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Lawsuits: Federal Gov't Fails To Protect Military Reservists Returning To Civilian Jobs And More Local News

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Claiming they are denied promotions and pay, reservists and guard troops are suing their civilian employers under a federal law designed to protect their civilian careers. Plus, the city of Santa Monica is ramping up rental subsidies for seniors, National City is preparing for the 2020 Census after an undercount in 2010, and Scripps researchers have created a disease detecting method to uncover Zika outbreaks.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:00 It's Friday, August 23rd I'm Deb Welsh. And you're listening to San Diego news matters from KPBS coming up. National City's preparing for the 2020 census after an undercounted 2010 and reservists are suing their employers under a federal law designed to protect their civilian careers.

Speaker 2: 00:18 Never in my wildest dreams did I or any of my colleagues assume that we would get the most grief coming from our office.

Speaker 1: 00:28 That add more coming up right after the break.

Speaker 3: 00:32 [inaudible]

Speaker 1: 00:33 thank you for joining us for San Diego News Matters. I'm Deb Welsh. Local officials and community groups and national city are coming together to assure residents that they heavily immigrant community, that the upcoming census will not include a question on citizenship. KPBS reporter Max Rivlin Adler tells us about the city's efforts led by its new mayor Alejandro. So tell us, Elise.

Speaker 4: 00:57 At a press conference on Thursday morning, there's the Telo solace at her office, estimates that the 2010 census under counted the residents of national city by almost 30% this hurt the city when it came to both federal support and representation in Washington. And that was before the Trump administration Wade's a years long and ultimately failing effort. To add a question about citizenship to the census, national city's population is over 40% foreign born. Letting people know that their information is secure is something the city is focusing on heading into next April census. No.

Speaker 1: 01:32 Since ship question on the census survey, it is a nine question survey so it should be quick, easy, painless.

Speaker 4: 01:40 After the press conference, the Mayor and census officials led a presentation for local groups on how they can spread the word about the upcoming census. Max Riverland, Adler k PBS news.

Speaker 1: 01:52 When members of the National Guard and reserve are called away to serve in the military, the law protects them from losing their jobs or being denied promotions. KPBS military reporter Steve Walsh says there have been thousands of complaints against employers who don't follow the law and in many of those cases the employer is the federal government itself.

Speaker 4: 02:14 Mark Co spent 20 years as a special agent in the U S Drug Enforcement Administration until they retired last year. Coast also spent 30 years in the marines. Most of that time in the reserves. He's in this defense department. Video shot at Camp Pendleton in 2011 I'm Lieutenant Colonel Mark Coast. I'm the commanding officer. Fifth Battalion, 14th Marines. Coast Artillery Brigade was practicing in the California desert fuck.

Speaker 2: 02:41 When we come out for our annual training, we're able to exercise the metals that we need on an artillery battalion that you just can't get done in the two to three days. On a drill weekend

Speaker 4: 02:51 by 2011 coasted already served four tours in Iraq as a marine reserve officer. While on leave from the DEA. He's now part of a lawsuit with 15 other DEA agents from San Diego who alleged that their supervisors discriminated against agents serving in the military. Go says supervisors told him that continuing to serve just took too much time away from their full time jobs.

Speaker 2: 03:14 Never in my wildest dreams did I or any of my colleagues assumed that we would get the most grief coming from our office.

Speaker 4: 03:23 Coast says he and other reservists were denied promotions at DEA. He describes another agent who was moved to an office hours away from his home coast, says one of his supervisors came up to him in the mail room after he had just come back from his first tour in Iraq.

Speaker 2: 03:37 He was asking me about my experience there and I said, yeah, I was pretty hard fighting up to Baghdad. And I said, I got wounded at one point. And he said, well, you know, if you hadn't stayed in the reserve, this wouldn't have happened. So you pretty much deserve everything. You get.

Speaker 4: 03:51 The DEA won't comment on ongoing litigation in the U S Justice Department. Patrick bullae heads the office of the special counsel, which enforces the federal uniform services, employment and reemployment rights act. Or you Sarah.

Speaker 5: 04:05 We have an all volunteer military, so obviously this law helps keep our military all volunteer by, you know, giving people employment protection when they're trying to get a civilian job.

Speaker 4: 04:16 The law requires the federal government to be the model employer. But over the last decade, out of the more than 11,800 cases filed through the department of labor, about 17% were filed against the federal government. The agencies named most frequently are those with the closest ties to the military. Civilians in the Department of Defense filed the most cases, about 500 followed by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Postal Service and homeland security, which has the coast guard and border patrol.

