Tag Archives: VA

Snafus Delay College Payments For Vets

The good news is there is a new G.I. Bill of Rights for veterans attending college, the bad news is there is a new G.I. Bill of Rights for veterans attending college that can not get the money delivered on time. Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, (IAVA) wryly comments, “after spending years fighting for a new GI Bill, IAVA is frustrated to hear that veterans are being forced to wait for GI Bill check that are being cut late.” The VA blames the fact the bill did not become law until August and the two step process of validating the veteran status of the individual and then dealing with college tuition payments is taking more time than expected.

Oh well, a nation makes certain soldiers get to the battlefield on time, it’s only when they leave the service that delays and bureaucracy get in the way of delivering the money. As WWII soldiers used to say, “Kilroy was here, ” only Kilroy did not bring the money.

Obama Pledges Help To ALL VETERANS

During his political campaign for the presidency Barack Obama pledged to create a Veterans Affairs department that addressed the need of all those who served their country regardless of how much they earned in their retirement. Currently, veterans who earn above a stated amount of yearly income are not eligible to receive VA medical services including access to low cost drugs. Those who earn “too much” were locked out of the VA during the Bush administration which was interested in cutting costs. It is not surprising that Bush and his fellow cowards, Cheney and other prominent Republicans who were draft dodgers during the Vietnam War prevented those who served from being part of the VA health system.

President Obama is endeavoring to restore access to VA health to all who served regardless of income. “I don’t think there’s a perfect formula. But I think we have obligations to both sets of veterans. Given the resources we have, we want to try to meet as many of those obligations as we can.” Fair words from a fair president.

All who served their nation were promised access to VA health care. George Bush II, the COWARD, cut millions of veterans from access to health care and low cost drugs. I find it fascinating listening to right wing Republicans like Rush the Mouth who never served his country proclaiming how Republicans care more about their nation than do Democrats.

Mental Health Issues Rise Among Veterans

Many Americans believe their nation is now free of the Bush years because there is a new president in power. However, the Bush legacy lingers on within the judiciary and certainly within the Veterans Administration. A recent study reveals that 106,726 veterans of the Iraq war have sought assistance from the VA health care system for mental health issues. This figure is much lower than the Armed forces which claim only about 62,979 soldiers have required aid in the area of mental health. The difference in numbers can readily be explained by noting once members of the military leave the service they no longer fear shame and humiliation because they claim to have mental health issues. Karen Seal, who wrote the report, points out “veterans seeking VA care may have less stigma and career-related concerns than do active-duty military personnel about disclosing mental health problems.”

The legacy of Bush will linger decades as PSTD issues emerge during the lives of veterans. George will be chopping wood in Texas while those who served their country struggle to get it through the night in one piece. Drug use, alcohol, smoking and a host of other issues may last for years to come and never be calculated in the list of those who were wounded or died in combat.

Army Mental Woes Continue

Suicides among members of the military and veterans made a significant decline in the past two months, but researchers also discovered that 37% of soldiers who participated in the war in Afghanistan were seeking health care at Veteran Affairs clinics for illnesses that were being diagnosed as stemming from mental disorders. One may conclude that members of the active military are more reluctant to inform anyone they have mental issues, but once out of the service it appears more likely those individuals will talk about it at a VA hospital.

The interesting statistic coming out of the Pentagon is that suicides dropped rather dramatically over the past few months. No one knows why this is happening. Are Army programs for suicide prevention working? Are there other factors playing into the mix?

Gun Kooks Foster Nutty Regulations

In law, anyone “adjudicated as a mental defective” such as people found in danger to themselves or others or who lack the mental capacity to manage their affairs must be added to the federal database used to do instant background checks for gun purchases. A new bill, S 669, would prohibit the Veterans Administration for submitting names to the National Instant Criminal Background check database unless judicial authority finds the individuals to be a danger to themselves or others. The VA has been turning over the names of veterans who have had someone else appointed to handle their financial affairs. Some veteran groups fear a veteran might lose his right to have a gun due to being identified as having post traumatic stress.

The insanity of this bill illustrates why those who believe in guns can not be trusted with the lives of other humans. An individual with PTS is in danger to self. Certainly, until the individual has received treatment it is best to remain on the side of caution rather than encourage the person to have weapons in his possession. VA doctors are treating these cases and certainly the judgment of doctors, at least in the immediate moment, should be valued.

