. respond to world war ii injuries. now congress is asking, if that was not enough, if you needed more facilities, why were we not aware? are we getting blamed now for not providing enough when you
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told us we provided plenty? congress is doing their own investigation, the white house has sent over the deputy chief of staff to look into the care problems in some of the larger, systemic administrative problems. this week, the v.a. is supposed to come back with an audit of their appointment time scheduling systems to let the president know, here is what is working and here's what is not, is there a systemic problem with people waiting? the v.a. i.g. is doing its own investigation. they're not supposed to be done until august. we have heard some information here and there about what they found. this will be an issue we hear about all summer. host: when we talked to senator sanders on "newsmakers," his committee heard testimony from the i.g. about the 40 deaths in phoenix.
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if they are tied to the wait lists. here is what chairman sanders had to say. >> all we know right now is that at the hearing i held last week, i asked the inspector general something, give me a report, and this is what he said. one list.ere was not there were a lists of people who were deceased. the hospital had about 88,000 patients. some of them are old, some of them are sick. of the first 17 names that we
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looked at, we could not attribute one death to a waiting list. not one. as of right now, on the first list that we saw that was given to him, zero deaths would be attributed to it. host: what do you make of that explanation? guest: that is true, that is what the i.g. said -- they found 17 cases of folks who had delayed care and no directly connected deaths. a lot of the folks are cancer patients, serious issues, a delay in care of two months may mean the difference between life and death, it may mean nothing. they may have passed away no matter what. but i think one of the keys -- there are two keys. no evidence so far that any of
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these are directly connected deaths, but the inspector general has said let's take our time, we have to do a thorough investigation. there are a lot of allegations all over. there's this push for let's wait and see. they also said it will be august before the full investigation is finished. that is a long time for folks worried that they might be waiting and it might be costing veterans' lives. host: we have divided the lines differently here this morning. active duty, call 202-585-3880. veterans, 202-585-3881. good morning. caller: i am on twitter and i am a freelancer.
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outside of mr. brinkley, i posted a couple of articles this morning. one that i found was put out by democracynow.org. it reports that over 17,000 troops were wounded in 2004, which means that the v.a. was overwhelmed. for the republicans to now act as if all of this is president obama's fault is ridiculous. host: we will take that point, the v.a. system overwhelmed. guest: that is what the concern is now. i don't know about the number from 2004, but we have seen a number of troops come back and we have learned a lot about prosthetics, about posttraumatic stress disorder, treating mental health issues. there is a lot of concerned of
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have the issues outgrown what the v.a. was supposed to be, a safety net for folks who did not have access to other systems. we have seen a lot of reports that a number of mental health specialists in the country are simply too low to meet the needs. there are some expectations the v.a. would also be short on those folks, but you hear from folks on the hill and within the v.a., too, say we are supposed to be the gold standard, that we are here to serve the folks who sacrifice for us. host: mark is watching us in florida. what are your thoughts on the v.a. health care system? caller: i understand that the money given to the v.a. has increased every year over the last nine or 10 years. but i understand also that there
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is this internal incentive program where bonuses are paid to v.a. members and workers and managers, and i cannot understand where the sense is in that system, that it is the same kind of self-serving programs that we had on wall street, the bubble, and here we are incentivizing people to cheat so that they can make versatile money. i don't understand where the common sense is in an approach like that. host: leo shane? guest: there is a lot of concern about the bonus system in the v.a. right now. we have heard similar messages from not just veterans but from folks on the hill. should there be accountability within the v.a.? that is part of the review going on right now. the v.a. has taken steps in the last several years to freeze or
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cancel bonuses, but they have also stood by and said like any private sector industry, you want to reward your top performers, we want to have the best of the best. if we are putting artificial caps on how these folks can advance or what they earn, we will not get the best. we will not have folks who have an interest in providing top quality care. it is an issue that the folks on the hill have hammered. a website has been set up, just looking at benefits that they think were unfairly handed out to v.a. officials, and the officials have pushed back on that, saying some of these are legitimate. when we find issues, we can rescind bonuses or punish folks, but you cannot throw a blanket on that no one should be getting bonuses, everyone should be working out of the kindness of their hearts. host: lenny on twitter wants to know, how does the bonus system work in the v.a.? what is the total amount of bonuses paid to each v.a. location?
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how does it work, and is there a role of unions here? guest: there are some federal unions in there. there are supervisors who can put their employees in for performance awards, who can be recognized for high performance. it is really just -- it is supposed to be an incentive for folks to work harder. the criticism on the hill has been this is a rubber stamp that folks higher up to not have any more oversight over them, don't have any real critiquing of their work, and they are just getting this as part of their salary. i would expect more legislation coming. some restrictions have been put in v.a. budget plans for 2015. this is one that i expect to hear more from the hill on.
