Part of the Bay Area News Group

Archive for the 'veterans' Category

Eshoo & Speier to host town hall at Palo Alto VA

Congresswomen Anna Eshoo and Jackie Speier will host a town-hall meeting Monday at the Palo Alto VA Hospital on veterans’ access to care – a touchy topic given recent revelations of VA shortcomings and malfeasance.

Veterans are invited to come and get answers to questions about the VA’s health care appointment process; Palo Alto VA Director Lisa Freeman will be there, too.

President Obama on Monday nominated former Procter & Gamble CEO Robert McDonald as his new Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned in May amid revelations of chronic, system-wide failure and veterans dying while on long waiting lists for treatment.

“Amid deeply disturbing revelations about delayed care of veterans throughout the nation and the scandal of information being manipulated, it is critically important to not only review wait times for care but also have veterans ask their own questions and have them addressed,” Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, said in a news release Wednesday. “This town hall meeting will provide a forum for veterans in our region to share their experiences with access to care at the Palo Alto VA, and, moving forward, help to develop even better systems to improve the VA hospital for our veterans.”

Speier, D-San Mateo, said in the same release that the “scandalous issue” of VA employees in other states manipulating appointment lists to conceal long waiting times “has damaged the credibility of the VA health care system.”

“It doesn’t appear that this despicable behavior exists in Northern and Central California,” she said. “But I want veterans who use VA hospitals and clinics in our area to have a chance to comment on the quality of the access to care they receive. I thank the VA Director for not only providing my staff with their insights on the challenges they face in caring for over 130,000 veterans, but also in agreeing to host a town hall meeting at the hospital.”

The meeting will be from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Monday, July 7 in the auditorium of VA Palo Alto’s Building 101, at 3801 Miranda Ave. in Palo Alto.

The VA Palo Alto Health Care System consists of three inpatient facilities in Palo Alto, Menlo Park, and Livermore, plus seven outpatient clinics in San Jose, Fremont, Capitola, Monterey, Stockton, Modesto, and Sonora.

Posted on Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014
Under: Anna Eshoo, Jackie Speier, U.S. House, veterans | 5 Comments »

California House Dems call for Shinseki to resign

Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle – including some from California – are calling for Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign amid scathing reports that the VA delayed critical care for patients and gamed its own scheduling system.

Reps. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton; Ami Bera, D-Rancho Cordova; and Scott Peters, D-San Diego, are among Democrats who’ve joined with a far larger number of Republicans to urge Shinseki’s ouster. The Military Times is keeping a tally.

From McNerney:

Jerry McNerney“I reviewed today’s preliminary report from the VA Inspector General, and I was deeply troubled by what I read. The unacceptable delays in Phoenix were not an isolated incident, but rather appear to be part of a larger pattern of neglectful actions in certain VA medical facilities. It appears there was even knowledge inside some parts of the VA that standard scheduling practices were not being followed and that veterans were waiting far too long for care. These delays may have even resulted in preventable deaths.

“I believe the best way to restore the confidence of our veterans is for Secretary Shinseki to step down and allow new leadership to initiate an investigation that will first, get to the bottom of these allegations, second, punish anyone who put our veterans at risk, and most importantly ensure that our veterans are getting the timely health care they deserve. An independent investigation of these accusations is the only appropriate way to ensure transparency and fairness throughout the process.

“General Shinseki has my respect and I commend him for his distinguished career as a public servant and as a decorated member of the military. That being said, it’s clear that our veterans deserve a new leader at the VA who can restore confidence and make sure that this never happens again.

“Our veterans and our nation are counting on us to make this right. I intend to do everything in my power to make sure that happens, and I call on the Administration and the VA to devote every necessary resource to fixing this. Those who fought for our nation deserve no less.”

From Bera:

Ami_Bera_official_photo“Our veterans, and their families have sacrificed so much for our country, and they deserve our unwavering support. That’s why I have been working to address problems at the VA and to get our heroes the benefits they are owed since my very first month in office.

The latest report that at least 1,700 veterans in Phoenix were never even placed on a wait list to get the medical care they needed is deeply troubling. This cannot continue. It’s obvious there are very serious systemic and management problems at the VA that we must address. While General Shinseki’s dedication and service to his country are indisputable, these failures that happened under his leadership are unacceptable and it is clear that he must step down.

These problems are much bigger than one person, though, and we must continue to investigate how this occurred, find out if it’s happening elsewhere, and continue to respond. That will likely require more changes at the VA, including holding others who allowed this to happen accountable.”

And on the other side of the aisle, from Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Modesto:

Jeff Denham“In the days following disturbing reports of secret waiting lists created at the Phoenix Park Veterans Affairs Medical Center, we have now learned that this gross mistreatment of our nation’s finest men and women is happening across the country. The way our veterans have been treated in Phoenix and multiple other VA hospitals nationwide is nothing short of criminal.

