Aging Gracefully in the VA: Collecting Disability Benefits in Your Golden Years

Aging Gracefully in the VA: Collecting Disability Benefits in Your Golden Years

Contributed by Kris Baydalla-Galasso

There are over 76 million baby boomers in the United States. Over 10 million of those baby boomers are Veterans. When you include the Silent and Greatest Generations, you are looking at nearly 15 million Veterans who have reached retirement age and may be in need of senior services beyond just a customary discount.

Senior Veterans have an increased likelihood to not utilize their VA benefits to their full extent. In many cases, seniors might not actually even be aware of the benefits for which they are eligible. The underutilized benefits begin with compensation. Most elderly veterans are entitled to receive compensation above and beyond the service-related compensation. In fact, there are a variety of health care programs that are actually common benefits for those who might need them.

Did you know that Elderly Veterans are entitled to Aid and Attendance? This is a program available for veterans who need help with basic daily functions. Bed-ridden, blind, nursing home Veterans can all enlist the help of an attendant to assist with their daily needs. Housebound Veterans who are unable to leave their home as a result of their disability are also eligible for similar services. Adult Day Health Care can also be life changing to elderly Veterans in need. As we age, our needs change, and Adult Day Health Care helps address and fulfill many of those needs. From companionship to recreational activity and care from therapists to nurses, the care provided might literally be life changing.

When health care needs go beyond the scope of companionship, Home Based Primary Care might be the route a family would want to take. This program brings a VA doctor into the home of the Veteran. That VA doctor will supervise an entire team that will meet and perform services within the home. This option is for veterans with health issues that are beyond the scope of care that can be provided by a clinic. Homemaker and Home Health Aides are available as well to help with daily care. This service would be customized for a Veteran who requires daily living assistance.

As age and illnesses progress, more intense services may be required to fully assist in the patient’s care. Palliative Care tends to those needs with the goal of managing pain, suffering, and symptoms. Palliative Care comes into work with the veteran and their families to evaluate the needs of the patient and put a plan into place that will best control a patient’s symptoms. When a patient is given less than six months to live, Veterans are eligible to receive Hospice Care.

Veterans that are confined to their home or live too great of a distance from their local VA are eligible for Skilled Home Health Care. The VA contracts with a local provider to ensure the needs of the Veteran are appropriately met. The care doesn’t end with the Veteran. The VA understands that the family of a Veteran can get worn out as well. Respite Care comes in to give the family of the elderly or infirmed Veteran a break from their day-to-day responsibilities and work.

The VA is aware that different cases require different solutions. Telehealth gives nurses and doctors access to monitoring equipment so that a veteran can stay in their own home while still receiving care. Veteran Directed Care provides case management and allows a Veteran and family to completely customize a health care plan to ensure their needs are being met. This might include skilled in-home services, daily assistance or medical needs.

Our Veterans are aging with every passing day. As their need for care increases, it is likely that the types of care provided will increase as well. For now, however, the list of care options is fairly comprehensive and many of the options will help address those needs.

End of Semester GI Bill Update

End of Semester GI Bill Update

 

We reported a few weeks ago in GI Benefits in Limbo that GI Bill housing and tuition payments have been delayed as a result of the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Education Assistance Act of 2017. The sections of the law, which were implemented in 2017, required a complete overhaul and upgrade of the Veterans Benefits Administration technology infrastructure. While those upgrades were to be completed by this previous August, as of November, the majority of the upgrades had yet to be made and therefore payments were delayed across the country.

Fortunately for GI Bill recipients, the VBA has made progress and was able to update the thousands of students who have been waiting on payments.

Effective last week, the VBA had put in place a plan to be able to process the Spring 2020 semester by December 2019. This includes addition staffing and support as well as the solicitation of contractor bits.

While this is something to look forward to for many students, the VBA is also making adjustments to assist the students with immediate needs. The month housing allowance rates will be set to the Department of Defence Basic Housing Allowance rates. In many cases, this rate is equal to or higher than the payments that have been received previously. Additionally, the VBA will be correcting the underpayments retroactively.

Even better news for those who happened to be fortunate enough to have received an overpayment this year, the VBA will not be collecting those overpayments. Housing payments will be paid out according to the location of the academic institution’s main campus and will be independent of the student’s actual physical address.