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host: dave says, what other services for veterans fall under the v.a., and what are those budgets? how does the budget for everything outside of health care compare? guest: health care is the biggest portion, the same mandatory spending and discretionary spending. the memorial services are much smaller in comparison. the disability benefits are part of the mandatory spending, so we have got -- it is an incredibly complicated system. there are a lot of moving parts, there is a lot of concern. we have not talked about the backlog, which is a major headache for this v.a. all of last year, and this goes into what we talked about before, congress saying we have given you this money, giving you what you asked for, when do we see the result? if it is not enough, why aren't you asking for more? host: there was a lot made last
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week of the white house knew about the failures in the health care system. if the white house was told about it back in 2008, does that mean congress knew about it as well? guest: in the hearing, senator patty murray brought up several reports -- one from 2010, one from 2012, talking about the headaches that the veterans were facing. those are reports that were issued to congress. she chaired several hearings on these, and to her credit, she demanded some answers from v.a. officials. she said i thought we had talked about this, dealt with this, and here it is resurfacing again. it is not something popping up in the last few months, but there are many on the hill who said we have talked to you about this before, we thought you were
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dealing with this, we have provided you more resources. why are we seeing worse problems than before? host: we will go to georgia next. steve is a veteran. go ahead, steve. caller: the problem with the v.a. system is it is a bureaucracy. it is run by bureaucrats. am fully supportive of it. a lot of people do a great job. should give them about your and let them decide whether to .o private or va if you want to see it work make every member of the executive department, every agency, every member of congress and their families, make them use the va or have their choice for a
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private system. >> this is the privatization issue. there are a lot of people who failedke the va is a system. let's let veterans go where they like to get their care. senator sanders is a fierce opponent. wereans have said we promised some protections here out, thathrowing us does not help us. we need to have some kind of protection. we need to have the system keep us there. >> there is frequently said they had high customer service satisfaction. out inas been putting response to these issues and concerns about the bureaucracy and the narrator of of the
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uncaring department. they have done some private sector style surveys and found high marks for patient care within the system. high marks for quality of care. high marks for the responsiveness of staff. anecdotally from the groups i talked to, they like can get in.they once you see the dr. you're dealing with doctors who are at the top of their field. in the top of their field in prosthetics care and we have an aging population that has issues that date back 20 or 30 years. when you see a doctor they tend to be happy about it. it is the process of saying a daughter -- a doctor. obama and his unannounced visit yesterday
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talked about caring for our veterans when they return home. here is what he had to say. helping our wanted warriors and veterans heal is not just a problem -- a promise, it is a sacred obligation. will return to civilian life and we want to make sure that you can enjoy the american dream that you helped to defend with the transition assistance to help you again the next chapter of your life. that will keep america strong. the credentials and licenses to help you find a job worthy of your incredible skills, that will keep america strong. making sure the g.i. bill is in place in delivering for you the kind of education you have earned. that will keep america strong. yesterdaynt obama making that surprise visit talking about caring for our veterans.
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what next for the president? >> they have these investigations going on. in a few weeks the chief will issue his report. some of this, we will see what folks on the hill do. there's a lot of answers and questions. when the audit comes out that is where people will say is this a time of reflection for the department, have they found problems, have they found weights bread gaming. said this isint va isolated. the ig is looking into 26 different facilities with care delay problems. there becomes a lot of are they recognizing the problem and are they acting toward it appropriately? a number of folks have called for the secretary to resign. if that report looks like it is va to gently the
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calls will get louder. air with leo the shane. i wanted to comment. my son was in the first gulf war and it took him 15 years to get his disability. they would not see him when he got out, the things that was wrong with him. i had to get my congressman to work on it and finally he got his disability after 15 years. they're trying to say it is a problem might now and i said 15 in 2009 orthat was 10 when he did finally get it. it is not the president.
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it has been going on for years. it is an internal system. people do not think they deserve their disability. my son was in the hospital and the guy said you got your disability. you got your 100%. what have you got to say, that is a smart attitude for an employee in the hospital. >> he is talking about the backlog and this has been a problem not just for this administration. this is the issue of veterans who do not -- who come back with an issue that prevents them from working. there has been a concern over the years as to how long that process takes. the ba has a goal of anyone puts in their paperwork of 125 days. they want to a viewer ruling for
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how much you can get for monthly check if your eligible. for some it is several thousand and for others a few hundred. it becomes an emotional issue. if you cannot work it has of a war injury it affects everything else you do. you do not know how you will make the bills or support your family. va saw germanic increase in the backlog. appear tothing they have thrown a lot of their resources and effort at to try and fix. >> robert is next in indiana. you're on the air. >> good morning and thanks for taking my call. i am a veteran and i also work at the va in indianapolis. i have gotten great care and that sort of thing. va, they need to
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do better job of informing people on how to get access to .he va some lady told me that her grandfather died 20 years ago and she still is waiting on veterans benefits. andid he -- did he apply there's a lot of things that go on. the public does not know how the va operates? that, dose fault is you think? it could be hthe va not getting word out on how to apply for benefits. host: how does the claim process work?
