June 1, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, the political crisis
continues, Nouri stands with two buddies, Iraqi women continue to
suffer, a court gives the US State Dept four months to comply with an
order, and more.
Like a nightmare version of Charlie's Angels
, Ammar al-Hakim, Ibrahim al-Jaafari and Nouri al-Maliki stood side by side to announce their solidarity. Alsumaria reports
that the head of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, the head of the
National Alliance and the Prime minister of Iraq met to discuss the
latest political developments in Iraq and how to address them. Al
Rafidayn has an article where Ammar's dropping terms like "sin" and "big
sin" and talking about "the street" and it all sounds like a lover in
the grip of passion.
So let flow the hydrants
And we'll dance in the spray
And we'll wash out all our dirty laundry
In the alleyway
Put your love out in the street
Put your love out in the street
Put your love out in the street
Put your love
Out in the street tonight
While Ammar de amour works himself into a frenzy, Kitabat reports
that Moqtada al-Sadr's followers have rejected the notion that chaos follows a no-confidence vote in Nouri.
On paper it looks like a serious threat to Maliki's rule. But if you
ask the prime minister's supporters about a no confidence motion, they
tend to laugh and say bring it on.
MUTTALIBI: Oh, definitely. Just go ahead. You know, we will sit there
and laugh at the puny numbers that you will gain in the parliament.
Businessman and Maliki backer Saad Muttalibi says those who have
actually tried to add up the votes say the opposition is well short at
the moment. He says pro-Maliki forces are mounting a counterattack,
collecting votes for a no confidence motion against the anti-Maliki
speaker of the parliament. And Muttalibi says Sadr is jeopardizing his
future in the governing National Alliance by cozying up to the Kurds and
It's great that NPR had time for bitchy but exactly when did they intend to explain the political crisis to listeners?
They are aware that they never did that, right?
never once in the report did they mention the Erbil Agreement or the
2010 elections or anything of real substance. But, hey, we got a bitchy
supporter of Nouri's and didn't that make everything worthwhile?
Earlier this year, Marina Ottaway and Danial Kaysi's [PDF format warning] "The State Of Iraq
" (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace) reviewed events and noted:
days of the official ceremonies marking the end of the U.S. mission in
Iraq, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki moved to indict Vice President
Tariq al-Hashemi on terrorism charges and sought to remove Deputy Prime
Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq from his position, triggering a major political
crisis that fully revealed Iraq as an unstable, undemocractic country
governed by raw competition for power and barely affected by
institutional arrangements. Large-scale violence immediately flared up
again, with a series of terrorist attacks against mostly Shi'i targets
reminiscent of the worst days of 2006.
But there is
more to the crisis than an escalation of violence. The tenuous
political agreement among parties and factions reached at the end of
2010 has collapsed. The government of national unity has stopped
functioning, and provinces that want to become regions with autonomous
power comparable to Kurdistan's are putting increasing pressure on the
central government. Unless a new political agreement is reached soon,
Iraq may plunge into civil war or split apart.
agreement was the Erbil Agreement. March 7, 2010, Iraq held
parliamentary elections. Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya came in first ahead of
Nouri's State of Law. Nouri refused to give up the post of prime
minister. What followed were eight months of political stalemate. The
White House and the Iranian government were backing Nouri so he knew he
could dig in his heels and did just that. Finally, in November, the
US-brokered Erbil Agreement was reached. Nouri could have a second term
as prime minister provided he made concessions on other issues.
used the agreement to get his second term and then trashed the
agreement refusing to honor it. Until last week, he and his supporters
had taken to (wrongly) calling the agreement unconstitutional. And
though the KRG, Iraqiya and Moqtada al-Sadr have been calling for the
Erbil Agreement to be fully implemented since summer 2011, it took last
month for State of Law to finally discover that themselves loved the
Erbil Agreement. Needless to say, the sudden attraction to the deal is
seen as mere lip service especially when Nouri refused to implement it.
