Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Balance of “Good’Nuff”

Dear Reader,
I sit here at my laptop semi-heartbroken writing this. So forgive me now for a few tangents that we might go on together on this edition of Fat Guys’ Rants. I am venturing into two areas that are so profound to me that when they merge I see it as a glorious event… for the most part. Those issues are Public Non-Profit and Veterans’ Rights/Care.
I am a HUGE proponent of Veterans’ Rights/Care. Today, we see a lot of media coverage (not near enough for my tastes) about Vets who need help, not getting enough help, or getting help. Houses, jobs, counseling, prosthetic limbs, cars, and a laundry list of other things. When I see something in the media surrounding these issues, I read it and do my best to share it, good or bad! For every positive article about a Veteran getting help there are two stories about Vets who are in dire need of something. EITHER WAY, there is press coverage that I feel we all need to be aware of.
A vast majority of the negative stories we hear about are centered on the Veterans Administration and their downfalls and issues. A vast majority of positive stories are focused on non-profit causes and organizations that have stepped up to fill the gaps that are being caused by governmental and societal breakdowns. I work in the non-profit world, so I am pretty aware of the ins and outs of how these organizations operate and report their successes.
So today a reader of our blog sent me an article and asked my opinion on it. The article was published by The New York Times and written by Dave Phillips. Here is a link to it: (I created a tiny URL for it). The title of the article is “Wounded Warrior Program Spends Lavishly on Itself, Insiders Say.” I actually hesitated opening the article because I didn’t want to see what Mr. Phillips wrote and when I finally did click on it, I was dead set to disagree with what he wrote before I read one word. I read it… a couple of times…and now I am the definition of “torn.”
The article highlights some of the perceived crazy spending that this organization (WWP) does; $7,000 on last minute flights to Germany, 500 employees staying in a 5-star hotel for a corporate retreat, business class flights for minor meetings, and $500 per night hotel rooms just to name a few. Mr. Phillips also disclosed that the CEO made $473,000 in 2014. Another part of the article was focused on the employees who were dismissed for what the employees said were less than fair reasons or for minor issues.
What strikes me to the core is that WWP spends 40% of their income on overhead/administrative costs. In 2011 Charity Watch gave WWP a rating of D and has not given them a rating of C or higher. That is an issue that bothers me, and I want more information on. Anyone can look up the financials of WWP or any 501c3 for that matter. For WWP go to and it is all right there, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.
I am not bothered by the $400,000+ salary of the CEO. I would think we would be hard pressed to find a CEO in the private sector that has the budget volume ($342mil in 2013), employees and responsibilities that WWP has under $500,000. I am worried about two issues that the article brings up… the 40% overhead and that the CEO wants this non-profit to “run like Starbucks. It is NOT Starbucks, and please do not lose sight of the mission and focus more on the fundraising. The article suggests that WWP is greatly out of balance in this area.
I have always been wary of any 501c3 non-profit who has admin costs more than 20%. I just do not see the justification of it. I can now see that some part of the 40% is being spent on defending that they spend 40% on admin/overhead on PR and lobbyists! This seems like a “rabbit hole” that should be an issue to anyone who gives to WWP.
Now with all of that, I have to think of the mission. “To Honor and Empower Wounded Veterans” That seems simple enough. WWP does a LOT of amazing things. They have programs that never existed 10 years ago and help fund hundreds of other organizations and endeavors that have the same mission. Would the world be better off without WWP? Absolutely NOT. Could they “honor” the men and women that they help every day by being far more judicious of their spending? Absolutely YES.
What is “Good’Nuff” when it comes to the dollars we give to non-profits to help with causes that we are passionate about? Is it ok to know that they spend 40 cents of every dollar on what seems to be lavish perks when we all know that there is FAR more that is needed in this segment of our community? I do not think it is. “Good’Nuff” is NOT what needs to happen with the dollars that we give. “Good’Nuff” is NOT what we expect.
I have given to WWP in the past. I have given my time and money to WWP. I still want to, but I need you guys to be dedicated to honoring us as well. Honor us by giving us the peace of mind that the monies that we give to are used the right way. Be ethical, diligent and disciplined. Do not be “Good”Nuff” with your mission. Keep doing what you are doing… only better. Please.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Worse than a bad penny… she just never goes away.

