Metro-East News

Roger That: Gas station in Afghanistan cost U.S. taxpayers $43 million

News-Democrat

In a new report, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John Sopko said that a now-defunct task force spent nearly $43 million building a compressed natural gas filling station in Afghanistan, according to CNN.

The Task Force for Business and Stability Operations, which was created by the Department of Defense and directed toward reviving Afghanistan’s economy in 2009, was disbanded in March.

The report stated that the Afghanistan filling station cost 140 times as much as a CNG station in Pakistan. Most concerning to Sopko was that overhead costs alone for the project reached $30 million, the cable network reported.

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Two top regional VA officials who allegedly received about $400,000 in moving expense reimbursements as part of an unsavory hiring scheme refused to answer questions Monday from a U.S. House panel by invoking their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, the Stars and Stripes is reporting.

Philadelphia VA Regional Office Director Diana Rubens and St. Paul VA Regional Director Kimberly Graves, both accused by the VA Office of Inspector General of serious malfeasance involving the VA’s relocation bonus program, repeatedly dodged tough questions from the House Committee on Veterans Affairs during Monday’s hearing.

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Since January 2009, the Army has “separated” 22,000 soldiers for “misconduct” after they came back from Iraq and Afghanistan and were diagnosed with mental health problems or traumatic brain injuries. As a result, many of the dismissed soldiers have not received crucial retirement and health care benefits that soldiers receive with an honorable discharge.

The CPR and NPR investigation, centered on the cases of 10 soldiers at Fort Carson, Colo., raised this question: Why would commanders kick out soldiers for misconduct, instead of giving them more intensive treatment or a medical retirement on the grounds that they have persistent mental health problems? Sources both inside and outside Fort Carson suggested one possible answer: It takes less time and money to get rid of problem soldiers on the grounds of misconduct.

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The chief of staff at a much-criticized Wisconsin Veterans Affairs Medical Center, who was nicknamed “Candy Man” by some patients for allegedly handing out excess narcotics, was notified Friday that he would be fired, according to Real Clear Defense, a military blog.

David Houlihan was placed on leave in January while the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs investigated allegations of over-prescribing narcotic pain medications and retaliatory behavior at the Tomah, Wisconsin, facility.

The VA told Wisconsin’s congressional delegation that based on results of an investigation, Houlihan was notified Friday that he would be fired effective Nov. 9. Houlihan, who is a psychiatrist, also had his clinical privileges revoked.

Mike Fitzgerald: 618-239-2533, @MikeFitz3000

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