Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) is a great organization for Vets, but what in the world is their executive director, my friend, Paul Rieckhoff talking about?

“I would also argue the VA does a pretty crappy job of outreach. They’re not really using social media. They’re not really active on places like Facebook. So they’re not going to where the Vets are. It’s kind of an old bricks and mortar system.”

Certainly many of IAVA’s criticisms of the Department are merited and constructive. And I’m not interested in a petty argument over numbers here. But facts are facts—and Paul knows them. What he said to The Huffington Post last week about VA’s outreach efforts simply isn’t true.

In reality, over the past year, VA has made a serious investment to methodically reach Veterans where they are online. Looking at the numbers, we see that while IAVA has a single Facebook page with over 205,000 fans, VA has 87 Facebook pages—with a combined subscribership of nearly 220,000 fans. VA’s main Facebook page alone has over 100,000 subscribers—making it one of the largest in the federal government.

With respect to Twitter, IAVA has three feeds with a combined followership of just over 7,000. On the other hand, VA has 51 Twitter feeds with a combined followership of nearly 35,000—almost five times the following of IAVA. Likewise, when comparing main Twitter feeds, IAVA’s followers number fewer than 5,200. VA’s number more than 14,000.

Of course, this is about more than just numbers for us. It’s about having the ability to actually make Veterans’ lives better by getting them the right information at exactly the right time. It’s little things like the announcement of a weather-related closure that can make a big difference for a Veteran who has to travel. And it’s big things like being able to tell an emotionally distressed Vet where to go for help that can make a difference in a life. And that’s how we’re attempting to use Facebook and Twitter.

But those two platforms aren’t all we use. We’ve also given Veterans and their families a place to proactively contribute: On Veterans Day 2010, VA launched a new blog called VAntage Point (which you’re reading now). Since that time, the site has received thousands of comments from Veterans, their family members, and VA employees—and we’ve published dozens of guest pieces from them as well. In fact, we’ve published several pieces written by IAVA members themselves. (Though we’d love to hear more from the organization.)

IAVA does an outstanding job reaching out on its Facebook page and that’s a great thing for Veterans. But I would hardly say that our government Facebook page with over 100,000 fans constitutes “not really using social media.” As for Twitter, I just can’t fathom what Paul is talking about.

The thing is, Paul knows this. So I’m not sure if he just misspoke or got caught up in the interview. Either way, it would be nice if he’d correct it. VA has come a long way recently in reaching Veterans and it’s because we’re trying more than ever before—including reaching out to organizations like IAVA. And it doesn’t help Veterans when they’re discouraged from learning about the Department’s services by a prominent leader of a Veterans organization for whatever reason. We’re all on the same team here and we all want Veterans to be as informed as possible. And that’s why you’re reading this on a blog—and not on a piece of paper you received in the mail.

Connect with VA: Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | Flickr | Blog

Share this story

Published on Mar. 20, 2011

Estimated reading time is 3.1 min.

Views to date: 384


  1. atv February 23, 2012 at 11:36 am

    Thanks a lot for sharing this with all people you really know what you’re speaking about! Bookmarked. Please additionally discuss with my site =). We could have a link exchange arrangement between us

  2. Astoplepene February 20, 2012 at 12:14 pm

    Dundrum Shopping Centre, stay at the Stillorgan Park Hotel.S in Singapore is literally S for sale and youmight be open to suggestions. Digital is better for sports, whilst an analogue watch tends to look morekitchen area once you are taking in making sure that you and your loved ones can take pleasure in a superb meal below a harmoniousThe eye-catching styles take the traditional watch in a new fashion-conscious direction. Karen Millen haveinformal outing with friends or a date to an outdoor cafe. Go semi-formal with the Signature Colourblock [url=]karen millen outlet[/url] stores like Safeway, SUperdrug, NPO and TylersThis is a brief overview of shopping in Belfast and I hope itSuites Dublin Stephen’s Hall, the Grafton Capital Hotel, the Westbury Hotel, Brooks Hotel, Drury Court Hotelthen choose Dublin hotels like Buswells Hotel, the Central Hotel, O Callaghan Mont Clare Hotel, Premierexistence for nearly sixty years and it is actually testimony to the company’s eye for fashion that they continue totranquil environment.three. Orange flowers: African daisyWhat’s your sensation whenever you see orange flowers? Joyful?

  3. How to keep fit February 20, 2012 at 11:49 am

    Great website…

    […]we like to honor many other internet sites on the web, even if they aren’t linked to us, by linking to them. Under are some webpages worth checking out[…]……

  4. Best Movers July 17, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    Was very surprised to see the VA go on the attack against IAVA…
    Seems illogical to me. Sorry!

  5. perak bali June 27, 2011 at 12:06 pm

    Nice job, it’s a great post. The info is good to know! perak bali

  6. Stephen Buckley April 4, 2011 at 6:30 pm


    Let’s go back to your original blog-post here: Is the VA (i.e., Office of New Media) doing “a crappy job” in engaging the people it is trying to help?

    Before encouraging more use of Facebook by various parts of the VA, there needs to be “measuring-sticks” adopted so that everyone knows how the VA is judging the success of its efforts in public engagement.

    If the VA wants to use Facebook “friends” as one of metrics for judging success, then fine, put it in your official VA “Open Government Plan” where it is supposed to be, according to official VA policy.

    On March 23rd, I posted the details about the VA’s internal requirements on measuring its progress in a reply-comment to Paul Rieckhoff’s follow-up “guest blog” here on the VA website. However, I see nothing indicating that it caught the notice of anyone in the Office of New Media.

    Unless the Office of New Media has special authority to operate *outside* of the VA’s “Open Government Plan”, I suggest you acquaint yourself with it (and its requirement for official metrics) by reading my reply-comment (scroll to #2) here:

    Simply using social media to discuss the accuracy of anecdotal information (i.e., individual stories) does nothing to provide the broad evidence, using VA-adopted metrics, that would show whether things are getting better or not.

  7. Brooklyn March 31, 2011 at 12:22 pm

    Here is one way in which the VA does not outreach to their veterans. A veteran student over here just got a huge chunk of money removed from her check for money that she “supposedly” owes, but in fact does not.

    Total number of communications sent by the VA before they took money out of her rent money? That would be zero.

    Total amount the VA seems to care? Also zero.

    You want to talk a good game about the vets you’re taking care of, but it doesn’t look like it from here.

    And in case you’re wondering, the GI Bill helpline? Zero help.

    You want veterans to trust you. What are you going to do for them to make that happen?

    • Alex Horton March 31, 2011 at 12:53 pm

      Did she call the Debt Management Center? If not we can look into it. Have her send her full name, last four and school name to and I’ll see what I can do.

  8. Joshua M. Patton March 30, 2011 at 7:30 am

    Also, the IAVA created an entire social network specifically for vets. So yeah VA, your 87 useless facebook pages are great.

  9. Jim Strickland March 28, 2011 at 9:57 am

    Alex seems to want to ignore the obvious.

    (1) The VA employee, in response to Torrey’s piece, acting on information from a contractor paid to watch for these (Mackenzie Bradley of CustomScoop) things emailed his VA colleagues to say: “Heads-up about chatter in the blogosphere about benefits. The author, Torrey Shannon, is the wife of a wounded Veteran.”

    (2) He then said to those VA employees, “You may want to respond on the Huffington Post site where this was posted”.

    I did not make this up, it isn’t a fantasy. These are quotes from the email. I was forwarded this email from a senior VA employee who was embarrassed by it all and wanted the practice exposed.

    I did not publish the name of the man who wrote the email out of respect for his privacy. I do have the complete email with all headers intact. I offered that name to Alex so that he could contact that person himself and I’ve had no response.

    The intel I’ve offered reasonably shows proof that VA has hired a company, to monitor the Internet for anything negative about VA that may show on social media sites. I’ve visited the site and they pride themselves in digging for dirt that companies hire them to dig for.

    Fact: VA has hired a company to monitor what you say about VA. If necessary, I’ll FOIA the contract and all associated emails.

    The phrasing of the VA employee’s message is not a mystery. To try to spin this into anything other than what it reads as is purely propaganda of the finest kind. If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck and walks like a duck…it ain’t likely to be a zebra.

    This isn’t difficult. The VA employee’s message is not hard to interpret.

    The next day there was the headline: “U.S. Military Launches Spy Operation Using Fake Online Identities” and again there were facts presented.

    I don’t know if the comment to Torrey’s article was planted or if it was real. I don’t care that much. I do know that VA as well as DoD are using subterfuge and dark operations to monitor and to sway opinion.

    That isn’t paranoia, it’s using common sense. VA paternalism is a thing VA believes is its right. VA would always tell you what was good for you if we allowed it. Overall, VA has blown the opportunity for veterans to trust the system way too many times. I recall that email I received in 2008 from the VA employee who told me that VA managers sanctioned the wholesale shredding of veterans documents. The response from VA began with, “That didn’t happen…”.

    Sound familiar?

    • Alex Horton March 28, 2011 at 11:56 am

      Hey Jim,

      When you say, “I don’t know if the comment to Torrey’s article was planted or if it was real. I don’t care that much,” I don’t understand your point here. I thought the whole point of this damning story was that a VA employee has been planting comments on blog posts, which if true, would be big news indeed.

      I wish I could count how many times I’ve asked VA employees to comment on blog posts here, to no avail, or how many times I have been ignored when seeking comment about something I’m working on. It must be in the dozens. That looks like the case here. Another instance of VA not following up on something. To say we’re efficient at something only when it fits your argument is notable.

      I would doubt if there was a federal organization that doesn’t utilize something like CustomScoop. It gives situational awareness to what is being said out there. We do the same thing here, but it’s an internal task. It gives us the ability to inform the Secretary about news and concerns. That is something you guys want, right? For the Secretary to actually know about things that happen with VA, good and bad? It’s not a tool designed to be used in an information war. I imagine it was done before the internet when there were just wire reports and newspaper clips.

      Until you pull out something that directs VA employees to misrepresent themselves online, then your case is weak. The wording there is inconclusive to me. I mean, there would have to be two modes of response, right? One to respond officially and another to misrepresent themselves as a veteran? Wouldn’t a communications professional want to clarify which response to make? Am I missing this part somewhere? I suppose I’m imagining an operation that is more complex than having communication staff trained in the art of mind reading so they may understand and execute orders of subversion based on a single vaguely written sentence.

      Not to mention it’s one administration, VHA, recommending a response to another administration, VBA. They have no authority to make anything happen over there. What is the chain of command of this secret info war? And finally, VA is not DOD. We are so bad at sharing common practices, EXCEPT information sabotage? At least something here works!

      I’ve read all the material you offered, that’s why I didn’t ask for it. I know the names. If you feel like you have more, feel free to forward to

      Come on, Jim. This is all smoke and no fire. There’s plenty out there you can knock VA on without resorting to conspiracy theories. I feel like we’re talking in circles though, and I won’t be able to budge you, and you won’t be able to convince me of anything without a smoking gun. What I’ve seen, both internally and from you and Torrey, is decidedly not that.

      • Torrey Shannon March 28, 2011 at 5:21 pm

        My reply was dumped under another thread instead of right here. I’ll repost for continuity and clarity as follows:

        Alex, in regard to your comment:

        “Given the context of the email, it simply looks like a request for comment, or notification to the author (you) that someone will look into the claims being made. The absence of an official reply means just that.”

        Exactly, Alex. That’s my point! It means just that…an absence of an official reply. Therein lies the problem.

        Wasn’t that the whole point of opening a social media dialogue? To openly and publicly acknowledge and address problems that veterans have with the VA, with a sincere desire by the VA to fix them?

        Wasn’t the social media initiative created so you can show the public that veteran care issues are being addressed? That we, the public, can bring the problems out in the open and expect a reasonable amount of care in having them addressed?

        So much for all these claims of how important veteran issues are for the VA.

        I don’t get into conspiracy theories. That’s my mother-in-law’s job. I address concerns about real issues. We have a real issue here! The VA just wishes no one knew about it. ;)

        I’d much rather see the money and manpower spent on social media salaries go to the claims backlog. People are LOSING THEIR HOMES and GOING INTO BANKRUPTCY while the VA pays people to spin or monitor their image so the “absence of official replies” are not noticed.

