Veterans Live in Safer Neighborhoods in Los Angeles

veteransNational statistics on veterans are grim. As of November 2014, an average of 550 veterans return every day (that is 200,000 troops each year). They have a hard time readjusting. The unemployment rate of veterans since the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is higher (11.1 percent) than non-veterans (around 8.6 percent). Twenty percent of veterans between 18 and 24 years old are unemployed. That is so even with the aggressive recruitment by federal agencies, where almost half of all new employees come from the services. It’s estimated that 1.4 million veterans are living below the poverty line.

All of the difficulties take a physical and social toll. Mental illness and substance abuse are widely reported. As of June 2011, 20 percent of all suicides nationally are veterans. Almost 20 percent of homeless people are veterans. As of November 2015, more than 10 percent of the death row are veterans.

There is cause for optimism. Looking at data from the L.A. Mapping Project, compiled by the Los Angeles Times, one can generalize that veterans who live in America’s second largest city tend to live in fairly safe neighborhoods. More so than those who live in neighborhoods with fewer veterans. For example, the three neighborhoods identified as having the highest proportion of veterans – Green Valley (19.5 percent), Elizabeth Lake (18.4 percent) and Lake Hughes (18.4 percent) – have no incidences of violent crime in 2017.

The three neighborhoods accounted for the lowest percentage of veterans – Central-Alameda (1.8 percent), Chinatown (1.3 percent) and University Park (1.0 percent) – have moderate levels of per capita violent crime (61.4, 18.4, and 38.1 incidences per 1,000 residents, respectively). The average violate crime rate in the 207 neighborhoods is 27.7 incidences per capita. Eight neighborhoods have over 100 incidences of violent crime per capita. Vermont Vista (155.1 incidences per capita and 6.6 percent veterans population) has the highest violent crime crate.

Creating a model using the data, one can observe that the more veterans there are living in a neighborhood in L.A., the lower the violent crime rate. More specifically, for every 1 percent increase in the percentage of veterans living in a neighborhood, there is a decrease of 2.6 incidences of violent crimes.

For example, 101 veterans currently live in Chinatown, the fitted model predicts that 7.1 percent of the neighborhood’s population need to be veterans (an increase of 448 veterans) for the violent crime rate to be eliminated. Gramercy Park, which has 115.5 incidences of violent crimes, needs 44.4 percent of its population to be veterans (3,179 veterans, or an increase of 2,240) to eradicate violent crimes. If Hancock Park (violent crime rate 27.2 incidences per capita, close to the city mean), wants to eradicate violent crime, the municipal government would have to see that 10.4 percent of it residents come from the veteran population. That is 822 veterans, or a 326 increase from the current 496 veterans living in the neighborhood.

But a note of caution. The causation of the two variables can run in either direction, or in both ways. A neighborhood’s violent crime rate may change because veterans moved into the neighborhood (street gangs, murderers, etc., may withhold their crime sprees out of fear of the veterans), or veterans moved into a neighborhood because they saw that it had a low violent crime rate and that it was safe. As with many social phenomena, both scenarios are possible.

This has policy implications. Veterans, like all people, prefer to live in safe neighborhoods. In L.A., neighborhoods with no recorded violent crimes in 2017 have at least 9.6 percent veterans in their populations. It is good incentive for the municipal government to lower crime rates, for example through gentrification, to create safer homes for veterans readjusting to civilian life.

Another implication is attracting veterans to neighborhoods with higher crime rates, if it is true that veterans thwart off violent criminals. The municipal government can experiment with tax breaks for veterans who move to neighborhoods that are traditionally plagued with violent crimes – for example, choosing those neighborhoods above the mean crime rate.

As with most prescriptions in public policy, introducing veterans into a neighborhood to reduce crimes should not be seen as a silver bullet solution. Crime control requires a blend of preventative measures (e.g., education, public campaigns), police mobilization and deterrence in conjunction with the criminal justice system. Veterans, by playing a part in affecting on all three factors, should be rewarded for it.

Gary Lai was the founder and director for ten years of the anti-poverty campaign TKO Poverty.