All of these changes will come to a close on December 1, 2019. It is expected that VBA will have developed and implemented a satisfactory IT solution for sections 107 and 501 of the “Forever GI Bill” law. Many of the changes are an attempt to make the process easier for all participants. Changes such as more easily defining training sites as school campuses when will reduce burden and work for both students and schools. VBA is expected to remain in constant contact with Veterans, service organizations and Congress on the status of the implementations and expectations throughout the process. The call for increased communication  is in response to claim levels being triple that of normal in September of this year. While VBA claims levels are back to normal, they are encouraging schools and students to get Spring submissions in early to ensure timely payment.

Secretary Wilkie said “Redesigning the way VBA calculates Post 9/11 GI Bill housing rates during a busy academic season was like flying a plane while building it, and that was unfair and frustrated to Veterans and taxpayers. That’s why we are resetting our implementation of the law for the next year to ensure we get the technology and formula right to put Veterans first. In the meantime, beneficiaries receiving Post 9/11 GI Bill housing allowances will be paid at the DoD BAH rate, which in many cases will be equal to or higher than their current payment.”

Some other important details to remember:

  • VBA timeline standards are 28 days for new enrollments, 14 days for re-enrollments
  • Spring submissions can be sent in now
  • The Education Call Center number is 888-442-4551 and is open 8am to 7pm, EST, Monday-Friday
  • If you are experiencing a financial hardship due to the fall semester delays or need other assistance, please contact the Education Call Center

Remembering George H. W. Bush

Remembering George H. W. Bush

Contributed by Kris Baydalla-Galasso

He has returned to Washington, DC for one last visit before his final resting place. He has been visited by many, including his faithful service dog, Sully, who has sat in empathetic mourning in front of his flag-draped casket. Flags across our country fly at half-mast and our social media feeds are flooding with stories of his greatness. Whether you loved him during his career or opposed him, George HW Bush’s legacy surpasses the politics for which he is known.

 

Born June 12, 1924 in Milton, MA, George H.W. Bush was one of five children for Prescott Sheldon Bush and Dorothy Walker Bush. A young man headed for collegiate life, Bush was extremely impacted by the 1941 attacks on Pearl Harbor. Six months later, on his 18th birthday, George Bush enlisted in the US Navy and subsequently became one of the youngest aviators in naval history. His three years in the military was only the beginning of his lifetime of service to the American people.

 

By 1948, George Bush was out of the Navy and a graduate of Yale. Upon his graduation, he moved with his family to Texas and began his career as an investor in the oil industry. He founded his own oil company and was a millionaire by the age of 40. From there, he launched himself into the field of politics. His initial run for US Senate resulted in a defeat in 1964. However, that loss was followed up with a win for the 7th District for the US House of Representatives just two years later. He won re-election in 1968 but suffered another defeat in the US Senate election of 1970. He had already garnered the attention he needed, however, as President Richard Nixon took the opportunity to appoint Bush as Ambassador to the United Nations in 1971. By 1973, he was Chairman of the Republican National Committee.  

 

Bush’s run for the Oval Office began in 1980, but he was defeated in the Republican Primary by Ronald Reagan. Reagan subsequently selected Bush as his running mate and this Republican ticket was elected in 1980. Bush used his eight years as Vice President to head the war on drugs, which became a popular slogan of the decade. He also headed the task force on deregulation.

 

After two terms as Vice President, Bush became the first incumbent VP to win the Presidential election. He defeated Democrat Michael Dukakis and began what would be a foreign-policy presidency.

 

In those four years, Bush’s presidency saw a series of military operations and historical events. From Panama and the Persian Gulf to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, foreign events helped to make Bush’s term memorable. These events also led to a variety of issues in this new, post-cold war environment. A domestic economic recession, foreign wars, and foreign policy issues combined to give Bill Clinton the edge in the 1992 election.

 

Despite leaving office in 1993, George Bush remained active in the public eye. It was just eight years later that he would officially become George H. W. Bush, as his son, George W. Bush, became the 43rd President of this great country.

 

It is no doubt that our 41st President was a great man, a good leader and a wonderful husband, father, grandfather. While his son was in office, he was called into service yet again. This time to work side-by-side with former political adversary, Bill Clinton. The two were thrust into humanitarian projects and through working together, became friends. In fact, his son, George W. Bush, once joked that during Clinton’s surgical recovery, he likely “woke up surrounded by his loved ones: Hillary, Chelsea…my Dad.”

