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VA News: Murder, Scandal, and Gender Reassignment Surgery

When it comes to vet-related news, I try to distill it as much as possible. No one wants to read a long article, especially when you can get the message in a short one. It’s like squeezing juice from an orange – you get the good stuff, and leave the rest. This week, here’s the good (actually, bad, in many instances) stuff:

  • Firings in Wake of Phoenix Scandal. Remember that scandal? Three more administrators at the Phoenix VA Health Care System have been fired in the aftermath of investigations that focused on a breakdown in service to veterans and retaliation against hospital employees who tried to report mismanagement and corruption affecting patient care. All “higher-ups,” they were removed for “negligent performance of duties and failure to provide effective oversight” according to a VA press release. They have the right to appeal, and based on what happened with Kimberly Graves and Diana Rubens, I’m sure they’ll be reinstated, as well as receive back pay. And a pony.
  • VA Proposes Coverage for Gender Reassignment Surgeries. The VA is proposing a rule change to begin covering sex-reassignment surgeries and other related medical treatment for transgender veterans. The proposed rule change, announced on the Executive Office of the President’s website, would allow veterans to apply for medical services to change their sex, including surgery, to be determined on a case-by-case basis. Coming in the wake of fights over transgender bathroom rules, the VA has noted that: “Recent medical research shows that gender dysphoria is a serious condition that has had severe medical consequences for certain patients if transition-related surgeries and procedures are not provided.” (Note, however, that the VA has not yet formally proposed the rule).
  • Senate Blocks Vote to Fund Military Fertility Program. In January, a pilot program began that allowed U.S. troops to freeze their sperm and eggs before deployment. The goal is to give those in uniform the peace of mind that if they are hurt on the battlefield, they can still have children; as well as to encourage women to stay in the military longer. This week, however, the Senate voted 85-13 to approve a $602 billion military spending bill for 2017 that stripped funding for the program.
  • Vet Accused of “Gaming” Set-Aside Program Now Stands Trial for Murder. Remember a few years ago, when Tammy Duckworth berated Braulio Costello before Congress for abusing the SDVOSB set-aside program? (This one is worth re-reading). Costello’s trial for the murder of his wife, who had a protective order against him and was the mother of his five children, began on May 20 in Loudoun County.
  • Thousands of Living Vets Declared Dead and Lost Benefits Over Last Five Years. The VA has mistakenly declared thousands of veterans to be deceased and canceled their benefits over the past five years, a new snafu to emerge at the embattled department. According to The Wall Street Journal, The VA has made the error more than 4,000 times over a half-decade because of employee mistakes or erroneous cross-checking of data by the department’s computers, among other reasons. More details will emerge in the weeks to come.

There you have it! The “juicy” news, squeezed, so you don’t have to drink the whole glass. (Though, if you’re like me, reading most of this will make you bitter, too).

*If you found this article informative, please sign up for Sarah Schauerte’s legal blog on veteran issues at:

**Also, while this is unrelated to veteran news, if you are a parent or grandparent (or just someone who would like to read a book promoted as “Jumanji with monsters”), sign up to win a free advanced release copy of Monsterville: A Lissa Black Production, here. Sarah’s book makes its debut on September 6, 2016, and please feel free to share the page link! 

Your VA news, distilled and squeezed for easy reading.

Your VA news, distilled and squeezed for easy reading.


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3 Responses to “VA News: Murder, Scandal, and Gender Reassignment Surgery”

  1. “And a pony.” I love it!

    You didn’t even mention that Obama’s AG has decided not to enforce the new law about fast-track firing of VA SES employees that Obama himself signed and supported, calling it “unconstitutional.” That just makes it easier for for these senior employees to appeal to the MSPB to get their jobs back (as did Graves & Rubens). Sharon Helman, the fired VAMC Director at Phoenix, will be the first to take advantage of that refusal to enforce the law as she sues to get her job back. And a pony.

    Keep ’em coming Sarah!

    • The sad thing is it probably IS unconstitutional. Great to know the law protects those who deserve it.

      The story about the Puerto Rico employee (from a few weeks back) might be the grand prize winner.

  2. With the acceptance of openly transgendered people into the service, I imagine the amount of resources spent honoring the promise to cover re-assignment therapy will further strain the limited resources of the VA Medical System. Ugh, the bills boss, the bills……

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