American Legion Daily News Clips 4.13.20

Good morning my fellow quarantiners today is Monday, April 13, 2020.

Weird facts for today….

· The chicken and the ostrich are the closest living relatives of the Tyrannosaurus rex.

  • The real name of Monopoly mascot Uncle Pennybags is Milburn Pennybags.
  • The infinity sign is called a lemniscate.

That’s about all I have today I am afraid. My kids spent yesterday and this morning hopped up on sugar highs, and I’m going to fall asleep at my computer if I don’t get these clips out.

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

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Military Times: Millions of veterans to get letters this week on potential reimbursements for medical costs

Leo Shane III

4 minutes ago

More than one million veterans will soon be receiving instructions from Veterans Affairs officials on how to check if they are eligible for thousands of dollars in medical cost reimbursements as part of a court decision last fall.

Starting today, department staffers will send letters to tens of thousands of veterans who were rejected for financial relief in recent years for bills they received for non-department emergency medical care. That move comes over VA objections concerning an ongoing lawsuit over the issue, which could add billions in new costs to the department’s budget.

Last fall, the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims ruled that the department’s current regulation for veterans who seek non-department medical care violates existing federal law. They ordered VA officials to re-examine more than 72,000 rejected claims and update their rules, arguing the department has a responsibility to cover the costs of the unexpected medical visits.

The case centers on veterans whose unpaid emergency room expenses were denied by VA officials under existing policies. The plaintiffs’ both had part of their bills paid for by other insurance, but were left with several thousand in personal costs.

VA officials argued in court that they did not need to handle the unpaid balance because the veterans were primarily covered under other insurance plans. The court ruled that violates both existing law and past legal precedent.

A VA Inspector General report last summer found $716 million in improperly processed payments in cases involving veterans who sought medical care outside the department’s health system in 2017, including about $53 million that should have been refunded under existing rules.

VA officials are considering appealing the ruling, and asked that any action on the cases be postponed until higher courts weigh in on the matter.

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But earlier this month, the appeals court rejected that motion and ordered letters be sent out starting April 13. Advocates praised the decision.

“Hundreds of thousands of veterans affected by this class action have suffered far too long and endured severe financial hardships due to VA’s wrongful handling of their reimbursement claims,” said said Bart Stichman, executive director of the National Veterans Legal Services Program.

Previous attempts to force the department to respond to a large group of veterans complaints instead of individual cases failed to meet the court’s standards.

VA officials have estimated that full compliance with the court order could cost between $1.8 billion and $6.5 billion. Reimbursements may date back to cases decided by the department in 2016.

The ruling also invalidated all VA decisions denying reimbursement for deductibles and co-insurance costs not covered in emergency visits at non-VA facilities.

The letters come as many veterans are facing new debts related to work interruptions and other financial problems related to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. However, processing of the claims is likely to take several months, and may be stalled further by ongoing legal appeals.

Military Times: VA reports 200th death from coronavirus

Leo Shane III

2 days ago

Since Veterans Affairs leaders reported the first death of a VA patient from coronavirus in mid-March, the number of positive cases — and fatalities — in the department’s health system has risen dramatically.

As of Friday, 200 patients have died from the illness in the VA system. That’s an increase of 26 fatalities from Thursday, marking the biggest one day increase the department has seen so far. On March 30, the total death toll was less than 20.

VA officials have offered only partial details of the deaths. Only one death involved a patient younger than 50. On Thursday, officials noted the first death of a VA patient older than 100, a veteran at New York City’s Brooklyn medical center. No other information was given.

Across all VA sites, 3,700 patients in VA care have tested positive for the fast-spreading virus. That’s about 12 percent of all of the cases tested by the department, and is almost double what it was on April 2. However, the daily rate of growth in new cases has been under 10 percent for six consecutive days.

In addition to the patient statistics, at least 1,100 VA health care employees had tested positive for the virus as of April 8. Department officials on Wednesday said seven deaths have occurred among staffers in at least five sites: two in Reno, Nev., and one each at VA hospitals in Ann Arbor, Mich., Detroit, Indianapolis and Houston. The location of the seventh death wasn’t immediately known.

