Omertà. The noun evokes images of Sicilian Mafia henchmen killing their own in an effort to protect themselves against informers. For centuries it was employed to keep the rabble in line. A sure promise of death if you talked to authorities worked until the early sixties when the Americanized version started to break down under a different paradigm. Since then the “code of silence” has been in tatters. Just ask John Gotti.
Omertà. The Government noun is slightly different. When I was in the service, I had a Top Secret/Crypto clearance. If you were of the mind to go over to the other side, there was certainly a guarantee that you would have sunshine pumped down to your cell in the basement after conviction. During my employment with Air America, there were certain times when the CAS stated that something didn’t happen that had. This was revisionist history that had to be relearned-immediately. An example would be the bombing of the Hospital cum “Chinese Agricultural Mission” in 1970 at Ban Sam Neua, Laos. Everyone knew it was a crossshipment point for munitions on Route 7. The red “cross” on it was to protect it against attack. The US Ambassador blamed it on Vang Pao’s Hmong pilots, but I doubt there was one within 250 klics of the joint that day and none of them were qualified in F-4s.
Which brings us to VA and Military Omertà. In the newspaper this morning we are finally treated to the soul who had the audacity to spill the beans on the military practice of lowballing, or worse, noballing Vets returning from SWA with PTSD. Yes, the well-known truth, long a fig newton, is out of the bag like the proverbial cat. It turns out that military psychiatrists were given “the briefing” on how to hold the line on handing out ratings for bent brain syndrome (BBS). Newsflash. This isn’t the first time. It’s just the first time the Mainstream Media have been apprised of it.
A Madigan Army Medical Center shrink gave a lecture on this and explained that a 25 year old medical retiree with a dx of 100% brainfukitol would stand to gain approximately $1.5 million over a 46 year period. The psychiatrist noted that at the current rate of such diagnoses, the Army and the Department of Veteran Affairs would eventually go broke. After the comments about the financial costs, the meeting room was “exceptionally quiet”, a participant remarked. “Not sure if it was because people didn’t know how much a diagnosis of PTSD equated to or why we are talking about dollars in relation to our soldiers”.
“He (the psychiatrist) stated that we have to be good stewards of the taxpayers’ dollars, and that we have to ensure that we are not just ‘rubber-stamping’ a soldier with the diagnosis of PTSD.” the Western Regional Medical Command (WRMC) ombudsman divulged. Or should I say the soon-to-be former ombudsman?
The Army, true to its roots, is now valiantly attempting to have the offending soldiers (read psychiatrist) fall on their swords and thus commit Omertà. It’s too late. Senator Tennis Shoes caught wind of this and she will have none of it. Dr. William Keppler and another doctor who were (note the past tense of the verb to be) the big cheese dudes of the Forensic Psychiatric Team have mysteriously been suspended from their duties. Chances are Keppler will surface again at Fort Fumble in a nowhere job with an alphabetic moniker. Of the dozen or so soldiers who lost their ratings? Why, they are being culled from the herd to avoid contamination and being sent to Walter Reed Hospital in Bethesda, Md. for “reevaluation” of their purported BBS.
Isn’t it wonderful how history repeats itself? Why, 1972 seems like just yesterday that I came home to face the music. “BBS? Why no, Sgt. Nod. You do not suffer from this malady. You just have personality disorders which, unfortunately for you, are non-compensable. Of course, it is equally fortuitous to us because we don’t have to pay you a dime-ever.’ Now what makes the Government think they could enforce this Omertà thing in the wake of Wikkileaks? What have they been smoking? I want some of this pipe dream tobacco.
My daddy synthesized the Rule of Secrets down to one sentence. If more than one person knows about it, it isn’t a secret. It’s simply a fact that isn’t widely disseminated- yet. What will happen is almost preordained. Several heads will roll. This will never, ever be discussed in public again. The ombudsman for the WRMC will suddenly get his new orders for a command leadership position in a MASH unit in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Shortly after assuming his duties, he will have a military “misadventure” when his Stryker is tagged by friendly fire. PTSD, as a disease, will go into a remarkable decline now that the VA has its own krewe of shrinks doing the exams. VA funding will remain viable due to the foresight of a few enlightened individuals. They, in turn, will be awarded bonuses for the huge savings realized by prudent ratings practices.
Our Guardian of the Gate, Sen. Murray bemoaned ” This is the opposite of everything that we are working for. It is very disheartening to see this in writing”. Loosely translated, that comes out as “I can’t believe those chuckleheads let the ombudsman into the briefing. They knew he wasn’t cleared for this and its obvious where his sentiments lie. I want this cleaned up by the end of the week and nipped in the bud. Is that clear? If soldiers get the idea we’re gonna screw them, we’re going to have to start the draft again!”
I love America. I don’t mean that sarcastically. I do love our country. I got a silver arrow point when I was a Cub Scout for memorizing the 4th stanza of the National Anthem. I still get a lump in my throat when I sing it in the shower. What I do not cotton to is the proclivity of politicians to wage wars as a political statement on the back of the military. Taking funding legitimately appropriated for the care of those injured to employ in all manner of social programs is wrong. Where I put my foot down is when these same politicians, in fear for their political futures, start acting like they are God’s gift to Veterans. Words have consequences. Promises are supposed to be binding, not subject to reinterpretation when politically expedient. The phrase “For He who shall have borne the battle” can never become inoperable.
Our first President summed it up when he said that the willingness of citizens to become soldiers and die for their convictions (and ours) will ultimately hinge on how the country treats the ones who go before them. Based on this, I feel we are on thin ice. America has a habit of praising its military and little else. “No deposit, No Return” should be the current VA motto. It curdles my blood to think a Vet may get $2769.00/mo. for life after signing his life away. What’s worse is that certain of our Government feel this is far too generous. That they have done it to us after every major war is water over the falls now for the most part. The thought that this can continue in a “business as usual” mode shows how our Government and elected politicians think-taxpayers’ funds should not be wasted on Veterans.
Before anyone rushes to judgement, I would ask them to figure out how to live on that paltry sum every month. Rubbing salt into the wound, contemplate how much these citizens-turned-soldiers will not earn in their lifetimes due to their injuries; how many marriages will founder on the rocks and how many opportunities will be dashed. $1.5 million over a suddenly truncated lifetime seems grossly unfair. That assumes these brave souls don’t commit suicide when faced with this bleak prospect. Add ten years and a wealth of VA intransigence to the rating process and then wonder anew if the remuneration is still commensurate with the sacrifice.
America is a swell place. If we ever get back to our roots, we’ll be in fine shape. Since I am no longer a politically inclined person, I won’t comment on how to fix it. I have my ideas but I keep them to myself along with the BBS I fortunately do not suffer from.