VA incompetence creates $6,324 bill for dying veteran who got married


Debbie Shafer cares for her husband, Rob ArthurSteve Ringman/The Seattle TIMES

Snohomish County, Washington — When Rob Arthur was diagnosed with brain cancer back in January, the gaunt, gray-haired Vietnam veteran decided to wed his longtime girlfriend, Debbie Shafer, in a hospital room.

The marriage has been a source of comfort for this couple as they face the challenges of an unforgiving disease, deemed terminal, in a trailer home set by the steep flanks of the North Cascade mountains.

It also has been a big source of stress in their dealings with the federal Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Last summer, the VA ruled that Arthur — his earnings boosted by his wife’s wages as a nurse’s aide — was no longer eligible for an income-based pension and would have to repay $6,324 in checks mailed out during the more than six months that the department took to make this decision…

These overpayments are more fallout from the troubled VA’s inability to keep up with a massive caseload of veterans who turn to the department for benefits. These delays sometimes can create major financial problems for the veterans by sticking them with unexpected bills to repay checks they should not have received.

“It can be an incredible hardship,” said Amy Fairweather, a policy director at San Francisco-based Swords to Plowshares, a nonprofit veterans service organization. “The onus should be on the VA to take care of these matters and not to go after destitute or low-income veterans to pay back pensions.”

VA officials say their actions are guided by blah, blah, blah…

And, gee, you could ask Congress to fix the problem – in the next century or so.

The 68-year-old Arthur and his wife say they accept the loss of the pension. But they want the VA to drop demands to pay back the pension checks sent out earlier this year.

“We simply cannot afford to survive should we be held responsible for this debt,” Arthur wrote in a letter to the VA. requesting a hardship exemption. “We did not do anything to deceive the Department of Veterans Affairs. We completed any and all documentation required of us in a timely fashion…”

The debt owed the VA adds to the uncertainty over the future. Shafer frets that the department might try to garnish her wages, or even take part of her husband’s Social Security check.

Earlier in the fall, she sent the VA a $5 check to start to pay off the debt.

“I don’t have time for all this. I want to spend my time with Rob,” Shafer said.

I want him to die in peace.”

Meanwhile, government bureaucrats, elected officials, use the same defense offered by all Good Germans at the end of World War 2 — “We’re just following orders.”

Convicted Wall Street trader sues customer who turned his sorry ass in!


Creep of the week

A former Jefferies & Co. managing director convicted of fraud for lying to customers about the price of mortgage-backed securities sued the AllianceBernstein Holding LP (AB) executive who reported him.

Jesse C. Litvak sued Michael Canter, head of the securitized assets group at New York-based AllianceBernstein, in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan yesterday, accusing him of using “wrongful, unfair or improper means” to interfere with his employment, directly resulting in his termination.

Litvak was accused of defrauding investors of $2 million by misrepresenting how much sellers were asking for the securities, or what customers would pay, and keeping the difference for Jefferies…

Canter testified for the prosecution during the case, saying the spreadsheet showed that Litvak had misled him about how much Jefferies had paid for bonds, including one instance when Canter agreed to raise a bid, yet the firm still paid the original price.

Litvak was found guilty in March of securities fraud and making false statements, as well as fraud connected to the Troubled Asset Relief Program. Along with his prison sentence, he was ordered to pay a $1.75 million fine.

Throw away the key!

This sleazy bastard and the lawyers representing him are perfect examples of how low legal processes have sunk in the United States. From kissing butt for every fundamentalist nutball who doesn’t want to pay taxes – to the open buying and selling of Congress and lesser members of the mutant species we have for elected officials – corruption is justified by every crook in the country.

They act as if the only birthright in the country that doesn’t need validation is that the powerful have every right to steal.

The judge should call him back for re-sentencing – and double the time, triple the fine!

Shop like a pharmacist — don’t buy brand names!

If you’re looking to save a few dollars — who isn’t, really? — here is some fail-safe advice: stop buying Advil.

Stop buying Tylenol, Aleve, Motrin or any other brand-name painkiller while you’re at it. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t buy any painkillers at all — just that you should pick up the generic version — the acetaminophen and ibuprofen and naproxen that your local drugstore chain markets for about one third of the price.

This is something that Tylenol sales data suggests a lot of us aren’t doing. Fewer than half of painkiller sales in the United States are for the generic, private label brands that pharmacy chains manufacture

CVS sells 100 Advil tablets for $9.99. It sells a bottle of 100 generic ibuprofen tablets for $4. They are, aside from their shape and color, the exact same pill. Each has 200 milligrams of ibuprofen, a compound discovered by a British scientist in 1961 and first used to treat arthritis.

Pharmacists, whose whole job it is to know about drugs and how they work, have caught onto this. While regular shoppers choose brand-name painkillers 26 percent of the time, according to research published last year by Dutch economist Bart Bronnenberg, pharmacists pick brand-name products in 9 percent of their purchases.

Learn what is the active ingredient in the OTC medication you need. Look for that – not the brand name.

Save yourself a few bucks, folks.