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tv   [untitled]    May 29, 2012 3:30pm-4:00pm EDT

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month which we believe is looking at the flow that is coming in and the flow that is going out that's about 2,500. if we can sustain that starting in august, we'll be able to move forward. he is right. we didn't get our claims -- none of our processes in v.a. last year were meeting the standard. we're now 62% in april of the service members that we processed in the process were on time. that's up from 20. now, one of the things we have done to take some risks here is we decided with at least the army to say let's get all the old jobs. that's why i said 254 day, and let's get them out of the system because they're just holding up everybody, and it's extending it. numbers will go up a little bit when you start taking the older cases out, but those individuals have been in the system way too long. and so i think we are making progress into a turning phase. will we get to 295 days and 60% of the service members by 31 december?
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there is risks there. but i think the services and d.o.d. and v.a. as partners have come together and said how are we going to get there? the secretary said to us that three months ago now when we were sitting at the meeting of the two secretaries, we want to get to 60%. we want to get to 100%, but instead of trying to bite the whole thing, let's get to 60% by december 31st and then we'll take on the rest of it to get to 100 mis. because every single one of these service members we're doing this to and they become veterans, as we've talked before, we've had them for 50, 60, 70 years, and we got to get them in the system right. we got to take care of them and make sure they transition correctly. the other part i would say to answer to your question, if we don't get this right by this summer, we're going to be challenged. because this is 10% of the population flowing through. and the vow act that congress graciously gave us to be able to implement will have a process that is even bigger. i think the things we're putting
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in place today in v.a. and d.o.d. will help us get both those systems done correctly. >> i've run out of time. so i hate to cut you off, dr. rooney, because i'm sure you had a thought here, too. and feel free to submit that in writing if you would like. but i just wrap up my questions with a request to mr. bertoni. i think it would be good if you could assess this for us on some kind of periodic basis, just to give us some indication that progress is, in fact, being made. it would be terribly unfortunate if we showed up in six months and nothing is happening. and that would be terribly unfortunate. so that would be my individual requests. the chair runs the committee. but it would be something that i certainly would like to see. >> and we have been in this mix since it was a tabletop exercise in 2007.
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i have testified numerous times on multiple products. it would be worse i think if we weren't in there. and i think in regard to your issue of diagnostic differences, two years ago, we said this was an issue. it could be problematic in terms of treatment of service members in terms of backlogs of the cases. if you have a diagnostic difference, you have to keep going back, new exams. you get caught on this medical exam hamster wheel, you have to do it all over again. we ask that this issue should be looked at. a consultant went in and looked at but didn't do what we thought should be done. what should have been done is what you're doing now, in-depth case file reviews to get an extent of the nature and an extent of the diagnostic differences. then you have guidance around that. you have training around that. and then you capture data going forward so you can identify hot pockets in trouble areas going forward. had vta been in place with the data indicating where they were having diagnostic differences, it wouldn't have taken service members to come forward making noise about treatment at madigan.
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you could have that mi data at your fingertips and decide whether you need to get out there, see what is going on, do some remedial training, et cetera. >> thank you. >> and i would just add, senator johanns, as a result of what we have looked at at madigan, that is being reviewed back to 2007, i believe, all the cases. but army-wide now as a result of the work i've done, they're now going back to 2001 to review all army cases. but it still is not system-wide. and i think that that has to be part of it. so it's something i'm very focused on. we'll work with you on making sure that we continue to stay on top of this. i want to go back, dr. rooney, i am very concerned about what i continue to hear about the warrior transition units on the ides experience itself. i hear from service members who are in the disability process that they are languishing in this process without any meaningful or productive things to do. service members tell us that
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they feel that their commanders are out to get them. and on the other hand, we hear from commanders that they feel these service members are being deliberately obstructed and delaying the process in order to be more difficult. that kind of adversarial relationship can't be beneficial for either the unit or for the service member who is trying to move on with their life. and worse, frankly, i continue to hear about service members who are overdosing on drugs, committing suicide, committing serious crimes. and at joint base lewis/mccord in my home state of washington, six service members have died from suicide, drugs or auto accidents while they're in the ides process. that's happening across the nation. i hope you share my belief that we can do this better. but i want to ask you, what is the department going to do to make sure there is an effective, supportive leadership at all levels to make sure this is not happening? >> some of the specifics you pointed out in terms of making sure that we're looking at that
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transition process proactively, working with those service members going through that process so that they can identify skills and possible career opportunities. those programs, some of those are already in place. we'll be doing more and piloting more, not just for those in the disability process, but throughout transition, as we've talked before, starting this summer. that's one piece of it. the second one is we indicated earlier is really making sure that the communication is not just at the senior leadership, but absolutely is translated down through the chains of command right to the base. and i believe mr. gingrich pointed out some meetings with the sergeant majors and other senior enlisted. and that's going on in the department as well. each of the service chiefs have gone, have been going out to meet directly with various commands. as you know and i've mentioned to you, i spent probably half of my time on issues surrounding this, and have been back out to washington state, have been down to san antonio and others so
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that i could also go out to the bases and help reinforce and see what is happening there so we can identify where there are those disconnects and get that message consistently across the department. so it's not only across d.o.d., but it's also with our partners in v.a. that we are continually sending the message and working at this. and where there are issues. not looking aside from those, but going right out and identifying where are they, what's the problem. and whether that is because there seems to be a backlog in cases, and why is that at certain installations. we'll target efforts to find out is that a process issue, is it a command issue? what are the various pieces to do this? and we do have it broken down that succinctly and that's the way we're following through. >> i appreciate that. and i appreciate you sitting before this committee and saying this. we want results from this. and i'm sure you do, too. so it has to be a lot more than just a testimony before this committee. it has to be real action all the way down. we'll be really following that.
