For the 54 folks staffing Washington DC's VA Public Affairs office, nothing could be easier, even during the 2014 Year of Scandals. Or as Queen Elizabeth put it in 1992 regarding her childrens' divorce troubles and her castle fire, Annus Horribilis. A VA Annus Horribilis.
Still, just show up for work, write well, have a genuinely nice attitude and good attention to detail. And don't say much about anything worrying the public. or sharing with them the details needed for citizens to monitor and challenge their government's care of veterans.
We do see a better, more responsive attitude and outreach effort on the part of our regional and local public affairs representatives, especialy ours here in Cheyenne. But our problem is at the national level where VA has an information vacuum. Public Affairs is determined to maintain that vacuum. Except for self-congratulatory press releases.
Job #1: protect the boss and protect the Department. Requirement to inform the public about the full conduct of government: Zero.
And pump out those very empty zero-content responses to nearly every inquiry from the national media, the legislative representatives and veterans themselves. Pick one, use several or use them all in a response...and they provide absolutely zero content. The reporter could have picked the line for the VA to use, fully expecting one of the vapid examples below.
The House Veterans Affairs Committee complained that such protective or non-responsive replies are “blocking the public from having an independent view of important functions of the executive branch of government,”
The Washington Examiner covered this no-value-added in March 2014, featuring the House Committee on Veterans Affairs "VA Honesty Project."
We've read them for years. Our eyes glaze over at their meaningless content-free blurbs:
• "We take these issues very seriously."
• "We want to ensure veterans receive all the benefits they're entitled to."
• "We will look into that and let you know."
• "We remain committed to quality veteran medical care."
• "VA is carefully reviewing the issue."
• "VA will continue to provide safe, effective, high-quality health care to the men and women we have the honor and privilege to serve every day."
• "No comment."
* Or simply, no response at all. Every senator or congressman has dozens of inquiries ignored by VA
From The Blaze:
“They tried to misdirect Congress and the American people away from the facts,” House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) told the Tampa Bay Times. “I think they got caught and now they are trying to modify their story…. The misdirection was, in fact, designed in Washington.”
According to the Tampa Bay Times article, VA spokeswoman Gina Jackson said: “Is this really the most important question that you have that you want to address? Because it just seems to me it is a misunderstanding of the way the fact sheet is labeled. Am I missing something here?”
But according to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, there are plenty more questions that need to be answered. According to its website, there are 117 outstanding requests for information from the VA – many predating even the revelations about the waiting list scandal. Of those, 66 information requests are since 2012."