Friday, March 09, 2007

For All My Fans From IAP Worldwide

For the dozen or so visitors today to this humble blog from IAP Worldwide in Merritt Island, Florida; this post's for you: It's Not Just Walter Reed
Still more ways Bush is screwing returning vets.

The Pentagon's Defense Health Program—which includes the Tricare health-insurance plan, used by 9.1 million veterans and involving 65 inpatient clinics, 414 medical and dental clinics, and 257 veterans centers—has actually had its budget cut the past two years. In fiscal year 2006, the program's budget for medical care went up from $15.9 billion to $21.2 billion. But since then, it's gone down slightly—to $20.8 billion in FY 2007 and a proposed $20.7 billion in FY 2008.

These numbers understate the magnitude of the cuts. To keep up with inflation in the cost of goods and payroll, the Defense Department actually had to cut medical-care programs by $1.6 and $1.4 billion in FY07 and FY08, respectively.

Money is similarly tight at the Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA's budget for medical care has risen in the past few years—from $28.8 billion in FY 2006 to $29.3 billion in FY 2007 to a request for $34.2 billion in FY 2008—but this hasn't been enough. In each of the past four years, according to a March 1 report by the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, the VA has systematically underestimated the number of veterans applying for benefits in the coming fiscal year. The result is a shortfall of $2.8 billion in the FY08 budget, just to cover the current level of medical services.

The administration is trying to make up for some of this by raising deductibles on prescription drugs (from $8 to $15) and by imposing an annual enrollment fee (ranging from $250 to $750)—in short, by shifting costs to the veterans themselves. (Even so, these charges would make up only $450 million, or about one-sixth of the shortfall.)

Another instance of ignoring the wars: Despite a vast increase in the number of returning soldiers coming to the VA's veterans centers, the budget for these centers has remained flat. Similarly, despite a vast increase in the number of soldiers filing disability claims, the VA budget includes no money for additional claims processors. To justify the lack of money for trained processors, the VA's budgeteers assume that the number of new claims—and the backload of past claims—will drop in 2008. This is patently ridiculous: Elsewhere in the budget (see page 1-2), they state, "[W]e project that VA's patient caseload will peak in 2010" (emphasis added). In other words, they predict a rising caseload for another three years—but cut the money for the caseload this coming year.

An even grander sleight of hand comes in the section of the budget dealing with the "out-years"—FY 2009-12. The VA's budgeteers are projecting no increases in spending for medical care during that entire four-year period. They can't possibly believe this. (Again, they note elsewhere that the caseload won't peak until the middle of this period.) They are engaging in the political game of making the future appear less grim—and the president's budget more balanced, the need for tax hikes or cuts elsewhere less compelling—than is really the case. What doesn't IAP do?

It is amazing that a company that did not exist until recently has won so many contracts and in such diverse areas. A constant seems to be getting ice to hurricane Katrina damaged areas. One wonders what IAP will do for income when the damage is fixed. I did not include all of those contracts. You can find them on its newsroom archive page.

Here are a few more of its diverse contracts from recent years, all from IAP's press release page.

First, up the U.S. Geological Survey! From ice to WRAMC to the IRS to national wetlands research!

Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA), The Hill Blog: Walter Reed Hearing Raises Serious Questions

The questions I have about the Walter Reed issue is they contracted out a lot of the work that was being done by employees of Walter Reed even though the employees had a lower bid, knew what they were doing and the Army wanted them to continue what they were doing.

It appears as if someone in the defense department wanted to make sure that this outside contractor had the job which ended up reducing the workforce from around 350 to less than 100 earlier this year.

We’re trying to get more information, but certainly the witnesses we’ve had at our hearing acted like they knew nothing about anything. They didn’t know about the contract particularly, they didn’t know what the impact was and they didn’t know there were problems in Building 18. They assumed there weren’t any problems because nobody brought it to their attention. I just find that quite an unacceptable response.

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