Politicians of every stripe have stepped to the podium to claim their disgust with recent revelations that the Veterans Administration has failed at its most basic mission: Caring for those who have fought for this nation. The truth of the matter is that as disgusting as this scandal is, it is nothing new and very few of those making speeches has any room to claim the high ground.
The Inspector General report released yesterday is maddening and infuriating to read. Some of the key phrases one reads in it include:
- “Gross mismanagement”
- “Criminal misconduct”
- “Systemic patient safety issues”
- “Possible wrongful deaths”
All of those damning conclusions are voiced in the opening paragraph. The opening paragraph!
Keep reading and you will find discussions of sexual harassment, bullying behavior, and the danger that veterans are ‘at risk of being forgotten or lost.’
Sickening would be a word to describe it and even more sickening is that this is but one review of the Phoenix HCS. It is certain that a larger, virtually VA-wide failure is in the offing as the investigation continues.
Senators, Congressmen and the President of the United States have all voiced their determination to correct the issue. Naturally most are doing it for political gain, others to try to limit political damage.
Don’t be fooled. Whether they have an R or a D after their name, none can claim the high ground. Almost all have failed.
As the IG report pointed out, since 2005 the office has been sounding the alarm about systemic failures of the VA. The majority of those in power turned a deaf ear.
I watched President Barack Obama, speaking at West Point yesterday to our future military leaders. He could not even bring himself to acknowledge the failures of the system these brave men and women are entering. It is little wonder few of the Corp of Cadets cheered him.
There was Speaker of the House John Boehner blaming President Barack Obama. Sit down, Mr. Speaker.
It was just in 2007 that the deplorable conditions at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center were revealed. For years prior to that, patients were being neglected and living in third-world conditions.
Looking closer to home, the failure of the VA to construct a much-needed hospital here in Denver is a staple of the daily news. Oh it is being built, but not without cost overruns, contractors not being paid and incessant delays. In the meantime veterans are left waiting and suffering.
The VA is broken and that is nothing new. Sub-standard care, interminable waits, second-rate facilities, and overly burdensome requirements are all hallmarks of the failed system and have been for a very long time.
Few know this, but I hold the VA responsible for the death of my dad, an Air Force veteran. Other than high blood pressure, my dad was a very healthy and very active 70-year-old.
While in Denver visiting family just before Christmas in 2010, he was having a hard time breathing. He went to the Denver VA Medical Center and was admitted where they discovered a blood clot in his leg. With a new round of drugs in his pocket they sent him on his way.
He died less than two months later, going to sleep and simply not waking up the next morning.
What did the VA miss during his hospital stay? Did they give him an improper drug? Was the follow up care adequate?
Those are questions that have dogged me since that horrific day and ones which I will never have answers for. Since then I have talked to many other families that have experienced similar tragedies, all possibly at the hands of the VA healthcare system.
I am a six-year veteran of the United States Navy having served during the Persian Gulf War era including a tour in the Gulf. Despite a spotless service record and having served honorably, I was rejected for enrollment in the VA system two years ago.
Why? The stated reason was my income was too high and as a result I was given the absolute lowest priority rating possible by the VA.
However, the VA’s own regulations clearly state that veterans who served in the Southwest Asia theatre of operations from 1990 to 1998 as I did would be given higher priority and enrolled.
In fact, veterans who served in the Gulf during that time are supposed to be given the same priority as Vietnam vets who served in theatre and those that served in Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the dropping of the atomic bomb.
Some lazy, incompetent paper pusher at the eligibility center was apparently unable to properly read my DD214 and recognize when and where I had served.
To be sure, there are good people at the VA. There are extraordinary doctors, nurses with heart, employees that care.
I don’t want to say they are the exception to the rule as that would be overly dramatic but there are clearly some deep-rooted issues within the organization and among its personnel.
The VA failed me. The VA failed Dad. Now we know the VA has failed thousands – if not tens or hundreds of thousands – of our nation’s veterans. It is absolutely infuriating.
Last night my wife and I were discussing this issue and I went into a raised voice rant as I often do when I am discussing something I am passionate about. I was furious then and I am furious now.