        Two VA employees in DC spent hours combing through both my websites the other day. I found it a bit comical that at 4:30pm they logged off because it was quittin’ time. I’ll give them credit for not accruing overtime to do it, but really…there are much better things to do than read about how my son captured a frog or what recipes I’ve used lately. And for the veteran topics of actual importance…I doubt they are looking into them.

        Again, an absence of an official reply is the reason why I believe the social media initiative is just a way to divert the public’s perception. Again.

        I am sure those two employees reading my blog and website could have been working on more important issues. They could have spent just five minutes of that time reading to step in and give me the courtesy of a reply or assurance that the issue is being looked into.

        But as the email evidence says, “Heads-up about chatter in the blogosphere about benefits. The author, Torrey Shannon, is the wife of a wounded Veteran.”

        If me bringing issues to the attention of the VA via public channels involve the VA paying companies or employees to monitor my every move, the VA has their priorities in the wrong place. For every negative story about the VA, they counter with three positive ones. Just look at the sidebar of THIS blog.

        I suggest they spend more time listening and taking real action and less time and money monitoring.

        Think about the logic. There is no dialogue between me and the VA, and that’s the VA’s decision. The VA and I could have a fabulous partnership in addressing the issues together, but that’s not actually happening is it?

        I’ve spent way too much of my time beating this dead horse. You have your job, I have mine. We just don’t see eye to eye on this.

        **Edited to add:

        I believe the difference between me and the VA when it comes to motivation is this: I am the only one out of all of us that doesn’t have a paycheck to motivate me. This is NOT a personal insult to you, Alex. I just question the priorities of paid employees who are wasting their day ignoring the problems over someone like me who only wants to see who makes it her mission to facilitate productive and meaningful changes for the betterment for veterans in need.

        • Alex Horton March 29, 2011 at 10:06 am

          Torrey, it’d be a lot easier to discuss this if the goalposts weren’t constantly being moved. Either we plant comments, or we don’t, or that’s the issue, or it’s not. We should be engaging Veterans online, or it’s a waste of time and money.

          Regardless, we see eye to eye on your (current) point of contention: VA is not good at engaging Veterans and their families online. That much is clear, and I’ve said it more than I can count.

          The new media office was established to get information to Veterans using platforms they were already using. I think addressing small individual problems has been a byproduct, not the intent. I can help direct people to resources or tell folks about things they didn’t know about, but I’m not a patient advocate. You may bring out issues in public by using the guest blog section. If you take the time to read them, there are several critical of VA. You are welcome to submit, and as long as it’s well argued and over 200 words, we’ll likely publish.

          Won’t get any argument from me about monitoring. I did the same thing as an additional duty, though I can’t speak about the workload of other offices.

          Don’t see how your remark at the end wasn’t a personal insult, but noted.

  10. Drew March 28, 2011 at 8:00 am

    More incredibly self-serving “information” by the VA that misses the real point–the claims backlog and how incredibly long VA takes to act on a claim. Let me be so bold as to suggest instead of promoting the VA presence on “X” number of social media sites and taking credit for how many Facebook pages VA has, that veterans would be better served if VA took those same assets and resources and applied them against the claims backlog. Increasing VA social media presence will not do any good for the veterans and their families if an unresponsive adminstrative bureaucracy is incapable of efficient claims processing. Focus on what’s truly important–the claims backlog is growing, folks–you better take effective action. If VA demonstrates it is incapable of solving the problem, then pehaps the Administration should transfer those VA functions to another gov’t entity that routinely is able to meet the demands of its clientele–the Social Security Administration. SSA handles many many clients than VA, does so faster in terms of claims, and is a smaller agency. Hmm…..

  11. Mark Strait March 25, 2011 at 9:05 am

    If the VA is serious about reaching out and helping veterans on social media it should make it easier for the individual Vet Centers to have their own FaceBook pages. Vet Centers are the best place in the VA system to reach out to combat veterans. The veterans that use the Vet Centers know each other personally and are more apt to trust enough to ask for help be it from other vets or from the counselors at their home Vet Center. Having a FaceBook page that is dedicated to each Vet Center would allow for input and communication on a grassroots level. This is not possible anywhere else in the VA system and should be used as a tool to truly communicate with the individual veterans one to another, Vet Center to veteran, veteran to Vet Center and so on. For many combat veterans the Vet Center is where they go to begin to communicate their needs to the larger VA system. Having a means to communicate on an individual basis, with a veteran you get to know is unique to the Vet Centers. Veterans that are afraid of and even dislike the VA can and do use the Vet Centers to help them get through the VA system. The one on one nature of the Vet Centers is a natural for FaceBook style social network communication. A set of guidelines established by the VA is all that is required. The page itself could easily be generated and maintained by the vets themselves. There are no doubt hidden benefits that would reveal themselves as these pages come online.The benefits of having a dedicated page for each Vet center in this writers opinion would be win for the VA and the Vet.
    Mark Strait
    Worcester Vet Center
    Worcester Ma.

    • Brenda Hayes March 26, 2011 at 1:15 am


      GOod suggestion. The VAMC’s have them!!

      Keep the good solutions coming in? MAYBE SOmeone in Leadership positions will see them and implement them. Would be nice if Leadership could let us know that it is on the list to consider and possibly when they will do it?

      Again, two way communication that WE WANT; not what the VA Public Relations Department want to GIVE us!!

      I keep pluggins here because I hope someone who is in VA LEADERSHIP and RESPONSIBLE will FINALLY “GET IT”!

      But, I’m just a naive “fallen away” Catholic “girl”…I want to believe so badly….but I’m from Missouri….proof is in the pudding; wish until the “Cows come Home”! etc. etc. etc.! Please Mr. WIzard….I need to believe in the VA…you mean.. there is no Wizard behind that curtain!!!

      Like I said…Putting an Omsbudman Program for Veterans and Family members might take me out of Missiouri…for awhile..

      Again, Mark; thanks,

      Brenda Hayes
      Vetwife Advocate

    • Brandon Friedman March 27, 2011 at 1:43 pm

      Mark, we’re looking into that now. Rather than pages, though, we might ask Vet Centers to launch Facebook groups–which could be closed to those who don’t use the particular Vet Center. It would be more private and, potentially, more useful.

  12. Walter Shockley March 25, 2011 at 8:48 am

    I’ve seen here a lot of good commits and suggestions. VA is doing a good job and some areas and bad in others; it is the others that need to be improved.

    Take a look at how well VA is educating the vets on the programs available, 300 vet centers, many clinics and VA hospitals. Why do the not have someone set in the lobbies of these on a daily basis?

    I’ve use My health VA since it came out, and yes it was bad and it has gotten much better and now serves to assist me, but my doctor tells me I’m one of a hand full that use it, why? Education?

    I understand the rating system has problems, I been waiting for 15 months like many others. Take a look at the discussion on your Facebook, many are looking for answers other than we are working on it. Tell us what working on it means; are you training more people, moving to computer programs that could speed up the the rating, like the one they are working on for hearing.

    All we ask in most cases is “keep us informed” not “we are working on it”, which is as good an answer as “do it because I say so or I’m the parent”.

    • Brenda Hayes March 26, 2011 at 12:59 am

      Right on Walter!!

      The VA keeps telling us —TIME OUT…Go Stand in that Corner…I’m working on it!!

      Paternalistic enough to take away rights of Veterans without due process. Check out VAWATCHTODAY org….stories about the Guardianships that were given to strangers and the VETS loss over $80,000 plus his home? We have NOT heard any explaination on THAT ISSUE!! How about VP do some work on some REAL QUESTIONS that Vets/Family members WANT TO KNOW!

      Transparency calls for specificity!!! What is the VA’s Action PLAN for each Problem??? I asked for a 3 year Plan that I read that the LRC’s were supposed to do and I’ve queried several and THEY HAVE NONE!!

      If you don’t have a plan and you don’t work a Plan; then you won’t get what you purport to have…a quality, accountable program for Vets/FM’s/Caregivers.


      How do we judge Quality? What is the conduit in place for receiving feedback from the “customers”.

      I am finding…that VA says they have a lot of Programs, services…but when you actually find out about them…don’t have it yet; not enough interest (DUH, where is your OUTREACH PLAN?); Quality of the services.

      Where are the programs and what are they for those Veterans who are not moderate to severe PTSD/TBI/neurobiological disorders, etc.

      THEY DON”T EXIST!! Wait till they need a nursing home, wait till they need day care; wait till they need home health. Sorry; there are quite a few things Vet/FM’s need at this early stage. God, It’s VA own Resarch that PTSD Vets will, more likely than not, experience dementia(s) and/or Alzheimers.

      OK…So where are the programs for this older groups…They are being pushed out and ignored for the 10 yr Vets; Yes, they are older and with the 50-100 toxins to which they have been exposed…they are living shortened lives!!

      I’m not happy about that…but I’m DAXNed well NOT happy that they have been ignored with this first stage part of the disorders/disease process!

      DUH, they can’t even get the Recovery Planning Action Plans (WRAP or whatever you want to call it). The LRC program…its over 3 YEARS!!

      But PX Commissary and Friends Visits are more important!! Ask me how I know!!

      The truth is the Truth. I say what I say…BECAUSE I want change…not only for My Veteran but for those VETERANS WHO HAVE NO VOICE FOR whatever reason.

      Several years ago; I came across a WW11 Vet (NAVY) and the VA was still ignoring his issue of mesotheioloma? He’s probably dead by now; and never acknowledged for that SC disability that is OBVIOUS!! I felt so badly that I could not help him and his wife; I’m sure she never got DIC or the Adult child who has a developmental diability!! So Sad; So Shameful!!

      TO LEADERSHIP OF THE VA….if you keep doing the same things and expect different results…It is called INSANITY!”

      Vetwife Advocate

  13. Jim Strickland March 25, 2011 at 5:13 am

    I am not a supporter of my federal government getting involved in “social media”. I see no need for the IRS, the SSA, the FBI, the Department of Veterans Affairs or any other agency to play word games on the Internet. I’d prefer that all employees are working on the important mission that isn’t being done very well, serving their only customers by processing claims efficiently.

    Having said that, I find it very interesting that the IAVA leadership would attack the VA efforts.

    VA manages to accomplish something positive every day. Not enough but something. To my knowledge, other than manipulating social media, repeating the words and copying the efforts of every other veterans organization in America, IAVA accomplishes nothing at all.

    IAVA takes no stance that isn’t already taken by VFW, DAV and the other Veterans Service Organizations. If any action occurs, IAVA is quick to take credit for itself without any acknowledgement of anyone else.

    In 05/12/2009 Larry Scott pointed out that, “Rieckhoff’s agenda has always been a divisive force in the veteran community.” That was in response to Rieckoff’s comment that “Unlike during the Vietnam War, today’s military is a professional, all-volunteer force.” That unnecessary slap at the character of Vietnam veterans earned Rieckoff criticism from established veterans organizations.

    This week IAVA is mass emailing us to beg for funding to “Storm The Hill” in an effort to lobby for jobs for veterans. That’s a nice gesture but isn’t every other VSO doing much the same thing? Is it any surprise to anyone that jobs for vets are in short supply? Beyond a social media blitz, what is IAVA actually doing about it?

    As Larry pointed out in that article above, “Even though Iraq and Afghanistan vets make up just 3% of the veteran population, and IAVA membership is just a few thousand of that 3%, IAVA became a loud voice.”

    “A loud voice” pretty much sums up what IAVA represents. They do not provide the services that other Veterans Service Organizations do…there are no Service Officers, no local chapters, no free rides to a VA hospital, not much of anything that one can put hands on and measure for the quality of their contribution to how veterans are making out these days.

    If any veteran needs help with a claim or guidance to a mental health program, he or she must turn to VFW, AL, MOPH, PVA, DAV, etc. to get it. IAVA has nothing for them but social media that touts how much they help vets.

    IAVA is all social media sizzle with no steak.

    Rieckhoff is quick to criticize others when it gets him some attention in the social media he knows so well. He’s done it again and the responses here show how successful he is at manipulating you to generate a response and get his name in print.