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guest: when people come in and they are new, they still -- they go to health benefits and bring in their discharge papers. they go in and see a person in there and they start the process. that they are putting in a ,riority group depending veterans just getting out of the military to have five years of va.e there are certain protocols veteran is honorably discharged. he has to go through a process and that paperwork goes in. i do not know how long that process lasts. when i went through it in 2004 i think within two to three weeks i found out i was eligible. since then i have been getting my health care. i have had enough of good and great results.
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host: do you know how long this process lasts? was lucky he got through. we're looking at a lot of different levels. for some folks it has been a year. .25 days is the goal they have instituted a lot of new programs. toking with service groups streamline this. it is a process that involves a lot of bringing military records in, looking over having -- and having doctors look that over and see what the problems are and having folks decide based on that. if you have pain from a war worth 20%, 80%, they're looking at that. this has been the issue for years. there is an ad -- an appeals process.
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the target for the initial claims has been headed in the right direction. the appeals are taking longer on average. over 250 days. veterans would -- they would allow veterans to go outside the system. the -- did they say when? were talking short term so they have to figure out a process. that is for care, not for the disability checks those folks will get. for veterans who are looking for care, substantive attention for a pending issue quicker is always better. i you're on the air. >> a lot of these soldiers are coming home sick already and contractors toay
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make sure there is clean breaking -- drinking water. 60 present of whether the -- ,hey were supposed to contract and had malaria and everything else in it. how is this related to veterans? >> i do not take care of them when they are fighting. we find out we had soldiers [inaudible] -- the representatives we have, they do not even know what is going on. they don't really care. they just come out with -- if there is a scandal, there is a scandal. we have wasted how much time and on whether or not the president was born in the united states. your point, cindy.
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we go on to harold in ohio, a veteran there. mr. shane, i would like to comment that i saw on the internet there are 21-plus million veterans in the united actually a small percentage of veterans are being treated by the v.a. is, i don't understand recognize that the v.a. has a lot of expertise in war injuries and so forth, but i have heard a lot of these veterans that are having problems are waiting on colonoscopies and things like that, and i don't understand why people like you don't look into the statistics of these things. a number of veterans who are waiting and waiting for just normal medical treatment. sanders,e like senator
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who i think is a world-class jerk for not wanting to let these people have vouchers. toould like to ask you express an opinion, rather than just saying that mr. sanders was doing this temporary. what do you really think about that? thank you very much. host: leo stands here as a congressional quarter -- a congressional reporter for "the military times." about the caller talked the number of folks involved. there are 22 million veterans in the country today. 8.7 million of them are using the v.a. health care in some way, and that is an increase since the obama administration began. more outreach, how many folks do we need. not all veterans need the v.a. health care system. some folks are healthy, maybe they're only interaction with
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the v.a. is a home loan or the g.i. bill. but for someone who needs health care, it is an important concern. john, part of a military family. go ahead. caller: i have seen this going on since the 1970's. this is in or not -- this is international economic government and corporate fascism. host: why do you say that? caller: because look what happened to the banks. we bailed them out, nobody went to jail. host: how do you tie this to what is going on? william in texas, a veteran. go ahead. good morning. my name is william and i am a disabled vietnam veteran. i got drafted in 1968.
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host: we are listening, william. caller: i went on to vietnam and did my time and got hurt over there, and i got agent orange in my system. it took years for them to go ahead and give me my benefits. they swept that all under the rug and said they did not know anything about it. years later. saying this just started. you put that on president obama, that is not fair. that is all i have got to say today. thank you. host: thank you, william. leo shane? anst: agent orange is example of the complexity the the a has to do with here. over the years there were certain illnesses connected to agent orange, that in 2010, the v.a. opened it up even further and said there are more diseases directly related to that
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chemical exposure. that decision to give out more disability benefits was very popular with veterans, especially in the vietnam era, but it is also the reason to back off a spike on disability claims. a discussion of the conservative lyrical agenda. and some of the middle foreign policy challenges facing the obama administration. you can join the conversation on face book and twitter. live every morning at 70 m eastern on c-span.
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it can watch today's memorial service from arlington national cemetery with remarks by president obama and joint chiefs of staff general martin dempsey. we will have that 8:00 p.m. eastern. the discussion about the impact of war on the -- civilians. part of the university of colorado's annual world affairs conference tonight on c-span. thanks for your service. glad you're here. you're going to have a nice surprise when you go to the memorial. it is beautiful. thank you. -- [inaudible] wife and here, where
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is she? you are in the navy? rex i was in the marine corps. >> that was tough. >> that was tough. >> thank you for being here today. you for all the service you gave us. greetstor bob dole visitors at the world war ii memorial. it is part of the three-day holiday weekend tonight at 8 p.m. on c-span3. , theuren bush granddaughter of george h.w. bush excepted the jfk profile in courage award on behalf of her grandfather. also honored, paul bridges.
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against federal lawsuit a law targeting undocumented immigrants. this is 45 minutes. >> good morning, ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests. i am ceo of the john f. kennedy library foundation and it is my pleasure to welcome you today encourage14 profiles ceremony. -- profile in courage ceremony. please join me and -- in welcoming our guests.

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