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Scandal Over Medical Care For Veterans

Forty dead veterans—maybe more.  An alleged secret waiting list at a VA hospital. We’ll look at what’s gone wrong in American Veterans Affairs.

President Barack Obama, right,Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, center, and Vice President Joe Biden welcome the Wounded Warrior Project’s Soldier Ride to the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Thursday, April 17, 2014, in celebration of the seventh annual Soldier Ride. (AP)

President Barack Obama, right,Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, center, and Vice President Joe Biden welcome the Wounded Warrior Project’s Soldier Ride to the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Thursday, April 17, 2014, in celebration of the seventh annual Soldier Ride. (AP)

The headlines out of the Phoenix VA Health Care system were sickening.  US military veterans in need of medical attention put on secret waiting lists and left to die waiting for help.  Forty dead, is the claim.  And echoes of the problem around the country.  By late last week, calls were flying for VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign.  A lot of hot lines intersect here.  Obligation, politics, war and guilt.  Funding or under-funding.  Honesty.  We have the Phoenix whistle-blower with us, and the chairmen of both Congressional veterans affairs committees.  This hour On Point:  Uproar over vets, care, and the VA.

– Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Drew Griffin, investigative correspondent for CNN. (@DrewGriffinCNN)

Dr. Sam Foote, recently retired General Practitioner in the Veterans Affairs system.

Jacob Gadd, deputy director for health care for the American Legion. (@JacobGadd)

Jon Soltz, co-founder and chairman of VoteVets.org, a supporter veterans group. (@jonsoltz)

Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL), member of the U.S. House of Representatives for Florida’s 1st District. Chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), junior U.S. Senator from Vermont. Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. (@sensanders)

From Tom’s Reading List

CNN: A fatal wait: Veterans languish and die on a VA hospital’s secret list — “At least 40 U.S. veterans died waiting for appointments at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care system, many of whom were placed on a secret waiting list. The secret list was part of an elaborate scheme designed by Veterans Affairs managers in Phoenix who were trying to hide that 1,400 to 1,600 sick veterans were forced to wait months to see a doctor, according to a recently retired top VA doctor and several high-level sources.”

NPR: VA Secretary Responds To Call For His Resignation — “One issue, the VA Hospital in Phoenix where 40 patients are alleged to have died because of delays in their care. Another point of contention, a finding that clerks at a Colorado clinic were falsifying appointment records to cover up delays. The nation’s largest veteran’s group, the American Legion, says Shinseki’s leadership exhibits a pattern of bureaucratic incompetence and today, three Republican senators piled on.”

The Wall Street Journal: Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki Says He Won’t Resign — “The head of the Department of Veterans Affairs said Tuesday he won’t resign, but will work to rebuild confidence after the nation’s largest veterans organization called for him to step down Monday amid allegations of inadequate treatment of patients at some VA facilities.”

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  • HonestDebate1

    It’s now up to five offices, the latest in Wyoming, that are being investigated for wait list fraud.

    • StilllHere

      Seems systemic, but no blame for the Department or Obama.

      • Don_B1

        For those, seemingly including you, who wish to place blame before the investigation is complete, particularly when the target is President Obama or Democrats generally, your post is not unexpected.

        • StilllHere

          So neither of us is surprised by Obama’s incompetency or my calling it out.

          • Don_B1

            As usual, you are making assumptions with no evidence.

            But no, I am not surprised that you make claims on no evidence.

  • http://www.google.com Big Brother

    It is not important who votes, but who gets to count the votes. Oversight agencies create measurement goals, but do not want to audit the process for how the numbers are counted.

    Please read Ward No. 6 by Chekov to understand the brutality that comes when we give dim-witted government employees authority over powerless needy.

    The owner of Sriacha maker just compared California to Communist Vietnam.

  • JGC

    From a May 7 letter from VA Sec. Shinseki to Rep. Jeff Miller:

    “As is VHA’s policy, new patients who cannot be provided clinical appointments within 90 days of the date of request should be placed on the EWL (Electronic Waiting List). At the juncture, it does not appear that PVAHCS (Phoenix VA Health Care System) patients who were not able to be seen within 90 days were handled consistently prior to the arrival of the current leadership team in 2012. Patients appear to have been scheduled beyond 90 days and not placed on the EWL, contrary to VHA policy for new patients. When the existing leadership came on board in 2012, they initiated VHA’s current national standard policy and use of the EWL.

    …independent of a litigation hold,..NARA (National Archives and Records Administration) guidelines require the immediate destruction of transitory documents when the agency determines that they are no longer needed for reference purposes. Our best information currently indicates at that time transitory or interim notes may bave been used by PVAHCS personnel for reference purposes as the newly established EWS was populated. Any transitory notes should have been destroyed in accordance with NARA guidelines.”

  • JGC

    I fear the Republicans are going to subject General Shinseki to the Full Cleland.

    • HonestDebate1

      Ouch, that’s cold.

      • JGC

        I agree, that was a cold, calculated and shameful thing the Chambliss-enablers did to a real patriot and hero like Max Cleland.

        Farewell, Saxby. You will not be missed. Vote Michelle Nunn for Senator of Georgia, 2014.

        • HonestDebate1

          Not what I meant.

          • Don_B1

            You are seldom specific enough for anyone to know what you really mean, so what is new?

          • JGC

            Pardon, I thought this was that rare time when we were finally in agreement on an issue, HD! But I guess the good news is that means Hell, in fact, is NOT freezing over…

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    No problems to report with my care. VA Hospital Pittsburgh. New building expansion, computerized files, quick turnaround on pharmacy orders placed through secure web server, even contact with primary care physician and nurses through that server. I make appointments through it, too.

    I don’t know about Phoenix. Perhaps having two Republican US Senators more interested in making news media splashes is a big factor in what ails that region.

    • Ray in VT

      It could be a variety of factors. The Southwest has seen retirees heading there. I wonder if there is anything to the demographics of the area that have contributed to what has happened in Phoenix. It could also be incompetence at that facility or any other number of things.

    • Don_B1

      Pittsburgh is a large city with a good supply of doctors but that is not uniform across the United States. The VA has had a longtime problem with hiring enough doctors, particularly mental health specialists, dating from the failure of the Bush administration to build up its capabilities as they planned for the Iraq invasion.

