The Veterans' Administration, treading near the edge of untruth, issued a news release that debunked--but did not exactly deny--an Associated Press report about a plan to set income disclosure requirements and income ceilings for vets who claimed poverty in seeking free VA hospital treatment for injuries not related to military service. The story, used in this column, said VA had sent the proposal to OMB for clearance.
The VA dispatched a news release couched in bureaucratic doubletalk that began, "Contrary to a previously published report . . . ." The VA said the "unauthorized announcement apparently referred to a VA study . . . ." It did not say that VA had already drafted a rule and sent it to OMB in August. (Asked about the discrepancy, a VA spokesman said, "If something is up for consideration we call it a study.") The release also quoted VA Administrator Robert P. Nimmo as saying, "No final income limitations have been determined, no final guidelines established, and no final decisions reached." It did not say Nimmo wrote a congressman saying changes had "been approved for final promulgation and publication in the Federal Register." Of course, nothing is final without OMB approval; OMB now wants to discuss the rule with the VA. VA public information chief Stanton Appleman said, on reflection, "We could have done better."