This is my real first political rant. I have been holding back to tell the truth. I have been holding back because I really haven't wanted to upset the apple cart in starting a following on this blog and the pending podcast. I just can’t hold my tongue. I can’t and won’t hold back any longer. The straw that broke the camel’s back is Sarah Palin. I warn you now… if you’re a fan of hers, think she is saving America’s values or think that she is a valuable asset to the political process, then stop reading now, unfriend me in all aspects of social media and probably delete my number from your phone. Sorry, but it’s come to that.

It was bad enough flipping through the TV last night when I heard the voice. The voice that makes my soul cringe. The Voice that makes my ears bleed. THE VOICE that means that somebody is willing to do whatever is necessary to win an election. Sarah Palin. FUCK!

At first I thought it was a flash of stupid that I have run into from time to time when I have not been successful in avoiding her lunacy in the media. She shows up in the strangest of places. Travel Channel, Outdoors Chanel, I even caught a quick glimpse on the Game Show Network for some odd reason. Nope… not this time, she was everywhere. Every news station had her on, it wasn’t going away. OF COURSE she was with Donald Trump. No question. I had a flashback to 2008… is “The Donald” announcing her as his running mate? Did she finally decide to walk across her front yard and move to Russia? Holy shit! Nope… not that lucky.

I made the mistake of listening to a part of what she had to say and in literally 30 seconds my blood was boiling. I am sure my best pal Ted could feel the “fire of a thousand suns” from 2500 miles away. She moved from comic book character to enemy number 1. For me, a proud veteran and supporter of many veteran’s causes, she crossed a line that she will never be allowed to uncross.

Her quote was "So when my own son is going through what he goes through coming back, I can certainly relate with other families who kind of feel these ramifications of some PTSD and some of the woundedness that our soldiers do return with. And it makes me realize, more than ever, it is now or never, for the sake of America's finest, that we have that commander-in-chief who will respect them and honor them. You deserve someone who will treat veterans better than illegal immigrants in America”

For those of you who don’t know what she is referring to, she is talking about her son, Track who is an Army veteran who was deployed to Iraq as part of the 25th Infantry Stryker Brigade. What he is “going through” is a domestic violence charge that included him, according to court documents, “allegedly punched his girlfriend in the eye, kicked her in the knee and then held an AR-15 assault rifle near his head, the 22-year-old woman told police who responded to the incident”. At one point, Track was "holding onto a gun, yelling 'do you think I'm a pussy?' and 'do you think I won't do it?”.

He was charged with fourth-degree assault, interfering with the report of a domestic violence crime and possession of a firearm while intoxicated. All the charges are Class A misdemeanors.
He is FAR from the first veteran to do something of this sort. He, unfortunately, is FAR from the last one too. A lot of our men and women who volunteered to go to war for us come home with issues that they don’t understand or can’t deal with and need help controlling. That is NOT news. That also is NOT a political issue.

What made news (and me want to throw my TV out the window) was linking what her son did, what Track decided to do even if it wasn’t in his correct mental state, to President Obama. What she did was wrong. Pandering to her base by standing on the graves of brave young people and saying that ONE PERSON is responsible for her son’s actions is wrong.

Taking the responsibility out of Track’s hands and laying at Obama’s feet DOES NOT HELP HER SON! One of the first things that soldiers with PTSD talk about is feeling blame for what they did. And the first thing they are counseled on is not taking blame but accepting responsibility for their thoughts, feeling and actions. If he did indeed do the things that are in the police report, then they were his actions even if he didn’t have control. Those two things are linked and they should be treated as such. His actions have NOTHING to do with what has happened in our political arena. Typically speaking PTSD causes more than 22 veteran suicides per day and not homicides or other acts of violence.

