Mental health care gets a pink slip in Dayton

This story better have a happy ending.

Right now, a 45 year old service disabled veteran with mental health problems is not in the VA getting treatment, he’s in Sheriff Phil Plummer’s hell hole of a jail. This is where people with misdemeanor crimes end up dead. This is a country that says collectively that 20 veterans committing suicide a day is a problem we’re committed to stopping, and yet, here is a man, who wasn’t trusted with his own shoelaces last week while confined to a psych ward at Grandview, now behind bars for being mentally ill.

People say blame Ronald Reagan for shifts in policy in mental health care that closed down mental hospitals across the country. You can read about the case that was made for deinstutionalization of the mentally ill in this excellent article in the New York Times from 1994: HOW RELEASE OF MENTAL PATIENTS BEGAN or this article from Salon from 2013: Ronald Reagan’s shameful legacy: Violence, the homeless, mental illness either way, the answer is the same, we traded away a broken attempt at government health care into the hands of big pharma who no doubt lobbied their way into the market for their brand of medicine- take a little pill and everything will be ok, which is fine, if the mentally ill people would only act rationally. Which they don’t.

I could take you on a tangent, to go on a rant how this action by the government created our problems with homelessness, the panhandlers, and the growth of our prison population. We’re good at whitewashing our real problems with new solutions that aren’t, as long as it can sound good coming out of a congressman’s mouth- as a paid puppet of which ever lobbying group stands to benefit. The reality is health care for all is, and should be, a fundamental right, guaranteed by the constitution, just like the 2nd amendment guarantees the right for any and all of us, to own a gun. Oh, the irony. Just remember, in the founding fathers days, a gun was a muzzle loaded musket, and “medicine” wasn’t much more than bloodletting and torture at the hands of a “healer” who was really an imposter- pretending to heal while often having more in common with a butcher. It wasn’t pretty.

Legislating based on current best practices depends on also updating legislation based on current best practices. We, as Americans seem to fail to adapt, and we know what Darwin said about those who fail to adapt (or do we?).

Mental health via community control might work if we really did have a foolproof system of safeguards in place. Regular health and welfare home checks would be a start. Mental illness has lots of indicators of oncoming trouble, changes in sleep patterns, weight loss or gain, compulsive behavior, personal hygiene failures, money problems, issues in the workplace, interpersonal tension. Proper monitoring by a trained professional can help catch a crisis before it becomes a disaster, which is where we are now. Jail is not part of an effective treatment regime.

Backstory

Last spring, before my Dad went in the hospital to die three months later, before I became the soul caretaker of my 89 year old mother with dementia, before I found out that a trusted employee and “friend” was neither, I stepped up to help a friend by agreeing to be his power of attorney, both  durable and statutory. I did this while he was in a state mental facility, where he had been transferred after an arrest while manic. This was nothing new for him, he’d been bouncing from ER to ER for treatment of his psychiatric disability for years- totally unaware that as a veteran, he was entitled to not only care at the VA, but a disability pension. As one of his friends, who had a modicum of experience with VA benefits, and the system, as well as a bully pulpit of this blog and connections to people above my pay grade, it became my mission.

If you’ve been religiously reading this blog, you might remember a post last summer about trials and tribulations with both the SSVF program and the Montgomery County Veterans Service Commission. Despite his 3 year plus service to our country in one of the military academies, some bureaucrat misinterpreted the  definition of veteran on their own, without actually checking the law of the land. We’re still fighting a misunderstanding that a veteran is one who served in the military, combat isn’t the defining experience.

Had I not been dogged about my advocacy, we would have had a homeless veteran, and due to the failure of the system, it’s my name that’s on the lease as responsible for the state of his place, not the program that he was entitled to. I have actual skin in the game on this, something I didn’t think was coming with job description. That lease was signed a year ago June- and had things gone according to plan (which they never do) I might have had to hire a house cleaner to get the deposit back, but am now looking at a glazier, a drywall mechanic, a house cleaner and maybe an exterminator, but that’s the least of it.

In that year, I managed to get his social security restored, put money in a STABLE account, get him a car, a phone, a place to live, his VA claim submitted, his criminal charges dropped (with help from a local attorney, Enrique Rivera, who took the case pro bono), and with help of another friend- kept him employed part time and for the most part, out of trouble.

