Showing posts with label Veterans for Common Sense. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Veterans for Common Sense. Show all posts

Saturday, August 5, 2017

"The VA has betrayed our veterans" But members of Congress did it first

OMG! I need to stay out of social media. Yet again I was reading about someone ignoring the fact that all the problems the OEF and OIF veterans have with their claims and treatment from the VA is new. 

"The VA has betrayed our veterans." Paul Sullivan Veterans For Common Sense said after his group filed a lawsuit because veteran were waiting too long for medical care and compensation. Here is a little history lesson, because if we ignore it, nothing will change. 

Injured Iraq War Vets Sue VA

Frustrated by delays in health care, injured Iraq war veterans accused VA Secretary Jim Nicholson in a lawsuit of breaking the law by denying them disability pay and mental health treatment. 
The class-action lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, filed Monday in federal court in San Francisco, seeks broad changes in the agency as it struggles to meet growing demands from veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Suing on behalf of hundreds of thousands of veterans, it charges that the VA has failed warriors on numerous fronts. It contends the VA failed to provide prompt disability benefits, failed to add staff to reduce wait times for medical care and failed to boost services for post-traumatic stress disorder. 
The lawsuit also accuses the VA of deliberately cheating some veterans by allegedly working with the Pentagon to misclassify PTSD claims as pre-existing personality disorders to avoid paying benefits. The VA and Pentagon have generally denied such charges.
"When one of our combat veterans walks into a VA hospital, then they must see a doctor that day," said Paul Sullivan, executive director of Veterans for Common Sense, which filed the lawsuit. "When a war veteran needs disability benefits because he or she can't work, then they must get a disability check in a few weeks."
You may think that just happened. You need to think again because if you just started to pay attention to all of this, you're wrong. That report came out July 23, 2007. There was a budget crisis.
Yet, the lawsuit says, Nicholson and other officials still insisted on a budget in 2005 that fell $1 billion short, and they made "a mockery of the rule of law" by awarding senior officials $3.8 million in bonuses despite their role in the budget foul-up.
And while our veterans and families were suffering after decades of promises from members of Congress, they never once apologized for any of it.

"The performance of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs has contributed substantially to our sense of national shame," the opinion from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals read.Nicholson abruptly announced last week he would step down by Oct. 1 to return to the private sector. 
He has repeatedly defended the agency during his 2½-year tenure while acknowledging there was room for improvement.More recently, following high-profile suicide incidents in which families of veterans say the VA did not provide adequate care, Nicholson pledged to add mental health services and hire more suicide-prevention coordinators.

A year later the VA Budget was $3 Billion short! Paul Sullivan continued the fight and was demanding some accountability when more veterans were committing suicide while waiting in a backlog of 600,000. Veterans were telling employees they were suicidal and were put on a waiting list.  

Now that may seem as if that was new but it happened to Vietnam veterans in the 80's and 90's. Not that it mattered since Congress did nothing about it. After all, when it reached the point where President Bush had to fight against veterans in court, no one put the blame on Congress.
During an interview given in November for the original CBS story, Dr. Katz told reporter Armen Keteyian that "There is no epidemic in suicide in the VA, but suicide is a major problem." When pressed for an answer to explain the VA's inability to come up with any suicide statistics among veterans, Katz replied "That research is ongoing." 
However, "After a public records request, the VA provided CBS News with data that showed there were a total of 790 attempted suicides by VA patients in the entire year of 2007." This number does not match up at all with a private email sent by Dr. Katz to a colleague in which he states that the VA has identified "about 1000 suicide attempts a month in patients we see at are medical facilities," a far cry from his public estimate of 790 a year.
PS, that really hasn't changed either. As you can see, not much has changed.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Four Out of Five Gulf War Veteran VA Claims Denied

Veteran with Gulf War syndrome: ‘I shouldn’t be like this’
Post Courier
by Derrek Asberry
Jun 7 2016

Hardie told the committee that 54,193 Gulf War syndrome claims had been filed with the VA as of March 2014. Of those claims, 42,977 of them, or four out of every five, were denied.

Gulf War veteran Justin Vosicky talks about his struggles with the VA.
Brad Nettles/Staff
Within two minutes of answering his door and sitting down for an interview, Army veteran Justin Vosicky removed his shirt, revealing the feeding tubes he had placed in his abdomen in 2013.

“Sorry, I can’t stop sweating,” said Vosicky, who was also shivering repeatedly after taking enough medication to briefly stifle his abdominal pain.

Following a 10-year stint in the Army, from 2000 to 2010, Vosicky was told by VA doctors that he had Gulf War syndrome, a sickness that the VA prefers to call “chronic multisymptom illness” or “undiagnosed illnesses,” since any number of issues could be plaguing a patient.

The VA cannot pinpoint a cause of Gulf War Syndrome, which may afflict tens of thousands of veterans from both Gulf Wars. Outside theories include exposure to nerve gas, post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychiatric disorders.
read more here

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Injured Iraq War Veterans Sue VA Head

Wounded Times
Kathie Costos
August 7, 2014

In 2007 conditions at the VA were so bad that Veterans for Common Sense filed a lawsuit to force Congress and the VA to change. It was big news back then because it seemed as if the general public didn't know how bad things were.

Veterans were asking for help but ended up taking their own lives instead of healing. The headline is not from this year, but from 7 years ago!
Injured Iraq War Veterans Sue VA Head
The Associated Press
Tuesday, July 24, 2007

WASHINGTON -- Frustrated by delays in health care, injured Iraq war veterans accused VA Secretary Jim Nicholson in a lawsuit of breaking the law by denying them disability pay and mental health treatment.

The lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, filed Monday in federal court in San Francisco, seeks broad changes in the agency as it struggles to meet growing demands from veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Suing on behalf of hundreds of thousands of veterans, it charges that the VA has failed warriors on numerous fronts. It contends the VA failed to provide prompt disability benefits, failed to add staff to reduce wait times for medical care and failed to boost services for post-traumatic stress disorder.

The lawsuit also accuses the VA of deliberately cheating some veterans by allegedly working with the Pentagon to misclassify PTSD claims as pre-existing personality disorders to avoid paying benefits. The VA and Pentagon have generally denied such charges.

"When one of our combat veterans walks into a VA hospital, then they must see a doctor that day," said Paul Sullivan, executive director of Veterans for Common Sense, which filed the lawsuit. "When a war veteran needs disability benefits because he or she can't work, then they must get a disability check in a few weeks."

"The VA has betrayed our veterans," Sullivan said.
"Unless systemic and drastic measures are instituted immediately, the costs to these veterans, their families and our nation will be incalculable, including broken families, a new generation of unemployed and homeless veterans, increases in drug abuse and alcoholism, and crushing burdens on the health care delivery system," the complaint says.

"The performance of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs has contributed substantially to our sense of national shame," the opinion from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals read.

Nicholson abruptly announced last week he would step down by Oct. 1 to return to the private sector. He has repeatedly defended the agency during his 2 1/2-year tenure while acknowledging there was room for improvement.

More recently, following high-profile suicide incidents in which families of veterans say the VA did not provide adequate care, Nicholson pledged to add mental health services and hire more suicide-prevention coordinators.