In violence Al Rafidayn notes
that 1 traffice police officer was shot dead in Mosul as was his driver. In addition, Alsumaria notes
a captain in the Ministry of Interior's intelligence division was shot dead in Falluja today. AFP adds
a Baghdad roadside bombing targeting a market claimed 1 life and left
three more people injured and 1 police colonel was shot dead in
This week the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) released "Report on Human Rights in Iraq: 2011
In Wednesday's snapshot we noted the highly superficial section on
Iraq's LGBTs. The report does a better job with the issue of the rights
of Iraqi women. That section opens with:
continues to monitor the status and rights of women in Iraq, including
gender based violence such as so-called 'honour' crimes, trafficking and
domestic violence. Due to the security situation, UNAMI is uanble to
collect first hand data on the situation of women in some parts of Iraq
outside of the Kurdistan Region.
that. 'Violence is down!!!!' We hear that stupidity over and over
from the press. No, it's not really down. 2006 and 2007 were years of
ethnic cleansing -- encouraged and (I would say) aided by the US
government. Those death figures are huge. I'm not really sure why the
years of ethnic cleansing are treated as natural or normal figures with
which to compare everything to? Iraq remains violent. And UNAMI tells
us that it's so violent that they can't even collect basic data.
the press moved on, didn't they? They press that largely mocked,
ridiculed or ignored war resisters fled Iraq. There's the US wire
service AP. There's the New York Times staff. There's Jane Arraf. There's the Wall St. Journal
(led by Sam Dagher). There's CNN. That's it. Imagine if that was it
in 2002 and 2003? If that were it in those years, only those outlets
and the others ignored Iraq, it would have been so much more difficult
to sell the illegal war to the American public (a public with a
significant amount of resistance even at the start).
Gauriat: We're in Iraq this month to meet women in Baghdad, Najaf and
Iraqi Kurdistan who are fighting their own kind of war. A human rights
activist, two war widwos and a female soldier to regain the rights Iraqi
women have lost. Every month in Women and War we bring you the stories
of women who are fighting across the world.
Iraqi women have lost so much due to the Iraq War. They've lost
husbands and fathers and sons and brothers and uncles and mothers and
daughters and sisters and aunts. They've lost friends. Most of all,
they've gone from living in one of the most advanced Middle East
nation-states for women to a country where they have to regularly fight
for basic dignities. And fight they do. They know what's at stake and
they know the US government isn't helping them, has never helped them.
The US State Dept's Anne C. Richard writes with all the enthusiasm that
historical ignorance and optimism can provide. We'll note this from her post today
at the State Dept blog about her new job working with Iraqis:
of the numbers of widows in Iraq range from 750,000 to 1.5 million, or
between 2.4 percent and 5 percent of the population -- no one knows for
sure as there has not been a recent census. In Iraqi society, women
traditionally do not work outside of the home. However, the women at
this site emphasized that they needed jobs to provide for their
Iraq remains a dangerous place and our visit was not
announced in advance but the visit was eye opening and well worth the
effort it takes to get out and meet ordinary Iraqis.
Later, I raised
the plight of the widows with senior Iraqi officials. They were
determined to make progress on housing issues and acknowledged problems
with registrations -- although they also expressed concerns about the
squatters occupying government land.
continue to follow Anne C. Richard's posts. She's got energy and
optimism and her ability to either ignore or not learn what came before
may allow her to pull off some small miracles. I wish her the best
because Iraqi women could use a miracle or two. But the issue of the
widows, their plight, that's been raised with the Iraqi government for
years now. There's been no significant improvement or real plans from
the government. At one point they were suggesting that the answer was
for the widows to remarry.
for Iraqi citizens, especially women, the ongoing violence caused by
the U.S. invasion is not the only consequence that has become part of
the everyday struggle to rebuild their country. Before the U.S.
