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THE AMERICAN LEGION

DEPARTMENT OF INDIANA

Legion News

New changes in 2015 Legion Baseball Rule Book

The 2015 American Legion Baseball Rule Book is currently in the process of being sent to all state department baseball chairmen to distribute to coaches. The rule book is also available for download here.

Rule changes include:

Rule 1 B. The Batter:

1. The batter shall not leave his position in the batter's box after the pitcher comes to set position or starts his windup.

2. The batter shall keep at least one foot in the batter's box throughout the batter's time at bat unless one of the eight exceptions applies (read them on page 7 of the rule book), in which case the batter may l eave the batter's box but not the dirt area surrounding home plate.

Rule 1 Q-4. Pitching Rule: When the bases are unoccupied, the pitcher shall deliver the ball to the batter within 12 seconds after he receives the ball. Each time the pitcher delays the game by violating this rule, the umpire shall call “Ball.”

a) The 12-second timing starts when the pitcher is in possession of the ball and the batter is in the box, alert to the pitcher. The timing stops when the pitcher releases the ball.

b) The intent of this rule is to avoid unnecessary delays. The umpire shall insist that the catcher return the ball promptly to the pitcher, and that the pitcher take his position on the rubber promptly. Obvious delay by the pitcher should instantly be penalized by the umpire.

Rule 2 B-4. 2014 Graduated Students: Players who graduated in 2014 shall play for the last senior American Legion team they played for. If a team should fail to form and/or exist, the player must play for the team nearest their parents' domicile. Players who graduated in 2014 shall not be eligible to be transferred (Forms 76 and 77). Their name must have appeared on a previously approved senior team roster.

Rule 9 H. Department Championship Play: Department championship tournaments will comply with national tournament rules and policies outlined in National Rule 9 and American Legion Baseball Tournament Policies adopted by the National Americanism Commission. No department may enter a team in a national regional tournament without first conducting an official department tournament that had two or more certified teams participating.

Additionally, there have been clarifications to Rule 6 D: Dual Participation. American Legion Baseball players or teams may participate in other amateur baseball programs; however, the team manager and player must obtain written approval from the department baseball chairman prior to participating in the event and/or tournament. The use of National Form 6 is strongly recommended and is available online at www.baseball.legion.org.

Legion's testimony recommends TAP improvements

During congressional testimony in support of government efforts to assist returning warriors in the transition back to civilian life, The American Legion offered numerous suggestions to improve the process.

Davy Leghorn, assistant director of The American Legion’s National Veterans Employment and Education Division, presented testimony on behalf of the Legion to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity hearing on Jan. 27. The subcommittee convened to discuss the federal government’s Transition Assistance Program (TAP).

TAP is authorized as part of the VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 – P.L. 112-56 – which resulted in the establishment of the Veterans Employment Initiative Task Force recommendations for improving and standardizing transition activities among the services. The standardization includes the development and implementation of Career Readiness Standards; institutionalizing Transition GPS (Goals, Plans, Success) revamped program curriculum; integrating a culminating capstone event prior to a servicemembers transition or retirement; and implementation of a Military Life Cycle model to maximize the benefits of interagency and joint interoperability.

The American Legion has spent the last two years observing daily operations of programs, including the five-day mandatory portion, and the specialized capstone courses that comprise Transition GPS at seven different military installations.

“In general, we were highly impressed both by the amount and the quality of information that was conveyed, particularly in such a relatively short period of time,” said Leghorn during his testimony.

While he addressed the subcommittee, he also offered recommendations for improvement from the Legion. The first suggestion included more emphasis on behaviors and etiquette that make an individual employable. The vast majority of the personnel leaving the armed services have not had significant experience working in a civilian work setting.

"We believe that insufficient emphasis is placed on these soft skills during TAP," Leghorn said. “Further, a five-day course cannot hope to teach behaviors obtained by spending a substantial part of one’s adult life in the civilian workplace. However, we believe that transitioning servicemembers would benefit if there were more discussions of workplace culture.”

Another recommendation included improvements to the information on education that is provided in TAP. With the Post-9/11 GI Bill, every transitioning servicemember has access to the opportunity to attend a higher education program or in some instances transfer the benefit to their dependents. Leghorn suggested to the subcommittee that the education track should incorporate more input from the Department of Education and that the education track of the Transition GPS be made mandatory for all transitioning servicemembers.