    Other than a high presence on Twitter and Facebook and directly mimicking what the more robust vets organizations accomplish, the IAVA is little more than a social media platform for its leader.

    Finally…the social media push by VA has taken an ugly turn.

    I’ve recently reported that I was offered emails from the social media arm of the VA that were clearly suggesting that VA employees on the extensive cc: address list were encouraged to use “sock puppet” subterfuge.

    VA staff were urged to post fake responses to an article on Huff-Post by my colleague and good friend Torrey Shannon. VA staff were to use false identities to post glowing reports of happy veterans to counter the negative stuff.

    Who saw all this in your VA?

    To: VBACO_BAS; VAVBAWAS/CO/VBASOCIALMEDIA Cc: VHA Hot Media; VHA 10B; VHA Web Communications Subject: FW: Blog post of note…”You may want to respond on the Huffington Post site where this was posted…”

    The next day it was reported elsewhere that the DoD was using exactly that technique in Social Media to shut out comments by dissenters. Read it all at Once you read that, can you believe any posting that puts VA in a good light?

    Was it a vet who posted it or a VA employee in disguise doing her job?

    While I believe that Alex and his coworkers at this blog are doing what they are allowed to do within strict confines of VA policy, I also know that any Public Affairs department has only one mission; They are tasked and paid well to make chicken salad out of chicken feathers.

    Social media is best left to those who enjoy it for keeping in touch with friends and family or to follow media rock stars like Justin Bieber or the IAVA chief.

    The VA has serious business to conduct. That business isn’t being accomplished on these pages, Facebook or Twitter. Beyond that, once it has been exposed that a goal in the social media effort is to manipulate that social media for the purposes of VA/DoD propaganda, the entire effort becomes suspect and is best ignored for what we now know it is.

    Jim Strickland

    • Alex Horton March 25, 2011 at 9:50 am

      Hey Jim,

      Copy all on the IAVA matter. A lot has been said on both sides and I think it can be put to bed now.

      We could get into a debate on utility of social media and the government, but I think Brandon covered it well. I can understand the importance of a VAMC Facebook page alerting Veterans about a snow closure, or localized programs like PTSD counseling sessions that a Veteran hadn’t considered until he or she read about it at home. And as a response tool for suicide prevention, social media has proven to be an effective life saver.

      Jim, you have come to expect straight talk from me, so I’ll give it to you here: to say that VA allows or encourages employees to pose as Veterans on social media sites is absurd. The Department doesn’t do that and won’t do that. If you have proof of anything to the contrary, we’d love to see it. For now, the user you accuse of being a sock puppet registered over a year ago and his favorite topic seems to be Sarah Palin. Arguing that this random Huffington Post commenter is actually a secret VA employee is nothing but a conspiracy theory based on pretty flimsy evidence at best.

      • Jim Strickland March 25, 2011 at 11:43 am

        Hey Alex, Nice to communicate with you again. I understand your disbelief. However, if you will read through the posting via that link, I think you’ll agree that the suggestion was clear that others on the list should reply in a “strategic” way favorable to VA. I was courteous and sensitive to my friends at VA and did not post the senders name or email address. I will share that with you via secure email if you care to look into it. I will also confirm that I discussed this with leaders who have investigated as they were not pleased at what the emails implied. As shocking as it may be to you personally because of your ethics and sense or responsibility, there are those who will do such things and I have the evidence that isn’t at all flimsy. Drop me a note and I’ll share details with you in private.



      • Torrey Shannon March 25, 2011 at 2:20 pm

        Alex, the only proof that exists is an internal email that states a reply is recommended in order to preserve their image.

        It’s what DOESN’T exist that speaks to the validity that this internal email is nothing but a directive to plant favorable comments in social media outlets.

        That’s the irony. The VA provides no proof that it’s not true.

        The email does not say “We need to look into this immediately” nor does it say “Please contact Torrey Shannon and offer your assistance in this problem.” Had they done any of that I’d see value or the weight of your argument.

        That email exchange addressed the image issue, not the problem that needed fixed.

        I see no official reply from any identifiable VA rep in the comments of that article. I also do not see one in my email box. Absent any verifiable or official response, it leaves the VA open to this kind of speculation.

        Here are more reasons why it’s so easy to believe, despite your claim that there is a lack of “proof” on our end:

        The only interactions I have had from the VA for the foreclosed family came in the form of an email asking what they missed in the Pentagon’s conference call. If they were truly concerned about this issue, they wouldn’t have been a “no-show” on a scheduled call with the Pentagon, wouldn’t you think?

        The next contact I had with the VA was indirect. I called THEM after they offered the family $1500 in cash if they waived their rights to the home. The cash offer was good if they agreed to leave by the end of the week. This Loan Guaranty rep did not call to offer any assistance in keeping them in their home, nor did he offer an apology. Instead, he basically offered them a bribe to just walk away. This offer and agreement would mitigate the VA’s liability if it went into litigation. That was pretty sneaky if you ask me. When I confronted him about this, he tried to convince me he was just trying to help. He claimed the VA was not *really* evicting the family; yet, I had legal documents that said otherwise. He would NOT put anything in writing to give permission for them to stay in the home, nor would he reverse the legal eviction process that the VA already started. The end result is the VA still owns this veteran’s home and he and his family are now displaced.

        Let’s not forgot the veteran was calling nearly every week to get a status on his claim for more than six months. This was a veteran on the verge of losing his home, explaining the dire need each time that he called. By that time six months had passed, the foreclosure was already done. This foreclosure was done against the laws that were in place to protect him. The VA could have been his safety net. They could have required the bank to prove the foreclosure was legal before taking ownership. The VA could have stepped in to help before it got that far. Instead, the VA told him that the only way to get help was to go through the very bank that violated the SCRA laws in the first place.

        When his file was located 7 months after it was submitted, it wasn’t even started yet or in the system! Every week that the veteran called to ask for a status, every VA rep handling his call knew that the file wasn’t even in the system. They just systematically told him it was “under review” and to call back. Not seeing it in the system by more than one rep should have triggered an inquiry from at least ONE rep to track it down. Instead, they lied and said it was being taken care of. The file contained a form to state the veteran had a hardship and required faster processing of his claim. They did nothing but let it sit to collect dust. After my article came out, they scrambled to process him. Why should it take an article to put a fire under the VA’s butt to do their job?

        This speculation about the VA planting favorable comments is warranted, especially when I find other “comments” appearing from newly registered users touting how glorious their experience is with the VA – such as this one:

        I am sure I could give you more, but let’s just stick with what we know. The VA has provided no proof that they are NOT planting favorable comments.

        The VA had the opportunity to respond and express their concern over the veterans I wrote about, whether through the comments section or with me directly. They have done neither.

        I would really love to know what, if anything, the VA is doing in regard to the topic of my article.

        I appreciate your continued engagement and interaction as the “front man” for the VA’s image. However, it does not make up for a disengaged and disinterested supervision and management system. Despite the “real time” access of social media, there is still a lack of commitment to actually addressing the real problems that our veterans and their families face IN REAL TIME. Social media efforts by the VA do not address the attitude of indifference by VA staff who are operation behind closed doors and away from the public eye.

        • Alex Horton March 27, 2011 at 12:46 pm

          Torrey and Jim,

          I’m no lawyer, but I’m pretty sure that when a person or agency is accused of a serious charge like planting comments on news stories, the burden of proof has to be on the side of the accuser. All I see is no response to a recommendation to reply on Huffington Post. The truth is often not that exciting. From a public affairs standpoint, it’s always great to have replies from official sources. Given the context of the email, it simply looks like a request for comment, or notification to the author (you) that someone will look into the claims being made. The absence of an official reply means just that. A positive opinion from a year-old account is only suspicious if you accept that not one of 8 million Vets in the system has ever had a positive experience with VA. I don’t believe anyone who just has good experiences. In the same vein, I don’t believe anyone who just has bad experiences either. I suspect it’s more of a blend of good and bad.

          Either VA is lethargic, incompetent and doesn’t care what’s being said online, or there is a secret PR operation to blanket the internet with fake testimonials because we REALLY care about what’s being sad online. Which is it? We work hard to convince people in the building to engage with Vets online. Some can’t see the utility. The same people cannot, at the same time, exhaust resources to conduct a guerrilla PR war online to bolster VA’s image because they see the importance of online dialogue. It just doesn’t add up.

          As for the new comment you linked to, isn’t it reasonable to suggest that an unregistered reader was compelled to register so they can comment on the story they just read? Again, reality is never as exciting.

          We want leaders, directors, executives, experts and others here and elsewhere in dialogue with Veterans. It would sure make my job easier. But we have to build towards that. It’s unrealistic to launch social media platforms and a blog and expect 300,000 employees to jump on and start talking immediately. The Department-wide social media policy is almost approved, so after that, perhaps more will be willing to engage. I bet more VA employees don’t know this blog exists than those who do, including central office. We’re just a few months old, and we’ve made strides to convince naysayers and detractors. Think about it: this isn’t some private business who only has money to gain or lose when it comes to interaction online. VA is a government agency. People are rightly concerned to be liable for what they say here. They can get sued, lose their job or disciplined for giving incorrect or bad information. Public commenters here have the luxury of being able to say what they want, as you can see.

          Government social media is a communications frontier. There is no precedent. We have to roll with it, have faith and act responsibly. Hopefully in the future we can have the kind of engagement with VA that you and I both want. Until then, we have plenty of higherups on the fence holding back that need convincing.

        • Torrey Shannon March 28, 2011 at 5:01 pm

          Alex, in regard to your comment:

          “Given the context of the email, it simply looks like a request for comment, or notification to the author (you) that someone will look into the claims being made. The absence of an official reply means just that.”

          Exactly, Alex. That’s my point! It means just that…an absence of an official reply. Therein lies the problem.

          Wasn’t that the whole point of opening a social media dialogue? To openly and publicly acknowledge and address problems that veterans have with the VA, with a sincere desire by the VA to fix them?

          Wasn’t the social media initiative created so you can show the public that veteran care issues are being addressed? That we, the public, can bring the problems out in the open and expect a reasonable amount of care in having them addressed?

          So much for all these claims of how important veteran issues are for the VA.

          I don’t get into conspiracy theories. That’s my mother-in-law’s job. I address concerns about real issues. We have a real issue here! The VA just wishes no one knew about it. ;)

          I’d much rather see the money and manpower spent on social media salaries go to the claims backlog. People are LOSING THEIR HOMES and GOING INTO BANKRUPTCY while the VA pays people to spin or monitor their image so the “absence of official replies” are not noticed.

          Two VA employees in DC spent hours combing through both my websites the other day. I found it a bit comical that at 4:30pm they logged off because it was quittin’ time. I’ll give them credit for not accruing overtime to do it, but really…there are much better things to do than read about how my son captured a frog or what recipes I’ve used lately. And for the veteran topics of actual importance…I doubt they are looking into them.

          Again, an absence of an official reply is the reason why I believe the social media initiative is just a way to divert the public’s perception. Again.

          I am sure those two employees reading my blog and website could have been working on more important issues. They could have spent just five minutes of that time reading to step in and give me the courtesy of a reply or assurance that the issue is being looked into.

          But as the email evidence says, “Heads-up about chatter in the blogosphere about benefits. The author, Torrey Shannon, is the wife of a wounded Veteran.”

          If me bringing issues to the attention of the VA via public channels involve the VA paying companies or employees to monitor my every move, the VA has their priorities in the wrong place. For every negative story about the VA, they counter with three positive ones. Just look at the sidebar of THIS blog.

          I suggest they spend more time listening and taking real action and less time and money monitoring.

          Think about the logic. There is no dialogue between me and the VA, and that’s the VA’s decision. The VA and I could have a fabulous partnership in addressing the issues together, but that’s not actually happening is it?

          I’ve spent way too much of my time beating this dead horse. You have your job, I have mine. We just don’t see eye to eye on this.

    • Brenda Hayes March 26, 2011 at 12:21 am


      • Brenda Hayes March 26, 2011 at 12:36 am

        Another IT PROBLEM. Blew another possible Epistle!!


