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Author: TriSec    Date: 12/27/2016 11:25:43

Good Morning.

We're back in it today - I hope everyone was making rather merry this weekend.

We'll start this morning in Moscow, even thought it's actually about Afghanistan. There have been decades of war in this country, and despite everyone's efforts, it's been difficult to get any progress here. So you'd think that a high-level government meeting among the concerned parties might be beneficial. Except Afghanistan wasn't invited, and the meeting is made up of countries that aren't exactly our friends. I'm kind of thinking Munich, circa 1938.

The Afghan government officials have reacted towards a trilateral meeting involving Pakistan, China, and Russia to discuss Afghanistan, expressing concerns regarding the absence of Afghan officials in the summit.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Ahmad Shekib Mostaghni said the Afghan government is not optimistic regarding the outcome of the meeting.

Mostaghni said such meetings without the presence of Afghan officials will not represent a real picture of the situation of Afghanistan in the meeting.

Mostaghni further added that such meetings, even if having good motives, will raise serious questions among the Afghans regarding its objectives.

On the other hand, the speaker of the Lower House of Parliament, Wolesi Jirga, Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi, called such meetings a clear interference in the internal affairs of Afghanistan.

Speaking during a session of the parliament on Monday, Ibrahimi said the government should have contacts with the regional countries regarding such meetings.

The meeting will be hosted by Russia and will be attended by the representatives of China and Pakistan, the two countries considered as close regional allies.

I've run across an interesting story today about veteran's medical care issues. I'll have to give you a little backstory, though. Here in Metrowest Boston, I can literally drive 15 minutes in any direction and run across a hospital, and that includes a VA facility (and another one just outside that radius). In an emergent situation, I can go anywhere and not give it a second thought. But in some places in this land of hours, there's limited choices - and some may be quite some distance away.

Now imagine you're a veteran. Naturally, your first choice would probably be a VA hospital, but in an emergent situation you don't have that luxury. Unfortunately, if you wind up at a civilian hospital, you'll get charged just like you and me. The Government is supposed to pay that off via the VA - but it all takes time. Meanwhile, veterans waiting have potential financial ruin hanging over their heads.

Alfred Dymock worries that when he dies he will leave behind lasting medical debt for his wife and family.

The 90 year old from Rapid City fell twice in his home earlier this year and required emergency care after he hit his head and started having chest pains.

Paramedics came and drove the former jet fighter pilot to Rapid City Regional hospital where he received care. They told Dymock that they couldn't take him to the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Fort Meade as they didn't want to risk taking the 25-minute drive when there was a closer alternative.

Dymock was discharged, but soon entered hospice care for unrelated conditions. And soon after, his daughter Karine Carpenter got the bill for the portion of Dymock's care that wasn't covered by Medicare Part A. It totaled almost $10,000.

Because Dymock had another form of insurance, he's been stuck in state of limbo waiting for the VA to approve or deny the remaining expense.

“Dad is very worried. He just doesn’t have peace at all,” Carpenter said. "He would like to pass away and know that my mom would be O.K."

Dymock isn't the only one waiting on answers from the VA about whether they can get their emergency bills repaid. Hundreds of thousands of veterans have requested reimbursements from the department that became legally responsible for taking care of the tabs for veterans that seek emergency medical care outside the VA system in 2010.

But despite the law and an April U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims ruling that came down on a Minnesota veteran's side, the department said it shouldn't be held responsible for veterans' emergency bills when they have another insurance provider.

"The CAVC ruling contradicts VA’s longstanding interpretation of the statutory authority and our business practices. VA is taking steps to challenge the Court’s ruling," a VA spokeswoman said in a statement.

Sens. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., have called on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to make good on their requirement to pay back the portion of private emergency cared provided to veterans outside of VA facilities.

In a letter to the department, Rounds and Klobuchar urged officials to reimburse claims from hundreds of thousands of veterans across the country that sought emergency care outside the VA system.

“They should be coming to us if they don’t have enough and we will find the reserves to do that, but to expect that they can put that expense on veterans who have sacrificed so much already just irritates me,” Rounds said.

Finally today, we'll end up with another vexing healthcare issue - this time about nurses. You're probably aware that there is a national nursing shortage, and the VA is not immune from it. A hospital in Illinois thinks they have a solution - in addition to their full-time nurses, they are now contracting nurses for specific care intervals and specialties to fill in the gaps. It seems like a good idea, but the local union is up-in arms and is attempting to block the solution. Their opinion is that the nurses should be full-time union employees, and anything else amounts to privatization. I'm not sure where I stand on this one, but I do know that the only ones to suffer are going to be the veterans.

QUINCY -- Efforts to address a long-standing shortage of nurses at the four Illinois veterans homes has the state Department of Veterans Affairs drawing the ire of the Illinois Nurses Association.

Dave MacDonna, a Veterans Affairs spokesman, said the agency has tried several ways to recruit registered nurses. Records indicate that the state's four veterans homes have faced frequent staffing shortages for more than a decade.

"Nursing positions at the Quincy Veterans Home have been open and advertised for months, and in order to ensure the safety of our residents, IDVA is considering other options, including subcontracting," MacDonna said.

Veterans Affairs officials would like to hire a job service to find registered nurses and send them to the veterans homes.

Chris Martin, a spokesman for the Illinois Nurses Association, said this amounts to "privatize nursing care for veterans." The union represents 202 registered nurses working at state veterans homes in Quincy, Anna, LaSalle and Manteno. The association represents 67 of the nurses at the Quincy home.

MacDonna denied that the state is seeking to privatize nursing care. Veterans homes just need help locating nurses, he said.

"These are temporary contract positions, and if the temporary employee decides to become a permanent employee, they become an employee of (the veterans home) and a member of the Illinois Nurses Association," MacDonna said.

Martin was not convinced. He said a similar effort undertaken by the Illinois Department of Corrections resulted in nurses subcontracting at prisons and providing care the state auditor general said was not sufficient.

"Our experience with the state is that once they start something like this, it always ends up with privatization," Martin said.

Veterans Affairs has tried to find ways to fill nursing positions for years. In late 2013, the Illinois Veterans Home in Quincy launched a drive to hire 25 certified nurse assistants. Two months later, only six had been added.

So, we'll just sit over here and wait for the VA to be great again.

12 comments (Latest Comment: 12/28/2016 04:50:04 by Will in Chicago)
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