NEWSSTAND

Pentagon Purchasing Agent Loses Over $800 Million in Taxpayer Money

An internal audit obtained by POLITICO shows the Defense Logistics Agency, one of the largest agencies in the Pentagon, can’t account for over $800 million of spending.

Accounting firm Ernst & Young found the Pentagon’s purchasing agent has such poor management that hundreds of millions in purchases are not properly recorded. This leads to questions about where exactly the money actually went.

Missing Taxpayer Money

The Pentagon has long been under fire for its shoddy accounting practices, which are infamous for being wasteful. It’s never been subjected to a full audit, but with DLA controlling over $40 billion per year, that’s not coming anytime soon.

DLA has 25,000 employees that process over 100,000 orders a day for the military and other federal agencies. The auditors found, however, that the agency cannot point to a documentation trail for most of its purchase. This means hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars are currently unaccounted for.

Ernst & Young found over $465 million of errors just dealing with finished construction projects. Another $365 million was missing documentation for projects still in progress. Over $100 million in computer assets had no paper trail at all.

The Trump administration is looking to clean up the DLA’s audit problems. It’s expected to cost $367 million to complete the necessary audits and get DLA’s spending and documentation problems under control. On top of that, it could cost another $551 million to fix the systems that officials say are necessary to manage the finances better in the future.

The Pentagon’s top budget official says that going forward, the agency will be audited yearly. Reports will be publicly available by November 15th of each year.

However, this doesn’t fix the current problem. Ernst & Young says the holes in accounting they’ve found so far mean there are much more to be found. It’s also very likely the problems may not be fixable.

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) says the chances of a successful audit of the Department of Defense is literally impossible, but he’s going to keep trying.

Trump Honors 12-year-old Preston Sharp During SOTU

President Trump delivered his first State of the Union address on Tuesday, January 30, 2018.

Like presidents before him, Trump invited a number of special guests to attend the annual address. The diverse list included emergency responders, service members and service member supporters, individuals with economic success stories from Ohio, and parents who lost teenage children to gang violence.

The president also honored a very special 12-year-old boy, Preston Sharp.

Flag and Flower Challenge

Sharp received a standing ovation while seated next to the First Lady after being recognized by the President. He organized the Flag and Flower Challenge, which places flags and a red carnation on fallen veterans’ graves across the country.

His efforts began on Veteran’s Day 2015 after visiting his grandfather’s grave. Sharp was upset when he saw that graves of other soldiers in the cemetery weren’t being honored with flags and flowers like his grandfather’s.

His campaign has placed over 40,000 flags and carnations on soldiers’ graves across the country.

During the state of the Union, President Trump stated:

“Young patriots like Preston teach all of us about our civic duty as Americans. Preston’s reverence for those who have served our nation reminds us why we salute our flag, why we put our hands on our hearts for the pledge of allegiance, and why we proudly stand for the national anthem.”

Sharp’s message is simple. We need to honor veterans every day, not just on a holiday.

Any day is a good day to honor a fallen veteran’s grave with a flag or take a veteran to lunch. You can also thank a vet for their service when you see them in public.

Trump Signs Executive Order for Veterans Mental Health

President Trump turned his attention to the health of America’s veterans Tuesday by signing an executive order directing Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs to formulate plans to improve access to mental health services after leaving the military. Under this executive order, DHS and the VA will have 60 days to draw up their plans, and then must update the White House on their progress in putting the plans in place within 180 days.

Listening to Veterans’ Cries for Help

Trump signed this order to combat the statistics that nearly 20 veterans commit suicide every day. The suicide rate among veterans is nearly double that of the civilian population. “We want them to get the highest care and the care they so richly deserve,” President Trump stated.

According to VA Secretary David Shulkin, only 40% of veterans currently have access to mental health coverage, but this should improve drastically when this new Executive Order goes into full effect. “Our job is to save lives and that’s why we’re taking action to support both those that are other than honorably discharged as well as all transitioning service members,” Secretary Shulkin said.

Providing quality care for America’s veterans has long plagued the VA, with backlogs reducing the efficiency of the whole system. Tuesday’s Executive Order is the President’s most recent effort at giving back to those who have already given so much for their country.

Department of Veterans Affairs Continues To Fail Our Veterans

The federal Department of Veterans Affairs continues to fail America’s best and brightest as it consistently fails to ensure that veterans receive quality healthcare. According to US News & World Report, a recent investigation by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) revealed that the VA did not report poor quality providers in at least 90% of cases. The VA operates more than 150 hospitals nationwide, and its ineffectiveness has been harmful to America’s veterans for years. VA officials stated in response to the report that they wished to reform their practices to provide quality care.

The GAO’s report found that the VA has serious problems at every level that prevent it from properly serving those who risked their lives to keep the nation safe. Investigators detailed a failure of accountability that is so poor that the VA could not determine specifically how many of its staff members had been reported. Under existing policy, VA hospitals must report concerns about specific providers to a national database, but GAO auditors found that many VA employees lacked any detailed knowledge of how these policies worked. In some cases, VA employees were even caught deleting negative information about certain doctors from official records. The VA’s poor track record causes problems for veterans because unreported malpractice cases cannot be investigated, which means that the doctors in question cannot be disciplined.