invasion, 75% of Iraqi women had college degrees, and 31% of Iraqi women
had graduate degrees (compared to 35% of European and U.S. women). Only
10% of women in Iraq now continue to work in their professions, and
they have to contend with the thousands of more experience and
better-educated Iraqi women who fled Iraq at the onset of the war and
are now returning. However most women stay away from their work,
schools, and universities due to extreme safety concerns: Since the
beginning of the war, rates of abductions and kidnappings targeting
women and girls, most often related to sex trafficking, female suicides
and honor killings have increased.
was beneficial to the US government's aims to scare the Iraqi people
into submission. It would be easier to push through various policies
and programs on a people too scared to fight back. So the US backed
thugs, turned their heads the other way not just to looting but to rape
and so much more. And Iraqi women could have thrown in the towel and
said, "Forget it, my safety is what's most important." Instead, these
brave women regularly take to the streets and protest for their rights.
Even since Nouri's squad of thugs began beating protesters and
arresting them and torturing them in custody, Iraqi women refuse to hide
and refuse to give up on their country or let Iraq be turned into
something that they're no longer a part of. The US shut the women out
of the process from the start. They had to take to the streets when the
US was writing their rights out of Iraq's new Constitution (in 2005)
and they've done that during the continued violence and during the
periods of the most violence. Last month, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Iraq noted
rights of women in post war Iraq is clear following reports that they
are victims of human trafficking to and fro Iraq and even within the
outskirts of the cities with cases of forced prostitution. Women are
trafficked from Southern Iraq and transported to the Gulf States by rich
cartels who promise to marry them and give them a good life only to use
the as servants and sex workers in their well-managed deals.
the 'unveiled' women in Iraq have had their rights violated. There are
groups that are making it hard for this woman to have freedom in and
around Iraq and creating an atmosphere where they are intimidated. For
instance, Fatwas encourages the crowd to throw rotten eggs and tomatoes
to any woman around the streets who passes by without a veil. This has
made it hard for the professional Iraqi woman to work or get education
unless they wear the hijab.
It has to be noted that Islamic leaders
from the Shi'ite and the Sunni have strong condemnation against women
in Iraq without the hijab, this means trouble for the rights of women in
Iraq. Since the war started, the Iraqi women have been attacked,
kidnapped and even intimidated in a way that bars them from
participating in any role with the society.
the reporting period, UNAMI continued monitoring the situation of over
3,000 residents affiliated with the People's Mujahedin of Iran (PMOI) in
Camp New Iraq (commonly known as Camp Ashraf) and documented a number
of measures of which Iraqi authorities aimed at tightening control over
the Camp and its residents with the ultimate objective of closing it
down by the end of 2011, as declared in the Council of Ministers'
decision of 17 June 2008.
On 8 April, in
an operation that lasted approximately 7 hours, the Iraqi army moved
into the Camp and occupied its northern part, comprising some 40 percent
of its total surface area. The Iraqi authorities described the
operation as a law enforcement action to restore privately owned land in
Ashraf to its legitimate owners. It resulted in the deaths of 36 and
injuing of more than 300 residents who protested against, and resisted,
the operation. On 13, April, a UNAMI delegation was authorized to visit
the Camp. The UNAMI physician counted 28 bodies in a makeshift
morgue. The apparent cause of death in most cases was bullets and
shapnel wounds. Another 6 residents were confirmed dead among those
injured who had been rushed to Ba'quba hospital. Two more died later
from their injuries. The Iraqi authorities admitted that their forces
caused 3 fatalities, which they described as 'accidental'.
a statement made public on 15 April, the United Nations High
Commissioner for Human Rights said the Iraqi military were well aware of
the risks attached to launching an operation like this in Ashraf and
added: "There is no possible excuse for this number of casualties.
There must be a full, independent and transparent inquiry, and any
person found responsible for use of excessive force should be
prosecuted." On the same day, UNAMI issued a similar statement
requesting a thorough investigation through an independent commission.