Yet, the lawsuit says, Nicholson and other officials still insisted on a budget in 2005 that fell $1 billion short, and they made "a mockery of the rule of law" by awarding senior officials $3.8 million in bonuses despite their role in the budget foul-up.

Today, the VA's backlog of disability payments is between 400,000 and 600,000, with delays of up to 177 days to process an initial claim and an average of 657 days to process an appeal. Several congressional committees and a presidential commission are now studying ways to improve care. read more here

The case was tossed out. The outcome was more veterans suffering a lot more years than they needed to because Congress was more interested in saving their own jobs than actually doing what was necessary.

They took the easy way out, pulled out the checkbook and started to fund programs that were not proven. When they failed, they just tossed more money at these "efforts" expecting a different outcome or worse, not even caring if things changed.

We heard their speeches all these years. The most interesting thing of all is, none of them have ever apologized to veterans for what they went through. They just blamed someone else.

We've all read about the reports from the 113th Congress, but it was all happening during the last one. Veterans Affairs in the 112th Congress: Reviewing VA’s Performance and Accountability and when Democrats held the chairs in the 111th. They all had a hand in what went wrong but they think we have short memories.

If you are an average American, you probably don't take any of this personally but if you happen to be a veteran or family member, you don't get to just forget and move onto something else. This is our lives. This is our past pains and the erosion of hope for a better future.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

OEF OIF veterans show Gulf War Illness

Report: New vets show Gulf War illness symptoms
By Kelly Kennedy
USA Today
Posted : Wednesday Jan 23, 2013

About one-third of Gulf War veterans — or 175,000 to 250,000 people — have Gulf War illness.

WASHINGTON — Veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may be suffering from the 20-year-old set of symptoms known as Gulf War Illness, according to a new report released Wednesday by the federal Institute of Medicine.

“Preliminary data suggest that (chronic multisymptom illness) is occurring in veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars as well,” the report says.

This may be the first time that the symptoms suffered by veterans of the 1991 Gulf War have been linked to veterans of the current wars, which started in 2001 and 2003, said Paul Rieckhoff, CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

It also means the Department of Veterans Affairs’ definition of who qualifies for Gulf War veterans’ benefits should include those who served in Afghanistan, said Paul Sullivan, a 1991 Gulf War veteran and founder of Veterans for Common Sense.

Because Wednesday’s report associates the symptoms with deployment, Sullivan said, the VA “should expand the geographical definition of the current Gulf War to include the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

The researchers were to investigate treatments for Gulf War illness, including any existing research, to see what worked for veterans. Their research included traumatic brain injury, which is caused by blunt force to the head or proximity to an explosion; post-traumatic stress disorder, which must involve exposure to trauma; respiratory problems, fibromyalgia; and chronic pain.

Chronic multisymptom illness was formerly called Gulf War Syndrome, the Institute of Medicine report said. It includes symptoms in at least two of six categories: fatigue, mood and cognition issues, musculoskeletal problems, gastrointestinal problems, respiratory difficulties, and neurologic issues that last for at least six months.
read more here

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Free Legal Consultations for Florida Veterans Fighting VA

Bergmann and Moore Holds Veteran Workshop in Sarasota
Free Legal Consultations for Veterans Fighting VA

Washington, DC – Bergmann and Moore, a law firm focusing on appealed Veterans’ disability claims, scheduled a Veteran workshop for Sarasota on Friday, January 25. Our workshops are free and open to the public. We provide free consultations for Veterans and family members who fighting the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for disability compensation. The Workshop is held in cooperation with Florida Veterans for Common Sense.
Friday, January 25
9 AM to Noon
Disabled American Veterans Post 97
7177 Bee Ridge Road, Sarasota

If a Veteran has filed a disability claim against VA and disagrees with VA’s decision, then Veterans are encouraged to attend our free workshop. Veterans are asked to bring their most recent VA decision with them as part of our free consultation. Florida Veterans for Common Sense, the Disabled American Veterans (DAV), and Sarasota County Veterans Services will be on hand providing services.

Bergmann and Moore, LLC, based in the Washington, DC metro area, concentrates only on Veterans disability benefits law. We handle Veterans’ cases at all levels, including appeals at VA’s Regional Office in St. Petersburg, VA’s Board of Veterans’ Appeals in Washington, DC, and the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, also in Washington, DC. For more information, please call (877) 838-2889.

Bergmann and Moore has helped thousands of Veterans and their families obtain the maximum VA benefits they are entitled to receive. Bergmann and Moore offers a free legal consultation concerning VA disability claims for PTSD. We gladly welcome all types of claims, including PTSD, military sexual trauma cases, and unemployability. 2013 (301) 290-3131

Friday, January 11, 2013

Veterans for Common Sense list of things they do

For all the hard work Veterans for Common Sense has done for our veterans, reading about all of it just made me very, very sad. For all they did, the bad numbers went up. Claim backlog, up. Veterans committing suicide have gone up. Military suicides are up. The good news is that more veterans are seeking help for PTSD. Now think about what all of these numbers they list would have been like if they did not fight for veterans.


On Monday, January 7, 2013, we lost our bid for the Supreme Court to hear our appeal so no Veteran waits for care or benefits, especially for mental healthcare. Since our landmark lawsuit was filed in July 2007, Veterans for Common Sense generated hundreds of pro-Veteran news articles, more than twenty appearances before Congress, a few trips to the White House, and several productive meetings with top VA leaders in Washington, DC.

Formed in 2002 by Gulf War Veterans raising concerns about a second invasion of Iraq, VCS is a non-profit based in Washington, DC. One of our top concerns raised in March 2003 was a lack of preparedness by VA to handle a tidal wave of new patients and claims due to the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. We were right. VA failed to plan.

So far, VA has treated more than 834,000 new, first-time Iraq and Afghanistan War Veteran patients. Among those are 445,000 diagnosed with mental health conditions by VA professionals. VA also received more than 750,000 disability claims from recent war veterans. Only half of the PTSD claims are approved by VA. Although that number is low, the percentage has improved substantially since VA published new PTSD regulations in 2010.

Unfortunately, after 11 years of renewed war in Asia, VA still has no plan to make sure our Veterans don't wait for care and benefits. The current wars placed an unprecedented set of new strains on VA, and VA is still catching up with new resources, even as the Iraq and Afghanistan wars wind down.

We are disappointed the Supreme Court did not hear our case. Yet our effort was not in vain, as we exposed many severe problems at VA, and we offered many pragmatic solutions, several of which were adopted. Our suit was joined by Veterans United for Truth, the Vietnam Veterans of America, the National Veterans Legal Services Program, and the American Legion. We thank them for their support.

This update has two sections: VCS Lawsuit Accomplishments, and VA’s Continuing Crisis.

First, Our VCS Lawsuit Accomplishments

Thanks to the efforts of so many volunteers and the help of the law firm Morrison / Foerster in San Francisco, our landmark case prompted many progressive reforms for VA that are improving the lives of Veterans. Although we lost at the Supreme Court, our VCS lawsuit, along with advocacy of other organizations, reporters, legislators, and volunteers, prompted VA and/or Congress take action on several fronts, including the following:

VA Actions

• Suicide Prevention in 2007. In response to our lawsuit, in 2007 VA set up a suicide prevention hotline, saving 25,000 Veterans so far, out of 800,000+ calls and texts placed by distraught Veterans to VA. This is our best accomplishment. Our many thanks to the thousands of current and new mental healthcare providers making a significant difference at VA and in the lives of our Veterans.

