U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

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Department of Veterans Affairs
US-DeptOfVeteransAffairs-Seal.svg
Secretary:Robert McDonald
Deputy Secretary:Sloan D. Gibson
Annual budget:138.5 billion (2013)
Total employed:295,742 (2011)
Year created:1989
Official website:http://www.va.gov/

FederalAffairsLogo-01.png

Executive Departments of the United States

Executive Departments
Department of DefenseDepartment of StateDepartment of Homeland SecurityDepartment of JusticeDepartment of CommerceDepartment of EducationDepartment of the TreasuryDepartment of AgricultureDepartment of EnergyDepartment of LaborDepartment of TransportationDepartment of the InteriorDepartment of Health and Human ServicesDepartment of Veterans AffairsDepartment of Housing and Urban Development

Department Secretaries
Chuck HagelJohn KerryJeh JohnsonEric HolderPenny PritzkerArne DuncanJack LewTom VilsackErnest MonizTom PerezAnthony FoxxSally JewellSylvia Mathews BurwellRobert McDonaldJulian Castro
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is a United States executive department formed in 1989 to, in President Abraham Lincoln's words, "care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan."[1] The Department stems from the Veterans Administration formed in 1930.[2] The office of Secretary of Veterans Affairs is currently held by Robert McDonald, who was confirmed on July 29, 2014.[3]

The Department of Veterans Affairs employed 295,742 people in 2011.[4] Among the agencies overseen by the Department are the National Cemetery Administration, the Veterans Benefits Administration and the Veterans Health Administration.[5]

History

The 1776 Continental Congress recruited soldiers by promising pensions to those who were disabled during their term of duty. In 1881, the first federal medical facility for veterans was established. Prior to the formation of the facility, states and communities were responsible for the care of veterans. More government-run facilities and homes were established after the Civil War. Benefits increased when the U.S. entered World War I, including, "disability compensation, insurance for service persons and veterans, and vocational rehabilitation for the disabled." With increased benefits and agencies disbursing the benefits, the Veterans Administration was established in 1930, bringing all the agencies together. Frank T. Hines was the first Administrator of Veterans Affairs, leading the organization until 1945. The GI Bill was passed in 1944 as the first educational assistance to military personnel.[2]

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs was officially established as a cabinet-level department on March 15, 1989, by President George H.W. Bush.[2]

Structure

Mission

The official Department mission statement is as follows:

To fulfill President Lincoln's promise "To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan" by serving and honoring the men and women who are America's veterans.[1][6]

Leadership

The position of Secretary of Veterans Affairs is currently held by Robert McDonald.

Note: Votes marked "N/A" represent voice votes or unrecorded votes. Missing votes will be filled as they are researched.

Organizational chart

DOVA org chart.jpg

Issues

Obama administration

VA hospital waiting lines

See also: Veterans Affairs' secret waiting lists

According to reports by CNN in 2014, veterans hospitals across the country were delaying care of veteran patients, at times to the point that some veterans conditions deteriorated vastly or died due to the wait times. To cover for the long delays, some hospitals resorted to "secret lists" for patients awaiting care in order to keep their official wait times down. [7]

A VA internal report showed that staff at nearly two-thirds of the nation's 216 facilities were instructed to falsify wait time information on reports. In an editorial in Time, Rep. Jeff Miller, chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, stated, "Any VA administrator who ordered subordinates to purposely manipulate appointment data should be fired immediately."[8]

Whistleblower

The whistleblower in the Phoenix system, Dr. Sam Foote, explained that as more veterans enrolled in the system, the stress on medical professionals grew. As the doctors and other professionals felt more stress, many began to leave the VA, leaving fewer people to care for the growing number of veterans. He noted that as the stress mounted on a fewer number of practitioners, medical mistakes became more common.[9]

Foote saw bonuses and promotions being awarded to the administrators for their reports on improved wait times, but he also heard about appointment schedulers being told that the patients they were calling for had already died. Foote lodged complaints with the VA's office of the inspector general, but he then started to get increased hours and more patients. He then contacted the media with his story and the reports eventually found their way to Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL) and the federal investigation began.[9]

Hospital official bonuses

Despite the delays in care in facilities across the United States, many hospital and regional directors received bonuses worth between $7,500 to $80,000.[10]

Actions taken

Shinseki testified before the Senate Veterans Affairs committee on May 15, 2014, stating, "I’m committed to take all actions necessary to identify exactly what the issues are, to fix them and to strengthen veterans’ trust in VA health care. If any allegations are substantiated by the inspector general, we will act." Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) questioned the leadership ability of the secretary and others in the department, claiming, "VA senior leadership, including the secretary, should have been aware that VA was facing a national scheduling crisis. VA leadership either failed to connect the dots or failed to address this ongoing crisis, which has resulted in patient harm and patient deaths."

