Action to undo Shanklin appointment to Veterans Service Commission filed today

Attached is a copy of an original action in quo warranto and an affidavit in support that were filed today with the Second District Court of Appeals relating to the appointment of Wilburt Shanklin to the VSC, by Anne Jagielski,, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office. Shanklin Quo Warranto

Quo Warranto means: A legal proceeding during which an individual’s right to hold an office or governmental privilege is challenged.

From the filing:

21. The DAV Chapter 9 believes the nomination of Mr. Shankin was improper because he was not nominated and voted on by the members of DAV Chapter 9. Instead the DAV Chapter 9 believe they were compelled by the Court to submit a nomination for someone they did not and do not want representing them on the VSC. But for feeling forced by the Court, Mr. Weeks would not have submitted Mr. Shanklin’s name for nomination. Therefore, Mr. Shanklin’s name should never have been considered by the Court for a seat on the VSC.

You read about this story here first: Politics interfering with the Montgomery County Veterans Service Commission

and then here: Judges break law with Shanklin appointment to Veterans Service Commission

I requested help from State Representatives Jim Butler and Rick Perales on this issue, both being veterans and local. The original claim out of the prosecutors office was that the other board that Shanklin sat on, wasn’t a county board, but a state board, so it didn’t disqualify him, even though he was appointed by the very same judges. This issue wasn’t mentioned in the filing.

We will have to wait for a ruling from the Second District Court for final disposition. Shanklin was supposed to begin his term on January 15th. 2017.

Judges break law with Shanklin appointment to Veterans Service Commission

In their rush to appoint Wilburt Shanklin to the Montgomery County Veterans Service Commission over the DAV recommended incumbent Tommy Adkins, the 7 judges who signed off on the appointment under the direction of Judge Mary Katherine Huffman, broke the law:

5901.02

Veterans service commission.In each county there shall be a commission known as “the veterans service commission.” Except as provided in section 5901.021 of the Revised Code, the commission shall be composed of five residents of the county appointed to five-year terms by a judge of the court of common pleas. At the time of appointment or reappointment to the commission, no commission member appointed under this section shall be an employee of the commission or hold an elective or other appointive office of the county served by the commission.

Source: Lawriter – ORC – 5901.02 Veterans service commission.

Appointments to Greater Dayton Premier Management including Wilburt Shanklin

Click to link to PDF

Maybe we should refresh the judges memory, since they previously appointed Shanklin to the board of Greater Dayton Premier Management, with his term expiring 5/31/2018 as shown in this City of Dayton document.

Considering the judges broke the law, the question is, who is going to set this straight? Will the County Prosecutor Mat Heck file charges against seven judges? Will the Veterans Service Commission have to waste time and money filing suit? Should the DAV have to spend money to overturn this travesty?

Considering they already swore Shanklin in a month early to the VSC, while he was still officially on the GDPM board, their action should just be negated.

As if this isn’t bad enough, word is circulating that Huffman has also decided to “rotate” judges out of specialized courts- removing Judge Dennis Adkins (no relation) from presiding over the Veterans treatment court which he founded and has successfully lead for 3 years now. Veterans advocate Elaine Herrick, who has been one of the driving forces behind the Veterans Court along with Ret. General Charles Metcalf  has vowed to work to find a challenger to Huffman in her next race and make sure she loses. Both Herrick and Huffman are republicans btw.

What has brought Huffman to think that she should be the deciding voice in veterans issues in Montgomery County is a mystery. Generally, going against veterans support organizations and systems is about as un-American as putting kimchi on your burger. Does she just have it in for anyone named Adkins? Is this a new psychiatric illness: Adkinsphobia?

If Huffman was so concerned with following the letter of the law in appointments to the VSC, the question still remains as to how Tommy Adkins was placed on the commission a year ago- since the DAV only submitted one name that time.

It’s time to stop playing games with the Montgomery County Veterans commission and the Veterans Treatment court. The question is which Montgomery County politician (I know you all read this blog) is going to step up and demand that the court stop meddling where it isn’t supposed to.

 

Politics interfering with the Montgomery County Veterans Service Commission

If it weren’t for Ashley Webb, the Montgomery County Veterans Service Commission would have 11 members, all receiving about $10K a year for 2 meetings a month. The reason we had an extra 6 straphangers was because the Montgomery County Commission wanted to stop the VSC from buying their own office space with money that’s handed them by the taxpayers for veterans services.