GAO officials recommended that the VA fix its system by making sure that hospitals sufficiently report bad conduct by medical professionals. Representatives of the VA pledged to implement the needed changes by this time next year. Congress has also moved to motivate the VA to do its job. The VA Provider Accountability Act, a bill proposed by Sens. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) and Joe Manchin (D-WV), would force the VA to notify state medical boards of alleged malpractice within 30 days. In the past, this process has taken anywhere from months to years. President Trump’s Veterans Affairs Secretary, David Shulkin, has also ordered the reform of an outdated policy that mandated only doctors and dentists be documented in the national database. Shulkin wishes to expand the scope of the database to encompass other medical professionals such as nurses and physician assistants. Going forward, members of Congress and employees of the VA appear to be taking active steps towards keeping President Trump’s promises to better serve America’s veterans.

Teens Hold Funeral for Homeless Veteran

A group of high school seniors gathered to honor a U.S. Army veteran who passed away with no surviving family. The man, known only as “John,” died alone, homeless, and with no one to attend his funeral service.

Students at Catholic Memorial High School heard the news of John’s passing, and they decided to give John a thoughtful and meaningful final farewell. The young men arranged a funeral service for John in their school’s chapel. Before a hearse took John to his final resting place, students escorted his casket as pallbearers. The teens took care to honor John’s life and his service to our country. John, whose last name has not been released, was buried with full military honors.

Helping Our Veterans

The Department of Veterans Affairs is working to combat veteran homelessness. In January 2016, a nationwide survey counted 39,471 homeless veterans in America. Most of them are male, and a plurality fought in the Vietnam War. Now, veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan often face post-traumatic stress disorder, which increases their risk for homelessness.

Veterans facing homelessness usually live in urban areas. Most of them have some sort of mental or physical disability. When a veteran experiences homelessness, he or she typically does not receive care for their disability. John’s unique situation remains unknown. Any care available to him reached him far too late. Still the teens who gave him a proper funeral gave him the honor and respect, after his passing, that he didn’t receive in life.

Watch These Soldiers Pull Off a Special Gender Reveal

Earlier this year, Britt Harris told her husband the exciting news: She was pregnant! The father-to-be, U.S. Army Spc. Chris Harris, felt overjoyed. He had just deployed to Afghanistan a few weeks prior. Tragically, on August 2nd, Chris Harris gave the ultimate sacrifice. A suicide bomber detonated, killing the young soldier, and turning life upside-down for Britt.

Now a young widow, she faced the future of bringing a child into the world without her late husband by her side.

Fellow Soldiers Step Up

Chris’ fellow soldiers surrounded Britt with love and support. She would have the baby as a widow, but she wouldn’t go through her pregnancy alone. The 82nd Airborne Division, still deployed overseas, helped Britt pull off an amazing gender reveal.

With the soldiers’ help, Britt was able to mail confetti poppers to their military base overseas. The video below shows the soldiers making the big announcement, and celebrating the news!

The soldiers’ excitement over the new baby went viral, and warmed the hearts of military families and civilians alike. Britt told USA Today about how the soldiers rallied around her at this difficult time: “They have been phenomenal and done everything they can to watch over me even from a distance.” She says that, despite the trauma of losing her husband, she and the baby are both healthy. Britt looks forward to welcoming the baby in March of 2018.

Coverup: Veterans Affairs Paid Employees to Hide Malpractice

A USA Today investigation has revealed that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) protected a doctor who performed several botched surgeries. One of Dr. Thomas Francini’s patients experienced so much pain following two botched surgeries, that she had to have her leg amputated. The doctor performed unnecessary surgeries, drilled the wrong screw into a patient, and cut a major tendon in another.

In total, Dr. Franchini harmed 88 patients. The VA never fired him. Instead, Franchini finally resigned from the VA and went on to practice medicine elsewhere. He now works as a podiatrist in New York City. For several years, the VA failed to report Franchini’s long track record of surgical failures. The VA neglected to report Franchini to any state medical licensing boards. Now, veterans and civilians alike are wondering how many Americans this doctor harmed because the VA refused to take action.

VA Pays Bad Doctors to Stay Silent

The VA’s problem comprises more than one terrible surgeon. In fact, during 2014 and 2015, the VA made 230 secret settlements with its employees. Those employees received payment in exchange for covering up information about the VA’s medical errors.

Veterans have long known that the VA  Earlier this year, Fox News Insider reported images of veterans, some suffering severe pain, being forced to wait in the lobby of the Durham VA Medical Center.

During the Obama Administration, the VA did not release details of mismanagement, poor patient care, or botched surgeries. USA Today reported that when the VA was asked for information “the agency cited federal privacy law and said protecting employees’ privacy outweighed the public’s right to know about problems involving veterans’ care.” In other words, the VA claims that a doctor’s right to secrecy outweighs the patients’ needs for quality care.

