Sunday, January 3, 2016

Blumenthal Wants "Full and immediate investigation" on VA Death?

Is this yet one more case of political grandstanding or what? A veteran entered an inpatient treatment program at the VA. According to reports, he got his hands on illegal drugs, left the grounds and later died. Blumenthal is all a fluster before anyone has investigated anything all hot under the collar to point his finger at the VA.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal is demanding a “full and immediate investigation”
"Veteran Zachary Greenough, who apparently suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), left the residential inpatient facility and later died of an apparent drug overdose, according to Sen. Blumenthal."
Unfortunately this type of thing has been going on for decades when veterans try to get help, sometimes reluctantly, and don't get what they need to heal. The VA programs work for a lot of veterans but not all of them. Seems Blumenthal is blaming the VA for the wrong reason and certainly not blaming members of Congress at all even though they have jurisdiction over what the VA does and does not do.
"“My staff has received information that Mr. Greenough obtained illegal drugs while living in a residential inpatient setting at the West Haven Campus,” said Sen. Blumethal in the letter. “The very egregious factual allegations concerning this tragic death, while as yet unconfirmed, raise serious questions about access to drugs and other broader issues that may implicate policies and procedures at the VA."
Wow, sounds like he's really serious.  That is until we remember it is far from new and has not improved even after all these years.

2014
IG: Vet overdosed while in VA rehab center
A veteran of the war in Afghanistan died of a heroin and cocaine overdose last year while receiving treatment at a Miami Veterans Affairs residential treatment facility, according to a VA inspector general report released Friday.

The veteran, who was in his 20s, had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychological conditions as well as traumatic brain injury. He had a history of drug abuse while in the Miami VA Medical Center substance abuse residential rehabilitation program and had previously lost leave privileges for continued use of alcohol and illicit drugs.

But according to the IG report, the medical facility staff failed to check him for contraband after he had been allowed to leave for an afternoon and also failed to monitor the facility closely, increasing the potential for visitors to bring in banned substances or for patients to leave to get them.

2013
Lopatcong Township veteran's family calls for better PTSD treatment after his death
The 26-year-old Army infantryman told his mother, Laura Arace, that he had seen people die. And while neither explosives nor the enemy claimed his life, an uphill battle with post-traumatic stress disorder and addiction did, his mother said.

He died at home Sunday of what his family suspects was a drug overdose. Arace was hospitalized for rehab and PTSD therapy more than 30 times, Laura Arace said.

“When they released him, he would say, ‘I can’t take it, because my head won’t shut up,'” she said. “The system is broken. Anybody that knew him knew he was on a mission to die,” she said, surrounded by loved ones in her Lopatcong Township home.

Arace was so determined to join the Army, he took a metal rod out of his arm himself so he could pass the entrance test, according to his mother. Ever since parents of some of his high school friends died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, he wanted to serve, she said.

But he struggled to readjust to civilian life.

Deaths at Atlanta VA Hospital Prompt Scrutiny
By CHRISTINA A. CASSIDY
Associated Press
ATLANTA May 25, 2013 (AP)

One patient with a history of substance abuse and suicidal thoughts was left alone in a waiting room inside the Atlanta VA Medical Center, where he obtained drugs from a hospital visitor and later died of an overdose.

Another patient wandered the 26-acre campus for hours, picking up his prescriptions from an outpatient pharmacy and injecting himself with testosterone before returning voluntarily to his room.

The cases at the Atlanta VA Medical Center are the latest in a string of problems at Veterans Affairs facilities nationwide, prompting outrage from elected officials and congressional scrutiny of what is the largest integrated health care system in the country with nearly 300,000 employees.
Pennsylvania veteran awarded $3.7 M in suit against VA
Judge Munley wasn't convinced. "The testimony at trial revealed that plaintiff was initially a good patient and actively seeking help from the VA. The VA did not provide the help and medical treatment needed by the plaintiff, and as a result, plaintiff began self-medicating with alcohol and illegal drugs," he said.

