This veteran-owned company is shifting production to save lives - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

This veteran-owned company is shifting production to save lives

We all know Nine Line Apparel. We wear the gear, we have seen the amazing social media content and perhaps most importantly, we have seen them support the veteran community time and time again.

Well they are coming in clutch once again.


Nine Line announced that they will be shifting operations to produce and distribute masks for doctors and nurses who are working around the clock to care for Americans during the coronavirus outbreak that has gripped the nation. There has been a shortage of masks across the country; hospitals have resorted to using ultraviolet light to ‘clean’ and reuse masks. The most commonly used mask, the N95 mask, is supposed to be used only once. Every time a doctor or nurse sees a patient, they are supposed to discard the mask and use a new one for a different patient.


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One big issue is that a lot of masks are being sent from China. With the high demand of masks combined with pricing changes from Chinese manufacturers, there is now a scarcity for nurses and doctors. Masks that used to cost just 70 cents are now being billed at each. And the materials to make the mask that cost ,000 a ton have now seen an increase to 0,000 a ton according to Nine Line Apparel founder and CEO Tyler Merritt.

According to a statement Nine Line put out, the estimated number of masks needed in the next few months will be between 1.7 and 3 billion, but the country currently has a stockpile that only numbers in the millions.

Merritt went on Fox and Friends to discuss what Nine Line was planning on doing.


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This outbreak strikes close to home for Merritt, like many Americans.

“I’m an engineer, I’m also a former Army officer, I’m also a member of the special operations community, I’m also the son of a person who will die if he contracts this, I’m also the son of a nurse, I’m also the father of children who could potentially die,” said Merritt. “So, this is not about money. This is about coming together, cutting through the red tape. This is also about identifying those horrible, massive conglomerates that are hoarding materials.” Partnering with Bella+Canvas out of Los Angeles, Nine Line is working to circumvent the red tape from the government as well as corporate conglomerates who may be using this pandemic for financial gain.

Merritt’s vision is to create and sell (at cost) a mask similar or better than the N95 mask and distribute the Personal Protective Equipment to hospitals and health care workers around the country. This mask would be made out of apparel fabric and would be created by both Bella+Canvas and Nine Line using the equipment that makes those awesome shirts that you and I wear.

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Nine Line says they can shift operations and create up to 10 million masks in the next few weeks but are limited by waiting on the FDA. They are looking for help from the federal government to speed up testing of their mask and approve it so they can mass produce it and get them to hospitals ASAP.

Nine Line does have a mask (not for hospital use) that is selling to the public which can be purchased here.

Thanks for thinking outside the box and once again, doing your best to serve the public, Nine Line! Bravo.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Here is why the Redcoats were coming to Lexington and Concord

Just about everyone knows about the Battles of Lexington and Concord. It was from this stage that “the shot heard `round the world” echoed out and it was here that Paul Revere made his famous midnight ride. But do you know why the British were coming to Lexington and Concord? The answer to that question may surprise you.


In 1775, tensions between British forces and the colonists in Massachusetts were on the rise. Disputes over taxation without representation and payment for tea destroyed in 1773’s Boston Tea Party had led colonists to begin stockpiling weapons. The British figured that by capturing some of the colonists’ leaders, Samuel Adams and John Hancock among them, they could put the potential insurgency down.

This veteran-owned company is shifting production to save lives

The Minute Man, a statue by Daniel Chester French erected in 1875 in Concord, Massachusetts, depicts a common member of the militia.

(National Park Service photo)

The troops also had another set of orders, though: confiscate colonial arms and disarm the insurgents. Prior to Lexington and Concord, General Thomas Gage’s troops had carried out at least one similar operation, seizing over 250 half-barrels of gunpowder. That didn’t go over well with the colonists, who protested the seizure.

In quick response, colonists developed intelligence networks to warn of future raids. As a result, many disarming efforts were thwarted because arms and supplies were hidden ahead of time. However, in April, 1775, Gage discovered the location of a major supply depot for the colonists in Concord, Massachusetts. Gage ordered about 700 troops to raid this stash.

This veteran-owned company is shifting production to save lives

After a brief skirmish on Lexington Green, British troops arrived in Concord. There, things went badly for them.

(Amos Doolittle and Ralph Earl)

The rest, as you know, is history. After the Battle of Lexington, where a small detachment of colonial militiamen were brushed aside by the British, and a somewhat successful operation in Concord (some cannons were disabled), British troops exchanged fire with colonists at the North Bridge in Concord. That sparked a running battle, during which the militia used guerrilla tactics to inflict serious casualties on the British.

Afterwards, the British were bottled up in Boston by colonists. It was the start of a long war that, eventually, resulted in the United States of America becoming an independent nation. A war that was started by an attempt to disarm the American colonists.

MIGHTY TRENDING

JP Morgan invests $4.2 million in veteran businesses

JPMorgan, the financial services giant, has invested $4.2 million into three organizations that will loan money to veteran-owned small businesses.


The company announced Monday the multi-million dollar contribution, which will benefit three community development financial institutions, including Carolina Small Business Development Fund, PeopleFund, and Main Street Launch. Such lenders seek to loan money to make a profit and fulfill mission-focused goals.

The investment is part of the company’s broader Small Business Forward initiative to invest $75 million over the next three years in businesses owned by folks from underserved backgrounds, according to a release on the news.

This veteran-owned company is shifting production to save lives
Like this except times FOUR MILLION. (USAF photo by Senior Airman Sheila deVera)

“Veterans make excellent business owners, so it makes perfect sense for us to help connect them with the access to capital they need to succeed,” said Andrew Kresse, CEO of business banking at the firm. “We’re pleased to work with outstanding partners who serve the veteran business community, and in turn, help strengthen the communities in which we all live and work.”

Also read: These entrepreneurs survived Shark Tank and share their secrets with vets

The bank recently found in its Chase Business Leaders Outlook study that veteran-owned businesses beat their peers on a number of metrics. For instance:

  • In the next 12 months, more veteran-owned businesses expect to increase: profits, capital expenditures, and credit needs compared to non-veteran peers;
  • Veteran-owned businesses also have stronger employment projections–more plan to increase employees/compensation compared to non-veteran peers;
  • Veteran-run small businesses reported plans to hire more employees and report stronger optimism.

The contribution is a “philanthropic investment,” according to a press representative. As such, JPMorgan will not directly benefit monetarily from the loans, but it expects a return from the broader impact the loans will have on society.

The company also said Monday it renewed its partnership with Bunker Labs, an organization that provides veteran entrepreneurs with education and financial resources.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why a judge willingly shared this green beret’s jail sentence

Joe Serna escaped death so many times while deployed with the Army’s Special Forces. He was blown up by explosive devices on multiple occasions over three combat deployments to Afghanistan. One threw him from his vehicle, another nearly drowned him in an MRAP in an irrigation canal, and a Taliban fighter detonated a grenade in his face. Like many combat veterans of his caliber, both mental and physical wounds followed him home.