• Suicide Prevention in 2012. In August 2012, President Obama increased Veteran suicide prevention funding 50 percent, again, as a result of our unique lawsuit. Unfortunately, thousands of the new VA positions remain vacant, and we hope VA fills them soon as a top priority.

• Suicide Prevention Coordinators. VA hired suicide prevention coordinators for each facility. VA now proactively screens Veterans for suicide risk. This means VA is finally treating mental health conditions as nearly as equal as physical conditions. Let's hope this positive trend continues.

• Appointments. VA issued a first-ever policy where Veterans get mental health appointments in 14 days. Veterans in need of emergency care are now seen right away. Although in 2012 U.S. Senators found VA isn't living up to the standard in all cases, at least VA now has a goal and collects more data on this serious problem.

• PTSD. In January 2009, VCS petitioned VA to rewrite PTSD regulations to reduce the burden on veterans filing claims. In response to our petition, VA issued new PTSD regulations in July 2010. This helps hundreds of thousands of new war Veterans, plus hundreds of thousands from prior wars, obtain VA disability benefits and the free mental healthcare that comes with it.

• TBI. VA issued new TBI regulations in 2012, again, after VCS testified before Congress and raised the issue at meetings in Washington. This helps hundreds of thousands of Veterans obtain VA healthcare and disability benefits for conditions associated with traumatic brain injury.

• Claim Forms. In March 2010, VCS held a press conference called "Fix VA," with Chairman Bob Filner, head of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, where we highlighted the 26-page form required for veterans to file a claim with VA. In response, VA developed a six page claim form, replacing the unreasonable 26-page form. This new form helps hundreds of thousands of Veterans a year. VCS successfully argued that the long form was an unfair burden on Veterans with TBI and PTSD.

• Suicide Suits. For individual veterans who already completed suicide, our VCS case highlighted the issue and paved the way for their families win their individual cases. Most families of Veterans improperly turned away by VA received out-of-court settlements from VA.

• Suicide Condolence Letters. After a VCS meeting with White House officials in 2011, President Barack Obama began sending condolence letters to families of Veterans who completed suicide in the war zone. With a stroke of a pen, stigma was significantly reduced.

• Lifetime Electronic Records. For discharging service members, DoD and VA will have a seamless, single computerized medical record. This addresses the issues of claims and medical care delayed or denied based on lost military paper records. Although not complete, much progress was made. The sooner this is finished, the more VA can rely on computers instead of paper.

• Computers. VBA has launched the "Veterans Benefits Management System," with the goal of computerizing veterans claims. This should end the current paper-based system, thus ending issues such as shredded and lost claim folders. Although we have reservations on how this is implemented (VBMS slowed to a crawl in December and there is no contingency in the event of failure), the goal of expediting claims is a good idea.

Congressional Actions

• Advocacy. VCS testified before Congress in support of increased funding, and VA's budget soared from $100 billion to $140 billion in the past four years. That helps all Veterans.

• Five Years of Free VA Care. VCS met with then-Senators Obama, Clinton, Bond, Snowe, Collins, and others starting in 2006 to press for free medical care for returning veterans to be extended to five years. Congress finally enacted this extension. This helps 2.5 million Veterans deployed overseas since 9/11, plus all future deployed Veterans.

• In 2010, Congress exempted VA from the "fiscal cliff." Veterans can thank then-Speaker Pelosi for removing VA from the austerity programs proposed by the Tea Party and Republicans in order to preserve tax cuts for the rich. Veterans can rest assured their medical care and disability benefits will continue during these turbulent and unproductive times in Congress.

• In 2011, VCS exposed U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann's Tea Party plan to cut billions of dollars from VA spending on healthcare and disability benefits in order to preserve Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy. After VCS shared Bachmann's plan with the New York Times and newspapers in her home state of Minnesota, she withdrew her outrageous plan.

• Congressional hearings forced VA to make embarrassing admissions such as the Ira Katz e-mails. His e-mails revealed VA’s negligent, disgraceful, and adversarial actions towards Veterans by concealing the suicide statistics. Our supporters in Austin remember the outrage among Veterans and families at the suggestion by a VA psychologist supervisor in Texas that VA avoid PTSD diagnoses due to budget and staffing constraints.

Second, VA’s Continuing Crises

VA remains mired in several crises.

Veterans for Common Sense intends to continue fighting to reform VA so that no veteran waits for VA healthcare or benefits.

We are deeply disappointed the Supreme Court did not hear the urgent plea of suicidal Veterans who currently face delays of months, and often years, seeking VA assistance. No Veteran should ever wait for quality healthcare and disability benefits for physical and mental health conditions.

Although significant improvements were made in some areas within VA, many at the prompting of VCS, the nation’s second largest department remains in deep crisis due to decades of underfunding and a lack of significant Congressional oversight of VA’s $140 billion per year budget. For example, did you know that the Republicans and Democrats only have one professional staffer each at the House Veterans' Affairs Committee's Subcommittee on Disability and Memorial Affairs who performs oversight of VBA's budget of $75 billion per year?

VA’s own statistics provide the greatest indictment of an agency needing reform:

• A shocking 18 Veterans commit suicide every day. This information is from 2006. VA has not released any new information, even though VA promised to do so several times in the past six years. The revelation of this grim fact was possible only due to our VCS lawsuit that forced VA to release e-mails and reports on suicide.

• More than 18,000 Veterans contact VA for suicide prevention each month. The good news is the 810,000 contacts Veterans made with VA's suicide prevention hotline since August 2007. VA has rescued more than 25,000. Imagine how much worse the situation would be if not for dedicated, professional VA staff helping veterans 24/7.

• Last year, the families of nearly 20,000 Veterans were paid disability benefits after the Veterans died. That's a shocking disgrace that so many veterans died while waiting on VA claims.

• More than 1.1 million Veterans still await VA disability claim decisions. VA’s goal is to process all claims within 125 days with an error rate of two percent. However, VA's Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) continues failing:

- 900,000 cases wait an average of nine months for a new or re-opened claim decision, up from 634,000 claims waiting five months for a decision in July 2007. - 250,000 cases wait four more years for an appealed claim decision, up from 160,000 appeals in July 2007.

- VBA’s Aspire reported a 14 percent VBA error rate in 2012. Since VBA's Aspire error rate is new, there is no comparison from 2007.

- VA’s Office of the Inspector General reported a 30 percent VBA error rate in 2012.

These error rate reports for each VBA Regional Office generated by VA's OIG began under the Obama Administration in 2009. Note: There has been a significant improvement in PTSD claim errors, and that is attributed by VA's OIG to VA's new PTSD regulations implemented in 2010.

• VA did not fully implement the Joshua Omvig Suicide Prevention Act.

Conclusion and Next Steps

The bottom line is that VA continues making substantial improvements, many prompted by the VCS lawsuit, news coverage, and Congressional action. However, VA still has a long way to go so that no Veteran is improperly delayed or denied earned healthcare and benefits. In addition to VA's notorious claim processing disaster, and VA's lack of publicly available suicide research and statistics, VA's other major scandal not addressed by the VCS lawsuit is VA's continuing failure to provide healthcare and disability benefits for Gulf War, Afghanistan War, and Iraq War Veterans who are sick and disabled due to toxic exposures.