Can Senate Republicans Make CA More Affordable?

jean-fuller-15Senate Republicans packaged their best policy proposals on Tuesday, a series of bills aimed at helping veterans, seniors, homeowners and renters as well as parents and students.

Jean Fuller, the Senate Republican leader, pointed to California’s high rents, high poverty rate and high tax burden as ills helped by these bills — a “first step” in helping make the Golden State more affordable.

Fuller cited damning stats: CNBC ranked California the 5th most expensive state to live in the country in 2015, average monthly rent is 50 percent higher here than in the rest of the country40 percent of Californians are living at or near the poverty line and Californians have one of the highest tax burdens in the country.

And earlier this month, the American Legislative Exchange Council gave California one of the worst economic outlooks in the country.

“Senate Republicans united around a very positive agenda that gives voice to Californians being left behind by their own Capitol,” the Bakersfield Republican said.

“There is no question that California has become a very expensive place to live,” Fuller added.

Fuller did not explain how the proposals would be paid for (nor did her office provide an estimate of how much the package would cost). Instead, Fuller said the government should focus on the “most disabled” and the “most vulnerable populations” as a top priority, adding that state revenues have increased steadily over the last few years.

“If the priorities are carefully weighed, I think we do have enough money, especially when we’ve had extra resources come in in the last couple of years,” Fuller said.

Package of Bills

The 11 bills center on tax breaks and proposals focused on encouraging access to work, education and homeownership.

Access to work: One bill restores MediCal coverage for one free pair of eyeglasses every other year for those who fail the DMV vision test. Another bill provides $100 standard allowance for CalWORKs welfare-to-work participants, as well as an allowance for education costs.

Education: One bill provides a tax deduction for college expenses, while another creates a sales and use tax holiday for school supply purchases. A third bill would create a tax deduction for education savings accounts.

Homeownership: There’s a renters tax credit, a bill to eliminate property tax inflation for senior and disabled veterans, and one that would do that same for senior citizens. There’s two proposals giving a property tax exemption for disabled veterans. And there’s a proposal to encourage a homeownership savings accounts that would help first-time homebuyers with a down payment.

Navigating the Senate

Unveiling an agenda at a press conference, however, is far easier than carrying the bills through the Legislature for a Republican caucus with virtually no power. They face a Sisyphean task of getting the bills through a Democratically-controlled Legislature, where they are a mere seat away from irrelevancy — below the dreaded one-third threshold.

According to Bill Whalen, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, Republicans in the Legislature face three legislative options. The first is to have an idea embraced by Democrats, which could carry the bill to the governor’s desk. The other two are either the bill is dead on arrival or it gets a hearing and then fizzles out.

“There’s three outcomes, two of which are negative,” said Whalen, who served as chief speechwriter and director of public affairs for former Republican Gov. Pete Wilson.

After voters amended the Constitution in 2010 to require only majority approval of the state budget (as opposed to two-thirds), Republicans lost a yearly opportunity to leverage legislation as their numbers in both chambers are only slightly above one-third.

“For a few weeks anyway, Republicans had a lot of relevance in the process,” Whalen said, adding that now Republicans’ leverage is now mostly reserved for Constitutional amendments.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

IG: Yes, The Los Angeles VA Is Shredding Vets’ Claims

disabled-veteransIt’s been confirmed. Employees at the Los Angeles VA Regional Office shredded paperwork related to veterans’ disability claims.

A new report from the Department of Veterans Affairs inspector general discovered that a tip-off received in January alleging that staff improperly shredded documents is nothing short of true.

According to investigators, it’s not clear how many documents were shredded prior to the start of the review, but they did find nine documents related to veterans’ claims discarded in the shredding bin, despite policies existing to prevent this exact practice. Five of the documents had missing signatures from both employee and supervisor.

In one case, VA staff received a letter confirming that a veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder was unemployable and promptly placed the document into a red box designated for shredding. Staff did not include the claim in the electronic system.

“Due to noncompliance with VBA policy, poor controls, inadequate oversight, and lack of training, the Los Angeles VARO put veterans’ claims-related documents at risk for inappropriate destruction,” investigators found. “Because the Los Angeles VARO did not consistently follow VBA’s controls, it is likely that VARO staff would have inappropriately destroyed the nine claims-related documents we found.”