“One of my most serious responsibilities is to the Central Valley’s veterans. They deserve transparency and quality care. I’ve requested a full review of the Palo Alto VA Medical Center’s scheduling practices to ensure that we are providing the very best care possible and I will not rest until I have answers from our local VA.

“We now know that these problems are widespread and systemic. The Department of Veterans Affairs must have new leadership. Sec. Shinseki has served his country honorably, but we can’t expect accountability within the VA if it doesn’t start at the top. Sec. Shinseki must step down, and drastic changes must take place in order to ensure our veterans receive the care they deserve.”

Posted on Thursday, May 29th, 2014
Under: Ami Bera, Jeff Denham, Jerry McNerney, U.S. House, veterans | 3 Comments »

CA17: Tammy Duckworth coming to Honda’s aid

War hero Rep. Tammy Duckworth will visit Silicon Valley on Friday to do a veteran’s roundtable and some phone-banking for Rep. Mike Honda’s re-election campaign.

Tammy DuckworthHonda, D-San Jose, and Duckworth, D-Ill., have worked together since 2006 when Honda supported her first race for Congress. Then and in 2012, Honda attended events in her district and helped her raise funds nationwide; now she’s returning the favor, as Honda faces challenges from fellow Democrat Ro Khanna, Republican Vanila Singh and Republican Joel Vanlandingham.

The two House members will hold a one-hour roundtable with local veterans at 4 p.m. Friday in Honda’s campaign headquarters, in the SEIU building at 2302 Zanker Road in San Jose; after that, Duckworth will join campaign volunteers to work the phones for an hour.

Duckworth was a National Guard captain serving in Iraq in 2004 when the Black Hawk helicopter she was piloting was hit by an rocket-propelled grenade; she lost both legs and partial use of her right arm. She has since served as Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs and as an Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; she remains a lieutenant colonel in the Illinois Army National Guard, and now serves on the House Armed Services and the Government & Oversight committees.

Honda’s campaign said he has worked to increase funding for veterans’ health care services and for college scholarships for returning veterans, including $2.8 million in grants for homeless and at-risk veterans in his district that he helped secure last year. He also played a role in seeking compensation and recognition for Filipino-American veterans who served in World War II.

Khanna is keeping up his breakneck pace this week by speaking to Santa Clara University law students on Wednesday; serving as a panelist at the Latinos Information Technology and Science Association conference in Redwood City and then canvassing in Sunnyvale on Thursday; giving an inaugural address and taking part in a panel discussion at the Indian Institute of Management conference at Google in Mountain View before doing a Sunnyvale neighborhood meet-and-greet Saturday; and then doing neighborhood meet-and-greets in Sunnyvale and Cupertino on Sunday.

And, as previously reported here, Singh is holding a happy hour from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday at C&J’s Sports Bar, 1550 Lafayette St. in Santa Clara, and then will hold a campaign kickoff at 10 a.m. Saturday at her headquarters, 1313 N. Milpitas Blvd. Suite 215, in Milpitas.

Posted on Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, Mike Honda, U.S. House, veterans | 6 Comments »

Post office to be named for soldier slain in Iraq

A Mountain View post office will be named Saturday in honor of a local soldier who was killed in Iraq.

Kenneth BallardRep. Anna Eshoo, who authored the bill to dedicate the post office in honor of U.S. Army Lt. Kenneth Ballard, will attend the 1 p.m. ceremony at which a memorial plaque will be unveiled at the post office at 211 Hope St. Ballard’s mother also will attend.

Ballard, 26, died in Najaf, Iraq on May 30, 2004 when a M-240 machine gun mounted on his vehicle accidentally fired. The Army initially had reported Ballard was killed by small arms fire during a battle with insurgents, and didn’t inform his family of the truth until more than a year later.

Ballard had served in the Army for almost nine years, and was awarded the Purple Heart and three Bronze Stars, two with Valor Device. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

“Lieutenant Ballard demonstrated great courage and heroism throughout his military career,” Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, said in a news release announcing her bill last year. “He made the ultimate sacrifice for his country, and he should be remembered and honored by our community.”

Born in Rome, N.Y., Ballard and his family moved to Mountain View in 1981. After graduating from Mountain View High School in 1995, he enlisted in the Army and attended basic training at Fort Knox, Ky. He went on to serve in Germany, Bosnia, Macedonia, and Iraq. He won a “Gold to Green” Army ROTC Scholarship and attended Middle Tennessee State University, but after graduation returned to Germany and was then deployed to Iraq.

Posted on Friday, April 12th, 2013
Under: Anna Eshoo, Iraq, Iraq War, U.S. House, veterans | No Comments »

Brown signs veterans’ bills, jabs at Senate GOP

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a slew of bills today – including two from Bay Area lawmakers – to improve services and opportunities for California’s veterans, and he used the occasion to take a swipe at U.S. Senate Republicans.