With the Iraq War nearly over (about 1,500 troops remain), and with plans to reduce troops in Afghanistan (about 60,000 remain), our attention must focus on reforming VA over the long-term. Demand for care and benefits will continue increasing for decades among the current generation of war Veterans, with an estimated cost of $1 trillion over the next 40 years. And we must also care for all prior Veterans of peace and war who use VA.

Our warmest thank you to our foundation sponsors, donors, staff, volunteers, and supporters for your loyal assistance during the past six years as we embarked on a bold legal effort to improve Veterans' lives by reforming a beleaguered VA. We prompted VA to improve, and VA saved many lives that otherwise may have been lost due to undiagnosed and untreated mental health conditions.

As always, thank you for supporting Veterans for Common Sense.

P.S. VCS is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization and your contributions are tax-deductible.

We need your support to keep up our work

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

When will this country stand up for veterans?

When will this country stand up for veterans?
by Kathie Costos
Wounded Times Blog
January 8, 2013

When Veterans for Common Sense forced Dr. Ira Katz to release the information on veterans committing suicide, that should have been enough for this country to do what it had to do to make it right. That was in 2008 but in 2009, Dr. Katz was given an award from NAMI.

The years that have passed since what should have been the dawn of a new age, left veterans lingering in the dark ages of needing help but getting buried in a landfill of claims made by the DOD and the VA saying they were working on it and members of more interested in holding hearings than hearing the anguished cries from thousands of families every year when they had to fill a grave for someone they loved.

One of the plaintiffs' organizations, Veterans for Common Sense, said Monday that the department has made some improvements, including establishing a suicide-prevention hotline, but "remains in deep crisis due to decades of underfunding and a lack of significant congressional oversight."

$677,000 to find out how families feel after suicide?

Congress allocates funds but the military had a Suicide Prevention Fund surplus in September. Some members of congress were clearly upset by this but honestly the families were more upset when they thought about the son or daughter they had to bury. For all the money spent on getting service members the help they needed, followed by deplorable results, congress just tossed more money at it without holding anyone accountable for it.

Veterans for Common Sense tried to do the right thing in 2007 but no matter how hard they try to force this country to finally get it right, they have been beaten down. If you are looking for some place to donate your money to (other than to me) they are in need of support so they can fight for all veterans. If you donate to another group, ask them what they are doing to save the lives of our veterans and give them the justice they should have had all along. This has to stop but the only way it will is if YOU get involved!
Veterans lose health suit against VA
Bob Egelko
January 7, 2013

A San Francisco-based legal challenge to the health care system for the nation's veterans, whose benefits take years to process and whose suicide rate remains high, died in the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday.

The justices, without comment, denied review of an appellate court's ruling in May that said federal judges have no power to order systemwide changes in veterans' health care.

Advocacy groups for veterans filed the suit in 2007. At a trial in San Francisco in 2008, Department of Veterans Affairs documents showed that the agency took an average of 4.4 years to review veterans' health care claims and that more than 1,400 veterans who had been denied coverage died in one six-month period while their appeals were pending.

The same records showed that 18 veterans were committing suicide each day, much higher than the rate among the general population.

The suit said the VA had made mental health care virtually unavailable to thousands of discharged soldiers through long waits for referrals and treatment.
read more here

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Veterans For Common Sense may be heard by Supreme Court

Media Advisory: Judges to Decide if Supreme Court Hears Landmark Lawsuit
Contact: Veterans for Common Sense
(202) 491-6953 Date: January 3, 2013

In the next few days, the Supreme Court will determine if it will hear arguments in the case, Veterans for Common Sense v. Shinseki. An announcement could come as early as this Friday.

In one of the most important landmark legal cases involving veterans’ access to healthcare and disability benefits in decades, two veterans groups filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court on September 5, 2012, asking the Court to hear the case. According to the Supreme Court's web site, our case was distributed for conference of January 4, 2013.

The lawsuit, filed in July 2007 by VCS and Veterans United for Truth (VUFT), centers on one key issue: whether the Veterans Judicial Review Act allows veterans to challenge in federal court the systemic delays in the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA’s) provision of mental health care and death and disability compensation.

Learn more about our VCS / VUFT lawsuit at our web site. The New York Times published several news articles about the veteran suicide crisis as well as the enormous disability claim backlog now at more than 1.1 million claims. and the paper also published an editorial supporting the plight of our veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Veterans for Common Sense also appeared on "60 Minutes" three years ago discussing the long waits veterans face when seeking VA assistance.

As a 501(c)(3) non-profit formed in the District of Columbia in August 2002, VCS leads the way on many key VA reforms. One major example is VA's new streamlined disability benefits for PTSD based on scientific research announced in July 2010.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Issa says "Decades-old VA claims backlog inexcusable" so what's his excuse?

Last night I was mulling this over and remembered something that Issa didn't seem to understand along with the history of claim backlogs.

Obama: New PTSD rules 'long overdue step'
July 09, 2010
By the CNN Wire Staff

The Department of Veterans Affairs is making it easier for veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder to get benefits, a development President Barack Obama calls a "long overdue step."

In his weekly address Saturday, Obama said Veterans Affairs will launch new rules for easing PTSD documentation requirements starting next week.

Current department rules require veterans to document events like firefights or bomb explosions that could have caused the disorder. Such documentation was often time-consuming and difficult, and sometimes was impossible.
read more here

or this
VA Starts Paying New Agent Orange Claims
November 04, 2010
Terry Howell

On November 1, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that they had begun distributing disability benefits to Vietnam Veterans who qualify for compensation under new expanded Agent Orange exposure rules.
This means that up to 200,000 Vietnam Veterans may now be eligible to receive VA disability compensation for medical conditions recently associated with Agent Orange.

The expansion of coverage involves B-cell (or hairy-cell) leukemia, Parkinson’s disease and ischemic heart disease.

According to the VA it will likely take several months for them to begin paying the initial payments or increases to existing payments. As reported on in March of this year, it is very important for those who were exposed to Agent Orange and suffer from one of the three diseases to submit their claims as soon as possible.
read more here

Why wouldn't he mention these? Simple. At the same time President Obama and his team were trying to do something good to help veterans, Congressmen like him were saying "cut the deficit" so they were not hiring people to handle all of these expanded claims to be processed.

Gee, does Issa remember a thing like this?
Jan. 11: Victory for Veterans - Judge Rules in Favor of VCS in Case Against VA
Veterans for Common Sense
Jan 11, 2008

January 10, 2008, Washington, DC – The U.S. District Court in San Francisco today handed an enormous victory to veterans who sued the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) over lengthy delays for medical care and disability benefits. The Judge’s ruling means our class action lawsuit against VA will move forward, with the first court hearing scheduled for next month.

“We won this round against VA. Veterans will have our day in court. The VA must now release documents under discovery about their deliberate attempts to deny and delay medical care and disability benefits for all veterans, especially our Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans,” said Paul Sullivan, the executive director of Veterans for Common Sense (VCS), the lead plaintiff organization that filed suit against VA.

