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Veterans Administration or Victims Administration

Under new laws pending in Congress, VA will be able to revoke combat related compensation to all vets retroactively. The VA is also denying treatment to PTSD victims by not acknowledging symptoms. Several vets testify, and new laws are explained.
Veterans Administration or Victims Administration?
Doris Colmes, MSW


Chuck sits in our restaurant booth, looking down at his untouched plate, elbow on table, hand shielding his eyes.

Last night, Chuck and a buddy went to an After Hours Club. He had a few drinks and then began yelling at the Disk Jockey:

"I wanna hear music about people blowing people's brains out, cutting people's throats," he screamed.
People around them began to stare, and his buddy whispered pointedly, "Shut up, Chuck." But this made him angrier. Louder.
"No! I wanna hear about shit I've seen."
Threw his glass on the floor and stalked out, shoulders shaking.

"Well, I don't remember that," he mutters, "But, yeah, I was involved in eleven firefights, seven of them "major." And it didn't stop. And then, pretty soon, we were doing roadblocks, and wound up killing a lot of people. A couple of times it was women and children, and I don't know why."

This is the first time I've heard him say stuff about blowing people's brains out. Most of the time, he just sits still and stares.

Are you reading yet another sad story about some substance-abusing, guilt-absorbed Viet Nam Veteran who can't seem to get over it, can't seem to get a life? Nope, you are not. You are reading about Chuck, who just came back from Iraq, who obviously has a rough case of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and who has not yet been able to get assistance or counseling from the VA.

And, he is so not alone in this dilemma. On July 28, 2004, James Sardo, a clinical psychologist at the Portland, Oregon, Veteran's Administration stated that personnel returning from Iraq are already exhibiting symptoms of PTSD by the hundreds.

As for Chuck? His story is not unique. Vets from as far back as the Korean war have struggled for years simply to get basic treatment and coverage, and -- as happened with Chuck -- were apparently deliberately misdiagnosed.

Chuck, you see, when he went to the VA with his obvious PTSD symptoms --including, but not limited to, sleep disorders including insomnia and nightmares, depression, emotionally distancing himself from his loved ones, and constantly experiencing "fight-or-flight" rushes from his stressed-out, highly-tuned adrenal glands -- was, in fact, seen by a doctor. And was told that he undoubtedly had pre-enlistment anxiety disorder, stemming from a traumatic childhood. But, except for an occasional zit, having to nag his folks about getting a driver's license, and one forlorn adolescent crush, there had been no trauma.

How can that be? On one hand, the VA states that seventeen percent of Iraqi vets will return with PTSD, and on the other hand, the VA muddles, lies, deliberately changes diagnoses and even -- as you shall see -- hides records. And this has been happening since Korea, accelerating with the Viet Nam vets, and not yet losing momentum. It's all about money, folks.

The VA must establish a budget annually, and each year, this budget becomes more stringent. During the week of July 19, 2004, the House Appropriations Subcommittee for VA, HUD and Independent Agencies determined the following:
HUD has already been promised an additional $1.7 billion for housing programs. The House Budget resolution contains an additional $1.2 billion for VA health care. Unfortunately, the Subcommittee only received an additional $800 million. That leaves a shortfall of $2.1 billion for VA and HUD programs, and this does not include the additional $1.3 billion which Congress is being asked to include for VA programs in order to bring it to the $2.5 billion level recommended by the House Veterans Affairs Committee in its Views and Estimates.

At this point, three new bills have been introduced in the House: H.R.3800; H.R. 3925; H.R.3973. These bills impose mandatory and discretionary spending caps and force deep cuts in veterans programs. If approved, such cuts will be devastating to an already overburdened Department of Veterans Affairs Health Care System and will impose cuts in compensation for disabled veterans and their survivors.

Currently, if an injury is diagnosed officially as due to combat, the trooper
cannot be kept in the military. He/she must be discharged as 100% disabled directly due to service related injury. Financially, this means a $2239.00 monthly allocation for VA health care, which costs five to eight times more than for persons disabled via non-service related injuries.

If the above bills get voted in by the legislature when it re-convenes, the following will occur:
A disabling injury to a trooper will have to be graphically related to the specific combat duty to which this person was assigned. This would mean that the VA will be able to eliminate all non-combat related compensation without having to answer to anyone. And, the appeals process would be different for each individual. This leaves itself open to such a wild and wide range of interpretation by the VA that removal of compensation would not only be completely arbitrary, but retroactive to boot, reaching all the way back to WWII.