 

It was those humanitarian lessons that taught us some of George H. W. Bush’s greatest lessons. We learned that there is always more we can do – more ways we can help. His time to be in the limelight was technically over and he would have been within his rights to want to enjoy his retirement with his wonderful wife, Barbara, by his side. Instead, he spent much of his golden years trotting the globe, helping those in need.

 

Through his relationship with Bill Clinton, he taught us that the past is the past and we can overcome personal differences to truly make the world a better place. What they demonstrated is something this country is sorely lacking.

 

Even Clinton has made this observation:

“I think people see George and me and they say, ‘that is the way our country ought to work.’”

 

President Trump has declared today, December 5, 2018, a national day of mourning in honor of our 41st President, George H.W. Bush. He has been lying in state in Washington DC in the Capitol Rotunda since Monday. He will make his way to the National Cathedral for his State Funeral Service. After the State Service today, “Special Mission 41” will take George H. W. Bush home to Texas where he will ultimately find his final resting place on the grounds of the library that bears his name.

 

Advancements in Technology Making Soldiers’ Load Easier to Carry

Advancements in Technology Making Soldiers’ Load Easier to Carry

 

It takes a lot of power to keep a unit charged up. Before now, that amount of energy required generators which were substantial in size and weight. That all might change, however, thanks to two MIT graduates.

 

Veronika Stelmakh and Walker Chan are co-founders of a small portable generator – roughly the size of a soda can. The “soldier-borne generator for reduced battery load” would run on fuel, likely butane or propane, then convert that fuel into electricity using infrared radiation. While the device will use photovoltaic cells (cells that create an electric current when exposed to light), no sunlight will be necessary to power the device. The photovoltaic cells will be a byproduct of the infrared radiation.

 

Lightening the load has been a goal for the Army and Marine Corps. This small unit would essentially turn one soldier into a portable charging station for the rest of his or her unit. It will weigh about one pound and reduce battery load by up to 75%. Currently, soldiers carry 15-20 pounds of load for the batteries that power up their required devices. As their packs are often more than 100 pounds, shedding any of that weight would be helpful.  

 

Stelmakh and Chan developed the device through MIT’s Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies.

 

AI May Enhance Tradecraft, Prevent Geopolitical Surprises

AI May Enhance Tradecraft, Prevent Geopolitical Surprises Says Military’s Top Spy

Contributed by Debbie Gregory

Army Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley Jr., the Pentagon’s “top spy,” hopes advances in artificial intelligence (AI) can get a jump on global conflicts when they ignite overnight.

“My core mission is to make sure that the secretary of defense is never surprised,” said Ashley.

Ashley became the 21st Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency on October 3, 2017. He formerly served as the Army Deputy Chief of Staff, G-2, where he was the senior advisor to the Secretary of the Army and Army Chief of Staff for all aspects of intelligence, counterintelligence and security.

“AI and machine learning will be a huge enhancement” to tradecraft and other skills defense analysts use to avoid blind spots,” he said.

Using algorithms to sort through massive amounts of information can take some of the burden off defense analysts, but it doesn’t come without challenges, Ashley said.

“We look very closely at the technology development. Obviously, there’s some breakout things — we watch the AI side of the house, the hypersonics, counter-space, [and] what they’re doing with regard to subs, if you’re following the maritime piece of that as well,” he said. “They’re in the trials for their first carrier. They got an old one from the Russians; now they’re building their own.”

“When an analyst sits in front of a senior leader, they always say, ‘Based on reporting, based on sources, based on what I have seen I have a moderate [degree of confidence]’ or if you see a national assessment that says ‘I have a high-degree of confidence,’ it goes back to sourcing and analytic tradecraft,” he said.

“You never want to be in a position where you say, ‘Well, the computer told me so,'” he continued. “Part of the challenge we have now, and I think really the opportunity is, as we look at algorithms, as we look at machine learning and AI, is developing a degree of confidence within the AI, a degree of confidence within the algorithm.”

DIA will have to test these algorithms “to be able to prove that it can in fact come back with a high-degree of confidence that the analysis that it’s doing is correct,” Ashley added.