Track very well might have PTSD. But it in NO WAY offers him a way out of what he may or may not have done nor excuses his mother to use it as a political weapon. It is a community issue not a political one used for getting votes. It is an issue that should be, and is being, dealt with in a lot of different ways. Are we doing everything we can? Nope. Not even close. Are we close to helping all of those in need? Nope. Not even close. Again… not news.

BUT if she wants to go there here are some facts that I would like her to talk about: The war in Iraq began under Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, who was President when Track served in Iraq. And in 2014, the Republican held Senate rejected a $24 billion bill to expand health care for veterans; only two Republicans voted for the legislation.

A second bill, with aid slashed to $16 billion, was passed months later despite the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate for the cost of veterans care at $35 billion through 2017. I’m not a mathalete, but I don’t think $16B will cover $35B.

Just last year, Obama signed a bipartisan bill to improve veterans' access to mental health resources. And the Veterans Affairs budget is at an all-time high

How in the hell do you blame one person when the Washington Political Machine has pillaged any money that was supposed to help the volunteer veterans of our country? How is this Obama’s fault? For those of you who don’t know me, I am not a 100% supporter of President Obama (or any politician for that matter), but this is an issue that I follow very close. An issue that will always be very near to me. I will not let her use this to gain votes for her or anyone else without telling the full story.

This is not one person’s issue. It is all of ours. WE have to do something about this. This issue will cost us more in the future than $35 billion. There is no cost on the lives we will lose in the future by veterans killing themselves in droves. There is no cost to the lives affected. But for some people there is a cost to gain a vote and they will use ANYTHING to get it. I won’t. I hope you won’t either.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Children Know Best

When Minnesota Vikings kicker Blair Walsh went wide left Sunday there were some really visceral reactions from "Minnesota Nice".  There were a lot of factors that contributed to the Vikings snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, not just Blair Walsh missing a kick.  You could even make the argument that they wouldn't have been in a position to win the game if it weren't for him.

One first grade class in Blaine, MN reached out to Walsh in a touching way, sending him letters of support contain such great phrases as "Keep on trying", "I had a missed basket before" and "Do you have a guinea pig?".  He visited the class the other day and helped teach the kids there the meaning of gratitude and of taking responsibility.  It was a wonderful article to read and it brought me back to the winter of 2003.

On February 1, I was making breakfast for myself and my then 6-year old son, Benjamin, while he watched TV.  He was fascinated with the space shuttle and was watching Columbia return from it's 28th mission live.

"Daddy, I think something is wrong with the shuttle," he said.

I walked over to where he was sitting on the couch and watched with him while the shuttle disintegrated on re-entry, killing all seven astronauts on board.

"What happened to it, daddy?" he asked.

"There was a really bad accident, buddy," I responded to him, trying to be calm but completely horrified, memories of watching the Challenger disaster flooding back into my mind and barely 2-years removed from 9/11.

"Are the astronauts okay?"

"I don't think so."

We talked about it a little bit but Ben can be pretty closed.  He keeps things inside and tends to mull them internally.

About a month later, I saw this on his desk in his room:

I'm not sure what his plan was with it.  We tried to talk to him - praising him for his compassion and willingness to reach out to make hurting people feel better - but to no real avail. I offered to mail it for him but he seemed uncertain.  It was as if just writing the letter let him vent his grief.  However, I made a copy and sent the original to NASA:

Unfortunately, as you can tell, I failed to put our return address on the letter so Ben never received a response - not that he ever knew I sent it (though if he reads any of Dad's work these days, he knows now!) - but I felt it was important to follow through and let NASA know that their tragedy was America's tragedy; the tragedy of a 6-year old boy in North Las Vegas.
Ben and the first graders in Blaine should remind us that, in the darkest of times, finger pointing and blame should be replaced with understanding.  Mistakes do indeed happen and there are more factors than just one single moment that make up victory or defeat, success or failure. 
We aren't born to be internet trolls. Our "original nature", if you will, is nurture and compassionate.  Somewhere along the way we lose sight of that whether it's through parents, coaches, friends or the competitive pressures of life itself.  It's good to be reminded of it every once in a while.

Monday, January 11, 2016

It's GOTTA Be True!!