Veterans with retirement pay as well as disability compensation will be revisited under this pending legislation. Under the bills in consideration by Congress, it would have to be one or the other -- although, legally, vets have a right to both!
However, with this proposed new definition of "service related" disability, retroactive compensation cuts would be enacted with all disabled veterans who were not specifically engaged in the combat duties they were commanded to perform. Payments in these cases would be reduced 50%, with one third of disabled veterans totally eliminated. Since all of this would be retroactive -- going back as far as there have been records kept -- such strategy will make financial room for the incoming flood of the Iraqi disabled returning home.

And, this applies not only to physical disablement, but also to PTSD. No wonder they don't want to diagnose folks with that particular disorder. Costs a lotta moolah, folks, for enough counseling to get Chuck and his buddies back on their emotional feet.

And what do the Viet Nam vets have to say about all this? More than several of them have stated that they were diagnosed as having pre-enlistment anxiety attacks, or ignored altogether. Representative Examples:

"Ted"states: "I spent so many years screwed up and self-medicating that I could not hear anyone.......I asked for psychological evaluation as early as 1976, in Wiesbaden, Germany, because I thought I was going -- or went -- crazy......When my family finally wrote a letter to the VA, the reply came back that they needed more information. Well, I had provided them with information the amount of which makes Bill Clinton's memoir look like a brochure. What I had been missing in my fog, was that you have to stay on them consistently from week to week, month to month and year to year without missing a date. Try making someone with PTSD understand that, or for that matter, much of anything."

It took "Amanda" of Oregon thirty years (Yep, count 'em: Thirty) to get the VA to recognize that her brother, Richard was suffering from PTSD but she is still unable to prove his Agent Orange disease. Last year, after filing a one hundred page appeal and enlisting the help of her Senator, Amanda was finally able to get Richard compensation for combat related disability PTSD, and begin counseling. As for the Agent Orange diagnosis, No, folks, he was turned down. Why? Well, although he exhibits "official" Agent Orange symptoms such as severe skin lesions, diabetes, numerous hernias, as well as renal dysfunction and liver disorder, he does not have cancer. Period. No cancer, no Agent Orange. Believe it. We've been keeping track.

It took another vet, "Ezra," thirty six years to get benefits, although he was discharged with service-connected disability in December, 1967. He subsequently spent two months at a mid-west VA hospital with acute renal and other internal organ dysfunction, as well as with permanently disabling severe skeletal injuries. Finally, when he temporarily stopped vomiting, he was simply sent home with no diagnosis. By 1969, he was back in the hospital, but, then was told his disability was not service connected. At last, after all those years of active and insistent wrangling, Ezra received his first disability payment in October, 2003, and that was because a federal investigator -- appointed, (using our tax dollars), to investigate the ruckus this man was creating -- finally located his records stamped "Classified" in the Pentagon. Ezra is still in a wheelchair.

When this particular vet went into surgery to correct battle-related injury to his right shoulder, the surgeon in charge not only operated on the wrong shoulder, but botched the surgery so completely that all connections between his muscles, tendons, clavicle and shoulder joint were severed and permanently destroyed.. Resultant severe pain has been chronic ever since, and all movement restricted. But: The Feres Doctrine, a legality in place at the highest official level of the Veterans Administration, prevents any Veteran from suing any Veterans Administration physician for malpractice. Any vet can emerge from treatment a bodiless cripple, much worse off than when he entered treatment, and, under the Feres Doctrine, no suit will be accepted. Period. Even class action suits are rejected.. Nothing. Nada. Go fix your own shoulder, buddy, don't come whining to us!

So, what are we going to do to prevent this from happening to the guys now in Iraq? PTSD is going to be epidemic. Why? Because the war in Iraq is as manufactured a conflict as was Viet Nam, and when these troopers wake up to the fact that they have been engaged in mortal combat for no other reason than procuring oil and satisfying corporate greed, then they will not be able to bear the pain of what this cost them, cost their families, cost thousands of innocent Iraqis.

Based on research done by various independent researchers with access to VA statistics, 30% of troops returning from Iraq will need help, and 27% of overseas troops already have PTSD cropping up. And, in a CBS report, aired August 7, 2004, this figure was adjusted to one in six! Of course, when these vets come home, they'll be diagnosed as having pre-enlistment anxiety disorder, and will have to prove unequivocally that they incurred their disabilities while actually on specifically assigned duty, and not shot by a sniper while smoking a butt outside the barracks. After all, treatment costs money.

Some of the proposed budget cuts, by the way, are already lurking and ready to pounce. This from "Greg" who received his honorable discharge on August 4, 2004, a few weeks after returning from active duty in Iraq:
"Hey, man, I served my country faithfully for over twenty years. And when I enlisted, they made me a promise: 'We'll take care of you forever, Greg.You'll have free medical care for the rest of your life. Don't worry.' Yeah. So, I didn't worry. I fought. I risked my life. And then, right after discharge, I get a notice from the VA saying pretty soon I'll have to start paying $250.00 a year to get any medical attention. Thanks for nothing!"

