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Ask a Vet
Author: TriSec    Date: 02/07/2017 10:57:19

Good Morning.

It's been a little difficult to bookmark stories for our little corner of the internets these days. Unlike previously, it seems that if I see something interesting, by the time our timeslot rolls around, it's often stale or irrelevant. That used to not happen a lot.

But nevertheless, this story from just two weeks ago has managed to hold it's value. While Mr. Trump has focused on destroying other things, the V.A. is still hanging on, but is waiting for the hammer to fall.

It's something I said a year into the Affordable Care Act - it's something the Republicans have never spoken about, inasmuch as it was an enormous boom to the healthcare industry, a boom which is only just starting to peter out. Repealing the ACA at this time is a dual-edged sword. Not only will millions of people likely lose their insurance, many more like the TriSecs will be locked into jobs and geography, as Mrs. TriSec can never change jobs now because of all our pre-existing conditions. We'll never get insurance again without the ACA protections. But Veterans do have some protection - the story referenced notes that perhaps 3 million Vets get their insurance through the provisions of the ACA, so once that is repealed, the only recourse is for that 3 million to return to the overwhelmed V.A. medical system. Nobody knows what will happen then.

As promised, President Trump has moved to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. It's a concern for those who might be left without health insurance — and especially for the Department of Veterans Affairs, which may have to pick up some of the slack.

Carrie Farmer, a health policy researcher at the Rand Corp., says 3 million vets who are enrolled in the VA usually get their health care elsewhere — from their employer, or maybe from Obamacare exchanges. If those options go away, she has no idea just how many of those 3 million veterans will move over to the VA.

"I would expect that the number of veterans using VA health care will increase, which will only provide a further challenge for VA to provide timely and accessible care," Farmer says.

The VA has already seen a surge in usage in the past year, straining what has long been an overtaxed system.

That could get worse if the agency can't fill vacancies. Trump signed a federal hiring freeze this week, and while national security is supposed to be exempt, the VA is not. White House spokesman Sean Spicer called it a "broken" system.

"The VA in particular, if you look at the problems that have plagued people, hiring more people isn't the answer. It's hiring the right people," Spicer told reporters on Tuesday.

Just hours after the White House emphasized that there would be no exemption for the VA from the hiring freeze, the acting secretary of the agency, Robert Snyder, seemed to issue a contradiction.

"The Department of Veterans Affairs intends to exempt anyone it deems necessary for public safety, including front-line caregivers," he said in a statement.

David Shulkin, Trump's nominee to lead the VA, in the past has stressed an urgent need to hire more caregivers. Shulkin has run the VA's health administration for the past two years, and he told NPR this past fall that negative attention to VA caused a 78 percent drop in applications there.

"We have 45,000 job openings. That's too many," Shulkin said. "I need to fill every one of those openings in order to make sure that we're doing the very best for our veterans."

But it's not just healthcare that's about to be a crisis facing our Veterans. Despite years of effort, the hiring front is still not looking good. Despite a slow and grudging recovery from the Great Recession, Veteran's hiring figures have always lagged behind the national average. The figures in the next story are for the month of January, which did not happen on Mr. Trump's watch, but unfortunately the previous gentlemen had limited success on that front as well. (Church Lady - "Could it be......CONGRESS??") It's likely to stay the same or get worse over time now, as the current administration is somewhat indiffirent to the plight of our veterans these days.

WASHINGTON -- The unemployment rate for the youngest generation of veterans jumped to 6.3 percent in January, the fourth time in the last seven months that group’s figure has been substantially higher than the overall veteran rate.

The figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which reflect the last month of President Barack Obama’s time in office, represent about 211,000 Iraq and Afghanistan era veterans looking for work. That’s almost 46 percent of the total of all U.S. veterans filing for unemployment benefits in January.

But employment experts have cautioned that employment estimates for the subset of younger veterans can be prone to more fluctuation than other calculations by BLS analysts, because of smaller sample sizes.

In December, the Iraq and Afghanistan era veterans rate was 5.7 percent. In September, it was even lower, at 4.4 percent.

Still, the higher number of unemployed younger veterans does raise concerns of new struggles for that group, because most monthly estimates for the last two years have been at or below the national unemployment rate.

For all veterans, the January unemployment rate was 4.5 percent, up slightly from the month before but under 5 percent for the 20th consecutive month.

The national unemployment rate was 4.8 percent, up from 4.7 percent in December.

Finally today, something unusual for us here at ask a vet. While we try to focus primarily on actual veterans, I've run across a story that illustrates the brutality of war for our fellow-creatures. Animals die in war, too. Some of it is not pleasant to read.

Even by the Islamic State’s brutal standards, the mess its fighters made of Kaldo Shoman’s farm had to be seen to be believed.

Over more than two decades, Shoman and his two brothers had labored to turn their land into an ad-hoc animal sanctuary. By planting trees, they hoped to attract migrating birds—and eventually tourists—to this largely barren swath of northwestern Iraq. In an area with scarce water, they carved out an artificial pond—and then watched as wild pigs and the occasional gazelle came calling.

But in one fell swoop, the Islamic State wiped their refuge off the map.

Blasting through the front gate in the summer of 2014, the men penned the Iraqi farmer's horses into a paddock and used them for target practice, Shoman says. After shooting Shoman's pet vulture and hogtying his favorite dog to a moving tractor, they carted off his extensive collection of songbirds. (See "Here Are the Ancient Sites ISIS Has Damaged and Destroyed.")

Keen to deprive would-be attackers of potential cover, the fighters then torched dozens of forested areas, including the Shomans’ roadside plantation. They laced the soil with mile after mile of landmines. When, in late 2015, Iraqi Kurdish troops closed in on their last holdings in northern Nineveh Province, the retreating jihadists deployed one last ecosystem-killing tactic: Dumping oil.

“Look what they did!” Kaldo Shoman says, pointing at the jet-black trails of diesel that still coat his pond 18 months later. “They are the animals!”

One wonders where it will ever end.

54 comments (Latest Comment: 02/07/2017 21:34:27 by wickedpam)
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