This one is going to be as short and sweet as I can make it… so hold on!!

Internet Memes. I KNOW they are made to make a light of situations and MAYBE inform us in a fun little way, but COME ON! I saw this gem today about Powerball.

Now,  I know that a lot of people crushed this right away because, you know… math. Some people didn’t crush it but shared it freely as fact. I know because 4 people on my Facebook feed shared it! (Time to cull the herd, obviously) I don’t mind the overall idea of the message. There is plenty of money to go around that would help everyone in this country. I work for a non-profit and get a little sick to my stomach when I see HUGE amounts of money spent on silly stuff. Any idea how much money is spent on electing a president? Nearly $500mil this year so far (, speaking of a HUGE waste of money – that’s another rant though. ANYHOW, because somebody created a picture and make it look kinda legit, people read it, share it, believe it and now because they saw it on the internet, it is truth. But the good thing is, like I said, there is math and people started tearing this meme down for what it is… obvious bullshit.

Less obvious is this one…

Great picture of Ol’ Geo. Wash. (that’s what I call him, Geo. Wash.), a font that looks kind of old and a quote that was tossed around a few months back during the “WAR ON CHRISTMAS”. I saw this quote generate a lot of conversation from a certain group of people who shall remain nameless, let’s just say they are NOT the Coffee Party or the Soda Party or the Milk Party. George Washington himself says that it is IMPOSSIBLE to govern a nation without God and a bible. SO the idea of church and state can be turned on and off as we see fit and then use it as a crowbar on the head of anyone with a different belief. And I will assume that means the King James Bible and no other religious text. Here’s the problem... according to the George Washington’s Mt. Vernon Library, there is no proof that he said it. (

BUT IT LOOKS SO OFFICIAL!!! HE HAD TO HAVE AT LEAST THOUGHT IT! Hate to break it to you, we will never know. I think we should use some of that PowerBall winning to contact the Long Island Medium and have her ask for us! But then again, why does she already KNOW the numbers to the PowerBall and win it herself? Another rant???

So in closing, just stop it. It’s stupid. I am guilty about reading and sharing meme’s, so I get how easy it is to get wrapped up in the thought that somebody powerful, smart or respected thinks the same way you do on your causes. I just wish we had a device or the technology to look into these quotes and statements to see if they are true. Maybe one day we will. *Fingers Crossed*

With that, in the spirit of quoting our founding fathers, I will leave you with my favorite quote from one of our fondest presidents.

Who knew Abe was so edgy?

Friday, January 8, 2016

I'm Tired of "Thoughts and Prayers"

Fun times.  You have to love the debate on guns.  From what I can hear there are only two camps according to the loudest shouters:

1)      All gun control advocates want to take everyone’s guns;

2)      All gun owners want to everyone armed and let the law of the jungle take over.

That’s it.  End of debate.
I have got some news for both sides: shut the fuck up (sorry, mom).

Buying a gun should NOT be easy.  If there are hoops you have to jump through, so be it.  This is a deadly weapon we’re talking about.  Its intent, however you want to spin it, is to kill.  It may be deer, it may be people, but a gun is designed for one thing and one thing only.  You should be of impeccable character to own one.  You should be trained properly on how to store one; on how to use one; how to clean one; how to breathe on one.  If you’re allowed to conceal carry then you should be taught what an awesome responsibility that is and the ramifications of any actions you take with that weapon.
However: you should be allowed to own one.

There is no reason on god’s green earth why someone can’t go hunting – PETA notwithstanding.  If you feel the need to own a handgun for personal protection, you should own one.  It has been determined that it is your right as a citizen – another notwithstanding: the “well-regulated militia” phrase that everyone likes to conveniently forget exists – so if you can pass a background check, be taught how to properly use a weapon and the situations in which you can and cannot discharge a firearm, go for it.
This “right”, however, is not and should not be unlimited.  Some questions I’d like answered by the anti-gun control people – and I mean this honestly and sincerely:

1)      Why do you need a military assault style weapon?  What could possibly be the need for this?  SWAT teams should have them.  The military should have them.  I should not.

