V.A. secretary hopeful calls for culture change as swamp is drained

john-wells

(WFLA) — A Department of Veterans affairs dedicated to serving veterans – is it a pipe dream or can it become reality?

As President-elect Donald Trump vets those who wish to join his administration, some veterans groups and members of congress are getting behind a former Navy commander to become the new Secretary of the V.A.

John Wells is now an attorney who battles the V.A. in courts on behalf of veterans. His name was submitted to the President-elect’s transition team. Wells believes it is time for a culture change at the V.A. He wants to drain from the swamp employees who don’t put veterans first.

The 700 thousand marines, family members and employees of Camp Lejeune, exposed for decades to contaminated water might welcome John Wells as a new V.A. secretary.

“If you look at the Camp Lejeune situation they actually granted coverage for I think 8 different disabilities and diseases when in fact it should be about 25.  You know our medical panels recommended additional diseases that the V.A. is just ignoring,” said John Wells.

He would also expand Agent Orange benefits.

“The first thing I would do is issue an order rescinding the exclusion of Blue Water Navy veterans who serviced in the territorial seas, bases and harbors of Vietnam, that would go out before sundown,” he added. “Getting coverage for the Blue Water Navy folks, for people who are other victims of Agent Orange, such as Guam, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, the burn pits.”

While struggling with the V.A. over Agent Orange benefits, Rod McElveen of Clearwater, found he was 12,717  on an appeals list.

According to John Wells, people deciding whether Rod’s medical conditions are tied to Agent Orange exposure and benefits, in general, tend to lack medical backgrounds.

“They’ve got to be qualified in the job they do. They can’t just be a veteran. If a guy is a welder, he might be good at doing a lot of things, but he’s not good at sitting there and rating an individual based on their medical problems,” Wells said.

Nationwide 450-thousand cases are backlogged. He proposes temporarily hiring retired military judges, get them some V.A. training, and attack the backlog.

He suggests bringing the V.A. into the 21st century, e-filing cases would allow instantaneous transfer of records instead of making hard copies, putting them in the mail and hoping someone at the V.A. puts them in the right file.

According to John Wells, taxpayers spent one billion dollars to come to the conclusion that it is too hard to have a common computer system linking the V.A. with the Department of Defense. He rejects that idea since all veterans were under the Department of Defense.

Something else that he believes needs to change, policies and regulations that conflict one another and confuse employees.

“I’m an attorney, I’ve been an attorney for a long time in veterans and military law, I read some of that Code of Federal Regulations and I don’t understand it.  That’s why we need to do a complete baseline review of it,” explained Mr. Wells.

Kevin Addis of Sebring asked the V.A. to change his marital status from single to married. The fix should have taken less than a day, it dragged on at the V.A. For 9 years.

“Serve the veterans, that’s the whole basis of what the V.A. is supposed to be doing. Somewhere along the line it lost sight of that,” he added.

John Wells knows the chances of him being appointed Secretary of the V.A. is a long shot. Given a shot he aims to make that pipe dream become the new reality.

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