After his medical retirement, alcohol-related events landed him in hot water with the law until the day he violated his probation and ended up in front of North Carolina Judge Lou Olivera.


This veteran-owned company is shifting production to save lives

Serna’s MRAP was thrown into a canal by an IED in 2008. Three other soldiers drowned, including one who rescued Serna.

(Joe Serna)

In 2016, Serna’s record of offenses and failure to follow his probation put him in front of a North Carolina Veterans Treatment Court, a system of justice designed to hold returning veterans accountable for their behavior while accepting the special set of circumstances they might be struggling with in their daily life. Veterans Treatment Courts demand mandatory appearances, drug and alcohol testing, and a structure similar to the demands of the service.

Related: ‘The West Wing’ cast reunites in new PSA supporting Veterans Treatment Courts

Judge Lou Olivera was presiding over Cumberland County, North Carolina’s veterans treatment courts. Olivera is a veteran of the Gulf War and is especially suited to handle cases like Serna’s. The judge ordered the green beret to spend 24 hours in jail for his probation violation, not anything unusual for a judge to do. What Olivera did next is what makes his court exceptional.

Olivera convinced Serna’s jailer, also a veteran, to allow the judge to share Serna’s sentence. Judge Olivera was volunteering to be a battle buddy for the green beret while he did his time. The judge drove Serna to the neighboring county lockup, where jail administrator George Kenworthy put them both in jail for the night.

He did his duty,” Serna told People Magazine. “He sentenced me. It was his job to hold me accountable. He is a judge, but that night he was my battle buddy. He knew what I was going through. As a warrior, he connected.”

Serna had no idea Judge Olivera planned to share his sentence as the two drove to the Robeson County, N.C. jail. Olivera knew of Serna’s combat records, and that the green beret spent a night in a submerged in an MRAP, struggling to stay in an air pocket, with the bodies of his drowned compatriots around him. So a night spent in a cramped box seemed like a harsh sentence that could trigger harsher thoughts, but the judge knew the soldier had to be held accountable. So he decided he wouldn’t be alone in the box.

Joe was a good soldier, and he’s a good man,” Olivera said. “I wanted him to know I had his back. I didn’t want him to do this alone… I’m a judge and I’ve seen evil, but I see the humanity in people. Joe is a good man. Helping him helped me. I wanted him to know he isn’t alone.”
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5 methods to get that bicep vein popping out of your arm

Remember back at the beginning of your career when you only cared about how tight your sleeves were?

I remember wanting to look jacked, even though I was only 170 pounds soaking wet. In my inner circle, you got bonus points when your biceps vein looked like it was going to burst out of your skin. So how do you get a bulging vein anyway?


In this article, I’m giving you five strategies to employ that will increase your vascularity.

That biceps vein is probably the first one you’ll see on your journey to becoming the big veiny triumphant man you’ve always wanted to be.

 

Eat to lose fat

Sounds pretty simple? Why haven’t you done it yet then?

Losing body fat is one of the harder body goals to achieve, not because it’s complicated or overly difficult. It’s hard for an entirely different reason…you have to make hundreds of decisions every day to eat properly to burn fat.

Trying to run the fat off through cardio is only one decision.

It’s a lot easier to say “yes” one time than “no” 134 times in a day.

The science is proven. If you want to burn fat diet manipulations are more effective than extra cardio. I wrote a lot more about this topic in What type of exercise burns the most fat.

The goal is to get under 15 percent body fat for some of you. To be sure though, aim for under 12 percent body fat.

This veteran-owned company is shifting production to save lives
You can’t go wrong with leafy greens when it comes to vascularity. (DeCA photo)

 

Eat to increase Nitric Oxide

Nitric oxide is the compound that makes your veins dilate; AKA get bigger. There are plenty of foods that help increase the amount of nitric oxide in the blood.

Foods that get converted into nitrates in the body do the trick to up your level of nitric oxide. Eat foods like:

  • Beetroot
  • Lettuce
  • Celery
  • Broccoli
  • Arugula
  • Spinach

You’ll notice that these foods are healthy and something you should be eating anyway. This is a time when what’s healthy and what’s aesthetic are actually the same thing.

This veteran-owned company is shifting production to save lives
Salt makes food delicious and makes you look fluffy. (Photo by Jason Tuinstra on Unsplash)

 

Keep sodium intake low

Salt holds onto water. Simply put, the more salt in your diet, the more water you’ll retain the less your biceps vein will show.

If you recall in How to cut weight in a borderline safe way, I covered a specific strategy to decrease body water retention in order to make weight. Similar rules apply here. The smarter you are about what you eat, the more likely your body will look the way you want it to.

If you eat a lot of pre-prepared food from the 7-day shop on base that you just need to add water and microwave to cook, I bet you struggle to get your veins popping the way you want them to. There’s a lot of sodium in those foods to make them last longer on the shelf and taste better since they’re made from the cheapest ingredients possible.

Eat from the above list instead.

This veteran-owned company is shifting production to save lives
The body remembers. If you treat it well it’ll look how you want it to. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Preston Jarrett/Released)

 

Keep water intake consistent

The body remembers. If you’re chronically dehydrated, your body is craving water and will retain as much as possible whenever it has the chance.

If instead, you keep a consistent level of hydration, your body will hoard less water and be willing to excrete any extra water.

Apply this to trying to achieve more vascularity. You will have to stay chronically dehydrated in order to have any veins show and one glass of water will completely change the way you look.

If instead you stay properly hydrated regularly, then just a little bit of dehydration will make your veins pop.

Here’s a bunch of other reasons to drink more water.

This veteran-owned company is shifting production to save lives
Lift often and lift heavy. Bigger muscles equal better vein visibility. (Photo by C.J. Lovelace)

 

Lift weights

The structure of your arm goes like this; skin, fat, veins, muscles, bone.

We have now entered the level of your muscles. Assuming you’re eating and drinking according to the recommendations above, you next need to help your muscles push your veins to the surface.

Weight training is going to increase the blood flow to your muscles. That increase in blood flow is what’s known as “The Pump.” It makes your arms feel bigger, tighter, and stronger. It has two effects on your vascularity.

  1. The increase in blood flow will increase the size of your blood vessels even more than your diet already has.
  2. Larger muscle circumference will push your veins closer to the surface of your skin and make them more visible.
For more on the effects of weight training, check out Why you should be training, not exercising.
This veteran-owned company is shifting production to save lives

If you follow these rules, you’re guaranteed to look more vascular than ever before. If you’re looking for more here’s a bonus, ensure you’re using a pre-workout supplement that contains citrulline malate. For more on how to choose a pre-workout check out Part 1 of What supplements in the Exchange are worth your money.