        Thank God for people like you and Jim Strickland. You know the Truth; you state the Truth; and you don’t back down. I never heard of that IAVA? but if you guys state what you know; it’s, fact. So hats off to you..There are very few people I believe anymore! I’ve found that sadly you can’t trust the front men (women) for the VA….or most of the ees as well! God forbid if you tell them you’re going to do a Congressional Inauiry…they’ll turn it around so quick on you so they report they were not a fault!! Been there; done that!!

        If REAL change is going to happen in the VA…then the firefight fixes have to stop or after doing one the ultimate problem(s) which caused them and the Innovative Solutions to fix them must be put in place across the Board with NEW ACCOUTABILITY/CONSEQUENCES SPELLED OUT FROM THE CENTRAL OFFICE!!

        Thanks Guys for being there!!

        Brenda Hayes
        Vewife Advocate

  14. Bob Carr March 22, 2011 at 10:46 pm

    I am paying back taxes to the IRS. And with every conversation or letter, the IRS has in big bold letters USE THIS ID NUMBER for all future correspondence!

    I applied for VA comp for ankles that look like jig saw puzzles. I got past the physical and then received a letter asking for documentation. I submitted my documentation, then 2 weeks later I got another letter asking for the documentation, again I submitted and waited. Then in about a month I got a third letter saying this is the final request asking for documentation. In about 2 years I got a letter saying I was approved for 10% non-comp.

    But again…. HOW COME the VA cant give you a tracking number, bar code system something that anytime you have to write or submit documentation you have to attach this to your correspondence. This could also be used to start a chain of custody log to see who handled the paperwork last!

    But I guess thats why the VA wont do this because it means someone will be accountable!

    • Brenda Hayes March 22, 2011 at 11:30 pm

      Say it again, Bob, say it again!!

      A C C O U N T A B I L I T Y!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      Like old Charlie’s dUH, Winning!!

      Now its duH, MISSING!!!!

      Vetwife Advocate

      • just a dumb vet March 23, 2011 at 11:02 am

        It is sad that the VA is the object of bashing. Accountability must be universal. So, so called vet advocates are always paladins of change. IAVA and other organization must clean up their houses before doing the repetitive practice of VA bashing. It is easy to bash the VA when self promotional agendas are present. Try volunteering, or using a patient advocate. Try to pacify your ego and focus on the real issues effecting vets. The VA must be held to a high standard, but IAVA must be responsible for claiming. to be. Attuned the needs of Iraq and Afghanistan vets. They set up hyperreal fake embraces and fear to gain support of vets, Hollywood, business and government. They do very little with all the money and promotion they gather. They also thrive on nepotism. Look into the IAVA world. It is fragmented and lacks good will.

        • Brenda Hayes March 26, 2011 at 2:05 am

          I won’t call you a dumb Vet because you’re not!

          Keep the VA and IAVA separate….

          BASHING THE VA IS SAD????

          What’s sad is the plight of Veterans and family members that are still crying in the Forrest for justice for their rightful benefits to include quality programs, services, and respectful attitudes!!!

          You want to get me feeling sorry for the VA…I am NOT an ostrich!

          The VA has your benefits and you have rights…It’s not working well…the General Knows this; So we need to PUSH for the Rubber to meet the Road!!

          wHO GIVES THE VA orders? Is it totally autonomous?

          I’ll ask my Congressperson next week.

          There’s real Systemic dysfunction in the 2 separate VA organizations– VHB and VBA.

          I haven’t had to use the the third one yet!! I think they should be able to handle a funeral? Or they might just hand me a shovel with his name on it! I CAN wait…to be disappointed about that 3rd part of the VA!!

          Organizational Dysfunction –I see it a problem for ALL our Government agencys. Sorry, that O’Bama couldn’t get the OD office in Place and Clean up the problems in all the ineffective policies, people, and programs in all the Government agencies. But he’s still dealing with what comes first –the chicken or the egg? I don’t think he really knew HOW much “STUFF” he was stepping in. We have a lONG way to go to CLEAN it ALL up! If we do!
          (You think China would take on trade the Bridge to nowhere in Alaska?)

          Absolutely, I would have picked the General for the Secretary: WHY?

          Because he’s not a YES MAN….and that’s what we need MORE OF in the systems. I’m pretty sure he stood up to Bush and wouldn’t yes him…He’d definitely would be my pick!! And I like him because he doesn’t “pontificate”!

          I guess what I learned with doing 10 of my husband’s 20 service..If my husband was younger and not disabled; and if the General was going to lead..then I would trust him…with my treasure (not that the treasure doesn’t drive me NUTZ at time!!! I’d trust him to do the right things for his troops.

          Go back and find the small OD piece about “The Road To Abilene”? It’s the VA BUS to nowhere; maybe we should put it on the Bridge to Nowhere in ALaska.









          “Because…Vets and family members deserve better; much better!”

          Vetwife Advocate

    • Brenda Hayes March 22, 2011 at 11:38 pm


      This is the type of comment/solution that whomever is in charge of this issue needs to respond.

      I appreciate what you said and I would like to know the VA’s expert view on your suggestion?

      Want change;;;;make it happen. Suggestions, comments needs specific feedback as to why/why it would not work.

      No one wants to keep Issingin the Wind!

      Vetwife Advocate

    • Sgt Rock11B March 23, 2011 at 8:03 am

      I’m sorry to hear that we are going through the same hell bob… I’m 80% dis comp and still have 6 Monte pending claims… Some pending as long as 2 years… I have kept my head up and educated my self to how the VA rating board rates things. I suggest you research and fill a appeal… Keep your head up brother. Call them again ask them to make an inquiry to your regional office and ask for a refrance number.. That’s like your tracking number keep on them.. If you need more help send me your email address.

      • Brenda Hayes March 23, 2011 at 8:11 pm


        I know nothing about the organization. You have specific facts; bring them on!

        I am a Veteran’s Advocate; I want things to happen that are not happening for Veterans and their family members. Have not done 9 yrs in Combat with those Guys that had WMD; but I have with the VA and I could write a book like a lot of Vets and family members. You can’t make this stuff up!! It unbelievable how long they have been getting away with it.

        You can’t build a house on a bad foundation and you can’t have enough PR that applies lipstick to a pig and think we will think it is something else. It still SmElls like a pig.

        All the suggestions made on this Blog…would serve the VA well with implementing them. Make that pig look a little better!

        Looks like now we have to watch our backs with the VA PR Vantage Point Blog staff!!

        Brenda Hayes
        Vetwife Advocate

        • Sgt Rock11B March 24, 2011 at 11:49 pm

          I did my own homework. Dig around and once you wipe all the pretty crap away, you’ll see who they really are. No disrespect, I did my investigation . If you want you want to learn who the IAVA is and who’s really pulling their strings.

    • Karen March 23, 2011 at 9:55 am

      Bob & Brenda,

      I’m not a VA employee, just know this from dealing with the VA. The VA does assign a file/claim number – usually it is the vet’s social security number. They also request that you include that number on all correspondence. Just look on any letter you’ve gotten from the VA during the claim process & you’ll see it.

      It’s also my understanding that a log file is kept that does track where the claim/file folder physically is. As to whether a barcode & scanner system is currently in place in all Regional Offices, I’m not sure though I believe I’ve read that it is in place in at least some offices.

  15. Sgt Rock11B March 22, 2011 at 6:03 pm

    Are you serious? Troll ?! They VA provides me with education and health benefits what does the IAVA provide? Where did you serve? How much time you have in combat to come on here and call anyone a troll? Yeah there is a problem with general Paul and the IAVA ! You guys provide a false sense of entitlement to veterans, so many vets are tired of IAVA’ s pipe dreams. We served our country yes, does that mean that we should alienate the rest of society and have them grovel at our feet? Also what about the non Iraq and afghan vets? The name IAVA is a disrespect to those that have suffered and paved the way for what we have today! I would agree with you that the VA needs improvements, how ever the IAVA couldn’t provide a 10th of the services the VA provides. By the way when you get over 900 days in combat then you can call me a troll and what ever else you want. My screen name speaks for itself and I’m a Iraq and afghan war vet.

    • Dan Goff March 22, 2011 at 10:33 pm

      I know this is a little off subject, but please everyone support our deployed military in harms way. A letter, a card, a care package, and your prayers go a long way. If you do not know anyone deployed, you can go to and they can help you on your way. 110% voluntary and it’s all good karma.

    • Brenda Hayes March 22, 2011 at 11:34 pm


      Apparently, you might want to visit VAWATCHDOGTODAY (org) as it explains what is a “troll” and other internet terms. It might be another term they referred to as to what they believe is happening on this blogsite!! It does happen!!!

      It mentions how some of the responses just seem too unreal to be real Veterans as they are Blowing too much Light (OTHERWISE KNOWN AS SMOKE) up the VA…

      Check it out; you might find it interesting.

      Vetwife Advocate

    • Brenda Hayes March 22, 2011 at 11:36 pm


      Apparently, you might want to visit VAWATCHDOGTODAY (org) as it explains what is a “troll” and other internet terms. It might be another term they referred to as to what they believe is happening on this blogsite!! It does happen!!!

      It mentions how some of the responses just seem too unreal to be real Veterans as they are Blowing too much Light (OTHERWISE KNOWN AS SMOKE) up the VA…

      Check it out; you might find it interesting.

      Vetwife Advocate


      • Sgt Rock11B March 23, 2011 at 7:40 am

        Again I agree the VA has lots of flaws, I’m a victim of the backlog and it’s fustrating. That being said I honestly had to sit down and look at the problem. Does the VA have out standing customer service, no not really. At times I question the quality of the people that are hired, but every government agency has the same 2 problems. I do believe that they have made extreme improvements from the Vietnam era. All of the VA bashers ask your self one question, what have you done to help? as vets we also need to be more accountable for ourselves. We can’t just stand in line waiting for hand outs. If you goto a VA hospital and they treat you with disrespect or like you owe them something, step up and take contol of the situation. Get that persons name and then ask for the boss and keep going higher. If you just give up you empow the nasties in the VA to continue their substandard treatment of US! I had many situations in the VA that many would’ve gave up and left,No way I peacefully made a huge stink about it.

        • Sgt Rock11B March 23, 2011 at 7:54 am

          Where has our pride as service men and women gone? We gotta be better than the attitude we may face. Do things the rite way goto your elected officials with the issue. To BH, I know what a troll is. I have zero trust in IAVA if you knew the facts behind them you wouldn’t either. Where do they get thier funding from? Do the people that fund them hate America and our way of life? Yes they do! What programs does IAVA have zero! I know people that were told by them ” we can’t help you” I thought they had our backs? Also it’s funny how IAVA talks about social networks, when they censor the sh&t out of their page. Go and post up hot topics on thier page and see how fast its erased that type of censorship isn’t limited to thier page Paul does the same on his page.. What do they have to hide? Alot! Now I respect that you are advocating for us, however becausous of who you support. The grass is greener on the other side cause it’s full of sh@t.

        • Brenda Hayes March 23, 2011 at 7:53 pm

          Dear Secretary Shinsecki,

          Just wanted to let you know about my latest experience!!

          I will keep you posted as your PR people are not set up to really help with systemic issues.

          I am saving all of my emails and posts to submit to the various Committees in Senate, Congress, and for President O’Bama–I’m Keeping the Dream Alive!!” Change for the VA!!

          You can’t say…no one ever told me!

          If you do read the posts on the BLOG; you know that I am quite a strong advocate for you to implement an OMBUDSMAN program for Veterans and family members which would report directly to you.

          In my opinion, this is the only way you will actually know what is happening in the “field” and what is NOT happening.

          And my hope, is this is one way, the VA will get the accountability it needs from its employees who are supposed to be serving Vets/family members!!

          If there is no Central Office oversight; then the organizational dysfunction will continue; after all…that is all an organization really is– People. And without OD Development. training, and redesigned processes put in place; and often, even with them in place, it is difficult to bring about positive functional and more effective change.

          Sir, there are some MAJOR issues “in the field” that you more likely are not aware of.