      Lack of enough money to pay doctors enough to work in a VA facility is part of the problem but the lack of some specialities, particularly mental health, throughout the United States also contributes to the long waits.

      • JGC

        “Money is not the problem…You go to the VA with the doctors you have–not the doctors you might want or wish to have at a later time…” Didn’t Rumsfeld say something like that back in the day?

        • Don_B1

          Exactly!

          All of which today’s problem shows the shallowness of that argument!

    • anamaria23

      I have two Vietnam Vets in my family who have consistently heaped praise on the VA system as have their families. They are in and around Boston, MA.

  • Human2013

    So, what’s the real cost of going to war?

    • Don_B1

      In 2008 Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard professor Linda J. Bilmes put the cost of the Iraq War at some $3 TRILLION:

      http://www.amazon.com/The-Three-Trillion-Dollar-War/dp/B0052HKS0S

      • hennorama

        Don_B1 — I daresay that for many, “Nobel Prize winner” is thought to be an epithet, not a commendation, unfortunately.

        • Don_B1

          Anyone who has the ability to find facts and show what they mean is anathema to the radical right, on economics and all science subjects. See:

          http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2014/05/krauthammer-george-will-attack-climate-science.html

          and:

          http://www.salon.com/2014/05/12/8_worst_right_wing_moments_of_the_week_%E2%80%94%C2%A0science_is_under_attack_so_it_must_be_monday_partner/?source=newsletter

          which provides a littany of looney right-wing retorts to empirical evidence that disagrees with their ideology.

          Then check out this on Charles Krauthammer’s idiocy from Paul Krugman’s blog::

          MAY 10, 12:34 PM 43

          Abusing Relativity

          Jonathan Chait has an extended discussion and takedown of the Fox News All-Star Panel reaction to the National Climate Assessment, which I won’t try to summarize. But I do want to delve a bit more into one point. Chait quotes Charles Krauthammer dismissing the scientific consensus because

          99 percent of physicists were convinced that space and time were fixed until Einstein working in a patent office wrote a paper in which he showed that they are not.

          As Chait notes, this logic would lead you to dismiss all science — hey, maybe tomorrow someone will write a paper showing that the germ theory of disease is all wrong, so why bother with sterilized instruments in the hospital? But there’s something else wrong here — the complete misunderstanding of what Einstein did.

          Yes, Einstein showed that space and time were relative concepts. But did he show that everything physicists had been doing up to that point was all wrong? Of course not — classical physics was an incredibly useful and successful field, and almost none of what it said had to change in light of relativity. True, Einstein showed that it was a special case — but one that applied almost perfectly at the speeds and accelerations we encounter in normal conditions.

          So if we had an Einstein equivalent in climate science, he or she would find that existing models were right in 99.9% of what they assert, even though under extreme conditions they might be misleading.

          Or maybe the simpler way to put it is, Dr. Krauthammer, you’re no Einstein.

          [ http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/05/10/abusing-relativity/?module=BlogPost-Title&version=Blog%20Main&contentCollection=Opinion&action=Click&pgtype=Blogs&region=Body ]

          The intelligence that allowed Mr. Krauthammer to become a psychiatrist has been allowed to degrade to the level of a 4-year-old who cannot muster the logic of a winning argument except to those who have already decided the “right” answer for totally immaterial-to-the-facts reasons.

          • jefe68

            It’s a sign of how off the rails some conservatives have gone. George Will is another example of this idiocy in practice.

          • Don_B1

            ABSOLUTELY!

  • X Y & Z

    President Obama should be impeached for this. He has shown that he is incapable of fulfilling one of his most important obligations as Commander in Chief, which is to ensure the health and well being of all US troops, whether they be on active duty or retired.

    • hennorama

      What nonsense.

    • jefe68

      You might want to look up what constitutes an article of impeachment. What’s going on in the VA does not come up to any standard for such an extreme action.

      My guess is you would use this term for a laundry list of things you don’t like about President Obama.
      One also wonders if asked, would also call Obama a socialist and fascist.

      • TFRX

        “Article of Impeachment”?

        For about 20 years a sufficient Article of Impeachment was “The GOP think they have the votes”.

        • jefe68

          I hear some of them like kittens too.

        • Don_B1

          And they don’t seem to care if they have the votes in the Senate to convict, the fact of Impeachment, or even attempted Impeachment, counts in their desire to cast aspersions on the right of any Democrat to be President.

          • Ray in VT

            The GOP doesn’t seem to be too concerned with holding the feet of a Republican President to the fire.

    • StilllHere

      Your frustration is understandable, especially in light of Obama’s rhetoric, apparently empty, when it comes to treatment of returning veterans.

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Phoenix) represents Arizona’s 3rd Congressional District. That’s greater Phoenix. He’s obviously not doing his job. Toss him in November.

    Along with the two sitting US Senators, Kyl and McCain, when their terms are up for “renewal.”

  • MOFYC

    This shows the despicable nature of the far right in Congress. Here we have a real scandal that we should all be outraged over and should be trying to fix yesterday. Instead, they keep dredging up Benghazi just because it helps their shameless fundraising. I’m not a Democrat but I sure as heck would never be a Republican.

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ) represents Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. She’s on the Veteran Affairs committee. She’s a failure. Toss her in November. Replace her with someone who will give a damn.*

    * Kirkpatrick is likely more interested in getting Hillary elected than doing her own job.

  • Ray in VT

    Senator Sanders has a very good reputation with veterans here in Vermont. I think that he will lead a thorough investigation into what has transpired here.

    • AnneDH

      He’s one politician I trust to do what he says he’ll do. He has a very high degree of integrity.

      • brettearle

        Yet another reason why envy you Vermonters.

        [What I wouldn't give, right now, to be at Richardson's Tavern, knocking down an Ale, at the Woodstock Inn.]

        • AnneDH

          Mine was one of the 9 votes that started Sanders’ political career as mayor of Burlington.

          I was just out of college, living in a rented house with friends, who were more politically aware than I was at that time.

          I came home from work & they asked if I had voted yet. I didn’t even know it was election day!

