El Paso VA

Benjamin KrauseMany of you know of the sad events surrounding the shooting of a VA psychologist following a perceived wrongful PTSD denial for benefits at the El Paso VA. On the heels of recent revelations that VA is failing veterans with mental health disorders, hopefully this unfortunate event will serve as a wakeup call throughout VA facilities and DoD nationwide.

<< VETERANS NEED COMPETENT, TIMELY MENTAL HEALTH CARE >>

In a recent GAO audit, VA incorrectly documented 63% of suicide cases. The majority of veterans seeking mental health care who also receive anti-depressants do not receive adequate follow up appointments. Repeatedly, VA has been reminded that it will never improve its mental health programs if it refuses to properly document and treat existing veterans.

These problems are well known and have been for a decade, but VA has refused to properly resolve the deficiencies evidenced by failed watchdog audits like the recent GAO evaluation.

Now, we have a death and shooting in El Paso. It is time to pray for the families affected and to pray that America will wake up and force VA and DoD to address these problems before we jump into more wars across the world.

El Paso is well known for having one of the worst wait list times.

The shooter, Jerry Serrato, was a veteran recently denied his PTSD claim. The VA employee Serrato shot was a VA psychologist at El Paso VA where Serrato was apparently denied his PTSD claim. His name was Timothy Fjordback, a senior psychologist.

Serrato’s denial was premised on VA’s assertion that his PTSD claim was not credible. Once the denial is in place, it is difficult for veterans to get access to mental health care to treat PTSD properly.

Following the denial, Serrato approached now deceased Fjordback in a grocery store and stated something like, “I know what you did and I will take care of that,” according to a source. He was reportedly upset about the denial.

Sadly, Serrato did chose to avail himself to Smith & Wesson rather than the backlogged appeal process to prove his PTSD claim. We may never know if proper diagnosis and treatment of PTSD may have prevented this tragedy, but moving forward I hope VA will take its job more seriously related to this condition.

This is a senseless tragedy, and VA needs to fix its mental health program to catch cases like this before it is too late for everyone.

Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2015/01/06/doctor-shot-presumed-shooter-found-dead-at-el-paso-va-clinic/

78 COMMENTS

  1. I agree with John. I don’t have PTSD and my heart and prayers go out to all of those who do. I am sure that with my treatment fro major depression that I can somewhat understand that they are not getting what they need. In the other blog that Ben posted about this, I was surprised at the amount of feedback on this. I think that to have that much feedback on one site shows there is indeed a problem with the VA and their treatment of the vets who need the mental health and are not getting the correct and proper care. I have been on he same pill for over five years now and I keep asking if it is helping me and my only answer is “as long as there are no side effects then we see no need to change it” How about the fact that I feel no better or that I hate getting up in the morning. Yes I have told them that and it falls on deaf ears. I have tried different Dr’s with the same result.
    The VA is failing us and the recent shooting is a bold statement to that. What will the result be? most likely any vet with a serious mental illness will be considered a threat and will have some sort of security assigned to them. The VA will blame us vets for their failure and as a result we will be the ones to suffer again for no reason other than the VA simply refuses to admit that it cannot handle our problems properly but if they send us to someone else then that may affect their bonus. They put money over actually helping us vets. Such a shame.

    • The VA knows the Vet psychology..(THEY USUALLY JUST GO AWAY AND DON’T FIGHT FOR THEIR RIGHTS) There is Research that shows that side affects of the PTSD DRUGS are cognitive and memory problems; and this is in addition to the VA’s own research (most VA Phys and Counselors do not know) that if one has PTSD..then more likely than not they will develop cognitive problems and dementias and/or Alzheimers!!! VA’s Own Research!!! They you have a VA Psych in NY stating that Vets should not be given benzos…(again….memory/cognitive); They continually “throw” meds a the Vets; often they are worse; not better. There are no real classes on copng skills; Haven’t seen any Wellness and Recovery groups (Peer counseling with written plan by the Vet); no couples group counseling; no classes to how to deal with these cognitive and memory issues!! AND, if the Vet is not in treatment; they will not see the spouse!!
      I tried to get through to the CYA people –they used to call them patient advocates) at McGuire in Richmond, VA…no return call. Tried to get through to the Director; refused. So how are things working for all of you; tried to get through to your VA Director? Bureauracy…do as little as possible. My husband has to wait to be “transferred” to another Clinic to get into a Nutrition program (Move)!!! His Vet counselor told him to go and get them to let him audit the class; and they refused to let him monitor the class!! ALL HIS treatment is online! VA to Fl (back to the clinic he was in when he left)!! Now, do you know how hard I tried and his Vet counselor to get him to agree to go to this clinic…he put on 30 lbs while he was gone!!! No, he would have to wait to jump through protocol!! Like an alcoholic…you don’t tell them to wait….if they are asking…it was not like they did not have room for him in that class either!! SOSDD!!!!!

  2. I have received excellent care for my PTSD, both in Florida in an outpatient clinic and here at the VA Hospital in Asheville, NC. Obviously, there are some veterans that fall “between the cracks” for the correct medical care. But I do believe the overall diagnosis, care and being able to deal with this terrible disease is based on the doctor/patient relationship. I honestly believe, after 15 years of counselling, that the end result in managing this disease is also based on the patient being able to deal with this themselves. I do not blame the VA, the patients or anyone else but, as a patient, you have to make an honest try in recovery, try to deal with this as best you can and that will help you go on to an understanding and help yourself deal with this disease.