This isn’t the first time VA has had a problem with employees wantonly shredding essential documents. Following revelations of the practice in 2008, VA established the position of Records Management Officer.

So what happened in Los Angeles?

No such position existed from August 2014 up until the time of the IG’s investigation in February 2015.

In August 2014, the person who filled the position of RMO was promoted. Those duties were passed to untrained staff from the Support Services Division, who conducted what they referred to as a “cursory review” of documents before they were tossed in the shredding bin.

Investigators soon realized that a “cursory review” just meant that they’d sit and watch as documents were dumped into shredding bins.

“We determined that SSD staff were not properly trained and their cursory reviews were inadequate to identify and separate any claims-related documents from other documents,” the report noted. “They were not familiar with claims-processing activities and lacked the knowledge needed to identify claims or claims-related documents.”

The troubling nature of document shredding at the Los Angeles office has prompted the IG to launch investigations in 10 regional offices across the country.

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Originally published by the Daily Caller News Foundation

California tells for-profit chain to stop enrolling veterans

As reported by the Associated Press:

A for-profit college company with 15 campuses in California was ordered by the state Friday to stop enrolling new or returning students who plan to fund their educations with GI Bill benefits.

The order to ITT Educational Services came in a suspension notice issued by a division of the California Department of Veterans Affairs that sanctions training programs to serve veterans.

ITT operates more than 135 schools in 39 states under the names ITT Technical Institute and Daniel Webster College.

The Securities and Exchange Commission filed a fraud complaint against the Indiana-based company this week over an alleged scheme to cover up losses from private student loans that ITT had guaranteed to its investors.

California officials suspended ITT as an …

Answers demanded after vets’ disability claims found in cabinet

As reported by the San Francisco Chronicle:

One number will hang over a congressional hearing Wednesday looking into mismanagement at a U.S. Veterans Affairs regional office in Oakland: 13,184.

That’s the number of compensation and disability claims that were found in 2012, wrongfully stashed in a filing cabinet — some dating to the mid-1990s and many unprocessed. But what the number represents remains the source of fierce debate.

Employees who came forward about the claims say it’s the number of veterans whose much-needed benefits may have been delayed, or not paid altogether, because of what they described as organized negligence that continued even after the cabinet was emptied. …

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Veterans Day Remembrance

Veterans Day Cartoon

Cam Cardow, Cagle Cartoons

Veterans Affairs Keeps Buying Bogus And Counterfeit Medical Equipment

Internal correspondence between the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and a major supplier of medical devices reveals that the VA has been buying bogus and counterfeit medical equipment, The Washington Times reports.

The equipment comes from the so-called gray market and threatens to endanger patient’s lives. Johnson & Johnson brought the matter to the VA’s attention and placed the blame on procurement rules.

“The product being sold may not have been stored properly (high temperature, high humidity, no pest control, etc.), which could create patient risk,” Paul B. Smith, government account director for the company, told the VA.

“We do not believe that the VA intended for its efforts to utilize new procurement tools such as reverse auctions to result in these outcomes,” a company official added, according to The Washington Times. Johnson & Johnson’s concerns date two years previous, stemming from a corporate investigation in which they found that sellers would steal devices from hospitals and attempt to pawn them off into the gray market, only for agencies like the VA to purchase them. More attention has been given to the issue only in September of this year after an inspector general report was released.

However, the issue has been raised before not just externally to the agency, but internally, as well. Back in 2012, a VA advisory group stated that the agency should not be using reverse auctions to purchase “clinically oriented products.” Acquisition officials apparently declined to take their recommendations seriously. But there may be some indications of a change as of now. The VA has said that it promises it will look into modifying the procurement process so as to exclude gray market purchases.

In the meantime, at least seven surgical supply purchases have been made by the agency across the U.S. One example highlighted by Johnson & Johnson was a distributor delivering the VA a surgical device without a box and wrapped in rubber bands. Concerns are being raised that these products are actually used in medical rooms to treat patients.

This article was originally published on the Daily Caller News Foundation.