Trump Talks Veteran Care with Hospital Leaders

va health

By Debbie Gregory.

Last month, President-elect Donald Trump convened a meeting to explore additional ways to enable veterans to obtain private medical treatment

Trump met with a group of private-sector health care executives, including Mayo Clinic chief executive John Noseworthy and Cleveland Clinic CEO Toby Cosgrove to discuss overhauling health care for veterans, including by allowing them to more readily visit hospitals outside the Veterans Affairs system.

The group weighed public-private partnerships and other options that would make it possible for veterans to go to any hospital for care, inside the VA system or outside of it, a senior transition official said after the meeting. Some veterans advocacy groups have cautioned against expanding access to care outside the government-run hospitals under the Veterans Health Administration, fearing the system may be weakened by privatization.

The VA system spends about $70 billion a year on medical care, offering a potential windfall to private hospitals if more veterans are allowed into their beds.

Other present included Paul Rothman, CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine and David Torchiana, CEO of Partners HealthCare.

The hospital executives left the meeting without speaking to reporters.

Currently, the VA does farm out medical treatment to the private sector for veterans who have been waiting too long for appointments in the government-run system, and for those who have to travel significant distances to VA hospitals and clinics.

But some Republicans have pushed for a completely open system, commonly known as choice, while Democrats have said the move would effectively amount to privatizing a system that was designed to focus on the unique needs of military veterans.

Trump has met with or considered about a dozen candidates to run the Department of Veterans Affairs, but finding the right person for the job, and someone who actually wants it, remains one of Trump’s biggest challenges.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Senators Push for Sanctions Against Russia


By Debbie Gregory.

Legislation with bipartisan support that would increase sanctions against Russia for its alleged interference in November’s U.S. presidential election was introduced in the Senate.

Among the bill’s chief and co-sponsors are Senators Ben Cardin, John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio.

The legislation – called the “Countering Russian Hostilities Act of 2017 – is designed to show that key Republicans are intent on punishing Russia despite Trump’s desire to strengthen bilateral ties.

The measure was introduced four days after the U.S. intelligence community released a declassified version of a report accusing Russia of meddling in the election.

The new sanctions would impose visa bans and freeze the assets of “those who undermine the cybersecurity of public or private infrastructure and democratic institutions,” according to a summary of the legislation. It would also impose sanctions on transactions with the Russian defense and intelligence sectors, potentially making it harder for banks to do business with the Russian military and spy agencies.

The measure would authorize $100 million for the State Department and other U.S. agencies to counter Russian propaganda.

If the bill becomes law, the Trump administration would not be required to implement the sanctions. Senator Cardin said a waiver probably would be included in the bill to allow the president to waive the sanctions if it is in the best interests of the U.S.

“There’s separation of branches of government that you have to respect,” Cardin said. “We are not the enforcing arm. We set the policy, but the president has the responsibility to carry out the laws that we’ve passed. There’s ways that we can provide for accountability, but we don’t impose sanctions. It’s done by the administration.”

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Deaths in Iraq May Have Links to Ft. Lauderdale Airport Shootings


By Debbie Gregory.

Could a sense of loss and grief have been at the root of the recent airport shooting in Ft. Lauderdale?

On Jan. 2, 2011, Jose Cintron Rosado and Jose Delgado Arroyo,  members of the Puerto Rican Army National Guard, were in a lead vehicle near Taji, Iraq, that was locating and disarming roadside bombs.

The two were best friends, as well as father figures to the younger soldiers who were members of the 1013th Engineering Company, 103rd Battalion, out of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico.

When Rosado and Arroyo were killed in a roadside blast, their deaths hit the tight-knit unit hard.

Among those in the unit was Esteban Santiago, who has been charged with killing five people during the shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

The shooting came almost six years to the day after their deaths.

Santiago, who was born in New Jersey but raised in Peñuelas, Puerto Rico, flew to South Florida on a one-way ticket from Alaska.

Investigators have been trying to piece together the path that led the 26-year-old former National Guardsman to Fort Lauderdale.

For Bryan Santiago, his brother’s military service led to serious mental-health problems that coincided with his return from the war.

“You could just sense that he’d changed,” said Santiago, who still lives in Peñuelas.

He added that he didn’t know whether his brother knew Rosado or Arroyo, but he said his sibling, who was once “calm and humorous” suddenly becoming bitter and withdrawn.

Esteban Santiago’s tour ended in April 2011, and he remained in the National Guard Reserves until February 2014.

Santiago then moved to Alaska and joined the Alaskan National Guard.

Bryan Santiago said the last time he talked to his brother was on Christmas Day. He gave no indication he would snap 12 days later.

“We were just wishing each other Merry Christmas,” his brother said. “He was completely normal, but people with mental problems can seem completely normal, too.”

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Bill Allowing Mattis to Become Defense Secretary Approved by Congress


By Debbie Gregory.

Sometimes it takes an act of Congress. And that is exactly how the House and Senate paved the wave to permit retired Marine Gen. James Mattis to head the Pentagon for Donald Trump.

The measure overrides a prohibition against former U.S. service members who have been out of uniform for less than seven years from holding the top job at the Defense Department. Mattis retired from military service in 2013.

The vote was 268-151. Only 36 Democrats supported the bill after Trump’s transition team blocked Mattis from testifying before the House Armed Services Committee Thursday, despite the retired four-star general sailing through his Senate confirmation hearing earlier in the day.

The House vote came one day after the Senate easily passed the waiver, 81-17.

Mattis in line to be part of the first batch of President-elect Donald Trump’s picks to be confirmed by the Senate as early as Inauguration Day.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Friday that Obama would sign the bill, if it’s sent to him before he leaves office next Friday.

Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) acknowledged “legitimate complaints” with the process and wording of the waiver, including the omission of Mattis by name.  But Thornberry argued lawmakers should push ahead with the waiver to ensure there’s no gap in Pentagon leadership when Trump takes office.

Mattis is a graduate of the U.S. Marine Corps Amphibious Warfare School, U.S. Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and the National War College. His awards include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star (with Valor) and the Meritorious Service Medal.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Trump Taps Shulkin for VA Secretary


By Debbie Gregory.

President-elect Donald Trump has announced his intention to nominate David Shulkin as his secretary of veterans affairs.

Shulkin currently serves as the undersecretary for health at the VA. The new position requires Senate confirmation.

Shulkin is a board-certified internist. He served as the President and Chief Executive Officer of Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City. He also served as President of Morristown Medical Center and the Atlantic Accountable Care Organization.

He has been Chief Medical Officer of the University of Pennsylvania Health System, the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Temple University Hospital, and the Medical College of Pennsylvania Hospital.

His other academic positions have included Chairman of Medicine and Vice Dean at Drexel University College of Medicine, and Professor of Medicine at Albert Einstein School of Medicine. Shulkin has been the editor of Journal of Clinical Outcomes Management and Hospital Physician, and has been on the editorial boards of several journals, including Journal of the American Medical Association.

Dr. Shulkin founded and served as the Chairman and CEO of DoctorQuality, Inc a consumer-oriented information service.

In a departure from the norm, Dr. Shulkin is not a veteran, breaking the pattern that the VA has previously established, having a veteran at the helm.

“I have no doubt Dr. Shulkin will be able to lead the turnaround our Department of Veterans Affairs needs,” Trump said in a statement following the announcement. “Dr. Shulkin has the experience and the vision to ensure we will meet the healthcare needs of every veteran.”

Trump considered a series of possible VA secretaries before deciding on Shulkin

“The first responsibility that we have to our veterans is to make sure those that need urgent care are getting care on time,” Shulkin said.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.


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