    • Most of us do try our best to avail ourselves of the PROPER treatment, but there is a definite DISCONNECT between SYMPTOMS / TREATMENT. All we can do is tell how we feel and what is going on in our lives(as we understand it), but to be told by MEDICAL STAFF we are LYING, MALINGERING, FULL OF BULL, etc does not sit WELL WITH SOME OF US and is BEYOND comprehension for most of us.
      Let us HOPE / PRAY this is an isolated incident and that the WHEELS do not fall off the TREATMENT CART.

    • Ron, it depends where you go. I had great care at the VA where I was first diagnosed. However, that was White River Jct., VT and that is where the VA’s National Center for PTSD is located. I moved to Pennsylvania and went to the Wilkes Barre VA. When I first wanted to see someone there, I was given an appointment 10 days out. I then saw a nurse practitioner who spent most of the time telling me how lousy that VA was and that there were no Psychiatrists available and the head of the Psychiatric department wasn’t board certified. Then you couldn’t get an appointment for another 3 to 4 months. I moved again and now go to another VA. I see my shrink every other month and new patients are seen immediately and followed up closely for the first several months.

      I understand you wanting to tell your story, but to someone who has been treated like crap, it really isn’t valid. You can’t make progress when you are not properly treated and telling someone with PTSD to deal with it as best you can is exactly what happened in this case.

    • Ron,

      You clearly have issues. My wife is a Physician she was appalled how my VA Doctor spoke with me and treated me. Can you tell me that CREED and OATH the doctors take. If you don’t want to do a job…do the customer’s a favor and find another job!

      • John, it is called the “HIPPOCRATIC OATH” DO NO HARM! I’ve had the pleasure to take the oath a couple of times, and I am detailed oriented, imagine these VA NOT A PROFESSIONAL who make assumptions or my favorite “spin the wheel diagnosis” with an intern, who by the way I saw this nurse later in the week about drugs mailed to my home. She states, “why are you here again?” Seriously, I cannot make this up. Well, as my “intuitive nature” and knowing my shit rather well, excuse my curse word, oh you bet I know what is right and what is wrong, and I wear a leather and silver bracelet, “DO NO HARM BUT TAKE NO SHIT.” Do I intend to sue? Well as I told Ms. Hickey, who pulled a stunt, don’t worry, I am sure I can find me a republican who’d love this one! She calls or an assistant, realizing I do have markers for PTSD ( no shit) Also too damn nice, got the MST-raped twice, those I did not report but did tell a friend but last names hard to remember. Just so you know, I pointed out way before the truth appeared that my “intake” was not right, confronted the Social Worker, who sounded like one of my kids when young, pitch up, talk faster. The problem with an incorrect intake can lead to improper treatment. Understand I covered well, or so I thought, but big decisions had been a problem since those events. ( not now, bitch is back and here to stay) they have “lost my active duty records” but my exit exam states back injury. 1981, I married an abuser, I was the “fix it type” which you cannot fix others, they have to fix themselves. Sure I continued to have pain, yes it was noted while I was an active reservists, but I worked out hoping it would make the muscles stronger. Also, gee after 1991 Desert Storm, I started to have increase pain all over, tired and at times hard to focus. In 1998 I was diagnosed with a reactive arthritis and the big F a fibromyalgia. Interesting to note, back then it wasn’t even known, my Aunt has it, she saw the “best and not cheap also wrote a huge book,” called hers chronic fatigue syndrome. However it changed. FIBRO can be a genetic predisposition but also an event like a “RAPE” can kick it off. I had all the precursors in the service both active duty and reserves, but WASNT into complaining about any back issues, single mom, two little ones and not enough sleep! The VA denied my back, they need records, they denied my PTSD/MST too, and it’s the test they give. I remember this discussion with a Professor, she thought this new “TRAITS TESTING” WAS THE LAZY WAY TO DIAGNOSIS OF ANY PATIENT AND WE ALL HAVE MANY TRAITS THAT SHOULD PAINT THE BIGGER PICTURE TO ASSIST THE CLIENT/PATIENT. Well, since they stated I had traits for something else, I found the test and took it, not feeling too hot, I tested a “possible” so it makes that theory go right out the door! I am not an excitable person, I do however enjoy my quiet time, and wish I could sit and do things I loved, sewing, quilting and play my Cello. I read quite a bit, I keep up with the new future of medicine as well as the psychosocial. I truly miss my being able to volunteer, but damn, I cannot handle standing long, sitting is killer, and DALLAS VA is unreal! Geesh, the games they play are idiotic and childish, and Ms. Hickey better prepare her “case right,” as she is responsible for an action, and may all the TAX PAYERS SEE THE SHIT VETERANS PUT UP WITH WHEN ALL THEY WANT IS PROPER CARE, PATIENTS RIGHTS, AND THE NO MORON STATUS THAT TAKES FOR EVER AND CREATES MORE DAMAGE THAN GOOD? FIRE THEM BOTH-BECAUSE THEY CAN KISS MY LILLY WHITE ASS SINCE THEY STILL CANNOT TREAT PTSD RIGHT NOR MST RIGHT AND GEE IT AINT THAT HARD!

    • Ron, I was glad to see your contribution to this blog. I have over 40 yrs experience in the mental health field, and some of my training was at a VA Center where the Vets did receive mostly careful, conscientious and appropriate treatment. The quality of treatment varies in and outside of the VA. Sloppy, careless prescribing of drugs is common, unfortuneately. Vets need to be willing to do “homework” outside of sessions and to cooperate with professional advice, and they aren’t always cooperative. The case of the shooting above is no proof at all that the VA treatment was inadequate in this vet’s case or that the vet really had PTSD, only proof of the vet’s anger and willingness to kill someone who was probably trying to do their job. Maybe the vet actually WAS a malingerer. The VA has them(malingerers) and the SSSDI system has them, plenty of them. I saw many people at public clinics over the years who sought disability because they preferred not to work and pretended to be unable to do things like leave the house or ride in a car. I also saw a Vietnam Vet who had been through bloody jungle skirmishes and developed PTSD, but had recovered from it by the time I started seeing him. He had gone AWOL, and yet many years later received many thousands in back benefits due to claims made by his lawyer.
      My point is that you can’t take a single case like the one above and look at it as proof of anything, really. What is wrong with people who jump to conclusions based on one case!