He also urged them to encourage collaboration between government entities and the private sector. The American Legion has already hosted employment workshops and hiring events to transitioning servicemembers. The Legion's Employment & Empowerment Summit is a two-day event hosted in various cities. During the summit, the Legion provides transportation and lodging to servicemembers going through TAP; the event ends with a job fair. Those who attend the events have a chance to learn about various opportunities in fields ranging from the banking industry to the trades, and they are able to receive some preliminary instruction on the soft skills needed to gain and maintain employment.

In written testimony, The American Legion pointed out issues with Department of Defense (DoD) personnel and TAP facilitators, all of whom are evaluated based on a limited scope of performance measures that only involve the administration of their programs, resulting in a lack of incentive for them to work outside the parameters.

The American Legion believes that this situation hinders the provision of important services to transitioning servicemembers. Amending DoD contracts for TAP facilitators to include a section regarding required collaboration with trusted private sector employers and service providers would easily solve this problem

While there are some shortcomings that require attention, the program overall appears to be successful and the implementation has been commendable, said Leghorn.

“The American Legion looks forward to continuing our work with the agencies and with Congress to continue to improve this valuable resource for our transitioning servicemembers," he said.

Legion: VA needs to keep informal claims process

One piece of legislation considered at a Jan. 27 House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs hearing would stop the Department of Veterans Affairs from effectively eliminating informal claims from its benefits system. Such claims can be submitted to VA without using its standardized forms for traditional claims.

The bill, H.R.245, would override a proposed rule change that VA promulgated last year. That change would require all initial disability claims to be filed on specific forms (paper or digital). Any claims submitted on non-standard paper would not be processed.

The American Legion supports the measure and expressed concern in its written testimony that “VA is sacrificing veterans’ choices and options in the interest of making the claims system easier for VA to work with. However, the disability claims system does not exist to serve VA; it exists to serve the veterans disabled through service to their country.”

If VA no longer recognized traditional informal claims, the Legion stated that “VA eliminates the opportunity to create an effective date at the point where the veteran opts to pursue a disability claim.”

Another Legion-supported bill considered at the hearing was H.R. 216, “The Department of Veterans Affairs Budget Planning and Reform Act.” The measure’s provisions include:

  • Future-Years Program that would indicate VA’s expected expenses over a five-year period.
  • Quadrennial Veterans Review to begin in fiscal 2017 that would examine “the commitments of the United States to veterans and a determination of what resources are necessary to deliver on those commitments.”
  • Designating a chief strategy officer to serve as the VA Secretary’s principal advisor on long-range strategic planning.
  • A study to be conducted on the functions and organizational structure of the VA Secretary’s office and the VA in general.

Another Legion-supported bill discussed at the hearing was H.R. 280, authorizing the VA Secretary “to recoup bonuses and awards paid to employees of (VA).”

To read The American Legion’s written testimony, click here.

 

Legion assists homeless veterans during stand down event

While the nation’s capital is known for scenic views during cherry blossom season and the rich history and culture surrounding the White House, Capitol Hill and other prominent monuments and staples in the district, homeless veterans have also become fixtures in many local communities. There are approximately 400 displaced veterans in D.C. blending into their surroundings in parks, metro stations and high traffic areas. Many of whom are struggling to cope with their daily life, visible and non-visible injuries and disabilities.

On Jan. 24, the Washington D.C. VA Medical Center hosted its 21st annual Winterhaven Homeless Veterans Stand Down, an event designed to provide free health-care and other quality of life services under one roof to local homeless and at-risk veterans.

Together, many federal, local and state government agencies teamed up with veteran service organizations and other local groups and community partners to provide access to health-care assessments, housing and education counseling, and other resources. Foreclosure avoidance assistance, finance counseling and discharge upgrade service were also available. Free haircuts were provided throughout the day and more than 500 volunteers, including active duty military personnel, were on hand to navigate veterans through the hospital and to distribute comfort items and donated boots and clothing.

“This event brought the entire community together to raise awareness,” said Brian Hawkins, director of the Washington D.C. VA Medical Center. “We fight to eradicate veteran homelessness 365 days a year. This event helped us get the entire community engaged in the fight to continue to combat homelessness all year.”

During the event, American Legion representatives provided counseling to veterans who needed assistance with an array of issues, from claim information and appeals to benefits questions.