During the reporting period, no action was taken by the Government of
Iraq to establish such an independent commission of inquiry to
investigate the incident. The 8 April operation was the second
occasion, after clashes on 28/29 July 2009, when Iraqi forces appear to
have used excessive restraint in conformity with international human
rights law in asserting its legitimate authority over the camp and its
After this incident, the Iraqi
Government reaffirmed the deadline of 31 December 2011 for the residents
to evacuate Camp Ashraf. UNAMI continued working closely with the
Government of Iraq, the diplomatic commmunity, UNHCR and the residents'
representatives in order to find durable solutions. In late 2011,
consultations between UNAMI and the Government of Iraq led to a
Memorandum of Understanding, which was signed by both parties on 25
December. In it, the United Nations offered its services as an
impartial facilitator and observer in a process that would see the
residents of Camp Ashraf move to a temporary transit location at Camp
Liberty (a former US military base near Baghdad International Airport),
undergo individual refugee status determination by UNHCR, and eventually
either their voluntary return to their countries of nationality or if
eligible, resettlement in third countries, subject to the availablility
of receiving countries. In an open letter of 28 December 2011 to the
residents of Camp Ashraf, UNAMI SRSG, Martin Kobler, affirmed that the
United Nations desired to "prevent violence and confrontation" a
permanent solution for the residents. He pledged that UN staff would
monitor the situation at Camp Liberty 24/7 until the last resident had
By 31 December, the Prime
Minister Al-Maliki announced the extension of the deadline for the
departure from Iraq of Ashraf residents till the end of April 2012. At
time of publishing this report 29 May 2012, 1996 residents have
relocated from Camp Ashraf to Camp Liberty (Camp Hurriya).
reminds the Government of Iraq to abide by its legal obligations,
reaffirmed in the Memorandum of Understanding, to fully respect its
human rights obligations under international law in dealing with the
residents of Camp Ashraf. It also calls upon the residents and their
representatives to obey the laws of Iraq, and to voluntarily participate
in the process offered by the UN and agreed to by the Government of
Iraq aimed at resolving the issue peacefully.
Which takes us into legal news, it's a shock to the administration but most others saw the ruling coming. Jamie Crawford (CNN) reports
"A federal appeals court has ordered Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
to make a prompt decision on whether to remove an Iranian dissident
group from the State Department's list of foreign terrorist
organizations." This was a unanimous decision handed down by the US
Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Why was it
unanimous? Because the administration has been in violation for some
time now. James Vicini (Reuters) reminds
"The appeals court ruled nearly two years ago that Clinton had
violated the group's rights and instructed her to 'review and rebut'
unclassified parts of the record she initially relied on and say if she
regards the sources as sufficiently credible. It said Clinton had yet
to make a final decision." The administration was in contempt. The
courts and the executive branch were in conflict. (They still are.)
What generally happens there is the court of appeals makes a united
front because this is now a court issue (as opposed to the merits of the
case from when it was heard earlier). Unlike the executive branch, the
judicial branch has no security forces. So they want to send a message
but they also want to do so without looking weak if the administration
ignores them. So since two months was the target date for the State
Dept to finish a review on the MEK, they gave State four months which,
they hope, is more than enough time. However, the two months (as the
judges know) was a guideline, not a promise. State made very clear
before the court that they were not promising two months. So it could
go on past four months. Four months carries them into October. If
they're not complying by then, there's a good chance they won't.
Whether Barack Obama wins a second term as US President or not, Hillary
Clinton has already stated she was only doing one term as Secretary of
State. So when November arrives, if there's no decision, there won't be
a rush for one. If Barack wins re-election, he'll state that he has to
find someone to oversee the department first. If Barack loses, they've
already blown off the appeals court for over two years now, continuing
to blow them off for sixty more days will be a breeze.
should be outrage over this but faux activists like you know who only
pretend to give a damn about the rule of law. The administration has
refused to comply with a court order. If it were on any other topic,
you could expect yet another shrill column; however, he doens't like the
MEK so rule of law gets tossed out the window.
to veterans issues, yesterday we noted the Dept of Labor is holding a
Veterans Hiring Fair next week on Wednesday, June 6th. It will be at
the Great Hall of the Frances Perkins US Dept of Labor Building on 200
Constitution Ave. starting at ten in the morning and ending at one in
the afternoon. You will need veteran i.d. to enter the job fair. And
it is open to all adult veterans. Repeating, that's next week on
Wednesday. Tara Merrigan (Austin American-Statesman) reports
, "Austin will honor Iraq War veterans in a July 7 parade and job fair, city leaders announced Thursday."