          I just sent you a copy of what I’ve responded to on the BLOG; I didn’t send you my epistle and I also am still awaiting a reply from Brandon who heads up your PR? Sorry, I do tend to be less than pithy!

          Vets and Family members do not deserve the response and the attitude of some of your underlings. As well, it is a problem in the “field” where Vets/Family members are trying to get quality services.

          There is a huge problem with across the Board Training; much less the Attitudes of Arrogance and rudeness. I can’t tell you how many Social Workers, Counselors, Primary Care Physicians, Psychologists don’t know about:

          PTSD and its memory/cognitive problems (VA’s Own Research); The problems with Central Nervous System; including the BRAIN due to the effects of the 50-100 toxins to which the VN Vets were exposed; including the few that make up Agent Orange (dioxin); dapsone effects, squalene effects, adequate knowledge about internal VA resources, as well as knowing if the Community referrals are quality or appropriate!

          Query my name and see what I have fed back to the VA on the BLOGSITE. I was hoping that you would be reading these posts, mine as well as other disgruntled Vets/Family members. It’s the only reason I do post here as I just don’t think you have a clue what really is happening! You are too insulated and people don’t like to make waves or work for themselves in the VA system..

          Again, things won’t change unless its from your Leadership; so far, IMHO, you are the Best Secretary that the VA has had. You know what has happened to our Veterans with the VA in the past.and you were honest in saying, “what’s taking so long…toxins exposed Vets like the VN Vets and Gulf War Vets”…

          And, sir; It appears you need to keep your Assistants of this and that feet to the fire; because they are apparently not giving you the facts from real Veterans/family members (those in the trenches dealing with ineffective people, programs, and their accompanying rude and arrogant attitudes.

          Veterans and family members are really tired of the attitudes and poor customer service.

          I could write a book! …and I just might!

          I just found someone that might have been able to help my Viet Nam Veteran; they called seeking information (in order to better serve my husband’s disabilities) from his Primary Care/CBOC Clinic in Stuart, FL.

          The Clinic refused to discuss anything with her; she could have just been asking what resources did they have in their area. I was hoping that this person/organization could be helpful in getting the treatment/care that I have not found in Clinics, VAMC’s, or Vet Centers. (This was a caring, understanding, and knowledgeable care co-ordinator of a Brain injury DOD/VA organization)

          I just learned about this organization from another resource. She knew about the use of hyperbaric 02 treatment and the use of a SPEC scan in successfully dealing with the PTSD/TBI issues, I was quite upset when they refused to speak with her. They said, “Vet is under there care!”? (It was NOT about HIPPA’; if it was an issue it could have easily been solved with a release). So she has backed off from helping me get this resource for my husband due to the ungracious reception and obstination from the CBOC/WP VAMC Social Work Department.

          The arrogance of the Stuart CBOC and its social worker, Ms. Elaine Herren and Lorien Nelson, Social Work Assistant Chief of the WP VAMC, to have designed a VA Comprehensive Plan for my Vet without his knowledge or mine, without our inputs and/or our approvals?

          That is not a Comprehensive Plan… is not Person centered planning!! It is business as usual in the field for the VA employees! It smells like more CYA work by the VA employees!

          Interestingly, I also just found out that the CBOC social workers are not VA employees; but contracted employees. Not that their level of expertise, accountability should be none less than a VA employee;and, Vets and family members don’t know and we don’t care…we just want the job done correctly!

          Secretary, I still believe in your concern for Veterans/family members; but I also know how the VA works well in doing CYA, stonewalling, and roadblocks. And, there are many of us that have clear cases of VA retribution..

          Thanks for what you have done in the past; and I am counting on you to get the mission accomplished for Veterans and family members…and that includes an Ombudsman Program and reworking the accountability issues with no BS consequences for all VA employees; right now it looks like a SNAFU!

          I am quite interested to see if you get this!! But, I was given this email by Alex Horton when I said there was no conduit to reach you!! I’m sure it will probably go into a main PR email that he and/or Brandon will have access to!

          P.S. I still can’t get the “new” 800# VA hotline. It must be in your building because the supervisor said she would walk my feedback around the 800#Homeless Hotline. I’ll save that for another email. You will not be happy; I assure you.

          General, I know I might seem a little too; but remember, my husband served and I did 10 of his 20 and I came as a completely independent person. I also have a M.S. in Rehabilitation Counseling as well as a background in OD Consulting and Training. I do know some things about organizations, people, and dysfunction. And, since I used to train people on Customer Service; I know when I DON”t get it!!

          I am hoping that you will do what the Army Family Action Council did for active duty soldiers and their family members in the 80’s (years ago)

          It made the Command realize that “…they hire soldiers, but retain families!”…It made them more in tune with what soldiers and family members needed. I am counting on you to be “innovative” and put a Ombudsman Program in place as soon as possible; making sure you get copies of all complaints; actions, and overall implementation of such solutions in the systems–not the one time reactive fire fights that are happening now. It needs STRUCTURE! Often, it is Not about more funding; but making those VA employees accountable with consequences; like the civilian world!

          Looking forward to response.

          “…because our Veterans and their Family members deserve better; much better!”


          Brenda Hayes
          Vetwife Advocate

          Getting to the Boss? We care; they don’t!! Last month I just asked who the Stuart CBOC office mgr’s who her boss was–three times… and SHE HUNG UP ON ME!!! Then I did call her boss; left a message and never received a call from him!! Not easy when there is NO accountability with oversight from Central Office!

          Patient Advocates….a waste of time. It’s another layer of PR for the VA at the VAMC! In fact, the PA’s are under the PR of the VAMC in the “director” office….which has no open door policy and has no conduit for email complaints!! SNAFU!!

          I just had one PA who said he was not familiar with a SW name who worked at WPB VAMC. I asked if he could query her name in the VAMC computer…He said, NO! I asked very nicely!!

          We’ll see if Kyle’s (PA) at West Palm Beach VAMC boss does call, Ms. Mary Anne Goodman, another PR person. The last message I left for her with him…she never called either. Was it him or was it her? CYA is really good at the VA; maybe the CIA should hire them!

          Anyone see any streams of a problem??? CYA work, ignore and they go away.

          Like I said, ALL VETS and Family members need to talk to the House/Senate Caucus Committees for Vet/Family members to let them know of the real problems “in the field”.

          Ever hear of Person centered Planning? Buzz word that almost 40 some year old!
          We’re hearing it again; as it was never implemented during those 40 years!

          VA is calling it a Comprehensive Care Plan.

          Don’t you think they should tell the Vet they are designing this for them?

          Don’t you think that the Veteran and their caregiver/family member should have input into this plan?

          Don’t you think that the Veterans should KNOW who their case manager is at a CBOC Clinic?


          And, if people like Alex Horton, who is still a good writer, can give comments to Vet spouses/caregivers as he has done; nothing will change. It apparently is condoned by top management as there is no logical reason…other than lack of manners and immaturity of knowing that you don’t treat your customers/clients like your peers!

          I believe this is a basic premise of OD–organizational development!! (people will continue to act rudely/arrogantly/less effectively as long as the behavior is condoned by omission or commission by top management
          Vetwife Advocate

          Rock–I’m still sitting on the fence about who you really are? Sorry; guess I have been dealing with the VA for too long!

  16. More must be done to reach vets. IAVA’s response concerning the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) social media outreach:

    “The VA has made significant improvements to its social media presence and utilization in the last few years. Up until a year ago key social media positions did not even exist, including the role of the Director of New Media. These hires are a huge step forward. With thousands of new veterans coming home in the coming years, the social media team has the potential to be a pivotal force in transforming VA culture and the way the agency serves our community.

    However, the VA still has a long way to go when it comes to the adoption and optimization of social media. Although the VA now runs dozens of Twitter feeds and Facebook pages, something young veterans expect at a minimum from a responsive organization of any kind, the VAs overall outreach to new veterans continues to lag. If we assume, as we must, that all veterans want access to the healthcare, benefits and other incentives they have earned, then well-funded and executed VA outreach and education programs are absolutely critical. If these are as visible as the VA has argued, then why are only 50 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan vets utilizing VA healthcare today? Either these veterans don’t want the benefits, don’t know about them or can’t get to them.

    At IAVA, our members consistently tell us it is a combination of the latter: they don’t have the information they need to access VA benefits. In a recent poll of IAVA members, 61.3% said they had never seen a VA public service announcement-a key platform (social media and otherwise) for any organization to promote information. I think we can all agree that every single Iraq and Afghanistan veteran deserves better than that.

    To the point of comparing the VA’s social media presence to IAVA’s, this is like comparing apples to oranges. The VA is a government agency with a budget in excess of $100 billion that serves 20 million veterans nationwide. By contrast, we are a small nonprofit with a $5 million budget focused on supporting just over 2 million veterans. With an audience that is a multiple of 10, we would expect the VA to have a significantly larger presence than IAVA.

    We’re ready to work with the VA on real transformative change. Yet, for almost two years, the VA has been unresponsive to our monthly requests to meet with Secretary Shinseki. In 2010, IAVA didn’t have a single opportunity to meet with the Secretary-despite being the largest organization for veterans of the current wars. As veterans, we all play for the same team. IAVA and the VA are equally committed to serving this generation of veterans and their families in the best way possible. We can only achieve that goal if we work constructively and collaboratively.”

    • Sgt Rock11B March 22, 2011 at 6:31 pm

      Maybe they don’t want to work with you… You guys think because you change your name and anti war attitude no one knows who you really are? Where you get your funding from and who you associate your selves with( groups and people that hate America) Its funny how small this world is. Paul was attached to my unit durring the invasion sad to see him punch drunk with the ilussion of power. I hope my old general doesn’t give you the time of the day. Soon IAVA will be fade into history like all the other BS orginizations from the past. To think I was actualy a member of IAVA, between the vet centers and the VA.. IAVA has done nothing even close for me and my family oh except that cool t shirt I use as a cleaning rag.

  17. Sgt Rock11B March 21, 2011 at 5:27 pm

    The IAVA is a worth less organization… Paul thinks he’s a reincarnation of general Patton him self. The IAVA does nothing but sell dreams and promises, many they cant deliver. Instead of spending thousands at fancy dinner parties hit the street and do some work. The VA isn’t perfect and has it’s flaws… However I feel they are doing the best they can with limited resources.

    • Brenda Hayes March 22, 2011 at 1:18 pm

      Sgt. Rock 11B,

      Are you another VA troll or whatever they call them? If not, you must have a personal issue with “Paul”/IAVA?

      VA has Limited resources…BILLIONS of DOLLARS!!! How about putting quality and accountability in their programs, processes, and with their personnel?? DUH!

      How much is the entire PR Budget for just Central Office and All VAMC’s, etc?

      I’d much rather that those Moneys be spent on Veterans and their needs. We know what the VA does and does not do. We know you can make the #’s work any way you want!!

      Where do you get that information?

      Good enough is not GOOD ENOUGH for Veterans and family members…they deserve more, much more!

      Vetwife Advocate

  18. American Hwa Rang March 21, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    Midwest Guy is right. Responsibility! Problem with IAVa is that their social network becomes a virtual world of readjustment and support. The Madison Avenue Commercials and weblogs create some awareness, but IAVa uses these outlets as easy ways to pop smoke. They are not in the diverse vet communities doing work. They won’t even return a call. Speaking as a vet, I know that I have access to VA services at a hospital, or a clinic. Also, IAVA is not at Vet Centers. There are 300 Vet Centers in America. They are part of the VA and offer many services. They have been doing vet outreach since the early 80’s. IAVA is also an elitist org. They attend vet functions crying about the lack of services. In reality, there are many services. IAVA can spend more time promoting these services in an authentic way. Not just link a service and pop some more smoke.

  19. Army Sergeant March 21, 2011 at 4:45 pm

    If the VA did one thing smart on new media, it was hiring its smart, aggressive, and vocal critics, thus taking a lot of force out of the veteran reform movement.

    The VA is not responsive via social media. The VA is, as I said elsewhere, reactive rather than proactive in reaching out to vets. Creating a facebook page or twitter that veterans have to go looking for is not doing outreach. Outreach is going to the forums that vets are already in, and comment in response to veteran complaints. Outreach is going to the hard places, where people are going to have valid complaints that they’re going to be angry about, hearing their anger, and responding to them.