“I was able to give them (veterans) the information and documentation they need to apply for a discharge upgrade,” said Larry Provost, assistant director in The American Legion's Legislative Division. “We are here to help guide them through the process. The American Legion is the only VSO that regularly provides this service. If we don’t do this for them – the people who have served their country, many during war time – who else is going to do it?”

Provost, an Army veteran, believes that everyone deserves a second chance, and he gets a sense of pride from the work he does, helping his brothers and sisters in arms.

“Although discharge upgrades are difficult to receive, some of these veterans have extenuating circumstances that would warrant a discharge upgrade,” he said. “I had to get up at 5 a.m. to be here — so what. There are people living on the street that need our help. The American Legion is committed to all veterans. We will continue to lead and be out on the forefront advocating issues that range from homelessness to military preparedness. That’s what we do.”

Several veterans who spoke with American Legion representatives said they left with a better understanding of what they need to do to tackle their individual issues. For one veteran, it was a cause very close to his heart.

Juann Tubbs served in the Air Force and the Army reserves. After receiving a general (under honorable conditions) discharge, he was denied benefits for 12 years. Tubbs, who is no stranger to services the American Legion offers, said he previously received help from the organization to file his claim for compensation. He came to Winterhaven to improve his living situation and once again seek help to get his discharge upgraded from an organization that previously helped him.

Tubbs said he has always been patriotic, shaping his values around God and country. “I’m still an asset to this country, and I would love to be able to serve my country again,” he said. “That is the reason I would like get my discharge and re-enlistment code changed.” Provost explained the process to Tubbs and provided him with the necessary paperwork to start the process. Like many of his comrades that were there, Tubbs said he was leaving the VA that day with a better understanding of the process and a sense of hope that an independent, healthier lifestyle can be achieved.

Legion named an official charity for Tree Town Festival

The American Legion, will once again serve as the official charity of the Tree Town Musical Festival, an annual country music event that is fast becoming the largest of its kind.

In 2014, thousands of fans descended on Forest City, Iowa, for the first-year Memorial Day weekend event to catch performances by some of country music’s biggest stars, including Brad Paisley, Toby Keith, Brantley Gilbert, Chris Young, Scotty McCreery and more.

For the second year, American Legion service officers from Iowa and Minnesota will be onsite to meet with veterans and their families to help them with their Department of Veterans Affairs benefits and health-care interests. American Legion service officers are well-trained experts in VA programs and services. Soldier’s Wish will also be in attendance, granting wishes to soldiers, veterans and their families as a way to honor them for their bravery and sacrifice to our country.

“The continued support of Tree Town Music Festival is a great display of patriotism,” Department of Iowa Commander Ron Struble said. “We look forward to spending the weekend leading up to Memorial Day at Tree Town Music Festival with veterans and their families while remembering our fallen heroes who have paid the ultimate price for our nation’s freedom.”

Tree Town Music Festival is bringing the hottest rising stars and established hit-makers in music to Forest City May 21-24. The newly-expanded four-day event will feature performances by Blake Shelton, Dierks Bentley, Rascal Flatts, Lee Brice, Eli Young Band, Thomas Rhett, Chase Rice, Maddie & Tae, Danielle Bradbery, Old Dominion, Casey Muessigmann, The Last Ride, Joe Denim, Hairball, Williams & Ree and more. This year’s festival will also feature The American Legion stage, hosting .38 Special, Chris Hawkey, Iowa native Ben Lau and others. In addition to non-stop music from multiple stages, the grounds of the event will once again be filled with food and beverage vendors, rock climbing, zip lines and much more.

Single-day tickets are now available for $35 for Thursday and $80 for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Four-day passes are available for $150 and VIP tickets for $525 until April 6. For ticket-holders looking for the true festival experience, camping is available starting at $100. Whether you have a two-person tent or jumbo home on wheels, Tree Town Music Festival has campsite options to meet your needs. For more info on tickets, camping or anything else, click here or call (877) 569-7767.

Legion ‘uniquely positioned’ to host credentialing summit

The American Legion’s National Credentialing Summit on Feb. 17-18 in Washington will bring together experts on the credentialing issue and about 200 key decision-makers from across the country – individuals who can collaborate to improve the licensing, certification and credentialing of veterans in the private sector.