It brings tears to my eyes to think about my shipmates, many who have it far, far worse than me. We endured war only to have to suffer again at home.
When I see our military or veterans slighted, I oftentimes quote a passage from Rudyard Kipling:
“God and the Soldier, we adore,
In time of danger, not before.
The danger passed and all things righted,
God is forgotten and the Soldier slighted.”
Those words are sad. Even sadder is that they are true in many cases.
Those who served deserve more; much more. We stood up, took an oath and put our lives on the line for this great nation. Now that nation is failing us.
On the net:
- Pete Hegseth, Concerned Veterans for America: Vets died. VA lied. Heads must roll. Congress must act
Video: Montel Williams rips on President Obama, Congress and the VA
The Adams County Sheriff’s office is saying they are doing nothing wrong by using the county’s emergency notification system for other purposes. Their response is an attempt to quell citizen outrage following an investigation by CBS4 that uncovered the misuse of the system.
Throwing in the hashtag ‘mediainaccurate’, the department posted a response on Facebook saying using the system to notify citizens about community meetings is perfectly fine. The fact that these calls and meetings started about the time Division Chief Mike McIntosh announced his campaign for sheriff is purely coincidental they say.
- CBS4 Follow Up: Adams County Sheriff Plans To Continue Use Of Emergency Alert System For Community Meetings
The response is interesting but not particularly accurate as the facts get in the way of the argument Sheriff Doug Darr tries to present.
I would say the appropriate hashtags would be #SheriffFullOfBS, #EndangeringTheCommunity or #PoliticalShenanigans.
As the original story from Brian Maass showed, and the write-up I did on the topic expanded on, the FirstCall is intended to be strictly used to notify citizens in the event of an emergency.
There is not one location online or on any document from the county that says otherwise. All, without fail, explain the system is a public safety system.
Indeed, I have been provided a copy of the contract between ADCOM and FirstCall (below) and even it clearly states it is for emergency use.
“Annual service contract for emergency telephone notification system and services” the line item on the invoice reads. An “Emergency Phone System Notification System Agreement” goes on to explain it is for a “phone emergency notification system.”
I don’t think anyone disputes that the community meetings are a great outreach program. They absolutely are. The question is whether or not the use of a system designed to notify residents of emergencies is proper.
Would it be okay for broadcasters to use the Emergency Alert System that we are all familiar with on radio and TV for advertisements?
Would it be okay for the President of the United States to use the new Wireless Emergency Alerts that cell phones receive for a political speech?
Would it be okay for the sheriff to have his deputies pull you over on the road, flashing lights and all, to notify you about these community meetings?
Those cases would be no different and are of course improper.
The bigger issue than the fact that the system is clearly not intended to be used as the sheriff is doing is the reality that improper use actually endangers citizens. Repeated use of the system causes people to become desensitized to it and more likely to ignore calls, a dangerous outcome in a real emergency situation.
As the Denver Post penned in an editorial titled, “Crying wolf in Adams County,” as the county’s top law enforcement official, the sheriff should simply know better.
“We shudder to think what could happen if Adams residents ignored a serious notice after receiving one too many about an upcoming meeting,” the editors wrote.
As Maass’ story pointed out, not one law enforcement or public safety official believes this is a wise use of the system. While attendance at community meetings may be boosted, in the long run it puts people at risk and that alone is clearly reason enough to discontinue this abuse of the system.
Reverse 911 is a critical, life-saving system meant to notify residents about emergency situations that threaten life and property. In Adams County however, it appears politics may play a big role in how the sheriff uses the system.
CBS4 investigator Brian Maass reported last night that the Adams County Sheriff’s Office is using the emergency system to call citizens about community meetings. The meetings feature Sheriff Doug Darr and the man he has hand-chosen as the one he would like to succeed him in 2014, Division Chief Mike McIntosh.
- Watch: Video of the CBS4 report below
- Read: Online story from CBS4 with much more information than the video
Adams County uses a system called FirstCall to notify citizens when an emergency situation arises. Various county documents, websites and social media postings state the system is for ‘emergency notifications’ and tout that it is to be used for Amber Alerts, evacuations, HAZMAT situations, natural disasters, hostage situations, etc.
