When a president talks to veterans (C.I.)

When a president talks to veterans

The Iraq War and the Afghanistan War have created and are creating many veterans.  VSOs are Veterans Service Organizations and there are many in America.  Reaching young veterans has been a problem since the Vietnam era but it’s become a bigger one this go round and for reasons that are confusing to the VSOs.  A number of groups were tied to promoting war during Vietnam and that turned off a large number of veterans — not just those who were against the war but also many who were just tired of it all.  While there were no overtly jingoistic statements about war this go round from the established VSOs, there still is a failure to connect.

They don’t seem able to accept that it has to do with their organizations often not resembling the companies today’s veterans served with.  That means you need more than a token person of color, that means you need men and women.  Today’s military is the most diverse in every way and for VSOs to connect, they’re going to have to make clear that they want diversity.  We called out, a few months ago, one VSO by name because one of the leadership positions is someone who is always complaining to me that the group is not getting enough members out of the pool of today’s veterans.  As I noted that day in a snapshot, visiting the website because of  a hearing, every photo on the main page was a man (or men plural in a photo) and every male was White Anglo.  And that day, the head of the same VSO is in a Congressional hearing talking about the “brotherhood” and “the men” and on and on.  You’re presentation to Congress is not going to make women veterans feel they’re welcome and your web presentation not only sends the same message to women, it also sends a message to African-American males, Asian American males, Latino males.  You need to realize that you think your VSO is great but chances are today’s veterans aren’t that familiar with you.  And you need to market yourself better.

The groups that are doing better in terms of recruitment tend to be those that serve and focus on the challenged or disabled veterans community.

This would include the Disabled Veterans of America who kicked off their national convention Friday.

DAV does strong work and is one of the better established organizations when it comes to seeking out the opinions of their members and arguing for their members’ needs in front of Congress.  They might get overtaken by the new group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.  This new group is only nine years old but it’s already outshined many other VSOs and is second only to DAV in terms of member representation.  They’ve also become the go-to for today’s veterans.  You can say, “Well they speak the language and share the experience.”  So does Iraq Veterans Against the War.  But IVAW’s done a very poor job.  They post anti-woman rants frequently.  They fail to lead on veterans issues.  The burn pit issue is the perfect example of an issue IVAW could have led on but didn’t.  IVAW might be able to find a way to speak to a larger veterans community at some point but at present they continue to lose members and that’s too bad.

DAV deals with a number of issues and comes to Congress prepared to advocate on behalf of their membership.  Their national convention attracts many leaders — US President Barack Obama spoke at this year’s convention Saturday.

Before we get to that, they have noted:

Two remarkably compassionate companies which go out of their way to employ veterans will receive Employer of the Year awards from DAV (Disabled American Veterans) at its 92nd National Convention at the Hilton Orlando Hotel in Orlando, Fla., Aug. 10-13.
ICF International in Fairfax, Va., was selected by DAV as the Outstanding Large Employer of the Year, and HELP Plumbing, Heating, Cooling and Electric, Cincinnati, Ohio, was named the Outstanding Small Employer of the Year.
ICF is being recognized for attracting qualified veterans for employment and features disabled veterans in its consumer and personnel recruitment advertising.  In 2012, it sponsored a symposium on hiring disabled veterans.  It also seeks disabled veteran-owned businesses as contractors, subcontractors, vendors and suppliers.
HELP Plumbing, Heating, Cooling and Electric has 14 veterans and disabled veterans in its 106-person workforce, and 40 percent of its leadership team is also veterans.  It seeks veterans for employment and emphasizes veterans in marketing and media. In the past four years, HELP has been a strong supporter of DAV.
“These firms have emphasized that disabled veterans are professional, dedicated employees, who perform superlative work,” said DAV National Commander Larry Polzin.  “They look for veterans and disabled veterans to join their workforce because of the outstanding skills they possess, the knowledge they have and the dedication and perseverance they demonstrate as employees.”
“DAV is pleased with the dedication these companies have shown as they work on behalf of veterans,” Polzin said.  “They exceed what is expected.  Their efforts are based on the deep gratitude they hae for the contributions of disabled veterans.
About DAV
DAV empowers veterans to lead high-quality lives with respect and dignity.  It is dedicated to a single purpose; fulfilling our promises to the men and women who served.  DAV does this by ensuring that veterans and their families can access the full range of benefits available to them; fighting for the interests of America’s injured heroes on Capitol Hill; and educating the public about the great sacrifices and needs of veterans transitioning back to civilian life.  DAV, a non-profit organization with 1.2 million members, was founded in 1920 and chartered by the U.S. Congress in 1932.  Learn more at www.dav.org.

Now for Barack’s speech.

I’ve told this story before, I’m sure.  Elaine and I were doing outreach during Vietnam.  We get this awful man assigned to help us.  He doesn’t know a thing including the most important thing when speaking to veterans: Close your mouth and listen.

We’re at a young couple’s home — a husband and wife — he’s a veteran and he’s invited friends who are veterans over.  We’re there to get out information about the GI movement and antiwar efforts and we’re also there to address veterans issues — red tape problems, navigating the VA system, etc.  We’re wearing hose and dresses — nothing flashy — because this is a conservative area.  Our job is to be of any help we can.  We are not the issue, we are not the story.