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we can't have these hearings every six months or every year and keep hearing the same things. and i, you know -- one of the things that i hear most often from service members in this joint process is that they don't have any idea of when they are going to separate from the service. they want to make plans to move or go to school or get back with their families or whatever they're doing. and as we heard today, those numbers of days keep rising. last fiscal year the average processing time as we heard from 394 days for active duty, 420 for guard and reserve. that's unacceptable for someone who is just waiting to figure out what they're going to do with the rest of their lives. i really believe that these service members would benefit from knowing what is the time is actually going to be at the installation that they're at rather than just we have a goal here of so many days, but what is it at your installation, you know, an an honest approach,
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even if it's not what we like, but at least telling them a reality number. and i would like both of your departments to look into that and report back to this committee on the possibility of having real information for these men and women. let me also say that the only way that we are going to restore trust, which is really important, is by focusing on consistency and accuracy of decisions. and i hope that both the v.a. and the d.o.d. have really learned from v.a.'s claims systems struggles with how important it is to get the disability decisions correct the first time. i'm concerned because committee oversight has revealed this. i talked about earlier, ides ratings decisions with errors. given that the military relies on the disability level assigned by the v.a., these errors could impact the benefits that service members will receive from the military, and also the benefits from the v.a. so mr. gingrich, when the v.a. identifies an error in a rating
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decision, do you alert d.o.d. that the error can be fixed before separation? >> madam chairman, there is two things we do. if it's before separation, we notify the pb, and the individual and get the correction done before. if it's after and the person is now a veteran and we discover -- we know one case so far that we found, that the individual was a discrepancy in the rating, we have helped that individual and gone back to that individual and got the records corrected. >> if a service member believes has been identified with incorrect, what recourse do they have to go back and get the d.o.d. rating changed? >> if we substantiate it, that it would be very fairly simple for them to get it corrected, if it's not a mistake that we made, or it's not an error that was made at the time and the condition has changed to later, then it would be much more difficult. but we talked about it yesterday. and we decided that we need to make sure the process is such that the veteran or the active duty service member doesn't have to do anything. we take care of it and we do it for them to get it started.
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we give them the information they need. and then they work the system. so we'll be proactively involved in any of these that we find. >> okay. well, we'll have more information on what we're finding and expect to work with you on that. >> ma'am, we look forward to that, and we'll work each and every case you give us. >> okay. i have several other questions for the record. but i did want to focus on the integrated electronic health record. we know that delays in ides are driven in part by problems accessing information and sharing paper files between the departments. those challenges are not unique to ides, but they do affect every aspect of a service member's transition to v.a., including how their health and benefits information is shared. now we have heard a lot of talk from v.a. and d.o.d. that they are making progress on data sharing through their work on the integrated electronic health record and the virtual lifeline electronic record. but according to this week's press release, only two sites will have additional joint electronic health record
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capabilities by 2014, with 2017 actually being the target date for implementation of this. now the departments have both said that key to their collaboration and key to the success or failure of disability evaluations in transition are these electronic health records. it seems to me that this should be a priority for absolutely everybody. the project has been plagued, as you well know by false starts and budget issues and planning isn't complete. and i understand that a lot of positions at the office responsible for staffing and managing these projects are unfilled yet. i understand it's only 30% staffed. but how can the department say this is a priority when it's only 30% staffed and we're talking about 2017 as the target date? >> i believe from the staffing, and we'll get you the most recent numbers, we continually add staff so that we're fully staffed up. but that's not impeding progress at the current point.