Needless to say, the building idea was stupid, the solution more stupid, and the VSC in general, is an embarrassment- often returning half their budget to the county general fund because they couldn’t “find enough veterans in need.” The reality is, you need an advocate to get help from these “advocates” as I pointed out in an earlier post about my personal experience trying to help a homeless vet get back on his feet. The reality is, the VSC spends more on their overhead than they hand out- overpaying their director, their staff and their gatekeepers- while putting veterans through the ringer just to get $500.

If you need evidence on how misguided this commission is- watch this clip from our meeting: listen carefully at the 2 minute mark where Mr. Istvan says “we earned that” to the roof over his head.

It took every bone in my body to restrain me from not jumping over the table and decking him.

The anger stopped me from writing about it- or promoting this disgusting display of contempt from an impotent little martinet.

Which brings us to the actions of Judge Mary Katherine Huffman and other judges in appointing a new member to this board.

Note, when I applied to be placed on it- I wasn’t interviewed, just sent a rejection letter. I’ve been working on veterans issues heavily in this community since 2004.

They appointed Tommy Adkins to fill the vacated seat, as an appointee of the Disabled American Veterans, and I have to say, he’s an awesome addition to this board, with a ton of experience guiding veterans through the complex system. Watch as he deftly responds after Istvan digs his proverbial grave in the video.

When the full term was to be awarded, Adkins was the choice of the DAV commanders. Adkins has been active in the local chapter for a long time, and is eminently qualified to the job- as well as being the incumbent. It’s Istvan that should be replaced yesterday.

This is where the politics come in. The law is that the service organizations must submit three candidates for evaluation by a certain date. When the DAV told the judges we want Adkins, they said submit two other names- which the DAV did. Then the judges decided to interview them (something they never did with me when I put my name in) and determined one of the candidates didn’t really want the job (because he believed Adkins to be the best choice) they reopened the process and demanded another candidate.

In the mean time, one of the former political appointees who lost his job when the commission was shrunk to legal size- Danny Hamilton, apparently suggested that Reverend Wilburt Shanklin should apply. Shanklin went out to the VA, paid the $400 lifetime membership fee, asked “how do I get on the VSC” and basically demanded to be put on the board- despite not having any experience or knowledge of the process- or being involved in veterans issues previously.

Shanklin has been closely tied to the disgraced Rev. Raleigh Trammel and the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance for years as well as being a friend of Rhine McLin. He was also caught up in the hanky panky at the Greater Dayton Premier Management organization – formerly known as DMHA- where he was board president when some people were getting grossly overpaid.

His wife was a long term employee in city hall as well- with close ties to the Monarchy of Montgomery County.

Never once have I heard him talk about veterans issues, seen him at any event focused on helping vets, or even realized he was a vet.

The judges got sold some story that poor Wilburt had somehow got shut out of the process – and that he shouldn’t be considered. I got shut out too- when I realized I didn’t have near the experience that Mr. Adkins did, but considering I’d put an application in before- I didn’t get notified of an opportunity to reapply- nor would I have if it was to replace Adkins- which is what Judge Huffman did today- appointing Shanklin to the board and dismissing Mr. Adkins.

There will be a meeting at 9am tomorrow at the VSC- and I plan on attending. The arrogance of the judges in overruling the recommendations of the DAV is appalling.

This seems like punitive payback to Webb getting rid of an additional 6 patronage jobs for the Monarchy to hand out to their friends and family.

There will be more to come.

If you want to read the 25 page collection of documents on this botched process, they are here: MCVSC Shanklin Travesty

UPDATE

20 Dec, 10:27 am- After the MCVSC meeting this morning, before they went into executive session- and after I had shared my experience in applying for the MCVSC seat- Mr. Tom Istvan came and apologized to me for his treatment of me at the last meeting I attended. He said that when he first met me he didn’t like me (which happens- people either like me or hate me for the most part)- but, after he’d talked to some people, he realized it was his own issues more than me that caused him to dislike me. He hadn’t read this post yet. Also, Mr. Adkins informed me that the last time he had been appointed, the judges were only given one choice by the DAV- him- and they hadn’t had an issue. Channel 7 was there at the beginning of the meeting filming.

Congressman Moocher. Warren Davidson. OH-8

Congressman Warren "Moocher" Davidson, [R] OH-8U.S. Rep. Warren Davidson hasn’t been in office for more than 3 months, and he started out with a great idea to help get the VA on track- force Congress to “eat their own dog food” by moving their care to the VA.

I’d love to see Congressman Turner and Davidson at the Dayton VA for something other than cutting a ribbon or talking about how they help veterans, like waiting for an appointment for a proctologist or a psychiatrist, because the VA can’t hire enough of them. Davidson, a former Army Ranger, is eligible for care there.