Oros: I would suggest that the very broad definition of "prosethetics"
can lead to confusion and, worse, application of policies that are
inappropriate to replacement limbs and orthotics. The result:
inappropriate barriers to care for veterans with limb loss who need
timely access to high quality prosthetics in order to go to work, care
for their families, and live their everyday lives. In fact, the Health
Subcommittee saw that confusion on display in its hearing in this very
room only two weeks ago. Chairwoman Buerkle held a hearing on
"Optimmizing Care for Veterans with Prosthetics" on May 16th. During
the hearing, she clarified multiple times that the topic of the hearing
was prosthetics as traditionally understood and defined. During that
hearing, the VA's Chief Procurement and Logistics Officer told the
Subcommittee that because changes in procurement policies applied only
to items that cost $3,000 or more, those charges would not apply to
97% of the prosthetics budget. I'm sure that statement
is accurate for everything included in the billion-dollar-plus line item
described by the VA as "prosthetics." However, for the approximately
$58 million portion of that line item spent on replacement limbs and
orthoses, that statement is confusing and unhelpful. Virtually every
part of even a fairly low-tech prosthetic limb costs more than $3,000.
So adopting procurement policies with the understanding that the policy
does not apply to 97% of prosthetic purchases can lead to decisions that
delay specialized and vitally needed care for veterans with limb loss
or limb impairment. The veterans we see have already sacrificed
enough. They are working hard to put their personal, family and
professional lives back together. This task should not be made more
difficult by the application of overly broad policies that do not take
into consideration the very specialized and unique nature of
prosthetics and orthotics.
US House Rep Ann Marie Buerkle who chairs the House Veterans Affairs
Subcommittee on Health. The hearing he's referring to was May 16th (we
covered it in the May 16th
, May 17th
and May 18th
snapshots). Oros was speaking at Wednesday's House Veterans Affairs
Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing on VA's purchasing
of prosthetics. The Subcommittee Chair is Bill Johnson and US House Rep
Joe Donnelly is the Ranking Member. There were three panels. The
first was made up by the American Orthotic & Prosthetic
Association's Michael Oros (quoted above) and Academy Medical LLC's
Daniel Shaw. The second panel was DoD's Charles Scoville who is the
Chief of Amputee Patient Care Service at Walter Reed and rom the VA's
Office of Inspector General's Linda Halliday (accompanied by Nick Dahl
and Kent Wrathall). The third panel was VA's Philip Matkovsky
(accompanied by Dr. Lucille Beck, Norbert Doyle and C. Ford Heard).
Chair Bill Johnson noted the VA's defintion of prosthetics at the start of the hearing:
aids, devices, parts or accessories which patients require to replace,
support, or substitute for impaired or missing anatomical parts of the
body. The items include artifical limbs, terminal devices, stump socks,
braces, hearing aids and batteries, cosmetic facial or body
restorations, optical devices, manual or motorized wheelchairs,
orthopedic shoes, and similar items.
Now let's go back to one segment of Michael Oros' testimony from earlier.
fact, the Health Subcommittee saw that confusion on display in its
hearing in this very room only two weeks ago. Chairwoman Buerkle held a
hearing on "Optimmizing Care for Veterans with Prosthetics" on May 16th.