And, just in case you think any of this news is new, let's conclude with Roy Vanderhoof, a local historical researcher on Congressional Medal of Honor awardees. On August 8, 2004, Mr. Vanderhoof revealed in the Portland Oregonian that Jacob Volz who won a Congressional Medal of Honor during the Philippine Insurrection war of 1911, was refused treatment by the Portland, Oregon, Veterans Administration Medical Center in the 1960's when he was dying of cancer, because: "The 1911 Philippine Insurrection was not classified as a war." And this guy, Jacob Volz had earned the highest award our country gives its military heroes when he "fiercely attacked an enemy ambush team that had mowed down an American scouting party." Go figure....

homepage: homepage: http://www.doriscolmes.com
phone: phone: 503-289-4267


commodification of ... something ... 06.Sep.2004 16:03

got ptsd but not from soldierin'

There's no magic bullet here, no matter how much money they spend, of course. People aren't projects to be worked on and completed. People are going to come back from warfare changed. We need to help each other cope with all our experiences, good bad & awful, wherever they came from. There needs to be space in society for everybody.

Veterans administration 06.Sep.2004 18:10

Bill

I would not believe everything that is posted in this story. Most of it is filled with half truths, some is outright lies.

If a soldier has a combat wound, he will be rated as 0 to 100%. He/she may be ratained on active duty if they can perform their duties. There is no requirement that that all service connected injuries be rated at 100%.At this point, the Vetrans Administration has nothing to do with the disability rating.

It is true that Chapter 35 of the US code will be looked at soon. The committee has not been selected as of this date. Most of the statements are just rumors and is intent on spreading fear.

Disappointment! 06.Sep.2004 18:19

Adele mwadek@mweb.co.za

I have been keeping track of most of the PTSD articles that are out there (via internet surfing) - but this one really scares me! What are these heroes (and their families) of your country supposed to do? They have 'bit the bullet' they have almost made the ultimate sacrifice - and then they are forgotten, ignored, treated as liars..!?! Very disappointing actions from a superpower!!!!

As a child I spent 2 years of my life in your wonderful country - and next to my country you are the best! But after this article, I am going to really reconsider my softspot feelings.

I trust the women of the States are going to start a massive enormous campaign to help and assist their men/fathers/sons/cousins/nephews/friends/etc. They must march, strike, toyi-toyi, do anything to get Pres Bush's attention and immediate positive action - afterall it is his war! If needs be, sue everybody and everything!

Just please ladies, women of the USA - please don't give up - help your men!

In God we trust
Praying for you
and wishing you all the best
Adele
from Sunny South Africa

+27 82 716 8314
11 Fifth Street, Menlo Park 0081 South Africa

Defend to the death your right to disagree 09.Sep.2004 08:52

Doris C.

Bill, this comment is for you and all others who disagree with the VA article just posted: I came to Amercia as a child, a refugee,just barely escaping Nazi Germany, and I love this country with all my heart. Truly! One of the reasons for such strong emotion is that the USA continues to adhere to Voltaire's magnificent statement: "I may disagree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." So keep on expressing your opinions re whatever any one of us has to say. It is most important. Be sure, however, to back up all opinions with authenticated facts, so your -- or anyone else's argument -- has teeth. Bless you for writing. Dig out those congressional bills and go for the facts! Peace, Doris