The Legion has been involved with credentialing since the 1990s and issued its first national report on the issue in 1997. Its first credentialing summit was in 2012, co-sponsored with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Lisa Lutz, president and co-founder of Solutions for Information Design, LLC – a company that specializes in research and analysis for social science policy – was a researcher for the Legion’s 1997 report. Lutz and Steve Gonzalez of The American Legion’s Veterans Employment & Education Division are co-leaders of the Legion’s summit. Her company specializes in areas of education, employment and training for veterans and servicemembers. She recently spoke with The American Legion about the upcoming summit:

Q: What is the credentialing summit’s purpose and why is it important to hold such an event?

A: One of the key objectives of the summit is to talk about the best practices and share with stakeholders what might be done to emulate those. The last summit really turned the spotlight on the credentialing issue and, as a result, we’ve seen legislation passed at the national and state levels. We’ve seen the Department of Defense proactively start addressing these issues, the White House has implemented a number of initiatives since then. So there are a lot of good things to report.

But there are still some issues that have not been fully addressed, and we need to continue to highlight these issues at the summit. For instance, very little research has been done on tracking the outcomes of credentialing, both in the civilian and military sectors. It’s hard to know specifically what credentials actually yield for people in the civilian work force.

Another objective of the summit is to take a look at quality and value. Credentialing is a relatively new form of establishing workplace competency. We’ve been doing that through higher education for hundreds of years but certification is relatively new – about the last 25 years. So the infrastructure around it is not as built up.

Q: Why does it make sense for the Legion to play a leading role on this issue?

A: The American Legion is one of the rare organizations that can really draw together folks from various industries, across political aisles, and everybody can convene around this important issue. But the Legion has a long history of delving into credentialing of servicemembers and veterans, and understanding the issues in depth, and I don’t think there really are any other organizations that have done that.

We have worked with the Legion for many years on credentialing issues, which are very complex. Some of the first research done on how to alleviate barriers to servicemembers and veterans on credentialing was done by the Legion in the 1990s. I happened to participate in the research for that report.

A lot of people seem to think that this is a black and white issue that can be easily solved. But the research The American Legion sponsored back in the 90s, along with the efforts that have been underway since the last Legion credentialing summit, really highlight the complexities. There are a variety of stakeholders involved. The Legion really has its arms around those complexities and is uniquely positioned to bring together the right stakeholders to continue to address the issue.

Q: How has the landscape changed on this issue since the Legion’s first summit in 2012?

A: It’s changed tremendously, and I really attribute that to the Legion’s effort to raise awareness of the issues. Since then, we’ve seen several pieces of very significant legislation coming out of Congress, such as the Vow To Hire Heroes Act, where the Department of Labor was tasked with developing a credentialing pilot to look at how veterans could be better-suited to obtain credentials – particularly state licenses.

Numerous states have passed legislation that requires recognition of military training and experience for state licensure purposes. What we’ve seen is that state licensing boards are now proactively identifying military occupations related to their state licenses, so that they can delve into the military training and recognize it for state licensing purposes.

Q: Who is attending this summit, and what would you like them to take away from it?

A: The idea is really to convene a diverse group of stakeholders. So we’re expecting to have representatives from industry, academic institutions, certainly credentialing agencies, the military, other federal agencies, and other veterans organizations, because they all can play a role in facilitating credentialing.

And that’s one of the key takeaways that we want to happen from this summit, is that each stakeholder group needs to better understand what their role can be – for example, the credentialing agencies. The Manufacturing Skills Standards Council adapted its study materials for the military so that they could better translate terminology. That’s a best practice. That’s something that other credentialing agencies can do, and there are a number of other examples like that, where credentialing agencies are recognizing that they can play a role. So we’re trying to increase their awareness of how they might go about implementing some of the best practices.

The bottom line – and this is what I hope is everybody’s takeaway – is that servicemembers are highly trained. The military spends tens of thousands of dollars on training a servicemember; they provide high-quality, state-of-the-art training. Society really can’t afford to not recognize that training when individuals leave the military and want to join the civilian work force. We know that employers recognize the tremendous soft skills that military servicemembers bring, but they also have tremendous technical skills as well.

Legion: VA claims appeals can be ‘adjudication purgatory’

At a Jan. 22 congressional hearing, The American Legion noted that decisions on about 288,000 veterans’ benefits claims have been appealed. “With appealed claims, you can no longer think in terms of how many days you’ve been waiting,” the Legion stated in its written testimony. “Appealed claims are measured in terms of how many years the veteran has been waiting.”