Speaker 5: 04:46 One could argue that it's because they employ a lot of veterans and service members, but of course we also want those agencies to be doing their best not to violate the law.

Speaker 4: 04:55 Boulay says he believes in the vast reaches of the federal government. There are supervisors who just don't understand the law. One problem with UC era is it's designed to get relief for individuals. Boulay says he can't force an entire agency to change its policies toward reservists, so the same issues keep cropping up. Brian Lawler is a retired marine reserve aviator in a San Diego lawyer who handles you Syrah cases. He says half of his cases are federal workers.

Speaker 6: 05:23 We represent a gentleman who is a senior officer in the army reserve and a senior civilian employee working for the exact same command who is being denied benefits of his reserve service by the same command for whom he works as a civilian.

Speaker 4: 05:37 You Sarah cases can take years to resolve and at the moment the process is even slower. The merit systems protection board, which oversees appeals by federal workers hasn't met in more than a year. The Trump administration was slow to offer appointments and the Senate hasn't confirmed any new members. The board has a of 2100 cases waiting for its review. Steve Walsh KPBS News,

Speaker 1: 06:04 the story was produced by the American Home Front project, a public media collaboration that reports on American military life and veterans funding comes from the corporation for public broadcasting. Cases of Zika virus are increasingly rare, but that doesn't mean it's completely gone. KPBS Sci-tech reporter Shalina Celani tells us a study out Thursday shows scripts researchers have created a method of detecting unreported outbreaks like the one they discovered in Cuba in 2017

Speaker 7: 06:36 much like malaria, Zika virus has mainly transmitted by mosquitoes and when cases declined. After 2016 Christian Anderson and infectious disease researcher at the Scripps Research Institute says he wanted to find out whether there were some outbreaks that were going undetected.

Speaker 8: 06:51 We look at what kind of infections to travelers have and where do they come from. I mean use that took two to look at cases of Zika and countries.

Speaker 7: 07:00 Anderson is both tracking where travelers went when they got infected and then looking at their biological samples like blood to see genetically where and when their virus originated. He believes this method could be used to detect outbreaks of some other diseases like dengue, a fever for KPBS news. I'm Shalena Trent

Speaker 1: 07:17 San Diego ins are being worn. Thieves are going from home to home impersonating city employees. Sarah [inaudible] says that once they gain access into the house, they burglarize it. The San Diego Police Department and the city's public utilities department held a press conference yesterday to address the recent victims in La Jolla and bird rock. So far, no arrests had been made from these cases. Lieutenant Steve Barron from the San Diego PD told KPBS that the public utilities department does not need access into your home to test water unless there is an appointment made an advance.

Speaker 8: 07:52 Two people masquerading as utility workers gained entrance to a couple of homes and uh, we're able to get away with a significant amount of jewelry and cash.

Speaker 1: 08:02 If you think you were scammed in the past or face a situation in the future, contact the police and when in doubt, lock them out. Sarah [inaudible] k PBS news two years ago, California put limits on surprise billing, which happens when privately insured patients go to an end network hospital. They get treated by an out of network doctor. The change is protecting patients from high bills, but doctors are taking a hit. That's according to a new analysis from the Rand Corporation, Capitol Public Radio, Sammy k, or has more.

Speaker 7: 08:35 When someone gets treated by an out of network doctor, their insurance plan only fits part of the bill. The rest used to get dumped on the patient. But since 2017 state regulated plans have been paying these doctors a preset amount and patients don't pay anything before this, doctors could use the threat of surprise billing to convince plans, keep them in network and pay them more. But researcher Erin Duffy says that's a moot point. Now

Speaker 9: 09:00 there's no downside to the patient if there's an out of network physician at an in network facility and maybe not as much of a downside to the plan either. And so these physicians feel that they'd lost quite a bit of leverage.

Speaker 7: 09:13 Plans are required to keep a certain number of providers in network so doctors could band together and threatened to end contracts unless they're kept in at their desired rates. If doctors forced plans to pay them more, that could mean higher premiums for patients. But experts say that's still a lot better than individuals getting slammed with big out of network doctor bills in Sacramento. I'm Sammy Cola,

Speaker 1: 09:36 California. Senator Kamala Harris recently said as many as 300,000 auto workers could lose their jobs this year. Capitol public radio is politifact reporter Chris Nichols, fact-check that claim by the Democratic presidential hopeful

Speaker 4: 09:51 Harris said this in a CNN interview last week and blamed president Trump's trade policy.