I’ve received all of my health care from the VA since 2001 or so. For the most part, it has been absolutely exemplary. They also took care of my father, and he thought the same thing. But, now I have to ask, was he the moocher, or am I? Both of us qualified as Service Disabled Veterans. Or is it my employees Dad, a Vietnam Veteran who has a 100% disability? Is he a moocher?

Of course, Davidson’s first mistake is thinking that Congress actually gets things done. When it comes to work ethic, integrity, and return on investment, the American tax payer is paying a lot of money to windbags who can’t do their jobs- like appoint a 9th Supreme Court Justice.

In today’s Dayton Daily news, Davidson just tried to redefine a legal description of what a veteran is. This bothers me no end, because I just had to battle the VA and their SSVF (Supportive Services for Veterans Families) program about the qualifications of a veteran to be eligible for services. It’s actually spelled out in law, one Davidson is sworn to uphold. Yet now, Davidson says the problems at the VA are caused by “moochers”

U.S. Rep. Warren Davidson told a room full of veterans that one way to clean up the Department of Veterans Affairs’ health care system is to get the “moochers” out of it.

The Troy Republican spoke with the Concerned Veterans for America at a town hall event Monday evening in West Chester Twp.

“Just like work comp out here’s got moochers, I wish that there were no vets that were the same sort of problem on our society,” said Davidson. “But part of the problem is there are some vets that are moochers and they’re clogging up the system. And we do as taxpayers want to make sure the VA filters out these folks that are pretenders. Just like we wish there were no people out there with stolen valor, but that’s a problem in the vet community too.”

Source: From the Dayton Daily News, 9/21/2016: Davidson to vets: Get ‘moochers’ out of VA

Getting a VA ID card isn’t exactly easy. It requires a DD-214. That comes with completion of at least 180 days in the service. In case Congressman Davidson forgot, since he’s a veteran too, that usually includes basic training, advanced individual training and having the potential of being sent places where people can shoot you.

Ah, but, what is a moocher?

noun: moocher

North American
a beggar or scrounger.
“the mooch who got everything from his dad”
synonyms: beggar; informal, bum, scrounger, sponger, cadger, freeloader, moocher
“she is such a mooch”

I thought I’d look up Congressman Davidson on the moocher index, conveniently provided by the Federal Elections Commission.

Name: DAVIDSON FOR CONGRESS
Address: 1385 STONYCREEK RD. BOX 4, TROY, OH 45373
Treasurer Name: DETRICK, ALISSA
Type: H – HOUSE
Designation: P – PRINCIPAL CAMPAIGN COMMITTEE OF A CANDIDATE
Party: REPUBLICAN PARTY

I. RECEIPTS
Itemized Individual Contributions $402,283
Unitemized Individual Contributions $71,090
Total Individual Contributions $473,373
Party Committees Contributions $0
Other Committees Contributions $107,495
Candidate Contributions $9,461
TOTAL CONTRIBUTIONS $590,329
Transfers from Authorized Committees $0
Candidate Loans $250,000
Other Loans $0
TOTAL LOANS $250,000
Offsets to Operating Expenditures $0
Other Receipts $0
TOTAL RECEIPTS $840,329

If I read this correctly, Mr. Davidson spent $250,000 of his own money, and mooched $590,329 from others, to get a job that pays about $178K a year. It comes with comprehensive health care coverage, retirement, an annual payroll in the millions, to hand out to friends, family, and donors. And, as we can see from the person he replaced, John Boehner, a guarantee of fat paychecks after you “resign” from the job- midway through, so Warren could take over in an easier election.

I’d like to give Davidson a chance to apologize for his mis-characterization of veterans seeking care from the VA. That care was part of a contract those veterans made with the people of the United States.

If we use Davidson’s reasoning that “moochers” are the cause of all the problems at the VA, our country has an even bigger problem,  because using the definition of moocher, every single congressman qualifies as one, or am I missing something Congressman “Moocher” Davidson?

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Is your psychiatrist doing his part?

VA Choice program fails vets for psychiatric careEvery day in America, 20 veterans are committing suicide.

You can blame the VA all you want, until you realize, that this country is incredibly short psychiatrists. And, no, it’s not because we’re less crazy than the rest of the world.

Psychiatry has gotten short shift by our “free-market, capitalist health care for profit system” – the one where insurance companies decide on what to pay and what not to.

Psychiatrists make less than almost any other specialty. We have a health care system that often treats dental, vision, hearing and psychological as somehow not quite fully medical insurances problem. Really. As if you can’t eat because of bad teeth- the rest of you will be ok?

