Jamie Reno, the biggest little journalist from down south, continues to excavate some good chowder for consumption. His latest here, found in the International Business Times, is a scathing indictment of the VA’s propensity to shoot the whistleblowers-or- if more convenient- ignore them altogether.
The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) the medical arm of the DVA, as we all know, has a propensity to investigate something to death or not at all. A classic example was the growing epidemic of HCV from its discovery in the early 90s to their eventual abdication of leadership in researching the pneumatic air inoculation devices which were strongly suspected of being the culprit. Rather than provoke more claims for compensation by investigating the cause of HCV, VA opted initially for a wait and see approach. By the late 90s, even the DoD and the CDC were convinced of the jetgun’s culpability and recalled them from use. Not so the VA. To them, it was merely “plausible” and unproven. This charade continues today in the face of a mounting body of evidence that indisputably puts a fork in their plausibility balloon.
Turning to Chapter two, this same agency has taken the ostrich stance of saying PTSD is a “problem” that bears more examination. We’ve been treated to the assembly line mantra at Madigan Army Hospital where one of the nurses that bought a house from us had a few choice words. Politely paraphrased, it was called PTSD knitting- Deny. Deny. Deny. Grant. Deny. Deny. Deny. Grant. And so on. Worse, the Army honchos under Col. Dallas Homas, were instructed to crank these out at the rate of 8 a day. Our nurse friend tells us this is impossible. Three bent brains a day is almost rushing it if you seriously want to separate the rare few malingerers from the indisputably disturbed ones.
The VA, now mired hopelessly in their backlog, has had to resort to lies and stretching the truth where medical appointments were made, ignored and lastly erased from the books. Each succeeding insult to Veterans is compounded with interest. VA’s reputation for the truth is no longer salvageable with the silver polish of time or the silver-tongued Under Secretary of Benefits and Excuses Allison Hickey.
We have also known for years that VA litigators on the other side of the sheets, the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), have used semantics to obfuscate and deny claims since 1789. When cornered, they have managed to dance away unscathed or promise never to engage in such nefarious behavior ever again. A week or two later , it’s back to business as usual. We have to credit now-disgraced Bob Filner, formerly of San Diego fondling fame, with exposing the perfidy of VA’s system during his Congressional tenure. Having been offered Hooked on Phonics© as a repair order for being “verbally challenged” at telling the unvarnished truth, VA has insisted they are now trustworthy and the expense is unwarranted. And now we have the new PTSD redux.
When does saying you may have suicidal tendencies actually mean you might be inclined to take take your own life? Or more bluntly, when does a cry, nay, a scream for help warrant further investigation to see if you actually followed through on your thoughts? Considering the large number of Veterans who proceed to Door #2 and and choose the lead lollipop, you would expect VA to perk up and follow this phenomenon with avid interest. Apparently, this is not cause for alarm any more than incredibly large numbers of Veterans dying from HCV and Agent Orange diseases.
The crime is not in failing to document it. VA trespasses on the bounds of propriety and the good will accorded them by Congress when they blatantly try to either cover it up or neglect to mention they didn’t follow up on it. This is the ploy most often used. The “Oh, did we forget to mention that? Sorry. Yes. You are completely correct. 22 Vets are checking out of the Human Life Hotel every day. It distresses us mightily but we are inundated in statistics and this kind of slipped by us.” The excuse fails to hold water when a whistleblower steps forth and reveals he briefed everyone on the subject and they blew him off. The good old days of mowing him down in a crosswalk before he could spill the beans are over. Edward Snowden is living proof of that.
Mr. Reno does a credible job attempting to raise the American conscience on this. I do too but my forum (and audience) is not nearly as large as his. It’s clear to me the majority of Veterans’ Benefits misfortunes evaporate before ever rising to the level of American awareness. This is in great part due to a concerted effort to pay little more than lip service to the problem and moving on eagerly to find out what Miley Cyrus was wearing (or wasn’t wearing) at her concert last night.
In construction, we had measuring devices to determine error. The most obvious was the human eye or ear. VA at one point chose what we jokingly referred to as the six foot rule. Some unscrupulous builders would keep a six-foot long dowel or stick in the front hall closet and bring it out for buyers at the new home inspection. Their metric was simple. Put the stick on your chin and the other end on the defect. It it was visible at that distance, it warranted repair. We used to say that some really unscrupulous, disreputable builders used the 5,000 foot ruler. If you could fly over at 5,000 feet and the defect was undetectable, then it passed muster. VA doesn’t even bother to fly over anymore now.
One thing stands out like a lighthouse in the fog. VA continues to insist these things are a fluke. Each time they are caught in a lie or a directed misinformation campaign, it is explained carefully as not purposeful but merely an oversight which, thanks be to God, Congress or some whistleblower has now brought to their attention. After twenty years of this, I am inured to it. All I can add is that fortunately for us, Congressional terms are only two years in length so the Jeff Millers of the world are relatively naive and genuinely concerned at revelations of this nature when they surface. Here’s a typical VA whitewash:
VA did say this week that Coughlin’s charges have led to changes in protocol for dealing with suicidal tendencies among veterans in its studies. Puglisi said that among other things, [VA’s] Office of Public Health leaders participated in “targeted human resources training in dispute resolution, reasonable accommodations, dealing with employee medical information, and supervisory practices and standards.”
Well jez louise. Thank God for that. It surely won’t happen again. Right? Only at the VA can you denigrate the whistleblower in one sentence and praise his acumen and farthinking in the next. As usual, VA is inclined to call in the HR krewe. We live in exciting times, ladies and gentlemen Vets. The internet is like million-candlepower landing lights on a 747. We can expect the VAOIG Whitewash Brigade to show up any month now, investigate this conundrum and eventually make cogent repair order advisories.