  3. An article I read this AM states Jerry Serrato was medically discharged from the Army. Does anyone know why and if he was medically separated, medically retired or separated without benefits?

      • Yes, but I am talking about DoD disability benefits, not VA benefits. BTW: you can get VA benefits with less than an honorable discharge.

        My question is what was the nature of his medical discharge? Was he medically retired with a PEB rating of 30%+, was he medically separated with a PEB rating of 20% or less, or was his condition deemed EPTS or a condition not a disability (such as personality disorder) leading to a medical separation without DoD benefits?

        Mike

      • Mike, Can you say more about DOD disability benefits? I’ve only heard of VA disability benefits? VA’s entire system is needs to be dismantled and let Vets go to the Community medical “system”s with Tricare/Champus insurance.

        How much good can a “new” Secretary do for Vets when we are close to another election? They let my husband “walk” to get an apptmt with a pulmunologist the next week (5 DAYS) ….found out he had blood in his heart veins still from blood clots in both lungs; still….after being on blood thinners for almost a year. Instead of putting Him back on blood thinners immediatelyt; they had him wait for apptmt with another Dr.!!! I am a spouse…and I could write a book!! I heard the new Secretary gave out his number? What is it…I need to call him!! I have a Fed charge of misconduct in trying to get an 85 yo WW11 Vet medications that the VA Pharmacy did not send!! The VA lied…employees lied on stand…VA had 9 VA police and 2 VA civilian employees in Court for l/2 day….then they reported to Congressman that not their fault…Judge found me guilty of misconduct!!!! HOW OBVIOUS…the VA cop said he was “intimidated” by me…he had a gun…I’m 4’11 and a small woman. IF THEY WANT YOU…>THEY WILL GET YOU…Funny how their camera in the waiting room wasn’t working that day…that was my proof!! sHAME sHAME sHAME!! aNOTHER hALL OF shame!!!

      • Brenda,

        DoD grants disability retirement pay or disability separation pay when a member becomes unfit for further service due to a compensable medical condition. This cases are vetted through the Disability Evaluation System which consists of a Medical Evaluation Board and a Physical Evaluation Board. See DoDI 1332.18 for deeper details.

        Mike

      • Michael, I learned something and now I am a little confused on part of this. I was Honorably/medically discharged after going in front of the board and was found unfit for duty. I was granted a 10% disability and was offered a severance pay of over $4000. I learned that this was from the DoD (I didn’t know that). The confusion part is that when I was discharged I was told that I would get the severance pay and the 10% disability pay. So I took the severance pay during my discharge and was expecting the disability pay to start later (I know how slow the VA is on these type of things) so after the fourth month of not receiving my 10% disability pay I contacted the regional office and was told that I had a choice of the severance pay or the disability pay. I informed them that’s not what I was told when I was discharged and of course none of that was in writing. So I was made to pay back the over $4000 from my disability pay before I could get it. Is this right or did I get taken. I would have never taken the severance pay over taking the disability pay. I will look into your DoD reference to see what I can find out. Thank you so much for the info.

      • When were you discharged? What service? What did the VA initially rate the condition that the PEB found unfitting? Did the unfitting condition incur in a combat zone? Was the unfitting condition combat related?

        You did the right thing taking the DoD severance pay. Indeed it can be offset by the VA comp but the earlier that is done, the sooner you get full VA comp.

      • Michael, Discharged in 1985, injury occurred in 1984 during training to be transferred to Turkey . Air Force was the service. The board gave me a 10% rating for my left knee Chondromalaicia patella with the severance pay as a result of being unfit. I also had surgery on that knee in ’84 (arthroscopic) to remove a plica. No to combat zone either incurred or related. Still getting messed over on it today. Long story that I am trying to get resolved. It has gotten worse and is now in both knees and rated at 40%. Current VAMC states that nothing is wrong with my knees and my other VAMC states that something is wrong and has been wrong with them for the last 10 yrs. and has treated the knees the whole time. Current VAMC refuses to look at the other VAMC. Getting people involved above the Patient Advocate as she will not look into this. Thanks for the help

      • Here’s the facts on character of discharge & benefits Angela

        “Applying for Benefits and Your Character of Discharge

        Generally, in order to receive VA benefits and services, the Veteran’s character of discharge or service must be under other than dishonorable conditions (e.g., honorable, under honorable conditions, general). However, individuals receiving undesirable, bad conduct, and other types of dishonorable discharges may qualify for VA benefits depending on a determination made by VA.”

        http://www.benefits.va.gov/BENEFITS/docs/COD_Factsheet.pdf

  4. I hate to say, “I told you so”, but I felt this kind of EVENT was not far from happening. The Govt. can not continue to treat these NEW JACK Vets like us OLD TIMERS, they have been taken from the comfort of being HOME / WORKING to fighting for their lives EVERYDAY. No amount of “WEEK-END” TRAINING can prepare a SOLDIER for that.
    It was just a matter of time before this UNFORTUNATE event occurred.