    The VA still has significant problems. Outreach shouldn’t be simply having a page people can go look at, but responding to the problems and convincing people it’s worth going in after all.

    I know the VA exists. I went in one time, for emergency care, when I had a really bad case of some kind of flu. I could barely move and was nonfunctional-and as stubborn as I am, it took a lot for me to come to the VA in the first place. I ended up passing out in the waiting room after waiting for two hours. When I woke up, four hours later, I was told they had nothing on me and I would have to start again from the beginning.

    I am not ashamed to say I walked out and have never gone back. I was pretty bad-so bad I was dropping my wallet in the street because I couldn’t hold onto it. I really could have used care. But that was the moment I decided, I don’t go to the doctor unless I’m dying, and if I am, I’m going to an ER.

    Successful outreach should be trying to convince me-and other vets like me-to return. It should explain why that stuff happens and what is being done about it. But it doesn’t.

    Department of Veteran Affairs: as I was told by an older veteran, “Delay, deny, ’til the day you die.”

    Seems accurate, and all the facebook pages in the world aren’t going to fix that.

    I’ll respond more later-for now, the site is definitely not mobile-friendly, and I’m on my Blackberry.

    Speaking of things that could be done better.

    • Brenda Hayes March 22, 2011 at 1:10 pm

      Thanks for taking the time to tell your story.

      There are so many stories such as yours.

      My own ER story is after having kept an 85 yo WW11 Veteran from 2:00 P.M at the Geriatric Clinic and sent to the ER after the Clinic closed…and waiting several more hours. They let the old Vet walk…but wanted him to get a test…they could not do the test for two weeks and said they could not pay for an outside test (VA docs on vacation?).

      I took the elderly WW11 Vet to my mother’s cardiologist and he immediately had to be placed in an outside Hospital as he was really “wet”–he had congested heart failure!!!


      Another Fab story. The Central Office is in denial as to what is and is not happening in “the field”.

      THEY NEED TO KNOW…they can’t say…no one ever told me!!!

      Vetwife Advocate

    • Alex Horton March 22, 2011 at 2:44 pm

      Hey Selena,

      The truth is, we have used social media to help vets directly. Not just in the way Brandon pointed out, like getting suicide prevention resources to veterans quickly, but every day issues. I helped one guy over email identify a problem with his IRIS query, and was able to give his information to the right people, who resolved the problem in the back end. I’ve assisted others with things like a claim status, but that’s difficult because I simply don’t have access to anyone’s records (which, I’m sure many of you are thankful for). VA as an entity is reactive, I agree with you. But we, the new media team, make an effort to bring you guys timely and useful information, as well as listen to your issues. We even provide context on stuff you have heard in the news (for-profit schools) and help relations with civilians (like the etiquette guide). Occasionally we write about services available, since a big thing I hear is “I didn’t know X existed.” If those things are not outreach, perhaps I don’t understand the meaning of the word.

      Veterans are online, so we have come to meet them. The social media platforms we have are built to discuss issues of the day. We can’t split our time here and on message boards and forums. I can’t imagine identifying myself as a VA employee on those boards. It’d be it’s own full time job to respond! But we take in the comments. I’m often asked what veterans are concerned with, and I always tell them, “from the blog comments, it’s the complicated and long disability claims process.” So anyone who cares enough to ask knows this.

      Were you enrolled in the VA system before you went to the ER? I’m not sure this will get you back, but patient satisfaction is rated higher at VA than anywhere in the country, and that’s been the case for some time. Mistakes are made because it’s an imperfect world. I know you don’t expect to go to any private or military hospital and expect flawless, compassionate and speedy care 100 percent of the time. VA should strive for that, for sure. But I don’t think substandard care you received is an indication of anything. I’ve received substandard care at VA, too. But you know what? I’ve received great care there as well.

      We’ve discussed a mobile version of the blog. One step at a time!

      Hope to see you at the milblog conference if you’re going.

      • Army Sergeant March 23, 2011 at 6:14 am

        Alex: Quickly before work: one thing that would vastly help new media outreach is for commentators to receive emails when they are replied to. This is standard on some blog platforms. Not sure how difficult it would be for your webmaster to deal with, but for example, I thought there might not have been a response until you posted on FB and I realized the software might be lackiing.

        I’ll be there, love to sit down with you, with or without a beer.

        • Tammy Duckworth March 23, 2011 at 9:04 am

          Hey–Great suggestion. We’ll see if we can make that happen.

        • Alex Horton March 23, 2011 at 11:28 am

          I agree, good stuff, and I let our guy know. He’ll tinker with this.

        • Brenda Hayes March 23, 2011 at 8:02 pm

          Interesting; I made the same suggestion sometime ago!

          Thanks for making it again. Apparently, it takes two VA employees to apparently to hear and acknowledge!

          Let’s see how long it will take the “new” IT guy to get some of these IT suggestions done for Veterans/family members–that is who this BLOG is supposed to be serving; not the employees.

          Brenda Hayes
          Vetwife Advocate

  20. Midwest Guy March 21, 2011 at 4:08 pm

    Every comment is right on point. But there is one fact that still needs to be addressed. That is the No Show/ No Report rate for medical appointment are the highest among the OEF/OIF Vet’s. The main reason is they are in school. It was said several years ago that mental / health care isn’t a 8am to 5pm appointment time. VHA has tried in many various ways to reach out to the OEF/OIF Veterans as they are today Vietnam Veteran’s. For years Vietnam Vet’s stay far away from the gov’t health care because they were angry at the system. When I left the service in 1992 the only outreach I had at a ACAP office was how to fill out a claim form and a federal application. Today the VA does far more of outreach. Remember guy / girls the VA health care is a volunteer system. IF it was a requirement that each service member must enrolled for health care before they leave the service then the next question is would they show up for care or wait until someone calls them. Each Veterans is responsible for their health care. If you decide to wait until your 60 and enroll for care the question is why did you wait so long…Each one of us think if we sign up for health care or file a claim we are taking away from someone needs it more than I do. That excuse needs to change among us.

  21. Ed Ball March 21, 2011 at 2:36 pm

    I began my military career as a Traffic Analysis Petty Officer, working message centers. Management thresholds for acceptable errors were 5% or less. At the end of the day, numbers can say anything you so desire. But the key issue is that you must have continuous training, which the VAROs do, but work smarter, not harder. By doing the job right the first time you eliminate excessive remands, appeals, etc..

    The idea of counting the number of cases someone handles in a daily period, based on pay grade, never made much sense to me, when you can have that same claim file go through a NOD DRO review, appeal to BVA, Remand for further development to VARO, return to BVA, Remand to VARO…you get the picture.

    In Ohio, the VARO does quite a bit of Outreach, through the Ohio Revised Code, County Veteran Service Offices are tasked with Outreach, the VHA does Outreach, even the Ohio National Guard has Outreach. Now if all this social networking could only develop a means to alleviate backlogs, we’d be good to go!

  22. Johnathan L Abbinett March 21, 2011 at 1:56 pm

    V.A. is making progress – but, historically, the CBOC (Community Based Outreach Centers) have never, ever actually conducted “outreach” – the truth is they are “walk-in” centers! That sort of misinformation compromises the integrity of the V.A. – so, IAVA’s point is well taken…keep up the good work V.A., but realize from the decades of deserved criticism, the V.A. has a long way to go to regain the confidence of the Veterans Community!

  23. Tim Scarbrough March 21, 2011 at 12:06 pm

    As a veteran representative and OIF vet I would like to defend the efforts of the Marion VAMC (Marion, IL) as far as veteran outreach in concerned in my area.
    I cannot say enough on this facility’s efforts to reach out to veterans as that they are partnered with me in veteran outreach over 14 counties in southern-most Illinois. Since late last year we (together) have been pursuing the needs of local veterans using a variety of media (radio, flyers, email, and phone notifications). Over the last month Twitter and Linked In were used but I can find no proof whatsoever that 21st century social networking plays a role in outreach in my region.

    Efforts to reach out are occurring in my area despite bad press and minimal veteran attendance.

    Additionally, since local veteran attendance comes in waves, I draw meaning from the help of a single vet compared to the collective assistance to many in a region. If I help a homeless vet find work or go back to school, or if I introduce a Vietnam Vet to a veteran service officer to file a disability claim…..y’know – I did my job as a vet rep.

    In my area, I know for certain that my partnership with the VA helps veterans with the needs they may have. Unfortunately it all comes back to the veteran and the choices he or she may make. A veteran must CHOOSE TO COME TO OUTREACH, a vet must CHOOSE TO APPLY FOR A JOB, and a Veteran must CHOOSE TO ASK FOR HELP. If a veteran decides they do not need help an outreach event offers, THIS IS THEIR CHOICE.

    As an OIF veteran, I chose for over a year after retiring to not go to the VA for services because I did not believe I needed anything. Am I different than most veterans? Probably not.

    Thanks for reading – IL DVOP Tim, OIF Vet.

  24. Chris Elmenhurst March 21, 2011 at 11:38 am

    Sorry, Im not going to blow sunshine up your ass and agree…

    I think you have missed his point entirely. Just because you have all these different accounts, does not mean for one minute that you are actually reaching out to veterans. Alot of what is published on these social media networks is overinflated propaganda to make the VA look better than they truly are. Time and time again, I see veterans complain about there own situation and it gets completely ignored or washed over with a prepared reply.

    You need to look at the context of the complaint and no look at it as if it is black and white. Nothing about the VA is black and white. I personally do not care about your stats. The VA is NOT reaching out, they are advertising! Reaching out and boasting what you THINK you can do for vets, are two completely different things.

    I love the simple statements when someone has an issue. Go talk to your VSO, call a hotline, look at this blog but never once I have I personally seen the VA reach out to veterans through social media.

    Not all veterans are upset with the VA, some are taken care of very well. My opinion, through the comments I have seen posted in response to the garbage that has been spewed, is that the majority of veterans are being ignored.

    You can puke up all the stats you want, but they are meaningless to veterans who are forced to struggle, who are told they have to pay for out of pocket expenses to get better with service connected disabilities, being refused physical therapy for service connected disabilities. Those examples are barely scratching the surface.

    Show me true outreach and show me the VA responding to veterans without cookie cutter responses, then I will start believing the VA is actually “reaching out”.

    Otherwise, it is only a propaganda tool.

    • thisisajoke March 21, 2011 at 12:46 pm

      Chris, you are dead on. What’s puzzling is why VA is spending time debating with a support organization that would not exsit if they (VA) could provide the support for the veterans it was established for. Not to mention that VA is the second largest federal agency who’s budget is in the billions (compared to a non profit). Your insufficient numbers and comparison are simply laughable. There would be no need for VSO and other service organization to debate with if VA took care of business in a more transparent and effective way. Veterans simply don’t trust VA and have come to rely on these other resources to communicate more effectively. Why would a veteran go to a organization for help knowing that the organization ultimately would have to send them to VA? Answer: because we unedumecated Veterans are stupid, wrong answer, because We veterans either don’t understand what you are communicating or we simply don’t believe it. Communication is simple if you know how to. Finally Its not about the medium that you use (social media) to communicate, its about what is being transmitted, garbage out, garbage in and thats why you getting bad press. I’m not as vocal as some bloggers but this topic appears to be ego driven. Since VA is so arrogant about their quantitative numbers, can someone please you give us poor unedumacated veterans any qualitative findings that you have pulled from these (in my opinion) low numbers? I believe there are a couple of million veterans living an you are reaching to how many through social media. Numbers don’t add up but if this is the way VA needs to stroke its ego and say we are doing the best we can, we poor unedumecated veterans understand. You haven’t a clue and this blog post is an example.

