AFP recently sat down to talk with veterans’ rights attorney Ben Krause for a lengthy conversation about the state of veterans in America today. Krause singled out the out-of-control VA, which pays hundreds of millions in salary bonuses every year to executives but can’t take care of the men and women who have served our country.
By Dave Gahary
About a week before the historic presidential election of Donald J. Trump, it was revealed that almost 189,000 employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) were granted more than $177 million in bonuses for 2015. Out of those bonuses doled out to employees of the troubled agency, more than 300 senior executives received $3.3 million in bonuses—a $10,000 average payout—and non-executives received about a $900 average payout.
To gain more insight into the out-of-control VA and how Trump may rein them in, AMERICAN FREE PRESS conducted an exclusive interview with Minnesota-based veteran rights attorney and activist Benjamin Krause. Krause served in the U.S. Air Force. The struggles he experienced while attempting to use his benefits after his discharge led him to dedicate his life to assisting fellow veterans navigate the treacherous waters of the VA.
“I experienced a non-combat related traumatic brain injury and after getting out of the military had all kinds of problems getting work and keeping work,” Krause explained to AFP.
“They found out that I had a traumatic brain injury, for which the VA wasn’t giving me rehabilitative treatment,” Krause continued. “As a result of that, I started pushing back against the VA to get help and support and realized that the primary veteran service organization community lacked the will or desire to stand up for veterans like me who were being abused or not getting the help that we deserve. So I eventually became an attorney and started exposing stories, scandals, and corruption.”
Krause educates veterans through his website, “DisabledVeterans.org.”
He explained his ultimate goal: “I’m hoping to challenge the VA very publicly by encouraging dissent and by encouraging them to drop the curtain a little bit so we can better see that they are an insurance company.”
“They used to be called the Bureau of War Risk Insurance before they realized that sounded bad, and then they changed the name. I think it’s important that people understand that history before they go to the VA for help, thinking the VA is going to be their mother, and then get slapped in the face. It’s really Allstate or Prudential behind the curtain.”
AFP asked how the VA can rationalize giving these bonuses.
“I can’t think of one reason why I would ever give anyone a bonus when that person is linked to negligently causing deaths of veterans,” Krause said.
Krause was alluding to Dr. Darren Deering, the fired chief of staff of the Phoenix VA Health Care System, who was paid a $5,000 bonus after several veterans died while waiting for care.
Krause addressed the larger question of bonuses for federal employees.
“A person needs to stop and think whether federal employees should be getting bonuses to begin with,” he said. “You end up with smarter bureaucrats that know how to game the system to increase their bonuses, but a lot of times that comes at the expense of veterans. And as we know, within the VA, they lack accountability. This ends up resulting in no accountability for anyone caught committing fraud. In addition, veterans tend to die before anyone will pay attention to the fraud that is going on.”
Krause went on to discuss what happened in Phoenix.
“This particular scandal at Phoenix had been ongoing since at least the ‘90s, and it had been a nationwide problem,” he said. “But it took a bunch of veterans dying and CNN catching wind of it before the government and the VA suddenly developed the political will to evaluate it—and even then they covered it up.”
What happened next shocked even critics of the VA.
“[Sloan Gibson IV] immediately shut down the Office of the Medical Inspector, which resulted in all of the investigations being shunted back to each location,” he said. “[As a result of this] there wasn’t that consolidated review that you would get from the Office of the Medical Inspector.”
Gibson is the current deputy secretary of Veterans Affairs. He became the acting secretary of Veterans Affairs after Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned and held the acting secretary and deputy secretary positions concurrently until Robert McDonald was sworn in as the secretary on July 30, 2014.
Dave Gahary, a former submariner in the U.S. Navy, is the host of AFP’s “Underground Interview” series. See www.americanfreepress.net for more.
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