Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Ark. Veterans Scammed, Ark. VA Deputy Director Canned

Deputy in Ark. veterans department fired over fees
June 05, 2012 - The new director of the Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs fired her deputy Friday after discovering that he knowingly violated federal law by allowing the collection of more than $580,000 in illegal fees from disabled veterans at the Little Rock Veterans Home.

Lawrence Pickard was hired in fall 2010 by former Director Dave Fletcher, whom Gov. Mike Beebe asked to retire May 14 after an investigation found that he also had known about the fees. Fletcher blamed Little Rock Veterans Home administrator Janet Levine for the error and fired her in May. She is appealing her dismissal.

On May 17, Beebe appointed retired Arkansas Army National Guard Col. Cissy Rucker to take the helm of the troubled veterans agency, which oversees veterans nursing homes in Little Rock and Fayetteville as well as two state veterans cemeteries.

Memorial Day was Rucker's first day on the job. Five days later, after sifting through department documents, she discovered Pickard's role in the fee collection and fired him immediately.

Rucker intends to fill the position and said she hopes the job announcement will be published on the state website within the next week.

"Personnel issues are the hardest part of any job," she said Monday.

Beebe selected Rucker to help rebuild the state Department of Veterans Affairs after years of lax oversight led to improperly collected and spent funds and missing inventory. The Little Rock Veterans Home has been at the center of those issues after the illegal fee collection surfaced.

A 2009 federal law increased the monthly rate paid to state-run veterans homes by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for the care of war wounded and disabled veterans with a disability rating of 70 percent and higher. Congress intended the increased rate to pay for all of those veterans' care and eliminate additional out-of-pocket expenses for the veterans.

But for the past three years, the Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs continued collecting $1,800 each month in maintenance fees from those exempt veterans, totaling more than $580,000. read more>>>>

The above follows this report of Apr 27, 2012

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