Thursday, May 22, 2014

Scandal Eyes

As Memorial day draws near I can well imagine those souls it honors spinning in their graves in unified outrage; as the list of scandals at Veterans Administration hospitals grows ever deeper with the latest in a long list of disgraces. 

In a recent post I made reference to the current ever-deepening VA scandal involved with VA personnel cooking the books so it would appear they were setting appointments in a timely and efficient manner; while veterans died waiting to be seen by their doctor.  I didn't want to write about it in any depth because of the great negativity and frustration it generates, what with me being a disabled Vietnam Vet.  

I really tried to take the advice of Joseph Campbell when he said "We cannot cure the world of sorrows, but we can choose to live in joy."  It goes hand in hand with another nugget of wisdom I assimilated along the way: True wealth is measured by how many things you can just leave be.  Far from ignoring the problem, one may elect to instead focus their energy & thoughts on more positive pursuits, and that felt fine to me.

Unfortunately, this current debacle just keeps mutating into a deliberate bureaucratic failure of monstrous proportions by the day.  What began as "A few isolated incidents" is now at 28 states, 40 deaths ... and growing.  That's right, I said deliberate, as intentional & willful.  Unfortunately the government of this country has a disgraceful historical habit of turning on it's veterans.  So I am cornered between Memorial day and the Muse, and find I have something of a duty to write about this subject.

This is something I can write about from personal experience with the VA system; and it's not a pretty picture.  When I came home from Vietnam with an honorable discharge and all my parts intact; my dad picked me up at the airport.  It was hard to spot him at first thru the buzzing crowd of protesters harassing any man departing the plane in uniform.  Lucky for me I was dressed in street clothes so nobody bothered me directly as I stood there in disbelief, the anger welling up inside me...suddenly a vice like hand grabbed my elbow just as I heard my old man's voice saying, "I've seen that look on your face before - time for us to go."  We claimed my bags and made it to the car in silence, and I needed that time to calm down after seeing people spitting on returning servicemen. 
With the airport falling away behind us in the rear view mirror, my dad looks at me and said:  "Listen to me...what you did, what you went thru over there for this country; just remember that nobody owes you anything for that - just put it behind you and get on with your life."  His words were quite surprising considering they came from a decorated WWII infantry captain.  I guess maybe he'd seen for himself, some of the historic times when this nations government betrayed it's veterans.  Maybe he was trying to spare me some disillusionment & disappointment down the when the VA suddenly stopped paying the vocational trade school I was attending 20 years ago, after promising to pay for my continuing education with the GI Bill.  Broken promises, a sad habit indeed! I had to take on two part time jobs to keep the school paid, and graduate; and the sting of that betrayal has never been forgotten.

I decided back then to not pursue getting my benefits from the VA, despite seeing other vets I knew who did, and were getting very nice compensation.  Had no reason to ask for benefits because I was young & strong, and determined to make it or not on my own merits rather than depend on handouts from the government which I already knew could be cut off without reason or notice.  The Navy takes care of it's own - Balderdash!  It took a few years, but I eventually came to understand my father's words at the airport that day. 

Fast forward 40 years to 2009, I'm forced to reconsider my aversion to dealing with the VA by a surly mob of health issues which are impacting my life negatively.  Having pretty much worked for myself the majority of my adult life; my retirement plan sucked, leaving the VA the only game in town.  The one good thing I can say about the VA health care system is that you can still receive medical care before your benefits claim is finally determined.  Good thing too, because it took them a full year to finally consider my claim; and then they summarily denied and dismissed it categorically.  I filed an appeal with the VA, which ten months later was denied also, they said I took too long to file my appeal. 

