Thursday, March 08, 2007


A couple of years ago -- possibly for the only time ever -- a Bush administration appointee was actually doing something to help ordinary Americans get what they deserve from the federal government, according to ABC's Brian Ross:

...Newspaper exposes in 2004 prompted former VA Secretary [Anthony] Principi to come up with a plan to fix the problem of wounded vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and not receiving timely care and benefits....

[Former VA program manager Paul] Sullivan and his team designed the "Contingency Tracking System" (CTS), a secure online database that would capture Department of Defense data on soldiers wounded on the battlefield and track their status through their medical care and treatment at both Defense and VA facilities....

This seemed necessary because

the department relied on a haphazard system of casualty records manually kept on spreadsheets at several locations, which sometimes did not match up with Defense Department casualty records....

As the video version of this report makes clear, that was a problem for wounded soldiers such as Army Specialist Tyson Johnson, who was nearly killed by a mortar round in Iraq, but then, after being discharged and sent home to Alabama, had to live in his car as he fought to get treatment from the VA.

But then Principi was replaced in 2005 by former Republican National Committee chairman Jim Nicholson -- and that was the end of CTS. The program was shelved.

Sullivan said he was told the cost of the system -- less than $1 million to build and requiring a handful of staff to maintain -- was prohibitive.

A million dollars. Enjoy your tax cuts!

And so,

In testimony before Congress today, a VA official confirmed that its current tracking system still depends on paper files and lacks the ability to download Department of Defense records into its computers....

And yet

When asked about the Contingency Tracking System at the White House Wednesday, Nicholson told ABC News, "I'm not sure I know what program you're referring to." He added that "when the VA gets patients...we instantly create an electronic medical record for them."

Ah, but I haven't told you the punchline. Wait for it...

Yesterday, President Bush put VA Secretary Nicholson in charge of an interagency task force to determine what can be done to deliver benefits and health care now to thousands of wounded vets who have struggled to receive care.

Of course.

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