The new Mighty Fit Plan is coming in hot very soon. Be one of the first to sign up for it here!

Join the Mighty Fit FB Group here!

MIGHTY CULTURE

You can make it through Navy SEAL training if you can do this

The sand invades every crevice and fold in your skin and clothing like a kind of unfinished cement mixture hellbent on rubbing your exposed patches of water-softened skin until they chafe and bleed. Just when the bright southern California sunshine dries you out, and you feel that blessed warmth that you remember so well from before you started Navy SEAL training, the BUD/S instructors once again order you into the surf zone like maniacal dads gleefully throwing their children into a pool for the first time. Learn to swim, or die.

“This will make you hard, gents,” they growl, tongues firmly in cheeks. They know they are making a bad pun while also telling us that all of this, in effect, is for our own good. We do it grim-faced and resigned to another onslaught of sandy wetness because we want to make it through the training. And the training is designed to figure out which of us will not quit, even when our physical selves want nothing more than warmth, blessed dryness, and physical comfort.


This veteran-owned company is shifting production to save lives

Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, San Diego, Calif. (Jan. 31, 2003) – As an instructor monitors a training evolution, Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUDS) Class 244 receives instructions on their next exercise as they lay in the surf. (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class John DeCoursey.)

Some will eventually give in to the effect of this relentless physical tribulation. Those that make it through do so because they find their way to that state of consciousness in which the brain overrides the assault on the body, and that all-powerful and mysterious mass of grey matter residing inside our skulls takes over and drives the machine of blood and bone known as our bodies forward in a state of semi-autonomy. That is the mental state one must achieve to make it through the training; that state in which the primeval mind overcomes the objections and weaknesses of the fragile body.

Three of my blood relatives made it through BUD/S before me. One made it through after me. Five of us in total. Each of us set out not knowing if we had that ability to put mind over body. We hoped we did. We suspected we did, since we had the same genetic make-up as those who had come before us. We each knew that if our father, brother, and cousin could do it, we could do it too. Still, you never really know until you do it. Until you face it.

This veteran-owned company is shifting production to save lives

SEAL candidates for basic underwater demolition cover themselves in sand during surf passage on Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, Calif. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Russell)

The physical preparation is important — critical, even. You have to reach a certain level of physical preparedness to allow your body to complete that journey. That is a necessary condition to making it through, but not a sufficient condition. The physical preparation alone will not guarantee you success. The mindset is the thing. You have to get your mind to that place in which quitting is an impossibility.

Sure, you might fail or be ejected from the training for some performance inadequacy. That happens even to the most physically prepared of us. I saw it happen in my own class on multiple occasions. But you have to get to the state of mind in which they will have to kill you or fail you to stop you from making it. Never quit. Never contemplate quitting. Never allow that thought to worm its way into your head. Once it does, all is lost.

This veteran-owned company is shifting production to save lives

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Trevor Welsh/Released)

That is the one piece of advice I give, and have given, to all those who have asked over the years about making it through BUD/S: just tell yourself you will never quit. Tell yourself that you will prepare the best you can by swimming, running in boots and pants in the sand, doing thousands of push-ups and pull-ups and flutter kicks, and practicing all of the breath holding.

Once you reach that threshold of preparedness, you must then fortify your mind. Obsess over making it. Find your inner demon. Harness it, and hold on tight and ride that supernatural force straight through to the end. The human brain and the power it wields is a force of nature. You have to channel that power — all of it — to propel you forward to the end.

This veteran-owned company is shifting production to save lives

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Anthony W. Walker)

It will end, after all. At some point, you know that about 20 out of 100 of you will be left standing at graduation. They will have thrown everything they have at you to get you to quit. They will make it their mission to break you. It is up to you to stand fast and repel that assault. If I can do it, then you can do it too.

Good luck.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea has a meltdown over South Korean military drills

North Korea’s top negotiator called South Korea’s government “ignorant and incompetent” on May 17, 2018, in the latest installment of Pyongyang lashing out at the US and Seoul for essentially carrying out business as usual.

Ri Son Gwon, the North Korean negotiator, slammed South Korea for participating in military drills with the US, following up a series of statements on May 15, 2018, when Pyongyang canceled talks with Seoul and threatened to cancel a planned summit with President Donald Trump.


While North Korea commonly complains about US and South Korean military drills, which it sees as a rehearsal for invasion, the timing of the recent complaints struck many as odd.

The drills in question, called Max Thunder, have been going on since May 11, 2018. North Korea endured four solid days of the drills before saying anything about them. In fact, one day into the drills, North Korea announced it would invite foreign journalists to cover the destruction of its nuclear test site.

But on May 15, 2018, that all changed with North Korea slamming the drills and their inclusion of the US’s B-52 nuclear-capable bomber, something which regional media had reported. The Pentagon told Business Insider that the B-52s were never scheduled to take part in the drills.

This veteran-owned company is shifting production to save lives
B-52
(Photo by Michael Weber)

Before Max Thunder, two other massive drills had taken place in April and May 2018, with hardly a peep from Pyongyang.

In past months, Kim, who reportedly said he “understands” why the drills were going on, had gone forward with peace talks without asking for them to be toned down.

Nevertheless, North Korea cited the drills as its main reason for canceling talks with South Korea.

“Unless the serious situation which led to the suspension of the north-south high-level talks is settled, it will never be easy to sit face to face again with the present regime of South Korea,” Ri said, according to Reuters.

In a separate statement from North Korean media, Pyongyang said it couldn’t open up its country or work with others.

“It is a lesson shown by the past history that it would never be possible to write a new history of opening up the prospect of the country and nation even though we may sit with those without trust and confidence and without manners,” it wrote.

Kim, what are you doing?

Kim Jong Un began and led his country toward peace and diplomacy with South Korea and the US beginning in his 2018 New Years’ address. Since then, he’s put on a spectacular diplomatic offensive and made history by leaving his country for the first time since taking power to meet at least twice with China’s President Xi Jinping and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

But since May 15, 2018, North Korea has begun a marked backslide towards the old rhetoric of hostilities, and it all kicked off with a meltdown over days-old military drills.

As for why North Korea may have went back to tough talking points, read here.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The FBI just nailed some of the ‘Nigerian Prince’ schemers

In accordance with the Justice Department’s recent efforts to disrupt business email compromise (BEC) schemes that are designed to intercept and hijack wire transfers from businesses and individuals, including many senior citizens, the Department announced Operation Keyboard Warrior, an effort coordinated by United States and international law enforcement to disrupt online frauds perpetrated from Africa. Eight individuals have been arrested for their roles in a widespread, Africa-based cyber conspiracy that allegedly defrauded U.S. companies and citizens of approximately $15 million since at least 2012.

