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VA promises better care for veterans

Speaker 1: (00:04)

Good morning. I'm Annica Colbert. It's Monday, December 6th. The VA's promising to do better more on that next, but first let's do the headlines.

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San Diego county public health officials reported more than 1100 new coronavirus cases on Friday. That's the highest daily case counts in September. The influx is compared to about 600 cases reported the previous two days hospitalizations. However, from COVID 19 are down by seven down to 296, a core to state figures from the weekend. Health officials believe the spike is due to Thanksgiving gatherings, and it's not related to the new only crown variants, which has not yet been identified in San Diego county. The variants has been detected in San Francisco and more recently in Los Angeles county, 150 San Diego families will get a chance for guaranteed income. Thanks to a new project launched on Friday. The state of California will appropriate 1.4 million of its annual budget to the nonprofit San Diego for every child. It's the region's first guaranteed income pilot project. Key Pollard is the director for San Diego. Every child. It's

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An opportunity to provide direct cash to families with no strings, no work requirements attached. It's an opportunity for families to elevate themselves and support their families in the ways that they

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Choose. Not everyone who applies will receive guaranteed income. 150 families will be selected randomly through a lottery and be notified in January of 2022 applications are being accepted up to midnight tonight@sandiegoforeverychild.org from KPBS, you are listening to San Diego news. Now stay with me for more of the local news. You need A recent investigation by our media partner. Eye news source took center stage last week on Capitol hill eye knew source investigative reporter. Jill Castalano has the latest

Speaker 3: (02:20)

In an investigation published last month. Eye knew source on covered that the VA healthcare system is restricting access to medical treatments for veterans. So the government department can save money on Wednesday senators on the veterans affairs committee gathered for a hearing on the state of the VA, and they took it as an opportunity to ask the head of the VA himself about the reporting, which also published in USA. Today.

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You may have seen the results of the investigation conducted by USA today.

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That's Senator Mike rounds from South Dakota. He said, he worries the VA cares more about money than offering the best treatment options to veterans.

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I, I, I think we've got a serious problem here. That's not

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Gonna

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Go away in his response. The us secretary of veterans affairs, Dennis McDonough said his team has dug deep into the reporting. We took

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It very seriously, including what the team in San Diego to get to

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The bottom of it. In a statement the VA said it had made several changes since the investigation published. That includes starting an audit and compliance program at the San Diego VA hospital.

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And that was, I knew source investigative reporter Jill cast, Delano to read the investigation, go to, I knew source.org. I knew source is an independently funded nonprofit partner of KPBS. Part of the recently enacted $1 trillion federal infrastructure. Bill sets aside more than 100 billion to repair aging highways and bridges. North county multimedia producer Alexander Wyn takes us to a bridge in Delmar that could benefit from the new funding

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More than 20,000 cars across the commun Delmar bridge every day. It's one of the most popular thoroughfare in the city of Delmar and it's considered structurally deficient. Delmar has been trying to replace the 89 year old bridge for years in 2017. The city received a grant from the federal highway. Administration will cover almost 90% of the estimated 49 million replacement cost. Delmar will need to come up with the rest of the money. We hope

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There may be some federal grants that are going along with this, uh, infrastructure bill that will allow us to use it for local

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Match that's Delmar city, Councilman David Druker. He says the city has spent $1.4 million and would need to raise 2.2 million between now and 2025 when construction is expected to begin.

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And that was KPBS north county multimedia producer Alexander Wyn Older adults in Mexico may soon be eligible to receive COVID 19 booster shots from the frontier terrace desk and EO KJ Z Z's Kendall blessed reports

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After previously opposing coronavirus booster shots. Mexican officials said they'll begin administering their doses to people over 60 teachers who are mostly vaccinated with the one dose Canino shot in the spring will also be able to get another dose. President Andre. Manuel Lopez said he hopes boosters will start this month before temperatures drop and people gather for the holidays though. He said the additional doses will have to be balanced with ongoing efforts to get shots to UN vaccinated adults, as well as youth ages, 15 to 17, who recently became eligible for vaccination about half the country is, will vaccinated.

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And that was KJ Z Z's Kendall blessed reporting from Aaron Moneo. Many people who fought and died on behalf of the us during the 20 years of war in Afghanistan were actually contractors, not us troops K PBS, military reporter. Steve Walsh says it's part of a change in the way that America fights its wars with lasting consequences.

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You become a lot less concerned with your own safety. Then you do the guys behind you because they're putting, they're putting their life. In

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Your hand. Andy Kutz is a veteran, but not in Afghanistan. He served in the Navy in the 1990s, but after working as a narcotics dog handler for a police department in Texas, he was hired in 2008 by a private contractor to work with Bob sniffing dogs, Afghanistan in less than a month Kutz was in the field with special forces.

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Our, our rotation typically was we we'd be there for six months and then we'd get to come home for like 23 days. And then

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We'd go back as the number of roadside bombs skyrocketed. He stayed nearly eight years until his injuries piled up and his wife convinced him. It was time to come home. But

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When you know, there's nobody out there that's seen what you've seen and you can't go anywhere to people who have been through and seen that you feel real isolated and, and lonely. And again, that's why a lot of contractors commit suicide, but it doesn't make the news.

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No. A Coburn is an anthropologist at Bennington college. He spent time in Afghanistan trying to get a handle on the number of contractors hired by the us,

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Frankly, the political cost of a contractor being killed is, is much less. It oftentimes doesn't even get reported on. And you can see it simply in the headlines after these attacks where it will say three troops killed. And it won't even mention the fact that they were with 12 contractors at the time

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Brown university found about seven and thousand military members died in all post nine 11 conflicts, but nearly 8,000 contractors died. Coburn says private contracts hide the true cost of war

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Hiring companies to do, uh, the work that the military did historically, whether it's building the bases, whether it's delivering fuel.

