Not only is this a Federal Job Opening, but this article is a follow-up to Brother Higgins post, Troubled V.A. Agency Will Get a New Chief and the comments in response to the resignation of Bush political appointee Patrick W. Dunne, Under Secretary For Benefits, Veterans Benefits Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs.
We have come to the realization that the Obama Administration most likely will recruits yet another UNQUALIFIED CANDIDATE for this plaqued bureaucracy who had neither a medical degress background as in MD nor even a Medical Administrative background that requires at a miminum a PhD plus half decent experience dealing with claims of anykind, but preferably Veterans claims.
It is now up to the collective WE to put pressure on both Congress and the Administration to not find and hire a recruit that is the most politically feasible and charming, but QUALIFIED to fix the VA system facing a brick wall of opposition and foot dragging from within the VA itself.
That said, if Congress and the administration can find someone withing the VA upper management (GOOD LUCK) who is attuned to being more VETERAN SAVING and a lot less COST SAVING, that would make the best candidate.
I personally know of at least one Veterans and Military Family advocate who is qualified to manage a broken VA bureaucracy despite not having a medical degree, his administration of Fisher House is all I need to know, if he would only take the job. I also know that he would be more interested in VET SAVING than COST SAVING at the VA. I nominate without consultation with anyone Medal of Honor recipient Paul “Buddy” Bucha. If need be let’s draft Buddy for the job.
ROBERT L. HANAFIN
Major, U.S. Air Force-Retired
GS-14, U.S. Civil Service-Retired
VT News Network &
Our Troops News Ladder
Regardless, if the recruit is long time Veteran and Military Family activists or if he/she comes from inside the VA, one thing is perfectly clear that nominee must place the care and concern for all America’s Veterans, including future Veterans and our families above all else, above cost savings, above political oriention, above political party, and so on. That Under Secretary must be first a Veterans’ advocate, secondly a fair and honest manager, and their lowest qualification need be a politician.
Feedback we get at VT is that America’s Veterans are way past time having UNQUALIFIED political appointees who care more about partisan party loyalities and COST SAVINGS than the Veterans he/she is suppose to be serving.
I humbly nominated Paul Buddy Bucha for this job because I personally know that Buddy fills every square of the below job description and opening. In fact, in all honestly Brother Bucha does not share all of my aggressive political views nor should he or any other QUALIFIED candidate for this appointment, which in my eyes makes him an even more qualified candidate.
If you fit the bill or know of someone who does by all means encourage them to apply for the job via Congressional and administration contacts. Once again political affiliation must be left outside the gates of every VA facility nation-wide or mark my words the collective WE will NEVER fix the VA.
Frankly, this story is not about Paul Buddy Bucha, in fact it is not even about Medal of Honor recipients, it is about demanding a senior manager at VA who is more into saving Veterans than saving money at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Thus, I will say no more on nominating or drafting Paul Bucha for the job, the ball is in the Obama administration’s courts.
Department of Veterans Affairs, Under Secretary for Benefits
Department/Agency: Department of Veterans Affairs
Position: Under Secretary for Benefits
Executive Schedule: Executive Level III – Presidential Appointment with Senate Confirmation
[Note: I may stand corrected, but I believe Executive Level III would amount to something like a Senior Executive Service Level III or SES 3, equivalent in the Armed Forces to a Major or Four Star General. VT. Ed]
Responsibilities: Administer compensation, pension, education, home loan, vocational rehabilitation and life insurance benefits for veterans
- Manage a $45 billion budget and staff of 15,000, with Veterans Benefits Administration offices in every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines
- Run the Montgomery GI Bill educational program and VA home loan guarantees
[Sidenote, I believe that VT and other Veterans Activists organizations, including VSOs must demand equity in the GI Bill for all America’s Veterans not only those who Uncle Sam needs to recruit for Iraq and Afghanistan. In light of the 21st Century GI Bill young Veterans receive today another look needs to be taken at the Montgomery GI Bill and other water downed educational programs to compare equity with the new GI Bill championed by Senator Jim Webb. We believe that Veterans who fell through the cracks between the Vietnam Era GI Bill and 21st Century GI Bill have been short changed in left behind in our zeal to recruit 21st Century troops and veterans for war. VT.Ed]
- Provide regular benefits and help to 4 million veterans and survivors
Key Competencies and Preferred Qualifications:
- Military service
- High-level executive experience in public or private sector
- Understanding of health and welfare benefits administration
[Note: A track record of all previous high-level executives who have held this position confirms that precious few have met the third qualification above that frankly must be key instead of nice to have: UNDERSTANDING OF HEALTH AND WELFARE BENEFITS ADMINISTRATION. That said, the collective we as Veterans should take issue with the emphasis placed on WELFARE and change that qualification to: Understanding of health and earned Veterans benefits administration (not WELFARE or anyother socialized medical terminology) VT. Ed.]
