VA Firing Bill

House of Representatives Passes Bill Making it Easier for VA to Fire Employees


House of RepresentativesJust about every person in America has heard at least tidbits about the scandals that have rocked the VA in recent years. The disability backlog, the secret patient waiting lists at VA hospitals, the resignation of the Eric Shinseki, and others. While just about everyone agrees that the current status quo is unacceptable and that something needs to drastically change, it seems that the two parties in Washington are once again stagnating because they cannot agree on a solution. It may just be me, but sometimes it seems like they don’t want to agree with each other. This has been highlighted by the recent passage of a bill by the House of Representatives that would make it easier for the VA to fire employees, demote employees, and also creates a probationary period for new employees.


The bill creates an 18-month probationary period for permanent new-hires and gives their supervisors the ability to either extend the probationary period or make them permanent. The bill was proposed by Representative Jeff Miller, a Florida Republican. On the House floor, Mr. Miller said, “The Secretary needs the ability to make real reforms and he needs the ability to do it quicker than the current timeline of 6 to 12 months to remove a single employee.” Miller was referring to the numerous (some would say overabundant) protections that a federal employee enjoys from being unfairly fired from their job. While we definitely want public sector workplaces to be non-discriminatory and fair in their hiring and firing practices, there’s a reason it has become part of our culture to joke about the cushiness of a government job.


Not surprisingly, Representative Miller was supported by his fellow Republicans, including Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) who agreed that the VA needs to be able to fire employees who aren’t up to snuff or are neglecting their responsibilities. Also not surprisingly, the White House is planning to veto the bill if it makes it through the Senate. The bill came about primarily because of the VA hospital waiting list scandal, which caused Eric Shinseki to resign and caused a tidal wave of outrage and demands for change – many of which were directed at the process for firing bad employees. The Washington Times reports:


“Since taking over last summer, VA Secretary Robert McDonald has tried to reform the agency and root out bad employees, but he has encountered some setbacks. In June, the acting director of the VA’s investigative arm was forced to step down after facing criticism from both whistleblowers and members of Congress that he has interfered in the agency’s investigations to protect VA leadership.”


Democrats generally hate the bill. Some have said that it will turn the VA into an at-will workplace, which would make it one-of-a-kind in the federal government, and that an at-will workplace does not provide any due process for employees that have gotten fired. Representative Mark Takano says that the VA needs the nation’s top doctors, and that it is already difficult enough to get the best practitioners to move away from the private sector and come into the VA, and that the new hiring policies would make it even harder to recruit them. Democrats accuse the Republicans of ‘union-busting’ and trying to punish federal employees while Republicans are accusing Democrats of trying to cater to the Unions and just being contrary for the sake of being contrary. One question I was not able to find an answer to was whether there were any research or studies done to determine the root causes of the issues at the VA. Is the root problem the inability of the VA to fire bad employees, or is it something else?

VA Changes Firing Policy

While public debate about this bill has mostly devolved into name-calling, talking-points, and rhetoric, the House has passed it, the Senate has a similar bill they might vote on, or they might vote on the House’s version, and the President will have the opportunity to veto it (which he has said he will do) if it comes to his desk. For myself, and I’m sure many other people, the entire situation simply highlights what we are all frustrated with about the current political environment in America.



How Veterans Can Make Mothers’ Day Special For Their Moms

Happy Mother’s Day!

Honoring Mother's Day

Mothers’ day is an opportunity for us to express our appreciation for our mothers every year. We owe our mothers a lot, and we should do our best to make mothers day special for our moms. How do we do that? If you’re anything like me, your Mothers’ Day ideas begin and end with “gift card”. In this article we’re going to cover some principles to keep in mind that will help you decide what’s best for your mom for Mothers’ Day. To make this day special for your mom, focus on these three things: her, you, and both of you. I know that sounds obvious, but it’s not always.


Focus on Her


When you’re trying to decide what to do for your Mom (or your wife), focus on her. What does she enjoy doing? What does she wish she could do more of? What matters most to her? What is something she has to do that doesn’t want to do? You can also ask yourself some other questions such as: what does she mean to you? What’s your fondest memory of her? What are you most grateful to her for? If you decide to write a letter or a card, make sure to include some heartfelt feelings. She’ll remember these and cherish them. Just don’t show it to any of your buddies. If you are able to, try to visit her and do something she would want to do. More often than you might think, this just means a nice quiet dinner and time to talk. Whatever it is, it will mean a lot to her if you spend time doing what she wants.


Focus on You


Rather, focus on giving of yourself to make your gift special. The most valuable gift you can give your mother or wife is time. If you don’t get to spend much time together otherwise, perhaps the best thing you can do is to just sacrifice your time on or Focusing on Momaround Mothers’ Day to be with her and do what she wants to do (just like was mentioned above). You can also spend time on a project for her. A hand-made jewelry box or something else is always more meaningful than a store-bought one, even if the store-bought one was really expensive and higher quality than the hand-made one. The most important thing to keep in mind here is that the gift she wants most is you. She doesn’t want your money or a gift-card or something like that, she wants you. The single best way to make Mothers’ Day special for your mother or wife is to give of yourself.