Zachary Hearn, deputy director of benefits for the Legion’s Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Division, amplified the Legion's views while testifying before the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs. The hearing focused on the Department of Veterans Affairs' appeals system for veterans’ claims.

Veterans who have appealed their disability claims wait an average of 1,937 days for final decisions, according to numbers listed in VA’s Monday Morning Workload Report of Jan. 5. That time span is about 500 days longer than a standard four-year enlistment in the military.

Hearn told the committee that nearly 75 percent of claims presented at Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA) have either been improperly denied at a VA regional office, or inadequately developed and denied prematurely. Many claims were also appealed because their claims adjudicators failed to follow their legally mandated duties to assist veterans.

In reviewing claims appeals, The American Legion often notes that VA claims adjudicators do not consider secondary medical conditions that have been caused or aggravated by previous service-connected conditions. If VA workers were compelled to consider those conditions, Hearn said, many remands for medical examinations would be eliminated. But such additional consideration is time-consuming.

“While VA asserts it does not place a higher priority on the amount of claims adjudicated,” Hearn said, “its current work-credit structure does not address accuracy in its metric, which rewards speed over quality.”

The American Legion represented more than 9,100 veterans at the BVA between October 2013 and last September. About three-fourths of those claims were either granted outright to the veteran (28.1 percent) or sent back to regional offices because of improper work (46.4 percent).

Once a BVA judge remands a claim, instructions are forwarded to VA’s Appeals Management Center for further development. Hearn said these remands, or returned claims, come with clear and distinct instructions from the judges, yet The American Legion consistently sees cases remanded multiple times, despite the instructions.

“This is what is known as the ‘hamster wheel’ of remands, where a veteran remains in adjudication purgatory, waiting for VA to conduct proper development and finally render a decision," Hearn said. "The greatest impact on the appeals process would be eliminating the need to appeal in the first place.”

While VA has published accuracy rates above 90 percent for claims processing, the Government Accountability Office reported last November that the Veterans Benefits Administration “does not follow accepted statistical practices and thus generates imprecise accuracy data.”

“This is what veterans face: An adjudication process that rewards the quick and not the accurate, an appellate process that repeatedly notes errors in development, and adjudication that may cause years of hardship for our nation’s veterans," Hearn said.

VA needs to eliminate its current work-credit structure, Hearn said, because it places greater emphasis on the quantity of claims adjudicated, rather than the quality of those adjudications.

Legion salutes DoD’s move to open bases for VSO support

American Legion National Commander Michael D. Helm praised Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s recent directives for military commanders to be more welcoming of nonprofit groups, including veterans service organizations (VSOs), that wish to provide support for troops and their families.

“Secretary Hagel has broken through the bureaucratic walls that Legionnaires sometimes face when they try to access military bases so they could provide needed support for troops and their families,” Helm said. “The Legion has approximately 3,000 accredited service officers that are eager to assist troops access the benefits they have earned. Additionally, we have outstanding support programs such as Operation Comfort Warriors for wounded, injured or ill troops, job placement, transition assistance, a family support network and many other initiatives adopted by American Legion posts throughout the United States and overseas.

“With frequent personnel changes on military installations, some base commanders haven’t had the opportunities to establish long-term relationships with the Legion, and were un-informed of our intentions and the services that we provide. Secretary Hagel has taken measures that re-emphasize the importance of military installations to standardize their procedures and grant greater access consistent with their mission requirements.”

In a letter to American Legion National Security Director John Stovall, Hagel said, “I want to express my deep appreciation for the wise counsel and support you and your organization have provided during my tenure as Secretary of Defense. Our many roundtable meetings and other engagements gave me valuable insights and thoughtful perspectives into how our Department can best address the needs of our Service members, veterans and their families.”

Hagel issued two directives to each of the military services, one calling for greater access and support services to “VA-recognized Veteran Service and Military Service Organizations,” and another calling for access and support services to “Nonprofit Non-federal entities.”

“The American Legion exists so we can provide services and advocacy for troops, veterans and their families,” Helm said. “With these directives, Secretary Hagel has enhanced our ability to provide that support and show our appreciation for those who sacrifice everyday on our behalf.”

Florida graduates two SAL college classes

During the 2010 Florida Sons of The American Legion fall conference, membership formally adopted a proposal to create the Detachment Member Training and Development Committee and to create the Florida SAL College course.