  5. Congress has been allowing the VAs to treat us any kind of way..this includes adjudicators and claims reps as well…I had a med board in 2009…however due to my EEOs and other complaints to Wash DC and now a Civil Suit…my claim with a med board has been thrown to the back of the room..until now…when I had to reach out to the now VA secretary and Under Secretary for assistance….this should not have happened…when you are an employee of the VA and a Veteran…we are so targeted to be provoked in the event I would react so I could be written up for behavioral problems and then treat me as a troublemaker..

  6. no words can express my sorrow for the doctor and the veteran, they say for every action their is a reaction and sadly this is the worst outcome. We as a Nation MUST stop and treat each other with respect and diginity and quit pushing each others buttons.

  7. Dont get me started…..VA Doctors do this all the time. I wish he could have received the assistance and air processing for his claim….but come on people this is the REAL WORLD and the VA could care less. i have an overworked, aged, worn out PCP …she has numerous complaints but does the same stuff over and over…i have talked to the Admin Ofiicer and Head .physcian……it simply does not matter to them.

    on top of they Physiologist in general annoy me…..how can a Physiologist say “he (being me) cheated on you (my wife)”. we have our issues but i never have nor would on anyone. but he didn’t just say that once. I never attended because of work and this was not the reason why my wife said she was attending.m Just saying

  8. Went to the V A clinic in Goshen indiana to talk about my P.T.S.D. it was like talking to a twelve year old off the street, First Guestion was do you own a gun, Second guestion ” what did you come back for ? ” she must have been just out of high school. some help.

  9. another case of being lost in the system,just trying to make the number look good.We give hundred of millions of dollars away to nations that claim to be our allies; yet we fail to meet the most basic needs of our Veterans. I could tell of my story of fighting the VA system,but, it would be a story many Veterans have had themselves. the VA knows they don’t have to change just wait it out a few years and a new administration will be in power. Mean while the best of our nation suffers.

  10. Unfortunately, I can see why this happens over and over again. When we are not heard, how can we explain whats going on, mental health professionals need to really listen, not to just what is being said, but to what isnt said, the stoic, just “suck it up” behavior that most soldiers have ingrained in them, it doesnt just go away. And when they/we finally decide to reach out for help, and our feelings, our fears are discounted, thats when these things happen. When you feel like you have nothing to lose, you lose it, and it’s all over but the the crying.

    • gijane, you are so right. I have heard the “suck it up” so many times and it is true that when you feel like you have nothing to lose, you do lose it and many have lost more than “it”. I have used words that could be taken in a certain way during my appointments just to see if my psych. was actually listening. He wasn’t. No response from it, nothing in my record about it, nothing. I have done this more than once and no I am in no way to that point or even considering that. I was curious as to if he was paying attention to me or paying more attention to all the messages he was getting on his computer (I could hear them making that noise they make).

      • Suck it up is good advise. Why?

        My daddy was shot down over enemy territory, sole survivor, w/ Buddie. He was listed as dead.

        Made it back, with his own instinct and skills.

        Came back to States, got married, put himself through college, started a business, and was a good provider for his family.

        Died (20) years later in my arms, on the anniversary date the plane was shot down.

        Now what is wrong w/ this picture?

        His rank was staff sergeant, in US Army Air Force.

        Tail-gunners kid

      • PJ, I am not sure of what your point is here. You say you are the son of a veteran who seems to have endured a lot in his military career and I am glad that he got to come back and have a family and I am sorry for your loss.
        This blog is about how us vets are being treated when we have a mental condition that desperately needs some help so we can become better and continue with our lives. I am not sure how many of us have heard the statement made by the Dr’s who are supposed to help us. The “suck it up” is a term used in the military by those who have a higher rank to make us keep going no matter what the situation is. When you are dealing with the brain and are told to “suck it up” it is not the same thing. If your brain is not functioning at the level it should be and you are not “feeling” right then bad things can and sometimes do happen (case in point the recent shooting). We do not need to be told to “suck it up” we need to be told what needs to be done to try and fix our brain to the best of its ability. That may require something simple and easy (medicine) to many years of therapy and maybe group sessions or other things to help try to repair what has been damaged. If you have not had to deal with the VA and especially the Mental Health part you will never understand what it is like and what you have to go through. I am one of those who have. Some have had good results with this and others have had no help at all.

  11. It has been a rough go at trying to get a VA doctor or physiologist that hasn’t asked the question (and this after you have been seeing them for a while on a certain situation, “What brings you here to see me today?” I read, this has been a problem for a decade…how about decade’s of wasted time and unnecessary medication. I have lost four Vietnam Veteran friends to suicide and one Iraqi veteran that use to skateboard around my house…The VA Medical is a fail and the Mental Health is non-existent. Some doctors do try as other’s do that work in the health care for the VA…I find that they are just asking for an ass whipping. Can’t say that or touch any VA worker and all I can do is wish for them to have an unpleasant experience…the rest of their miserable, bully and bigoted lives.

  12. Ron,

    You clearly have issues. My wife is a Physician she was appalled how my VA Doctor spoke with me and treated me. Can you tell me that CREED and OATH the doctors take. If you don’t want to do a job…do the customer’s a favor and find another job!

    • So, I have issues????? What in the world do you mean by that statement??? I was diagnosed with PTSD in 1996 after returning from Vietnam in 1972. I had absolutely no idea that I was afflicted with this but came to realize, with intensive treatment, what I deemed normal was indeed wrong for myself and anyone that I was married to or had interactions with. I did not bring up the 2 VA Centers that never diagnosed me at all or the VA Center I went to that did but did absolutely nothing for me. I did not think that was important to my post. Everyone reacts differently to PTSD and I do believe it is entirely dependent how each Veterans responds to treatment. I have since dropped from monthly 1 on 1 sessions to 2 times a year or anytime I need some help I just call the VA and I can come in for a session. There are far more deserving Veterans that absolutely NEED care than at this time. I thought it was the right thing to do in my life at this time.

