Saturday, August 5, 2017

"The VA has betrayed our veterans" But members of Congress did it first

OMG! I need to stay out of social media. Yet again I was reading about someone ignoring the fact that all the problems the OEF and OIF veterans have with their claims and treatment from the VA is new. 

"The VA has betrayed our veterans." Paul Sullivan Veterans For Common Sense said after his group filed a lawsuit because veteran were waiting too long for medical care and compensation. Here is a little history lesson, because if we ignore it, nothing will change. 

Injured Iraq War Vets Sue VA

Frustrated by delays in health care, injured Iraq war veterans accused VA Secretary Jim Nicholson in a lawsuit of breaking the law by denying them disability pay and mental health treatment. 
The class-action lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, filed Monday in federal court in San Francisco, seeks broad changes in the agency as it struggles to meet growing demands from veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Suing on behalf of hundreds of thousands of veterans, it charges that the VA has failed warriors on numerous fronts. It contends the VA failed to provide prompt disability benefits, failed to add staff to reduce wait times for medical care and failed to boost services for post-traumatic stress disorder. 
The lawsuit also accuses the VA of deliberately cheating some veterans by allegedly working with the Pentagon to misclassify PTSD claims as pre-existing personality disorders to avoid paying benefits. The VA and Pentagon have generally denied such charges.
"When one of our combat veterans walks into a VA hospital, then they must see a doctor that day," said Paul Sullivan, executive director of Veterans for Common Sense, which filed the lawsuit. "When a war veteran needs disability benefits because he or she can't work, then they must get a disability check in a few weeks."
You may think that just happened. You need to think again because if you just started to pay attention to all of this, you're wrong. That report came out July 23, 2007. There was a budget crisis.
Yet, the lawsuit says, Nicholson and other officials still insisted on a budget in 2005 that fell $1 billion short, and they made "a mockery of the rule of law" by awarding senior officials $3.8 million in bonuses despite their role in the budget foul-up.
And while our veterans and families were suffering after decades of promises from members of Congress, they never once apologized for any of it.

"The performance of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs has contributed substantially to our sense of national shame," the opinion from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals read.Nicholson abruptly announced last week he would step down by Oct. 1 to return to the private sector. 
He has repeatedly defended the agency during his 2½-year tenure while acknowledging there was room for improvement.More recently, following high-profile suicide incidents in which families of veterans say the VA did not provide adequate care, Nicholson pledged to add mental health services and hire more suicide-prevention coordinators.

A year later the VA Budget was $3 Billion short! Paul Sullivan continued the fight and was demanding some accountability when more veterans were committing suicide while waiting in a backlog of 600,000. Veterans were telling employees they were suicidal and were put on a waiting list.  

Now that may seem as if that was new but it happened to Vietnam veterans in the 80's and 90's. Not that it mattered since Congress did nothing about it. After all, when it reached the point where President Bush had to fight against veterans in court, no one put the blame on Congress.
During an interview given in November for the original CBS story, Dr. Katz told reporter Armen Keteyian that "There is no epidemic in suicide in the VA, but suicide is a major problem." When pressed for an answer to explain the VA's inability to come up with any suicide statistics among veterans, Katz replied "That research is ongoing." 
However, "After a public records request, the VA provided CBS News with data that showed there were a total of 790 attempted suicides by VA patients in the entire year of 2007." This number does not match up at all with a private email sent by Dr. Katz to a colleague in which he states that the VA has identified "about 1000 suicide attempts a month in patients we see at are medical facilities," a far cry from his public estimate of 790 a year.
PS, that really hasn't changed either. As you can see, not much has changed.