Misconduct at VA health system overshadows Memorial Day

My father-in-law served in the Army. My brother-in-law is a retired 15-year Air Force major. So, as I watch the story of misconduct in the Veteran Affairs’ health system unfolding, I’m heartbroken.

Here we are about to celebrate the men and women who serve our country, and we are finding out that some can’t or didn’t get prompt medical attention. It’s shameful.

President Obama has ordered top deputies to review what has gone wrong in the Veterans Affairs’ health system and issue a report within a month, The Washington Post’s Juliet Eilperin and Ed O’Keefe reported.

“So when I heard allegations of misconduct — any misconduct, whether it’s allegations of VA staff covering up long wait times or cooking the books — I will not stand for it, not as commander in chief, but also not as an American,” Obama said at a news conference Wednesday. “If these allegations prove to be true, it is dishonorable, it is disgraceful, and I will not tolerate it, period.”

He followed up by saying he wants to learn the full scope of the problem: “My attitude is for folks who’ve been fighting on the battlefield, they should not have to fight a bureaucracy at home to get the care that they’ve earned.”

You got that right.

Live online chat today

Join me today at noon ET. I’ll be taking your personal finance questions. So what’s your financial issue? Are you fighting with family and friends about money and need a mediator?

Talk to me. Here’s the link to join the conversation.

Wanted: Transparency in airfares

Here’s hoping you get clear skies and clearer airfare rules as the summer vacation season begins. At least that’s the plan coming out of the Department of Transportation.

On Wednesday, the DOT proposed a new set of rules that would, among other things, require airlines and ticket agents to disclose upfront fees for checked bags, carry-on items and advance seat assignments, CNN reports. The rules are intended to help customers as they comparison shop.

As Alan Levin and Michael Sasso write for Businessweek.com, “Added fees make up a growing portion of the price of flying and those costs aren’t always obvious while buying a ticket.”

Charlie Leocha, director of the Arlington, Va.-based advocacy group Consumer Travel Alliance, told Levin and Sasso: “When shopping for a ticket, travelers would be able to enter information such as whether family members want to sit together during a flight and how many bags they expect to check and then see a cost for the whole package.”

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement, “Knowledge is power, and our latest proposal helps ensure consumers have clear and accurate information when choosing among air transportation options.”

The DOT wants to know what you think. You can look at the proposed rules and submit your comments on the transparency of airline ancillary fees here.

Color of Money question of the week

I want to hear from you. What do you think of how extra fees are disclosed by the airlines and Internet sites that help you find fares? Send your comments to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Please include your name, city and state. Put “Transparency in Airfares” in the subject line.

Financial advice to 2014 college graduates

For last week’s Color of Money Question, I asked: What one piece of financial advice would you give to a college graduate?

Here’s what some of you had to say:

“Start saving up a three- to six-month emergency fund, and start investing for retirement in a 401(k) or 403(b) employer-sponsored retirement plan immediately if the employer will match part of your contribution,” wrote John Thees of Magnolia, Tex.

Avoid taking on debt, M. Kamakea from Waianae, Hawaii, advised: “Many times people are tempted to commit to debt because they can afford it on their current income, only to find themselves laid-off or unemployed due to illness, injury, or some other unforeseen factor. Better to live without the latest electronic gadget, drive a good used car instead of a new one . . . and be able to afford the payments and premiums in a financial slump, than to grieve because of over-extended financial commitments.”

To graduates who may look down on a certain job — their only offer, perhaps — Thomas J. Druitt of Paducah, Ky., wrote, “Any job, even if it has nothing to do with your college major, is better than no job.”

“Aside from responsibly using credit cards and paying them off monthly to establish good credit, my advice to college graduates would be for something crucial,” wrote Lorna Gilkey of Alexandria, Va. “Each and every day, empty your pockets and purses of all change into a bag in your closet. Once a month, take that change to a special bank account and do not touch it. This is your annual vacation/good times/emergency car repair fund! In 2012, I paid for more than half of my cruise with my loose change that added up to $740, and last year that fund paid for four new tires!”

“Share your money,” wrote Cassandra Butler Jackson of Washington. “Give charitably, but know where the money is going, how it’s managed and who benefits. Become a smart shopper when it comes to charitable organizations and their mission.”

Readers may write to Michelle Singletary at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C., 20071, or michelle.singletary@washpost.com. Personal responses may not be possible, and comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless otherwise requested. To read previous Color of Money columns, go to www.postbusiness.com.

Michelle Singletary writes the nationally syndicated personal finance column, “The Color of Money.”
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