VA Leader Emphasizes He Serves Veterans Needs

One of the ignored issues of the George Bush administration was its failure to respect and honor the needs of those who served. During his initial years in office, Bush did little to enhance the ability of the Veterans Administration to expand counseling services to those who had been in combat. Newly appointed VA Secretary Eric Shinseki who was a former combat soldier and chief of the American armed forces, sent an open letter to all veterans in which he made clear, “the Department of Veterans Affairs has a solemn responsibility to all of you, today and in the future.” He promised to reorganize the department so it could more effectively serve needs of veterans. Joe Davis of the VFW said he was pleased the leader of the VA, “is communicating in simply language that his customers are his No. 1 priority and the reason his department exists.”

Too often the past few years veterans have been ignored even in death when President Bush would not allow pictures of those who died.

Time For A Change At The Veterans Administration

Among the great tragedies that occurred during the Bush administration was ignoring the needs of those who served their country. Initially, even as Bush plunged the nation into war, he cut VA staff and money allocated to a variety of issues such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. There was a nonchalant attitude in the VA regarding emerging issues facing those who were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan and ongoing sloppy administrative work toward ensuring veterans were paid. The level of income necessary for services fell to a low amount of yearly income which meant many veterans no longer were eligible for VA services.

Newly appointed Veterans Administration head, former General Eric Shinseki, promised to completely overhaul the entire organization and make it veteran friendly. He told Congress the wait time for disability payment results would be sharply reduced from the current six month delay. It is fortunate the VA now has as its head a man who served the nation rather than a politician who does the bidding of the president.

Female Veteran Care Raises Questions

Women have long served in the United States armed forces, but in recent times they now constitute a significant percentage of overall strength. Congress commissioned a review of what the Veterans Administration is doing concerning medical care provided female veterans and the results were mixed. Overall, it appears that at least in one-third of VA facilities women receive worse treatment than do men. There is need for more health care providers to have training in issues pertaining to women, particularly those who specialize in female diseases and treatment. Although women now constitute about 5% of veterans, that figure will significantly rise once military personnel return from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The times they are a’changing and this means more doctors who are trained to work with females and women diseases. This means better equipment and facilities that are specifically designed to accommodate women. In the coming years the percentage of women in the armed forces will rise and the VA has to begin restructuring its facilities and personnel to recognize the changes.

VA Email– Don’t Diagnose PTSD!

The continuing saga of the Bush administration leadership in the Veterans Administration revealed evidence there was an attempt to alter the diagnosis of veterans in order to save money. Veterans diagnosed with PTSD are eligible for health benefits, and, in some cases, disability retirement pay. According to Brandon Friedman, of the VoteVets.org, there is a tendency to say, “Ah, you’ve got something temporary, it’ll go away, so we don’t need to pay you for the rest of yur life.” He said several veterans have told him they were diagnosed with “adjustment disorder” rather than PTSD. Unfortunately, for the VA, there is now concrete evidence of a plan to hold off on diagnosing veterans with PTSD.

Friedman’s group has uncovered an email which came from a VA hospital’s PTSD program coordinator which was sent to several employees in the hospital. The email read: “Given that we are having more and more compensation-seeking veterans, I’d like tto suggest you refrain from giving a diagnosis of PTSD straight out. Consider a diagnosis of adjustment disorder…Additionally, we really don’t…have time to do the extensive testing that should be done to determine PTSD.”

VA head, James Peake acknowledged the email had been sent but insisted there was no VA program to give adjustment disorder diagnoses instead of PTSD. We hope the VA is committed to such a policy, but we also are concerned that a member of the VA could use an insulting expression such as, “compensation-seeking veterans.” These are men and women who risked their lives in the service of their nation.

What’s A “Shh” Among Friends Covering Up Suicides!

Dr. Ira Katz, the VA’s top mental health official told Congress he madea poor choice of words when he sent an email to his colleages about the issue of veteran suicides that began with “Shh.” The email in discussing veteran suicides, said: “is this something we should(carefully) address ourselves in some sort of release before someone stumbles on it?” Commmitte chairman, Rep. Bob Filner accused Kata of being more concerned about how data was interpreted than the health of vetrans. He also said Katz–as well as others involved–should be fired, and the VA was guilt of criminal negligence in handling data about the number of veterans who have committed suicide.

The head of the Veterans Administration, James Peake, said it was an unfortunate choice of words but he saw no reason to reprimand anyone. White House press secretary Dana Perno, said President Bush has “full confidence in Secretary Peake and believes that he is handling it appropriately.” Peake insisted there has not been any abnormal rise in the number of veteran suicides.

If the history of people in whom President Bush has confidence says anything, we can well accept that Secretary Peake will match the outstanding record of those who handled the Katrina episode.