          They quickly gave me the reasons to vote for Sanders, to get a very corrupt incumbent out of office, and drove me to the polls.

          The rest is history!

          • Ray in VT

            Did you know a guy with the last name Ryder who worked on that campaign? I can’t remember his first name, but he was my high school Current Events teacher, and Bernie came to our class back in 1995 or 1996.

          • AnneDH

            Sorry, no. As I said, I was dolefully unaware of political goings-on at that time.

            I was enjoying the break I was getting from my father, who was a die-hard angry conservative.

          • brettearle

            Thank you for that.

            I did not know that Sanders was once mayor of Burlington.

            As a matter of fact, if there’s a biography out on this guy, I’d like to read it.

            [Also, I don't live far away from Burlington, Massachusetts. When Sanders retires from the Senate, ask him if he would like to run for mayor of that town, down here. [joke]]

          • AnneDH

            No biography that I know of. Won’t be surprised if one comes out eventually, especially if he actually does run for president.
            Love the quip about Burlington!

          • brettearle

            Thanks…

            A peculiar form of political correctness pressured me into explaining that it was a joke.

          • Ray in VT
          • brettearle

            Thanks, Ray….

          • Ray in VT

            You’re welcome. I read it maybe 10 years ago, but I don’t remember a lot of the finer details. Bernie is just around a lot, though. I’ve run into him at Barnes and Noble and at the University Mall in Burlington, and I ran into Pat Leahy in Burlington last year.

          • brettearle

            I’ll bet they’re approachable….

          • Ray in VT

            I think that they are, and Bernie especially is around at the fairs as well. I’ve wanted to speak to them when I have seen about, but I didn’t want to interrupt their shopping or whatnot, although I do not think that they would have minded, as it comes with the territory.

            When I saw Senator Leahy there was an issue that I wanted to raise with him on behalf of my professional organization, but he was with a couple of guys who looked like security and there was a group of people who were using a translator, so I thought that he might be doing some official business. I chose to merely said hello to him.

          • brettearle

            Thank you for taking the time to offer a further explanation of the circumstances.

            Are you able to say, publicly, what the professional organization is?

            Also….my guess is that you would have had a coffee partner for at least a half-hour–if you were a stranger to Sanders, but you approached him at the right time, about a subject that had a passionate mutual interest.

          • Ray in VT

            You’re welcome. I would rather not say what professional organization I am referring to, as I try to keep certain details about myself that would make me rather easily identifiable private. It is merely a state level affiliate of a reasonably large and fairly well known national organization. My particular focus is on various First Amendment and privacy issues that concern our members, and hopefully the public as well.

            I tend to think that my state’s Congressional delegation is pretty accessible and approachable. I don’t think that I would have been brushed off if I had approached either of the Senators, and the issue that I wanted to raise with Senator Leahy is one where he has co-authored a piece of pending legislation (the USA FREEDOM Act).

  • John_Hamilton

    It is highly unlikely that a VA hospital would have a waiting list for care. The reason this is highly unlikely is that it would have to involve an entire bureaucracy from the hospital director on down, and EVERYONE would have to be on board. If one person were
    disgruntled, he or she could expose the scheme.

    Another reason that this is highly unlikely is that if there are more patients than the hospital can handle the hospital director has a number of means to ask for staffing increases – letting the Secretary of Veterans Affairs know about the situation, mention it to the appropriate Congressperson’s office, and mentioning it to various hospital inspection agencies, who would likely find out anyway.

    It is likely that doctors are overworked at the Phoenix VA. They are overworked at the Madison VA, at least at the primary care level. Bush tried to close this VA and others, but the uproar that resulted caused him to back down (Tammy Baldwin was part of that uproar). Still, politicians have been pretty stingy about adequate funding. The Madison VA could use a new building. When a hospital is constantly being remodeled it is because they are trying to make an old building do things it wasn’t designed for. Medical technology has changed so much over the decades that space and mechanical equipment requirements make the old building obsolete. The existing building was built in the 1940s.

    So, there is an easy solution to questions about stresses on the VA health care system: spend some money. If we are going to have wars, we are going to have veterans. Politicians of a certain persuasion might find this an opportunity to explain the importance of spending in the public sector. The VA delivers high quality health care at lower cost than the private sector. That is the likely
    reason Bush and his fellow-schemers wanted to make it worse by cutting back on service while waging two wars, and threatening others. That having failed, the latest “scandal” is likely another attempt to discredit our greatest example of a well-functioning public health care system.

    The American Legion has been a “right wing” front group for many decades. They are more-than-willing to be used for political purposes. The telling thing in this case is that they called for Shinseki’s ouster without presenting any evidence other than rumor.

    Another aspect of this is that the American Legion is in need of new members. It had its heyday after World War II, but those members are almost all gone. A grandstand play like this is a good way to attract new veterans, most of whom have never heard of the American Legion. Newer groups like Iraq and Aghanistan Veterans of America (iava.org/) and Iraq Veterans Against the War (ivaw.org/) resonate more with younger veterans. Most veterans don’t join any groups, and these are the likely target of this campaign.

    • Don_B1

      Unfortunately for your argument on waiting lists being unlikely, it takes Congressional funding to hire enough doctors and other staff to handle requests for healthcare.

      Beginning in the Bush administration as the planning for the Iraq invasion began to almost the end of that administration, almost nothing was done to prepare the VA for the large increase in requests for care (undoubtedly the reason initially was that the war was going to be “quick and cheap”).

      Many regions of the U.S. are already suffering from doctor shortages, particularly mental health specialists, and a lot of doctors want, and need, to earn more than the VA pays. Thus it has been hard to hire enough staff to handle all the new requests since 2003. Also, Gen. Shinsecki made the decision to accept the requests for health care from the Vietnam War, particularly with regard to health claims from the use of defoliants, which previously had been fought by the VA. This decision was the correct one as the Vietnam War veterans deserve the care, but it came at an inopportune time.

      • John_Hamilton

        I was mostly making an observation on the likelihood of a waiting list in the specific case of the Phoenix VA. I left out the other half – the likely half. The medical care is imperfect, but variable, just as people are. The administration part, though, has been more highly variable, skewed heavily on the nasty side. This includes dealing with “Atlanta,” the apparent headquarters of the VA’s bureaucratic function. I can only imagine what it is like working there.