The trouble started last time, by all accounts, when Social Security dropped his disability payments because he was “making too much money” and so he took extra jobs to make up for the shortfall. Because he had to stay awake, he stopped taking his meds- which make him sleepy, and one thing lead to another with his eventual arrest on the side of I75 in Franklin county, as he was pulled over and manically searching through his car for something. The cop thought he was drunk, and threw in a public indecency charge since he had no belt and his butt made an appearance. He was in the jail for 3 days before we found out he’d been arrested and already transferred to the psych unit.

It took almost 6 months to get his Social Security restored, which came with a big payout of almost $9K. It was as if he’d won the lotto. Unfortunately, having this much money in your account- also is a dis qualifier for receiving disability, so I set up a STABLE account to legally hide the funds. This is one thing I can credit Josh Mandel for doing right- creating a savings vehicle for those with disabilities, so they can have a rainy day fund. Good thing too, because it wasn’t long before those that giveth started asking for it back- saying they miscalculated. They want almost half of it back. Never mind, they can’t even deposit it in the right bank account, after 6 moths of telling them they putting it in his account instead of the payee account.

For almost a year he was golden. He paid his boss off early on a loan for a $1200 Toyota, he paid his phone bill to me each month (adding him to my account saved him money and made it easier to manage), his rent was paid for the first six months by SSVF, and PIPP and HEAP made his utility bills manageable. One could almost say that the safety net was working, as long as I was staying on top of everything. But, alas, when the warning signs started, I as well as his friends and co-workers, didn’t catch his fall from grace until it was almost full blown, which took about 30 days.

The crash

Mental illness is never a single issue problem. You break an arm, you put it in a cast. Your brain breaks, it’s got so many symptoms and compounding issues it’s triage- deal with the life threatening situations first, deal with the other issues over time.

The early warning signs in our case were an increase in drinking and the draining of the measured amounts of money I was entrusting to his personal account. Buying weight loss drugs from unreputable sources via the internet should have been one huge disaster siren of a wake up call. The nights out drinking watching the Stanley Cup with friends (to which I was the designated driver) were also a bad idea- but, we thought things were going pretty well, and if a few beers makes someone happy and feel like one of the boys- well, cheers.

Psychiatric drugs and hydroxycut (or whatever he bought) are a bad idea, as is beer. There’s a reason it’s a four letter word. When he asked for me to deposit $300 into his account (he’d been living off his paychecks, and a few hundred every month for a year) saying he’d given $200 to his son, should have been a red flag. That money was gone in a minute as well. The charges were so often, so small, and all over the map it was insane. He actually asked for help from me and his boss  on Wednesday the 21st. We sat in my conference room and tried to map out a plan. The next morning he texted me asking me to take him to the hospital, with a stop at McD’s on the way there. He’d awoken in a pond of his own piss. We went to Tank’s instead, where his eyes were bigger than his ginormous belly- and he over ordered and couldn’t even eat his pancakes. In one of those strange coincidences, his former Eastway case manager sat at the next table. They talked briefly- and we left with the decision that he was feeling better and would just take his meds and go to work.

When it came to the coming paycheck, instead of letting him put it in his personal account, we thought it better to go into the payee and be rationed out. This infuriated him, and rightfully it should have, but, when you’re manic, everything pisses you off.

That was Friday the 23rds paycheck. That weekend, he managed to make it to a bunch of his favorite watering holes. East Dayton dive bars where everyone knows his name, and smoking is generally permitted although illegal. One of the things that endears him to people is his generosity which increases when manic or drunk. He’s worked for tips for years, and so he always tips well. I could see what was happening by logging into his bank account, which was constantly at zero or overdrawn.

Monday, I called his case manager at Eastway. She’s new and I hadn’t met her yet. She, unlike the old case manager, didn’t know who I was, didn’t have that any idea that I was POA- and now claimed that POA wasn’t enough of a justification to talk to me. She needed me to be a guardian. There were supposedly some forms that she needed me to sign- and she was going to be over in the next few days to do that after I emailed her the PDF copies of the POAs that I keep handy in my dropbox.