2)      Armor piercing rounds.  I’ve never seen Bambi wear a vest.  This ammunition is designed to kill law enforcement.  Tell me why you need them.

3)      What’s your need for a high capacity magazine?

And you gun control people don’t get off with answering a few questions of your own:

1)      What is wrong with a hunter that wants to own a few rifles to hunt deer, duck, pheasant or whatever legal game he/she is entitled to hunt?  And don’t give me the “all life is sacred” bullshit. Tell me that if you don’t own leather shoes or belts, don’t eat any meat or meat by products, or fish, or eggs – basically anything that was alive/could be alive.  And if you meet that criteria, I’d still believe you were wrong. Every hunter that I know personally eats what they kill.  That’s the food chain.  Period.  And I like my venison well done, please.

2)      Single mom. Person whose spouse travels. Folks that live in a rural area far from law enforcement. Folks that live in a high crime areas. (You get the picture…) If these folks fear for their safety, pass background checks, learn to use the weapon properly, what is your objection?  There could be an incident?  Well, you do nearly all the same thing with vehicles and there are still accidents.

No solution is perfect, but neither is the NRA’s “slippery slope” argument while children are being murdered in droves nor is the “Australia bans all guns” example that my left likes to hold up.  The President is NOT out to take your guns.  If you TRULY believe that you have way too much Kool-Aid in your system.  And if you REALLY think that all gun owners want free fire zones, I have a bridge in Brooklyn I'd like to sell you.
BOTH sides need to realize that there CAN be middle ground.  You HAVE to be able to find it.  You know what that entails?  Stop name calling, start talking and actually do some God damn listening.  The realization that there is a right to bear arms in this country but also that NOT anything goes.

Background check our brains out.  Make us wait a week.  Require any purchaser of a gun to have a card that says they passed a gun safety and ownership class and are entitled to own one.  But people ARE entitled to own one.  Not ALL people and not just ANY weapon, but c’mon, there is middle ground here.

Stop your damn pandering - BOTH SIDES - and ante up an answer.
Shut up, find a solution and DO something because apparently everyone's favorite solution of sending heartfelt “thoughts and prayers” to the increasing cavalcade of victims of mass shootings is not working. 

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

We're From Blue Cross and We're Here to Help

As the end of the year comes upon us, many folks try and get that last prescription refill before the new plan year starts and their deductible resets.  I added my kids for this coming year so I was one that was trying to get one more refill before the higher deductible took over.

I am acutely aware of the crush of business at year end and I know better than to wait until the last minute to refill so I called on December 22 – plenty of time to avoid the year end rush.


When I went to refill my prescriptions, my copay, which should have been about $30 was going to be closer to $200!  I cancelled the refills and then called “customer service” to find out what was going on.

For reasons I don’t understand, Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Illinois decided that it would behoove them to add my kids several weeks early. My guess is that they were either trying to get a jump on year end paperwork, betting that there wouldn’t be another claim or someone screwed up data entry.  I think I’d be on the former rather than the latter.

My deductible, which HAD been met, now was not. To their credit, BC/BS did admit that it was their error (well ONE person of the half dozen spoke with did...) but, of course, it would take 3-4 business days to take care of (I’m SURE that it is the most difficult thing in the world to reset that – I’m sure it takes a damn army).

Being a good patient I waited.  My mom, aunts and now my fiancĂ©e are all/were all involved in health care so I know what to do to be a good patient.  I don’t blast the people I talk to on the phone because I know the repercussions to the people on the other end.  They’re just trying to do their job and most really just want to help if they can.  I made one follow up call a few days later before Christmas to let them know I’m still thinking of them.  It was still being worked on and it was still too early to have expected a resolution.

This week I started calling to follow up in earnest.

SUNDAY: Two of my medications have run out.  Allegedly this should be resolved in a day or two so while I’m not thrilled, a day or two won’t matter big picture.

MONDAY: It’s still being worked on.  With the holiday and all they’re really backed up but there is still time left to get this done.

TUESDAY: Still escalated.  Should be any time now, they’re working on it.