On the organization chart for the Department of Veterans Affairs, the two largest portfolios are held by the Under Secretary for Health, who runs all the VA hospitals and clinics, and the Under Secretary for Benefits, who administers all the major benefit programs outside the health arena, including pension and disability benefits, GI Bill benefits for college, home loan guarantees, life insurance and more. It is a job that requires someone with extensive experience managing complex programs in military or civilian life.
President George W. Bush chose retired Navy admirals to tackle the job of leading the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) during his two terms. [Note: to the point neither of these political appointees had any "Understanding of health and welfare benefits administration," let’s face it fellow Veterans regardless of our own political orientations, these Admirals were selected for three things and three qualities only:
1. They both had military service beyond a doubt, but being a career military retiree regardless of rank does not make one sensitive to the needs of the average Veteran. The tendency to look down upon Veterans as a welfare system is greater among military retirees. Hell, the higher the rank the more a military retiree (or Lifer if I may) cannot relate to the vast majority of US Veterans.
2. They both had no doubt high-level executive experience in public or private sector or they never would have made Admiral.
3. However, the priority reason they were selected was for their partisan political orientation and views that closely fit with the party controlling Congress and administration appointing them. THIS IS WHAT NEEDS TO BE FIXED AND REGARDLESS OF PARTY. If Obama appoints someone based on PC my fellow Veterans PC is not in our better interests – a passion for saving Veterans damn the cost savings is what we need in the individual nominated and selected for this position – political views be damned!
The Under Secretary and the VBA serve 4 million veterans, their families and survivors. [Sadly that is what 4 million out of how many total Veterans by US Census? Apolgists for a politicized VA will say the vast majority of Vets don’t need the charity or welfare hand outs of the VA, but no, no, no the vast majority of America’s Veterans are administratively, bureaucratically, and sociologically shut out of the VA system and the collective WE have left them behind.
Most of its $42 billion budget is spent on benefits, including monthly payments for disabled veterans, pensions for low-income veterans who served in wartime, educational programs (veterans get three years of help with college tuition and other training costs, and have 10 years after leaving military service to use their entitlement),
[Note: this 10 year limit after leaving the Armed Forces also needs to have another look for equity with the 21st century GI Bill. I’m talking about Vietnam Veterans who for various reasons many beyond their control such as illness or wrong choices could not take advantage of their GI Bill. Now when they are in their prime or nearing retirement, job losses and an economic downturn does not limit itself to harming the employment chances or American Dream for Veterans under the age of 50, but ALL America’s Veterans. Simply put there should be NO TIME LIMITS on when a Veteran can use OUR EARNED BENEFITS none at all. VT. Ed]
The 42 billion also includes the VA’s partial guarantee of home loans (allowing many veterans to take out mortgages without a down payment), group life insurance at low cost, and vocational rehabilitation.
[As evident but the recent bill submitted to the Senate by Senator Daniel K. Akaka, the Veterans Rehabilitation and Training Improvements Act of 2009, vocational rehabilitation is another area that the incoming Under Secretary must get equity for us Veterans. Yes, despite our passionate support for Jim Webb’s 21st Century GI Bill when it comes to VR&E programs we have once again left too many elder Veterans behind in our zeal to ensure wartime Veterans are fairly treated and military recruitment is sustained. Having sufficient bodies to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan must not be on the backs of or leaving behind those Veterans who have gone before. We have a very sad tradition in America of pitting one generation of Veterans against another that must end now! VT.Ed]
The new generation of service men and women returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has tested the system. Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) led the congressional effort to enhance benefits for these newest veterans. He spearheaded the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act to provide World War II-level education benefits. "After six and a half years of service, our nation’s men and women in uniform deserve a GI Bill that rewards their service and invests in their future," Webb argued. "I see the educational benefits in this bill as crucial to a service member’s readjustment to civilian life and as a cost of war that should receive the same priority that funding the war has received the last five years."