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No one has a complete list of who was hired. Some were Americans, many were Afghans, a large number were from third countries like Nepal and the Philippines, a few were highly paid, but most earned a tiny fraction of the trillion dollars. The us spent in Afghanistan.

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One thing that every one of the last four administrations has agreed upon in entirely. It's the one constant in our strategies in the war in Afghanistan and in Iraq. And that is the ratio of contractors to troops have steadily increased over the last 20 years. I mean, I'm

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Not psychologist, but, but to be honest, I was able to see the anger in their faith.

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Part of behi so's job was to go to village with us forces when someone was killed by mistake, he remembers an elderly man shot by an American sniper. The man was holding up what turned out to be a flashlight.

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They, they shot them down. So, and the next day we were trying to cover that, uh, bad incident. And we had a meeting with them and explain everything and spend like at least two to three hours.

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SA worked as an interpreter for nearly seven years before leaving Afghanistan in 2014, he's now an American citizen living outside of Washington, DC though Afghans were paid far less. They were expected to take on some of the most dangerous missions when contractors get hurt. Instead of military doctors and VA benefits, companies are using a version of workman's compensation known as the defense base act. Jeffrey winter is an attorney's San Diego who handles these cases. They start

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To recognize they have flashbacks. They have things that startle them and it gets to the point where they, the family says, look, you either need to go see somebody or we're leaving. It just gets to

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Be that bad lawsuits can drag on for years, the dog handler Andy, Kutz his back home in Texas, he's paying for his own PTSD treatment after receiving a settlement. I don't think

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Of myself as just the civilian out there with those guys. It's just, when you get outside that little bubble, that me or anybody else who is in my position becomes just vapor. You know, they, they just kind of disappear and we have to deal with it

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Ourselves, not at home with fellow combat veteran and not able to move on after years of war.

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And that was KPBS, military reporter, Steve Walsh. This 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 Coming up. The California state capital is getting a major remodel and not everyone is pleased with the plans. We'll have more on that next, just after the break.

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The

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There's a big and expensive move underway at the California state capital. And it's causing a major dust from Sacramento cap radios, Nicole Nixon reports,

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Hopefully

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That holds Lizzy could so tapes up another box in her office at the state Capitol. She works for a lawmaker from Southern California, but Cun and her colleague are the only ones here on a recent morning as they pack up boxes of photos and files. Aaron, are we bringing all these

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Big books over here on the toy table? Well, I'm guessing we'll put them up in our

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New

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Space too. That new space is a brand new office building located two blocks south for the next several years. It'll be a temporary home for state lawmakers, the governor, and over a thousand state government staffers, the state plans to demolish and replace their current office building known as the annex, which connected to the state capital, the historic west wing, which includes the capital dome and legislative floor chambers will stay and continue to be used. But the annex built in the 1950s has asbestos led and it isn't up to modern safety and accessibility coats says assembly member can Cooley who's overseeing the entire our project. The

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Current building definitely does not support the work of the legislature in the way the capital used to this is a building that was built for a part-time legislature. The

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Update has been in the works for years, lawmakers allocated three quarters of a billion dollars for the project in 2018, though it may end up costing more due to rising construction costs. An additional security measures Cooley says, but activists are suing to try to prevent the annex demolition. They argue the state violated environmental law by recommitting to bulldozing it. And that the annex should be protected by its status. As a historic building Milford, Wayne Donaldson is a preservation architect who's advised former go. And the Obama administration standing in the annex recently, Donaldson accused Cooley and the state of not making any real effort to preserve the 70 year old building.

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Look at the materials in here, the Marvel, all the bronze, the openings, the stainless steel doors and all this. So this is a quality building meant to last, and it can easily be adapt or re

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Reused Donaldson calls the plan designed for its replacement, which has an all glass facade, a monstrosity, which doesn't match the style of the historic capital critics. Also say the project would harm too many trees in capital park. According to the environmental impact report, more than 100 trees would either be transplanted or removed and replaced. Some of those trees were planted to honor veterans or given as gifts from other nations as Anne spanner with the California urban forest council.

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These trees represent our connection to the people and cultures of the world. We owe it to previous generations and, and to the future to figure this

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Out, several dedicated trees, including a Redwood grown from a seed that orbited the moon would be protected in place. During construction Cooley says annex construction won't begin until the matter is settled in court, but whether the building is demolished and replaced or gutted and remodeled Cooley hopes, the project can get underway in the spring. The Sacramento area Democrat says the move was targeted to a very specific window when lawmakers aren't passing legislation or running for office. So the fourth quarter

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Of the odd number deer is the one quarter outta the bium. When if you disrupt people with moves, it's least

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Disruptive Cooley hopes, the annex project will be complete four years from now. So lawmakers can pack up and move back in around September, 2025. That's the 175th anniversary of California

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Statehood. And that was cap radio's Cole Nixon reporting from Sacramento. And that's it for the podcast today. Be sure to catch KPBS midday edition at noon on K PBS radio or trick out the midday edition podcast. You can also watch KPBS evening edition at five o'clock on K PBS televis. And as always you can find more San Diego news online@kpbs.org. I'm Anna Culbert. Thanks for listening and have a great day.

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I.

A recent inewsource investigation into the VA has sparked interest from lawmakers in Washington DC. Last week, senators grilled the head of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs about charges the VA is restricting veterans’ access to health care. Meanwhile, one of the most-trafficked thoroughfares in Del Mar might get a boost from the federal infrastructure bill. Plus, a major construction project is happening at the California State Capitol and many critics are not happy with the plans.