        I worked at a couple of VA hospitals – short stays both times. On the first one I was sexually harassed by women, and it was surreal. It was a group thing to drive me out. It worked, but I left them very sorry for it, especially the supervisor, who likely lost her job. Quitting can be therapeutic if you do it the right way.

        I also have had surgery at a couple of VA hospitals – the same ones I worked at. It’s also surreal, kind of like the military, but with an added dimension of grayness, a kind of lifelessness that is not quite conducive to healing.

        I really have to hand it to the medical staff who work at the VA year-in and year-out. Most of them remain cheerful when there isn’t much to be cheerful about. Most, but not all, take their Hippocratic oath seriously.

        I mentioned the funding problem, but it is a different problem than waiting lists, though related. If these lists do exist, then it has to do with bureaucrats doing what it takes to make themselves look good to their “superiors.” I know from my own experience with the VA bureaucracy that they are as insular and self-serving as any bureaucracy, and they are pretty good at hoodwinking Congressional veterans aides.

        The bureaucracy can be cleaned up, but the number one way the VA can be improved is through adequate funding. I’m not so sure that doctors are underpaid relative to doctors in the private sector. In the private sector a doctor is essentially running a business, and some are great businesspersons but cr@ppy doctors read: greedy), while others are terrible businesspersons but great doctors. Some doctors prefer the VA to private practice.

        Here in Madison, Wisconsin the VA is joined at the hip with the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine. The Ann Arbor, Michigan VA has a similar connection to the University of Michigan Medical School. I suspect it is like that in many states. In Hawaii the VA is combined with Tripler Army Medical Center.

        These connections improve the care, keeping it from becoming unto itself.

        Maybe when all this “right-wing” silliness if finally put to rest we can begin to look at the public sector as a necessary component to a functioning mass system. It likely won’t happen any time soon. Bernie Sanders seems to be one of a very few legislators interested in even discussing this topic. Almost all of the rest of them are bought. As long as Congress and the president can be bought, and by derivative appointments the judiciary, we will be stuck with fake politicians.

  • hennorama

    If even one tenth of what Mr. Griffin described is true (routine and widely-known avoidance of monitoring software), it is an absolute outrage, especially if it impacted patient health.

    The other circumstances he described — poor long-term planning and resource allocation, combined with a massive increase in patient demand — is a much more difficult issue.

    • Don_B1

      I agree that the lack of monitoring software is deplorable, I can see it happening when money is short, and Congress has always been notorious in cutting that aspect of spending, where it does not affect a wide spectrum of the public and only highly patriotic people who are less likely to complain.

      It is a modification of the old saw that it is difficult to remember the need to drain the swamp when you are attacked by alligators. The alligators are the immediate needs for patient care and the draining the swamp it to monitor how well you are treating the patients.

      But there are surveys of VA patients taken and the results are in the 90% positive range.

      • brettearle

        How, do you think, we can reconcile what we’ve heard today, on this program and the 90%
        positives?

        [Certainly not that the survey results have been cooked?]

        • Don_B1

          Hopefully today’s VA scandal is not as extensive as some want to claim?

          Or that a lot of patients do not gripe in surveys?

          Or something else entirely?

          • brettearle

            It’s somewhat puzzling, if not intriguing….

          • hennorama

            Don_B1 — one of the points made (by Rep. Miller) was that patients are OK with the care they receive once they into the system, but the issue is with an inability to get into the system.

        • Steve__T

          I have had a very positive interaction with the VA health care system recently. I’m a Vietnam vet who was denied for over 30 yrs. Now I get Premium Care, Hospital or D.R. visits are Two weeks or less, according to my personal schedule, and 24 hour emergency.

          • brettearle

            Why were you denied for so long?

            Did ObamaCare make the difference?

            30 YEARS!

          • Steve__T

            I did’n’t find out until almost a year after my Honorable discharge that the medical problems ( injured my arm during work, and a visit to the Shrink) were the reasons I was discharged, but discharged W/O medical considerations.
            I went to the VA, after a few months to find that I had no services connected disability’s, according to the VA
            I tried to fight it but we did not have the infrastructure to find information. or get any results from inquires. The VA was in much worse shape then than now. I gave up!
            I re-appealed in 2010, I finally won half my appeal in 2012. And yes I’m still waiting for the other half of the appeal,
            witch should take another 4-6 months.

            I was placed on OC to supplement and broaden coverage not cover by the VA.

      • hennorama

        Don_B1 — TYFYR.

        What Mr. Griffin was describing, a routine whereby the employee would use the weaknesses of the monitoring software to make the appointment dates comply with the performance standard, is outrageous, especially if the fudged measured performance was tied to compensation of management and others.

        Of course, it’s far better than the prior system, which was all on paper!

        The VA was working on scheduling software during the entire Bush II administration, and failed miserably. (The preceding is not intended as a direct criticism of Pres. Bush II, but is just a statement of fact.)

        See:
        http://www.nextgov.com/health/2009/03/va-program-to-schedule-patient-appointments-on-verge-of-collapse/43476/

        • brettearle

          Were all these cover-ups of new appointments-pending, only?

          I’m not sure I heard that clearly.

          Reason why I’m asking is that one might need to consider, more carefully, MD complicity (due to incompetence or irresponsibility)–if, indeed, these appointments included Follow-Ups.

          • hennorama

            brettearle — TYFYR.

            I’m not sure that was specified.

            Dr. Foote described a routine whereby a patient wanted/needed care, an appt. wasn’t available until 90 days out, and the appt. would be coded as if it fit within the performance standard. This widely known issue was corrected when the date of entry was measured against the standard, making the 90 days out appt. well outside of compliance.

            This was then circumvented by other means, exploiting a scheduling system that was not being monitored.

        • Don_B1

          The government has a LONG history of failed software development, notably for the I.R.S. with new systems to record tax returns being multi-$100 million dollar failures needing redoing to airplane control systems for the FAA with similar sized failures.

          Part of it comes from requirements to ensure that contracts are handed out to “favored firms,” etc. and then there are multiple requirements for how the systems are developed.