Next thing I hear is she has gone to his house, and pink slipped him ( a medical 72 hour hold for evaluation), instead of taking him to the VA as I’d discussed with her, she took him to Grandview. Newsflash- sources tell me that Premier/Miami Valley Hospital no longer accepts psych patients via pink slip, putting additional stain on the already inadequate system.

A friend of his who happened to be there when the case manager and cops showed up, helped keep things calm, and he went willingly. After the door was locked, the friend decided to break in to shut the a/c units off- and instead of going out the way he came in- left the front door unlocked. So now, I had to find the keys. A trip to Grandview that night, I came up empty handed, when the nurses said he didn’t have them. I dropped off my POAs. He didn’t want to talk to me or have a visitor- I got the one finger salute through the safety window.

His car was in a bar parking lot, about a mile from his house. How he got home the night before, I still don’t know. The car had been having problems keeping the battery charged since a welfare driver hit the drivers side outside his work and somehow secrewed up the drivers door just enough that the door ajar light would keep draining the battery that really needed replacing. I had it towed to Carl’s body shop- to get that fixed, the A/C fixed (he had been complaining) and to possibly fix the front bumper since it was held on with duct tape. This was also to keep the car out of his hands until the drunk driving wasn’t going to be an issue.

A trashed kitchen serves as an indication that menal health intervntion might be a good idea

Signs of mental illness. This is his kitchen

By Wednesday night I get a call, an apology and that they had his keys I come get them and  go to the house and get disgusted. Clothes everywhere, trash everywhere, food everywhere. His mattress is standing on edge. The place is worthy of a haz mat suit. I try to find some clothes, put things sort of right, and make sure his only item of real value- a 55″ TV I bought him in a January sale for $300 was still there- in the box (he’d not gotten it out because, well, he’s mentally ill and couldn’t ask for help). I find some clothes, bring them home and wash them- along with everything I’m wearing- as I head directly to my shower, fearing bugs.

The next day, I bring the clothes and “snacks” because, well, a man’s gotta have snacks when he’s locked up. He wants to talk this time. He’s not wearing shoe laces- because- well, they don’t trust him not to kill himself. I talk about transferring to the VA. I’d emailed all the honchos Monday night when I heard he’d been taken to Grandview. I’d talked to the head of social work, who told me to ask their transfer team to coordinate things- the only problem is- Grandview’s people didnt’ want to talk to me either- again saying my POA wasn’t enough- I needed to be his guardian. No one from the VA came out to evaluate him while ill. No one from Eastway was returning my calls. Thursday, just after noon, while I’m talking on the phone to the people at the VA trying to get him to go directly thee- he walks into my office, and sits down. They’d given him bus tokens and sent him on his way.

Yesterday, no shoelaces. Today, bus tokens and a boot out the door. No, he didn’t want to go to the VA. I drive him home. He doesn’t want me to come in. He had confessed the night before that he’d also put a hole in the drywall. I ask if I can arrange for people to come help clean it up, he says he’ll do it himself.

I forgot to mention that when I got the keys, I was also told that he’d been to a bar in Centerville on Sunday night, before he was at the bar where he’d left his car. He’d run up a $35 tab and left his drivers license and debit card there. I should go and get them- and tip at least 20% because he’d done what he did. His tab had one sandwich and beers, shots, well drinks- he was definitely drunk when he left to to the other bar where he had gotten in a fight in the parking lot, smoked some weed and also lost his smart phone that wasn’t even paid off yet.

Friday, we go to look at his car and see if we can find his phone in it. It’s a moving waste basket. No phone. The car also has a new dent on the rear passenger quarter panel that he says he did.  I get him a new SIM card and hand him my parents old flip phone with his number on it. Keeping tabs on him was critical. How else could I find out if he was ready to go to the VA? He’s not going in to work just yet- he’s not ready, and neither are his co-workers, who are all rooting for him.