“Yesterday, a bill to invest in job training for veterans was blocked because of Washington political infighting,” Brown said in his news release. “Here in California, Republicans and Democrats joined together to support our veterans. These bills respect the honor and dignity of those who serve.”

Senate Republicans blocked a bill Wednesday that would have created a $1 billion jobs program putting veterans to work tending the country’s federal lands and bolstering local police and fire departments. Republicans said the spending authorized in the bill violated limits that Congress agreed to last year.

California Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Peter Gravett, in Brown’s release, said “veterans issues should never be partisan.” Maj. Gen. David Baldwin, the California National Guard’s adjutant general, said the new state laws “demonstrate that California is fulfilling its obligation to our veterans and their families who have sacrificed so much.”

Among the bills Brown signed into law was AB 2478 by Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, D-Hayward, which expands the current exemption given to veterans from paying non-resident tuition at California Community Colleges by one year.

More specifically, it lets veterans who were discharged from a military installation in California additional time (up to two years) to establish residency if they need to briefly return to their home state prior to attending community college. The California Community College Chancellor’s Office has said some veterans don’t start the residency process immediately after discharge for various reasons, including rehabilitation from injuries.

The Assembly in May approved AB 2478 on a 75-0 vote; in August, the state Senate approved it 37-0 and the Assembly gave it an 80-0 concurrence vote.

Brown also signed AB 1550 by Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, which increases the fees required to issue, renew, and personalize specialized veterans’ license plates to fund veterans’ organizations.

Specifically, it raises the fee for initial plate issuance from $30 to $50; the annual renewal fee from $30 to $40; and the plate personalization fee from $40 to $78, with all of the money directed to County Veterans Service Officers – agencies that assist veterans and their families in obtaining benefits and services accrued through military service.

The Assembly in May approved AB 1550 on a 71-3 vote; in August, the state Senate approved it 37-0 and the Assembly gave it a 72-1 concurrence vote.

For a list of other veterans’s bills Brown signed into law today, follow us after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, September 20th, 2012
Under: Assembly, Jerry Brown, Mary Hayashi, Susan Bonilla, veterans | No Comments »

Bay Area gets $7.4 mil to hire veterans as cops

The U.S. Justice Department today announced more than $111 million in Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant funding awards to more than 220 cities and counties to create or save about 800 law enforcement positions. All of the 600-plus new positions must be filled by veterans who served at least 180 days since Sept. 11, 2001.

In the greater Bay Area, Alameda County got $1,875,000 for 15 positions; Antioch got $1,502,680 for five positions; Hayward got $3,602,644 for nine positions; and Santa Cruz got $375,000 for three positions.

Vice President Joe Biden, on a conference call with reporters today, said the administration believes veterans who had to “fight like hell” overseas shouldn’t have to fight quite so hard to find jobs here at home.

The COPS Hiring Program makes grants to state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies to hire or rehire community policing officers, providing the salary and benefits for officer and deputy hires for three years. President Obama announced in February that preference for this year’s COPS and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grants would be given to communities that recruit and hire post-9/11 veterans to serve as police officers and firefighters.

Along with the pledge to hire military veterans, grantees for the COPS 2012 Hiring Program were selected based on fiscal need and local crime rates. Also factored in was each agency’s strategy to address specific problems such as increased homicide rates and gun violence.

Posted on Monday, June 25th, 2012
Under: Obama presidency, Public safety, veterans | No Comments »

McNerney grills VA on Oakland office’s backlog

Rep. Jerry McNerney asked the Department of Veterans Affairs yesterday why Northern California veterans are getting the short end of the stick.

At a House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing, McNerney, D-Pleasanton, sought answers about a backlog of veterans’ benefits claims at the VA’s Oakland regional office, which serves all of Northern California. He and other California House members also have written today to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki about the VA’s recent decision to deny added support for that office.

“I’ve heard from too many veterans in our region about the enormous and frustrating delays in processing their benefits claims,” McNerney said in a news release this morning. “The VA has a responsibility to help our veterans in a timely and efficient manner. As it stands, the delays are unacceptable.”

At the hearing, McNerney demanded to know why the Oakland office’s performance is so poor and what the VA intends to do about it; the VA couldn’t provide a concrete plan beyond retraining all of the Oakland claims representatives this June.

McNerney notes that although California is home to the most veterans in the nation and the Oakland regional office is among the worst in the VA system at processing claims, the VA excluded the Oakland office from plans for a system that would help reduce the number of claims. The VA is implementing this plan in 12 other offices across the country.

“We have a responsibility to the men and women who have sacrificed so much to protect our country and way of life to provide benefits to them when they return home,” McNerney said. “The delays at the Oakland VA office must be addressed, and I call on the Obama administration to take steps to rectify the problem,” said Rep. McNerney.