          But when you look at private industry, Boeing’s difficulties with the “Dreamliner” show that big systems are difficult to make work.

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    NONE of the US Senators from Arizona are on the US Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. Obviously Kyl and McCain don’t think it’s important enough to bother with.

    Send a real message: toss them both when their current terms expire. That’s called accountability.

    • adks12020

      I’m no fan of McCain, not by a long shot, but do you honestly think that he, a veteran and POW, doesn’t care about veterans? You must be kidding.

    • Don_B1

      Along with adks12020, I would also submit that just because a person is not on a committee does not mean that the committee’s area is not important to that person. After all, every senator cannot be on every committee.

  • Livin_Large

    I’d like your guests to comment on these allegations, in comparison to the Walter Reade Hospital scandal 2004-2007. I’d also like to hear discussion whether the Veterans hospital system should be abolished or vastly scaled back, with the majority of care integrated with the civilian healthcare system.

    • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

      Defense Secretary Robert Gates FIRED those responsible. And he did it after one visit and NO studies or hearings. Hoober Doober

      • Livin_Large

        That’s not true, and it’s very easy to find the history of the scandal on-line. The Walter Reade Scandal emerged over several years and resulted in very extensive hearings. The lessons from what was learned then need fresh application now.

  • Coastghost

    If the Sibelius model of Federal bureaucratic (mis)management affords any guide, Shinseki will be out within six months.

    • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

      Shinseki is a general. The current and last two presidents were in awe of men in uniform. For obvious, absent-father reasons. HD

      • Livin_Large

        So that’s why GW Bush fired him?

        • Don_B1

          Gen. Shinseki was not fired, but he was Army Chief of Staff when in testimony before Congress he testified that it would require some 200,000 troops to maintain the peace in Iraq following an invasion, which was contrary to the Bush administration’s story-line. He was subsequently dissed and left “hanging in the wind” by DoD Donald Rumsfeld, until he retired at the end of his four-year term.

          • Ray in VT

            Wow, General Shinseki was really off base with that claim. It’s a good thing that he got set straight.

    • StilllHere

      And end up in academia?

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    The totally open and transparent administration of the Barack Hussein Obama administration.*

    * But not accountable.

  • X Y & Z

    The Phoenix whistle blower is a true American patriot. Will President Obama have him prosecuted, just as he’s prosecuted nearly every other whistle blower?

    • hennorama

      Strike two.

    • StilllHere

      Fair question, only time will tell.

    • brettearle

      Please list those whistle blowers, who’ve been prosecuted…

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    How much accountability do you think HRH Hillary will muster up if she becomes president? With her political consultant husband: the famous draft-dodging Rhodes scholar dude, President Horn Dog.*

    * And both lawyers. Think that’s part of the problem with government?

  • MetryBrah!

    As an Iraq Marine Corps veteran who receives VA care, this is not a political statement, rather a statement of truth. The United States has had government health care for years through the VA system. If you ask the vast majority of veterans their opinion of Obama Care it will probably not be favorable at all due to the fact of our experience with the VA system. I have the option of going to three different VA clinics based on where I live as all are in equal distance (Hammond, Slidell, or New Orleans). To be seen for something as “simple” as a persistent cough it takes three – four months; one of two things will happen before I am seen, the cough will be gone or I will be dead. I can not tell you the countless times I have paid cash for visits or prescriptions because I had to be seen right away and not several months down the road.

    • brettearle

      I deplore the system that you are describing.

      But get some clarification from you.

      You speak of Veterans being critical of Obamacare. Are you saying that they are, or would be–because ObamaCare hasn’t fixed the system?

      I ask for a clarification–because what you describe, above doesn’t state specifically that these Delays were in place, much before the President even conceived of his Health Policy.

      • MetryBrah!

        I entered the Marine Corps in 1999 and got out in 2007. The delay’s have been evident since 2007. The general consensus from my conversations with many fellow veterans who receive VA care is that we are wary of any form of “government healthcare” based on our experience with the VA system; be it totally run by the government (VA system), government subsidized, or government mandated insurance (Obama Care). Recently the VA has proven to be a failure addressing the needs of a relatively small group of people (veterans). Therefore, it is easy to imagine the results of one government system trying to run healthcare for the entire US population.

        • X Y & Z

          Thank you for your service to our country. Veterans deserve much better health care treatment than this.

          • jimino

            It’s a good thing we don’t run government like a business, since their former employer is “broke” and would be allowed to dump their health benefits as well as their pensions if we did.

            Don’t you agree?

    • Steve__T

      If you have to go to an MD outside the VA you can be reimbursed.

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    A general falls on his sword. Then again, we haven’t any real ones since WWII. Be sure to thank the professional military* we have now.

    * Or whatever they call it. Most of those dudes have far too much fruit salad on their jumpers and not enough real platoon leader combat experience. Scholar generals; what a joke.

    • Don_B1

      Thomas E. Ricks, a military reporter/correspondent for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post, has justified a low opinion of a big part of our military officer corps. I do not have a link at the moment, but it might be in his book, The Gamble, or in one of his discussions about the book.

  • hennorama

    Well done, Rep. Miller, you’ve won today’s ITWATL (If There Was A True Leader) Award!

    When is your interview for a spot on Fox News Channel?

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    “McCain ought to resign from his Senate seat.”
    Hand salute. Two.

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    Senator Bernie Sanders. Not a US Veteran.* Like asking an ice cream vendor to care about quantum gravity.

    * Like AZ Senator Jon Kyl. Couldn’t bother serving our country.

    • Ray in VT

      I do not think that one need be a veteran in order to understand and care about veterans issues. Despite some initial reservations, veterans here in Vermont I think find him to be someone who is looking out for their interests.

      • brettearle

        Your assessment of Sanders’s efforts doesn’t surprise me at all.

        The Right ought to look at Sanders’s record–and separate his politics from his Humanity.

        Despite what is thought to the contrary, such a distinction can be made–if the Right can remove its bias…..which is unlikely.

        • Ray in VT

          I think that here in Vermont the veterans groups tended to be wary of Sanders because I think that they viewed him as sort of an anti-military peace-nick because of where he lies politically. I think that he work over the years has proved to them that despite his criticisms of the foreign adventures and such he thinks that we owe a great deal to those who serve.