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there has been substantial progress made in terms of this interagency program office with the new director actually named within the past three months with extensive experience. and you're right. both secretaries announced jointly this week that by 2014, both in san antonio and at hampton roads, we will have initial operating capability of this system, which will have multiple areas from pharmacy on down to medical records that are functional. and i think they also pointed out when they announced it was we're moving forward, but we're also moving forward deliberately because we cannot afford to have any errors in these actual records going forward. so this is both safety and concern for individuals to be able to get this right. we do have some systems currently. and one of the things both secretaries viewed when they were in north chicago was an example where we have been able to use existing systems. and it's not the long-term solution, but it's one that is working now, and begin to exchange data much better.
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so we're learning from that and integrating that into this electronic health record. so it is a priority. we are appointeding the staffing, but we also want to make sure that there is no chance for errors because this is people and their information, and we cannot afford to have any errors. >> mr. gingrich, do you want to comment? >> i agree. this is a priority of this department. the secretary has made it his number one priority. he what pushed it as harder, and we do see glimmers, like the gui being there. it sounds like it's not much, but with a single sign on being able to look at a screen and get data from vista or alta and be able to do a medical evaluation. it's clear, it's clean, and it's doable. we're looking at how do we do that other places. i also think the integration of the hospital pharmacy has to be done as we talked about. that's very complicated, but they're doing it there and making it work. we are making progress. are we making progress as fast
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as both secretaries like? probably not. but we are making progress, and we're pushing it. and that's why i talked about things like the vta. that's not the electronic health record, but it will inform the electronic health record and it will also inform vbms and things like that that we will have. so we are doing little pieces as we're going along, in addition to the full electronic health record, ma'am. >> senator boozman? >> well, i really don't have any more questions. more questions. but i think the point that you made, madam chair, about if we could really give these folks a realistic idea of what is going on. i know in my life, i think all of our lives the most difficult time is when you're in a period of uncertainty. and, you know, these are professionals that they're used to bureaucracy and this and that, being in the service they've been in. but i do think that's such a little thing, but it is a huge deal. and so if we can work on that.
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the other thing is that we have a situation where this is the number one goal of the secretaries and things to try and get this sorted out. they're meeting on a monthly basis. something that we might consider is maybe you and the ranking member, senator burr, and perhaps chairman miller, you know, ranking filner, i know they're concerned as we are about this, that maybe on some sort of a basis -- i don't know about monthly, two-monthly, whatever you feel is appropriate, or somebody that you designate, for you all to get together and basically let's talk about the, you know, how things are going. and then the other thing is how we, you know, as a congress, if there are things that we can do, you know, again, to facilitate and really all work together. you know, i know that you all want in all of your capacities to get this worked out as much as anybody. certainly we want to be there to help you. but it is something that we have to get worked out.
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thank you, madam chair. >> thank you very much. and let me just say that ensuring an accurate, efficient and seamless process for our service members is a critical part of making sure they receive the critical care and benefits that they deserve. clearly there is a lot more work to be done. we've seen some steps in the right direction. but it's going to take continued engagement and cooperation from both departments to get this right. so that's the message that i would really urge both of you, dr. rooney, mr. gingrich, to share with secretaries shinseki and panetta. and, you know, we also need to share this message with the lower levels, too. it's very clear. squad member leaders and squad leaders who interact every day with these service members need to get the message as well. so i hope you follow up on that. we all -- this system has been experiencing a lot of challenges for a very long time. but we owe it to our military members who have served this country to get this right. and that's what this committee
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is focused on. and we want to urge you to really, really from the top all so thank you very much for your testimony today and your work on this. and with that, this hearing is adjourned. heading into the memorial day weekend, house majority leader eric cantor released a memo to republican members detailing the house summer
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agenda. bernie becker of "the hill," what's the purpose of laying the schedule out in detail so far in advance? >> well, you know, it's -- they are trying to push continuing taxes where they are right now, easing regulations, opening up lands for more ail and gas, that sort of thing, so they are just trying to get out there what they are going to be wanting to do over the next -- >> you know, i don't know. it is sort of a curious choice the friday of a holiday weekend. i think perhaps they are trying to build a little momentum for when they do come back next week when the senate will be out, but i don't know exactly why they chose this day.