Focus on what you both share


My mother does not play hockey. I have never played hockey on a team before. Therefore it would probably be odd for me to get my mother an old beat-up hockey puck for Mothers’ Day. However, if I had played hockey growing up and my mother had been very supportive of me and we had a lot of good memories of those times, giving her an old beat-up hockey puck I still had from practicing could be an extremely touching gift, especially if it was paired with a heartfelt note. If you remember something special about your mother, or have fond memories of a specific event or time in your life where your mother made a powerful impact on you, then use Mothers’ Day as a chance to let her know how much it affected you, whether through a note or a gift.

World's Best Mom

No one knows better than you


These are good principles to keep in mind when you’re trying to make Mothers’ Day special for your mother or wife, but you should remember that no one knows better what to get her than you do. Take what you know of her and do your best to come up with a good gift, and it will turn out well. You can also consider reaching out to siblings or other family to see what their plans are and see if it’s appropriate to go in together on something or just to get a gift that complements the gift that someone else is already giving her.


Veteran Date Ideas for Valentine’s Day

Veteran Date Ideas

Here are ten ideas to make your date unique this Valentine’s Day:

So you’re looking for some fun date ideas for that special someone on Valentine’s Day. Check out our list that everyone—both veterans and non-veterans—will love!

  1. Go on an early morning hike: Dress warm and take a short (2-3 mile) hike up to somewhere you can watch the sunrise together. Eat breakfast at the top and head back down whenever you feel like it.
  2. Play laser tag: Find a good venue and take a group of your veteran friends to go play laser tag. I’ve played laser tag against a team of military servicemembers, and they were unstoppable. This can be even more fun if you can get two teams together to face off. Laser tag is more appropriate for a date than paintballing because it has broader appeal and less chance of injury.
  3. Attempt to cover as many date cliches as you can: Even cliches can be fun if you make a game out of them. Try to go bowling, grab coffee, walk along the beach or a street while eating ice cream, etc. Any date cliche you can think of, tack it on. This is a particularly good idea if it’s a first or second date and you’re nervous about impressing your date – it’s never cliche to do as many cliche things as you can in a single date.
  4. Don’t be afraid to go extreme: If you know your date well, take him or her skydiving, hang gliding, or white-water rafting. Afterwards, go out to lunch or dinner at a place you both really like. Or, for a less extreme option that’s still extremely special, take them to a ballet, concert, comedy show, or another nice event they’ve been wanting to attend.
  5. Pursue the interests of your date: It seems like the older we get, the less time we have for our talents. By the time many of us get home from work, we’re too tired to do anything but grab a drink and watch some Netflix. Maybe your date is into video games, art, the outdoors, or something else, or you know they’d love to spend the morning learning about gardening at a nursery or hitting targets at the shooting range.
  6. Fix your date’s car: Hear me out on this one; if you’re going on a Valentine’s date, chances are you’re going with someone special or at least someone you know well. And maybe it’s the case that they don’t know much about cars. Imagine how great it’d be to teach them to change a tire, change their oil, or swap out their spark plugs (as long as it’s something they’ve been wanting to learn).
  7. Go on a horse-drawn carriage ride: In the spirit of Valentine’s day, you can give your date a romantic evening out on the town, followed up by Sleepless in Seattle or another romantic movie.
  8. Look for restaurants and entertainment venues that offer veterans discounts: and partner with a number of companies to offer special discounts for military servicemembers and veterans, and many other companies offer military discounts. While it may be uncomfortable for you to take the discount, you can use the savings to offer your server a larger tip or make the night a more enjoyable experience for your date.
  9. Go on a bike ride: Be careful not to choose a route that’s more difficult than you and your date can do comfortably, because you’ll likely want to focus on the conversation and scenery. Bike rides are good for a mid-morning or mid-afternoon activity, followed up by a casual lunch or dinner.
  10. Watch an old movie: Old movies can be pretty entertaining—plus there’s something romantic about them. Cozy up with a blanket or pillows you got them for a Valentine’s gift, build a fort, or make old-timey treats or treats that go with the theme of the movie you’re watching (like sparkly, diamond-shaped cookies for Breakfast at Tiffany’s). Be creative!

The most important thing to remember when planning your Valentine’s date is to make decisions based on what you know about your date. What do they enjoy? How do they spend their free time?

Doing your best to make the night special for your date will mean more than anything else. We wish you a fun and romantic time, and please share your great date ideas (or things to avoid) in the comments below!

Veterans on Valentines

Veteran’s Day on Nov. 11

With Veteran’s Day fast approaching, there are many ways to show appreciation and support for our veterans. This Veteran’s Day gives all of us an opportunity as Americans to celebrate the bravery and sacrifice of all U.S. veterans.