Acting Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney D. Michael Dunavant of the Western District of Tennessee, Executive Assistant Director David T. Resch of the FBI and Acting Special Agent in Charge William C. Hoffman of the FBI Memphis Field Office, made the announcement on June 25, 2018.



Five individuals were arrested in the United States for their roles in the conspiracy including Javier Luis Ramos Alonso, 28, a Mexican citizen residing in Seaside, California; James Dean, 65, of Plainfield, Indiana; Dana Brady, 61, of Auburn, Washington; Rashid Abdulai, 24, a Ghanaian citizen residing in the Bronx, New York, who has been charged in a separate indictment; and Olufolajimi Abegunde, 31, a Nigerian citizen residing in Atlanta, Georgia. Maxwell Atugba Abayeta aka Maxwell Peter, 26, and Babatunde Martins, 62, of Ghana and Benard Emurhowhoariogho Okorhi, 39, a Nigerian citizen who resides in Ghana, have been arrested overseas and are pending extradition proceedings to face charges filed in the Western District of Tennessee.

The indictment also charges Sumaila Hardi Wumpini, 29; Dennis Miah, 34; Ayodeji Olumide Ojo, 35, and Victor Daniel Fortune Okorhi, 35, all of whom remain at large. Abegunde had his detention hearing today before U.S. District Court Judge Sheryl H.

Lipman of the Western District of Tennessee, who ordered him detained pending trial, which has been set for October 9, 2018.

This veteran-owned company is shifting production to save lives

(Cliff / Flickr)

“The defendants allegedly unleashed a barrage of international fraud schemes that targeted U.S. businesses and individuals, robbing them to the tune of approximately million,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Cronan. “The Department of Justice will continue to work with our international partners to aggressively disrupt and dismantle criminal enterprises that victimize our citizens and businesses.”

U.S. Attorney D. Michael Dunavant said: “Frauds perpetrated through the Internet cause significant financial harm to businesses and individuals in our District and throughout the United States. Because those committing Internet fraud hide behind technology, the cases are difficult – but not impossible – to investigate. We will continue to deploy our resources to take on these difficult cases and seek justice for citizens harmed by Internet scammers.”

“The devastating effects that cybercrime and business email compromise have on victims and victim companies cannot be understated, and the FBI has made it a priority to work with our law enforcement partners around the world to end these fraud schemes and protect the hard-earned assets of our citizens,” said William C. Hoffman, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Memphis Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. “These charges are the result of the diligence, hard work and tenacity of the best and smartest investigators and prosecutors, to overcome the challenges faced when dealing with sophisticated efforts to hide criminal activity that involves numerous people in multiple countries, and should send a signal that criminals will not go undetected and will be held accountable, regardless of where they are.”

The indictment was returned by a grand jury in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee on Aug. 23, 2017, and charges the defendants with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, conspiracy to commit computer fraud, and aggravated identity fraud.

The indictment alleges that the Africa-based co-conspirators committed, or caused to be committed, a series of intrusions into the servers and email systems of a Memphis-based real estate company in June and July 2016. Using sophisticated anonymization techniques, including the use of spoofed email addresses and Virtual Private Networks, the co-conspirators identified large financial transactions, initiated fraudulent email correspondence with relevant business parties, and then redirected closing funds through a network of U.S.-based money mules to final destinations in Africa. Commonly referred to as business email compromise, or BEC, this aspect of the scheme caused hundreds of thousands in loss to companies and individuals in Memphis.

This veteran-owned company is shifting production to save lives

(Photo by Christiaan Colen)

In addition to BEC, the Africa-based defendants are also charged with perpetrating, or causing to be perpetrated, various romance scams, fraudulent-check scams, gold-buying scams, advance-fee scams, and credit card scams. The indictment alleges that the proceeds of these criminal activities, both money and goods, were shipped and/or transferred from the United States to locations in Ghana, Nigeria, and South Africa

through a complex network of both complicit and unwitting individuals that had been recruited through the various Internet scams. The defendants are also charged with concealing their conduct by, among other means, stealing or fraudulently obtaining personal identification information (PII) and using that information to create fake online profiles and personas. Through all their various schemes, the defendants are believed to have caused millions in loss to victims across the globe.

An indictment is merely an allegation and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The FBI led the investigation. The FBI’s Transnational Organized Crime of the Eastern Hemisphere Section of the Criminal Investigative Division, Major Cyber Crimes Unit of the Cyber Division, and International Organized Crime Intelligence and Operations Center all provided significant support in this case, as did INTERPOL Washington, the U.S. Marshals Service, and the U.S. Attorney’s Offices of the Northern District of Georgia, Western District of Washington, Central District of California, Southern District of New York, and the Northern District of Illinois.

Senior Trial Attorney Timothy C. Flowers of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Debra L. Ireland of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Tennessee are prosecuting the case, with significant assistance from the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Justice. Follow @WDTNNews on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korean hackers just stole nuclear submarine technology

A South Korean lawmaker says North Korean hackers broke into a shipyard and stole plans for naval technologies as Pyongyang seeks its own submarine fleet armed with nuclear missiles.


Kyeong Dae-soo, a lawmaker from South Korea’s hawkish Liberty Korea Party, made public the claim that North Korea stole the plans less than a month after a “ridiculous mistake” allowed the US and South Korea’s war plans to be hacked by Pyongyang.

“We are almost 100 percent certain that North Korean hackers were behind the hacking and stole the company’s sensitive documents,” Kyeong told Reuters. Defense industry officials corroborated Kyeong’s story to The Wall Street Journal.

This veteran-owned company is shifting production to save lives
Kim Jong Un with North Koreas just after the test fire of a surface to surface medium long range missile.(image KCNA)

Sixty “classified documents including blueprints and technical data for submarines and vessels equipped with Aegis weapon systems” made their way into North Korean hands, according to The Journal.

The news of the theft comes as US intelligence assesses that North Korea has begun construction of a new class of 2,000-ton submarine — likely the largest ever attempted by the small country, The Diplomat reports. The submarine appears to follow North Korea’s tradition of attempting to field an undersea leg of its nuclear deterrent, mimicking the US.

Read Also: North Korea May Have Equipped Two Submarines With Ballistic Missile Launch Tubes

Basically, by deploying nuclear weapons on land and at sea, North Korea makes it nearly impossible for any one attack from the US or any other adversary to remove its nuclear capabilities.

Kyeong said that the information hacked also contained details on submarine-launched ballistic missiles, which North Korea has tried and failed to perfect in the past.

Though the US and South Korea enjoy a massive edge in submarine technology over North Korea, the shallow coastal waters around the Korean Peninsula are noisy with irregular currents, meaning even the best submarine hunters might struggle to hunt down and destroy their targets. North Korea is thought to operate about 60 submarines, but none of those can likely launch a ballistic missile yet.