During the hearing, she clarified multiple times that the topic of the
hearing was prosthetics as traditionally understood and defined. During
that hearing, the VA's Chief Procurement and Logistics Officer told the
Subcommittee that because changes in procurement policies applied only
to items that cost $3,000 or more, those charges would not apply to 97%
of the prosthetics budget. I'm sure that statement is accurate for
everything included in the billion-dollar-plus line item described by
the VA as "prosthetics." However, for the approximately $58 million
portion of that line item spent on replacement limbs and orthoses, that
statement is confusing and unhelpful. Virtually every part of even a
fairly low-tech prosthetic limb costs more than $3,000. So adopting
procurement policies with the understanding that the policy does not
apply to 97% of prosthetic purchases can lead to decisions that delay
specialized and vitally needed care for veterans with limb loss or limb
The person Oros was referring to is Norbert Doyle. He avoided speaking on Wednesday, instead
Bill Johnson: You note the VA's new policy for purchases over $3,000.
Approximately 5% of biologics cost more than $3,000 so your policy will
have minimal bearing on 95% of biologics purchased. Can you describe
how your policy will effect the other 95% of biologics purchased?
Matovsky: Uhm. Well I don't actually have the specific cost break out
for the biologics themselves. But the, uh, three thousand dollar
threshold was noted that it was 97% of the cost would be below $3,000.
Actually the number is a little bit north of 50, 55% of all of the
prosthetic purchases are greater than $3,000 in cost. It's the number of
transactions is the 3% number. In terms of the biologics themselves,
uhm, our expectation is that we're asking in this policy moving forward
that we document, uh, that a waiver from FSS was requested and that part
of what we hope to achieve from this and that we expect to achieve from
this is that we'll collect information about why FSS is actually not
being selected as the source for biologics or for other items or
national contracts for that matter. And be able to attenuate
practice through education,communication in the field as well.
is that VA can't use terms accurately? In the hearing on Wednesday, it
was about definitions. The conflict in what the Subcommittees were
told has to do with VA using a figure and then saying, "Wait, wait, we
testified about this 97% on $3,000 orders and you thought we meant cost,
we meant number of orders!" Why is it so damn difficult for the VA
officials to speak in a straight forward manner? (And remember that
they try to dismiss the IG's report by claiming the IG is using one set
of terms while they're using another.) VA needs to get with the rest of
the government. The prosthetic issue, for example. VA ges its own
definition? It doesn't match with the Defense Dept's definition. Why
is so hard for the VA to utilize the same terms and same definitions as
the rest of the executive branch? That really needs to be addressed.
If you doubt it, this confusion never stops. In his opening remarks, Chair Bill Johnson touched on this:
my follow-up questions was a request for a copy of the VA's guidance in
how it would ensure purchasing agents followed the VAAR [VA Acquisition
Regulations]. Just yesterday, a response to that and the other
questions was provided. It is interesting that only now is the VA
working to ensure that purchasers using Section 8123 are documented and
in line with the FAR and VAAR. After all, the VA has had nearly three
decades to work on this. Failing to document purchases under 8123, as
acknowledged in the answers I received yesterday, is a reckless use of
taxpayer dollars. To us on this Committee, it appears as though the VA
operates as it sees fit until attention is called to its operation.
VA was worthless in terms of witnesses. Matkovsky wanted everyone to
know that purchases under Section 8123 in the future would be
auditable. Johnson's question was can they go back and audit past
purchases under that number. In a long meandering answer about 'from
this point forward,' Matkovsky implies that they've never been able to
audit Section 8123 purchases in thae past. That would be over 30 years
worth of purchases. Is the VA not able to speak English?
as simple as Chair Johnson attempting to find about the hows and whens
of the definition VA is using for prosthetic and when it was last
updated required a song and dance until Matkovsky finally passed off to
Dr. Beck who had to flip through a manual to find out (2001 was the
answer for when it was last updated). But after finally providing an
answer, all the sudden it's there's-an-internal-review-going-on-now
(with many more words than that). I would assume if you're part of an
update review, you would know what you were updating especially if the
manual hadn't been updated in over a decade.
officials can't answer a straight question. So we'll drop back to
earlier in the hearing to wrap up our coverage of it here. Excerpt.
