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Ask a Vet
Author: TriSec    Date: 02/06/2018 10:44:29

Good Morning.

We'll dive right in today. I'm a bit peeved by this one. The V.A.'s masthead has long been a quote by President Lincoln, but it was uttered in an era when only men wore the uniform. Needless to say, that was a few years ago. Things change.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has denied a request to make its motto “gender neutral,” reports Stars and Stripes, a military newspaper.

For 59 years, the VA’s motto has read: “To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan.” The quote comes from Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address in 1865, the same year Lincoln created the government’s institution for volunteer soldiers.

Plaques at the entrance of VA headquarters in Washington, D.C., display the quote, as do many VA facilities across the nation.

In November, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America asked VA Secretary David Shulkin to change the motto. The group said it was “sexist and outdated. On Jan. 26, the VA responded by saying the motto stills as a representative of “the heart of our noble mission,” Stars and Stripes reported.

IAVA Executive Director Allison Jaslow said she believes the VA’s response brushed off both the group’s request and larger, obstacles faced by female veterans.

“They’re missing the point that women don’t feel comfortable at the VA,” Jaslow told Stars and Stripes. “We want to be respected and appreciated as much as male veterans are, and the motto is symbolic of overall challenges.”

In a response to the IAVA, Kayla Williams, director of the VA Center for Women Veterans, noted that VA leaders have gradually been using an updated version of the quote: “To care for those who shall have borne the battle and their families and survivors.”

“Recognizing that they can seem exclusionary to some women veterans, for many years I – along with other senior VA leaders – have honored the population we serve today by using a modernized version,” Williams wrote in a letter to Jaslow. “This symbolic update, which we are continuing to gradually incorporate alongside the original in digital and print materials, as well as spoken remarks, is an important acknowledgement of today’s veteran population.”

Moving right along, remember the Reagan Era, when the Pentagon used to get away with covering up their 'black' budget by spending $600 on a toilet seat? Given the ever-growing list of spending scams within the V.A., I have to wonder if this is yet another cover-up of some kind.

The Veterans Affairs Department blew almost $2 billion over three attempts to modernize the electronic health records system it uses to provide care to 9 million veterans.

A recent audit by the Government Accountability Office identified $1.1 billion in wasted spending on two VA projects from 2011 to 2016, the Integrated Electronic Health Record and Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture.

Nextgov identified another $600 million VA spent on a third program, the HealtheVet initiative, which began in 2001 but was deemed a “failed" project, according to the audit, and canceled in 2010. The HealtheVet spending was not included in GAO’s audit because VA said it no longer possessed spending records. Agencies are required by the Federal Acquisition Regulation to keep contract records for six years after final payment, the audit notes.

An analysis by big data analytics firm Govini reveals nearly half of the $600 million spent on HealtheVet went to Hewlett-Packard for hardware, software and other IT services. The agency also paid a large amount to CACI, as well as Systems Made Simple, which Lockheed Martin bought and then spun off as part of the IT business it sold to Leidos.

“It is truly amazing how much federal agencies spend on electronic health records,” said Matt Hummer, director of analytics and professional services at Govini.

The audit and spending trail on failed IT projects is important as VA embarks on its fourth attempt to modernize its health IT and records systems—this one an expected $10 billion sole-source contract to Cerner Corp. Cerner ranked as the 13th highest-paid contractor in VA’s failed iEHR and VistA programs, according to GAO, receiving $13.4 million from the agency.

Cerner is also partnering with Leidos to build the Defense Department’s next-gen health records systems—valued at $4.3 billion over 10 years. When the Defense Department’s MHS Genesis platform and VA’s Cerner-built platform are fully operational, they are expected to be interoperable, or able to share records of soldiers and veterans seamlessly between each other.

However, as GAO’s audit warns, this is VA's fourth attempt at modernizing its health records system. In the previous three instances, the agency’s planning, management and execution led to billions of dollars wasted.

“The department’s dedication to completing and effectively executing the planning activities that it has identified will be essential to helping minimize program risks and expeditiously guide this latest electronic health record modernization initiative to a successful outcome—which VA, for almost two decades, has been unable to achieve,” the audit states.