Prior to the hearing, President Obama announced that Deputy White House Chief of Staff Rob Nabors would lead a review of the VA's scheduling process and patient safety rules.[11] Two organizations, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) and the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), also launched a whistle-blower website for those who were affected by the controversial secret waiting lists. The head of POGO stated, "Whistle-blowers shouldn’t have to go it alone. We can help whistle-blowers hold the VA accountable, and keep the focus on solutions rather than attempts to hunt down those who voiced concerns."[12]

President Obama accepted Shinseki's resignation on May 30, 2014.[13] Sloan Gibson, who was confirmed in February 2014 to be Shinseki's deputy secretary, was named acting secretary of veterans affairs until a replacement could be nominated and confirmed.[14]

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) opened a criminal investigation from its Phoenix office on June 11, 2014. The FBI and the VA's inspector general will conduct the investigation with the Justice Department possibly getting involved depending on the outcome. A Justice Department spokesperson explained, "At the department's direction, the FBI has instructed agents in its Phoenix office to conduct an investigation into the allegations related to the VA. Federal prosecutors will be working with these investigators to determine whether there is a basis for criminal charges."[15]

Obama's executive orders

On August 26, 2014, President Obama announced 19 new executive orders aimed at improving the functionality of Veterans Affairs hospitals across the country in addition to providing other benefits for veterans. The executive orders enacted programs in the following areas.[16]

  • Access to quality healthcare - improved efficiency, accountability and transparency
  • Mental health initiatives for veterans
  • Mortgage interest rate reductions
  • Student debt relief
  • Improvements on the GI Bill
  • Job placement programs
  • Combating veteran homelessness
  • Increased funding to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Working through the disability claims backlog
Prior claims against the VA

A report by the Dayton Daily News examined VA records going back to 2001 and revealed that the department paid $34.7 million in 167 claims containing "delay in treatment" in their descriptions. The report stated that it was unclear how many of them met the department's "delayed care" description, but stated that the number of veterans who died due to problems at VA facilities could be as high as 1,100 from 2001 through the first half of 2013.[17]

Analysis

Budget

The requested budget for the 2013 fiscal year was $138.5 billion, 9.2 percent higher than the 2012 budget of $126.8 billion.[18]

Employment

The Best Places to work in the Federal Government is a website that tracks workforce trends in federal agencies. According to their analysis, from 2008-2012, the Department of Veterans Affairs has added an average of 6,147 jobs per year.[19]

Sequester

The budget of the Department of Veterans Affairs was not impacted by the sequestration.[20]

Recent news

This section displays the most recent stories in a Google news search for the term U.S. + Department + Veterans + Affairs

All stories may not be relevant to this page due to the nature of the search engine.

VA News Feed

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See also

External links

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Department of Veterans Affairs, "About VA," accessed January 10, 2013
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, "History - VA History," accessed January 10, 2014
  3. Politico, "Senate approves Robert McDonald for VA," July 29, 2014
  4. Department of Veterans Affairs, "Annual Budget Submission (FY 2013 Budget Submission)," accessed January 10, 2014
  5. Department of Veterans Affairs, "Organization," accessed January 10, 2014
  6. Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  7. CNN, "A fatal wait: Veterans languish and die on a VA hospital's secret list," April 24, 2014
  8. Time, "Why Veterans Affairs Can’t Root Out Its Corruption," June 2, 2014
  9. 9.0 9.1 AZ Central, "The doctor who launched the VA scandal," June 3, 2014
  10. House Committee on Veterans Affairs, "VA Accountability," accessed April 28, 2014
  11. Politico, "Eric Shinseki ‘mad as hell’ over VA scandal," May 15, 2014
  12. Fox News, "Whistle-blower website launched to expose VA wrongdoing," May 19, 2014
  13. Politico, "President Barack Obama accepts Eric Shinseki’s resignation," May 30, 2014
  14. New York Times, "V.A.’s Acting Chief: West Point Graduate and Ex-Leader of U.S.O.," May 30, 2014
  15. CNN, "FBI launches criminal probe of VA," June 11, 2014
  16. The White House, "FACT SHEET: President Obama Announces New Executive Actions to Fulfill our Promises to Service Members, Veterans, and Their Families," August 26, 2014
  17. Dayton Daily News, "‘Delay in treatment’ a factor in more than 100 deaths at VA centers," May 17, 2014
  18. Department of Veterans Affairs, "VA 2014 Budget Fast Facts," accessed January 10, 2014
  19. The Best Places to work in the Federal Government, "Agency Report: Department of Veterans Affairs," accessed January 10, 2014
  20. Washington Post, "VA dodges budget cuts, but veterans will still feel effects of the sequester," March 8, 2013