Senior Agenda Link

Senior Agenda airs live every Thursday morning at 10 am. Podcasts are also available.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

This Memorial Day 2014 the Eagle Bows his Head in Shame

We take these allegations seriously. We are closely examining the facts.  We are working tirelessly to get to the bottom of this.  We are deeply concerned.  This is unacceptable. We are prepared to act pending the outcome of our current investigation.  The American people can trust that we will hold folks accountable if these allegations prove to be true. 

Blah... blah...blah...Puke, gag, choke, vomit and blah some more.

Just a bunch of political profanity which morphs into blasphemy when it is used to gloss over the breach of trust committed by the US government regarding the lack of care, cooked books, gross incompetence and what ought to be classified as criminal behavior in the Veterans Administration.  It is an absolute betrayal!!!  It's a betrayal of the men and women who put their lives on hold and at risk to defend our freedoms and protect our interests at home and abroad.  And it's a betrayal of the American people at large. 

We know code for we are a bunch of pencil pushing bureaucrats with our heads up our elbows who will cover for one another every time - all the time - from here to there and everywhere in between - anytime we are in jeopardy of being held accountable.  We know how to decipher your side-stepping, hocus pocus, mumble jumble.  And we know you don't mean it when you say you're mad as hell.  We know you lack common sense, compassion and the ability to be outraged.   We also know you think we will forget.  While we have grown accustomed to your trickery and lies, NOT this time!  We are demanding and will continue to demand accountability and meaningful action from the top down on this one.  No one gets a pass. 

As we prepare to celebrate Memorial Day, the US federal holiday designated to commemorate the men and women who gave their lives while serving in the United States Armed Forces, our hearts are heavy and we REALLY are MAD as HELL.  By now, most of you know enough about what they are calling the "VA Scandal" to know that our government has failed us. Review news clips here.

In the wake of the scandal with 26 VA facilities currently under investigation and allegations that 40 veterans died awaiting care in Phoenix, the Obama administration announced yesterday that more veterans will be able to obtain care at private hospitals.  In addition, the VA announced that VA facilities are "enhancing capacity" so that veterans can get care sooner. See Washington Post article here.  

Our response to that is so what!  And we're not sure we believe you! This directive is too little too late and seeing as how we are smack in the middle of Memorial Day weekend, it smells like more political posturing and lip-service.

Washington has been fully aware of the on-going problems within the VA and potential dangers those problems give way to for years. Consider the following excerpt taken from a letter written by the leadership of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) to North Carolina Senator Richard Burr this past week: 

"The VFW staff you choose to rebuke and whose principles you have questioned walk the walk.  They've been there, done that and some of them have the scars to show for it.  Collectively, those same staff members have among them more than 47 combat deployments...

Let me assure you Senator, our DC staff does not operate in a vacuum, or independently from its headquarters in Kansas City...We don't act in hopes of grabbing a headline or securing an interview on cable news; our only agenda in this is to ensure the veterans of our nation timely and adequate healthcare...

The fact of the matter is this: every year the VFW, Disabled American Veterans, AMVETS and Paralyzed Veterans of America have been trying to call attention to the issue, warning Congress of the consequences, and trying to work with Congress and VA on solutions.

Each year our organizations build an analysis of VA benefits and services known as the Independent Budget, and each year since 2005 the Independent Budget has warned Congress about the dangers of long wait times and care rationing due to improper resources, oversight and accountability.  Last year, and again this year, then-VFW-Commander-in-Chief John Hamilton and I warned you and both the House and the Senate Veterans Affairs committee about the dangers of long wait times.  This decade of stern warnings has fallen on deaf ears.

There's no doubt that the culture within the VA needs to change.  In a letter to the President, we made it clear that he needed to take immediate steps and ensure necessary authority to Secretary Shinseki that will guarantee the status quo of protecting enmeshed and 'untouchable' bureaucrats within the VA system cannot and will not continue.  We urged him (Obama) to provide him (Shinseki) the authority to impose the strongest disciplinary actions, including removal and prosecution whenever and wherever necessary, on any VA employee who would abdicate their responsibilities and have a hand in the mistreatment or abandonment of those who have earned timely and adequate healthcare."  

In addition to the remedies suggested above in the letter from the VFW, Senior Agenda believes the following measures should be taken:

  • The Justice Department should be involved in the current investigation.  We no longer trust the internal workings of the VA or it's Inspector General. 
  • Stop ALL bonuses to ALL VA employees until we have a better understanding of who is to blame in all of this.
  • Those employees who are currently on paid leave of absence due to their lack of leadership or worse in this scandal should be on leave of absence without pay.
  • Demand a forthcoming, transparent, detailed plan of correction within the next 30 days.  We aren't talking about a 500 page convoluted document and time is of the essence. Get help from the private sector since you obviously don't know how to run a business effectively.   
  • VA leadership should be required to give weekly press conferences and make themselves accessible to the press until we see some light at the end of the tunnel.  
  • Fire VA Chief Eric Shinseki. That's how it works in the real world.  (We know this is not the position of the VFW.  This is our position).  
  • Prosecute everyone involved in cooking the books and looking the other way.           
Happy Memorial Day and God Bless America.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Slow Down, Listen and Learn with the Delightful Sandi Latimer