Ashley wants to ensure that the Machine-assisted Analytic Rapid-repository System, or MARS, is at initial operating capability before he leaves office in two years. MARS will take advantage of modern technologies in storage, cloud computing and machine learning to allow analysts to interact with data and information in a more dynamic fashion, rather than static.

 

Military Memoirs: Vietnam

MilitaryMemoirs Vietnam

Military Memoirs: Vietnam

Contributed by Jerry Van Boxtel

I was stationed at Travis AFB, California from 1959 to 1968.

In 1964, I started flying missions as a flight engineer on C-124 aircraft making a trip every month to different bases in Vietnam. The trips were long, as the airplane was very slow. Each one took around 14 days and we logged about 112 hours of flying time. I remember picking up my first deceased Army person that first year. There was a flag-draped aluminum casket and a ceremony with pallbearers – it was a pretty sad occasion. We delivered the remains to the military mortuary in Hawaii where all human remains were to be delivered during the entire war.

Noteworthy was the way that ceremony was to change over the years. It wasn’t too many years and the body count would go up to the point that, not only was there no ceremony or pallbearers or flags, but the human remains were loaded on pallets and raised up into C-124 on an elevator. In 1965, I changed to the C-141 jet cargo airplane. I would continue these missions for a total of 10 years, taking a break from 1968/69 when I got orders to fly C-121R recon aircraft out of Korat Royal Thai AFB, Thailand, flying missions over Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. After this tour, I was assigned to McGuire AFB, NJ flying C-141s again, but going to Vietnam by way of Alaska. There were a lot of Air evac, cargo, and troop missions, also. I ended my 20-year Air Force career flying my final mission to Saigon in April 1975, helping with evacuations as the base was being overrun. But that is another story…

 

Socks of the Brave

socks of the brave

Socks of the Brave

Contributed by Kris Baydalla-Galasso

When you see the words “Made in the USA,” the co-founders of Socks of the Brave want you to not only think of superior American-made quality, they want you to think of remember the service men and women who sacrifice their personal lives to protect this great country.

Socks have become increasingly more bold, funky and colorful; department stores sporting racks of “fun and fashionable” foot coverings and minimal packages of the standard black and white tube socks of yesteryear. Socks of the Brave capitalized on the change in footwear fashion and combined a love of spirited sock with a pay-it-forward mentality to help our troops. To kick off their sock company, Socks for the Brave sent 150 pairs of their USA-manufactured socks to the Ironhorse Brigade from Fort Hood, TX, a unit preparing for a nine month deployment.

Why socks? Deployed servicemembers spend more hours in their boots than many civilians can even imagine. Have you ever had an uncomfortable sock wedged in your shoe? Now imagine walking on that uncomfortable sock for 18 straight hours. Or possibly even sleeping with that sock! Socks of the Brave makes sure that this often overlooked necessity is of the highest quality.

The Socks of the Brave sales model allows a sock donation for every pair that is purchased. The “buy one-give one” model sends the socks to active military across the globe through third-party charitable groups.

In addition to being American designed and manufactured (by a company in North Carolina), Socks of the Brave works to keep their fixed costs down with “no frills” packaging. As per their website, “with each penny saved, Socks of the Brave is able to spend more on our US Military.”

The Socks of the Brave are currently available in five different camouflage print styles. From ankle socks to knee socks, there are styles available for all feet – both men and women! Right now, the focus is on the camo print design, but they are taking suggestions for future styles and prints and plan to roll out more as popularity increases.

If you should find yourself in need of some new socks, go shopping at https://www.socksofthebrave.com/ and buy some socks for yourself – and a soldier!  

Army Veteran Craig Morgan to Perform at BaseFest

BaseFEST (powered by USAA) kicks off another year of concerts on military bases on Saturday, May 12, at Fort Bliss, TX. Army veteran and country star Craig Morgan will be appearing with Dustin Lynch, Lindsay Ell, Carlton Zeus and Ha Ha Tonka.

BaseFEST features a rotating roster of talent. Future shows will be at Naval Station Mayport, FL (June 2nd), Camp Lejeune, NC (July 4th) and Twentynine Palms, CA (September 22nd). Check the BaseFEST website for exact lineups.

Craig Morgan’s music career took off in the early 2000s and he had a #1 hit in 2005 with “That’s What I Love About Sunday.” His family just launched a TV show called “Morgan Family Strong” on the UP! network. Craig talked with us about his military service, his work with the USO, music and the family TV show.