Signs of Change

The new VA Administrator, David Shulkin, shows signs of changing VA for the better. In June, President Trump signed a bill that makes it easier to remove bad employees and protect those who report misconduct. The New York Times reports that the law now has its first major test:  Brian Hawkins, Director of the Washington Medical Center.  The Washington Medical Center suffers from mismanagement, long wait times, and red tape. Shulkin claims he plans to fire Hawkins if an investigation finds that he “fail[s] to provide effective leadership.”

Fight to Save Soldier’s Memorial Cross Goes Nationwide

A local campaign to save the Ocotillo Wells Memorial Cross is attracting nationwide attention following an article published in Breitbart. The cross is dedicated to Jim Bruce Robinson, a native of Ocotillo Wells, California, who was killed while serving in Vietnam. Robinson was 21 years old.

For 51 years, the cross has stood as a reminder of Robinson’s sacrifice. Robinson’s relatives still own the home he grew up in. For them and others, the cross provides comfort and a solemn remembrance of the town’s native son who gave his life as a member of the military. One Ocotillo Wells resident found that the cross memorializes two other military members from the small town.

County Plans Removal of Cross

On May 9th, Alex Bell of the county’s Land Use and Environmental Group received a call complaining about the memorial. Bell would not release the caller’s name, but claims that the caller complained about the memorial’s location. The cross currently stands on county-owned land at Ocotillo Airport. Bell supports the caller. She contends that having “a monument of this nature on government land is an establishment of religion and in violation of federal and state constitutions.”

Accusing the memorial of “establishing a religion” seems flimsy at best. Still, local officials planned to remove the cross. They have not announced a removal date yet.

The cross benefits not only Robison’s family, but others whose loved ones have or currently serve our country. Off-roaders who frequent the desert town have called it a helpful “point of reference” while traveling. People see the cross not only as a religious symbol, but also as a “historical memorial monument,” according to one local resident.

Preserving History

Should one single complaint result in the removal of a beloved landmark? Thousands of petitioners say no. They are rallying support from across the nation to save this meaningful part of history.

Veterans Affairs Fails to Meet Major Benchmarks

One year after a bombshell report from the Office of the Inspector General, the Veterans Affairs Administration has still failed to fix its mental health crisis hotline. Known problems with the Veterans Crisis Hotline (VCL) still persist. This round-the-clock operation exists to take calls from veterans experiencing thoughts of suicide. Trained counselors are supposed to answer the phones and stop veterans from taking their own lives.

Instead, the Government Accountability Office found that more than 1 out of every 3 calls to the hotline were going unanswered. Some rolled over to backup call centers that didn’t have trained counselors. Other calls went to voicemail. At the time, bureaucrats at the VA knew that this was happening. They just didn’t seem to care.

Attempted Reform

Following the investigation, the IG issued seven recommendations to improve the hotline. The initial implementation deadline was September 2016. The VA didn’t reach that target, and asked for an extension to March of this year. The IG granted that extension, but the VA has still failed to fully implement the recommendations. The VCL still struggles with untimely responses, mismanagement of calls, and deficiencies in VA oversight.

These harm veterans at the hands of lazy bureaucrats. When it works properly, the VCL can save lives. There are veterans who are alive today because they called the VCL and a compassionate counselor pulled them out of their darkest moments. But when the VCL doesn’t work, what then?

In fact, about 20% of suicides in America are veterans. Fixing the VA Crisis Hotline could potentially prevent these suicides from occurring.

An Endless Cycle of Recommendations

The IG issued the VA sixteen more recommendations. Among them are coordination with backup call centers, proper training for counselors and managers, and education for employees on new policies.

Approximately 20 veterans commit suicide daily. The VCL is supposed to be there for our veterans when they need it most.

Libertarian Party Official Says Military are Murderers

Libertarian Party vice chair Arvin Vohra recently slammed our nation’s men and women in the military, calling them moralless murderers. Vohra is running for Senate in Maryland; he ran a failed House campaign there in 2014.

Vohra posed a question to his Facebook audience: Why do people join the U.S. military? Most of us would list reasons like patriotism and a will to serve. Instead, Vohra drew some horrific conclusions of his own:

“A common excuse to join the military, despite disagreeing with every single thing that it does: the military pays for college.

Translation: I agreed to kill innocent people because I wanted the money.

That type of decision making is below the lowest threshold of any kind of morality that I know of.”

He forgot to mention that the military provides world-class leadership training. Instead, he painted the troops as selfish mercenaries.

Political Fallout

Social media users were quick to expose Vohra’s blatant disrespect for our troops. Libertarian Party leaders also came forward to challenge his ungrounded characterizations.

Larry Sharpe, the LNC Region 8 Alternate, sent a letter to Vohra giving him two choices: apologize for his abhorrent behavior, or step down from his position as the LP vice chair. Sharpe is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who felt personally offended by Vohra’s comments.

Vohra tried to justify his remarks. “I respect many of your intentions, recognizing that they were different for different people,” he said in a half-hearted apology.

Should someone who condemns our veterans hold a party position?

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