The Dayton VA is trying to hire 3 psychiatrists right now. They can’t find them.

My formerly homeless veteran needs an appointment- they can’t comply in a timely manner, so he was approved for “Choice care”- the ability to go to a private doctor on their list of providers. The problem, the list is really short, and if you look up the reputation of a few of the providers I wouldn’t send my worst enemy to them.

The problem is that to be able to be a “Choice care” provider, you have to have your computers talk to the VA computers, and apparently, not everyone wants to do that. So, his appointment is made- in September!

There is a NYTimes article today about the stupid political answer- which is to abolish the only good health care system in America, and replace it with the market driven one as a solution. That’s not going to solve the problem. Vets have special issues, and the VA system is built to deal with them.

Two years after a Department of Veterans Affairs scandal involving long wait times at veterans hospitals, an official report has found that the veterans’ health care system suffers from “profound deficiencies” despite billions of dollars spent in recent years to overhaul it. The report says that the hospital system needs sweeping changes, including a program that would pay for all veterans to see private doctors.

In a document nearly 300 pages long released late on Tuesday, the 15-member Commission on Care, created by Congress after the scandal, contained a list of recommendations to improve the nation’s largest public health care system.

“Although care delivered by V.A. is in many ways comparable or better in clinical quality to that generally available in the private sector,” the report concluded, “it is inconsistent from facility to facility, and can be substantially compromised by problems with access, service, and poorly functioning operational systems and processes.”

Source: Care by Private Doctors Among Big Changes Urged for V.A. Health System – The New York Times

Here is the simple answer for the immediate problem: allow private psychiatrists a way to file reports with the VA system via a translation portal- ie. get their output from their current systems and build a port program. And, start denying them access to medicaid and medicare patients if they don’t join the choice care program. You want government money, you have to be willing to take on veterans.

Secondly, for psychiatrists that work for hospitals- that currently get money from the feds- also require them to accept choice care patients.

We can’t afford to lose any more veterans, just because a computer program isn’t compatible, or there is more money not working for the government.

Measuring the wrong damn thing. Valuing the wrong measurements.

heisenberg-mesureI never got paid more for doing better on a standardized test- I got paid more for bringing unique solutions to the table.

When we hear people talking about running government like a business, most of the time, they are really trying to say “put some measurable, quantifiable metrics on government, so we can keep things under control.” Unfortunately, because most people are of average intelligence- when a Republican says “I’m for smaller government” that translates to “smaller means less to control” so it must be “better.”

Reform, be it school reform, government reform, health care, welfare reform, judicial reform all require an assessment of what the real objectives are, and how do we set meaningful measurements to work toward. In fact, to have a conversation about anything with large ramifications- the first question should always be “what is the right goal- and how do we quantify it.”

A long time ago, I read a business book with profound impact on my approach to solving business problems- “The Great Game of Business” by Jack Stack. It tells the story of a young MBA sent to a failing re-manufacturing plant that International was looking to close up. When Mr. Stack got there- he realized that no one knew the goal, or how score was kept. Kind of like trying to play football without understanding what a first down was, or how you scored. He decided that if the employees knew how the score was kept- profitability, they could all work to make sure the parts they rebuilt, were in fact valuable- i.e. the cost to make them, was less than the cost to sell them. This was “revolutionary” thinking. He taught everyone how to read a balance sheet, how to track costs, how to apply costs, and how to value their contribution. The story continues on how he and a group of managers, hocked their homes, bought the plant, and turned the business into an ESOP (employee stock ownership plan).

Guess what, our government was supposed to be an ESOP. We pay taxes, our investment, and we hire our managers, the politicians, and we’re supposed to get a return on our investment, but we all know this hasn’t been working out well- especially since we’ve seen the value of our votes diluted by our overly expensive system of picking our managers.

Bringing this down to the local level. I’ve spent a ton of time the last few months, working as an advocate to get services delivered to a veteran. I’ve tangled with the VA and their SSVF program, the Montgomery County Veterans Services Commission and a few people in between.

The measurements that we’re supposedly focused on in this country is slowing the rate of veterans committing suicide and making sure they aren’t homeless.

First question is that really what we should be measuring?

There’s a philosophy called expectancy theory- which says if you believe something to be the expected outcome, that’s what you get. I expect Dayton Public Schools to have a 35% drop out rate- so I’m going to focus on “Dropout prevention.” That’s what we’ve done. Maybe if we focused on making the diploma the goal for all, and looking in every available nook and cranny on how to make that diploma the most valuable and attainable goal, we’d do better?