          • brettearle

            And what you say reflects a real tribute to the Integrity of Sanders–someone whom I’ve always respected.

            Is it not terribly troubling that the Right–which firmly supports the great bravery and and sacrifice of our soldiers, as the rest of us should as well–halts its support and commendation, beyond combat, because of Politics?

            If Senator Cruz were responsible for such great work, then ______ [fill in the blank]

    • jefe68

      I’m wondering what is the point of this kind of comment.

      Are you just trying to dump on Senator Sanders, who has done a lot of work for the Veterans of this nation while in political office. How is that only a veteran can understand and fight for their rights and benefits?

  • Erik

    Cheers to the last caller for taking that scum Rep. Miller to task. The repubs can delude themselves all they want, but they started two wars they don’t want to pay for.

    • Ray in VT

      I disliked how Representative Miller addressed the caller, but I don’t think that it is helpful to insult the Congressman. Senator Sanders just spoke well of him and the work that he is attempting to do, and I give Senator Sanders’ word a pretty fair amount of weight on an issue such as this.

  • creaker

    Vets get a salute and a lot of lip service but have always been low on the priority list for everyone in Washington – you can be sure Congress will be very generous with blame, but not very forthcoming with any actual help.

    • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

      Most Congressmen have never served in uniform. Certainly not in the enlisted ranks where the heavy lifting is done. HD

  • Parissa Vassef

    According to a study published in April 2013 by the American Academy of Neurology, the average national wait time to see a neurologist for a new patient was 35 business days in 2012 compared to 28 days in 2010, and for a follow up visit it is 30 days in 2012 compared to 26 in 2010. How can this 14-day deadline make any sense, regardless of outsourcing doctor appointments into the private sector?? Clearly, this is not just a funding problem.

    • StilllHere

      Great point, likely to be ignored.

    • jefe68

      Interesting except for one problem: If you are enrolled in VA health care, you don’t need to take additional steps to meet the health care law coverage standards. The health care law does not change VA health benefits or Veterans’ out-of-pocket costs.

      Source: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs on the ACA.

      • harverdphd

        Thanks for proving the point.

  • Eli

    The response from Rep. Miller (Chairman of the House Veterans committee) was about the most cowardly and defensive response I could have imagined. Angrily tells citizen to educate self about civics so he can pass blame to the executive branch for not allocating enough funding…because he surely would have voted for more spending, since that happens so much with this congress. Apologies to Vets and Pensacola residents that this is the kind of leadership they’ve got

    • hennorama

      Eli — this is a bit further afield, but somewhat related.

      Per Rep. Jeff Miller’s Report Card on govtrack.us (emphasis added):

      Government Transparency

      GovTrack looked at whether Miller supported any of 12 government transparency bills in the House that we identified in this session. We gave Miller 0 points, based on one point for cosponsoring and three points for sponsoring any of these bills.

      See:
      https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members/jeff_miller/400279/report-card/2013

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    Investigations: NO
    Hearings: NO
    Massive Firings: YES
    Massive Congress Dumps: YES
    That’s called: Accountability

    • brettearle

      No, what you have posted is called `Blind Accountability’.

  • X Y & Z

    This tragedy highlights the incompetency of the current Commander in Chief.

    • brettearle

      And let’s also blame Obama for cancer, for earthquakes, and for a drop in movie theatre attendance.

      • jefe68

        You forgot flat tires, pollen counts, and the weather.

        • J__o__h__n

          Ed assigns blame for the weather not you. Tune in Friday.

    • hennorama

      Strike three.

    • StilllHere

      What you say truly strikes at the irony of his innumerable public statements about protecting veterans, doesn’t it?

      • X Y & Z

        Barack Obama is a pathological liar. Every time he opens his mouth he’s telling some kind of a lie.

        • hennorama

          [X Y & Z] is a pathological liar. Every time [it writes a post, X Y & Z]‘s telling some kind of a lie.

          Enjoying the view in the mirror?

          • StilllHere

            You didn’t enjoy that game on Friday.
            Seems like he’s expressing an opinion.
            Maybe you should stick to baseball analogies.

          • hennorama

            StilllHere — thank you for your response.

            One realizes your ability to discern the difference between opinion, news, and facts is an issue, making your comment unsurprising.

            Thanks again.

          • StilllHere

            Maybe you could devise an abbreviation that could warn us all when you are engaging in news-dissemination versus opinion-making (at a minimum, unless you think news-making and opinion-dissemination would be worthwhile too.) Then, we would know what the rules are for that topic.
            Cheers

          • hennorama

            StilllHere — TYFYR.

            Please excuse any lack of further reply. You will need to get your creature comfort and chow elsewhere.

          • Alchemical Reaction

            Actually Obama raised funding for the Va in 2012 and 2013 by 1.3 and 1.4 billion, respectively…

            I agree MUCH more needs to be done, but an increase of 3 billion dollars is not nothing!

          • hennorama

            Alchemical Reaction — my remarks were a play on the adage “Don’t Feed The Troll.”

          • jefe68

            Ditto that.

          • Alchemical Reaction

            Eery Guardless

          • hennorama

            Alchemical Reaction — thank you for your response.

            Jest in shirring yew dunder stood.

          • jefe68

            You are dealing with some right wingers some of whom have pretty extreme views. If you think there is anyway to even approach any semblance of a consensus on anything, think again.

          • L Martinez

            explain that in simpler terms

        • brettearle

          Sweeping statements are pretty bad, as it is.

          Ignorant ones, that pulverize, are even worse.

          Thanks so much for polluting this Forum.

        • anamaria23

          This President has nearly doubled funding for vets and his 2015 budget calls for 64 billion more in vet funding.

          • Don_B1

            It will be interesting to see how much of it is included in the House budget version.

            Sometimes it seems that, for the Republicans, the VA is somewhere between the military, where the budget can be increased, and the “discretionary” budget which contains all those items for the safety net which can be cut deeply as it only “helps” the 47% (to become even more “dependent”). [sarc!]

        • Don_B1

          That is certainly what the Republicans want everyone to believe.

