Today is our 380th day back in Iraq.
There have been no new American casualties.
We find this morning's Cost of War
passing through: $ 1, 624, 696, 900, 000 .00
We'll start this morning on the domestic front. Perhaps you saw this posted on the book of face earlier in the week by Paul Rieckoff. If you were in the military, and married your same-sex partner in one of the few states that recognized it previously, then got transferred....well, you were in a world of hurt, weren't you? Not anymore!
The Supreme Court on Friday issued a ruling declaring the states have no legal right "to refuse to recognize a lawful same-sex marriage performed in another state on the ground of its same-sex character."
The decision is a victory for advocates of marriage equality, including an Army Reservist whose New York marriage to another man has not been recognized in Tennessee, where they live, and other states with laws stipulating that marriage may only be between one man and one woman.
The case of Sgt. First Class Ijpe DeKoe and his husband, Thomas, was among the handful that the high court considered.
"Their lawful marriage is stripped from them whenever they reside in Tennessee, returning and disappearing as they travel across state lines," Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, noted in the decision. "DeKoe, who served this Nation to preserve the freedom the Constitution protects, must endure a substantial burden" because of the states' laws.
Matt Thorn, interim executive director for OutServe-SLDN, an advocacy group for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender service members, said the Supreme Court's decision was a message to their community "that ... your relationship, your marriage and your family matters to our community as a country and must be respected and treated fairly under the law."
Thorn said the Veterans Affairs Department should immediately end its policy of not providing spousal benefits to couples residing in these states that have not recognized same-sex marriage.
"Our LGB veterans should not be denied these benefits because of the state they live in or because of their sexual orientation," Thorn said. "They should be given these benefits because it is the right thing to do. It is the American thing to do."
But alas, there's also other news not so good. It's unfortunate that the VA seems to be the pariah of government agencies. It's so easy to send troops overseas to fight and die, but it's hard to take care of them when they come back. There's more fraud in the offing - this time involving small businesses that work with the VA. It seems to be fairly complex, and of course the shenanigans eventually end up hurting veterans that the program is trying to help
Lawmakers on Tuesday will hear allegations of manipulation and fraud by Veterans Affairs Department employees into the agency’s goals for serving veteran-owned and service disabled-owned small businesses.
Heading up the scheduled witnesses is Jan Frye, VA deputy assistant secretary for acquisition and logistics -- and a high-ranking whistleblower since last month, when a March 19 memo he sent to Secretary Bob McDonald claiming widespread mismanagement, fraud and waste came to light.
“VA small-business goal accomplishments have been and continue to be vastly overstated,” Frye told McDonald in the 35-page memo, a copy of which was acquired by Military.com. “We have announced each year since 2008 that we have exceeded our directed goals for [veteran-and disabled veteran-owned] small businesses.
“The stated percentages touted are absolutely false,” he said.
According to Frye, the numbers VA uses to compile the data for Congress comes from the Federal Procurement Data System, where all information on federal contracting is stored. But agency purchases millions of dollars in goods and services each year without contracts, often through agents using purchase cards – with no contract required.
This data is not entered into the FPDS, so that what Congress sees is not an accurate of reflection of how and where VA buys, according to Frye.
“Sadly in my opinion, in addition to our illegal acts, we’ve duped the veteran-owned business community we are required by law to advocate for,” Frye told McDonald in the March 19 memo.
One area where Frye criticized his fellow VA officials was in allowing contracting officers to go outside federal contracting rules to buy prosthetics using a government purchase card. This allowed the purchases to buy hundreds of thousands of dollars in prosthetics without need of a contract.
Military.com first reported on this practice in April 2012, about five months before Frye told McDonald that he learned of it.
Military.com reported that the VA’s Office of the Inspector General found that contracting officers were not negotiating with vendors for prices or discounts, but largely leaving it up to a small army of purchasing agents -- untrained in contract law -- to procure prosthetics with little oversight.
According to the IG, VHA in 2011 spent about $54 million on prosthetic limbs. Weaknesses and lack of oversight resulted in the VA being overcharged by about $2 million a year, it said.
Military.com also reported at the time that VA buyers were purchasing prosthetics with government purchasing cards and keeping the price just below $25,000 in order to avoid rules requiring a formal solicitation – a contract.
Finally today...239 years ago, some writings on a small piece of parchment were ratified by the Second Continental Congress, and the approved version was released to a waiting world. The Boston Globe annually prints the entire text
on this day (and I hope your local paper does, too) and I always take the time to read it.