How about working the system on veterans homelessness a different way? Maybe it’s cheaper to create a way for businesses to hire and support veterans with incentives- like having the government pick up the first $20,000 of tax liabilities on at risk veterans? Or working with veteran owned businesses to have a competitive advantage in hiring and protecting low functioning veterans? One thing about hiring a veteran- there is no health care costs, since they have coverage through the VA. We already know small businesses struggle with health care costs (because our system is broken) – so maybe offering to pay for a civilians health care costs for every at risk veteran you hire- giving them a two for one deal?

I’m not saying these are vetted solutions- but, they are a different approach to the problem.

With our local system, it took the MCVSC almost 10 days to issue a check for “emergency food assistance” – thanks to some help from Commissioner Debbie Lieberman, that’s not going to be the case anymore. It took longer for a food stamp card- and we still don’t have the “Obama Phone.” All these things that are mission critical to a successful transition from homeless to homed, are falling through the cracks of a system that is measuring the wrong things. Delivering food stamps to the veteran is the current measurement- but how fast isn’t. See the problem?

How does Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen measure the success of the economy to make decisions about interest rate hikes? She’s got a ton of complex data that she relies on. How do I? Look at gas prices. We do well when gas prices are low, since so many of us are car dependent to get to work. One veteran I work with is currently living on $238 a week take home. He lives in an apartment in Trotwood costing $485 a month, he drives to his job paying $14.02 in Lebanon (he pays $600 a month in child support). He’s facing eviction because he was cut off from SSVF for “making too much money” – and when you figure in food, utilities and gas money, you can see where a 50 cent swing per gallon of gas makes or breaks him each month. Janet Yellen doesn’t understand that. Nor do the government income guidelines.

The first objective in any problem solving is making sure you are using the right measurements and valuing the correct data.

This is what the point of “Moneyball” was in picking winners in pro sports. Measuring the wrong things doesn’t get you the right results.

I can think of lots of things we’re not tracking correctly, but I’d like to hear yours in the comments.

Feel free to talk about abandoned houses in Dayton, unemployment figures, heroin overdoses, or graduation rates. I’d like your 2 cents.

Montgomery County Veterans Services need a lesson in service

On May 12th- my office manager took our homeless veteran down to Montgomery County Veterans Services to ask for financial assistance. This was after we had to supply yet another 90-day transaction history of bank account, which had been closed and written off for a $71 overdraft.

He was literally penniless, homeless (sleeping on my couch), without a phone, a car (and he’s a pizza delivery driver), and working 3-4 hours a day doing prep at a pizza shop for the last week after coming out of an extended hospitalization.

The letter promising assistance at a later date from the Montgomery County veterans Service Center

The letter promising assistance at a later date from the Montgomery County Veterans Service Center

They were very helpful, paying off his old utility bills so we could get utilities turned on in his new apartment that I was going to have to front the rent and deposit and co-sign on, since St. Vincent DePaul had erroneously claimed he was ineligible for SSVF (Supportive Services for Veteran Families). They were generous- they decided to give him $485 in food assistance, which happens to be equivalent to the first month’s rent.

That was due on May 13th, the day I had to sign the lease.

On May 17th, they cut a letter and on May 19th I received it. Thinking I’d find a check for $485 in the envelope, I was overjoyed to find instead- a letter telling me there would be a check in “7 to 10 working days from the date of this correspondence.”

Really?

Let’s see, we pay 5 commissioners almost $10K a year to oversee an organization of 9 people supposedly there to assist vets, all making more than the amount of cash assistance a week- and we can’t cut a check immediately for $485 and hand it to him? And note, when they were writing the check, I was setting up a new bank account at Wright Patt Credit Union for him with his first big 2 week paycheck- $135, of which we were able to deposit a whopping $80 because he had to pay some co-workers back money he had borrowed while in the hospital.

The saddest thing- after this whopping grant, he’s only eligible to come back one more time this year to ask for help. They have a limit of 2 requests per year. They turned down requests for rent, deposit, cell phone allowance, car. They turned down paying the water bill he stuck his former landlord with because the landlord had it in his name (I’m not feeling so bad about that one).

But- the question is- for this investment in manpower and management, why can’t we have a veterans’ assistance program that can have the authority to cut a check for at least $2,500 on the spot? Why did we have to keep supplying additional records (our packet was literally an inch thick), to even get in the door? Why did no one from MCVS reach out to us to help out with processing him for other benefits after my scathing blog post on Sunday? The VA Chief, Glenn Costie was in touch with me Sunday afternoon- and by Wednesday, my arguments for the Veteran’s status had been escalated to Atlanta and DC and validated- he is qualified for SSVF.