          But it just isn’t so.

    • Markus6

      I think he’s incompetent for his job too, but this is not an example. Obama has never shown any hesitancy to throw massive amounts of money at a problem. His solutions are simplistic and a product of someone who doesn’t understand how things are done, but in this case, I think it needs lots more funding.

      It is interesting how they changed the measurements to meet goals that were set. This is a good example to use next time someone says they believe the statistics provided by the government. This one was discovered, but does anyone believe that cooking the books doesn’t go on all the time.

    • Diana Dillman

      Then you do not understand our system of government. Budget and appropriations is the job of congress under the US constitution. And the root cause of the problems at the VA is inadequate funding appropriated by the Republican congress, period.

      • X Y & Z

        If there’s not adequate funding for VA hospitals, then it’s the duty of the Commander in Chief to go to back to Congress and lobby for the necessary funding. Did President Obama do that? NO!

        You just want to wash President Obama’s hands clean of this whole tragedy. That’s not going to happen. President Obama rightfully deserves 100% of the blame, and he deserves to be impeached for being incompetent and for failing to fulfill his obligations as Commander in Chief.

      • StilllHere

        Another Obamapologist, he gets no responsibility for anything.

  • BellPeppery

    In the Phoenix VA
    case, it is hard to understand how something like what is alleged
    happened with Senator McCain, himself a veteran, not realizing the
    problem and working to fix it.

    • brettearle

      What you say, above, truly strikes at the irony of his public statement, doesn’t it?

  • grandma432

    Fire him, he thinks the solution is a computer system for 2015, they all have known the problems for the last 5 years, not enough doctor’s or staff, Congress included, they just keep making new programs. Hire 5,000 more Staff and outside accountable management to oversee the process of care. Answer your phone’s when the veterans call for appointments etc. taking three days to get back to them is wrong. Veteran’s deserve quality care. As well as their caregivers and wives, they have Tricare that isn’t covering much, so are paying 3,000 a years to have care service and TriCare isn’t covering what these Veterans found the med board to have, after serving over 10 years and many deployments. Our President has known this problem, and the Dem. need to be held account for the suffering of Military Families. When We Know Better We Do Better, don’t blame the doctors and staff, its the higher up and congrees that need to go. God Bless America.

    • PositivelyUp

      On 2-27-14 Senate Republicans blocked a 2.4 Billion dollar benefit bill for Veterans which would have provided the much needed medical benefits amongst other benefits.

      “Republicans said there would be no retribution from voters because the Democratic bill would have harmed veterans’ services by flooding them with too many people.”

      US Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL) is silent on this remark hoping no one recalls GOP mentality in February. Redirecting attention, Miller blurts out that he had questions about the culture and organizational climate at the sprawling and (some allege) poorly-funded department!

      Unbelievable that any party could be so blatantly immoral and ethically off base that it goes way, way beyond bad manners.

      Here’s one of the article’s on the Veterans Bill the Republicans blocked. In this article Independent Bernie Sanders explains his outrage over the GOP block when questioned Republicans began chanting about Benghazi this and that. Sanders said that a man whose legs have been blown off and his wife and family need additional care for him has nothing to do with Benghazi! Sanders was enraged over the Republican Block.

      http://www.esquire.com/blogs/politics/senate-blocks-bill-expanding-veterans-benefits-022714

      ****Check both the US House and US Senate Congressional members “Voting Records” and turn off the politicians, TV and radio ads that prey on voters having “bad memories!” It is the ONLY COMMON SENSE WAY TO VOTE FOR A CANDIDATE TODAY! They all distort the truth.

  • Michael Rogers

    Help at the VA clinics has widely degraded in the last few years, This is NOT due to a massive influx of returning vets but a lack of sufficient staffing! My local VA clinic now seems to be unable to have a Md available for appointments but only a nurse!
    I’ve had to press for proper treatment when the VA doctor denied that a particular drug was available. When at the VA hospital I found that it actually IS available and when confronted with this the MD admitted it was and prescribed it.
    The local VA is totally unable to provide functional therapy for PTSD or depression and does anything they can to deny that diagnosis despite it being found by their medical staff.
    I have been so diagnosed and been subjected to year long delays and lack of response to my attorney’s submission of the required paperwork to the extent that this process has gone on for around 7 years! As has been mentioned, Maybe the hope is that We will give up or die before they have to assume responsibility. My case is minor but for me compared to the much more significant damages others have suffered and require immediate care for but NO one that has been in the military and therefore available if necessary for actual life threatening combat

    should be subjected to delay or denial of the medical care promised them when the enlisted!

    • Diana Dillman

      You may get better care from a nurse practitioner or a physician’s assistant who actually has time to listen to you.. You are advocating for yourself and for your care which is what you have to do in civilian and veteran care.

    • Don_B1

      That you and all too many others are not getting the help you deserve is really deplorable.

      In some parts of the country there just are not enough doctors, particularly mental health specialists, that the VA can hire to give the needed help to those suffering from PTSD.

      I am not a medical systems analyst, and do not know any good way to change that in the short time that a solution needs to be implemented.

      But it sure shows that this possibility should have been thought about and steps taken at least as early as the beginning of the Iraq War (or the Afghanistan War).

  • TyroneJ

    The real issue is that Congress has provided inadequate funding for the mission the VA is supposed to carry out. Until funding levels are made appropriate for that mission, everything else is just like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

    • PositivelyUp

      No, the real issue is on 2-27-14 Senate Republicans blocked a much needed medical benefits bill.

      “Republicans said there would be no retribution from voters because the Democratic bill would have harmed veterans’ services by flooding them with too many people.”

  • Alchemical Reaction

    This is admittedly off-topic. But I want to mention I have never been censored on this forum, even though sometimes I say provocative things, and I am so grateful for that.

    Had a bad experience getting censored and having respectful comments deleted over and over on the NPR forum. It’s not the case here.

    Again, I am grateful.

    • L Martinez

      Avoid cursing and express your viewpoint intelligently without threats or emotion

      • Alchemical Reaction

        Thank you for the unsolicited, improperly punctuated, dispassionate advice, developmentally disabled progeny of a horse and a donkey.