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>> the coming week alone will see a significant amount of work what. will top the house agenda next week? >> they do have a lot going on, so have a lot going on, so in the senate this week they passed an fda bill. there's also a defense bill going, and they're also going to start appropriations bills, spending bills for the upcoming year. they're only in, you know tuesday night, i believe they come back, but they're doing it up pretty quickly. >> the majority leader's memo also sets a timetable on the voting here tax cuts before the august recess, why then? >> i think they want to do it sooner rather than later, i think they want to up the pressure on the senate. although i think everyone realizes the senate is not going to work all week. the senate was saying this was a main big deal for them and
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they're going to want to this make this a centerpiece of their election year pitch. they want to make sure that they do it quick, and it's going to be part of a message throughout the rest of the year. >> how does the house want to deal with the expiring tax cuts? we saw house minority leader say nancy pelosi they she wants to the tax cuts for people under a million. republicans want to extend the tax cuts for everybody, but democrats only want to do it for the wealthy, but they're not sure what that is yet. >> the house is returning wednesday at 2 p.m. eastern and a full slate of legislative agenda next week including the military construction, veteran's affairs spending bill, the fda
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bill, with live coverage of the house next week on cspan. >> during this holiday week, we're looking back at world war ii. we begin at 2:00 eastern with reporting and censorship during the war. and the band of brothers. american history tv normally seen weekends, prime time all this week, here on cspan3. retired joint chiefs of staff colin powell talks about his job as secretary of state in his book "it worked for me". tonight powell talks to robert seagal about the story of his life. that's live tonight at 7:00
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eastern. >> spend the weekend in wichita, kansas with book tv and american history tv, saturday at noon eastern. literary tv, from business in black and white. and dennis farney. and sunday at 5:00 p.m. eastern, on american history tv, experience early plains life at the old cow town museum, the early days of flight at the kansas aviation museum. also two participants from the kansas civil rights movement. in 1958, they sat down -- once a month, cspan's local content vehicle explores the local and city life in wichita, kansas. a senate hearing now on ivory poaching on africa and what the u.s. can do about it.
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but i believe very strongly that one of the responsibilities of our economy is and always has been to make sure that issues deserving attention receive focus. whether people have heard about the issue or not, whether they're on the front page of our national consciousness today or not, it's our job, i think to
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help put them there. and certainly even if we aren't thinking much about the global implications of poaching in africa, i can guarantee that we will be if it goes unabated. in other words in a country with a deep and abiding conservati conservationist nation, it's just a matter of time before we awaken to the poaching consequences. and if we don't act now, the time will come too late. it would come too late for the elephants, these enormous lumbering majestic animals which have been a sentimental favorite with people the world over. they are a living connection to prehistoric times and a reminder of our responsibility of the future by preserving the past.
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and just as we have fought to save tuna, sharks, tigers, whales, the american eagle and other endangered species, here too we have a special responsibility to future generations to live out our steward caretaker responsibilities. how shockingly destructive if we did nothing while a great species is slaughtered into extinction. on elephant's dead ivory is prized over its living condition, where corruption feeds on its body and soul and where money only makes matter worse. yes, we have a lot of urgent everyday problems that consume our politics, i am more than well aware of that. deficits, unemployment, terror,
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challenges that we know too well and numerous enough to make anyone dizzy. but history reminds us that we never have the right to turn our backs on the values that define us. it is said that the elephant never forgets, well nor should we. we're fortunate to have a panel of witnesses that will help shine a spotlight on this significant and widespread trade. i was shocked and saddened by news that the mass poachings in cameroon and the surge in rhino poaching in south africa over the past year, the pictures of dead elephants and hornless rhinos are heart breaking, they stand as a grim reminder of our capacity to inflict harm on the natural world. but i would also emphasize here, the human costs of trafficking in ivory and other animal parts
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need to be focused on. this is a multimillion dollar criminal enterprise. the united nations office on drugs and crime makes it a significant form of trance national crime. poaching is not just a security threat for africa. it is also a menace to developing economies and it thrives where governance is weakest. poachers with heavy weapons are a danger to lightly armed rangers and civilians, as well as to the animals that they target. they operate in remote territories and cross borders with impunity, wreaking havoc on villages and families. increasingly, criminal gangs and militias are wiping out entire herds and killing anyone who gets in their way. we also know that poaching is
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interwoven into some essential and east africa's most brutal conflicts, and many of those combatants are essentially members of criminal gangs praying upon the communities, one begets the other and they're interrelated. in the democratic republic of congo, u.n. reports charge that all to the parties to the conflict including the congolese army have participated in this lucrative trade.

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