I was just interrupted from writing this by a call from Herb Davis, director of MCVS. We, Jen and I, just had a 30-minute discussion about our experience. We’ve been invited to speak to the entire board. We questioned how you can call a check as much as 20 days out “emergency food assistance.” We asked why when paying off the old utility bills, was no offer made for future bills, nor was he offered help in applying for PIP (a program for paying utilities for extremely low-income residents). No one offered to begin his application for Veterans’ Benefits either.

Mr. Davis admitted and accepted his office’s failings. He still relies on “processes and procedures” as reasons for their lackluster performance. Sending our Veteran out to get PIP on his own, without a phone- is kind of like sending someone out to fish, without a pole, hook or bait.

Jen’s final question/statement was “Are you there to give a man a fish, or to teach a man to fish.”

I think right now- the answer is, we’re here to give you a piece of paper for the rights to a fish, at a later date.

Dayton, Ohio, where you need an advocate to get help from the advocates

Note- this is a longer than usual post. Many of you won’t care to finish it- TL/DR. But, if you care about the state of veterans in our community, I ask you to please read, and think, and hopefully, reach out to your local elected leaders and say “this is unacceptable.” I don’t want to pull up the statistics on how many veterans are committing suicide every day in our country to guilt you into action, I just want to show that if I can do this, you can make a difference. Thank you.

It’s been 2 days since I had a homeless veteran sleeping on my couch. He’s now in a 1-bedroom apartment, with food, clothes, the beginnings of a kitchen, and a friend is over there as I write this, helping him unpack, organize and work on the life skills for independent living.

I am cosigned on the lease, I’ve probably invested close to 75 hours working on this, and between myself and another friend, am at least $1,100 out of pocket.

For right now- this is a happy ending. The story of how he got here is an indictment of our country’s completely unrealistic approach to mental health care and the failings of our social services safety net. But without an advocate, with access to a phone, fax, copier, the internet, and a whole Rolodex of connections, this story would be different, but, unlike the death of a young basketball player, there would be no service, no social media posts, no articles on the front page- just another veteran, dead with an inch in the paper- if that.

Rewind to the beginning. Sean (not his real name) was a star athlete growing up in Dayton. He went away to a military prep school, and then to one of the military academies. Somewhere in his Junior year, he had a manic episode to top all manic episodes. While it ran in the family, this was severe. Could it have been caused by the stress of the academy, while participating in D-1 sports? Sure- could it have been compounded because of steroid use- much more common then, possibly?  He was discharged with a DD-214, honorably. It says 3 years, 4 months 22 days of active service. In the part that’s not for public consumption- it says “Medically disenrolled.” He wasn’t even in a condition to sign it when he left the military.

Dayton VA ad promoting access- by pointing out myths of eligibility

The VA advertises to let people know that all veterans are eligible for care

For over 20 years, he’s struggled with his illness, never going to the VA for help, not because he didn’t need it, but probably because he didn’t realize he was eligible. Just today, the Dayton VA ran an ad in the paper with the common misconceptions of eligibility- it’s a problem the organization is fighting hard to overcome.

Between the discharge and today, he got married, fathered a son, held a sales job, and had episodic bouts of illness, resulting in loss of job, wife, family. He was particularly close to his father who died young, at 62.

In the end, his athletic connections have been the ones that have served him best. One friend, has packed up his things and moved him more than a few times, when extended hospitalizations have set him back.

Another, re-connected with him about half a dozen years ago- and offered him a job as a pizza delivery driver. He got a place in my ‘hood, and showed up for work like clockwork. He was living on tips and his 100% disability with Social Security. He was functioning, but, would have episodes of bad judgment. In 2012 he abused a girlfriend’s credit card. And sometime in 2015 he went to a buy-here pay-here car lot, and someone took advantage of him, selling him a $9K Honda Civic for $18k at 25% interest.

Next thing you know- the wheels fall off. Social Security says he’s making too much money and cuts his benefits off. He takes a second job delivering pizzas, and stops taking one of his meds because he needs to stay awake. The mania gets worse and worse, and next thing you know his caseworker at Eastway sends the police to his door to check on him after he had talked about harming himself. He ends up in Miami Valley Hospital for a week to adjust his meds. He gets out, he goes for a few beers at Blind Bob’s to celebrate. Bad idea. The next few days are hell for everyone around him. Next thing you know, he’s MIA. Finally we find him in the Warren County Jail. He was on the side of I-75 hitting golf balls when the state troopers found him. He’s not wearing a belt, and when he goes to get some ID out of the car- moons the cops accidentally. Two charges: public intox and public indecency. They’ve already shuffled him out of the jail to Summit Behavioral in Cincinnati- one of the few remaining state mental-health treatment facilities. He’s there for a few months.