Friday night- he’s burning through his $20. Saturday night he calls from an Oregon District bar, he’s drunk, he’s a a drunk, he’s happy, and he ran up a $35 tab and left his license and debit card again. I get this message at 12:30 am- and go to get him. He’s not there. I know the bar owner and he can’t find him either- and promised me he’d 86 him from the bar in the future. I pay the tab. Can’t find him. Go home. Next day I go over to his house at 1pm to meet the people who were going to help him clean the place. The plan was to gather all the clothes- go to a laundromat and do them all at once, while others cleaned and organized what was left. But, as I go up the street on the way there- I get a text-

helper: Nevermind David this guy is definitely not interested in any help he’s a little upset that things go the way they do and obviously that’s a conversation you and him need to have but we attempted we had everything ready to do this and not going to go into a situation where it is definitely not wanted on that person’s part sorry
David Esrati: Sorry. I’m here now. I thought you were going to be here at 1
helper: Well I stopped by a few minutes early to see what exactly we were going to need so that we would have everything but he was not open or agreeable to having us do anything

I knock on the door- he comes out screaming at me. He’d taken his beard trimmer and cut a swath from his lower lip straight down to his chin, giving him a wild fu manchu short beard- there was a hunk of green snot above his upper lip- he was shaking, he was mad, he threw things at my minivan, he told me to leave or he was going to punch me- there was already a recliner on the parking pad that he’d thrown out of the house, I got in my vehicle to leave as fast as possible- dialing 911 as I turned out of his alley.

I wanted the police to come and pink slip him again. He’d threatened me- he wasn’t trusted with shoelaces in the last week- what’s the magic phrase “are you a threat to yourself or others”- I thought he’d met all of those conditions. The first cruiser meets me around the corner, an older male cop and short female. They start assessing- and call for the cavalry. In the next ten minutes no less than 10 cops show up- including a few sergeants, and a guy in plain clothes who identifies himself as a hostage negotiator. They mill about. Talk to me, talk to each other. Call in to central. At one point, the pissed off veteran screams down the alley- and throws the recliner for effect- he’s now shirtless- we hear something that sounds like a baseball bat beating the shit out of something twice.

The cops tell me I’m not the guardian. They don’t think they have grounds to violate his constitutional rights. They don’t even go up to talk to him. This is crisis management at half-a-blocks length. I offer to walk up and try to talk to him- so they can observe, to which they tell me I’d be the instigator- and it would be my fault. They say crisis care can pink slip him- I call them, they talk to the cops- they say the cops need to make the call. They drive off.

I call 911 and report their inaction. I tell them specifically, on record, that if anything happens to him in the next 24 hours, I’ll sue them to kingdom come. Sorry, not our problem, we’re the sheriffs bitches, call DPD. I ask to speak to a supervisor- they take my number.

I’m back at the office cleaning my a/c unit. I get a call from one of his co-workers. He’s walking down Wayne Avenue in boots, his underpants and a hockey helmet with “something that looks like a weapon, slung across his back.” I call 911 again- and head that way. I spot him changing on the street corner at Park Drive. The hockey helmet is on the ground, he’s pulling on a shirt, he has a backpack, I’m on the phone to 911 when the supervisor finally calls me back as I start to talk to the first officer that’s shown up. He’s moved around the corner to a parking lot and is talking to his co-worker- I have the hockey helmet in my car. They talk tot he supervisor on my phone, we end the call, the hostage negotiator shows back up- and they start a conversation with the mad man. At one point I step out where he can see me and he immediately starts going ape shit- the cop tells me to step away. I go get the hockey helmet- go back and set it where they can see it and leave.

Final report from the coworker, the cops thought it was ok for him to walk around in his underpants with a hockey helmet- he hadn’t broken the law. A woman can legally walk around topless too. They took him to his bicycle.

Bicycle? What bicycle? He had said he wanted me to get him a bicycle, for exercise. The last one I got him was when he was in the halfway house after the arrest- and it got lost in one of his pink slip visits that time. Turns out, he’d pawned the TV in the box for $200 on Saturday afternoon, and got a bike- and probably some cash to blow before he’d run up the bar tab in the OD.

Monday, I’m calling Eastway and the VA. No one is answering. I’m emailing. I’m worried that he’s going to end up either dead, or in jail again.

You already know he’s in jail. Happened around 10:30 am on Tuesday July 4th. I still can’t find any police reports from any of the encounters. He started with an M-4 and M-5 and a $1000 total bail. By later in the day, it said he had a whole bunch of charges:

bond.

