June 4, 2011
Eric Shinseki, Secretary Veterans Affairs
Dear Mr. Secretary:
When the Compensated Work Therapy (CWT) and Incentive Therapy (IT) programs were created Congress had three goals in mind.
1. They were creating a means for Veterans to be compensated after a history of VA hospitals using Veterans to do jobs without paying them.
2. To make a way so Veterans could augment their incomes without having the income being deducted from their Social Security Disability or their Non-Service Connected Disability payments as taxable income. Non taxable and Non reportable income was a # 1 priority to the US Congress.
3. It was made explicit in Title 38 legislation that these positions would be held for an “indefinite” period of time and that receiving SSI or NSD "SHALL NOT" be used to disqualify or bar a Veteran from participating in these program.
Three years ago Bill O’Brien, the then Chief of Mental Health Care Line (MHCL) initiated a time limit to these programs. Veterans who had been working in the IT programs making $1.50 per hour for over 10 years were summarily dismissed. This resulted in the substance abuse relapse of tens of Veterans. No longer having a job commitment or “somewhere to go” some Veterans were seen walking the streets intoxicated again after having been clean for over ten years. Dr. O’Brien also time limited CWT positions which paid $7.00 per hour to eight hour days and one year a maximum. When I complained about this he retaliated by shortening the time to six months. After writing Guy Richardson several letters requesting these wages be increased for over two years and Mr. Richardson replying with all sorts of obfuscations as to why he could not increase these fees he finally relented and increased IT to $2.10 per hour and CWT to $7.70 per hour. Though he wrote me that this change was effective January 1, 2010 he did not began paying the higher rate until he was alerted that you were coming to celebrate the opening of the New Homeless building. Mr. Richardson rushed to make these payments retroactive, ahead of your visit, in an effort to deceive you into believing he had been paying this higher rate all along. Now, these positions have been shortened further to four hour days/for six months. This staff has have continually looked for ways to lessen Veterans benefits by claiming there was no money in the budget while at the same time rewarding each other with ample bonus’ annually. A extra side benefit is that they do not have much work to do. I wonder who “exactly” that benefits?
If Congress initially developed these programs as a way for Veterans to increase their income by explicitly making the income non-reportable and non-taxable then it is diametrically opposed to the wishes of Congress for the Dayton VA to minimize or make these programs ineffective. They do not have that authority nor, under our laws, do they have these rights. It’s against the law!
Dayton VA saw over 34,000 Veterans in 2010, if only FIVE PERCENT 5% of these Veterans, which is an extremely low figure, are on SSI or Non-Service Connected Disability that would be 1700 Veterans who are eligible for IT and/or CWT programs. The Dayton VA currently has twelve, that’s right 12 CWT positions for Veterans to make extra income. The last I heard IT positions were being assigned for three (3) week maximums. The staff within the Veterans Industry Department (VI) constantly works overtime to create new policies which all result in the same outcome: Eliminating Veterans from participating in these programs. The latest scam now is “it is mandatory that the Veteran complete a Job Club class” which is stretched out forever with the promise that the Veterans will receive a job after completion. Their hope is that the Veteran will miss a class or two which eliminates the Veteran from qualifying for a job. Then they can say “You don’t really want a job, you’re a con man”. They methodically set up failure then fault the Veteran for failing. They are always disingenuous, always deceitful and always searching for ways to justify denying the Veteran these benefits. Denial of benefits by deception is no less an offense of plain denial! The last treatment team I attended the entire team feigned shock that I was unable to secure employment outside of the center. They acted oblivious to the recession and the current unemployment rates the United States is experiencing. They “couldn’t understand” and “I must not be trying to find a job because I‘m a con man”. In their minds everybody is a con man or con woman, except them of course. The fact that 15 million Americans are unemployed is insignificant and they project that it is only Honorably Discharged Veterans who are having difficulties finding work. This spurious logic lacks any meaning that would give purpose to life. It is initially eye-catching rationality on it’s face but a closer look reveals it is specious, unreasoned and absurd!
When I bring these violations to the attention of those in positions of authority at the center, instead of correcting these violations, they get angry at me that I have deciphered their calculated strategy. In return. I get ridiculed, ostracized and labeled a troublemaker. It doesn’t make any difference “how” I bring this to their attention. Over the years I have been gentle, soft-spoken and humble and I got metaphorically slapped in the face with serial disrespect. Now I am firm and resolute and I get retaliations and retribution by the denial of full time employment.
Who authorized these people to override what Congress has enacted and violate our laws? Where do they get authority to arbitrarily change these rules? They “make up stuff” that results in denying Veteran benefits without rhyme or reason based upon a whim of nothing more than their imaginations. Nobody obeys Title 38 legislation. Some have been employed here for over 30 years and have never heard of Title 38 legislation. Not only don’t they know what Title 38 is, they pompously tell me they don’t need to know what Title 38 is or says because “I am in charge“!
REALLY? What’s next? Seeing Russia from their front porches, maybe?
They hire and promote each other with complete disregard to our Federal laws and EEO regulations. How can they follow the rules when they don’t even know them and if they don’t even know what the rules are, how and why are they in positions of authority to distribute OUR benefits? Their logic makes me lightheaded and is an insult to a sagacious operation, Sir!
This is an express contravention of why Congress created the VA and these therapeutic programs!
My only desire is that Veterans be given what belongs to Veterans. Sir, this must be stopped!
My Very Best Regards,