On July 23, 2007, VCS and Veterans United for Truth (VUFT) filed a class action lawsuit against VA in order to force VA to provide prompt and high-quality medical care and disability benefits to veterans, especially those with mental health conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). “Our Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans are committing suicide while waiting for VA to answer their pleas for medical care. VA must make sure all our veterans receive prompt and high-quality medical care and disability benefits. The long waits at VA must end,” added Sullivan.
go here for the rest

That's the problem with politicians forgetting a thing called an archive because things like this are in it just like this one.
President Bush's VA Budget is $3 Billion Short

Vietnam Veterans of America: President Bush's VA Budget is $3 Billion Short
February 13, 2008 - "The annual exercise of debating the merits of the President's proposed budget is flawed," said John Rowan, National President of Vietnam Veterans of America, before the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs. "Medical Center directors should not be held in limbo as Congress adjusts this budget and misses, yet again, the start of the fiscal year.

I could go on posting even more but I think you get the idea. While veterans were coming home screaming for help, people like Issa didn't even care it was happening.

Rep.: Decades-old VA claims backlog inexcusable

By Rick Maze
Staff writer
Posted : Wednesday Jul 18, 2012

The Veterans Affairs Department announced Wednesday that almost 1.7 million people are using its online eBenefits information system — but that wasn’t sufficient to ward off continuing complaints from Congress about the backlog of claims.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Investigations Committee, said the average 188-day wait for a claim to be processed and an error rate of 16 percent on claims decisions are unacceptable.

But he doesn’t blame the Obama administration for the problem. “The system was broken in the Vietnam War when I enlisted, and it was never fixed,” said Issa, who joined the Army as a senior in high school, and later became an officer as a result of an ROTC scholarship.

Issa, who said he has no service-connected disability and has never filed a claim, said veterans are weary of promises with no results. “VA continues to claim it will get better, but they have not gotten better,” he said.
read more here

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Over 40,000 Veterans Appeals Ignored

VA Audit: Over 40,000 Veterans Appeals Ignored
Posted on June 1, 2012 by VCS
From Ben Krause VCS AD for Advocacy and founder of

VA Regional Offices are ignoring 18.5 percent of veterans’ appeals on average, according to a recent audit. The Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General (OIG) found that ignoring claims causes a processing delay of 444 days.

Let’s hope the VA notices your appeal. In “Audit of VA Regional Offices’ Appeals Management Processes” report, auditors found that one veteran’s claim had been ignored for over 1,500 days.

As of the date of the audit, 246,000 disability appeals were on file. If the 18.5 percent average holds across the entire VA, another 45,000 appeals claims are not on record despite the VA having the appeal on file.

To assess appeals processing, the Veterans Affairs OIG created a sample of VA regional offices across the US. These offices served as the “average” regional offices. The auditors then handed the different offices 783 potential NOD’s. VA adjudicators failed to identify 145 of these as potential appeals.

Here is how the process works. A veteran files an appeal because they disagree with a decision by the VA. In this form, it is considered a Notice of Disagreement (NOD). Once a review of the claim is completed, if the reviewer does not agree with the veteran, a Statement of the Case is created by the VA. If the veterans still disagrees, they appeal and VA then certifies the appeal to the Board of Appeals.

For the Notice of Disagreement portion, the VA has set a target of 125 days to complete the review. The VA has also set a 180-day target for the certification process.

In 2010, VA took an average of 656 days to fully process an appeal. This audit does not provide the average for 2011, but one unidentified regional office averages 1,219 days.
read more here

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Federal Court won't help veterans?

UPDATE Veterans For Common Sense is taking this to the Supreme Court!
9th Circuit Court Reverses itself. Next Stop Supreme Court

Dear Supporter,

As you may have heard, this week the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals issued their En Banc decision regarding our lawsuit ruling against VCS and VUFT. While the majority decision once again confirmed that serious problems exists within the Department of Veteran's Affairs, they disagreed that the courts were the proper venue for the veterans to seek redress. We respectfully disagree and will be appealing this case to the Supreme Court of the United States. Our veterans are not second class citizens and should not be subject to an arbitrary and capricious system with special rules exempt from normal due process protections that other Americans enjoy. As it stands the VA can effectively do what it wants forcing veterans to languish for years This is just a set back, it is not the end of our 5 year struggle, to ensure veterans have timely access to the quality care that they need and deserve. The recent IG report quanitfying the serious problesms that persist at VA shows that our veterans need everyone's help. We need your support to keep up the fight. The 9th Circuit Court may have turned their back but we will never turn our back on veterans. You can sign on to be a part of our historic court case by donating today.

I was always taught our Constitution trumps statutes and that our Courts were our last bastions to preserve our rights and liberties;now that promise has proved hollow, and all I hear is the continuing echoes of men and woman in distress. We should all feel their pain. This day will be remembered as the day our country turned its back on our veterans. VCS vows to fight this heartbreaking decision all the way to the end, because 18 of our veterans commit suicide every day.”

Patrick Bellon,MPA
Iraq Veteran
Executive Director

The government gave veterans excuses. The charities around the country spread out and sprung up. They watched the 99% protests while they wondered who the hell would fight for this part of the 1% serving today along with the less than 10% that served yesterday. Groups ended up showing exactly what they value. Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans United for Truth decided to try to legally force the government to honor their side of the deal only to discover the court says they have no authority? So where are you on this? Are you willing to fight for them? Protest for them? Call your senator or congressman? Call the media to make sure everyone knows how bad things are for them?

Fed court reverses order for VA system overhaul
PAUL ELIAS May 7, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO — A federal appeals court on Monday reversed its demand that the Veterans Affairs Department dramatically overhaul its mental health care system.

A special 11-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that any such changes need to be ordered by Congress or the president.

The 10-1 ruling reversed an earlier decision by a three-judge panel of the same court.

The May 2011 ruling had ordered the VA to ensure that suicidal vets are seen immediately, among other changes. It found the VA's "unchecked incompetence" in handling the flood of post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health claims was unconstitutional.

The new decision said courts are powerless to implement the fixes sought by two veterans groups that filed the lawsuit against the VA in 2007. The lawsuits alleged that hundreds of thousands of veterans had to wait an average of four years to fully receive the mental health benefits owed them.

"There can be no doubt that securing exemplary care for our nation's veterans is a moral imperative," Judge Jay Bybee wrote for the majority. "But Congress and the president are in far better position" to decide whether and what changes need to be done.

The court said veterans are free to file individual legal claims, but courts had no business ordering systemic overhauls.

"If the courts don't have jurisdiction, then the veteran is left without a remedy," Erspamer said.

Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans United for Truth filed the lawsuit at the heart of the ruling in San Francisco federal court in 2007.

During the two-week trial without a jury in April 2008, lawyers for the groups showed the judge emails between high-ranking VA officials that the attorneys said confirmed high suicide rates among veterans and a desire to keep quiet the number of vets under VA care who attempt suicide.

"Shhh!" began a Feb. 13, 2008, email from Dr. Ira Katz, a VA deputy chief. "Our suicide prevention coordinators are identifying about 1,000 suicide attempts per month among the veterans we see in our medical facilities. Is this something we should (carefully) address ourselves in some sort of release before someone stumbles on it?"
read more here

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Veterans for Common Sense files suit, VA hires?

VA Struggles To Provide Vets With Mental Health Care

Chris Hondros/Getty Images A veteran of the Iraq War with post-traumatic stress disorder talks to physical therapist Nicole Bormann before a session in the VA Medical Center in St. Louis.