This veteran-owned company is shifting production to save lives

Additionally, Aegis technology, also leaked in the hack, is used by the US and its allies to fend off incoming missiles or missiles fired overhead, like North Korea’s frequent long-range missile tests.

Though North Korea likely can’t duplicate the technology, Aegis is the world’s most advanced at-sea missile defense, and any leaks could compromise the safety of the US Navy.

Earlier in October, the news came out that North Korea had hacked the US and South Korea’s war plan by exploiting a lapse in security. Experts estimate that the cyber threat from North Korea is growing and could seriously complicate any conflict.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump pardoned a sailor who took illegal photos of a submarine

President Donald Trump has pardoned a Navy sailor who took photographs of the classified areas of a military submarine.


Kristian Saucier pleaded guilty in 2016 to taking the photos inside the USS Alexandria in 2009. He served a 12-month prison sentence for the crime.

Trump referenced Saucier’s case often on the campaign trail as he criticized his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state.

Also read: This is President Trump’s military wishlist for 2019

Saucier has said he merely wanted service mementos. But federal prosecutors said he was a disgruntled sailor who compromised national security and then obstructed the investigation by destroying a laptop and camera.

The news was announced by White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee at a briefing March 9, 2018. It is only Trump’s second pardon, after the president pardoned Joe Arpaio, an ardent Trump supporter and former Phoenix sheriff who was convicted of criminal contempt in August 2017.

The investigation began in March 2012, when Saucier’s cellphone, with pictures of the submarine still on it, was found at a waste-transfer station in Connecticut. Saucier was charged with taking photos of classified spaces, instruments, and equipment in July 2015 and pleaded guilty to one count of unauthorized possession and retention of national defense information in May 2016.

In addition to a year in jail, he was given an “other than honorable” discharge from the Navy.

This veteran-owned company is shifting production to save lives
USS Alexandria. (Photo by US Navy)

Trump referenced Saucier’s case numerous times during his campaign — in one speech, Trump referred to Saucier, a 22-year-old sailor at the time the photos were taken, as “the kid who wanted some pictures of the submarine.”

Vice President Mike Pence also said during an October 2016 debate that a service member who handled classified information the way Clinton did would “absolutely” face court-martial, though The Washington Post found it was far from clear that would happen. Saucier’s lawyer also compared the six photos his client took to the 110 classified emails the FBI found were on the private email server Clinton used while she was secretary of state.

More: 8 US Navy sailors who received the Medal of Honor

The judge in the case appeared to dismiss the comparison, as well as the argument that Saucier was being treated differently, saying “selective enforcement is really not a good argument” that didn’t “really carry much water.”

Saucier was released to house arrest at the end of summer 2017 and said later that year he thought “punishment isn’t doled out evenly” and that he hoped Trump would “make right by it.”

On March 10, 2018, hours after Huckabee said the president was “appreciative” of Saucier’s service to the country, Trump tweeted his congratulations to the former sailor, calling him “a man who has served proudly in the Navy.”

“Now you can go out and have the life you deserve!” Trump said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Photos show what the US troops on the border are doing

A number of active-duty US troops, the first of thousands, have arrived at the US-Mexico border.

US military personnel deployed to the border ahead of the anticipated arrival of migrant caravans have started constructing bases of operations and running razor wire to prevent illegal crossings.

These photos show some of what troops are doing at the border:


This veteran-owned company is shifting production to save lives

(U.S. Air Force photo by SrA Alexandra Minor)

Soldiers from the the 89th Military Police Brigade, and 41st Engineering Company, 19th Engineering Battalion, Fort Riley, Kansas, arrive in Harlingen, TX on Nov. 1, 2018.

The active-duty troops which have been or will be deployed to parts of Texas, Arizona, and California are among a group of more than 7,000 troops expected to be sent to the border in support of Operation Faithful Patriot.

This veteran-owned company is shifting production to save lives

(U.S. Air Force photo by SrA Alexandra Minor)

Many of the engineering teams are expected to be involved in activities such as barrier construction and the hardening of key border facilities.

Active-duty military personnel are heading to the border to support the Customs and Border Protection mission.

This veteran-owned company is shifting production to save lives

The troops deploying to the border, according to the US military, will provide planning assistance and engineering support, as well as equipment and resources, to assist the DHS as it attempts to secure the southern border against migrant caravans from Latin America.

The number of troops slated for deployment to the US-Mexico border has risen three times in the past week, surging from several hundred into the thousands, and the number could rise again in response to operational demands.

This veteran-owned company is shifting production to save lives

(Angela Camara/Operation Faithful Patriot)

A C-17 Globemaster III carrying soldiers and equipment from the 63rd Expeditionary Signal Battalion, Fort Campbell, Kentucky, landed in southern Arizona on Oct. 31, 2018, in support of Operation Faithful Patriot.

There are already over 2,000 National Guard troops serving at the border, advancing the mission for Operation Guardian Support. They were deployed in April and serve in a different role than the troops presently heading south.

This veteran-owned company is shifting production to save lives

(Angela Camara/Operation Faithful Patriot)

Troops are bringing significant amounts of equipment for border operations, including miles and miles worth of concertina wire.

President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly characterized the approaching caravans — without evidence — as an “invasion,” has warned the migrants that the military will be waiting for them when they arrive.

He has said that the total number of troops deployed to the southern border could ultimately be as high as 15,000. The president has also indicated that US troops may open fire on migrants who become aggressive.

This veteran-owned company is shifting production to save lives

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Brandon Best)

A US Army soldier assigned to 309th Military Intelligence Battalion hammers a stake into the ground while setting up tents at Fort Huachuca, Arizona on Nov. 1, 2018.

The military units currently being sent to the border are acting in a Title X capacity. Military police, engineers, medical teams, airlift units, and command teams will be constructing barriers, hardening points of entry, and assisting CBP officials. These troops are not permitted to engage in law enforcement activities on US soil.

This veteran-owned company is shifting production to save lives

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Brandon Best)

The Department of Defense has made it clear, despite the various claims stating otherwise, that these tent cities will house troops arriving at the border, not migrants.

While some observers argue that sending active-duty military personnel to the border is a waste of manpower, one that could costa s much as 0 million by the end of the year, the administration says troops being deployed to the border are responding to an escalated threat to US national security. As of Friday, there were around 3,500 troops deployed to staging bases along the border, the Pentagon told the Associated Press.

This veteran-owned company is shifting production to save lives

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Brandon Best)

Multiple staging areas are being established at Base Support Installations, areas where troops from ten different states will set up operations.

One of the larger groups recently clashed with Mexican authorities on the border of Guatemala, a violent exchange which appears to have led President Trump to state that US troops might shoot migrants who throw rocks at US military and border patrol personnel, a position he has since backed away from.

