Dear Sgt. Shaft,
Don B Via the internet
• The Sarge joins the DAV (Disabled American Veterans) in reminding the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee that the organization is gravely concerned about allegations of potential wrongdoing by some Department of Veterans Affairs employees or management, but that the access issues underlying these incidents come after a decade in which VA’s medical care and infrastructure were underfunded by more than $15 billion.
“No one takes these allegations more seriously than DAV, whose 1.2 million members rely heavily on VA for some or all of their health care needs. We strongly support the ongoing investigations and will demand full accountability for anyone found to have broken laws or violated VA’s rules and policies,” said DAV Washington Headquarters Executive Director Garry Augustine. “However, we continue to have confidence that VA under the leadership of Secretary Shinseki can and will take the actions necessary to address these issues and restore the trust of America’s veterans,” he said.
“The biggest challenge facing VA, and the root cause of the problems relating to waiting lists being reported almost daily, stem from the inability of VA to provide timely access to care,” Augustine said. “If you don’t have enough doctors, or enough space, or the separate funding required to purchase care outside VA, then there is no alternative to forcing veterans to wait for care, and that is simply unacceptable,” Augustine said.
National Legislative Director Joseph Violante who is delivering DAV’s testimony to the Senate Committee said that, “Secretary Shinseki has a track record of directly and honestly confronting problems and working with Congress and stakeholders to correct them.”
“We continue to believe that VA provides high-quality health care for the vast majority of veterans treated each year, and that veterans will be better served now and in the future by a robust VA health care system rather than by any other model of care,” said Violante. “The challenge facing VA, and the root cause of the problems being reported, have to do with access to care rather than the quality of care delivered,” he said.
“DAV also believes that whenever an enrolled veteran is unable to receive care directly from VA within established timeframes, VA must take responsibility to find alternative means to provide and coordinate such care,” Violante said. But, he said, “simply giving a veteran a plastic card and wishing them good luck in the private sector is no substitute for a fully coordinated system of health care.”
• The Sarge concurs with the action of Federal regulators who recently ordered Sallie Mae to pay $96.6 million in restitution and penalties to address allegations that Sallie Mae violated several consumer protection laws related to federal and private student loans, including the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) which protects active-duty military personnel against harmful overcharging.
Improper practices related to student loan servicing for members of the military has been a concern for the CFPB. In October 2012, Holly Petraeus and CFPB colleagues published a report describing a number of complaints from servicemembers with student debt, including:
- Improper requirements for servicemembers to be “deployed” or serving in a “combat zone” in order to receive student loan benefits
- Burying servicemembers in bureaucracy and paperwork, requiring multiple submissions of military orders
- Denying SCRA rights for servicemembers who do not have military orders with end dates – even though officer orders frequently have no end dates
Holly Petraeus released a statement about today’s enforcement action against Sallie Mae, the nation’s largest student lender and servicer, which is included below.
If you know any consumers who may have been victims of Sallie Mae’s misconduct, you may wish to share these additional resources:
(1) Submit a complaint against Sallie Mae. While today’s orders will provide restitution directly to most victims, consumers may still wish to file a complaint if they are concerned their account was illegally handled. Visit consumerfinance.gov/complaint or call 855-411-CFPB (2372).
(2) Share the action guide for servicemembers with student loans. We released a new action guide for servicemembers with student loans. The guide contains clear information on how active-duty military personnel can take advantage of student loan benefits and avoid misleading – and potentially illegal – conduct by student loan servicers.
• Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, P.O. Box 65900, Washington, D.C. 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330, call 202/257-5446 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.