McNerney is the only Bay Area member on the Veterans Affairs Committee, but other than House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, the entire Bay Area delegation joined him in signing today’s letter to Shinseki. Follow after the jump for that letter’s full text…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, April 19th, 2012
Under: Jerry McNerney, U.S. House, veterans | 5 Comments »

Four Cabinet members in Bay Area this week

Wow, it’s Cabinet week in the Bay Area.

I just covered U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood (accompanied by Federal Aviation Administration chief Randy Babbitt) talking about FAA, surface transportation and job creation bills out at the Oakland International Airport control tower construction site.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson will be in the Bay Area for two days this week meeting with local businesses and organizations to highlight job creation and green technology. On Wednesday afternoon, she’ll be touring Recycle Central, Recology’s recycling station at San Francisco’s Pier 96.

On Friday, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki will join Reps. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, and Mike Honda, D-San Jose, to break ground at the new Defenders Lodge, a facility for veterans seeking treatment at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System that will have 53 beds in a two-story, 28,000-square-foot building.

And also Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be keynoting Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation’s Women and the Economy Summit at the Westin St. Francis hotel on San Francisco’s Union Square, speaking about how “Some Leaders Are Born Women.” I’ll be covering that one.

UPDATE @ 11:30 A.M. WEDNESDAY: AND… U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar will be speaking at 9 a.m. next Monday, Sept. 19 at the Commonwealth Club of California, on the second floor of 595 Market St. in San Francisco; tickets cost $20 but are free for club members or $7 for students with valid ID, and are available online. Salazar “will share his views on fresh water, fishing and farming, along with other resource concerns in California and the American West,” the club says. “With projected changes in the Sierra snowpack and precipitation patterns, as well as an ever-increasing population, California’s water system remains in crisis, and the state’s ability to hydrate its citizens and its economy faces an uncertain future. Salazar will discuss how the federal government plans to help California secure future water supplies by aiding ambitious projects, including the restorations of the California Bay Delta and the San Joaquin River, while maintaining a balance between human needs and healthy ecosystems.”

UPDATE @ 1 P.M. WEDNESDAY: After his Monday morning address at the Commonwealth Club, Salazar will join Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Michael Connor at the Contra Costa Water District’s fish screen project dedication ceremony at the Rock Slough project site, about four miles southeast of Oakley. Completed through a partnership between Reclamation and the Contra Costa Water District, the project – funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 – advances the Interim Federal Action Plan for the San Francisco Bay/Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta by helping to keep Delta fish from entering the Contra Costa Canal through the Rock Slough intake.

Posted on Tuesday, September 13th, 2011
Under: Anna Eshoo, Environment, Mike Honda, Obama presidency, Transportation, U.S. House, veterans | No Comments »

Bay Area gets grants to aid homeless veterans

More than $3.4 million in federal Housing and Urban Development and VA grants are going to several Bay Area public housing authorities to supply permanent housing and case management for homeless veterans, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki announced today.

Veterans taking part in the Housing and Urban Development’s Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing program (HUD-VASH) program rent privately owned housing and generally contribute no more than 30 percent of their income toward rent. VA offers eligible homeless veterans clinical and supportive services – including physical and mental health, substance abuse recovery and other aid – through its medical centers in San Francisco, Martinez, Palo Alto, Sacramento and Fresno.

The Oakland Housing Authority will get 50 vouchers for $498,696; the San Francisco Housing Authority will get 25 housing vouchers for $349,218; the San Mateo County Housing Authority will get 50 vouchers for $668,580; the Santa Clara County Housing Authority will get 100 vouchers for $1,159,500; the Pittsburg Housing Authority will get 25 vouchers for $238,881; the Santa Cruz County Housing Authority will get 25 vouchers for $280,395; and the Santa Rosa Housing Authority will get 25 vouchers for $206,565. Other grants totaling almost $656,000 went to Fresno, Monterey, Sacramento and Humboldt County.

“This initiative will strengthen our ongoing efforts to eliminate veteran homelessness by 2015 and improve quality of life for veterans,” Shinseki said in a news release. “Working with our partners at HUD and in Congress, we continue to make good progress to reduce Veteran homelessness, though much work remains. VA is committed to providing Veterans and their families with access to affordable housing and medical services that will help them get back on their feet.”

Posted on Tuesday, July 19th, 2011
Under: housing, veterans | No Comments »

Meet the East Bay’s veterans of the year

Each of the East Bay’s Assembly members named a Veteran of the Year this week, to be recognized at the Assembly Veterans Affairs Committee’s annual luncheon today in Sacramento.

Read all about these inspirational vets, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011
Under: Assembly, Bob Wieckowski, Joan Buchanan, Mary Hayashi, Nancy Skinner, Sandre Swanson, Susan Bonilla, veterans | No Comments »