Monday, December 21, 2009

INVESTIGATION: Veteran's Battle for Benefits

INVESTIGATION: Veteran's Battle for Benefits

For seven months CBS 6 has investigated the harsh reality more than one million Veterans face everyday. Many are having the hardest of times battling for their benefits they feel their owed after they put their lives on the line for their country.

Chauncey Robinson who you met in September has been battling the Veteran's Adminstration at all levels for 17 years and continues to get no where with his case. If you recall he was an Army private during the Gulf War. An assault inside his barracks left him with a permanent heart condition. He has extensive medical documents that ties that assault to his heart condition but insists the V.A. keeps delaying his case.

In our intial report back in September both the N.Y. Regional Office of Veteran's Affairs and the U.S. Department of Veteran's Affairs only released statements to CBS 6 regarding Chauncey's case. While CBS 6 offered to drive down to New York City for a one on one interview, this time around they agreed to talk but only by phone.

Diana Rubens the V.A.'s Associate Deputy Under Secretary for Field Operations admits that there is plenty of room for improvement inside their system. She says changes have been made to the process but when CBS 6 e-mailed them later asking what those changes have been, they never responded.

Since Chauncey has been unable to get anywhere with his case, we decided to invite him in on our interview with Diana Rubens. Chauncey asked specific questions about his case in which Rubens couldn't answer and asked that he submit his questions in writing. Not getting anywhere his 17 years of frustration came out. "Why is the Regional Office not taking accountability for their administrative error. Don't sit there and tell me that this is on me! It's on that office!

CBS 6 was only granted 15 minutes for the interview. When our time was up we asked for more time for Chauncey but were declined. The Press Person Sue Hopkins stayed behind. That's when Chauncey spoke again. "How in the world can you say you're trying to help me! 17 years! How, How How! Do you know how I feel right now. You don't care about me at all. There's no compassion there maam. I'm sorry but that's the way I feel!"

Many Veterans say their call for help hasn't been answered by local leaders as well even though they answered the call for duty. So CBS 6 made a call to Senator Kirsten Gillibrands office. The Senator agreed to speak with us via satellite from her Washington D.C. office. Our first question was about Chauncey and when he might finally get an answer. "I will place calls to the VA and I will find out what the status of his case is. We'll talk to him today" says Senator Gillibrand.

Senator Gillibrand's office did call Chauncey. Her office also says they are waiting for a call back from the VA so they can walk through his case line by line with them".

Sue Frasier has been battling for her benefits for more than 34 years. We introduced you to her back in September. She too has medical records that ties PCB water and air contamination on the base she served in the 1970's to her many diseases. Since our investigation nothing has changed on her case either. "There are one million cases in the backlog, one million. It's about chronically underfunding the VA. It's always about not enough resources, caseworkers and not enough people to answer the phones" says Senator Gillibrand.

Which is why she says her colleagues in Washington are working to change that.

"One of the bills we're actually debating right now on the Senate Floor is the VA bill. There's money put in that bill to help with the backlog. Money set aside specifically for hiring people and getting the backlog reduced on a timely basis" says Senator Gillibrand. Gillibrand adds that any Veteran battling for their benefits should call her office if they need help.

Both Chauncey Robinson and Sue Frasier aren't so sure that will work but one thing they do know for sure. They're not going away and neither are the one million veterans caught up in the backlog of claims.


I see that Congress has given the money to the VA to hire almost 2000 new claims processors, the problem with that is it takes almost 2-3 years before they are trained to the point of being able to adjudicate the claims, the CFR 38 is huge and it takes a long time to learn what is needed to approve or deny claims according to the VA rules. Sue Frasiers claim deals with toxic exposures and Chauncey's is 17 years old I don't know if his circumstances are similar to mine where I got my PTSD service connected to a robbery and attempted murder at Fort Wainwright Alaska back in Feb 1975 and my cardiologists showed how the early onset of cardiac disease was secondary to my SC PTSD. With the VA the doctors need to play connect the dots and show exactly how the PTSD is related to the cardiac symptoms. I think that with Chauncey trying to get back pay to the Gulf War, that is one of the reasons the VARO is denying the claim, 17 years of back pay is roughly 425,000 dollars if his PTSD is 100% and he is trying to get the cardiac secondary to PTSD then that would be at a level the VA calls SMC S a difference of about 300 a month and for 17 years that would be a difference of 61,200 dollars approximately, a lot of it depends on if Chauncey is service connected for PTSD from the assault in the barracks, if not, then he has a lot of problems.