# COURT CASE NUMBER CHARGE DESCRIPTION CHARGE DEGREE CHARGE STATUS JUDGE BAIL TYPE BAIL AMOUNT DISPOSITION DISP DATE NEXT COURT DATE
1 MONT-DMC () MENACING M4 WAITING COURT ACTION *Not Entered* TEN PERCENT 500 *Not Entered* 07/05/17 01:45 PM
2 MONT-DMC () DISORDERLY CONDUCT M4 CHARGE CLEARED *Not Entered* TEN PERCENT 500 RELEASED BY PROSECUTOR 7/5/2017 07/05/17 01:45 PM
3 MONT-DMC () MENACING M4 WAITING COURT ACTION *Not Entered* TEN PERCENT 500 *Not Entered* 07/05/17 01:45 PM
4 MONT-DMC () AGGRAVATED MENACING M1 WAITING COURT ACTION *Not Entered* TEN PERCENT 2500 *Not Entered* 07/05/17 01:45 PM
5 MONT-DMC () AGGRAVATED MENACING M1 WAITING COURT ACTION *Not Entered* TEN PERCENT 2500 *Not Entered* 07/05/17 01:45 PM
1

All of these aren’t crimes, they’re signs of mental illness.

And I, despite being assigned duties of Power of Attorney, am helpless in being able to do anything.

Bailing him out, won’t put him directly in treatment, and frankly, I might be on the receiving end of an ass kicking instead of a thank you.

Yesterday, I called everyone I could to try to get an intervention. No one from the jail staff picked up a call- from the medical people to the director, to the duty sergeant. The Dayton Chief was in meetings, Col. Ecton didn’t call me back. The VA tried to send a person to the jail- a “Veteran Justice Outreach Coordinator” tried to see him, but was thwarted by the shift change, and would be trying again this a.m. No one returned calls from Eastway either. Several hours of my time wasted, all while also dealing with no a/c at home or my rental (I’m looking at $1750 to fix both- and while my tenant had a/c last night- I woke up at 4:30 sweating my rear off- and wanting to share this story of woe).

I had thoughts several times of calling the national veterans health care line. I also thought of sending an email to the head of the VA. In the past, I’ve actually gotten a response from former VA Chief Bob McDonald, but the other Donald fired him.

We’ll see what today brings, but I hold little hope for help for this veteran.

Had things worked out right, I would have thought that the first time I reached out to the VA saying there was a veteran on suicide watch in a local hospital, an action team would have sprung into action to make sure all is done to safeguard that vet.

Why am I still an optimist?

When will America realize jails make lousy psych wards? That health insurance isn’t the same as health care? And, mental health is actually treatable and shouldn’t be considered a stigma, but a measure of society values- in how we treat and take care of those who are less fortunate.

To anyone of you who read all 4310 words of this TL/DR post, thank you. Do me a favor- please leave a comment, even if it’s just one word. America, we have a problem, and it’s crazy to think it’s going to go away by itself. Thank you.

Pray for a veteran.

Act II- update, 3:30 AM Saturday July 8, 2017

Late in the day Thursday, I get a call from the DPD officer who specializes in mental health emergencies. She, and a case worker from Eastway had been called to the veteran’s home early on Tuesday July 4th. He’d broken practically every window in the place- with his bare hands. He’d threatened the neighbors screaming “you go get your weapons, I’ll go get mine” and the place is an even bigger mess. Now, his box spring is sitting outside, one air  conditioner is next to the house- with broken expansion panels. The other A/C unit is in the house- among the squalor.

  • The bathroom
  • The TV- shrine of OTC weight loss
  • Start a fire?
  • Who needs A/C when you break every window?
  • Gumbo for the flies.
  • The kitchen floor.
  • Broken glass- not sure if the bars were bent before.
  • “This” is mental illness?

The cop and social worker go looking for him- and find him half dressed in a nearby park, covered in his own blood. He’s raging. They pink slip him again. The officers get him into a cruiser, where he does the classic crazy “bang your head against the windows” as we’ve seen in the bad behavior reality show “Cops”- of course, new cruisers now have back seats built for this- you can literally hose out the back of the car, and the whole interior is basically ballistic plastic.