How did you get involved with BASFEST and what do you have planned for the show at Fort Bliss?

I was invited.  When we come to these shows, we do the same show no matter where we go, for the most part.

When we play on a military installation or near one, I feel like I have an advantage over most entertainers.  It’s a little easier for me because I understand the military language better than most, having served for so long.

Tell us about your military career.

I had almost 11 years of active duty and almost 7 years of active reserve time after that before I walked away because my music was doing so well.  I loved it.  I was a 13 Fox Fire Support Specialist, finished with the rank of staff sergeant promotable to E7.  I had the great opportunity to be with the 82nd, the 101st, Ranger Regiment.  I did a lot of stuff as a fire support guy.

Guessing from the ages of your kids, you started a family while you were still active duty military.

Oh, yeah.  My two oldest children remember the military as much as they remember the music.

Your wife’s had two of the toughest spouse jobs I could think of, being married to an active duty military person and being married to a touring musician.

I think she enjoyed being married to a soldier more than she enjoys being married to a singer.  I say that kind of half-jokingly but half-seriously. We loved our tenure in the military.  The friends that we had then, we still have today.  It was a very important part of our life. Three of our children were born while I was in the service, so it was a big part of our life.

Craig Morgan and Jon Stewart visit sailors aboard the USS Carney (DDG 64) forward deployed at Rota Naval Station, Spain.

You just got back from a whirlwind around-the-world USO Spring Tour with Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Paul Selva, NBA star Rip Hamilton, Jon Stewart, chef Robert Irvine and UFC fighters Max Holloway and Paige VanZant. That trip sounds intense. 

That Vice Chairman around the world tour is one of the more demanding USO shows that we do just because of the time restraints.  We’re limited in the areas that we go in.  Some days we do two shows in one day in two different areas, so there’s a lot of flying, a lot of traveling, but it’s also some of the most rewarding that we do.

Your music career took off in the years after 9/11. You were coming in with a different perspective on the state of the world than a lot of people in Nashville.  Did you think about performing as a way of continuing your service?

Well, I was still in the active reserves.  Unfortunately, the unit that I was assigned to did not deploy, as much as I wanted it to.  They did deploy here in the states.  We didn’t get to go overseas, so I was a little disappointed.

I definitely had a different perspective than people in my music business.  I was watching the news every day, talking to friends. I was still in the reserves, so I still had means of communication with people that the average citizen doesn’t.

You’ve got a new reality show “Morgan Family Strong” on the UP! network. So many of those shows are all about nastiness and manufactured conflict. It feels like you’re trying to do something that’s an alternative and, in a way, it feels closer to peoples’ real lives.

I have a great family who deals with a lot of the same stuff that every other family in the world deals with, regardless of their occupation. In my family, we don’t create drama. There’s enough bad stuff going on in the world. This show really just highlights our life. It’s really about us trying to run this business with me being who I am.  That’s the funny part.

Was it hard to open up your life to TV cameras?

Not for me.  It’s more difficult for my wife sometimes.  She’s a lot more protective than I am.  I’m kind of an open book, I don’t really care.  As long as it doesn’t hurt my family, I don’t really think about it or care about it too much.  I don’t care what people think about me.  I say I don’t.  I care to the degree that I can affect that.  Outside of what I can affect, though, if I can’t change their mind, I can’t change their mind.  You know if they think one thing, that’s the great thing about this nation.  So outside of that, I don’t really care.

Things have really changed in Nashville over the past decade or so. The city’s grown and there seem to be a lot of music business folks who’ve moved there from New York or LA. Have you felt any change in dealing with the business?

That may be your understatement of the interview.  I will say that the change is not due to the influx of people from New York and LA.  The reason people are moving to Nashville from New York and LA is because they no longer want to live in that type of an environment.  The political stature there is just terrible.  That’s why the people are moving here, because they like the freedom, they like the comfort, the kindness.  It’s a lot different in this part of the world.  That’s why they move here.

Their influx has not impacted the business.  What’s impacted the business is social media.  That’s what’s changing the business.  In fact, it’s changing the way record labels operate, managers, everything.  It’s really turned it on its head and I think we’re going to see even greater changes in the next three years.  The business as we know it will be non-existent.

You seem to have a knack for those changes in a way that a lot of your contemporaries don’t. It’s tough sometimes to watch people who just want to sing and write songs try to deal with all this other stuff. 