The purpose was to use some of the educational tools developed at National Headquarters, combine them with materials developed in Florida, and begin delivering them formally to membership. The reason for doing this was simple: not everyone gets to travel to Indianapolis to participate in those course offerings and this was our way to provide the materials to as many members as we can.

Since the inception of the Detachment MT&D Committee, we now have eight courses that are in the Florida SAL College System and available for delivery. Course 1 is in three parts and this is what we call our Florida SAL College. The three parts are Communications, Personal Administration and Personal Development and these give us the foundation of leadership to build upon. We deliver the first part during our annual fall conference and the last two parts in the spring at a local squadron somewhere in the state. There are no prerequisites for members to attend the courses, but they must complete an application and an essay. These are reviewed by the Detachment MT&D Committee for selection into the college. 

In the fall of 2012, the SAL College Session for the Class of 2013 began with 20 students that graduated at the detachment convention in June 2013. From there the system really took off as another 20 students graduated in the Class of 2014 to include two American Legion district commanders. We are currently preparing for the Class of 2015 to graduate this year in June and this class includes our first member of The American Legion Auxiliary.

One of our classes that has really gotten around the state so far is our Organizational Course, which is a full day of instruction about the Sons of The American Legion. This course includes a video history of The American Legion and an overview of the Sons history, officer’s responsibilities, meetings, reporting and much more. We are really excited about this course. Finally, we didn’t do this all by ourselves as we have to give credit to the National MT&D Committee for the materials over the years that we have used in our college, the Detachment of Pennsylvania developed District Commander’s Class that we have tailored for Florida and our Past Commanders Club has been asked to help us develop a Squadron Commander’s Course so we are looking forward to that sometime in the future.

Legion: VA construction issues threaten operations nationwide

At a Jan. 21 House Committee on Veterans Affairs hearing, The American Legion noted that the Department of Veterans Affairs has had three secretaries since planning began for its hospital project in Aurora, Colo. Six hundred million dollars later, Colorado veterans are still waiting.

“Not only are the failures of VA construction hurting the veterans of Colorado, systemic VA problems with communication, transparency and accountability threatens VA operations nationwide," Roscoe Butler, the Legion's deputy director for health, told the committee. "The veterans of America deserve better.”

Butler, a member of the Legion's Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Division, presented the Legion’s testimony at a hearing before the committee. Butler said that the Colorado hospital is one of four VA construction projects that have average cost overruns of $366 million and average delays of 35 months, according to the Government Accountability Office; the other projects are in Las Vegas, New Orleans and Orlando, Fla.

“Frankly, this is unacceptable,” Butler said. “Other agencies and private-sector organizations continue to build major projects across the nation, yet VA’s replacement hospital on the Fitzsimons campus (in Colorado) continues to be delayed.”

Ralph Bozella, chairman of The American Legion’s Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Commission, voiced the Legion’s concerns about construction delays in Colorado at an April 2014 field hearing in Denver held by HVAC’s Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations. He testified that mistakes and mismanagement are crippling VA construction projects “and nobody seems to be held accountable.”

Even when VA completes a major construction project (the Las Vegas hospital was completed in August 2012), the Legion stated “the projects can hardly be considered flawless success stories.” The Las Vegas facility’s emergency room, it turned out, was too small and lacked a drop-off ramp for ambulances; the deficiencies cost $16 million to fix.

VA’s own Office of Inspector General reported in October 2013 the department’s construction efforts were characterized by “lack of guidance, inaccurate milestones, lack of documentation and lack of central tracking.”

The American Legion testified that it met with VA construction officials and came away with the belief that “VA needs to seriously examine how (it) manages major construction projects, and that reform is needed in this process.”

Last December, the Kiewit-Turner construction group ceased working on the Colorado hospital after a federal appeals board ruled that VA breached its contract – by failing to deliver a facility design that could be built within budget. Workers returned to the jobsite two weeks later, after VA agreed to call in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for assistance.That move fell in line with a Legion resolution passed in May 2014, calling on Congress and VA to consider “all available options” (including the Corps of Engineers) “to ensure major construction programs are completed on time and within budget.”

The Legion testified that, based on its own annual VA hospital evaluations, “when veterans can access these health-care facilities, they receive an excellent level of care and, in many cases, superior to what they could receive outside the (Veterans Health Administration) system. But veterans can’t access that care if VA can’t get the facilities built.”

To read Butler’s written testimony, click here.

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