Speaker 10: 09:57 Donald Trump betrayed a lot of people. He came in off as making all kinds of promises to working people from farmers to auto workers. He said he was going to help working people and it is estimated that as many as 300,000 auto workers may be out of a job before the end of the year

Speaker 4: 10:11 300,000 auto jobs. That would be about a third of the nation's total Harris's campaign said she relied on a study by the nonprofit center for automotive research. It found 370,000 jobs could be lost, but that would be across all sectors of the economy and only if Trump imposes new auto tariffs. It's a misread of our study. That's Kristen Gtech, a vice president at the research center. Our study is looking at a cumulative effect of tariffs. Some are that are in place, some that are not, and it includes all jobs in the economy, not just auto jobs. G chicks says the auto industry saw a slight drop in employment during the first half of this year, but just one 10th of 1% no one she says is projecting massive layoffs in the end. Harris was way off the mark. We rated her claim false in Sacramento. I'm Chris Nichols,

Speaker 1: 11:07 read full versions of all our fact checks@politifact.com slash California a growing number of California seniors find themselves unable to afford a place to live and on the streets. Santa Monica has been experimenting with giving cash assistance to low income seniors and apply that program there has been so successful. The city is planning to expand it as part of our California dream collaboration. KPBS as Amica Sharma reports. I first met Kay last year in Santa Monica dressed in red with matching lipstick. The 70 year old had barely been making it on her thousand dollar a month. Social Security checks. If I didn't have money to eat after paying my monthly bills, I just didn't need, k was one of nearly dozen elderly people. Santa Monica chose for its pilot. The city wanted to help cash, poor seniors stay housed, so we cut checks for a few hundred dollars each month to them or their landlords. When I met Kay last year, she said it was working. If it weren't for the city of Santa Monica helping me, I would probably by now have been evicted and on the street and now a year in how are things I called k backup. Oh,

Speaker 9: 12:20 so much better. I haven't been to a food bank, but twice in the last year

Speaker 1: 12:27 the city of Santa Monica says there was a 3% rise in senior homelessness in 2018 but no one in it's rental subsidies. Pilot programs suffered. That fate is showing some success. Santa Monica is director of Housing and economic development and Diego says that's incentive to do more. Would like to know

Speaker 11: 12:47 now expand this program 10 fold. We're taking our program from $200,000 a year to $2 million a year. That's a huge ramp up.

Speaker 1: 12:57 The city council backed the idea and Santa Monica will expand the program early next year. Eagle says he anticipates the city. We'll be able to help 250 to 400 senior households with the additional money.

Speaker 11: 13:11 What I'm pleased about and a bit surprised about is that we haven't received broader pushback from people that might say, how can you just give people money without strings attached? That's irresponsible.

Speaker 12: 13:23 I think when it comes to housing, people get it. People every day see other people struggling with housing. They see it in the most physical way, which is people living on the streets.

Speaker 1: 13:33 That state Senator Scott Wiener, he represents San Francisco.

Speaker 12: 13:37 The everyone you know knows either a family member or a friend or has a neighbor, particularly seniors who they see struggling and they want to help. There's no real controversy around that.

Speaker 1: 13:49 Wiener points to the state's housing shortage. He supports rental subsidy programs for low income people to stay in their homes, especially seniors. State lawmakers have set aside $2 billion which cities and counties can use toward homeless services and emergency rental assistance in Los Angeles. Homeless Services Authority director Peter Lynn, applaud Santa Monica is a rental subsidies, but he worries about longterm sustainability.

Speaker 11: 14:16 The test is going to be when we see a downturn or recession where we see reductions in tax revenues for municipalities. That's where the pressure on those kinds of programs comes very strongly.

Speaker 1: 14:28 Santa Monica is eagle is confident in the investment officials there have taken into account a potential recession. These types of [inaudible]

Speaker 11: 14:36 approaches are becoming more prevalent, more realistic, and as I talked to people from other places, there's a lot of interest in it

Speaker 1: 14:43 and k, she remains grateful for the extra Mr. Cash.

Speaker 9: 14:47 It's just taken so much stress out of my life being able to do

Speaker 1: 14:52 the things that I need to do, like pay bills. It's a godsend. She says it helps her stay in this community. She lives in San Diego. I'm Amica Sharma. Thanks for listening to San Diego News matters. If you're not already a subscriber, take a minute to become one. You can find San Diego news matters on apple, Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts.

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San Diego News Matters

KPBS' daily news podcast covering local politics, education, health, environment, the border and more. New episodes are ready weekday mornings so you can listen on your morning commute.