The increases in sick patients come amid growing reports detailing shortages in staffing and protective equipment at sites throughout the veterans health system.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday that internal VA memos revealed “serious” shortages of protective gear for health workers even as department officials publicly downplayed any concerns. A separate report by Buzzfeed this week showed individual VA hospitals beginning to ration supplies even as leaders insisted they were well stocked.

In a statement, department leaders have promised “an aggressive public health response to protect and care for veterans, their families, health care providers, and staff in the face of this emerging health risk.”

That includes work with the Centers for Disease Control and the possibility of accepting some non-veteran patients at VA medical centers to provide relief to overtaxed local health care systems.

Earlier this week, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie announced during a White House briefing that he would open about 1,500 beds nationwide to communities in need of extra resources, despite the increasing coronavirus numbers within the VA health system.

VA officials have said that opening those areas to non-veteran patients will not hurt delivery of care to any veterans who need it.

Officials also said any veteran with symptoms such as fever, cough or shortness of breath should contact their local VA facility before visiting to determine their next steps.

Stripes: USS Theodore Roosevelt sailor dies from coronavirus complications

By CAITLIN KENNEY | STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 13, 2020

WASHINGTON— A sailor assigned to the USS Theodore Roosevelt has died from the coronavirus, the Navy announced Monday.

The sailor had been in intensive care on Guam, according to a Navy statement. The name of the sailor has not been announced, pending the notification of their family.

The sailor tested positive for the coronavirus March 30 and was taken off the ship in Guam and placed into isolation with four other sailors, the Navy said. The aircraft carrier was diverted to Guam on March 27 due to the coronavirus outbreak aboard the ship. The sailors who are isolated receive twice daily checks by Navy medical personnel.

On Thursday at about 8:30 a.m., the sailor was found unresponsive during one of the medical checks and other sailors started CPR while emergency responders were notified, according to the Navy. The sailor was then transferred to intensive care and died Monday of complications associated with the virus.

As of Sunday, there were 585 Roosevelt sailors with positive tests for the virus. Most of the crew has been tested, with 3,724 receiving a negative test result. About 3,967 sailors have been transferred from the ship to Guam.

Kenney.Caitlin
@caitlinmkenney

NY Post: US, Taliban discuss easing violence in Afghanistan amid historic peace deal

By Eileen AJ Connelly

April 11, 2020

Scott Miller, US Army general and commander of NATO Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan

The head of US forces in Afghanistan met with Taliban leaders to discuss how to ease the ongoing fighting that threatens the peace deal signed in February.

A US military spokesman called on the Taliban to stop attacking Afghan security forces and vowed American troops would continue to come to their aid in accordance with the agreement. Taliban leaders called for an end to what they say is an increase in American attacks, which the US military denied.

The peace deal is aimed at creating a path for the US to exit the 19-year war, America’s longest, but the Taliban is accusing US forces of breaching the agreement.

Gen. Scott Miller, the US commander, and the Taliban leaders took place Friday night in Doha, Qatar.

“General Miller met with Taliban leadership last night as part of the military channel established in the agreement,” the US spokesman told Reuters. “The meeting was about the need to reduce the violence,” he said.

The spokesman for the Taliban’s political office in Doha also said on Twitter that the meeting discussed implementation of the agreement.

The Taliban is slated to negotiate with an Afghan delegation as part of the agreement, but a prisoner exchange that was supposed to come first has hit snags.

The Afghan government released 200 Taliban prisoners Wednesday and Thursday, but the insurgents walked away from the exchange process, saying its demand on who was to be released first was not met.

AJC: Man Tried to Sell Nonexistent Face Masks to VA in $750 Million Scheme, Feds Say

13 Apr 2020

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution | By Zachary Hansen

ATLANTA — An Atlanta man caught the attention of federal investigators after he allegedly tried to scam the Department of Veterans Affairs out of $750 million by offering to sell millions of face masks that didn’t exist.