[However, Senator Webb’s gallant and thoughful efforts hopefully and unintentionally left another generation or two of Veterans behind by not grand-fathering this new GI Bill that favors younger Veterans over older Vets. Another look at the Post-9/11 Veterans Education Assistance Act and programs needs to be taken so that such insults as the water downed Montgomery GI Bill that our troops had to pay into, plus inequity between current VR& E programs are addressed and solutions found that favor ALL AMERICA’S VETERANS!
Patrick Dunne, who became under secretary for benefits in October 2008 after two years as the VBA’s policy and planning chief, opposed and resisted the 21st Century GI Bill, and he warned that the new GI Bill will be extremely complex to administer. Payments, which go both to individual students and to institutions, depend on how much each state charges for public tuition and can even vary by zip code. The VA had proposed outsourcing the task to a private contractor, but a lack of bids forced the VA to run the program in-house. Now, another Bush appointee who place COST SAVINGS over VETERANS SAVING is no more. However, the point remains that regardless which administration nominates a candidate for Admiral Dunne’s job, and what party in Congress controls the selection process, that candidate must fill that last criteria in his/her job description that Congress and Presidents ignore in lieu of political views. The candidate must have an understanding of health and EARNED benefits administration
While expanding benefits is one priority, streamlining the paperwork to apply for and claim benefits is another top goal. The VA’s regional benefits offices recently found themselves facing sharp scrutiny for improper processing of veterans’ paperwork. "The issue first surfaced when audits by the VA’s Office of Inspector General found records erroneously placed in shredder bins in the VA office in Detroit," according to U.S. News and World Report. Subsequent reviews found the problems were not confined to the Detroit office.
Dunne promised to retrain employees and require a two-person review of documents destined for the shredder. "We can’t tolerate even one veteran’s piece of paper being missing," he said. "We’re taking action to make sure it doesn’t happen again."
[Note: We contend that if Admiral Dunne had been qualified for the job in the first place, he would have been able to implement the rhetoric above instead of being forced to resign most likely because he could not deliver on ensuring shredding would not happen again. VT. Ed]
The next under secretary for benefits must be a forceful advocate for Veterans new and old. Managing a simplified, transparent claims process and supporting policies to enhance veterans’ benefits are critical tasks at a time when more men and women are returning from combat zones.
ROBERT L. HANAFIN
Major, U.S. Air Force-Retired
VT News Network &
Our Troops News Ladder
Readers are more than welcome to use the articles I’ve posted on Veterans Today, I’ve had to take a break from VT as Veterans Issues and Peace Activism Editor and staff writer due to personal medical reasons in our military family that take away too much time needed to properly express future stories or respond to readers in a timely manner.
My association with VT since its founding in 2004 has been a very rewarding experience for me.
Retired from both the Air Force and Civil Service. Went in the regular Army at 17 during Vietnam (1968), stayed in the Army Reserve to complete my eight year commitment in 1976. Served in Air Defense Artillery, and a Mechanized Infantry Division (4MID) at Fort Carson, Co. Used the GI Bill to go to college, worked full time at the VA, and non-scholarship Air Force 2-Year ROTC program for prior service military. Commissioned in the Air Force in 1977. Served as a Military Intelligence Officer from 1977 to 1994. Upon retirement I entered retail drugstore management training with Safeway Drugs Stores in California. Retail Sales Management was not my cup of tea, so I applied my former U.S. Civil Service status with the VA to get my foot in the door at the Justice Department, and later Department of the Navy retiring with disability from the Civil Service in 2000.
I’ve been with Veterans Today since the site originated. I’m now on the Editorial Board. I was also on the Editorial Board of Our Troops News Ladder another progressive leaning Veterans and Military Family news clearing house.
I remain married for over 45 years. I am both a Vietnam Era and Gulf War Veteran. I served on Okinawa and Fort Carson, Colorado during Vietnam and in the Office of the Air Force Inspector General at Norton AFB, CA during Desert Storm. I retired from the Air Force in 1994 having worked on the Air Staff and Defense Intelligence Agency at the Pentagon.