The judge awarded Mr. Laskowski $214,582 for past lost earnings; $2.1 million for future lost earnings; $500,000 for past noneconomic damages, including pain and suffering, embarrassment and humiliation and loss of the ability to enjoy the pleasures of life; and $700,000 for future noneconomic damages.

He awarded Mr. Laskowski's wife, Marisol Laskowski, $140,615 for loss of consortium.

2012
Prescription drug abuse, overdoses haunt veterans seeking relief from physical, mental pain
He talked about quitting. Later that summer, after Pilgrim broke his finger in a pickup football game at Fort Sill, Okla., an Army doctor prescribed OxyContin for the pain. Use of the powerful narcotic baffled his mother: “You gave him this stuff for a broken finger?”

Getting refills was easy, she added, and it wasn’t long before Pilgrim began abusing the painkiller. “He found out very quickly he could deal with his mental health symptoms with the drugs,” Judy said.

Pilgrim ended up going AWOL four times; eventually, he was discharged from the Army. Over the next two years, he shuttled in and out of various treatment centers.

In August 2007, a month into an inpatient treatment program for post-traumatic stress disorder in Waco, Pilgrim was kicked out for fighting. Despite his history of drug abuse, he was sent home with a prescription for hydrocodone, another opiate painkiller.

Two days later, on Aug. 18, six days before his 27th birthday, his body was discovered in a room at the Relax Inn, a single-story, stucco motel within sight of the high school stadium where he’d played football. The autopsy showed a lethal level of hydrocodone and methadone. His death was ruled accidental.
2011
Settlement Reached In Suit Against VA Over Iraq War Veteran’s Death
A settlement has been reached in a federal wrongful death lawsuit filed against a local VA hospital over the death of an Iraq war veteran who suffered from PTSD. Reporter: Paul J. Gately

WACO (November 17, 2011)-A federal judge in Waco has accepted an agreed settlement in a wrongful death lawsuit over the death of an Iraq war veteran, but the details of the settlement were not released.

The suit, filed by Randy and Judy Pilgrim, of Daingerfield, sought more than $75,000 in damages in the interest of their grandson from the U.S. government and the VA Medical Center in Waco in the August 2007 death of their son, Lance.

A copy of the lawsuit obtained by News 10 says Lance Pilgrim was to be treated at the V.A. Medical Center in Waco for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that his parents say was brought on by his U.S. Army service in Iraq.

Specifically the suit says Lance Pilgrim returned from combat with severe depression, was suicidal and addicted to several drugs.

You can follow VA investigations here. Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General

But it wasn't just happening at the VA.

2010
Family angered by Marine's overdose death at naval hospital
By Bill Sizemore
The Virginian-Pilot
© December 29, 2010
PORTSMOUTH

Lance Cpl. Ezequiel Freire got out of Afghanistan alive, but a stateside hospital stay proved fatal.

The 20-year-old Marine's death from a prescription drug overdose at Portsmouth Naval Medical Center has left his family reeling, outraged and frustrated by what they see as an absence of accountability for those charged with his care.

Freire died of a toxic cocktail of powerful narcotics and sedatives as he was awaiting chemotherapy treatment for cancer. The case underscores the dangers inherent in the many potent painkillers on the market today, which have helped drive an alarming rise in overdoses.

Overdose deaths from prescription drugs now exceed those from illegal drugs.
It was happening in the Army as well.

2008
Army 3 drug overdose deaths and 4 suicides in Warrior Transition Unit
The Army said officials had determined that among those troops there have been 11 deaths that were not due to natural causes between June and Feb. 5.

That included four suicides, three accidental overdoses of prescribed medications, three deaths still under investigation and one motor vehicle accident, the Army said.

“Army medical and safety professionals continue to remind soldiers and their families of the importance of prescription-drug safety precautions, including following the printed directions and information for each medicine,” the Army said of the overdoses in a statement Thursday.

Noting the death of actor Heath Ledger, Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Eric B. Schoomaker last week first disclosed the issue of drug overdoses in the 35 special transition units, which care for more than 9,500 soldiers.
There are even more but while we remember what has been going on while members of Congress get their names in the press for paying attention, it seems the press isn't interested in paying attention to the lack of results.