They take him to Miami Valley Hospital- to get treated for the bleeding- and to admit. He’s sedated in the ER- and then things get murky, he’s not admitted. Somehow, the hospital thinks he’s good to go and begin to release him. Some officers who had pink slipped him either that day or previously, decide he doesn’t need to be out in public and arrest him and take him to the jail, where he is placed in solitary.

This info, at around 5:30 pm is the first accounting of what happened. I was still unable to pull up the police report online. Got it Friday morning, after I’d gone to the house myself to inspect. The house visit had me feeling queasy. He’d tried to start a fire on the stove top. There was a pan of gumbo on the kitchen floor festering with flies. Ceiling tiles are pulled down. The bathroom is trashed, the sink full of some brackish water. On top of the old analog TV are neatly arranged the OTC weight loss pills that probably contributed to this disaster- they are the only things in the place that seem orderly- as if placed on a shrine for worship.

I go back to the office, wait for my video guy to show up late, and begin working on the paperwork to get guardianship so I can bail him out AND direct him to treatment, since none of the people who’ve been involved in his “treatment plan” seem to have his best interests in mind. I make calls. I’ve pulled almost every person of influence I know into my wheelhouse for help. State Reps, lawyers, my neighbor who used to be the head shrink for crisis care, the PR maven at ADAMHS (our local health and human services admin org). Calls are coming in on two phone lines, but not the ones I need.

We go out and shoot a video- my video guy, who is from a small town in Indiana, can’t quite fathom how this happens. When we get back, he’s warning me to check for bugs, he found one on himself. I go to shower and dress. It’s 11:30 and I still hadn’t had breakfast. The clothes go directly into the wash.

Armed with a stack of papers, I head to the courthouse. Probate is on the second floor- the woman at the desk starts her hands dancing through the papers- I’d put his current case number on all of them- mistake number one. She’s got whiteout tape to fix that. However, I need $50 for the emergency filing and $350 for the full guardianship- which has to be filed at the same time. Here’s another huge stack of papers. I’m going to have to get a background check (but not first thing), bonded, and, btw, you need to have him evaluated by a medical doctor before we can accept the paperwork.

Before I go to Eastway to bow and pray that his doc will sign off on this, I go up to Judge Henderson’s court and talk to his bailiff. She’s compassionate, kind, helpful, but the judge is out until 2- and, frankly, he heard this case on Wednesday and has already entered preliminary charges, it’s unlikely he’ll make any changes to bail or order treatment etc. unless there is a plan in place to manage this mess.

On to Eastway. The skys are darkening, and as I sit in the waiting room to meet his caseworker who wouldn’t talk to me over the last 2 weeks, a security guard walks by saying, “It must be about to rain, DirectTV is out.” Just as the social worker and her boss come out to greet me, the torrential downpour begins. The social worker is wearing dark clip on sunglasses over her prescription glasses, inside. Who is she? Men in Black?

They are very nice. She was out at the house on the 4th, has no clue why MVH dropped the ball. Agree that he doesn’t belong in jail. His Doc isn’t in today, but his old one is. He liked his old doc. I go in to see her, and she’s this sweet woman who says “beautiful” a lot as I describe what I’ve been trying to do to help this veteran over the last year. I had mistakenly filled out the form for the doc in the pile of papers – why not play doctor like on TV? No one else has effectively cared for him. She reads it over, nods, but says, “I can’t sign this because I haven’t seen him lately” and asks me what to do? Me. The amateur social worker/friend/legal beagle wannabe/crisis care interventionalist without a paycheck, me.

I say, you could sign it- knowing from experience and interviewing me and your social worker who saw him Tuesday as reference, or you could (hold for the long shot, pie in the sky request) “go see him in the jail and evaluate him.” She says, well, “I can do that, my incoming patient can see a nurse.”

Damn. I love this woman with her “beautifuls” and her eastern European lilt in her voice. She says to say hi to my neighbor who used to run Crisis Care- and that she missed him. I’m thinking I just hit the lottery. I’ll go back to my office and fill out the half inch of paper, while she evaluates him and by the time she gets done, I’ll be done, run to the courthouse, file and miraculously, the judge will act, and I’ll be able to haul him out on bail and have him taken to the VA for inpatient care.

