Mix it up with The Bee's editorial board.
April 27, 2012
April 24, 2012
April 23, 2012
April 20, 2012
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is offering what looks like a smidgen of progress to deal with a big backlog and a high error rate at the office that handles disability claims for Northern California vets.
Responding to a Thursday letter from 16 members of Congress from California, the VA issued a statement this morning that pledges it is "committed to doing everything within its authority" to improve the Oakland regional office's performance.
The Bee's editorial board is calling on the VA to fix the problems, pointing out the the average wait time of 313 days is well above the national average and that the backlog of 34,000 cases (80 percent of which are at least four months old) is the second worst in the country. In addition, about 74 percent of the claims are decided correctly by the office, 13 percent below the national average.
The office handles claims for service-related injuries and for mental health problems, including post-traumatic stress disorder, for veterans in 48 counties stretching from the Oregon border to the Bay Area and down the Central Valley.
Despite its problems, the Oakland office is not among the 12 nationwide scheduled to get a complete overhaul this year that includes a new computer system.
The VA statement today does not specifically put Oakland on that list, but does say it "will incorporate" some of the improvements. The agency also says that if it receives the necessary funding, the improvements will be made to the remaining 40 regional offices across the country by the end of 2013.
The VA says it is dealing with a record number of disability claims -- more than 1 million in each of the past two years -- because of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, an aging veteran population, Agent Orange cases from Vietnam and its own outreach efforts.
The VA's response so far isn't enough to satisfy Rep. Jerry McNerney, a Pleasanton Democrat who was one of those who signed the letter. He asked for specific steps to lessen the backlog of claims and called for a "definitive timeline of steps to improve the processing of claims."
"I am disappointed it has taken the VA so long to address these issues, and concerned that the response is not a concrete plan," he said in a statement.
April 17, 2012
Darrell Fong has not been a standout on the Sacramento City Council in his first term. He has been more of an enigma, as I detailed earlier this year.
But you have to give him some credit for his fund-raising ability.
He far outpaced his fellow district council members in helping the city and Save Mart Supermarkets reach the $1 million goal to open the city's pools this summer.
With the help of parks advocates in his district, Fong brought in $78,000 of the $163,000 in pledges secured by council members, according to a tally that Mayor Kevin Johnson sent around Monday. Fellow first-termer Angelique Ashby came in second with $27,000, while veteran Steve Cohn came in third with $20,000.
The two incumbents who aren't seeking re-election this year apparently weren't that interested. Rob Fong didn't bring in any pledges, and Sandy Sheedy a mere $250, according to the mayor's count.
Overall, $533,000 was raised or pledged by businesses, Save Mart customers, city residents and others. When matched dollar for dollar by Save Mart, that will be enough to open the same six pools the city opened last summer, plus all five standalone wading pools.
The mayor says 200,000 Sacramento kids will be the beneficiaries.
"This was a team effort, and I appreciate everyone's willingness to engage in friendly competition, make phone calls and rally the community to preserve this important resource," Johnson said in his email.