Looks like we won't get through Ask A Vet this morning without a sex scandal; this coming from Portland, Oregon. It's actually a role-reversal here, but a crime is still a crime, is it not?

A veteran who tried to shun his therapist's sexual advances is now suing the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, alleging that the federal agency is liable for the therapist's professional misconduct that included reporting her patient as dangerous in retaliation.

The suit seeks $500,000 in emotional damages.

Ami Diane Phillips, the licensed clinical social worker for the Veteran Affairs Medical Center in Southwest Portland, was prosecuted in Multnomah County. She pleaded guilty to attempted coercion and initiating a false report and was sentenced in January 2017 to two days in jail, two years of probation, mental health counseling and 40 hours of community service.

Veteran Luke Kirk received mental health and therapeutic treatment at the Portland center.

Phillips, according to the suit, began hugging, kissing and physically touching him during his sessions, gave him her personal cellphone number and exchanged more than 4,000 personal text messages with him, according to the suit.

Phillips asked him to marry her and raise an adoptive child together, the suit says.

From mid-April 2016 until early June 2016, they had a personal relationship while Phillips continued to provide mental health treatment to Kirk, the suit says. Phillips tried to initiate sexual relations but Kirk refused, according to the suit.

Finally today, there is a Ferengi Rule of Acquisition, "Every once in a while, declare peace". Looks like we have managed to do that with ISIS (I know, nobody noticed.) But the plus side is, a wee draw-down of US Troops in Iraq will be the result. I bet you all forgot we're still there.

AL-ASAD AIRBASE, Iraq -- American troops have started to draw down from Iraq following Baghdad's declaration of victory over the Islamic State group last year, according to Western contractors at a U.S.-led coalition base in Iraq.

In Baghdad, an Iraqi government spokesman on Monday confirmed to The Associated Press that the drawdown has begun, though he stressed it was still in its early stages and doesn't mark the beginning of a complete pullout of U.S. forces.

Dozens of American soldiers have been transported from Iraq to Afghanistan on daily flights over the past week, along with weapons and equipment, the contractors said.

An AP reporter at the Al-Asad base in western Iraq saw troop movements reflecting the contractors' account. The contractors spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations and declined to reveal the exact size of the drawdown.

"Continued coalition presence in Iraq will be conditions-based, proportional to the need and in coordination with the government of Iraq," coalition spokesman Army Col. Ryan Dillon told the AP when asked for comment.

Government spokesman Saad al-Hadithi said, "The battle against Daesh has ended, and so the level of the American presence will be reduced."

Daesh is the Arabic language acronym for ISIS.

Al-Hadithi spoke just hours after AP reported the American drawdown -- the first since the war against ISIS was launched over three years ago.

One senior Iraqi official close to Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said 60 percent of all American troops currently in country will be withdrawn, according to the initial agreement reached with the United States. The plan would leave a force of about 4,000 U.S. troops to continue training the Iraqi military.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

A Pentagon report released in November said there were 8,892 U.S. troops in Iraq as of late September.

The U.S. first launched airstrikes against the Islamic State group in Iraq in August 2014. At the time, the military intervention was described as "limited," but as Iraq's military struggled to roll back the extremists, the U.S.-led coalition's footprint in the country steadily grew.

"We've had a recent change of mission and soon we'll be supporting a different theater of operations in the coming month," U.S. Army 1st Lt. William John Raymond told the AP at Al-Asad.

He spoke as he and a handful of soldiers from his unit conducted equipment inventory checks required before leaving Iraq. Raymond declined to specify where his unit was being redeployed, in line with regulations as the information has not yet been made public.

The drawdown of U.S. forces comes just three months ahead of national elections in Iraq, where the indefinite presence of American troops continues to be a divisive issue.

Don't worry Iraq - it used to be a divisive issue in These United States, too. But we've moved on to even more divisive issues, and so can you!


21 comments (Latest Comment: 02/06/2018 22:24:54 by livingonli)
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