  13. My first appointment with the VA Shrink.
    I was early as usually with all my appointments but just like 20 mins. He was not there…he came in like15 mins late…fiddled with some papers….then call me in….sat me down and said he needed to go get something to drink….20 mins later he came in with food and a drink..he did apologize but really!!!!! I was going to snap on him but since my daughter was there I didn’t say a word……Has anyone experienced this?

    It has happened since but differently as they have been late and sneaking in the back…haha the elevator is in front though so I see them.

    • FreddyMac, If you read my reply in this blog you will see that I too have had a similar situation. My Psych. would usually be an average of 10 minutes late and then he seemed to be more interested in messaging on his computer than listening to me. I would often hear that sound that a computer makes when someone would send him a message. I would take that opportunity to say something that should have been noted or at least get a response from him; however, not a thing. I don’t think he even heard what I was saying. At the end of each session (which I was told that he had to stop me for his next appointment. Maybe you should be on time and then I can understand the need for me to leave on time) he would have me make another appointment to continue with what we were talking about. it would have been nice to finish what we were talking about as it was fresh in my mind. I finally got fed up with him and switched to another one who was no better than the first. I feel so sorry for those with a condition that is in such a need that is not getting addressed properly.

  14. I’m so surprised this is not a common place occurrence. It is sickening to have these hacks determine your life ability, and deny you, turn you down, all because they are getting kickbacks from the VA for every Vet they deny.

  15. I hate to say this but I need too, many VA Psychiatrist/Psychologist that I have encountered at the Philadelphia and Coatesville Medical Centers are very nasty and disrespectful towards the Veterans they are their to serve. I have personally been told and heard over Psychologist at the Philadelphia/Coatesville VA Medical Center state that my PTSD was in my mind and get over it and when I reported them to the VA Directors, I was told “I have to understand that they have a very hard job in dealing with veterans”. In 2013 I was told by Dr. Donald Marcus, that I need to watch myself because the VA have endless resources to make my life a living hell.
    I want to send my personal condolences to the Veteran because many veterans are being denied PTSD including myself, even though the VA are prescribing PTSD medications. The VA needs to pay attention to Veterans and stop denying our claims. My treatment was a joke, I was denied my PTSD medications after I questioned the doctor and his boss for lying.
    I trust that the eyes of the VA have began to open and see that we need these services because we serve our county 100% and we come home less than 100% but are denied compensation. It took me 17+ years to finally receive my 100%, what a battle…
    I say to my fellow veterans stay strong and we must unite with solidarity in order to win our cause.

    Semper Fi!

    • D. Did you take this above the people in the local Dr’s who were telling you that they can make your life a living hell? Because you too can do the same. Go up the chain of command for the facility you are getting your help. Go up to the Director of that facility. If you do not get the results then contact everyone in the upper ranks up to Robert McDonald. If you let them know of your concerns and your treatment and not to mention that you have a “Patient Bill of Rights” you may get somewhere. I know of two people with whom I am in constant (I e-mail them weekly to see what is going on with my concern) and they are both on the medical side of the VA. I know that they are taking there time but at this point I have gotten some response and they have gotten others involved in my concern. You have nothing to lose by doing this as it is your right if you are not receiving proper and correct treatment.

      • I took it two steps further because when I spoke with the Philadelphia/Coatesville Directors, I was told that I was not conforming and I said humbly thank you for your time and walked out of the ambush meeting with the directors and VA Police waiting near the conference room. I had an email already prepared for Sec. McDonald, OIG, President and CNN. After sending out all the emails I received a “Hot” telephone call and email from Under Sec Allison Hickey on November 28, 2014, to report to VAMC Durham for a C&P Exam on Dec 1, 2014 at 1300 hours. The hospital contacted me on Dec 1, 2014, at 0900 to reschedule I refused and reminded them that my appointment was scheduled by the VA Under Sec and that my report must be released no later than 1530 on Dec 1, 2014. On Dec. 5, 2014 at 1645, I was noticed by Director Cheryl Rawls Office, that I was approved for 100% and that I will not have any future Evaluations. The kicker is that my appeals for PTSD some how was certified the same day. So I believe that we should right as many higher ups as possible, figure8fan is dead on we have nothing too loose by speaking up for ourselves. I have learned that we must speak up or the VA will run over us (Veterans).

  16. I unfortunately see the VA’s reaction to this will be to systematically ensure our very right to own firearms are taken away if we have any Psy Diagnosis, esp. PTSD. It is unfortunate what happened but wasn’t this just an event waiting to happen because of the incredulous SUBSTANDARD PSY CARE we receive mostly, as Veterans?
    Why do I suggest that this is how the VA will respond and react? Because already, some of the first questions the VA have started asking Vets is if they have any firearms and where they are. Have read this occurring over the entire 2014 year and unfortunately saw something like this happening because of an inept VA Medical AND Psych Care system…it’s nothing but a meat packing plant and a FAT paycheck with even bonuses rewarding the very rude and vile behavior they express with disrespect and disdain for those of us that have gone through more than can sufficiently be verbalized.
    FUCK THE VA!

  17. West Palm Beach, Florida VAMC…. A veteran went to the ” CRISIS INTERVENTION PROGRAM” sat with a counselor for over an hour…. walked into the hall…. pulled out a .38 Cal Revolver and blew his brains out in the hall. He didn’t wait to go outside, he didn’t go home. He committed suicide right there. And NOT a word in the media…. go figure ?