An hour later, as I finish the paperwork, except for getting the form from his son agreeing that I should be the guardian (I’ve been communicating through his brother, who is also suffering from the same bipolar diagnosis- as is the son), the case managers supervisor calls. “We saw him, he was lucid, he said he didn’t want you to be his guardian, she’s not signing the paper.”

Meltdown. The energy generator that’s been burning in my belly to get him out of the “criminal justice system” (and yes, that expression is either ironic as hell or the best oxymoron since “military intelligence” or “jumbo shrimp”) and into our third world nation mental health care system just got encased in concrete and doused with as much water has fallen from the skys of Dayton this last week.

I failed. The imaginary system failed too. Despite the facts according to the Doctors own caseworker- that he should have been in a psych ward, and that he’s in jail, with restraining orders from his neighbors, and that he’s done enough damage to clean out all the money I’d managed to put away to help him do something like get his own place- psycho boy gets to call the shots, and I’m not the designated hitter.

I could get mad at the doc. I could get mad at myself for not doing the guardianship when he was healthy, but hell, I thought that was what the health care POA was for. No one told me it wouldn’t be enough to manage his treatment when he’s obviously ill.

I talk to my friend, his now former boss, who tells me I’ve done more for him than anyone else- by getting his SS money back, by setting up a STABLE account, and most importantly, getting him into the VA system, but, I’m not the first to give up on him or get blamed for man/boys bad behavior. “Just clean up the mess and let it go” is his advice.

The brother thanks me. He understands my position and plan that’s being formed for me.

First steps: reglaze the windows, get the trash hauled out, get the clothes gathered, laundered and packed. Fix the broken stuff in the apartment- the stove, the ceiling tiles, the miniblinds, the kitchen cabinet drawer that’s in pieces. Put everything in storage, turn in the proverbial key (no one has it right now- or at least is able to get it). Pay the storage bill until his money runs out and turn over POA to someone that feels like being the next punching bag.

A friend who owns a glass shop has a guy coming on Saturday (today), another friend, a veteran, who calls himself a “Debris-ologist” will be there at 9am to start the haz mat removal. His line always makes me laugh, “satisfaction guaranteed or twice your junk back”.

My stomach, which is usually made of iron, is churning and feels like the stuff in a lava lamp. This isn’t what’s best for the veteran, but, I’ve got my 89 year old mother with dementia, a business, employees- that have to come first. There is a long rambling message on my home answering machine from him, thanking me for everything I’ve done for him- and that he didn’t mean anything he said while manic. He left that last week after the first pink slip. Maybe I’ll make it into an MP3 and post it- if I can stand listening to it anytime soon. The words of anyone who is radically bipolar all come with footnotes, that may or may not contradict their actions, or even what they are saying in a span of a voicemail.

I also sent a scathing email to the “team” at the VA, suggesting that their failure to intervene will not go quietly. I referenced this initial post. I told them video was coming. I’ve written the head of the VA- McDonald before, and I’ll write Dr. David Shulkin soon. Congressmen and Senators will be contacted, hell, I’ll even tweet Trump (I’ve already talked to my friend Rob Scott who ran his campaign in Ohio.) This will be someones story to tell to use to dismantle the VA, even though I believe that the care I’ve gotten, that my father got, is as good or better than the Cleveland Clinic (dad used to be seen there as part of Kaiser Permanente in Cleveland). Video added 8 August 2017

If he dies in custody, or anything else happens to him, rest assured, I’ll find an ambulance chaser lawyer and make him wealthy. The documentation- the call to 911 AFTER the cops wouldn’t even talk to him, the steps I took, all make for a very sympathetic jury. Maybe his son will end up owning the Fairgrounds after Premier has to pay for their mistakes. Remember, I wear a nice watch, that I bought with part of the settlement with the city over Mike Turner’s arrest of me while I peacefully protested their attempts to limit public speech at meetings. I wear it, to remind myself, that we always have time for free speech (and because at 36, I still thought that you could give yourself a medal for fighting city hall and “winning”).

There will probably be a third act in this tragedy. Sadly. Stay tuned.

