- 11:28 pm Thursday, July 31st, 2014 by Jamie Dupree
On Wednesday night I wrote how it “could be a messy final few hours in Congress on Thursday.”
I sure hit that one on the head.
Instead of focusing their attacks on Democrats and President Obama over immigration issues, Republicans in Congress spent a full day battling each other on Thursday, as House GOP leaders delayed the start of a summer break in an effort to approve a bill that deals with the recent surge of kids across the southern U.S. border.
“We’re going to stay until we get the job done,” said Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH) as he emerged from a hastily [More]
- 8:26 pm Wednesday, July 30th, 2014 by Jamie Dupree
It could be a messy final few hours in Congress on Thursday, as lawmakers get ready to take a five week summer break that lasts until after Labor Day, as final action is assured on a VA reform bill, but other major legislation remains in limbo as the smell of jet fumes and lure of vacation envelops Capitol Hill.
Here’s a rundown of what might – and might not – get done.
1. VA Reform is a lock
If there is one bill that will get through the Congress this week, it’s the $17 billion VA reform legislation. The bill now awaits a [More]
- 11:43 pm Tuesday, July 29th, 2014 by Jamie Dupree
In a new report, internal investigators say more than $5 million in federal resources were wasted at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office as a group of workers were allowed to draw full pay, benefits and bonuses while doing little actual work for several years.
“The volume of hours charged to Other Time – which were hours that paralegals were paid their full salary, but were not working – was remarkably high and troubling,” reported the Inspector General at the Commerce Department.
“Other Time” was a designation invented by officials at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board to describe “non-productive [More]
- 8:12 pm Monday, July 28th, 2014 by Jamie Dupree
Despite adding billions to the federal deficit, a bipartisan $17 billion plan to help reform the VA seems to be on its way to approval this week in the Congress, as key lawmakers vowed on Monday to push the bill through the House and Senate by the end of this week, before the Congress leaves town on an extended summer break.
“It is a compromise,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who chairs the Senate Veterans Committee. “There’s been give and take on both sides.”
The basics of the plan include:
+ $10 billion to allow veterans to go outside the VA for private [More]
- 3:19 pm Sunday, July 27th, 2014 by Jamie Dupree
The focus in the Congress this week is on getting a few things done before the annual summer break for lawmakers, as after this Friday, the House and Senate won’t be in legislative session again until after Labor Day, what’s known in Washington, D.C. as the August Recess.
Usually, the run to the August break in Congress is filled with late nights in July, as the House and Senate would feverishly work on spending bills and other major legislation.
But that’s how it used to be when I was a young reporter, not how the House and Senate operate these days – [More]
- 6:30 pm Tuesday, July 15th, 2014 by Jamie Dupree
As a reporter, you can always tell when a story takes another step forward because listeners and readers begin getting in touch with you to either tell their stories or to offer up insights of their own. And that’s where we seem to have arrived with questions about the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“I too am a whistleblower who has been fired not once but twice for speaking out,” wrote a woman from Georgia in an email.
“Please shine the light on this story,” sha added, volunteering to send me more information on her troubles with VA superiors.
Another woman who works inside [More]
- 11:49 pm Monday, July 14th, 2014 by Jamie Dupree
In a hearing that stretched until almost 1 am, it was a familiar story line before the House Veterans Affairs Committee on Monday night – but from a different part of the VA – as another panel of whistleblowers detailed how they raised questions about troubles inside the agency, only to face retaliation for sending their concerns to their superiors.
“They were instructing us to change the dates on claims, on any claims,” said Kristin Ruell, a VA employee in the Philadelphia benefits office, a charge that seemed much like the data manipulation dealing with delays in medical appointments for veterans, [More]
- 3:45 pm Monday, July 14th, 2014 by Jamie Dupree
Internal investigators at the Department of Veterans Affairs have told Congress that some VA workers were “cooking the books” on benefit claims by veterans to make it look like the work was being done in a more timely fashion, much like earlier charges that VA schedulers were changing dates to mask long delays in veterans getting health care appointments.
“They manipulated the numbers,” Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL) told me, “which is exactly what has happened with the backlog of health care requests.”
Miller said Monday night’s hearing before the House Veterans Committee will show how the VA set a goal to work [More]
- 8:17 pm Thursday, July 10th, 2014 by Jamie Dupree
As top Obama Administration officials presented their arguments for a $3.7 billion plan to deal with a surge of kids coming over the border into the United States, there was evidence both of tough sledding ahead for the White House and maybe also the seeds of a deal to approve such an emergency plan.
“Doing nothing is not an option,” argued Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, who acknowledged that one important signal to send to people in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala is the return of people who had made it across the border into Texas.
“People in Central America need to [More]
- 9:44 pm Wednesday, July 9th, 2014 by Jamie Dupree
In the bureaucratic lexicon of Washington, D.C., they are known as “improper payments,” where Uncle Sam wrongly pays out billions of dollars each year. On Wednesday, a House committee was told that those payments totaled almost $106 billion in 2013.
“Actually, it’s over $100 billion each of the last five years,” said Rep. John Mica (R-FL). “That’s a staggering half a trillion dollars in improper payments.”
The figure of $105.8 billion for 2013 was actually down slightly from $107.1 billion in 2012, but it was obviously no reason to celebrate.
“While we are happy to see progress in reducing improper payments, however, we [More]