Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Military News

Romano: VA health care mess is a sin not easily forgotten

The apology was long overdue. It was insincere and poorly executed.

In other words, it perfectly matched the level of competency we have come to expect from the Department of Veterans Affairs in this nation.

The VA apologized to Congress a few days ago for "inadvertently'' causing "confusion'' when it mixed and matched dates and numbers to make it appear that far fewer veterans were dying because of lengthy delays in medical care.

Here's an idea:

How about apologizing to the families of veterans who may have died needlessly?

How about apologizing for the insufficient care, the bogus bookkeeping, and the climate of intimidation that kept potential whistle-blowers from speaking up?

How about accepting responsibility?

This is not simply a scandal, it is a sin.

"I asked (an assistant in the) Inspector General's Office if you can trust the VA with their numbers, and she said no,'' said U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor. "Can you imagine that?''

There is a temptation to dismiss the lax care and lengthy delays at VA facilities as inherent problems in a large bureaucracy. And there is probably some legitimacy to that theory.

But as weeks have turned into months and maladies have turned into nightmares, it is apparent this is not simply an inefficient organizational structure. This is systemic failure.

So feel free to blame the White House. The chain of command for the VA goes straight to the Oval Office, and the president is ultimately responsible for those in charge.

Feel free to blame Congress, too. Budgets matter, and the VA was clearly understaffed. And while we're at it, blame the media for not shining a light both brighter and sooner.

Just be sure to save a healthy supply of indignation for those in the VA's fanciest offices.

If money was scarce and doctors were overbooked and heroes were dying, why weren't they screaming? Why didn't they sound the alarm?

Their entire reason for existence is providing the best care possible for veterans, yet they made conscious decisions to obscure and deceive Congress and the public to make the problems seem less pervasive.

"Enough is enough,'' said Bilirakis, who is vice chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs. "They've covered too much up. They've lost all credibility with me.

"We've got to get rid of these upper-level officials responsible for this.''

President Barack Obama began the reclamation of the VA with a change in leadership a couple of months ago. Congress took the next step with a $16 billion legislative package approved last week that will lead to more facilities and medical professionals. The new legislation will also make it easier to discipline or terminate senior VA officials.

That's a good start, but it's not a final solution. What the VA needs more than anything is a change in culture. A recommitment to its mission.

It's not like we're expecting perfection. Mistakes will happen, patients will get overlooked and policies will always get second-guessed. The key is in the intent.

What happened at the VA was an epic failure, and that was bad enough.

But it was the cover-up and lack of accountability that made it a tragedy that should not be excused or forgotten.

Saturday’s sonic booms likely from F-15 fighters, NORAD says

Saturday’s sonic booms likely from F-15 fighters, NORAD says

Those sonic booms heard across the state Saturday afternoon were likely from two F-15 fighter jets protecting President Donald Trump during his visit to Florida, according to the North American Aerospace Defense Command.The jets, which belong to the ...
Published: 12/11/17
Transgender people can enlist in military Jan. 1

Transgender people can enlist in military Jan. 1

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is allowing transgender people to enlist in the military beginning Jan. 1, despite President Donald Trump’s opposition. The new policy reflects growing legal pressure on the issue, and the difficult hurdles the federal gover...
Published: 12/11/17
Gold Shield Foundation honors Bondi

Gold Shield Foundation honors Bondi

TAMPA — Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi was honored by the Gold Shield Foundation, which assists families of first responders killed in the line of duty.At a luncheon Thursday, Bondi received the Philip A. McNiff "Lifetime of Service" award, named...
Published: 12/08/17
Local vets remember Pearl Harbor

Local vets remember Pearl Harbor

TAMPA — On the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, Ed Socha and Bill Monfort were several hundred miles away from each other, sharing a horrible moment of reckoning.Socha, 96, was at Pearl Harbor, aboard the USS Oklahoma. Bill Monfort was a radio operator aboar...
Published: 12/07/17

Talking subs, ships and the controversial F-35 with the Navy’s newest assistant secretary

TAMPA — James "Hondo" Geurts, a familiar face at MacDill Air Force Base, was sworn in as the Navy’s newest assistant secretary last week ."I’ll be responsible for acquisition for the Navy and Marine Corps," said Geurts, sitting in a chair on the brid...
Published: 12/07/17
A storage unit opened, and a family’s World War II service and secrets were revealed

A storage unit opened, and a family’s World War II service and secrets were revealed

MESA, Ariz. — The storage unit’s corrugated metal door slid upward, revealing 100 square feet of mostly empty space. Not very promising, thought Joe Alosi, a businessman who bid on units, sight unseen, when tenants stopped paying the rent. Several pl...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17
Navy’s newest assistant secretary talks ships, subs and jet fighters

Navy’s newest assistant secretary talks ships, subs and jet fighters

TAMPA — Saturday afternoon, just three days before his swearing in as the next Navy assistant secretary for acquisition, research and development, James "Hondo’ Geurts talked about how his old job prepared him for the new one."I’ll be responsible for...
Published: 12/05/17
Stealth jets, other aircraft fly in U.S., South Korean drills

Stealth jets, other aircraft fly in U.S., South Korean drills

Associated PressSEOUL, South Korea — Hundreds of aircraft including two dozen stealth jets began training Monday as the United States and South Korea launched a massive combined air force exercise. The war games come a week after North Korea test-fir...
Published: 12/04/17

Altman: County’s Veterans Park to commemorate Pearl Harbor with memorial, new center

Every year, Americans pay homage to those killed on Dec. 7, 1941, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.This year, in Hillsborough County, the commemorations will take on additional meaning.Hillsborough County and local veterans welcome two major a...
Published: 11/30/17
Updated: 12/04/17
Two sailors from Florida, one from Louisiana die in Navy crash

Two sailors from Florida, one from Louisiana die in Navy crash

MIAMI — The U.S. Navy says two sailors from Florida and another from Louisiana died in an aircraft crash in the Philippine Sea. In a news release, the Navy’s 7th Fleet said the families of Lt. Steven Combs and Airman apprentice Bryan Grosso of Florid...
Updated one month ago