I end up with both durable and medical power of attorney and begin my quest to get him into the VA system and get him the help and benefits that he’s earned.

One friend moves his stuff into storage. The apartment looks like a disaster. Obviously, his illness had been progressing for a while- but no one had checked on him. The car gets turned back in. They stick him with a $12K debt on a car worth $8K that they sold for $6K. The medical bill from Miami Valley for a week in the psych ward- over $30K. Hmmm, I could have sent him on a cruise on the French Rivera first class and paid off his car for that- and it would have probably been more therapeutic.

I’m gathering the list of documents needed to get help from the Montgomery County Veterans Services Commission. I’m a little bit lucky in that I know the director, and Ashley Webb who sits on the commission. I’m also lucky I know a few lawyers, because I need to find his divorce decree, get bank records and apply for his DD-214. Turns out, after waiting five weeks, I call St. Louis and they tell me they don’t have it- I have to call the Academy. Luckily there, a sharp sergeant takes pity on me, and makes a superhuman effort and gets me the 214 next day and the medical and scholastic records in days. Yes, the military does run on NCO power, no matter what your Congressman thinks.

He gets discharged from Summit Behavioral to “The Lodge”- a halfway house operated by Eastway. They allow for 28 days of temporary housing (after an extension is granted). He’s there 4 days and back in Miami Valley again. While he’s gone- his clothes, his phone, the radio his kid gave him, all disappear, as do a bunch of his days that he was eligible for a bed.

In the mean time, my office manager, Jen Selhorst, has a background in property management and has worked carefully with St. Vincent DePaul’s SSVF program. She even applied for a job as a case manager there but was sent packing because her degree was in marketing- not social work. She’d volunteered for several veterans’ groups. She jumped all over this.

SSVF is a federal program from the VA- administered by local non-profits. Here, we have the St. Vincent’s program and one run by Volunteers of America. Bonus points- my company does work for the guy who runs the VOA program. We touch base with him as well. He tells me the two programs collaborate and coordinate and work well together. Since we’ve already begun with St. VdP- stick with them.

The clock is ticking on the halfway house. He has to be out by last Tuesday. We need to find him a place- Jen scours Craigslist and finds a 1-bedroom on Wayne Ave. She meets the landlord’s agent, the case worker- they approve the space, sign the lease. This is a huge win- SSVF brings a case worker- who will help with signing him up for food stamps, the PIP program, get him an “Obama Phone” and will co-sign the lease and pay the deposit and up to 6 months’ rent to help him get back on his feet.

From the regs- by law, this is what they do:

Supportive services means any of the following provided to address the needs of a participant:

  • Outreach services as specified under § 62.30
  • Case management services as specified under § 62.31
  • Assisting participants in obtaining VA benefits as specified under § 62.32
  • Assisting participants in obtaining and coordinating other public benefits as specified under § 62.33
  • Other services as specified under § 62.34
    Supportive services grant means a grant awarded under this part.

Except come Tuesday- move-in day, we find out that they say he’s not eligible for SSVF- because he was always in “training status” and never active duty.

Before I’d accepted the POA- I’d done a bunch of searches on if he was eligible for VA care- since he was at the academy. Everything I’d found said yes. However, since I’m not being paid to take care of him, or advocate for him, I’d focused 100% of my efforts on keeping him off the streets. By 11 a.m. Tuesday- he’s homeless with 2 garbage bags of clothes, his meds and no place to go except my couch, which is where he landed.

I’m pissed. I contact my friend State Rep. Jim Butler– who had a similar military record- except his medical discharge came while he was training to be a fighter pilot after he’d graduated from the academy. He looks into SSVF and finds the regs. http://www.va.gov/HOMELESS/ssvf/docs/SSVF_Program_Guide_March_2015_Edition.pdf

I look at the index- see “ELIGIBILITY” page 16- and see the only requirement is a DD-214, but they are all hung up about a line on page 6:

Veteran: A person who served in the active military, naval, or air service, and who was discharged or released there from under conditions other than dishonorable. Note that the period of service must include service in active duty for purposes other than training.
Yet on page 17:
DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS SUPPORTIVE SERVICES FOR VETERAN FAMILIES PROGRAM GUIDE
LAST UPDATED MARCH, 2014
Section V | Page 17 SECTION V | PARTICIPANT ELIGIBILITY SECTION B.
Determining Veteran Household Status Eligibility
As discussed above, eligible participants will be part of a “Veteran family,” meaning that the person to be served is either (a) a Veteran; or (b) a member of a family in which the head of household, or the spouse of the head of household, is a Veteran.
1. Verifying Veteran Status
As per 38 CFR 62.2, “Veteran” is defined as “a person who served in the active military, naval, or air service, and who was discharged or released there from under conditions other than dishonorable.”
Note that bad conduct discharges are not the same as dishonorable, and as such, are eligible.
Furthermore, for Veterans with multiple discharges, the best discharge status may be used for SSVF eligibility.
To prove a participant’s Veteran status, grantees should obtain at least one of the following documents:
  • Veteran’s Department of Defense (DD) Form 214 Certificate of Release Discharge from Active Duty
  • VBA Statement of Service (SOS)
  • VHA Veteran’s Identity card
  • VISTA printout from VHA healthcare provider
  • Hospital Inquiry System (HINQS)
  • VBA award letter of service connected disability payment or non-service connected pension
  • Veterans Choice Card.

You’ll notice- the text is the same- except for the “other than training” which doesn’t show up anywhere else. The DD-214 clearly says he has active duty time. This “training” exception seems random. Mr. Butler is following up with congressional contacts.

However, if he had a VA ID card, he’d be good too- but, currently with the VA taking as long as 6 months to process claims, I’d focused on housing first. Note, at no time did anyone at Montgomery County Veterans Services volunteer to manage his intake to the VA system- all they did was push the inch-thick stack of papers back at me saying “you don’t have a  photo ID” for him- we can’t proceed.

In fact, the lady at the desk had me fill out the paperwork and write down what he was requesting for “Emergency Assistance” – I’d written down pay off utility bills, first month’s rent and deposit, cell phone, and something else- and she said “We don’t do deposits or cell phones.” Later, when I was questioned about the photo ID- I asked could he get a car- since he was a pizza delivery driver- and the answer was no. When I asked if there was a list of things that they could do- the answer was no. But I was told to make a good request, because they can only help twice a year. Really? Only twice a year?

Talking this over with Ashley Webb- he said he’d been researching VSC in other counties, what they require for assistance, what they offer. He’d already caught the fact that the Montgomery County VSC had 6 extra political appointees illegally- and was now working to figure out why they routinely give back over half their veteran budget to the County General Fund every year. When I’d founded VOB-108, now VOB Ohio, you would have thought they would have supported us with open arms- with our Vetrepreneur Academy and other Veteran focused issues- but, no. Their director came to maybe 2 of our events in 7 years- and never contributed either ideas or money to help us help veterans.

I’d even applied for a vacancy on the VSC. The seats are appointed by a panel of judges. I wasn’t even interviewed, and they gave the seat to a guy who is equally as dismayed about the malfeasance displayed by this organization. With two of the five seats now occupied by people with a heartbeat, and possibly with an investigation following this post- we may see some changes.

In order to get our veteran into his current home, thanks have to go out to the Blue Star Mothers of America Dayton Chapter who immediately cut a check for the deposit, came up with kitchen supplies, a crock pot and a microwave- and a care package including more snack food than a whole soccer team can eat in a week. Perhaps we should turn over the Veterans Service Commission funds to them- as well as the SSVF funds. No delays, no hoops to jump through. Veteran in need- what can we do to help?

Before the issue of Sean came up- I went to a meeting in the county building about the efforts of stopping homelessness among vets in Montgomery County. The meeting started with about 100 bureaucrats- and dwindled to about 50 by the end when questions were opened up. I pushed for Single Room Occupancy/Co-housing or micro-housing options for veterans, which are currently illegal in Dayton and most of the region. At the end of WWII – returning vets ended up in many of these types of housing and it worked well. Now, with it illegal to build a house under 900 square feet- and for more than 3 unrelated people to co-habit, we’ve sort of forced these guys into too much house for their means.

Charles Meadows, formerly with the city of Dayton called me a liar in front of the audience when I said I’d had a friend who had 4 such places, renting by the week, in Old North Dayton for years and that they were clean and respectable. It’s this kind of bullying I just love in our city. The fact is, Sean isn’t really capable of managing his affairs without someone checking in on him regularly, and this small apartment comes with costs that without him getting his SS or VA benefits back in a hurry are going to end up making me the fall back safety net.

I’ve heard that the former Daybreak facility on Wayne is being looked at for a veterans’ housing solution which would be a great start, but, honestly, maybe a better start was having advocates that actually advocate for veterans working in the positions mandated by law to do that very job.