Another year goes by and a fellow veteran asked me if I had gone thru the DAV, (Disabled American Veterans) when I submitted my previous claims.  I had not, for whatever reasons, and soon learned they can be a powerful motivating force upon the VA system, especially with getting benefits approved.  So, I began the process again, with all the exact same data & information, letting the DAV advocate on my behalf.  Almost a full year later my claim was approved.  Nearly 4 years after I first requested the benefits guaranteed me by federal law.  In that time I have seen firsthand the staggering incompetence and Orwellian bureaucracy that is the VA health care system.

To begin with, no VA computer is allowed to have any data transfer device attached to it, such as a flash drive with X-rays and medical history on it.  The VA also prohibits doctors and veterans communicating thru email, or other electronic means except telephone.  Has a way of really slowing the whole works down to a crawl, like I said, intentionally.  My first VA doctor was from India, every time I saw him he was on crutches & looking sicker than me.  He died.  My next VA doctor was a young fellow from Pakistan with who I had what can only be described as infuriating language barrier issue; he didn't speak English as far as I could discern, and consistently gave me the wrong medications.  After six months of that insanity I went to the head of the clinic and insisted on being assigned to a new doctor, one who spoke English!  They did exactly as I asked and assigned me a new primary care physician...five months later!  That's five months of being told I must wait to be assigned a new doctor each time I called for an appointment, or to renew medications.  That's just childish, and vindictive.  Whatever happened to "first, do no harm?"

While I'm on the subject of my local VA clinic, it will perhaps help to gauge the sheer scope of the insanity there to see a couple of pictures of the place.  It is a nice, newly built place with a couple acres of beautiful parking right in front of the main doors; which is vital for those with wheel chairs, walkers and crutches - which is most of the traffic on most days.  The trouble is that all that unpaved ground was used to make the veterans peace garden or some shit, which is by the way, roped off and off limits to veterans!!  Meanwhile those with mobility issues, and everyone else must first park in the undersized space allowed alongside the building and garden; then make their way thru the parking area, then down a long sidewalk that resembles the Bataan death march, just to reach the front door!

Wanna know why so many veterans are in wheel chairs & powered scooters?  It's because the VA health care system put them there with repeated botched surgical operations.  Many VA hospitals are designated as training hospitals such as the San Francisco VA medical center, where aspiring inexperienced surgeons are encouraged to hack away until they get it right.  The reason this is permitted is because none of them are held legally responsible for the errors they make in surgery.  A year ago I narrowly escaped that place with my life, following a third botched operation on my legs. The surgeon who was on the schedule to operate was one of the best they have, I know because I Googled her and saw the many achievements and acknowledgements in her career.  At the last minute however, they gave the knife to some greenhorn cutter who again botched the operation, keeping their record of failure near perfect.  And my friends don't understand why I refuse to ever go there again. 

You see; it isn't just the scheduling of appointments, and approval of claims that is backed up and's pretty much the case with the entire VA health care system.  Three trips to the VA hospital for major surgery have made me a veteran of a whole other war being waged against the veterans this country creates with such total disregard.  I have yet to see a nurse call button that actually works, I always have to make them bring one in and show me the thing actually working.  You have a finite number of people trying to provide medical services; (most of whom don't really know what they're doing) to an ever increasing tsunami of injured, traumatized veterans.  The demand for those services grows greater with each passing week, yet with no additional staff to cover the workload, so the system is constantly in a state of near gridlock on some days...and that's just one hospital.  Some are much worse, such as the Walter Reed scandal from a few years ago.

This over-run and swamped medical system is just a breeding ground for mistakes, incompetency, and malpractice.  No oversight, no accountability; just make the numbers line up right on paper.  There is a certain look a soldier gets when he's been too long exposed to combat, and the horrors it devastates you with...they call it the thousand yard stare; you expect to see it on the returning veterans but it's downright scary to see that look on your hospital staff.  Leaves you with the feeling you need a cab ride back home pronto.  What it all comes down to is compassion and dignity.  With the VA health care system failing systematically nationwide;  compassion & dignity are the first casualties.  After that each new veteran is just another numbered piece of meat to process & oppress.  The recruiters lie to get you to join up, the commanding officers lie to get your obedience, and they lie when they say the GI bill will pay for schooling.  They lie.  Keep that in mind if you are someone considering joining up.