So Dumb Male accompanies us and no sooner are we inside than he’s got his shoes off and is on the floor in some straight’s idea of what Hippie-ville must be like.  (“Straight” does not mean sexuality in that sentence.  Straight-laced would be a truer meaning.)  And he starts rapping (talking) about how tough times are for veterans (he is not a veteran) and after about 30 minutes, he’s done talking and no one’s saying anything — bothered by just about everything about the man.

The rudeness of taking his shoes off and sitting on the floor is remarked on after he’s left.  The wasting of everyone’s time with a speech — and a lengthy one at that — is also cited.  But more than anything else, the veterans did not appreciate his pandering speech that was completely off-key and, at times, a little offensive. I don’t know if that was the man’s only attempt at outreach but Elaine and I made clear that we didn’t have to train someone who lacked the most important skill: Listening.

Barack’s speech was a bomb.  A bomb.  Not the bomb.

This section is cited as an example of Barack’s problems:

Maybe you lost your sight, but you can still see the truth that our disabled veterans make extraordinary contributions to our country every single day.  Maybe you lost an arm, but you still have the strength to pick up a friend or neighbor in need.  Maybe you lost a leg, but you still stand tall for the values and freedoms that make America the greatest nation on Earth.

If you ask anyone at the White House (and I did this morning after speaking to 5 DAV members at the convention who all complained at the speech), there’s nothing wrong with that section of the speech.  I was told that it was a success and that the proof was the last sentence got a warm response.

“America the greatest nation on Earth”?  Yeah, that’s going to get  warm response from any group in the US — especially veterans groups.

But I was told there was dead silence before that.

Those statements were tone dead.  And they’re kind of patronizing.  And they’re indicative of the speech that didn’t go over well.

I don’t think Barack wrote the speech or worked on it.  In text form, it really doesn’t sound like him.

When you speak to veterans, you acknowledge them.  You don’t preach to them.  You certainly don’t open your speech talking about your wife and your marriage.  People may be polite, but no one gives a damn.  You’re there for one reason only: To explain how the government will keep the promise made to service members who are now veterans.

Barack’s speech was lousy at that.

There was also a little con game.  I’ve already trashed the press once for not knowing what the hell they’re talking about when they claim ‘reduction’ in VA claims.

It’s not happening and, again DVA leadership is in close contact with membership and DVA is more aware than the press.

Point being, the 20% reduction and the press needs to grow a damn brain.

If these claims were just being granted and done with, great.  That’s not what’s happening.  To ‘reduce’ the backlog (to make it appear something was happening) VA’s new ‘reduction’ numbers are based on benefits being given — while the determination will come later.  At the Congressional hearing on this, the question from committee members was: What happens if it’s monetary and the veteran is overpaid?

The government is supposedly tightening its belt, yes.  But that’s not the issue that troubled the Committee.  Their issue was that veteran Joe or Joan gets paid  or receives $500 more in benefits than should have been granted, is the veteran now on the hook to repay that?  Their concern was the veteran and, guess what, the VA officials didn’t know, hadn’t thought that far.

But the point is that various benefits are being granted.  That would seem good. House Dems in 2007 wanted that done.  But they wanted it done quickly and then it is done.  They said waive through these people waiting forever.

But that’s not what’s happening.  The new system is granting benefits — but those benefits are still backlogged because it’s not a final decision.  Meaning veterans may wind up on the hook and meaning VA workers are still working those cases.  Technically, they are out of the ‘backlog’ and in the new category but since they are not decided in a final form and since they still require VA evaluation, they are part of the backlog and you’re playing word games if you’re pretending they’re not.

This is not news to informed DAV members and that’s another reason that Barack’s speech disappointed.

For an example of a dumb report filled with lies click here. This is someone taking dictation from the VA.  And these are claims and assertions the VA has made to Congress but, thing is, under questioning (often very pointed questioning — say from Senator Richard Burr, Ranking Member on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee — the VA officials are forced to concede that the claims and assertions they made weren’t really that accurate).  In addition, it actually goes against Eric Shinseki’s own testimony.  I’m not going to name the journalist linked to (you can use the link and find out the name) but they need to work a little harder.

Here’s another typist pretending to be a journalist:

The backlog is shrinking due to some aggressive steps taken by the VA, including requiring claims processors in its 56 regional benefits offices to work overtime and moving from a manual to a computerized system to help speed the judgment of claims.

That is great news!  Oh.  It’s not news.  Because news is factual.  There has been no reduction to the backlog due to “moving from a manual computerized system to help speed the judgment of claims.”

It’s a test program, that’s the stage it’s still in. Did you not know that?  Did you not know how few VA centers are using that system?

You should have.  Before you put that lie out there, you should have.

This is going up very late this morning and I’m sorry.  But I had to return phone calls this morning and when you’re hearing a veteran express disappointment with what a sitting president said to their organization, you need to listen. And I did need to listen and I turned off the laptop and gave it my full focus and then I made two calls to friends at the White House.

This isn’t minor.  And if you, for example, lost your sight in a combat mission, you’d like to be thanked for your service but you really don’t need a sighted person pretending like they understand and inventing claims of you lost this but you gained that.

A disabled veteran can make that statement.  When it comes from civilians without any disabilities, it doesn’t go over well.

We’ll cover Law and Disorder Radio in the snapshot (we usually note it in the morning entries).  I did not realize this was going to be a morning where things went up late.  My apologies. Kat‘s “Kat’s Korner: Sam Phillips finally comes across” and Isaiah‘s The World Today Just NutsThe Rebranding” went up yesterday.

The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.

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