  18. There is no indication that he was denied treatment and no specific reason for his claim denial. This vet obviously needed help but we don’t know what his personal isses were (employment, financial or other). Tragic outcome regardless. People have definite opinions about why this happened, but more information is necessary before sound conclusions should be drawn. The psychologist should have reported the threat received at the store. Maybe that would have prevented the murder/suicide. Sad. Extremely sad.

  19. This psychologist was a responsible, respectful man who was very well versed in the diagnosis and treatment of PTSD. This is a tragedy and this article takes an inappropriate stance that murdering someone equals verification of PTSD symptoms. Other diagnoses would be possible as well (e.g., Antisocial Personality Disorder, Paranoid Schizophrenia). This psychologist was a good human being dedicated to helping others. It is insulting to hear so many blaming the victim. Let’s support veterans adequately, AND those who are serving our country by treating our veterans. I grieve the loss of a colleague today.

    • Anthony, you are most likely a VA employee as you identified the psychologist as a colleague. Where you get “so many are blaming the victim”, is beyond me. In the article, Ben states we need to grieve for both the Psychologist and the veteran. Numerous commenters also echoed that sentiment. The majority of the balance of the comments were the personal stories of veterans, and how were treated within the VA system.

      I help veterans with PTSD claims. I have seen many reports from psychiatrists and psychologists (both treating and C & P examiners) where you must wonder who they were writing about in their reports. For some reason, I think many in the VA believe veterans with PTSD really want to be labeled with the condition. For your own professional edification, that is not the case. Yes, veterans can have other mental health issues and they should receive proper care. If you are honest with yourself, you know MH professional will offer differing diagnoses for the same patient.

      If this psychologist was the veteran’s treating practitioner, or a C & P examiner, he either failed to realize the veteran’s suicidal/homicidal ideation, or he thought himself immune from attack by this individual. This is especially true because of the statements to the psychologist by the veteran at the supermarket. Those are facts, and it is not blaming the victim. They are the only two possibilities which can be deduced from the information we have been given.

      This VA is known for shortcomings in their treatment for MH conditions. I thought it ironic that they rushed a Vet Center mobile clinic there for grief counseling, yet are unable, or unwilling, to provide proper care at a facility infamously known for long delays to receive an appointment.

  20. I have been receiving excellent MH care from my facility. The problem is on the C&P side. I have to laugh because that is all I have left, humor. I originally went in to seek care for my trauma suffered during combat, to which I was an 11C1P (airborne mortars). The VA examiner told me that my ex wife was the cause of my traumatic memories. I about fell on the floor when she said that. “Your telling me that my eye witness to seeing people blown apart is a memory that my wife caused?” I have later figured out that there are things called “triggers” and “stressors,” I think the Psych MD was trying to claim my Ex was a stressor and that the VA was not going to compensate me for an Ex wife. I told them my combat stories and they chose to ignore it. I later found out that my DD214 did not have my CIB orders on it and that was a potential problem because the orders were not in my record at all. I had buddies write statements and family discussed my altered behavioral patterns in addition to finally submitting my CIB orders that I had to find a copy of from a former combat buddy. I am still waiting to see how thing go but I have to give kudos to the actual healthcare people providing the care. Point of the story, make sure you have a copy of ALL of your records C-file, VA, Active duty med notes, ect…because the C&P examiner may not actually be seeing all of the papers…..if they even decide to read them. I also must recommend that you take physical copies of your current diagnosis and statement of events to a Psych review along with treatments because sometimes they say, “I have seen the records” and didn’t see the whole thing. Thanks and good luck. Bco 2/325 AIR

    • YES GI JANE AND GI JOE ( VA OIG AND IG) ITS ALL LIFE STRESSORS, GET STUFFED! THEY NEED TO DO A PROPER TEST AND FOR SOME AS IN MYSELF, A CANNOT WORK EXAM, NO JOKE, MEASURES HOW FAR I CAN TILT RIGHT OR LEFT, NOT TOLERATED WELL, KNOCK ON MY KNEES-“CLAIM DENIED? DAMN SLOPPY VA THAT ISNT AN EXAM THAT IS “SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE!” YES. SEVERE PAIN I PUSH THROUGH ALMOST 8 HOURS OF QUESTIONS, PARTNER SEES ME FADING SO HE REMINDS ME, SERIOUSLY ANOTHER DAMN TEST? SADLY BY THAT POINT ALL I SEE ARE LETTERS ON A PAPER BECAUSE THE WORDS CANNOT PROCESS RIGHT.
      GEE MAYBE MY STRESS IS MY DOG, SHE SNORES LIKE CRAZY, BUT WILL GO INTO FULL ON PROTECT ME MODE FROM THAT UPS TRUCK! THEN BACK TO SNORING.
      DO YOU THINK THAT IS MY ISSUE? ALL YOU CAN DO IS LAUGH AND CALL THEM FLUNKIES, NORTH TEXAS, WELL MOST OF TEXAS ISNT RATED HIGH ON WE HELP YOU AND TREAT YOU WITH DIGNITY-“WORDS THAT HAVE BEEN LEFT OUT!”

  21. The problem is our veterans are SUFFERING & DYING while BEGGING the VA FOR HELP. Veterans are losing all hope of getting HELP. More and more injured, sick and wounded veterans are hurting so badly, they see no way out except to take drastic action.
    The VA employees are still stealing all the BILLIONS of DOLLARS OF OUR TAXPAYERS’ MONEY that should be used to provide medical care and compensation for our disabled veterans!
    As of today, Wednesday, January 7, 2015, these VA Executives, VA Claims Processors and VA Lawyers are still mocking and mistreating our WOUNDED WARRIORS with their VA Anthem ” DENY, DENY, UNTIL THEY DIE!”