I said this debacle, this neglect is intentional, and it is.  Combat veterans have a very exacting skill set, and are plagued with many issues upon returning home.  They know the things that have been done that the powers that be wish to keep secret.  If organized, veterans could represent a very powerful voting block in every election, one which could perhaps bring about serious change.  If outraged, those same veterans could represent a most powerful armed force within this country; if pushed too far.  So you see, on every level it is in the interest of the power elite, the one percent, to keep these vets heavily medicated, and totally neglected, until they all just finally die.  Like I said, deliberate and intentional incompetence.    

I find myself of two minds on this latest VA scandal: on the one hand I certainly empathize with those who are being forced to wait for months just to get an appointment; yet on the other, knowing the kind of hellish nightmare they're attempting to gain access to ~ I want to warn them not to do it!   It's not just that VA employees are gaming the system to look good on paper, the VA is gaming all of us...going through the motions with talking heads and bullet points to give the appearance of giving a shit.  They don't.  They never have.**

The VA modus operandi is to deny, delay, discourage; dragging their feet and obstructing the process whenever possible, to keep from having to pay out benefit checks.  They want to keep that money, oh how they hate to give it away!  Remember that this is the same government that exposed WWII soldiers to atomic radiation just to see how it would affect them.  The same government that sprayed Agent Orange (known carcinogen) on it's own troops as well as the Viet cong; then denied it for years until at last they could deny it no more.  Just like everything else they do. 

The lies are the greatest insult of all.  For Obama to stand there pretending to be mad alongside the expressionless head of the VA who for some insane reason still has a job, lying through their teeth with every word they say.  It really makes sense that the government wants to wipe all us veterans out - after all they taught us how to fight, to kill without compunction when necessary.  They don't want us coming for them in the night, they fear us...and we've all seen what they do when scared.  Like I said, it isn't pretty!

How vile and disgusting are all the corporate scumbags to use Memorial day as an excuse to have a "sale."  Honor the fallen soldiers of all our wars by running out and buying a new Toyota!  Never mind that the people we're supposedly  commemorating have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with having a new car, or any of the other garbage being sold in memory of America's fallen heroes.  But the honor of the worst memorial day commercial goes to the makers of The Kraken black spiced rum who filled the screen and evidently their bottles with a black, slimy concoction that looks like it was scooped out of the gulf of Mexico.  Americans; they'll buy anything!

We shouldn't really be so amazed at the monumental failures at the VA that keep surfacing.  Just look around you, everywhere the wheels are coming off, the facades are falling, no longer able to support the lies and illusions that have kept us sleepwalking through this incarnation.  How much more has to collapse before our very eyes before we realize it's already too late to "save" it, as if it was worth saving to begin with?  Did you notice that faint vibration underfoot recently, don't worry it's not an earthquake this time, just those old dead soldiers restless in their graves.

I want you to all stop and ponder this for a moment or two...Seeing how the government regards and deals with it's veterans, do you really believe you'll be treated any better?  If the answer is yes then I suggest you may be in for a very rude awakening just any time now.  An excellent example is this abomination they call ObamaCare.  After all the childish, vindictive and pointless hysteria some version of it gets passed into law.  Not only are Americans now legally required to participate in this charade, (even though it doesn't work) but the government cannot even find anyone competent enough to design a website that works for shit.

Congratulations America, ObamaCare is VA health care for civilians!

May the Source be with You!

Jon Stewart exposes historical gov't betrayal of Veterans

Politicians JOKE about dead servicemen and children

More Jon Stewart on national VA disgrace

A Veteran speaks out about his ordeal with the VA

                                  Related Augureye Posts:

Other Voices: ** **

No comments:

Post a Comment