  25. Tom Caldwell March 21, 2011 at 10:42 am

    OK I just joined IAVA last week because of all of the things they do for disabled vets. Now as for the VA. When I returned for deployment the place I turned first was to the VA here in North Dakota, South Dakota. And you know what I found??? Was an individual that was caring, responsive, effecient, and worked well with all service organizations. I hear all the horror stories about everywhere and this and that with the VA. But What I found worked the first time and has ever since are the Service Organizations i.e. DAV, American Legion, VFW, ect. who were colocated in the VA regional offices, and VA mobile teams that would go to small communities for outreach. I did not ever meet a IAVA rep anywhere seems to me they are just a website, They don’t even have a single rep in my entire State that I have found. Just a website for people to complain on. Look there are OIF/OEF case workers at every VA hospital, that I have found fantastic. For the Millions of Veterans that the VA does a Good, not Fantastic Job for all, but more than the IAVA.

  26. Ken M March 21, 2011 at 10:24 am

    Not to get defensive here, but when I started in OEF/OIF outreach 2+ years ago, 39% of Iraq/Afghanistan Vets had signed up for VA health care – we are now at 51%. VA average enrollment – for all Vets – is only 30% market penetration. We still have a long way to go.

    Problem – how do we reach that group of combat OEF/OIF Vets from 2002-7 timeframe when the VHA didn’t do formal outreach? They got (maybe) a brochure and a pamphlet, and then they got on with their lives. When I returned to Fort Bragg (from Iraq) in 2004, for example, no one from the VA even showed up at the DEMOB!

    We now have a formal outreach initiatives aimed at our young combat Veterans. For DEMOB events, for example, we have a 94% successful sign up rate for returning Vets for VA health care. These NG/Reserve Vets can then expect a phone call from their local VA OEF/OIF/OND Program Office (based on their zip code) offering to set up an appointment for them. See site list here to contact these great folks yourself:

    These OEF/OIF/OND coordinators are now supporting outreach events nationwide that reach our young Veterans (and IAVA is often a partner at these events, as well.).

    To name but a few: Demobilization (DEMOB), Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) Musters, Post Deployment Health Reassessment (PDHRA), Yellow Ribbon Reintegration program (YRP) events, Transition Assistance Advisor (TAA), VA OEF/OIF/OND Returning Service Members Welcome Home Events, VA Homeless Stand-Down events, Veterans Employment outreach events, VA college/ university outreach events, etc.

    How can we make this better? One suggestion (from the field) was for the VA to have “outreach specialists” to attend these events, as opposed to having full-time hospital staff, who usually have to do so on weekends, mainly for comp time, in addition to their full-time duties as part of their OEF/OIF/OND team. An outreach specialist tour of duty would always be SAT and SUN, so they will be available to support these events on weekends. That’s one suggestion.

    As for Social Media, I would say VA’s efforts should be judged on these metrics/ elements:

    # Veterans who have signed up for VA services via SM (click-throughs etc.)

    # of ‘Likes’ ‘Follows’ – as Social Media is a useful tool as a ‘meeting place’ for ‘fans’ of Veterans – the more = the better

    And lastly it’s also a great way to take suggestions from customers to improve the VA

    Can IAVA perhaps issue a ‘challenge’ to its members who are not signed up for VA health care to do so? Especially those from the 2002-7 timeframe? That might help. Have them call the toll free OEF/OIF/OND number – 1-866-606-8216

    Or they can just stop by a local VA medical center and ask to speak with their OEF/OIF/OND team. (See URL above)

    Tnx KM

    “Instead of waiting for Veterans to find us, we’re going to seek them out where they already are — which is, increasingly, online.” — VA Secretary Eric Shinseki

  27. Trevor. B March 21, 2011 at 10:00 am

    Maybe he meant reaching out and talking to us like we are human being and not treating us like garbage. I took my daughter to a real doctor in the urgent care this weekend and was shocked on how he treated us. He was kind , nice, actually listened and cared. He didn’t treat me like crap. I was amazed what it was like to be treated like that. The whole process took 35 minutes and we were on our way to the pharmacy to get our medicine. Oh I did have to call first before going to that one to make sure they were not busy. The first place I called said they were busy and we might not get to be seen for 3 or 4 hours. I had the ability to check somewhere else. It would be nice to have a medical system that worked.

    • Steve March 21, 2011 at 10:28 am

      I actually had to go to the urgent care at the VA Hospital San Diego, and not only was I seen quickly, but the nurses and doctors there were great. It was comparable to the care I get when I go to a private doctor. Maybe it’s possible that some locations are better than others?

      Getting in to see a specialist or my Primary Care Provider at the VA Hospital is another story altogether. Appointments can be 4-6 months apart. Or in the case of one specialist I have to see, my appointment was set for October. Back in January. 9 months. (7 now).

      • Tammy Duckworth March 21, 2011 at 3:47 pm

        The VA standard for a medical appointment is well below ther 4-6 months you are mentioning. Can I help put you in touch with someone at your hospital to see why the answer to you was so long? That is unacceptable and it’s exactly yhe kind of thing that we are trying to fix.
        Best, Tammy

        • Joe Average March 26, 2011 at 7:53 pm

          Tammy D seems to have the right attitude. She has acknowledged the problem, (most others in the VA dont even do that…reread the comments if in doubt), then even offered a solution which required her to be pro-active and actually DO something about it. It seems to me she needs to take over and be VASEC…she is under promising and over delivering while our present VASEC has made many, many, unkept promises. More importantly, Tammy D KNOWS what it is like to be a disabled Vet while Gen Shinseki seems to only know how to suck up to his bosses to get promoted to General. For those of you who think I am a troll offering these positive comments, you need to reread some of the other “Joe Average” comments. I do not hand out compliments to VA executives like they are candy. To the contrary, I think that NOT ONE VA executive deserves a paycheck until every single disabled Vet has gotten his compensation.

      • Steven Kraslen March 21, 2011 at 4:00 pm

        I recently went to the Emergency Room at the newly named Capt Lovell Federal Medical Facility (Formally North Chicago VA) and was treated with respect and great care. Had to stay over night and my wife was able to stay with me. In regards to seeing a Specialist, I had to see one and they made an appointment to visit him at his private practice. His schedule was to busy at the VA facility.

        • Tammy Duckworth March 22, 2011 at 2:50 pm

          I will reach out to the hospital to see what is going on. 9 months is absolutely not acceptable unless it’s a periodic appointment. For example, my annual amputee check up appointmenta are set up for 6 and 12 months in advance becuase that’s the periodic basis for the follow ups. Have you gotten a closer in appointment with the doctor yet?


  28. Debra Gail (Heiser) Carter March 21, 2011 at 9:42 am

    First of all I would like to thank Mr Brandon Friedman for bringing this to our attention and say that he is doing a fine job on facebook of reaching out to the veterans. Veterans today must be pro-Active in the care they receive and research the information that they hear from nearly everyone. Today veterans must search and research what they need and are looking for as I think most of us do. I would like to say that I am older and do recall when the VA was still a place where only men went and that women were not welcome. That is not true today. The VA of today seems to be attempting to catch up with a world of Veterans that has moved ahead at lighting speed.

    In response to the quote by Mr Rieckoff is very old and not completely accurate. For many years now I have seen and found an abundance of assistance and information regarding the benefits and issues that the VA system is experiencing and feel that they are doing a good job of trying to address the issues that todays Veterans are concerned with. They may still have a long way to go but with current budget cuts they are finding that they can only do so much. I know that the information I have found on the social networking sites such as Facebook and others is outstanding. Instead of making a mountain out of a so-called mole hill maybe it would behoove the Veterans organizations to try and help the struggling VA system. I am surprised that people such as Mr Rieckoff have forgotten what was told to him in his training to become a soldier. That is that there is not I in teamwork. If we work together to provide access to the VA system and the Veterans that need it we will all be in a much better place in the future.

  29. Joe Average March 21, 2011 at 8:32 am

    I am suprised to see the VA go on the attack against IAVA. What IAVA was referring to was that the VA was deficient in “believable” media. Sure, there are plenty of VA “flag waving” sites like this one, and but we are referring to more real websites, where real problems are discussed, and not ignored. Oh, maybe like or For example, sites that answer the question “What is the VA doing about the million man backlog, except making it worse?”
    We are tired of the standard VA retort, “Oh we are working on it and will have it fixed by year (blank).”
    Since Vets are dying at about the rate of 1000 per day, a 4 year delay in fixing the backlog problem means 1,460,000 Vets will die before the backlog problem is fixed. We want real solutions, not just fixing the blame.

    • CSM (ret) Brown March 21, 2011 at 9:44 am

      Interesting that Joe Average responded shyly. I say, you are either part of the problem or part of the solution and if IAVA would like to be part of the solution then get contstructive. Start putting your actions where your interview words are. If you ask coherent questions of the VA you get useful answers. So IAVA, how many volunteer hours have you committed to the VA? IAVA, how many solutions have you offered to Scty Shinseki, D/Scty Duckworth or others in the administration. It is so easy to sit on the sidelines and throw jabs, but what exactly are you doing for your members? so I offer this, put up or….well I refuse to be rude.

      • Joe Average March 22, 2011 at 12:03 pm

        I did not think I was very “shy” in my comments. It is not IAVA’s job to “fix” the VA, or even offer possible solutions. If IAVA did offer possible solutions, and my guess is they have, those possible solutions were probably promptly ignored by VA management. Instead, the leadership needs to come from the “top”, and GREAT managers seek advice from employees and implement the best advice. Our VA takes the position to complain about both Veterans, and VSO’s rather than to seek their input. This is not IAVA’s fault. Its bad management 101. No wonder why Vets are complaining when the VA is complaining about us.

      • Brenda Hayes March 22, 2011 at 1:01 pm

        CSM Brown and Brandon:

        I have left quite a FEW suggestions, solutions, and Questions that have gone unanswered on this “transparent and open” VA site.

        I’m wondering if you are not one of those “VA trolls” or such that VAwatchdogtoday has just recently spoken about?

        I volunteer plenty of time—countless HOURS; to my Veteran dealing with memory/cognitive problems (and to which I have been getting VA Information and Referral Merrgoround to NOWHERE!

        When the VA BLOG Staff (including Brandon) starts to answer the questions asked; when they stop being defensive; then Real Vets and Real Family Members might start to believe and trust the VA.

        If the site was set up better; you could query my name and JUST SEE how many of my questions have gone unanswered. It’s just the same SOS–just a different day!!

        Again, I really can’t believe you are “just” a retired Veteran; I still think you Work at the VA.

        Apparently, Brandon doesn’t read his owm blogsite as I have specifically asked questions not only to his other staff members, and other VA guest commentators; but to him as well that have gone unanswered.

        It just appears that the VA is breeding yet another “generation” to not be responsive to their “customers”.

        I follow the VA BLog and Facebook; It still is a PR for the VA; Is this better than complete silence by the VA; or should Veterans/family members SETTLE for good enough. Again, when this “intervention” came about…huge expectations had been raised–for the audience, Vets/Family members. It’s somewhat being in a desert and needing water…you find some…but it is NOT enough to keep you alive until help arrives!!


        This should not only give the V/FM a voice; but do some problems solving. Each problem solved; should give the VA a real CLUE what needs to be fixed; either in their processes or personnel and do a permanent change; not on a case by case problem/fix.

        Again, I think it is something that the Congress House/Senate Veteran/Family member Caucus needs to consider because SO FAR…the VA has a deaf ear and Blind eyes.

        Oh, BTW, some of what I have read about IAVA is pretty much right on.

        I do hope PAUL REICKOFF will be MORE specific; maybe on this site? Are you following the other Vet organizations that have critism of the VA? You–the VA–or the Wizard of OZ–should be getting a LOT of suggestions/solutions/problem solving–just by paying attention to the criticims. I’ve seen a lot of solutions on this VP; that often just gets unacknowledged?

        Also, not as a criticism,, just facts..Brandon, you head up PR for the VA; you and your staff have no clout to makes the changes that are really needed at the VA; only your boss, the Director/the General and there is no conduit set up at present that Veterans and family members know they have “his ear”!

        As well, your IRIS program (again, I asked a specific questions about this piece of less than great VA process)could not even give me a “new” 800#; I have misplaced it; but the Spvsor said she could walk in my feedback (email) to GS as to what my poor experience of was of the VA #800 Hotline for Homeless Vets; also, she said that they needed to get the information out on this “new 800# hotline”? I think I also put this query on this site as well) Still need to send that Email to the General to make sure he KNOWS what is not working well.