  • Alchemical Reaction

    The republicans started two wars they don’t want to pay for.

    When are you all going to wise up that both the Democrats AND the Republicans need a forced enema.

    • Don_B1

      The Republicans- Certainly; some Democrats- yes.

      Watch Brian Sullivan’s rant on the wild-eyed, crazy, discombobulated Republicans from this morning’s (2014-05-13) Morning Joe on MSNBC!

      This will go viral on YouTube as soon as it becomes available!

  • jefe68

    There is only one word to describe anyone who supports this party, hypocrite.

    Republicans block Senate bill to boost veterans’ benefits

    http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Latest-News-Wires/2014/0227/Republicans-block-Senate-bill-to-boost-veterans-benefits

    • AnneDH

      Quote from the article:

      “I personally, I have to say this honestly, have a hard time understanding how anyone could vote for tax breaks for billionaires, for millionaires, for large corporations, and then say we don’t have the resources to protect our veterans,” said Senator Sanders

  • jimino

    So people are saying that something about our military is FUBAR? I guess it’s SNAFU.

  • Shag_Wevera

    This all stems from treating medicine as a commodity instead of a basic right.

    • harverdphd

      Exactly. Medicine, like any service, is a commodity. Thanks for clearing that up.

      • L Martinez

        No one is entitled to merely “get” anything or have anything “given” to them for free. Medical care too.

        • hennorama

          L Martinez — were you perchance in Tampa, FL on Sept. 12, 2011?

          If so, were you one of those described at the end of this excerpt as having said “Yeah”?

          Healthcare, and the role of a strong central government in providing it, is one of the key issues separating the GOP, which opposes Obama’s healthcare insurance overhaul. So it was no accident that the issue became part of the debate as host Wolf Blitzer posed a hypothetical to Paul, who is also a physician.

          “A healthy, 30-year-old young man has a good job, makes a good living, but decides: You know what? I’m not going to spend 200 or 300 dollars a month for health insurance, because I’m healthy; I don’t need it,” Blitzer said. “But you know, something terrible happens; all of a sudden, he needs it. Who’s going to pay for it, if he goes into a coma, for example? Who pays for that?

          “In a society that you accept welfarism and socialism, he expects the government to take care of him,” Paul replied. Blitzer asked what Paul would prefer to having government deal with the sick man.

          “What he should do is whatever he wants to do, and assume responsibility for himself,” Paul said. ”My advice to him would have a major medical policy, but not before —”

          “But he doesn’t have that,” Blitzer said. “He doesn’t have it and he’s — and he needs — he needs intensive care for six months. Who pays?”

          “That’s what freedom is all about: taking your own risks.,” Paul said, repeating the standard libertarian view as some in the audience cheered.

          “But congressman, are you saying that society should just let him die,” Blitzer asked.

          “Yeah,” came the shout from the audience. That affirmative was repeated at least three times.

          See:
          http://articles.latimes.com/2011/sep/13/news/la-pn-ron-paul-gop-debate-20110913

          • HonestDebate1

            I vehemently object to the framing of L Martinez’ valid point as an affirmative vote for death. It does not follow in any coherent way. It’s not honest debate.

        • Alchemical Reaction

          You mean, no one whose family didn’t make enormous sacrifices and commit atrocities generation after generation to establish a noble line and title are entitled to merely “get” anything or have anything “given” to them for free.

          And, no one whose family isn’t rich…

          And, no one who isn’t an attractive female…

          etc. etc. etc.

  • PositivelyUp

    Do you recall on 2-27-14 Senate Republicans blocked a Veterans Benefit Bill that amongst extending other benefits would have provided additional and much needed medical benefits?

    “Republicans said there would be no retribution from voters because the Democratic bill would have harmed veterans’ services by flooding them with too many people.”

    US Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL) is silent on this remark hoping no one recalls GOP mentality in February. Redirecting attention, Miller blurts out that he had questions about the culture and organizational climate at the sprawling and (some allege) poorly-funded department!

    Unbelievable that any party could be so blatantly immoral and ethically off base that it goes way, way beyond bad manners.

    Voting records are easy to check and available at both the US House of Representatives and US Senate House. I would suggest that all voters ignore the political “hog wash”, turn off the politicians, the TV Ads and do a little research on your own. Anymore you must be able to detect the fake lines from the actual truth. Watch their voting records. It may just be a real eye opener.
    After all politicians are depending upon “your bad memory” when it comes to them telling those “little white lies.”

    • StilllHere

      Republicans were concerned with gumming up the system with too many patients, some of whom would be better served elsewhere. Seems like they have a point.

  • Delores

    Comments coming out of the media Chickenhawks that “Shinseki does not seem to get it.” Oh—really!!!!! Look at his feet—–one foot was blown off by a landmine in Vietnam. I have not heard that comment from anyone. General Shinseki was the AssistANT dIVISION nt

  • Alchemical Reaction

    Thank Goodness Shinseki isn’t resigning. We need more feminine cleansing receptacle sacks handling these important matters.

  • heidi jo bean

    I have only excellent things to say about the VA hospitals in CA. that I have received treatment from. That’s Long Beach, the Santa Ana Veteran’s Clinic and Loma Linda/Redlands hospitals. They have done a great job in doctoring me.

  • Alexa_Segovia

    We have received excellent care at our area VA Hospital

    There are 8 categories of veterans, in regard to healthcare availability.

    Reporters might want to check out this “angle.” Category 8 is contingent upon “availability,” if I’m not mistaken.

  • AnneDH

    Please know I’m not challenging what you are saying, but can you give us links to online info about what you’re saying?

    Thanks

  • everything

    The people I have found that hate health care patients the most? Those who work for the health care system themselves. Welcome to your poisoned country where profiteering goes before all, people work for money, and not because they like or want to help others.

  • maodeedee

    Does the President have any responsibility here? Of course not, he never does, because no one ever tells him anything and besides, his job is to just get things done and then to go around and tell people that what they’re seeing with their own eyes isn’t what it seems to be and he’s very good at doing that.

  • OnPointComments

    Uh oh. President Obama held a press conference today, and he is outraged again. But don’t fret, he gets over it within a couple of weeks, then declares the scandal to be a witch hunt.

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