Wednesday, March 27, 2013



Yesterday while thinking about this post I asked Judge Cascos office for information related to the cremation of indigent vets.  Judge Cascos, as always, got back with me right away.  He forwarded my email to the proper persons.  That person got back with me earlier today.  It was a good response so I want to  share the key part.

When an indigent veteran is ID, they are properly buried in a vets cemetery. "we often have most veterans being buried at no cost at the mission  veterans cemetery which provides a grave, concrete and the stone."

This is a great thing for when we know someone is a vet.  I am glad the county is working hard on this issue for when they can ID a vet.  What we need though is a national data base where the county can check all names and determine if the vet has made arraignments for their funeral.  There is also the issue of being able to determine if they are even a vet. 


I had the pleasure of meeting with Congressman Vela on issues related to veterans care. This was maybe 2-3 weeks ago. Based on what I learned during this conversation Congressman Vela hit the ground running on any number of issues which impact his constituency - even beyond veterans issues. I am going to try and stay away from the specifics of our conversation except one issue. I want Congressman Vela to be able to trust our conversations will be private.

To be up front, I opposed Congressman Vela for a variety of reasons.  My reasons were solid and verified.  But the election is behind us, and it is time for us to work together for the betterment of our community.  After years of Solomon Ortiz's office ignoring every phone call and letter related to veterans' issues, it is  refreshing to finally have a Congressman who will actually speak with me directly.

I know enough about the process to know Congressman Vela can work his butt off every day and quickly get no where.  This is the learning curve he is in right now.  But I do give Congressman Vela and his staff an A+ for hitting the ground running to learn the Washington way, and to push the issues which impact his constituency.  But none of his efforts will ever be enough to overcome the bureaucratic mindset.

I will say without getting into specifics, that Congressman Vela and I agreed on every issue we discussed - even those outside veterans issues.  He is very focused on practical solutions to the immediate needs of our community, which are handled at the federal level.  This is how all congressman should be - they should not be pushing the party line, they should be about their district.

The other thing I really liked about Congressman Vela is, he is about acquiring knowledge - facts - he understands that without knowledge and real facts he would just be an imp spewing ignorance.  He is assuming those of us on the front line of any given problem actually have the facts.  It is a good starting place to acquire knowledge.  I am sure he is following up with secondary sources to insure the accuracy of the facts.

Most people, including veterans do not know that all veterans are entitled to burial at sea.  It is not like they take the ship out just for one veteran.  This is scheduled annually by the Navy.  It is a lot more cost effective to dump our ashes into the ocean than to keep and maintain a veteran's cemetery.


As a veteran my funerary affidavit directs that I am to be cremated and buried at sea.  It is actually quite specific.  They are to use a cardboard coffin so as not to waste money on an expensive coffin.  I am to be cremated naked so as not to waste clothes which can be donated to the poor. But it will be up to my family to go through the bureaucratic process of getting proof I am a veteran and then applying for the certificate which shows I am entitled to burial at sea.  The federal policy states that I as the veteran cannot now submit the application and receive a certificate verifying my right to burial at sea.  It would be so simple.  The certificate would be part of my funerary affidavit which would allow the funeral home to ship my ashes directly to the Secretary of the Navy for storage pending the annual burial at sea ceremony.  [For the record I have all the forms complete and ready to go, but it will still be up to my family to insure the application has not changed or the required proof has not changed.]

But I can tell you after years of working on this a bureaucrat has decided no - the policy will not be changed.  Congressman Vela sees this as a no brainer.  But that is not enough.  What he and his staff are learning is, once any idea gets to the desk of the bureaucrat who has already said no, it dies. 

I do not care where in government you go, once a bureaucrat says no - it is no - until you humiliate their boss on national TV.  This issue which is easily resolved will not be resolved until a Congressman puts it into legislation, thereby forcing the Secretary of the Navy to appear before the House Committee on Veterans Affairs.  The Secretary will sit there not knowing why such a simple problem requires legislation because he himself fails to realize - the bureaucrats are running the show and not him.


