VA Failures Exposed In Living Color: Taking Care of Vets... Not!

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Several weeks ago, Dr. Robert Van Boven, a neurologist-scientist who serves as director of a VA TBI program in Texas, provided an Op-Ed piece for The Washington Times. The basis of his article, the American people presume the VA is taking care of their children. They are not; nor am I the least bit surprised

Benefits Not Given

On Friday, December 19th, millions of Americans were exposed on the "Dr. Phil" show to the antithesis of service many of our wounded warriors have received upon their return to civilian life. The honorable Rep. Bob Filner, chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, decried that "the American people assume we (the VA) are taking care of our kids ... we are not." He pointed out that the nearly one million new veterans from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are dealing with a backlog of nearly 800,000 benefit claims. Moreover, Mr. Filner cited unethical conduct at the VA including shredding and deceitful post-dating of many hundreds of benefit claims at several sites. He further pointed out notorious VA communications to conceal suicide rates and encourage alternative diagnoses to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), thereby threatening health care benefits for many thousands of returning soldiers suffering from PTSD.

Although the VA has a budget of nearly $100 billion, the "system is designed not to help them (veterans) but to support the bureaucracy," according to Col. David Hunt of FOX News. For example, at Central Texas Veterans Health Care System, suppression and inaction to disclosures of fraud, waste, plagiarism, and cronyism fell upon deaf ears. Consequently, attempts to bring to light misdoings by management at the only dedicated TBI brain imaging and treatment research program in Texas resulted not in remedies, but reprisals and covert plans for considering closure of the program without explanation. The VA modus operandi prevailed, characterized by Mr. Filner, as "Deny, deny, deny, then cover-up, cover-up, then down play it, then hopefully years later people will forget about it." Fortunately a unified protest to the possible shutdown of the TBI Program last week from Sen. John Cornyn and Reps. John Carter, Lloyd Doggett, Michael McCaul, and Lamar Smith may thwart the tactic of "throwing the baby out" (closing the TBI program) and keeping the dirty bath water (managers responsible for misconduct and mismanagement).

The Rand Corp. estimates that nearly 300,000 returning soldiers suffer from PTSD or depression and up to 320,000 have sustained TBI. The Institute of Medicine has also recently underscored long-term consequences of TBI including dementia, depression, impaired family relations, and unemployment. According to National Alliance to End Homelessness, nearly one out of four homeless (1-out-of-3 men) in America are veterans though they only represent about 11 percent of the general population.

Speak out for increased accountability, transparency, and integrity in our VA system, in service to those who risked their lives so that we can enjoy our holidays and freedom. Our heroes deserve no less.

--- Regards, Walt Schmidt