WEDNESDAY: I got wrapped up in racing work and missed my daily call.

THURSDAY (New Year’s Eve): Still being worked on.  If you pay cash we’ll reimburse you.  (eventually)

To nutshell all of this, BC/BS made a mistake.  They KNOW they made the mistake.  It’s allegedly a paperwork error in the age of computers and sophisticated patient management systems.  The “fact” (loosely interpreted) that it allegedly takes 3-4 days to fix is bullshit.  Nine calendar days later and my only conclusion is that you are doing all you can to screw me if you can. 

Here is my take – a complete interpretation on my part with no knowledge of what’s going on behind the scenes at the insurance company.  (Full disclosure: I worked for a health care company many years ago for 2-years, so I do have some idea of the mindset.)

I make the initial call and they realize they goofed.  Woman on the phone does the right thing by escalating it up through their “system”. Supervisor/Manager somewhere looks at it, sees they are short staffed for the holidays and sets it aside hoping to get to it later.

I call back to follow up and as I’m on hold, the ‘patient advocate’ (advocate my ass…) calls upstairs to see what’s up.  She gets bitched at that they are still working on it. So she passes along that it is still being worked on.

By Tuesday I suspect that the attitude around Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Illinois is that there is absolutely NO ONE “working on it”.  My guess is that no one wanted to take the time or effort to make the change  in “the system” and then have to take the 30-seconds necessary later to change it back again.  What they hell, I’m only a customer…supposedly.  I’m not.  I’m a number.  An individual profit center.  At this point, they feel they can just wait me out and the year will change and their hands will be tied.  Cha-ching, another couple of bucks made on member number XXXXXXXX.  Multiply this by several thousand (million?) across the country and that’s real money.  Pat yourself on the back folks, another jackass duped so you can add to the bottom line.

About an hour ago (New Year’s Eve) I get off the phone with a very pleasant woman who empathized with my plight (as I’m sure she was trained to do – but she at least sounded sincere) but, you guessed it, it was still being worked on.

However there was an alternative being now offered: pay about $200 in cash and we’ll reimburse you.  My translation of that conversation:


Basically, go F yourself.

So NOW I have to get the refills reprocessed, wait in line at what will prove to be long lines at the pharmacy, unload a wad of cash and take hours out of my day that COULD have been spent doing just about anything else. 

I was prepared.  They were screw ups.  I am the one that pays for it.

Now since BC/BS had no intention of dealing with this, they should have just told me up front. 

“Sir, it’s the end of the year, we while made a mistake, we can’t fix it in time so you’ll have to pay cash and get reimbursed.”

Sure, I’d be irritated, but at least you would have been being relatively honest about the situation and I could have adjusted and got my meds rather than actually be dumb enough to believe you were working on it.

Furthermore, what if the additional $170 meant the difference between having heat in the winter or not?  Of buying groceries or not?  Middle and low income families are screwed in this scenario.  Living paycheck to paycheck, a $170 surprise at the end of the year – right after Christmas or Hanukkah have depleted the family account – can be the difference between medicine or not.  The casual nonchalance with which they just expect folks to fork out $200 indicates their complete lack of connection to the real world.

And if they can’t scrounge up the additional money in time to be eligible for eventual reimbursement they would get to hear something like this:

“Sorry, the new plan year has started and your deductible is now higher.  You’re not covered until another $1500/$3000/whatever has been paid out of pocket.”

What happens then?

Mom and/or dad go without their meds so the kids have food and heat. 


Happy New Year

[AUTHOR'S NOTE: I did manage to get my RX taken care of before the year end deadline but NO thanks to BC/BS.  My pharmacy took an inordinate amount of time out of their day - and their own year end crush - to be my advocate and make sure that I was taken care of in this plan year.  Additionally, BC/BS TOLD my pharmacy that everything was all set but failed to correct my co-pays until AFTER I went to pick up my RX and I learned it wasn't.  ONLY THEN was the co-pay backed up - when they were called on it.  Stay on these insurance companies - the more you pay, the more they make and it sure seems like they'll try anything to make sure they don't pay.]