The county has said it was for “situations that may be harmful to life, health or property.” Even the website where citizens go to sign up for the service clearly states, “FirstCall will only be activated in an emergency situation where there is a risk of significant harm, an urgent threat….”
So why then is the sheriff using it for non-emergency purposes, something that is, as Maass reported, completely contrary to its stated purpose and out of line with practices used by other law enforcement agencies?
The improper use of the system began, perhaps not so coincidentally, in 2013 at the same time McIntosh announced his campaign to replace Darr. Since then, it has been used 17 times for non-emergency relate purposes.
Darr kicks off these community meetings but McIntosh soon takes over and is in full campaign mode.
This is a pattern seen over the past 18 months with McIntosh, Darr’s hand-chosen successor, taking on a far more public role than what is normally seen. Browsing the sheriff’s various social media outlets is telling.
There is McIntosh at the Flatrock Training Facility. There is McIntosh at a community meeting. There is McIntosh at Operation Free Bird. There is McIntosh at the Westminster Elks. There is McIntosh presenting a grant to Rampart Search and Rescue.
Geez. When does this guy have time to do his real job? He gets more face time than the actual head of the sheriff’s office.
Setting aside the pretty obvious political connection, citizens should be concerned that something that is supposed to be used to protect citizens is being used for something frivolous.
In his report, Maass spoke not only to other area law enforcement agencies but also national experts on public safety. Without exception, all said these types of systems should strictly be used for emergencies.
Vernon Herron, senior policy analyst with the Center for Health and Homeland Security at the University of Maryland, said, “Once you start to water it down with meeting notices it ceases to become what it is intended to be which is a tool to notify citizens of critical incidents and emergencies.”
Outgoing Sheriff Doug Darr apparently thinks he knows better than any other law enforcement officer or expert. This is not unlike he prevents criminals from being housed in the jail and ignores pleas from citizens, officials and law enforcement officials to fix the issue.
McIntosh, as Darr’s right-hand man, appears to embrace Darr and his policies and in fact may be using sheriff’s office resources for political advantage.
He has not once offered a solution to the problems within the department or stated how he would change course from the failed and dangerous policies of the man currently in the top seat. That is troubling. If he has answers, we should hear them.
Two weeks ago news outlets heralded the latest unemployment numbers showing a drop to 6.3 percent. What they and the president continue to fail to acknowledge is that there is a lower percentage of working age Americans with jobs now than in nearly 40 years.
The Bureau of Labor said that the economy added 288,000 jobs during the month of April. Certainly that is very good news for a quarter of a million Americans.
However, at the same time more than 800,000 working age Americans quit looking for jobs. The labor force participation rate is now a depressing 62.8 percent.
The rate has dropped virtually continually since President Barack Obama took office and began his “transformation” of the nation.
His liberal economic policies have put him right on par with a previous president in this regard. The labor force participation rate hasn’t been this low since 1978 when Jimmy Carter sat in the Oval Office. Two peas in a pod for sure, much to the chagrin of the American people.
In a story that aired Sunday night on CBS4, investigative reporter Brian Maass uncovered how the Board of Directors for the Metropolitan Football Stadium District get the use of a suite at Broncos games.
The nine political appointees, one from each area county and three appointed by the governor, are part of a subdivision if the State of Colorado charged with overseeing the taxpayer-funded Sports Authority Field at Mile High. While the job doesn’t pay cash, it isn’t a very tough gig given how the group only met twice all of last year and has no meetings scheduled for 2014.
Apparently for all of their hard work, the board members share a luxury suite with tickets to all Denver Broncos home games. Each gets the suite to themselves plus six other club level tickets for one game while sharing it for playoff games.
Do you think they would share this perk with the community that is actually paying for the stadium? Why no, of course not. Instead they keep the tickets for them and their friends and family.
In Adams County, our representative to the board is Gene Ciancio. Since 1997 he has been on the board of MFSD, reappointed every four years by the Board of County Commissioners.
An average, honest and ethical public servant, when confronted with the fact that they are personally benefiting from a taxpayer funded entity, would be a bit humble and perhaps rethink their position.