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Sunday, December 20, 2009

An Officer and a Creative Man

An Officer and a Creative Man

Published: December 19, 2009
Quantico, Va.

Leadership Survey Responses AS President Obama and his advisers planned their new approach to the Afghan war, the quality of Afghanistan’s security forces received unprecedented scrutiny, and rightly so. Far less attention, however, has been paid to the quality of American troops there. Of course, American forces don’t demand bribes from civilians at gunpoint or go absent for days, as Afghans have often done. But they face serious issues of their own, demanding prompt action.

The American corporals and privates who traverse the Afghan countryside today are not at issue. They risk life and limb every day, with little self-pity. Despite the strains of successive combat deployments, they keep re-enlisting at high rates.

The problems lie, rather, in the leadership ranks. Although many Army and Marine officers in Afghanistan are performing well, a significant portion are not demonstrating the vital leadership attributes of creativity, flexibility and initiative. In 2008, to better pinpoint these deficits, I surveyed 131 Army and Marine officers who had served in counterinsurgency operations in Iraq or Afghanistan or both, asking them each 42 questions about leadership in their services.

The results were striking. Many respondents said that field commanders relied too much on methods that worked in another place at another time but often did not work well now. Officers at higher levels are stifling the initiative of junior officers through micromanagement and policies to reduce risk. Onerous requirements for armored vehicles on patrols, for instance, are preventing the quick action needed for effective counterinsurgency. Of the Army veterans I surveyed, only 28 percent said that their service encouraged them to take risks, while a shocking 41 percent said that the Army discouraged it.

The climate of risk aversion begins in American society at large, which puts a higher premium on minimizing casualties than on defeating the enemy. It continues with American politicians and other elites who focus on the abuses at Abu Ghraib and Haditha in Iraq, but rarely point out the far more numerous instances of American valor.

It doesn’t need to be this way in the Army. After all, the Marine Corps has succeeded in inducing its officers to operate independently. More than twice as many Marine survey respondents as Army respondents — 58 percent — said that their service encouraged risk-taking. Marine culture is different because the career Marine officers who shape it are, on average, less risk-averse than career Army officers.

Researchers have found that the leadership ranks of big organizations are dominated by either “sensing-judging” or “intuitive thinking” personality types. Those in the former category rely primarily on the five senses to tell them about the world; they prefer structure and standardization, doing things by the book and maintaining tight control.

In the late 20th century, the Army gravitated toward standardization, as peacetime militaries often do, and consequently rewarded the sensing-judging officers who are now the Army’s generals and colonels. But this personality type functions less well in activities that change frequently or demand regular risk-taking, like technological development or counterinsurgency. Organizations that thrive under such conditions are most often led by people with intuitive-thinking personalities. These people are quick to identify the need for change and to solve problems by venturing outside the box.

Today, the Army has more intuitive-thinking people among its lieutenants and captains than at the upper levels. Too many of these junior officers continue to leave the service out of disillusionment with its rigidity and risk aversion. To their credit, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and the Army chief of staff, Gen. George Casey, have been trying to fix this problem, directing promotion boards to value creativity and initiative. But more drastic treatment is required.

The military should incorporate personality test results into military personnel files, and promotion boards should be required to select higher percentages of those who fall into the intuitive-thinking group. Many highly successful businesses factor personality testing into promotion decisions; the military, with far more at stake, should be no less savvy.

More immediately, our generals should repeatedly visit the colonels who command brigades and battalions to see if they are encouraging subordinates to innovate and take risks. Commanders who refuse to stop micromanaging should be relieved. The change may be disruptive and painful, but in the long run it will save lives and shorten wars.

Mark Moyar is a professor of national security affairs at Marine Corps University and the author of “A Question of Command: Counterinsurgency From the Civil War to Iraq.”

I served in another era innovation was encouraged by the Army, the old ways did not work, it was especially encouraged after Vietnam. The training programs seemed to be based on tactics that were not seen as effective in the mid 70s. We wer getting new weapons and new weapon systems, we are also transforming from a draft army to an all volunteer Army. Supposedly the troops were more motivated to learn. Going outside the "box was encouraged" instead of being told how to do it step by step, we were given an objective and told to "do it" and as the junior officers and NCOs we would be held accountable for the success of the mission.

You had leeway to try new tactics, to forget the manuals, you just better be prepared to explain it, when it went wrong, and sometimes things went wrong in every which way they could, but that also was useful we learned what was not possible or feasible and what the true cost would be if reality was on the line. ( do not order 150 yards of rope to scale down cliffs in the dark when it is 200 yards to the bottom, it gets ugly quick).

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