April 25, 2012

"Veterans for Common Sense is suing the VA over delays in treatment, and over the time it takes some vets to get benefit payments. The VA announced plans to hire nearly 2,000 additional mental health staff last week, just days before this report came out."

Over the past five years, the Department of Veterans Affairs says, the number of former service members seeking mental health services has climbed by a third. In response, the agency has boosted funding and tightened standards.

Now, any vet asking for help is supposed to be evaluated within 24 hours and start treatment within two weeks. The VA has claimed that happens in the vast majority of cases, but a new investigation by the agency's inspector general says the VA statistics are skewed to make wait times appear shorter.

You don't see the real cost in human terms until 20 to 30 years after the conflict has ended. - Patrick Bellon, Veterans For Common Sense

Paul Rieckhoff of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America says that is not surprising.

"It illustrates, in incredible clarity, how dysfunctional the VA system is right now for thousands of veterans around the country," he says.

The inspector general's report says, rather than starting the clock from the moment a vet asks for mental health care, the VA has been counting from whenever the first appointment became available. That could add weeks or months to the wait time.
read more here

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Veterans for Common says "Good News for Veterans in the FY 2013 Budget"

I agree! It is not as much as it should be but a lot better than it would have been with all the government cuts backs going on.

Good News for Veterans in the FY 2013 Budget.
This week the Department of Veterans Affairs released its Fiscal Year 2013 budget request, a request of 140.3 billion. The highlights are as follows:
The $140.3 billion for FY2013 is roughly a 10% increase over the FY2012 request of $127 billion request for FY2012.

$1 billion over five years for a Veterans Job Corps, a new effort to leverage skills Veterans developed in military service for a range of jobs protecting and rebuilding America’s public lands. The initiative would put up to 20,000 Veterans to work on projects to restore America’s lands and resources.

$52.7 billion for medical care, a 4.1 percent increase over the the current fiscal year, and a net increase of $165 million above the advance appropriations level already enacted for FY 2013.

$1.4 billion for programs that prevent or treat homelessness among Veterans.

$76.3 billion for benefits

$1.85 billion for the Post 9/11 GI Bill

$ 400 million to improve care and facilities for female veterans

VA's budget demonstrates that the Obama administration has heard the concerns of veterans voiced by VCS in the media and in meetings with Congressional and Administration officials. President Barack Obama is serious about making progress to address many of the longstanding deficiencies at VA. In public policy terms, a budget is a statement of priorities.

VA's FY2013 budget shows that veterans have been made a high priority by the Obama administration. It will not of course correct every problem but it goes a long way in that direction and is a good thing for veterans. As veterans advocates we must support this budget. We veteran advocates must make our voices heard by our elected officials in Washington DC. Please call, write, or e-mail them today, reminding Congress that our veterans are a top priority. It is time to really support the troops. When you call or write, let them know Veterans for Common Sense sent you.

At Veterans For Common Sense we pledge to remain vigilant protecting our military members and veterans rights and benefits. They earned them. This year we have already made more than 30 visits to Capitol Hill offices to advocate for veterans. Only 1% have borne the burden of a decade of conflicts and we only ask for a square deal after wards. We are proud to be entering into our second decade fighting for America and her veterans and smart national security positions. To continue to fight we need your support, please donate to VCS today by visiting this link Veterans For Common Sense

Thank you for your support.

Patrick Bellon,MPA
Iraq Veteran
Executive Director

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Shame on Veterans Day

Shame on Veterans Day!
Chaplain Kathie

When we talk about our veterans, we usually take the easy way out and say things that really don't mean anything because we don't show up to prove the words we use are real.

My email box fills up with events involving veterans here in Florida and around the country. I try very hard to get to the event with a video camera so that other people will know what went on. After all, one of the biggest complaints I hear from veterans is the media doesn't bother to show up and when they do, they will see a minute or two on the news. This always bothers me since I see reporters spending as much time as I do at the event but when I go to track down what they put up online, either it is very short or not there at all. Producers show some interest in sending reporters but when the reporter returns with footage of a small group attending, there really isn't a point in taking up airtime or ink in the newspaper especially when they have plenty of horrible stories to fill about people committing crimes and political scandals. Put next to a story about a celebrity on a publisher's or producers desk, the celebrity wins. They claim that people don't care about stories on veterans simply because we don't prove we do.

At Valencia College there were two recent events for veterans. One was on PTSD with a speaker from Wounded Warriors, Adam Widner. He had a compelling story to tell, talked about how he didn't want to do anything when he came home, including taking a shower and eating, but someone from Wounded Warriors showed up and got him to care about himself again. There were not more than 20 people there. I was filming him, listening to him and thinking how sad it was that more people didn't hear what he had to say. When I got back to the lab with the video card, it failed and the footage was gone. Much like the interest we show our veterans, it is there for the moment and then lost.

As the Chaplain for the DAV Auxiliary in Orlando, I see it every month where a couple of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans come to the meeting wondering where everyone else in their group is. The DAV had a BBQ for them and younger veterans showed up but many more area veterans didn't. Two reporters were there. One from Channel 13 news and one from FOX. Both reporters spent a long time there but a day after I only found coverage from Channel 13 News.

This is the video I shot. Three Iraq veterans were there and talked about surviving IEDs in Iraq but above that, they talked about how they keep giving back to other veterans. If you don't want to take the time to watch the whole thing than fast forward about halfway through.

More examples of the type of people we ignore.

All this week there are events for veterans all over the country and people will show up. Some do it because they are always showing up. Others will bother to make an effort out of guilt. More will complain about traffic detours because of the parades when they want to go shopping.

For people always showing up, we're ashamed of the rest of you. We're ashamed when you cannot care enough to just spend an hour once in a while paying attention to them. Ashamed when you can't read about everything going wrong when they come home and not feeling compelled enough to do something about it.

When you get involved in political discussions, do you ever talk about veterans? Do you understand it is politicians deciding to send them to war who are also responsible for what happens to them when they come home?

I have been tracking all the reports from around the country and year after year I see it getting worse for our veterans even as there have been things done for them, these programs are never enough to take care of all of them. I've been wondering where everyone else has been. When I talk to people about what is going on, they think it is a shame but they can't see they contribute to it when they don't pay attention on their own. Where are you when they need help?

When the Supreme Court ruled that Westboro hate group had a right to stalk families and protest at military funerals, the Patriot Guard Riders added 10,000 new members. This group began in response to this hateful group. People do care but as with the small percentage of people serving in the military, there are not enough showing up until something makes them angry.

When two Iraq veterans were hurt during Occupy protests, people around the country were furious but when there was a report of how 163 Marines tried to kill themselves so far this year, the blog world pretty much ignored it. When there was a report of every 80 minutes a veteran commits suicide, again, not enough people cared about it. Not enough people stopped to think that while this number is high, it is based on the deaths the VA knows about. If a veteran is not in their system and no longer in the military, they aren't counted by anyone other than their own families.

Veterans have nothing to feel ashamed of. They are not even ashamed of us when we don't show up. When we don't fight for them after they fought for us, they don't get angry, they get hurt. This all keeps getting worse for them. As people paying attention are terrified of what is coming when the rest of the troops are out of Iraq, we know what kind of nightmare they will return home to and we are ashamed of it.