Sandi Latimer (left side) awarding another writer a certificate

She arrived early. I wasn't surprised.  She had been somewhat imposing from initial contact.  I had never seen or spoke with her before this morning.  All communications had been via email.  She was a tiny little woman in a tiny little car who drove herself and came solo.  Fearless, I thought.  She had reached out weeks prior and asked if she could come on the radio program to be interviewed. No one had ever done that before unless they were trying to sell something. She sent a bio before I requested it along with other informative emails.  And now - here she was early and ready to go. None of this offended me - mostly because it is exactly how I would have proceeded but it was still enough to cause me to think of her as aggressive. When we met my head was spinning with all my "to do" responsibilities and the rapidly approaching completion of a difficult work week.  I was secretly wishing I had some idea of what to expect from her.  I was secretly wishing that I had read her bio more thoroughly prior to the program.  I got the distinct impression that she knew all that (and maybe more) about me the instant she got her eyes on me.  She literally sized me up from head to toe and then back again.  I began wondering if she was a tiny older me. Smiling...

Once in the studio, she settled into her chair very quickly, put her glasses and the headphones on, folded her hands and looked up at me smiling.  "I'm ready," she reported.  Her smile was endearing but I still wasn't sure what she wanted to share or how this was all going to play out. An hour in live radio can seem like five minutes or a week depending on the personalities in the studio.  

My hour with Sandi Latimer flew by with a quickness.  She has a remarkable ability to recall all the details and a captivating way to tell the story.  She is the perfect combination of unassuming and confident.  Think I am being too kind? Listen to the interview.
Sandi prides herself on the fact that she has worked consistently for the past 57 years as a writer - a craft she obviously adores - without a single day of unemployment.  She started as the area correspondent for her local newspaper, the Bucyrus Telegraph-Forum, as a youngster.  Later she earned a degree in journalism from Kent State University.  Her career has included stints in radio, broadcast journalism, print journalism, communications and marketing.  More recently she authored a collection of dog stories called Poodle Mistress: the autobiographical story of life with nine toy poodles.  The book is available here at  In a few weeks her second book called Newsroom Buddies, which chronicles her 45-year friendship with her former boss at United Press International, will be published. Sandi tries to write every day and judging by the twinkle in her eye - she will be writing for many years to come.  She is currently affiliated with the Ohio Writer's Guide and Writers' Ink.  

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Home Health Aides under Scrutiny in Ohio

For every bad home health aide willing to take advantage of a vulnerable senior or person living with a disability there are dozens who choose the work for all the right reasons.  That's our starting point and it will also be our finishing sentiment.  It's not a disclaimer and it's not an afterthought!  It's our position.  It is grueling work with crappy pay.  But...

Home health aides have been in the news lately for all the wrong reasons.  This past week our local news channel, WBNS-10TV, ran a two part series that raised some legitimate concerns and questions about the industry.  Check out part one and part two. These reports help to raise awareness but... 

WBNS 10-TV got it wrong.  Ohio does NOT require background checks for all home health aides.  Agencies aren't skipping the background check - they are not required for private duty providers.They are only required if the agency participates in a state funded program (such as Passport) or for Medicare-certified agencies.  In other words, the state regulates government programs and not the industry. Other states regulate the industry. It's time for Ohio to step up and put regulations in place that address issues such as training, background checks, accountability, codes of conduct, education and yes - pay.  

This is a multi faceted problem that will require more than finger pointing and the occasional disapproving glance if the goal is truly to protect the elderly and/or disabled.  We suspect the whole thing drills down to the fact that we undervalue our elders and folks with disabilities. Why do we feel justified in paying home health aides so little? Where are the training and educational requirements? What about accountability? Why is it classified as a low level felony for a paid caregiver to steal from or otherwise take advantage of the elderly and/or disabled?  Where is the jail time? Where are the safe-guards preventing a convicted home health aide from continuing to work within the home care/caring industries? Why are background checks not required for everyone working in the home care arena? Regulation is needed because we are inviting paraprofessionals into the homes of the elderly and/or disabled without offering proper training, direction or supervision. It's a recipe for disaster yet we are quick to shake our heads in condemnation when things go astray.  

As a member of the home care profession, let me remind you that our position is that most home health aides are well-meaning and compassionate employees who never come close to violating the trust of their clients. They reside at the absolute bottom of a rigid hierarchy within the home care/medical industry and still they manage charged emotions and difficult family dynamics on a daily basis with little or no support.  They do housework & laundry, run errands, prepare meals and double as a taxi cab driver when their clients need transportation. They assist with personal care including bathing, toileting and yes - they change diapers as needed. They also hold hands and dry tears. They, like their clients, deserve our support and backing. 

We will be offering a more in-depth look on Senior Agenda in May. Stay tuned.  In the meantime, contact your local elected representative and demand regulation.