  22. My husband is a 68 year old Disabled American Veteran I recently called VA Secretary Robert McDonald’s cell phone. After getting voice mail, I left my name and number. Two days later, a member of Secretary McDonald’s staff, Erin Gittens returned my call. She looked at my husband file. His appeal for compensation has been backlogged at the Cleveland Regional Office since 2010 Erin Gittens promised to send an email to the Cleveland Regional Office inquiring about my husband’s claim.
    The very next day, we received a phone call from the Cleveland Regional Office. The gentleman’s name is Kevin Freedman.
    Mr. Freedman was very upset that I had called Secretary McDonald.
    He said he was TOTALLY IN CHARGE OF MY HUSBAND’S CLAIM, not anyone in Washington, especially Robert McDonald.
    Mr. Kevin Freedman stated that he intended to immediately DENY THE CLAIM! My husband and I were shocked that this gentleman, Kevin Freedman could DENY THE CLAIM that has lingered at the CLEVELAND REGIONAL OFFICE for OVER 4 years, in less than 4 MINUTES!
    It is boldly obvious that this VA WORKER, KEVIN FREEDMAN is angry because we phoned Secretary McDonald for help. In revenge, Kevin Freedman is denying the claim for compensation OUT OF SPITE!
    During our phone conversation, I asked that he meet with my husband in person. Mr. Freedman’s reply was, “There is really no point, I am going to DENY the CLAIM! But, if you insist, Come on up to Cleveland!”
    We are senior citizens. My husband is a veteran. We do not deserve to be treated with such TOTAL DISRESPECT! Please Bob McDonald help us, like you promised!

    • I know where you are coming from. I have been trying to get my claim figured since 2008. I was approved for an increase for my right knee and denied an increase for my left knee even though they both have the same condition, has worsened the same, have the same limitations that should get the increase (as it was approved for the right and denied for the left), everything in both knees should have the same rating.
      When I pressed for an answer to this (I am at the highest appeal except going to Washington DC. and pleading my case) I finally spoke with someone who told me that they have now changed my code and if I continued to push this issue and not drop it, I could and most likely would be de-rated. I now have no other choice but to do this. This our VA at its best. I stated back in the blog on the Phoenix deaths that after the news media had went away and the VA has weathered the storm, it would be business as usual. It is showing that to be true. I am not sure about Robert McDonald and being able to transform this system. It is so broken that it cannot continue and be fixed. It needs to be dismantled, rebuilt so that it is all dealing off of the same platform. It should be like a business type of model, what happens in CA should be the same that happens in ME. There should be less higher-ups, less people who get paid big bucks to do nothing. The disability system should be handled by less layers of trying to get what is rightfully the vets.
      We deserve to be treated so much better than we do. We have no real recourse for anything that happens and most of what happens is not in our favor or does not benefit us for the better. How can we get better from the VA when we try to complain and get punished for doing that? How can we complain and get blown-off by individuals who are there to just tell you how sorry they are and hope you go away? How can you complain to one part of the VA and it gets to another part who could care less and treats you as if you are the lowest life form on Earth. How can….?

    • Kevin will be removed from his position, hopefully not simply transferred. He is a sociopath to treat you and your husband like that. I don’t think McDonald will let him get by with this. Scream loud and long till someone listens. Call McDonald again, email him too. Ben Krause has his email address here somewhere if you ask, if you don’t have it already. What an arrogant psycho! Wait, I meant to say, “vindictive bastard from hell.” The VA is out of control. God bless you and your husband; for what it’s worth, I am certain McDonald and his staff will get your claim through.

    • mam, you need to calls bob’s office again and tell them, what has happened since your last conversation with this employee, just the way you wrote it here. Some employees have it in their head that they are gods and can do as they please. Do not stop, Veterans need to march on Washington, I think you should also write to your congressman and keep a paper trail of what you are doing so in the future you can produce documation as evidence that you tried.

    • Ummm, All calls to and from the VA are recorded and that recording needs to be found! This is despicable to say the least and I hope you get justice for that!

  23. Terrible thing that happened when the vet shot the psychologist. There is no excuse for that, but what stands out to me is that the news article states that the FBI interviewed 400 witnesses. Do you wonder how many witnesses would have been interviewed if the veteran had of just killed himself at home? Maybe 4? I could not read any further after I got to that part. The VA is hopelessly messed up. Military historians and cultural anthropologists might cite research that shows how great and powerful nations (Rome?), dynasties (Ming) have fallen due to how they viciously exploited their military and their veterans. I would wager that the VA does not really care about this murder, that they find it to be statistically insignificant, and they will learn absolutely nothing from it. It will only be seen as a murder, but the suicide part will be largely ignored. The veteran will be blamed 100% with no culpability whatsoever on the part of the VA psychologist. Some, if not many, VA psychologists, doctors, and other staffers, are quite vicious, cruel, self-centered and have created a culture where it is more than acceptable for 22 or more veterans to die by suicide a day while waiting for their claim approval that should have gone through ages ago if there were a level playing field in the VA system. But, it is not a level playing field. It is one gigantic lie, a huge insurance company and organized crime scam that is taking America down the toilet into third world nation status. A few strong leaders who will straighten the mess out at the VA must come along soon or we are doomed as a nation. History repeats itself, over and over an over. It is coming unless real change comes soon. The Bible says, God talking, “I want to see a flood of doing good.” The VA is a flood of doing evil; you have to wonder what He thinks about the bastards at the VA that ignore God’s take on this sort of thing. How about, “God is not mocked.” Don’t forget this one: “Vengeance is mine, says the Lord; I will repay.” Or, “Pray for your enemies and God will heap fire and hot coals on their heads.” The vet in the story did not know these verses. We need to remember these things and ideas from God. There are more verses for this kind of situation: “Their evil plans will boomerang back on their own heads.” And, something like, “Pray for these people anyway, and if they are not worthy of the blessing then God will bless you instead.”