This veteran-owned company is shifting production to save lives

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kristine Legate)

Airmen from the 355th Civil Engineering Squadron construct Air Force deployable airbase systems (DABS) at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona on Nov. 1, 2018.

The migrant caravans heading north toward the US-Mexico border are currently believed to be around 800 miles away, putting them a few weeks out.

This veteran-owned company is shifting production to save lives

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)

These tents, like those set up at Fort Huachuca, will house military personnel deployed to the border in support of Operation Faithful Patriot.

In recent days, as the midterm elections come around the corner, the president has proposed eliminating birthright citizenship, denying asylum to anyone who crosses illegally, and using disproportional military force against migrants who become violent, moves and rhetoric presumably intended to highlight his administration’s tough stance on illegal immigration.

This veteran-owned company is shifting production to save lives

(U.S. Air Force photo by SrA Alexandra Minor)

Soldiers from the 97th Military Police Brigade, and 41st Engineering Company, Fort Riley, Kansas, run 300 meters of concertina wire along the border in support of CBP operations in Hidalgo, Texas.

Critics have accused the president of engaging in a political stunt ahead of midterm elections. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, who approved the deployment of troops to the border in response to a DHS request, has countered such accusations, stating, “We don’t do stunts in this department.”

This veteran-owned company is shifting production to save lives

(U.S. Air Force photo by SrA Alexandra Minor)

US troops deployed with enough concertina wire already in position to cover 22 miles, with officials noting that the military had the capability to run wire along another 120 miles if necessary.

“It’s all preparation in anticipation of the caravan,” Manuel Padilla Jr., US Border Patrol’s Rio Grande River Valley sector chief, told the Associated Press. “We’re hoping that these people do not show up at the border. They’re not going to be allowed in.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Private Care Program allegedly enriched companies and hurt vets

For years, conservatives have assailed the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs as a dysfunctional bureaucracy. They said private enterprise would mean better, easier-to-access health care for veterans. President Donald Trump embraced that position, enthusiastically moving to expand the private sector’s role.

Here’s what has actually happened in the four years since the government began sending more veterans to private care: longer waits for appointments and, a new analysis of VA claims data by ProPublica and PolitiFact shows, higher costs for taxpayers.


Since 2014, 1.9 million former service members have received private medical care through a program called Veterans Choice. It was supposed to give veterans a way around long wait times in the VA. But their average waits using the Choice Program were still longer than allowed by law, according to examinations by the VA inspector general and the Government Accountability Office. The watchdogs also found widespread blunders, such as booking a veteran in Idaho with a doctor in New York and telling a Florida veteran to see a specialist in California. Once, the VA referred a veteran to the Choice Program to see a urologist, but instead he got an appointment with a neurologist.

The winners have been two private companies hired to run the program, which began under the Obama administration and is poised to grow significantly under Trump. ProPublica and PolitiFact obtained VA data showing how much the agency has paid in medical claims and administrative fees for the Choice program. Since 2014, the two companies have been paid nearly billion for overhead, including profit. That’s about 24 percent of the companies’ total program expenses — a rate that would exceed the federal cap that governs how much most insurance plans can spend on administration in the private sector.

This veteran-owned company is shifting production to save lives

(Lucas Waldron/ProPublica)

This veteran-owned company is shifting production to save lives

(Lucas Waldron/ProPublica)

This veteran-owned company is shifting production to save lives

(Lucas Waldron/ProPublica)

According to the agency’s inspector general, the VA was paying the contractors at least 5 every time it authorized private care for a veteran. The fee was so high because the VA hurriedly launched the Choice Program as a short-term response to a crisis. Four years later, the fee never subsided — it went up to as much as 8 per referral.

“This is what happens when people try and privatize the VA,” Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, the ranking Democrat on the Senate veterans committee, said in a statement responding to these findings. “The VA has an obligation to taxpayers to spend its limited resources on caring for veterans, not paying excessive fees to a government contractor. When VA does need the help of a middleman, it needs to do a better job of holding contractors accountable for missing the mark.”

The Affordable Care Act prohibits large group insurance plans from spending more than 15 percent of their revenue on administration, including marketing and profit. The private sector standard is 10 percent to 12 percent, according to Andrew Naugle, who advises health insurers on administrative operations as a consultant at Milliman, one of the world’s largest actuarial firms. Overhead is even lower in the Defense Department’s Tricare health benefits program: only 8 percent in 2017.

Even excluding the costs of setting up the new program, the Choice contractors’ overhead still amounts to 21 percent of revenue.

“That’s just unacceptable,” Rick Weidman, the policy director of Vietnam Veterans of America, said in response to the figures. “There are people constantly banging on the VA, but this was the private sector that made a total muck of it.”

Trump’s promises to veterans were a central message of his campaign. But his plans to shift their health care to the private sector put him on a collision course with veterans groups, whose members generally support the VA’s medical system and don’t want to see it privatized. The controversy around privatization, and the outsize influence of three Trump associates at Mar-a-Lago, has sown turmoil at the VA, endangering critical services from paying student stipends to preventing suicidesand upgrading electronic medical records.

A spokesman for the VA, Curt Cashour, declined to provide an interview with key officials and declined to answer a detailed list of written questions.

One of the contractors, Health Net, stopped working on the program in September 2018. Health Net didn’t respond to requests for comment.

The other contractor, TriWest Healthcare Alliance, said it has worked closely with the VA to improve the program and has made major investments of its own. “We believe supporting VA in ensuring the delivery of quality care to our nation’s veterans is a moral responsibility, even while others have avoided making these investments or have withdrawn from the market,” the company said in a statement.

TriWest did not dispute ProPublica and PolitiFact’s estimated overhead rate, which used total costs, but suggested an alternate calculation, using an average cost, that yielded a rate of 13 percent to 15 percent. The company defended the 5-plus fee by saying it covers “highly manual” services such as scheduling appointments and coordinating medical files. Such functions are not typically part of the contracts for other programs, such as the military’s Tricare. But Tricare’s contractors perform other duties, such as adjudicating claims and monitoring quality, that Health Net and TriWest do not. In a recent study comparing the programs, researchers from the Rand Corporation concluded that the role of the Choice Program’s contractors is “much narrower than in the private sector or in Tricare.”

Before the Choice Program, TriWest and Health Net performed essentially the same functions for about a sixth of the price, according to the VA inspector general. TriWest declined to break down how much of the fee goes to each service it provides.

Because of what the GAO called the contractors’ “inadequate” performance, the VA increasingly took over doing the Choice Program’s referrals and claims itself.