If you have been through it you would know 27.Oct.2005 21:07

Bernard Sherman Berninfl@yahoo.com

I spent four years in the US Marines. While on active duty I experienced a traumatic fall, an infectious disease and loss of hearing. I filed an initial claim for service connected disabilities and have seen how the infectious disease departments of the VA will not make a diagnosis that will allow you to receive service connected disability. Outside doctors will, after a resonable period of observation and tests, The VA doctors will only diagnose "flowing blood" and "bones through skin". They will not make these diagnoses that they are required under 38CFR and the only way to get them to is to file a class action suit under "violation of civil rights". In my case it is not ambigious symptoms such as PTSD but Hepatitis C and debilitating fatigue. I have been seeing the VA doctors for three years and am on my 2nd appeal. This is documented in my service medical records and not presumtive. I also recently had 1/2 of my left knees lateral meniscus removed and have trauma related arthritis. I have the same in my right knee. I am service connected for this but after recent surgery the VA hospital stated that under paragraph 30 (100% temporary disability pay for surgery) that I chose elective surgery and the doctor at the VA hospital stated that I would be 100% disabled for only 2 weeks. Paragraph 30 does not deal with 100% disability for surgery but convalesent time after surgery. They VA "fortune teller" of a doctor made this statement less that 10 days after my surgery and I still have lack of motion 2 monthys later. I wrote them a letter and the word from my DAV rep. is that it was elective surgery so I may not qualify. The pain in my left knee was extreme and the knee has been giving out since the accident in the service. The bottom line is they all are in bed together (D.O.V.A.,V.A Hospital staff and service organizations such as the DAV. Do not sign up to defend your country as when you get injured your country will find every excuse in the book to not service relate you condition and avoid paying you under 38CFR. You will die before you get all benefits and this is what the government is counting on. I have heard all the stories that I am wrong (usually coming from VA sources) yet talk to any veteran or veterans spouse who has had to wait years or the veteran died before receiving benefits. My 2 sons are going to Canada if ever drafted. I really think the active duty military shoul go on strike until the Government keeps its promises under law. If you even try to rebutal this you have never been in a veteran's shoes with disabilites or are covering up the fact that you work for the government.

how to get appropriate medical care in the VA system 10.Nov.2005 18:55

miata1

I am totally disgusted by the lack of medical care for the vets whom have served this county and been promised free medical care for the remainder of their lives.
I know of 2 vets personally that have been given totally inappropriate medical treatment by the VA. As I am in the health care profession, I am in a position to know what treatment should be given, and it makes me sick to stand by and watch people close to me be treated with so much negligence and malpractice.
How can we stand by and let this continue without legal recourse against those physicians who deserve to be sued for lack of, or inappropriate treatment?

negligent care by VA Hospitals 03.Jan.2007 09:54

Cecelia Frusher cfrusher@cox.net

My husband was 100 percent service connected due to PTSD. He was put on narcotics for a back injury at the Brockton VA Medical Center which working on 15 percent of the left side of his heart and having clogged arteries and COPD. He died because he became a drug addict and the nurses were crushing oxy condent a time release narcotic and putting in putting and not giving him any of his heart medication. Crushing oxy condent is lethal. The did feed him when he was blind of wash him. His nails were 1/2 inch long with black dirt under them causing him to get an eye infection. Now they won't give me my DIC Pension. They don't apply the laws and defraud veterans. In fact they go out of their way to pass laws that won't give veterans service connection or their wives pension. No one cares and our Senator's are doing nothing to stop it. My husband had a doctors degree and I am about to lose my home.

401-946-0508

Defrauding Veterans and substandard medical care 16.Jul.2007 17:53

Cecelia Frusher cfrusher@cox.net

I have read some of the articles and can tell you that these veterans are telling the truth. My husband is now dead almost 2 years and I have still not gottem my Pension. In fact the Prov. VA RO dismissed my case stating all cases pending infront of the Board of Appeals are dismissed. That simply is not true, but they are allowed to get away with fraudulent decisions. I called the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs and along with my Senator they reopened the case. It is now pending at the top of the docket on a law judges desk. The Board of Appeals does not consist of real judges. They are people determining the law. The VA makes you think they are real judges that simply is not true. Veterans need to call the Sentate Committee for Veterans Affairs and file a case with them. You also need to call a Senator that will work the case with you. Our politicians are not listening to what the people want. People need to start protesting again instead of just talking about it to friends and family. Veterans have a right to live a quality life. Instead we led a life governed by the Dept. of Veterans Affairs which made me spend 12 years trying to get my husband service connected while I was also fighting to get him the proper medical care and attempting to survive myself. The outcome is the stress made me sick. It is call transfer. Veteran are not aware that PTSD causes veterans to smoke, causes heart disease and clogged arteries. When veterans get these medical problems the VA NEVER acknowledges it was caused from PTSD, therefore when the veteran dies they do not have to pay their wives a pension. This country has become a mess. We are paying taxes and working 60 hours a week to have the government give our money to other countries and pay for a war that we don't belong in. Our cities and states are bankrupt and yet the Federal Government is not giving them money. Instead our taxes get raised and our children don't get proper affection and care from their parents because they are too busy working to try and support them. Start fighting back. Do not vote the same politicans back into office who are not paying attention to the American peoples needs. Social Security disability is run in the same manner as the VA with fraudulent decisions. People that are old and disabled are now paying 1000.00 a year for medical when they are only receiving between 4000.00 to 17,000.00 a years from Social Security Disability. Their is something wrong with that. If your in a nursing home they take all but 50.00 of your Social Security pension and expect these disable people to live on 50.00 a month. You can't even get your hair done for that amount. We American deserve better than what we are getting from our government. Start protesting.