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Sept. 12, 2013

NewsChips: Veteran's Health Administration's actions are inefficient and immoral

by Sarah Trunk, Staff Writer
The Veterans Health Administration (VA), an organization that provides health care to American war veterans, has been the subject of much criticism recently. Not only is their inability to respond effectively to veterans applying for backlog disability claims pathetically slow and unresponsive, there is also evidence that they exposed VA hospital patients to diseases and then tried to cover it up. The House Committee on Veterans' Affairs held a hearing to investigate these happenings on Monday, but, regardless of their decision, the VA is not providing veterans with the help they need and even worse, trying to deny responsibility and cover up things that they should be fixing. They desperately need to improve both their functionality and basic moral standing in order to give war veterans the assistance and respect they deserve.

Earlier this summer, it was revealed that the majority of the VA's filing system for veterans' disability claims, is on paper, despite orders and at least $1.3 billion funding to modernize. The thick, unattended paper files waiting to be processed were so heavy that they actually cause the floor of the offices to sag under their weight, leaving many veterans without the attention they needed to recieve proper care, often for more than a year. The VA has admittedly made some efforts to address this, but, in doing so, they've blocked out those veterans who have submitted appeals to disability decisions they say are wrong. Appeals claims can take more than four years to be processed, according to the Washington Post and the Board of Veterans directors expect the number of appeals cases to double from nearly a quarter of a million to half a million over the next four years. The VA needs to make sure that it pays enough attention to all claims and stop ignoring the people that are entitled to their help.

A Legionnaires outbreak took place in this Pittsburgh hospital due to the negligence of the Veterans Health Administration. Courtesy of Fox News
A Legionnaires outbreak took place in this Pittsburgh hospital due to the negligence of the Veterans Health Administration.
In addition to ignoring the pleas of veterans in need, the VA has also been the center of a public health scandal. The Veterans Affairs Pittsburgh Healthcare System got into trouble a couple of months ago for exposing patients to Legionella, a bacteria that spreads Legionnaire's disease. Legionella is spread through water and causes a very severe form of pneumonia, which can prove fatal without the right treatment. Twenty-one confirmed cases, five, possibly six, deaths and almost three years went by before anyone did anything about it. Eventually, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) launched an investigation, and work was done to try to stop the outbreak. However, the fact that any of this even took place shows both a lack of appropriate medical action and a lack of morals.

To make matters worse, the VA's medical director in Pittsburgh, Michael Moreland, "received a performance award from President Obama and $62,895 bonus despite the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak – and despite a criminal investigation into whether hospital officials tried to cover it up" according to a Buffalo News Article by Jerry Zremski. Not only did the Pittsburgh VA expose these patients to Legionella, not only did they not admit to it, not only is there a possibility that they covered it up, but they were rewarded despite this scandal, and that is completely unacceptable.

This isn't the first time an event like this has happened – there are horror stories of VA mishaps across the country One patient, who was psychologically troubled, received insufficient attention and treatment from the VA in Atlanta and committed suicide. His sister claimed that the VA did nothing done to prevent it. In one case in Buffalo, the VA Medical Center inappropriately reused needles and mishandled hospital records, and the VA received a $26,000 bonus. The corruption and negligence exhibited here is extremely troubling. War veterans have risked their lives for this country and deserve our respect, not to be ignored and mistreated.

The House Committee of Veterans' Affairs held a hearing to investigate these happenings on Monday, so hopefully, key VA decision makers will be investigated and appropriately reprimanded to prevent further incidents like these and protect veterans from further injustices.

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  • JimS (View Email) on September 14, 2013 at 8:58 AM
    When writing about the VA care system, or any of the many issues the VA is charged to do as the countries responsibility, don't stop at attacking the VA as the republicans do, while obstructing full funding for decades, compare to the private sector in same that they don't do as they seek to privatize for corporate profits, like our wars they rubber stamp costs of, the peoples responsibility!!!! America's Free War's and No Sacrifice, of the present generations and passing costs onto the next while ignoring or giving lip service on the issues of the veterans' from, for Those Who've Served In, DeJa-Vu!! How does a Country HONOR It's Fallen, by Their Own 'Sacrifice' in Taking Care of the Brothers and Sisters They Served With!! The Whole Country Served, Not Just The Many Caring Groups, with handfuls of members and volunteers, who have to fight for funding when successful and not getting grants, Within!! "If military action is worth our troops' blood, it should be worth our treasure, too" "not just in the abstract, but in the form of a specific ante by every American." -Andrew Rosenthal 10 Feb. 2013 "12 years also is a long time. We now have a lifetime responsibility to a generation of service members, veterans and their families." Dr. Jonathan Woodson 11 Sep. 2013: With 9/11 Came Lifetime Responsibility RM: "We got a huge round of tax cuts in this country a few weeks before 9/11. Once 9/11 happened and we invaded Afghanistan, we kept the tax cuts anyway. How did we think we were going to pay for that war? Did we think it was free? Then, when we started a second simultaneous war in another country, we gave ourselves a second huge round of tax cuts. After that second war started. The wars, I guess, we thought would be free, don`t worry about it, civilians. Go about your business." 23 May 2013 "Why in 2009 were we still using paper?" VA Assistant Secretary Tommy Sowers "When we came in, there was no plan to change that; we've been operating on a six month wait for over a decade." 27 March 2013 WHY? GOOD QUESTION THOSE SERVED SHOULD ANSWER! "You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today." - Abraham Lincoln Something never mentioned by those that did and those that fully supported the doing, The rubber stamping rapidly rising deficits started Before 9/11 and these wars and continued with right up to the collapsed economy!! Deficits, especially huge, means the costs of wars and long term results from are passed on to later generations, present is all borrowed, DeJa-Vu all over again!! USN All Shore '67-'71 GMG3 Vietnam In Country '70-'71
  • JL (View Email) on September 30, 2013 at 11:25 PM
    Sarah, perhaps it's best to recognize that the VA is not a single, monolithic entity. Though the issues you raise are serious, to be sure, as the child of a long time VA employee, I can tell you that they are not ignored. For years, I have listened to my father discuss his personal involvement in ameliorating the major problems addressed in this article. As a matter of principle, surely it would be fairer to countenance the VA for what it is: a flawed and highly bureaucratic government organization, yes, but one comprised, at least in some portion, of laboring, ethical individuals.

    Good job on raising awareness of some important issues though.
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