In many cases, the contractors’ 5-plus processing fee for every referral was bigger than the doctor’s bill for services rendered, the analysis of agency data showed. In the three months ending Jan. 31, 2018, the Choice Program made 49,144 referrals for primary care totaling .9 million in medical costs, for an average cost per referral of 1.16. A few other types of care also cost less on average than the handling fee: chiropractic care (6.32 per referral) and optometry (9.25). There were certainly other instances where the medical services cost much more than the handling fee: TriWest said its average cost per referral was about ,100 in the past six months.

Beyond what the contractors were entitled to, audits by the VA inspector general found that they overcharged the government by 0 million from November 2014 to March 2017. Both companies are now under federal investigation arising from these overpayments. Health Net’s parent company, Centene, disclosed a Justice Department civil investigation into “excessive, duplicative or otherwise improper claims.” A federal grand jury in Arizona is investigating TriWest for “wire fraud and misused government funds,” according to a court decision on a subpoena connected to the case. Both companies said they are cooperating with the inquiries.

Despite the criminal investigation into TriWest’s management of the Choice Program, the Trump administration recently expanded the company’s contract without competitive bidding. Now, TriWest stands to collect even more fees as the administration prepares to fulfill Trump’s campaign promise to send more veterans to private doctors.

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(US Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)

Senate veterans committee chairman Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., said he expects VA Secretary Robert Wilkie to discuss the agency’s plans for the future of private care when he testifies at a hearing on Dec. 19, 2018. A spokeswoman for the outgoing chairman of the House veterans committee, Phil Roe, R-Tenn., didn’t respond to requests for comment.

“The last thing we need is to have funding for VA’s core mission get wasted,” Rep. Mark Takano, a California Democrat who will become the House panel’s chairman in January 2019, said in a statement. “I will make sure Congress conducts comprehensive oversight to ensure that our veterans receive the care they deserve while being good stewards of taxpayer dollars.”

Many of the Choice Program’s defects trace back to its hasty launch.

In 2014, the Republican chairman of the House veterans committee alleged that 40 veterans died waiting for care at the VA hospital in Phoenix. The inspector general eventually concluded that no deaths were attributable to the delays. But it was true that officials at the Phoenix VA were covering up long wait times, and critics seized on this scandal to demand that veterans get access to private medical care.

One of the loudest voices demanding changes was John McCain’s. “Make no mistake: This is an emergency,” the Arizona senator, who died in August 2018, said at the time. McCain struck a compromise with Democrats to open up private care for veterans who lived at least 40 miles from a VA facility or would have to wait at least 30 days to get an appointment.

In the heat of the scandal, Congress gave the VA only 90 days to launch Choice. The VA reached out to 57 companies about administering the new program, but the companies said they couldn’t get the program off the ground in just three months, according to contracting records. So the VA tacked the Choice Program onto existing contracts with Health Net and TriWest to run a much smaller program for buying private care. “There is simply insufficient time to solicit, evaluate, negotiate and award competitive contracts and then allow for some form of ramp-up time for a new contractor,” the VA said in a formal justification for bypassing competitive bidding.

But that was a shaky foundation on which to build a much larger program, since those earlier contracts were themselves flawed. In a 2016 report, the VA inspector general said officials hadn’t followed the rules “to ensure services acquired are based on need and at fair and reasonable prices.” The report criticized the VA for awarding higher rates than one of the vendors proposed.

The new contract with the VA was a lifeline for TriWest. Its president and CEO, David J. McIntyre Jr., was a senior aide to McCain in the mid-1990s before starting the company, based in Phoenix, to handle health benefits for the military’s Tricare program. In 2013, TriWest lost its Tricare contract and was on the verge of shutting down. Thanks to the VA contract, TriWest went from laying off more than a thousand employees to hiring hundreds.

This veteran-owned company is shifting production to save lives

Senator John McCain.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

McIntyre’s annual compensation, according to federal contracting disclosures, is .36 million. He declined to be interviewed. In a statement, TriWest noted that the original contract, for the much smaller private care program, had been competitively awarded.

The VA paid TriWest and Health Net 0 million upfront to set up the new Choice program, according to the inspector general’s audit. But that was dwarfed by the fees that the contractors would collect. Previously, the VA paid the companies between and 3 for every referral, according to the inspector general. But for the Choice Program, TriWest and Health Net raised their fee to between 5 and 0 to do essentially the same work on a larger scale, the inspector general said.

The price hike was a direct result of the time pressure, according to Greg Giddens, a former VA contracting executive who dealt with the Choice Program. “If we had two years to stand up the program, we would have been at a different price structure,” he said.

Even though the whole point of the Choice Program was to avoid 30-day waits in the VA, a convoluted process made it hard for veterans to see private doctors any faster. Getting care through the Choice Program took longer than 30 days 41 percent of the time, according to the inspector general’s estimate. The GAO found that in 2016 using the Choice Program could take as long as 70 days, with an average of 50 days.

Sometimes the contractors failed to make appointments at all. Over a three-month period in 2018, Health Net sent back between 9 percent and 13 percent of its referrals, according to agency data. TriWest failed to make appointments on 5 percent to 8 percent of referrals, the data shows.

Many veterans had frustrating experiences with the contractors.

Richard Camacho in Los Angeles said he got a call from TriWest to make an appointment for a sleep test, but he then received a letter from TriWest with different dates. He had to call the doctor to confirm when he was supposed to show up. When he got there, the doctor had received no information about what the appointment was for, Camacho said.

John Moen, a Vietnam veteran in Plano, Texas, tried to use the Choice Program for physical therapy in 2018 rather than travel to Dallas, where the VA had a six-week wait. But it took 10 weeks for him to get an appointment with a private provider.

“The Choice Program for me has completely failed to meet my needs,” Moen said.

Curtis Thompson, of Kirkland, Washington, said he’s been told the Choice Program had a 30-day wait just to process referrals, never mind to book an appointment. “Bottom line: Wait for the nearly 60 days to see the rheumatologist at the VA rather than opt for an unknown delay through Veterans Choice,” he said.

This veteran-owned company is shifting production to save lives

(Flickr photo by Rob Bixby)

After Thompson used the Choice Program in 2018 for a sinus surgery that the VA couldn’t perform within 30 days, the private provider came after him to collect payment, according to documentation he provided.

Thousands of veterans have had to contend with bill collectors and credit bureaus because the contractors failed to pay providers on time, according to the inspector general. Doctors have been frustrated with the Choice Program, too. The inspector general found that 15 providers in North Carolina stopped accepting patients from the VA because Health Net wasn’t paying them on time.

The VA shares the blame, since it fell behind in paying the contractors, the inspector general said. TriWest claimed the VA at one point owed the company 0 million. According to the inspector general, the VA’s pile of unpaid claims peaked at almost 180,000 in 2016 and was virtually eliminated by the end of the year.

The VA tried to tackle the backlog of unpaid doctors, but it had a problem: The agency didn’t know who was performing the services arranged by the contractors. That’s because Health Net and TriWest controlled the provider networks, and the medical claims they submit to the VA do not include any provider information.