Such was not the case with Ciancio. The founder of a powerful area law firm instead told Maass, in effect, “Let them eat cake,” when asked about the appearance of impropriety in the eyes of the public.
“Is it a perk? I’ll leave that for the people outside there to decide that. I don’t think it is,” Ciancio said.
Huh? I think most of “the people outside there” would have a hard time seeing it as anything but a taxpayer funded perk.
Ciancio went on to say he would not vote to change the policy. He would continue to let each board member, “who is in a public trust position allocate them [the tickets] the way he or she saw fit.”
‘Public trust’ does not even belong in that sentence as clearly this is yet another case when that trust has been violated by a local Democrat.
I have long railed against the lack of true, local news coverage in Adams County. Much to my surprise, Tony’s Rants received a mention on a local TV show during a discussion about how new age media is filling the gap that the big media outlets are ignoring.
- Watch the video below
With the Rocky Mountain News gone and the Denver Post on a major decline, the Mile High City has fewer credible news sources. Here in the north area, there was a time we could count on the Northglenn-Thornton Sentinel and other weekly print outlets but they too have degraded and lack any true, original, hard news reporting.
Last Friday on Devil’s Advocate, host Jon Caldara engaged in a discussion about “Local news in the digital age.” Providing perspective was Todd Shepherd, former KOA reporter and now the owner and operator of Complete Colorado as well as Colorado Inside Out host Dominic Dezzutti.
Shepherd heralded Tony’s Rants as an example of how local people can make a difference by informing their communities about what is going on and the issues that are a concern. “He has scooped the mainstream media on several occasions,” Shepherd said about this site.
The shout out is truly appreciated – even if I am not Italian as the banter might indicate. ;-)
I would throw in a further shout out to you, the readers of this website. Many of the leads I receive come from concerned members of the community and I appreciate your trust in me to handle those appropriately. As always, if you have a news tip, you can contact me here – confidentiality assured.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney’s wife, ABC News contributor Claire Shipman, is featured in the latest issue of Washingtonian MOM magazine. Sharp-eyed readers noticed that a picture of Shipman and the pair’s children has Soviet-era propaganda posters in the background.
It isn’t clear if the picture, taken from a kitchen, is actually Carney and Shipman’s home.
If it is, one can’t help but wonder what would compel someone to display socialist propaganda in their home, especially a top U.S. government official. If not, I would certainly hope Carney and Shipman would be on the phone to the Washingtonian and have them issue an explanation for the use of such a background.
The McIntosh for Sheriff campaign posted a statement to Facebook last night saying accusations of wrong-doing by the candidate or those supporting him are an “attack.” The statement did not dispute the charges that had been leveled.
“Liberals are starting to attack McIntosh 4 Sheriff,” the statement said. “The liberal Colorado Fraternal Order of Police who have unanimously endorsed Democrat Ed Perlmutter for congress [sic] and have viciously attacked Republican Mike Coffman are now coming after my campaign for sheriff.”
It went on to tout Mike McIntosh’s conservative credentials.
The Colorado FOP’s law firm sent a letter last week to the county asking for an investigation into allegations that he was pressuring department employees to support him and misused county resources.
It also was discovered that a small donor committee that released an attack ad against one of his opponents had ties to his official campaign.
Oddly enough, there was no denial of any of the allegations or any explanation offered. Voters deserve answers to the questions that have been raised.
The Obama Administration continues to make it up as they go and willfully disregard Federal law as they do. It was announced last night that individuals who have fallen victim to the disaster of HealthCare.gov no longer have to complete sign up by the March 31 deadline.
Using an ‘honor system’ of checking a box saying they ran into problems, consumers trying to use the federal exchanges are granted a reprieve of a yet to be determined amount of time.
Once again Health and Human Services (HHS) is playing with deadlines established in the 2010 Affordable Care Act and possibly acting in violation of the law.
Just two weeks ago the administration said it could not alter the deadline if they wanted to.
HHS official Julie Bataille said in a conference call with reporters, “We have no plans to extend the open enrollment period. In fact, we don’t actually have the statutory authority to extend the open enrollment period in 2014.”
Clearly ‘statutory authority’ – i.e. the law – means nothing to this president.