 

 

Whaley unopposed, Shanklin resigns, DPS is still a clusterduck

If Nan Whaley thinks the reason she’s unopposed is because she’s doing such a good job, she’s as delusional as DPS Superintendent Rhonda Corr and the Dayton Public Schools Board of Education. If any of them had any sense, they’d do what Wilburt Shanklin did- resign. Shanklin was the embattled nominee to the Montgomery County Veterans Service Commission who was appointed by the County Judges illegally, since he was already sitting on a county appointed board.

The reason Nan is unopposed is partially because no one wants to run against a candidate with $140K in the bank, and a record of spending half a million to run for a job that pays $47K a year. The other reason is that the petition process is so flawed, it should be illegal to use the city prescribed petitions. I’ve written extensively about these bad petitions- with their non-required “Ward and Precinct” boxes- and the requirements for notarization, but the main question is since when was graphology a requirement for working at the BOE? To say you can’t recognize signatures – when collected via a clipboard- is just one way that the partisan Board of (S)Elections keeps people off the ballot. Any process that generates a minimum 20% failure rate by even the most careful candidates- should be re-evaluated.

If my father hadn’t died, it my mother didn’t have dementia and I was the sole caregiver, you can bet your last nickle that I would have run. Although, they’ve often found reasons to disqualify my petitions at huge cost to the voters in the past.

That there is no primary gives the commission challengers more time to do the work and to raise the money. Hopefully, the voters will realize that with no chance of replacing Nan- maybe it’s time to add some people who do more than dress well and say yes to her highness on command.

The Veterans Service Commission position will be filled by the judges within 60 days. I’m a member of both the American Legion and the Disabled Veterans of America. I’m requesting my name to be on the list- or will be submitting my name on my own. I believe there is lots of room for improvement to the VSC- including doing what the law requires- immediate aid, when necessary. Shanklin probably resigned because it was becoming apparent that he wasn’t going to survive the court scrutiny. Mark one up for Mat Heck’s Montgomery County Prosecutors office. They actually acted on public bodies breaking the law.

Which is the lead in for the shit show at the Board of Education which I’ve been covering extensively since the Board decided to replace Lori Ward and Craig Jones with, well, there may not be words….

Last week we covered the Board violating the contract that they spent months negotiating to buy out David Lawrence, before they even approved it. Mat Heck, did you pay attention? Then there was the issue of them waiving the 48 hour rule to vote to accept a contract a week early to hire the Ohlmann Group to do their marketing. Two weeks later, Ohlmann still wasn’t on the job according to Hazel Rountree, who was wondering why no one was showing up to the DPS Virtual School meetings. This started another discussion at last nights meeting. That is after “Parliamentarian” Joe Lacey was looking at the wrong agenda and they passed motions on something that was never properly moved or seconded.

The board hadn’t heard from Ohlmann- who wasn’t entirely sure the District had committed to them. The solution? Create more stupid board lead task forces to tell the “experts” they hired- how to fix the problems the board keeps creating. We went to one today and filmed. Dr. Baguirov thinks he’s an expert at web design and usability now – and even suggested using Flash on the site. He showed off charter school sites- and their emphasis on enrollment on the front page- and thinks the district needs to build enrollment landing pages. Wow, this is some comprehensive strategy in the works. The people from the Ohlmann group sat there and nodded- and said the board needs storytellers. Working with a camera on them didn’t make them too happy. We’ll post that session tomorrow- right here. (posted 6pm Mar 9, 2017)

Never mind that Ohlmann was the highest bidder by $50K and over the stated limit the district announced. If this had been a construction contract, it would be void for exceeding the estimate by 10%, but, surprisingly, there is very little real law in Ohio on how to conduct competitive bids by school boards.

We’re starting to think the real value to our agency is to do a reality webshow on Disaster Districts, sort of like Kitchen Nightmares or Restaurant Impossible. The board should welcome this, since we’ve seen where reality TV stars end up these days.

Two things to think about from this post: This blog lead the way on calling out Shanklin’s appointment to the VSC and he’s gone. And, after me chastising the board for not taping all their meetings and not using a PA to help Board Member Sheila Taylor hear- they started to tape the off week meeting in the room of the square table- and using microphones for about 60% of the time.

Progress. It comes slowly in Dayton Ohio.

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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.