        In addition, Brandon, I asked MANY weeks ago about how Vets/Family members could be included in the –VA Media Meeting that Central Office is giving (monthly?) I suggested setting up call-ins such as other organizations have done, like SAMSHA?

        We, Veterans and family members, who are “out in the field” and don’t work for the VA, need to be represented by real Veteran Advocates such as Col. Dan; Berta at hadit; Jim Strickland at VAWATCHDOG, etc. to be at the VA table to ask the hard questions and get real answers. Oh, add other Vet Organizations such as Paul R. at the IAVA to be there as well?

        The above is just ONE of the questions I have asked and you have not answered.

        Maybe I should just call the Huffington Post and give them my take; in fact, maybe all Veterans/Family members should do this…Maybe they (HP)might give us our own column…Questions Vets/Family members ask and want REAL answers; not promises (we know about broken promises too well)

        Vetwife Advocate

        PS. MORE CAPTCHA CODE ERRORS…and DID not take me back to put in another CODE!

        • Alex Horton March 22, 2011 at 4:58 pm

          Hey Brenda,

          Our IT guy just started, so he’s working on a few things that you have mentioned. Like the captcha code issue and disappearing posts. When he gets through those, he can start on other things as well. One thing he can help build is something to retain feedback and criticism that we can shuffle to the appropriate place. I don’t know what that looks like or how long it would take, but it’s something we’ve wanted from the beginning.

          You can email the Secretary’s office at

          Are you referring to the VBA reporter’s roundtable? It’s for the press, but we want to do something like that for veterans here, like a live video chat with VA management where people can send in questions and have them answered in real time. But that has to be built first. Crawl, walk, run.

          Hope this answers some of your questions and concerns.

        • Brenda Hayes March 22, 2011 at 11:18 pm

          Alex, (Yes, it’s another epistle)

          You asked a question and I had no where to respond because you didn’t leave a “REPLY” on your message; isn’t that interesting and SPECIAL!

          So….Great: we’ll see. Your message does NOT take BRANDON off the hook.

          They were addressed to HIM; not you.

          As far as the Media blitz meeting, I don’t think you need to reinvent the wheel and it takes too long and costs more unnecessary VA funds. I think the Congress is interested in cutting the VA budget from what I heard?

          Other Govt organizations (check SAMSHA)do these call in devices; in fact, I think the VA has a phone system that all might call in with a # ID for a Meeting (conference calls) such as you are speaking about.

          Don’t take the time nor the taxpayers money to do what other Govt organizations are already doing.

          My expectation is your Boss (the VPBlog) needs to respond; not you; since I had asked him regarding issues in the above post. (see I do learn, not blogging, just posting!)

          Since our last conversation in which you did not respond to my email to your; I won’t engage you any longer after this email. You are one of the ones that are too defensive and I don’t want to waste my time nor your time since YOU have this “issue”. There is an interesting thing about feedback and how one responds…its called emotional IQ or a lacking Developmental Issue; sorry, can’t remember the exact term. It is a skill that can be learned; sort of like a self improvement navel meditation!

          You know how many HOURS, DAYS,etc. I’ve spent trying to find help for my Vet?

          Your Director of Caregivers never called back and he had less than knowledgeable SW at the Stuart CBOC (par for the course with VA Social Workers) give me another referral to nowhere! I guess I’ll have to call again and educate them about the DCOE/DVBIC and anything else I find in the system that they don’t know about. Of course, I did find DBVIC employees that did not know they had a connection to DCOE! Isn’t that interesting!

          Do you know there is a PSL Psych that does not know about TBI; but knows about PTSD? Thanks for educating these VA employees in the field!! Do you know how many Counselors; Primary Care Physicians don’t know about VA’s own research regarding PTSD and its connections to dementia(s) and/or Alzheimers? or Closed Head Traumas (TBI) connection to Toxins–agent orange (dioxin) and the 50-100 other toxins to which VNVets were exposed? Pardon me, how can a Vet have such clogged arteries that they can’t get a certain test done because they are so loaded with calcium that they don’t give him a diagnosis of IHD. It is even though he has not had a heart attack; it still is the early stage of this disease!!

          Do you know how many of them DON”t know about SSRI’s and their connection to early cataracts?

          There has been no guest commentary or blog regarding Local Recovery Coordinators and how the VA expects the big paradigm shift to Peer Recovery which is so evidenced based and (cost effective especially for the VA)
          It’s OK with the Central Office to give the old Vets the Boot–the Viet Nam Vets PTSD support group at McGuire VAMC was disbanded; time to move on. No Support needed for them any longer!!! NO WRAP program for them either…just throw them out…time for the new troops to come in!!

          Also, never heard if anyone from House/Senate Veterans/Family members committee would do a guest commentary as a lot of V/FM don’t know and need to know about them.

          THE MESSAGE IS ..Don’t ask for suggestions, solutions, etc. if you are not going to acknowledge or especially follow them up. It’s almost April; been several MONTHS!

          Is it not in the new message of truth and transparency and the new concern that the VA has for Vets/family members, that this common courteous should be extended?

          Sorry, again apparently it is in the VPB naivete, by going online many months before you might have been ready, that HIGH expectations from Vet/FM’s were set up.

          But, you must acknowledge, this blogsite is not the answer to VA getting itself “fixed”. The articles are Nice to know; but leaves a lot to be desired that is of real consequence to V/FM’s.

          Is the Blogsite staff going to fix the PA at West Palm or the CBOC supervisor that did not return to my phone call? I think not; but who at Central Office cares to know and what kind of accountability will be issued to those at fault. If there is none; then just expect for V/FM’s to keep getting the same rude, arrogant, and little or no quality services!! It just is what it is!!

          Are you going to fix the problem at the WP VAMC LRC who is so arrogant that he refuses to respond to questions that I have asked and need as a taxpayers and Veteran caregiver? These employees are not serving Veterans/family members; they are Serving themselves with a paycheck!

          Is this Blogsite staff going to make this LRC have WRAP programs for Veterans/and support groups for their caregivers/family members? No, not in your job description or pay grade. Then who is? This is just a small hard question.

          Why don’t all VAMC’s have Wrap Programs? This LRC program has been up and running for over three years!

          I read where the LRC are supposed to have a written 3 year Plan? God forbid if you ask for it and ask for accoutability. Somehow having to ask for a LRC job description and then be asked to request it by FOIA doesn’t seem to be in the realm of VA transparency and teamwork!!! The McGuire VAMC waited the allowed 20 some days to call me and let me know they had received it…IT FAXED IT!! tRICKY DICKY va gAMES!!–the real world of Vets/Family members.
          Then they sent a generic Psych job description and I still did not know what they were supposed to be doing!

          In the real world, that’s called stonewalling; making things difficult for FM’s and Vets to get what they need.

          Another one…being jerked around by the PSL PTSD Clinic as the Vet has to have a DD214 in hand to do an “intake”!! The disabled Vet has been and IS IN the VA system; the VAMC (records, the Vet Center, etc. How riduculous! Don’t you have to be a combat Vet to be in a Vet Center? Another stonewalling issue. Real Vet Issues in the Real World of Vets!

          SAME OLD VA stuff “out in the Field”. Maybe not in the Ivory towers of the Central Office; but that is the way the cookies crumble in the real world of Vets/Family members.

          Why doesn’t the WP VAMC have a Caregiver Coordinator? I understood from your Caregiver Director that all VAMC should have a Caregiver Coordinator! He said one would be calling me…nope never happened! Never heard again from him as well! Business as Usual for the VA! Shame Shame

          Problems Problems…but you can’t fix them until you know about them and you can’t kill the messenger unless that is PART and PARCEL of your VA plan!

          Va says..they care…are working on and want to fix things and then not return phone calls and not answer questions; that doesn’t help your believability factor!!

          Ostrichs have long necks that like the sand!! Veterans and their caregivers/family members don’t have that luxury–their lifeblood is sucking out of them in dealing with the SC disabilities and trying to look for help that is not there.

          No, There are still a LOT of us that are not happy campers!!

          But, as I said, The VA needs an OMBUDSMAN for Veterans/Family members; not a PR pAge. I think VPB has gotten some good feedack from it legitimate audience; real Vets and Family members that are not compromised by wanting to keep their jobs.

          Again , I am waiting for my questions to be answered. It is only courteous and part of the customer service to your audience.

          I didn’t choose to work for the VA; you did and so did Brandon; so don’t “whine” when people–your audience/your customers give you the facts, their truth. In fact, you owe me an apology; go back and read your last statement to me without giving me a public rebuttal–didn’t think that was quite kOSHER!

          Sorry, I made a mistake; I tried to be Nice to you! I appreciate your service and I did believe you…that you want to help Vets and family members; now you too have to prove yourself; JUST LIKE ANYONE ELSE AT THE VA.

          Just who did you think you were talking to? I’m not your colleague, your peer…I am your customer, I am a caretaker of a Veteran who didn’t think being poisoned by his own government was part and parcel of his soldier’s jo description; he just wanted to do his duty.

          Va…Lay down for me!! Rude!!

          I’ve been dealing with dysfunctional disability systems for a long time; how about 40 some years!

          You need to accept the VA has a LONG way to go. And everyday I have to stay on the phone dealing with people from the VA or any other organizations that have grant moneys tied to their paychecks from the VA/Government in order to advocate for my Veteran or other Veterans lets me know the right foot and the VA’s left foot is Not on Dancing with the Stars!

          And when I continue to find arrogance, rudeness, and an obvious less than acceptable interest in NOT doing their jobs for Veterans/family members in addition to knowing full well that those employees don’t have accountability in their rating systems to get rid of them; don’t expect us to Believe the VA is “changin”.

          Caregivers/family members should not have to spend this much time getting quality services with built in accountability.

          CLUE: This is what is wrong with our SOS systems; there is NO built in Accountability; There is no way to get rid of inefficient and self-serv ing “public” servants. IT IS A LEADERSHIP ISSUE and NEEDS A LEADERSHIP SOLUTION!

          As long as the SOS is allowed to continue; whatever the problems that have been and continue to be for years with no real feedback as to what is happening and when it is happening (UPDATES)–So what is the new Innovation VA Program doing? What are the plans to make the Claims systems accountable and timely? AND WHEN? Anyone using a PERT CHART!!

          Veterans and family members will CONTINUE TO disbelieve the VA’s intent or anything that comes out of the Central Office. AND THAT IS THE TRUTH!!

          A pig is a pig; lipstick or NOT!

          PR people do PR; PR people can’t fix the big tub of ship that tries to turn around in a little dinky harbor.

          Veterans and their family members deserve better, much better!

          Vetwife Advocate

          P.S. Which of the PR Media People get to pick and choose email to the Secretary?


          I apologize, I had to reply to you through an edit to your comment. I left everything you said intact. We have the reply limit set to three since anything more messes up the code. Our tech guy is working on it right now, among other issues. We’d like to revamp comments on here.

          Everything else, noted. Thanks for your comment. There is no secret to how we respond. I kind of treat this like real life. If a stranger walked up to me and said I lacked emotional development, I’d walk away. I’m doing the same here.

          Alex Horton – 11:58 AM EST 3/23/2011

    • Herb Carmen March 21, 2011 at 10:36 am

      I watched the video, and I’m not seeing what Joe Average is talking about anywhere in the context of the interview.

      I’m very impressed with the VA’s online outreach here, Facebook, and Twitter. This blog and its authors have gained credibility among veterans because it has avoided “flag waving.” It has brought important issues to the attention of veterans and VA leadership without sensationalism or lip service.

      • Joe Average March 22, 2011 at 12:19 pm

        Most Vets dont give a rip about interviews, and would like some solutions instead. We have heard about congressional investigations looking into things like shreddergate which have gone nowhere. We have also heard about “interviews” where the backlog was supposed to be fixed, homelessness eliminated, and Vets were supposed to be given a 25% “Quality of Life” raise, along with politicians talking about $250 bonuses to Vets. We all saw where those “interviews” went. Its no wonder the VA does not want to do “outreach” and get more Vets to apply and get in a million man waiting list for benefits, making the backlog still worse. What good would that do for Vets?