Jonathan Turley, a professor of law at George Washington University, wrote in the L.A. Times recently about a different deadline alteration by the administration, “There is no statutory authority for the change — simply the raw assertion of executive power. The United States is at a constitutional tipping point: The rise of an uber presidency unchecked by the other two branches.”
Breaking: Colorado police organization alleges intimidation, abuse by Adams County sheriff’s candidate
In a strongly worded letter, the attorney for the Colorado Fraternal Order of Police has demanded Adams County address alleged unethical behavior by Division Chief and sheriff candidate Mike McIntosh.
Sent to County Attorney Heidi Miller and Sheriff Doug Darr, the allegations against Darr’s right-hand-man and candidate to replace him, are grievous. Charges of exerting undue influence, intimidation, and improper use of a county resources are leveled against McIntosh.
- Read the complete letter below
Employees and sheriff’s deputies went to the fraternal organization because they feared for their jobs when faced with apparent intimidation by McIntosh and Division Chief T.J. Coates. The pair and others in their inner circle have apparently been unethical in their campaign to elect McIntosh.
The letter asserts that they have been, “pressuring employees to reveal their allegiance in the pending Sheriffs race and efforts to coerce the employees to support the McIntosh campaign.” These actions have apparently occurred while on duty in an official capacity.
In addition to using intimidation and inappropriate coercion, the employees have received unsolicited McIntosh campaign literature at their homes.
How their mailing addresses were obtained is questioned as well as they are not a matter of public record. The insinuation is that McIntosh or his proxies used their official positions to obtain the mailing list from the department.
Lastly, McIntosh is accused of using official resources during the course of his campaign in clear violation of county policy.
The allegations in the letter are shocking and troubling. They however were not entirely unforeseen.
As Darr’s hand-picked successor, McIntosh has that questionable association to begin with. Given his mentor’s well-documented history of inappropriate campaign practices and use of intimidation in politics, perhaps McIntosh’s alleged actions aren’t surprising.
Looking back, it was McIntosh that oversaw the program that gave jobs to kids of department employees and was the subject of a television news investigation that caused a black eye for the office.
Just this past week a small donor committee acting as a front for the McIntosh campaign has stooped to new lows to attack one of his opponents, Mark Nicastle. The so-called Colorado Law Enforcement Fund (CLEF) has sent mailers to assembly delegates using inflammatory language in an attempt to discredit McIntosh’s opponent.
The Designated Filing Agent for CLEF and the McIntosh campaign are one and the same – Marc Osborne, a finance guy with the sheriff’s office and county employee.
Public records for CLEF show McIntosh himself, his wife and his children are donors to the shadowy group. The rumor mill also has it that much of its funding comes from poker games put on my McIntosh supporters where the buy-in goes to fund his campaign.
The attack mailer comes despite McIntosh’s public pledge not to ‘go negative’ in his campaign. So much for promises, eh?
With the county assembly just a few short days away, I am also hearing that McIntosh is attempting to stuff the ballot box in his favor. Employees have been pushed into becoming delegates for the sole purpose of voting for him.
What we seem to have here is a pattern of behavior from McIntosh that fits in with the worst of the dirty Adams County politics citizens are fed up with. Broken promises, underhanded campaign practices, election manipulation, and using fear and intimidation are all tactics we cannot tolerate.
Citizens have a right to ethical governance and should demand it, especially from the county’s top law enforcement officer. These allegations against McIntosh are extremely serious and should cause voters pause.
Editor’s Note: I receive many emails and news tips on various local issues and candidates. Over the past couple of months more than one message has come my way about possible wrong-doing by McIntosh and his supporters. The folks that contacted me of course wanted to remain anonymous, something which I always respect. Now it appears they may have had good reason as their very livelihoods were possibly in jeopardy.
I receive no pleasure in reporting this story and in fact find it quite disheartening. Wrongdoing and unethical behavior have been the hallmark of the other side of the aisle, not ours. However I cannot sit idly by when one of our own has such strong allegations leveled against him. These issues need to be addressed and we need to be above board in all of our dealings. Our candidates and elected officials should be held to a higher standard.
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