This Veterans' Day as we think about how proud we are of them we should be wondering if we have done anything to make them proud of us.

Watch this from Paul Sullivan with Veterans For Common Sense then think about this simple fact; they have one day we "honor" them but they are veterans everyday. Where are you the rest of the year?

VCS in the News: What Happens When Our Troops Return Home?
Written by Jeremy Schwartz
Sunday, 06 November 2011 17:20

As soldiers leave war behind and return to Fort Hood, what comes next?
November 6, 2011, Fort Hood, Texas (Austin American-Statesman) — By next summer, this sprawling Army post will be more crowded than it has been since U.S. soldiers began pouring into twin war zones a decade ago. With combat operations ending in Iraq and slowing in Afghanistan, times are changing at what has been the Army's busiest deployment hub since 2001.

But while Fort Hood braces for the return of nearly 20,000 American soldiers, many of whom have served three, four or five tours overseas, Army leaders are struggling with the unprecedented task of reintegrating soldiers who have known nothing but war for the past decade.

Watch video of Paul Sullivan, a member of our VCS Board of Directors, discuss the magnitude and severity of the consequences of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars on our veterans, families, and VA
That same challenge is faced by the entire nation as it seeks to celebrate its service members this week by marking Veterans Day. Experts warn that America is stumbling into uncharted waters as it deals with the return of hundreds of thousands of troops — the 1 percent of the nation that shouldered the load of America's two longest wars.
read more here

Paul Sullivan puts it this way,

Thursday, October 13, 2011

CNN Reporter and PTSD: Don McCullin's War With Guilt

CNN Reporter and PTSD: Don McCullin's War With Guilt
Written by Mairi Mackay
Monday, 10 October 2011 09:26

October 8, 2011 (CNN) - Don McCullin is best known for the unwavering gaze of his war photography.For thirty years he traveled to places most people run from, depicting horror unflinchingly and with enormous compassion for the people he captured in unimaginable situations.
Considered one of the greatest war photographers, McCullin's pictures chart conflicts in Vietnam, Bangladesh, the Congo, El Salvador, Biafra, Cambodia and the Middle East, including the Six-Day War in June 1967.
He has, as he puts it, taken "terrible liberties" with his life -- dashing through rice paddies in Vietnam to escape snipers' bullets; jumping up to snap a shot during gun battles -- to bring home images that are, at times, excruciating to look at but often unforgettable.
And yet, as enduring as these images are, forgetting them is exactly what McCullin now wants to do. "That war stuff... I don't even want to print it anymore," he says. "I want to put it right out of my mind."
read more here

Monday, October 3, 2011

VCS Releases Updated War Statistics

VCS Releases Updated War Statistics
Written by VCS
Thursday, 29 September 2011 16:43

VCS Releases "Iraq and Afghanistan War Impact Report," VA Confirms Nearly 712,000 Iraq and Afghanistan War Veteran Patients
October 1, 2011 (VCS Exclusive) - In an effort to document the severe and escalating human and financial consequences of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, Veterans for Common Sense (VCS) summarizes several government reports about U.S. military service members and veterans who deployed to the Iraq - Afghanistan war zone since September 11, 2011.

When sharing our VCS quarterly report, please cite how VCS uses reports from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Department of Defense (DoD) obtained by VCS under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The report serves as a reminder our nation remains at war.
read it here

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

VCS Editorial: Suicide Remains Sad Legacy of 9/11

Veterans for Common Sense has been a champion for veterans and they are responsible for much of what has been happening in the battle to save the lives of our veterans. They released an editorial on the plight our veterans face especially the post 9-11 veterans. As the tenth anniversary approaches, we pause to think of the lives lost that day, we should also think of the lives lost answering the call to serve in the military because of that day.

"According to VA, as of July 31, 2011:
462,854 total calls to VA's Crisis Line at 800-273-8255
259,891 calls from veterans
6,030 calls from active duty service members
16,955 “rescues” of veterans and service members"
While this is a great editorial by Veterans For Common Sense, they are a lot nicer than I am. I have to face it, I am not politically correct and I have no patience when it comes to needless suffering. When will someone notice these numbers and actually know what they represent?

These numbers do show the need for and success of the Suicide Prevention Hotline. Wonderful when you look at it and never really think about it. Yet when you add in the fact the suicide numbers have still gone up even after all these "programs" were started by the DOD to address the suffering, these numbers show failure of those programs sold as "resiliency training" to toughen their minds. If the attempt worked when introduced in 2003, there would have never been a need for the Suicide Prevention Hotline.

Almost 17,000 rescues, which is also wonderful but what happens to them after they are "rescued?" Do they have the help they need to make sure they never get that hopeless again? Where do they go? Do they end up with approved claims from the VA to support themselves and give them the emotional boost when the VA accepts responsibility for what they are suffering from? Or are they still trapped in the pile of 850,000 other claims, as pointed out by this editorial, waiting to be processed? Or the 250,000 other claims trapped for over 4 years? Any idea what kind of stress this adds to a veteran dealing with PTSD? Any idea what kind of stress this adds to their families trying to come to terms with someone they love falling apart?

Over 250,000 calls from veterans but no one is asking why they reach the point of contemplating suicide with all the things available to them now? How many charity groups are out there supposedly taking care of them, getting grants and collecting donations? Does anyone bother to check to see if their programs are working, work the best or fail? Support groups are all over the Internet providing more support than ever before to veterans all over the country yet no one is studying if the support they are getting is helpful or harmful.

We see ads all the time with companies promising to donate a portion of the money we spend to programs like Wounded Warriors Project, a worthy endeavor offering programs for a full range of wounds but along with the other groups we should all be asking why the tragic numbers go up despite these efforts.

We can keep reading about veterans facing more life threatening situations back home than they face in combat or we can look at what has been working, repeat it and stop what has not been working.

VCS Editorial: Suicide Remains Sad Legacy of 9/11
Written by vcs
Monday, 05 September 2011 17:08

VCS Releases New Suicide-Related Statistics as Part of National Suicide Prevention Week
September 5, 2011 (VCS Editorial) - As the war in Afghanistan enters its 10th year, and as the war in Iraq enters its 21st year, our troops and veterans suffer enormous casualties. One sad legacy is the current suicide epidemic. In the last two years more of our service members completed suicide than were killed by the enemy. An average of 18 veterans from all wars complete suicide every day.

VCS remains at the forefront of this issue. With the assistance of attorneys at Morrison / Foerster and Disability Rights Advocates, VCS and VUFT sued VA for turning away suicidal veterans in 2007. Our vigorous advocacy continues prompting improvements in medical care and awareness at both VA and DoD.

However, as the wars drag on, the deadly suicide crisis worsens. Untreated depression and PTSD can become serious issues for service members, veterans, and families. Deployment and re-deployment to war, improper denials for care, lengthy delays to see doctors, and discrimination against those seeking mental healthcare further increase the risk for suicide.
read more here

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Would you wait 4 years for Workman's Comp? Why should veterans?

If you get hurt on the job, you get Workman's Comp and can pay most of your bills. If you happen to work for Uncle Sam in the military, get wounded on your job, you get discharged, sent home but no money to pay your bills. Disabled veterans should not be second class citizens. Isn't that what we're talking about here?