The contractors’ role as middlemen created the opportunity for payment errors, according to the inspector general’s audit. The inspector general found 77,700 cases where the contractors billed the VA for more than they paid providers and pocketed the difference, totaling about million. The inspector general also identified .9 million in duplicate payments and .5 million in other errors.

TriWest said it has worked with the VA to correct the payment errors and set aside money to pay back. The company said it’s waiting for the VA to provide a way to refund the confirmed overpayments. “We remain ready to complete the necessary reconciliations as soon as that process is formally approved,” TriWest said.

The grand jury proceedings involving TriWest are secret, but the investigation became public because prosecutors sought to obtain the identities of anonymous commenters on the jobs website Glassdoor.com who accused TriWest of “mak[ing] money unethically off of veterans/VA.” Glassdoor fought the subpoena but lost, in November 2017. The court’s opinion doesn’t name TriWest, but it describes the subject of the investigation as “a government contractor that administers veterans’ healthcare programs” and quotes the Glassdoor reviews about TriWest. The federal prosecutor’s office in Arizona declined to comment.

“TriWest has cooperated with many government inquiries regarding VA’s community care programs and will continue to do so,” the company said in its statement. “TriWest must respect the government’s right to keep those inquiries confidential until such time as the government decides to conclude the inquiry or take any actions or adjust VA programs as deemed appropriate.”

The VA tried to make the Choice Program run more smoothly and efficiently. Because the contractors were failing to find participating doctors to treat veterans, the VA in mid-2015 launched a full-court press to sign up private providers directly, according to the inspector general. In some states, the VA also took over scheduling from the contractors.

“We were making adjustments on the fly trying to get it to work,” said David Shulkin, who led the VA’s health division starting in 2015. “There needed to be a more holistic solution.”

Officials decided in 2016 to design new contracts that would change the fee structure and reabsorb some of the services that the VA had outsourced to Health Net and TriWest. The department secretary at the time, Bob McDonald, concluded the VA needed to handle its own customer service, since the agency’s reputation was suffering from TriWest’s and Health Net’s mistakes. Reclaiming those functions would have the side effect of reducing overhead.

“Tell me a great customer service company in the world that outsources its customer service,” McDonald, who previously ran Procter Gamble, said in an interview. “I wanted to have the administrative functions within our medical centers so we took control of the care of the veterans. That would have brought that fee down or eliminated it entirely.”

The new contracts, called the Community Care Network, also aimed to reduce overhead by paying the contractors based on the number of veterans they served per month, rather than a flat fee for every referral. To prevent payment errors like the ones the inspector general found, the new contracts sought to increase information-sharing between the VA and the contractors. The VA opened bidding for the new Community Care Network contracts in December 2016.

This veteran-owned company is shifting production to save lives

David Shulkin.

But until those new contracts were in place, the VA was still stuck paying Health Net and TriWest at least 5 for every referral. So VA officials came up with a workaround: they could cut out the middleman and refer veterans to private providers directly. Claims going through the contractors declined by 47 percent from May to December in 2017.

TriWest’s CEO, McIntyre, objected to this workaround and blamed the VA for hurting his bottom line.

In a Feb. 26, 2018, email with the subject line “Heads Up… Likely Massive and Regrettable Train Wreck Coming!” McIntyre warned Shulkin, then the department secretary, that “long unresolved matters with VA and current behavior patterns will result in a projected million loss in 2019. This is on top of the losses that we have amassed over the last couple years.”

Officials were puzzled that, despite all the VA was paying TriWest, McIntyre was claiming he couldn’t make ends meet, according to agency emails provided to ProPublica and PolitiFact. McIntyre explained that he wanted the VA to waive penalties for claims that lacked adequate documentation and to pay TriWest an administrative fee on canceled referrals and no-show appointments, even though the VA read the contract to require a fee only on completed claims. In a March 2018 letter to key lawmakers, McIntyre said the VA’s practice of bypassing the contractors and referring patients directly to providers “has resulted in a significant drop in the volume of work and is causing the company irreparable financial harm.”

McIntyre claimed the VA owed TriWest million and warned of a “negative impact on VA and veterans that will follow” if the agency didn’t pay. Any disruptions at TriWest, he said, would rebound onto the VA, “given how much we are relied on by VA at the moment and the very public nature of this work.”

But when the VA asked to see TriWest’s financial records to substantiate McIntyre’s claims, the numbers didn’t add up, according to agency emails.

McIntyre’s distress escalated in March 2018, as the Choice Program was running out of money and lawmakers were locked in tense negotiations over its future. McIntyre began sending daily emails to the VA officials in charge of the Choice Program seeking updates and warning of impending disaster. “I don’t think the storm could get more difficult or challenging,” he wrote in one of the messages. “However, I know that I am not alone nor that the impact will be confined to us.”

McIntyre lobbied for a bill to permanently replace Choice with a new program consolidating all of the VA’s methods of buying private care. TriWest even offered to pay veterans organizations to run ads supporting the legislation, according to emails discussing the proposal. Congress overwhelmingly passed the law (named after McCain) in May 2018.

“In the campaign, I also promised that we would fight for Veterans Choice,” Trump said at the signing ceremony in June 2018. “And before I knew that much about it, it just seemed to be common sense. It seemed like if they’re waiting on line for nine days and they can’t see a doctor, why aren’t they going outside to see a doctor and take care of themselves, and we pay the bill? It’s less expensive for us, it works out much better, and it’s immediate care.”

The new permanent program for buying private care will take effect in June 2019. The VA’s new and improved Community Care Network contracts were supposed to be in place by then. But the agency repeatedly missed deadlines for these new contracts and has yet to award them.

The VA has said it’s aiming to pick the contractors for the new program in January and February 2019. Yet even if the VA meets this latest deadline, the contracts include a one-year ramp-up period, so they won’t be ready to start in June 2019.

That means TriWest will by default become the sole contractor for the new program. The VA declined to renew Health Net’s contract when it expired in September 2018. The VA was planning to deal directly with private providers in the regions that Health Net had covered. But the VA changed course and announced that TriWest would take over Health Net’s half of the country. The agency said TriWest would be the sole contractor for the entire Choice Program until it awards the Community Care Network contracts.

“There’s still not a clear timeline moving forward,” said Giddens, the former VA contracting executive. “They need to move forward with the next program. The longer they stay with the current one, and now that it’s down to TriWest, that’s not the best model.”

Meanwhile, TriWest will continue receiving a fee for every referral. And the number of referrals is poised to grow as the administration plans to shift more veterans to the private sector.

This story was produced in collaboration with PolitiFact.

This article originally appeared on ProPublica. Follow @ProPublica on Twitter.

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