I don’t know that I have any better handle on it than anybody else.  I just try to go with the flow.  The one thing that I find most important is that, still even today, and maybe even more so today, it’s about the song, it’s about the music.  As long as you’re singing and writing and producing great music, you’re gonna have some success.  It’s just that simple.

People are having success regardless of record label, regardless of management, booking.  There are guys who are having success without any of those things.  That gives me great joy because it just clarifies that it’s about the music.

Back to BASEFEST. Have you played on Fort Bliss before or spent time in southwest Texas?

I’ve been to Fort Bliss a few times.  I don’t know that we’ve performed there.  For some reason I feel like we have, but I’ve been to Fort Bliss, for sure.

We’ll be playing the usual set. Sometimes we may do a few things a little different, depending on the crowd. We let the crowd dictate our show. They’re the ones that pay the money and spend the time and effort to just come see us, so we want to do what they want us to do.  And usually it’s about the hits, quite honestly.

Air Force Expansion!

Air Force Looking to Expand by More Than 70 New Squadrons

 

Air Force Looking to Expand by More Than 70 New Squadrons

Contributed by Debbie Gregory

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said the service needs 386 squadrons to maintain current operations and to train and prepare for growing future threats.

“To face the world as it is, with a rapidly innovating adversary, the Air Force we need should have about 25 percent more operational squadrons in the 2025 to 2030 time frame than the Air Force we have,” she said.

To meet that goal, the service branch is looking to add 70 squadrons, as follows:

1 more airlift squadron

2 remotely piloted aircraft squadrons

5 additional bomber squadrons

7 more fighter squadrons

7 additional space squadrons

7 special operations squadrons

9 nine combat search-and-rescue squadrons

14 more tanker squadrons

22 squadrons that conduct command and control, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance

“The Air Force is more ready for major combat operations today than we were two years ago,” Wilson said. “We’re moving the whole force to higher levels of readiness with actions that will play out over several years, but there are also steps that are making a difference right now.”

Wilson cited growing threats from Russia and China, countries that have made great strides in electronic warfare.   

“While the Air Force is driving forward, restoring the readiness and lethality of the force, buying things faster and smarter and strengthening our space forces — in the end, the most important thing we have is people. And the ideas our airmen have to make things better,” Wilson said.

“We aren’t naive about how long it will take us to build the support and budget required for the force we need. It is a choice,” said Wilson.

Wilson is the 24th Secretary of the Air Force and is responsible for the affairs of the Department of the Air Force, including the organizing, training and equipping and providing for the welfare of 670,000 active-duty, Guard, Reserve, and civilian forces as well as their families.

Audit Reveals VA Paid $101 Million in Double Billings to Medical Contractors

Audit Reveals VA Paid $101 Million in Double Billings to Medical Contractors

Audit Reveals VA Paid $101 Million in Double Billings to Medical Contractors

Contributed by Debbie Gregory

Two companies are under investigation for over-billing the United States government by tens of millions of dollars for private medical care provided through the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Choice program.

The Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General (OIG) released an audit on September 6th that revealed between March 2016 and March 2017, 142,493 duplicate payments were made to Health Net Federal Services and 111,148 to TriWest Healthcare Alliance Corp.

The inspector general reported to Congress that the two companies have collected at least $101 million more than what they were supposed to, and that figure may rise as the audit is not expected to be complete until the end of the year.

The errors consisted of  billing the VA more than once for medical services, billing the VA for medical services already covered by private health insurance, billing the VA for more money than what the companies paid medical providers for their services, and charging medical providers different rates than what were set by Medicare or contracts.

Health Net and TriWest have overseen the VA Choice program since it was launched in 2014 to help alleviate tremendous strain on the VA. The two companies were given only 90 days to set up the program, and it has been plagued by numerous problems from the start.

“This was a senseless waste of resources that could have been better spent on veterans’ health care,” Republican Rep. Phil Roe, chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, wrote to VA Secretary David Shulkin.

CEO and President of Triwest David McIntyre responded saying the system has improved remarkably in the last 18 months and the overpayments were due to “mechanical errors on both sides.”

Both TriWest and Health Net’s current contracts with the VA were also extended through September 30, 2018 because the agency “has no other immediate options available to perform the functions of current contracts.”