Cameron county, and rightfully so, cremates the bodies of indigent people who have no one to claim their body or pay for a funeral.  The ashes are then put in a paupers grave.  I agree the county has a duty to use the most cost effective and humane way to  dispose of such bodies.  But here is the problem - every veteran has a right to be buried at sea.  If we are going to cremate them anyway why not just ship the ashes to the Navy for burial at sea instead of paying to bury the ashes in a paupers grave?  Of course the county's hands are tied because there is no national registry wherein they can verify someone is a veteran and is entitled to burial at sea.    And I can tell you, the bureaucrats will fight such a registry left and right.  It is not their idea so it is a bad idea.


The problem begins and ends with the bureaucrats and Congress.  I renew my prescriptions on line through a special link the VA has for vets.  For me the system works very effectively - but I am computer literate.  If I see I only have one refill left I can send a secure message to my doctor letting her know.  She then decides if she will renew it or set me up for lab work before renewing the medication.  More often than not I get set up with lab work.  Once the lab work comes back she makes a decision.  I never even have to go to the clinic to see her.  I just go  for the lab work.  Once a decision is made she sends me a secure message letting me know her decision and how the lab work came out.  In fact I can actually access my lab results on line.  But I am computer literate.

What the VA refuses to understand is they are dealing with 10 of thousands of veterans in their 80's and 90's who have a multitude of health problems which make using the Internet impossible - assuming they even have access to the Internet. 

The other option vets have for renewing their medicine is calling a number on the prescription bottle.  But this is the VA - incapable of doing anything  right.  It reminds me of the old Al Bundy script where he is on the phone for days trying to order a part for his car where he is endlessly asked to answer a thousand questions.  The phone system is so bad, not once, but twice you have to indicate to the system you are calling to refill a prescription.  How is this not confusing to the elderly?  It takes for ever to reorder a prescription using the phone system.  The questions are endless.

There is only one needed question.  "please enter the number of the prescription you seek to refill."  That number will only belong to the veteran who receives that prescription.  But no, the VA needs to ask a thousand questions including asking you not once but twice to select you are calling to refill a prescription. 

To understand how stupid these people are, including all of the Senators on the Senate Committee for Veterans Affairs, if a veteran calls the VA ready to kill themselves or another the recording tells them to hang up and call another number.  These bureaucrats running the VA actually believe that someone with a gun in their hand ready to kill themselves have the state of mind to remember a number they are being given by a recording and to hang up and redial.  Just this past week the US Senate had more hearings on this issue and nothing - they will not force the change in how this is handled.  Every Senator knows about the problem, but refuse to even ask anyone at the VA why the veteran is not immediately transferred to a crisis counselor, as opposed to being told hang up the phone and call another number.

Congressman Vela cares deeply about these issues and the area veterans.  I feel sorry for him because very soon he will learn the bureaucratic walls are thick and unabiding.  His only solution will be to put everything into legislation form so that he can ask the Secretary to his face why is this even an issue.  Maybe just maybe after being called in week after week to address these issues the Secretary may ask himself - "who is running the show, me or these low level bureaucrats?"

I do believe Congressman Vela will succeed in making things better at  the VA clinic in Harlingen.  The VA Clinic in Harlingen is a new model of care in both Democratic and Republican districts.  It is my understanding that for some of the issues there is already bipartisan support for the changes and additional funding.

Did you know that a specialist can put into writing that poor  dental hygiene is making some one's dementia worse, and the veteran will not be entitle to see a dental hygienist or dentist to  fix the problem because they do not qualify for dental care.  The VA instead will up the meds to treat the dementia rather then address the dental problem.

But if you do not qualify for eye care, but are diagnosed with diabetes, you will be given an eye clinic appointment within 24 hours.  I have no problem with the latter, but how is it any different from the former?

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