Christopher Parris, 39, was arrested Friday on a wire fraud charge in the alleged coronavirus scheme, the Department of Justice said in a news release. He’s accused of trying to sell 125 million respirator masks and other personal protective equipment to the VA in exchange for large upfront payments.

He made several false representations in order to convince the VA to order 125 million respiratory masks and other protective equipment, the release said. The total cost for that equipment is more than $750 million.

Parris promised that he could obtain millions of genuine 3M masks from domestic factories, the release said. However, he’s accused of knowing that fulfilling that promise would be impossible.

He also is accused of making similar false representations to other entities in an effort to sell the nonexistent equipment to state governments, the release said.

"We will vigorously pursue fraudsters who exploit the COVID-19 pandemic to make money," Attorney General William Barr said in the release. "As this case demonstrates, even beyond the typical costs associated with unlawful behavior, COVID-19 scams divert government time and resources and risk preventing front-line responders and consumers from obtaining the equipment they need to combat this pandemic."

Parris appeared before the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia on Friday, where he was ordered to be extradited to the District of Columbia to face his charge.

If convicted, Parris would face up to 20 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine. This case was investigated by the VA, Officer of the Inspector General and Homeland Security.

Military.com: More Than 25,000 Former Soldiers Have Now Volunteered to Return to Duty

10 Apr 2020

Military.com | By Hope Hodge Seck

The Army asked its "soldiers for life" who are trained in medical fields to come back to do battle against the novel coronavirus pandemic. And to date, more than 25,000 have answered the call, officials said.

The service first sent out an appeal in late March to retired officers and enlisted soldiers from a targeted set of specialties, asking for volunteers to re-don the uniform and reinforce Army communities thinned by emergency field hospital and personnel deployments to regions hit hardest by the virus. It would ultimately expand the call for volunteers to recently separated soldiers in the Individual Ready Reserve and to "gray-area" soldiers — Guardsmen and reservists who have completed 20 years but haven’t yet met requirements for retirement.

The field totaled "approximately 800,000," officials said, meaning that more than 3% of all former soldiers contacted by the Army responded to say they could help.

Now, the service is working to process the horde of volunteers, ensuring those it takes are properly qualified and certified, and — importantly — not currently working in medical care in a civilian capacity.

"If individuals are already serving in their local communities, we are proud of their service and want them to continue serving in those communities, as this effort is not to detract from current community support, but to enhance it," Brig. Gen. Twanda E. Young, U.S. Army Human Resources Command deputy commanding general and reserve personnel management director, said in a released statement.

The calls for volunteers went out to those who had served in specialties including critical care officer; anesthesiologist; nurse anesthetist; critical care nurse; nurse practitioner; ER nurse; respiratory specialist; and medic.

But soldiers in other fields also reached out to Human Resources Command to offer their services, officials said. And the Army does plan to consider them for service, too.

Planners are now working around the clock to process applications and determine where volunteers can serve, according to an Army release.

"This effort seems very simplistic — soldiers volunteer and we just bring them back on active duty, but it requires a specialized team of professionals knowledgeable in Reserve policy, which the Reserve Personnel Management Directorate provides," Young said. "We understand the urgency, thus we are working multiple shifts to sift through screening volunteers to get them at the point of need."

Once volunteers are screened and validated, they are sorted by specialty and matched up with Army personnel needs. No orders have been cut to date; all volunteers are still in different parts of the vetting process, according to the release. Orders are expected to be open-ended, and officials did note that volunteers will be given time and flexibility to put their lives in order before they report for duty.

The Army has not provided a precise timeline for when the first volunteer soldiers might be back in uniform, or how many volunteers it plans to accept in total. According to the release, new volunteers are still being accepted by HRC.

Army medical detachments are already deploying around the country to assist civilian providers with managing major virus outbreaks. Military doctors are now assisting in New York City hospitals, and the Army has deployed three mobile field hospital units, staffed by about 330 soldiers apiece.

One of those hospitals, deployed to Seattle, has already closed after just a few days, a sign that patient capacity has become more manageable amid extreme social distancing and protective measures.