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Legion to VA: ‘Fix communication breakdowns’

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Calling it a case of “mission delayed turning into mission failure,” American Legion National Commander Brett P. Reistad called for VA officials to implement a plan to prevent future communication breakdowns between home-care social workers and VA medical centers.

Reistad specifically referred to the case of a veteran who had to undergo a partial leg amputation due to delays in receiving home health consultations after being discharged from the Richard L. Roudebush VA Medical Center in Indianapolis. The patient, who was treated for diabetic ketoacidosis and an ulcerated foot abscess, “did not receive the necessary home health care,” according to U.S. Special Counsel Henry J. Kerner.

The patient required frequent changes to his wound dressings. As a result of the veteran not receiving the necessary care, an infection occurred which later required a below-the-knee amputation. Investigators determined that social workers were directed to stop entering home health care consults into the Computerized Patient Record System due to a lack of training.

“The U.S. Office of Special Counsel assured the president that VA has taken the necessary steps to prevent similar problems in the future,” Reistad said. “The American Legion certainly hopes that those assurances are well-founded. Too many veterans have lost their limbs on the battlefield. They should not be losing limbs due to bureaucratic malpractice.

"We thank the whistleblowers who helped expose this case. It reinforces why The American Legion supported legislation that protects these brave employees. The American Legion believes in VA. It’s why The American Legion visits VA medical facilities across the country as part of our System Worth Saving program, so we can identify critical needs and share best practices. We will certainly review this latest incident again as part of our SWS agenda. We also believe that recent reforms such as the Mission Act and increased accountability will improve an already-strong VA system. That said, tragedies such as what happened in Indianapolis should never occur. We expect VA to learn from this and act accordingly.”


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Boys Nation changed his life

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As he was growing up in Green River, Wyo., Chris Andrews’ perception of the happenings in places like New York City and Washington, D.C., was that they were almost occurring in another country.

“‘This is a big issue for people who are making big decisions, this isn’t for us.’ So coming out of that environment is pretty challenging in a lot of ways,” Andrews recalled.

But his experiences at Wyoming Boys State and American Legion Boys Nation in the summer of 2009 opened his eyes.

“I get to participate in this world as much as anybody else, and there’s no reason that a kid from a small town in the middle of nowhere can’t be a part of this. On the other side of that coin, a kid from a small town in the middle of nowhere has a responsibility to be a part of this,” said Andrews, who was elected Boys Nation President a decade ago and credits his participation in the programs to helping shape his career as a public servant.

“I am a far better person today for having gone to Boys State, and a far better person for having gone to Boys Nation. It’s absolutely a life-changing experience,” he said.

Today, Andrews works for the federal government in Washington, a city he never expected to go to when he first heard about the Boys State program from his high school history teacher, Nathan Loe, and then-commander of American Legion Post 28 in Green River, Harry Holler.

“I didn’t actually know about Boys Nation prior to going to Boys State; I thought it was just one week and it was a civics course for students who were in the state, so my scope was limited to Wyoming,” Andrews said. “I think it was the second to last day that we were there, the Legionnaires gathered us all into the assembly area and said, ‘OK, we’re picking the people who are going to go to Boys Nation. You should cast your vote based on who you think best exemplifies the values of Wyoming Boys State, who will represent us well.’ And of course, I was amongst some very impressive people, and I voted for two guys that I thought were just really outstanding people that I had got to know over the course of the week, and who I’ve since come to know a little bit better since we left high school and kind of moved on with our lives.”

While Andrews thought the opportunity to spend a week in the nation’s capital with other young men from across the nation sounded great, he wasn’t sure he knew enough to be picked.

“They tallied the votes and did a little curating, come to find out my name was one of the two that was picked. I said, ‘OK, I guess my plans (for the summer) have changed a little bit,’” he said.

At Wyoming Boys State, Andrews had lost in the race for governor. But he didn’t let that prevent him from eyeing a run at the presidency of Boys Nation.

“I thought, ‘Might as well toss my hat in the ring. I’m going to be involved somehow, so this election, I’ve got as good a chance as any of winning this one,’” he said.

Plus, there was the chance to make a bit of history.

“I had been told before going to Boys Nation that there has never been a president from Wyoming. I thought, ‘Oh, this would be a neat point of pride for me and could mean something to folks back home. This is something I really ought to do,’” Andrews said.

Andrews had to work to earn the Federalist Party presidential nomination — “I think I had the least number of votes allowed to still stay in the running for two rounds of voting” — but he took the time in between votes to reach out to voters and get to know them.

“Worst-case scenario that comes out of this, I meet somebody that I can become friends with,” he said. “Pretty soon the votes started coming in, and then, lo and behold, I got the party primary and I was just over the moon. I had no expectations going in, and so I was just extremely excited.”

Andrews defeated Tim Schwan of North Carolina in the presidential election.

“The first thing when I got elected I went and called my mom, stepped outside for a minute, ‘Hey, mom, you’re never going to believe this.’ She didn’t for a second. I was thrilled to be elected,” Andrews said.

While Andrews was always interested in politics and public service, with teachers like Loe and others inspiring him to care about history and a citizen’s role in the government, he called his time at Boys State and Boys Nation “an invaluable experience” in shaping his future.

“First of all, it put me into a network of people who have a shared interest and enthusiasm for civics and participation in social and government life. Even years later, it’s been 10 years since I went to Boys Nation, I’m still meeting people who say, ‘Oh, I know what Boys State is’ or ‘I had a really great time there.’ It’s really brought me into a family of sorts.