Bill Johnson: And maybe you've already answered this in some of your
comments but, if you were going to design a system, Mr. Oros, for the VA
to evaluate the quality of care provided to veterans, what would you
do? What provisions would you put in that system to improve the quality
of care that veterans receive?
Oros: I would start to look at implementation of some functional
outcome measurements at the time of the original prescription and then
follow it throughout that veteran's care so that you see that there has
been restoration of function. And that can be done with validated
instruments and there's also technology available that can support that
kind of measurements.
Bill Johnson: Okay. As one of the elements of quality you describe
the need to educate veterans about their right to choose a provider of
prosthetic care the Committee is starting to hear more and more stories
about veterans who say that the VA is creating barriers to their
selection of non-VA care. What has been your experience? Have you
heard from veterans that this is a growing problem?
Oros: I've seen it locally. I think that's what I could probably speak
most directly to is locally we no longer have access -- it's been at
least two years that our company, while we've had a VA contract, has not
been invited to that amputee clinic that I referred to previously --
where really, those referals are -- and the veterans ability to
communicate with a prosthetist as well as the referring VA physician are
kind of present in the same building.
Bill Johnson: Here's that word again, from your point of view what
barriers are preventing veterans from selecting a prosthetist of their
own choice? Is it just that veterans don't know their rights?
Michael Oros: I think its their unfamiliarity with their rights.
Bill Johnson: Okay. You talked in your written testimony specifically
about older veterans at your practice complaining that there appears to
be new administrative hurdles to prevent their continuing to receive
care in non-VA facilities. Can you give us some examples?
Oros: We've seen in our own facility where veterans who received care
from our company for a number of years -- and actually I've heard
similar stories from other providers too -- where they've gone back to
the VA for other services, prescriptions, etc. and the patient has been
-- I'll use the word "discovered" to be an amputee and they've been
directed to receive their care within the VA system versus, again, that
covered the House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing on the Vow to Hire
Heroes Act and efforts at raising awareness on the program. We'll
close with the news release the Committee issued after the hearing:
D.C. —Today, the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs held an oversight
hearing entitled "Reviewing the Implementation of Major Provisions of
the VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011." The VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011
is the signature veterans' legislation of the 112th Congress. Officials
from the departments of Labor (DoL) and Veterans Affairs (VA) testified
on the implementation of the law to date.
The Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP)
was the main focus of the hearing. The cornerstone of the VOW to Hire
Heroes Act, VRAP will provide up to one-year of Montgomery GI Bill
benefits to unemployed veterans, ages 35-60, for in-demand jobs and
careers. The Committee applauded efforts by the departments at the
program staff-level, but cautioned that more needed to be done to
"I am pleased to see that
over 11,000 applications have been received so far, meaning that we are
well on our way to filling all of the 45,000 slots paid for in the VOW
Act for the remainder of this fiscal year," stated Rep. Jeff Miller,
Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs. "But I am
concerned that not enough is being done by either department, or the
President himself, to promote this benefit. Getting the message out
about this opportunity is critically important to putting unemployed
veterans on a path to a job in a high-demand field."
addition, Committee Members also expressed concern that DoL and VA were
not taking the appropriate steps to ensure that veterans were aware
VRAP existed. Allison Hickey, Under Secretary for Benefits at VA, noted
some of the challenges facing the two departments to effectively reach
out to veterans about VRAP were that "a centralized system to identify
eligible veterans does not exist."
Members had seen any outreach in their local communities, leading the
Committee to ask if a plan was in place to reach unemployed veterans in
non-metropolitan areas, specifically through TV advertising.
having had ample time to come forth with one, VA has failed to deliver
an advertising budget," Miller said. "Advertising is a quick, effective
way to control the message in order to reach a large number of veterans
in a very short period of time. That is the level of promotion for VRAP
that our unemployed veterans deserve. We cannot afford to let even one
training slot go unfilled. I encourage all eligible veterans to sign up
for this opportunity at their local one stop career center or online."