Jim Nicholson’s Head on a Pike

Everything in the ‘affairs’ departments is busted in American government. The Bureau of Indian Affairs
has been America’s dirty little secret for a couple hundred years. Now,
thanks to the first worthwhile piece of investigative reporting in
recent memory, by Dana Priest at the Washington Post, Walter Reed Hospital has become the poster-child for neglected active-duty servicemen.

Everything in the ‘affairs’ departments is busted in American government. The Bureau of Indian Affairs
has been America’s dirty little secret for a couple hundred years. Now,
thanks to the first worthwhile piece of investigative reporting in
recent memory, by Dana Priest at the Washington Post, Walter Reed Hospital has become the poster-child for neglected active-duty servicemen.
But there’s another scandal lurking, the care system after discharge and, you guessed it, affairs is part of the name. Jim Nicholson heads up the United States Department of Veterans’ Affairs, a cabinet-level position. Check it out, Dana.
Bush’s man, Nicholson is an attorney, real estate developer,
ex-ambassador to the Vatican and more recently, a former Republican
Party chairman and big-buck campaign financier. What he knows about
putting together a real estate deal is legendary.
His qualification for running the largest government organization outside the Department of Defense is less clear.
With a budget of more than $60 billion, VA employs approximately
230,000 people at hundreds of VA medical centers, clinics and benefits
offices around the nation.
Like the one in Baltimore. That’s Aaron Chesley’s VA center.

a homeless shelter filled with Vietnam War veterans, Chesley, 26, a
former Catonsville High School honors student who joined the West
Virginia Army National Guard in 2000 to help pay for college, was the
only one in the facility who fought in the country’s latest conflict.
But across the nation, veterans of recent combat in Iraq and
Afghanistan are slowly starting to trickle into shelters, officials say.

Excuse me? Trickle in to shelters. Do I have this straight? Does George Bush know?
Christian Davenport, a Washington Post writer, just penned an article subtitled, Homeless Vet Numbers Expected to Grow.

number of homeless veterans from recent wars is hard to gauge. From
2004 to 2006, the Department of Veterans Affairs provided shelter to
300 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan tours, out of the tens of
thousands who have served.

That figure “is not even close to
accurate,” said Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of the Iraq and
Afghanistan Veterans of America, because it doesn’t include the “others
sleeping in buses, their cars or on the streets.”

Jim Nicholson’s 230,000 employees were able to shelter 300 homeless vets.
The VA itself estimates that nearly 200,000 veterans are homeless on any given night. Our real-estate developer, cabinet-level, Secretary of the VA is able to provide a place to sleep for one in every 667 vets living in doorways or cardboard boxes. His department acknowledges that.
His department admits further, that nearly 400,000 experience
homelessness over the course of a year. Conservatively, one out of
every three homeless men who is sleeping in a doorway, alley or box in
our cities and rural communities has worn the uniform and served a
country that has, essentially, turned its back on him (or her–not all
homeless vets are men).
Not everyone agrees that Iraq and Afghanistan will increase
homelessness among veterans. Peter H. Dougherty is one man who
disagrees. Peter is director of Veteran Affairs’ Homeless Veterans Programs and says the administration is

“light years ahead”
of where it was during the Vietnam era. Without a draft, today’s
all-voluntary military is “better physically and mentally prepared” for
combat, he said. The department now also provides free health care for
two years after Iraq and Afghanistan vets get out of the military, and
it’s focusing on preventive services that help veterans and their
families cope. 

After that, baby, you’re on your
own. 100,000 of the homeless are Vietnam vets and a fair number
(reduced each day by death) date back to WWII. If that’s light years
ahead, Dougherty ought to be quietly led off somewhere where he can do
less damage.

“One of the big differences now is we’re much more in a preventative health-care mode than we were in the past,” he (Dougherty) said. “We’re hoping by getting that early intervention we’ll be able to take care of them.”
Although many vets suffer from PTSD, “epidemiologic studies do
not suggest that there is a causal connection between military service,
service in Vietnam, or exposure to combat and homelessness among
according to the Veteran Affairs Web site. Rather,
homelessness in veterans is caused by an amalgam of forces: family
support, finances, education, mental illness — the same factors that
cause homelessness in the general population.

is the branch of medical science dealing with the transmission and
control of disease. How does that specialty purport to evaluate causal
Nonetheless, the amalgam of those (VA supported) causal forces somehow
doesn’t include the stress associated with kicking down doors in Iraq,
not knowing who is on the other side of those doors and not being able
to talk to them in any event–all the while subject to prosecution for
a quick trigger and death for being too slow. The constant fear of
being blown up while driving to and from that door-kicking (or while
manning a checkpoint) wasn’t mentioned either.
Talk about a tough day at the office.
And should it be forgotten, the glaring fact is that statistically,
25% of the homeless are vets, while they represent a mere 6/10ths of
one percent of the population. Math may fail me here, but that would
seem to be about a 40 to 1 error in the VA homelessness count.
No matter. Peter H. Dougherty is Jim Nicholson’s point-man on homelessness and if he’s wrong by a factor of 40, so be it.
In all fairness, Nicholson has been the United States Secretary of
Veterans Affairs only since January of 2005, a mere two years on the
job and he’s hardly (totally) responsible for a repeat of the Vietnam
veteran disaster. On Secyarmyharveythe other hand, Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman was relieved of duty as head of Walter Reed hospital after only six months on the job. Secretary of the Army, Francis J. Harvey, (two years, three months) is secretary no more.
It’s a fine old custom for presidents to pop their major contributors
into ambassadorships to France and secretaries of this or that. George
Bush has cronied his way further than most.
But he has repeatedly, consistently and unendingly assured
America that he was on top of disaster control and that America’s
fighting forces were receiving the absolute best medical care and
aftercare assistance.

The point-men in both
cases, Michael Chertoff at Homeland Security and Jim Nicholson at
Veterans’ Affairs have served inadequately and (to put it gently)
without distinction.

If Francis Harvey and
General Weightman can be compelled to leave, Michael Chertoff and Jim
Nicholson can surely be required to follow.
Media comment;

2 thoughts on “Jim Nicholson’s Head on a Pike

  1. I have been trying since Oct 2004 to be treated by VA for service connected injuries-23 plus years. All the White house, Congressman Tancrado and VA keep telling me that they are doing A good job. Problem is that they are short DOLLARS. We still spend billions to Accomplish what in Iraq ???? The military is being let down.

  2. Hi every one is happy for Mr.Nicholson for the job he has dun so far. But what has he realy dun for the solders that are 80-100% dis and unaployabel you know we reely do not get a lot of $ like everyone likes to think. We get taken advategof all the time.I meen look when the interestrate go's up our pay go's down that is why there are so many homeles vet's in THE UNITED STATES and so many devorses and than we cant aford a lawyer hay why not provide the vet's withleagal help insted of fatuning your pocket. The only thing that runs any office in the gov is not pepole but the all mitty doller when every one wakes up and realises this than and only than this country will be fixed.

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