If you are looking for a special way to say thanks, here are a few great organizations that can always use a little help. These organizations provide great resources and support for our veterans, many of which face the challenge of a disability or severe health issues related to their military service.

Veteran’s Day is a huge event—and every year more and more businesses are stepping up with great deals for veterans and their families. In this blog I am posting an alphabetical listing of some national restaurants that are providing free meals or discounted meals on Veteran’s Day.

2013 Veterans Day Restaurant Offerings

  • Applebees – Veterans and active duty military receive a free meal from a limited menu, on Veterans Day, Monday, Nov. 11.
  • Bar Louie – On Sunday, Nov. 10 and Monday, Nov. 11, all Bar Louie locations are offering veterans and military personnel a free meal up to a $12 value.
  • California Pizza Kitchen – Veterans and active military receive a free pizza on Monday, Nov. 11.
  • Champps – On Monday, Nov. 11, Champps will offer a free handcrafted burger with waffle fries to veterans and active duty military.
  • Charlie Brown’s Steakhouse – Charlie Brown’s is offering a free meal to veterans and active duty military all day on Monday, Nov. 11.
  • Cheeseburger in Paradise – Veterans and military personnel receive a free All American Burger with fries on Monday, Nov. 11 with the beverage purchase of $1.99.
  • Chili’s – Veterans and active duty can get a free entrée all day from a special limited menu on Monday, Nov. 11.
  • Denny’s – Active, inactive and retired military personnel can get free all you can eat pancakes on Veterans Day nationwide.
  • FATZ – Veterans and active duty military can enjoy a free entrée at FATZ, up to a $15 value. Veterans who dine at FATZ on November 11 will also receive a $2 coupon for use on their next visit.
  • Friendly’s – Veterans and active military receive a free Big Two Do Breakfast and coffee on Monday, Nov. 11.
  • Golden Corral – Golden Corral is offering a free dinner on Monday Nov. 11, from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Military retirees, veterans, active duty, National Guard and Reserves are all welcome.
  • Hooters – Veterans and active duty military receive a free meal on Monday, Nov. 11.
  • Hoss’s Family Steak & Sea House – Veterans eat for free on Monday, Nov. 11 from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
  • Krispy Kreme – Krispy Kreme stores are offering a free doughnut and small coffee on Monday, Nov. 11 when presenting a military ID or wearing a uniform.
  • Little Caesars – Veterans and active military members get a free order of Crazy Bread on Monday, Nov. 11.
  • Max and Erma’s – On Monday, Nov. 11, participating Max & Erma’s locations are saluting veterans and active military personnel with a free Best Cheeseburger in America Combo meal.
  • McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood Restaurants – On Sunday, November 10, participating McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood Restaurants will offer a complimentary entree to vets from a special menu.
  • Menchi’s – All veterans will receive a free 6 oz. frozen yogurt on Monday, Nov. 11.
  • O’Charley’s – Veterans and active duty service members get a complimentary meal from a limited menu on Monday, Nov. 11.
  • Olive Garden – On Monday, Nov. 11, all veterans and current service members get a free meal from a limited menu. Family dining with them will also receive 10% off their meal.
  • On the Border – Veterans and active duty military can enjoy a free meal from the “Create Your Own Combo menu” on Monday, Nov. 11.
  • Paciugo Gelato Caffè – Paciugo is offering a free 12 oz. Gelatte® to veterans and active duty military on Monday, Nov. 11 at participating locations.
  • Red Robin – Veterans and active duty military get a free Tavern Double Burger and Bottomless Steak Fries on Monday, Nov. 11.
  • Shoney’s – Shoney’s will be offering a free All-American Burger to veterans and active duty service members on Monday, Nov. 11.
  • Sizzler – Sizzler is offering active duty and retired military members a free lunch from a limited menu on Monday, Nov. 11 until 4 p.m.
  • Spaghetti Warehouse – On Sunday, Nov. 10 and Monday, Nov. 11, choose one original spaghetti entrée or 15-layer lasagna and get the second entrée free. This deal requires a coupon, which is available starting Nov. 6 at the Spaghetti Warehouse website, the Facebook page, and can be presented from a mobile phone.
  • Texas Roadhouse – Texas Roadhouse locations nationwide will offer veterans a free lunch on Monday, Nov. 11 from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Offer is good for active duty, retired or former U.S. military.
  • TGIFridays – Veterans and active duty military get a free lunch from a select menu on Monday, Nov. 11 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Tucanos Brazilian Grill – Active duty, reserve and retired military and veterans receive a free Churrasco meal on Monday, Nov. 11. They are also offering 10% off the entire bill for veterans and troops who dine with their families, from Friday, Nov. 8 through Veteran’s Day, Monday, Nov. 11.
  • Village Inn – All veterans and active military personnel receive a free breakfast on Monday, Nov. 11. Choose between Buttermilk Pancakes, Belgian Waffle, or French Toast.

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