"The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, is directly proportional to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated"
-- George Washington

The news has been bleak for active duty military folks with suicides going up just as the reports of 18 veterans a day commit suicide, but the truth is, they are not all counted. Once they are discharged the DOD does not track them. Until they are in the VA system, they are not counted by the VA. How many more are committing suicide without anyone counting them? How many commit suicide because they cannot live with the extra stress of being wounded serving their country then having the country deny any responsibility?

VCS / VUFT Lawsuit in San Francisco Chronicle
Written by Bob Egelko
Wednesday, 24 August 2011 09:01

VA appeals ruling on veterans' health care

August 24, 2011, San Francisco, California (San Francisco Chronicle) - The Obama administration is challenging a court ruling that would open the door to changes in a veterans' health care system beset by long delays and a high suicide rate.

The ruling by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco would allow veterans' groups to go to court to seek an overhaul of the Department of Veterans Affairs' procedures and timetables to speed health care to veterans.

The appellate judges "ignored basic limits on judicial authority," Justice Department lawyers said in a new appeal to the court.

They said the ruling violated Congress' decision "to prevent the courts from second-guessing the VA's performance of these critical functions."

The administration requested a new hearing before a larger appellate panel.

The court's 2-1 ruling in May followed a 2008 trial in San Francisco that revealed a health care system plagued by delays and gaps in care, particularly for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with severe mental trauma.

The average waiting time for health benefit claims was 4.4 years, and more than 1,400 veterans who had been denied coverage died in one six-month period while their appeals were pending, the court said.
read more here

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Disabled veterans suffered needlessly for 14 years

Disabled veterans suffered needlessly for 14 years
Chaplain Kathie

The idea that medical records should be linked between the DOD and the VA seemed like a great one. After all, if they are wounded while in the service, it would only make sense to have it documented by the Department of Defense so that after they are discharged the VA would have their records a lot faster. That's what a lot of people think. The news reports have left the impression this is something new. Aside from the fact it has not been done, the backlog of claims rises and veterans wait months, even years, to have their claims approved, the systems are still not joined.

DoD's Struggle to Streamline with VA
September 8, 2010

As you can see this video was uploaded September 2010. With Iraq and Afghanistan producing over 2 million more veterans, Vietnam veterans also sought claim approvals for Agent Orange and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as the rules to file these claims were changed.

What do they live off of when they can't work due to a true "service connected disability" that has not been approved due to backlog of claims and lack of records? They have heard every excuse used over and over again along with hearing that the problem is being addressed. What good does it do to set rules if no one is enforcing them?

This outrageous situation has been allowed to continue because as members of congress change what has been done is all forgotten about.

The need to connect the DOD and the VA was addressed 14 years ago before troops were sent into Afghanistan and Iraq, long before the rule changes to file claims for Vietnam Veterans and still they wait while all of this could have been avoided.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
News Release

No. 658-97
December 04, 1997

Under an agreement between the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Defense (DoD), active duty military personnel should have an easier process for and get faster decisions on their disability compensation claims as well as their eligibility for VA health care.

When fully implemented, the new national policy calls for separating or retiring servicemembers expecting to file a claim for VA disability compensation to undergo a single physical exam prior to discharge. The exam will meet VA requirements for claims determinations, as well as DoD needs for a separation medical examination. The new policy will be phased in as expeditiously as possible as details are worked out at the local level.

Previous procedures required two separate examinations several months apart. Until now, military personnel have first had to get a DoD physical exam prior to discharge from active duty. These personnel then usually have to undergo a second exam by VA after filing claims for disability compensation because of differences between VA and DoD protocols. The results of these examinations are a determining factor in eligibility for VA health care.

The new national policy was spearheaded by VA Under Secretary for Health Dr. Kenneth W. Kizer and DoD Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Dr. Edward D. Martin following months of work on this and other matters of joint interest.

Kizer said, "This change will help us avoid unnecessary or redundant physical exams, improve the quality of the examination process, and improve service for separating servicemembers by eliminating lengthy delays in claims decisions and health-care eligibility determinations. We are hopeful the new policy also will enhance ongoing efforts to reduce the time it takes to process compensation claims and, further, it should reduce costs."

Martin said, "By reengineering the system to require only one physical, we are making life easier for our beneficiaries. This is a good news story."

In pilot tests of the dual-purpose exam at VA and Army facilities, claims processing time was reduced to less than one-third of national levels under the existing system. The current national average for processing an original compensation claim is 133 days.

Under the new policy, VA physicians generally will conduct the pre-discharge exams. In areas where VA physicians are not available, DoD physicians will conduct the exams according to VA protocols.

Imagine if this was done 14 years ago there wouldn't be so many veterans waiting for what they were in fact owed for their disabilities caused by service to this country.

Paul Sullivan of Veterans For Common Sense sent an email to let me know that back when this started, he was part of getting it done.

In 1997, while I was executive director of the National Gulf War Resource Center in Washington, DC, I worked with Rep. Lane Evans to pass the Force Health Protection Act that mandated the records and exams.

After prompting by VCS, in 2009, one of President Obama's first actions for VA and DoD was to push forward with the single record.

In my VCS Congressional testimony since 2007, I repeatedly asked for the records and exams.

Then, surprise, in late 2010, DoD confirmed they are doing more of the exams. DoD did a test to see if exams and more doctors improved the health of the troops. And they did, according to a New York Times article published in October 2010.

Are VA and DoD going in the correct direction? Yes. Are they going fast enough? Hell no. Troops still need their pre- and post-deployment medical exams, and our troops and veterans need the electronic lifetime medical record so toxic exposures, exams, and prescriptions are all documented.

As you can see, while Paul has been a "go to guy" for reporters over the last few years, he's been working hard for veterans for a very, very long time.

Monday, August 22, 2011

VA appeals ruling on behalf of veterans?

You'd think that since the VA is supposed to be about taking care of veterans, they'd be all too willing to get it right, but in this case, they are fighting against being forced to.
VCS / VUFT Lawsuit in New York Times
Written by NYTimes
Sunday, 21 August 2011 22:46

More Excuses and Delays From the V.A.
August 21, 2011 (New York Times Editorial Board) - It has been more than three months since a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit accused the Department of Veterans Affairs of “unchecked incompetence” and unconscionable delays in caring for veterans with mental health problems.

Instead of working with the plaintiffs to address the court’s concerns, the V.A. is appealing the ruling.

The 2-to-1 decision in a lawsuit brought by two nonprofit groups, Veterans United for Truth and Veterans for Common Sense, found that the V.A. bureaucracy was so extremely slow and unresponsive that veterans were being denied their constitutional right to mental health care and to the timely adjudication of disability claims. It cited as evidence the high veteran suicide rate — an estimated 18 a day among the nation’s 25 million veterans, and four to five a day among those being served by the V.A.

The judges pointedly noted that the agency had no suicide prevention officers at any of its outpatient clinics and that 70 percent of its health facilities had no systems to track potentially suicidal patients. The court agreed with the plaintiffs that “systemwide” changes were needed at the V.A., especially given the rising flood of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. It ordered the case back to the district court so a plan could be devised.
read more here

Just amazing! If you take anything away from this article, let it be these two facts.
"the agency had no suicide prevention officers at any of its outpatient clinics"
"70 percent of its health facilities had no systems to track potentially suicidal patients"