Thursday, September 20, 2007

Bye Already, Jim

Don’t let the door hit you (based on this)…

WASHINGTON (AP) — Outgoing VA Secretary Jim Nicholson acknowledged Tuesday that he's struggling to reduce backlogs in disability claims from Iraq war veterans, saying current efforts won't be enough to cut down waits that take months.

Addressing Congress for a final time before stepping down Oct. 1, Nicholson also pointed to persistent problems between the Pentagon and Department of Veterans Affairs in coordinating care for veterans and urged Congress to embrace proposals by a presidential commission to fix gaps.

"They have some very good ideas in there," he said.
But of course they do, with Bushco being so “government-friendly” and all that…

Nicholson, who took office in early 2005, said the department has hired 1,100 new processors to reduce delays of up to 177 days in processing disability payments. But he predicted another rise in compensation and pension claims this year, citing the additional applications pouring in during "the midst of war."

The increase, he said, is coming from Iraq war veterans as well as veterans from previous conflicts who were prompted to file additional claims for new or additional benefits amid the current public focus on war-related injuries in Iraq.

Even with new staff, the VA can only hope to reduce delays to about 145-150 days — assuming that the current level of claims doesn't spike higher.

"The claims backlog is an issue that has bedeviled me and many that have come before me," Nicholson said. "In fact, VA can influence the output — claims decided — of its work product, but it cannot control the input — claims filed."
No, I don’t suppose that’s possible when our military is getting decimated in Iraq from casualties and extended tours in a war that has gone on much longer than World War II at this point.

And God, 145-150 days to process disability payments…

And how about this?

The report also concluded that Nicholson and VA Undersecretary for Health Michael Kussman earlier this year falsely reported to Congress that 95 percent of veterans' outpatient appointments — rather than 75 percent, as the (VA’s Inspector General’s Office) found — were timely. In response, the VA has challenged the IG's methodology and pledged to conduct its own study.
Of course – Nicholson is right and that darn IG and their “junk science” is wrong. Naturally.

So here’s to the departure of another Repug political operative, who, in typical fashion, falsely slammed Al Gore to favor his boss in the 2000 election, among other misdeeds (here). He has also been accused of denying wounded veterans disability pay and mental health treatment (here), as well as accidentally exposing millions of social security numbers to possible fraud and identity theft (here).

And The Raw Story has more here, by the way, with about as unflattering a comparison for Nicholson as I can imagine.

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