“But for the program itself, it really sort of stoked the flames that I already had for my interest in civil service and wanting to participate in something that’s bigger than myself. It really instilled in me values of patriotism — not in the sense of beating the chest and parading the flag around, but in committing to working and trying to make life better for others, and not being selfish, being the best person that I can be so that others might have a little bit better life. That really was a foundational part of the values set at Wyoming Boys State — especially in such a sparsely populated area, people have to care for each other. That was really a core part of my education; I tried to take that with me to Boys Nation and then to college and my professional life and beyond. It really was a life-changing experience,” he said.

Having the experience of Boys State and Boys Nation is “very much a feather in the cap,” Andrews added.

“When people see Boys State and Boys Nation on a resume, they immediately see this person has an interest in leadership and leadership potential. The programs have been around for such a long time and they have such a great reputation that people are bound to take a look at that and say, ‘Wow, this is somebody that I might have a shared experience with,’ or ‘This is somebody whose experiences would be a valuable asset in my team, my company.’ It’s absolutely a career booster, and if nothing else, it gives you a connection that might open doors somewhere else,” he said.


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USAA Tips: How to react to an ethical dilemma

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Content provided courtesy of USAA | By Chad Storlie

What are they doing? Did she just say that? Why would the company choose to take that action? These are just a few of the questions that could run through our mind when we hear of a potential ethical dilemma. An ethical dilemma is when there is no clear case of right vs. wrong and no laws have been violated, yet something about the situation just does not feel quite right to our moral sense of well-being.

When I was a Special Forces Officer in Bosnia, I had the role of doing contract negotiations for rental vehicle contracts whose value approached several million dollars. During one negotiation session, a contractor slid across a picture of a beautiful sailboat on the Adriatic with a picture of $50,000 in a suitcase placed on the deck of the boat with a champagne bottle. This was not a clever negotiating tactic, it was an attempt at bribery. The rest of the story? I reported the contractor, the contractor was disqualified from bids for two years, and I never got to see the sailboat. Handling an ethical dilemma well always solidifies your values and beliefs.

Follow these options to help you wade through the considerations involved in an ethical dilemma.

Ensure You Understand What Happened.

Ethical dilemmas can become non-dilemmas quickly when we ensure that we have the full story and do not take other people’s views, perspectives, or word of mouth. This is a good lesson for everyone because understanding both sides and ensuring that you understand all the facts before stating that something was unethical is critical.

Violations of “Fairness” Trigger Dilemmas.

The clear majority of workers have a belief in a continual level of innate fairness and equal treatment in similar situations by their peers, coworkers, customers, and bosses. That is, it is inconsistent treatment that creates the belief that an ethical violation has occurred. This is great advice for workers, customers, and management to strive to treat every person and every situation with deep respect. When there is inconsistent treatment present in a consistent or common place situation, then, more likely than not, an ethical violation has occurred.

What If Everyone Did It?

Another effective way to understand if an ethical violation occurred is to apply the leadership by example principle to an extreme case. What if everyone did or was required to do that situation you believe was an ethical violation? What would the effects be to the people and to the organization? If the resulting situation would create widespread financial loss, huge disparity of treatment, and ongoing stride, then an ethical dilemma was present.

The Newspaper Test.

Pick a leading newspaper or news source. What if the action or actions of the activity in question were placed in the headlines for all the world to read and to evaluate? Would anyone be embarrassed? Would the authorities be interested? Would people be proud to show their children the headline? If something must be kept quiet because, “people will not understand,” or people would be embarrassed if everyone knew, then an ethical problem usually exists.

Is There a Case of Cultural Confusion?

In the United States, we believe in equal treatment for all, but that is not necessarily the case in all countries. In some countries, the chief executive of a company can have vastly different treatment than the average worker and no one bats an eye. If there is a case of how an ethical situation is viewed between cultures, then it may be a case of cultural understanding or cultural perceptions rather than an ethical situation.

Could It Be a Topic at the Next Staff Meeting?

The final test is simple. Would you be willing to discuss it at a staff meeting? If not, then an ethical situation exists.

The final piece of advice in dealing with an ethical dilemma is to do something. To maintain a sense of ethics, everyone must stand strong and stand together to ensure that ethics and ethical treatment is a constant focus.


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Chairman Takano: “This Is A National Crisis”

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Mark Takano (CA-41) released the statement below following several concerning reports of veteran suicides in the past week: “My sincere condolences to the family and friends of the veteran who died by suicide last night outside the Austin VA facility. This is a national crisis that we all need to address. Every new instance of veteran suicide showcases a barrier to access, but with three incidents on VA property in just five days, and six this year alone, it’s critical we do more to stop this epidemic. All Americans have a role to play in reducing veteran suicide, and the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs is going to make this issue a top priority. Already, our Committee has hosted a bipartisan roundtable and staff level briefing to better understand the crisis. Additionally, I have called for a full committee hearing later this month, the first of many, to hear from VA about the recent tragedies and spark a larger discussion about what actions we can take together as a nation. As Americans, we are proud of the service and sacrifice our veterans have made for our country-- it’s time we match this pride with action and support to ensure our veterans get the care they earned and deserve.” ###

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Joint Subcommittee Field Hearing: “Protecting Those Who Protect Us: Ensuring the Success of our Student Veterans”

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On Wednesday, April 24, 2019, the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity, and the Committee on Education & Labor Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Investment, will hold a joint field hearing entitled “Protecting Those Who Protect Us: Ensuring the Success of our Student Veterans.”   The subcommittees will meet at 10:30 a.m. at 8800 Grossmont College Drive, Griffin Gate, Building 60, 1st Floor, El Cajon, CA 92020.

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