  24. I am a Veteran with a non-combat version of PTSD due to personal trauma caused by a another service member which the trauma was magnified by the command by forcing me to work with a person I desired to kill. Since, I have never been the same and feel like I am constantly fighting a monster inside. I did not know exactly what PTSD was until 2 other veterans with the disorder let me know that I was having the same symptoms. I immediately understood that there was something I could do for myself through the VA, which was to file a claim and begin treatment. Treatment from the VA was mostly them trying to get me to focus on my childhood because of the lack of self appreciation. However the real reason I am reclusive is due to my uncontrollable outbursts which I described in detail to the comp and pen examiner, accompanied by self harm “irrational as it seems” I believe is what helps me calm.

    Recently I took a college class for Psychology. While trying to come up with a real diagnosis for charlie sheen, my final project which I aced, I came across Intermittent Explosive Disorder, and General Anxiety Disorder. These two disorders I know word for word of their descriptions, I suffer from on a daily basis.

    I have described these issues with the comp and pen examiner. speaking of the examiner! I would sum up all the information the examiner wrote with these few details.

    – The Veteran seemed knowledgeable, and immature

    – The Veteran had a traumatic event while in the Navy

    – 50% PTSD

    How is this descriptive. PTSD usually develops within the first month past the event. He did not write anything about how I was made to work with this person that should be in prison for what he did. He did not write anything about how I explained my reactions to even seeing this person at a distance. He didnt explain or hint at anything, not even the fact I eventually was made to change ships once someone that cared and had some pull found out while I was experiencing a breakdown punching bulkheads.

    I have learned that the therapy that is involved with PTSD is cognitive therapy. I have been suffering from this for almost 10 years now. I understand my disorder, as I have for quite some time. I now have a name for it. other than that, I know what I should be doing. It just is very hard to put words into practice when your brain wants to use the post trauma neural pathways instead. I would describe my outbursts to situations as an unsolicited addiction.

    Heavy breathing and random small panic attacks accompany my daily life, while feeling anxiously stressed is nearly a constant part of every waking moment .

    I currently in the process of getting another opinion outside the VA, and using that diagnosis for an appeal. I recommend most Veterans with this disorder to follow suit. PTSD alone is not a clear diagnosis. It just means that you fall into a spectrum. to get the help your really need, you need to know your exact problems that fall into that spectrum, then get therapy for that.

  25. WoW, Nothing more needs to be said here, All valid and I have my own story and I’m gonna take it up the chain of command to maybe finding an atty to take up my cause!! Good luck everyone!!

  26. As a fellow veteran, I can understand his frustration… But that does not justify this murder. Any and all concern for this guy soldier out the window when he murdered someone who simply disagreed with him. Whether or not the Doctor was right or wrong is irrelevant, all that matters now is the fact that this (fellow) Vet is a murderer. I (an Airborne Infantry soldier with two separate combat tours [Afghanistan and Iraq]) have struggled with PTSD and the VA for many, many years — know all about the pure frustration that organization can create. But I am not going to side with him because he killed an innocent man. We soldiers (even the wounded ones) hold our self to a higher standard than this. Sound harsh? Mean? Too strict? Excessive? You’re god damn right it is. Nothing about that oath was easy, and it wasn’t just a conditional or temporary commitment. That soldier turned on his civilians; there is no honor in that.

    • I am a VA doctor and I appreciate this response. Please consider this. I read that the average Psychiatrist in private practice follows150-200 patients a year. Managed care it is around 400. Last year I followed between 800-1000 patients. Because the VA does not hire enough staff, the lines are long, and follow up is a challenge.

  27. im a 10 yr. navy veteran. i applied for a disabilty claim for my hand’s and other thing’s my hand’s are shot. i have arthritis so bad in both of my hand’s. im only 46 and i have hands of a 72 yr old man according to my doctor. im constantly takeing medication for the pain. its eating the cartilage away in the joints in my hand’s. they denied my claim with out even getting seen by a doctor to get certified. i applied at the vfw by where i live as they did the claim for me. they dont give a damn. the va is a joke. they need a house cleaning from the top to the bottom. i get so frustrated with them it makes me very angry. i wrote my congressman. did not do any good. its depressing to say the least..im looking at getting help from a lawyer now hopefully they can help to settle my claim. i know what i did in there. i served my country for 10yrs. and got a honorable discharge. i was proud to serve. just burns me up the way i see some get treated. just want a fair shake i deserve at least that for my service!

  28. I know its wrong, but i cant help but fight the urge to wanna choke the life out all these mother fucking qtc “drs”. Plain and simple these va doctors are there for the va, not the patient. What happen to their oath? Fuck the VA and fuck QTC and i hope your family has pstd because of your death motherfucker fuck you rot in hell

  29. I feel emotionally traumatized every time I get back from my VA Primary Physician. I’ve actually been rotated through 3 different VA primary care docs, and experienced the same thing from all of them.

    They are not trained or equipped to handle mental illness, but they speak to us mentally ill patients like they do.

    As a veteran with PTSD, Bipolar and Schizoeffective disorder, I’ve been told “You just need to think more positive thoughts.” They say trigger phrases that demonstrate they don’t actually believe in mental illness. They think its just a frame of mind that we can switch off. Or as that we are just acting like babies. Real men can just turn off their mental illness.

    My disease is crippling to me, and the doctors always say such careless and hurtful things while discussing my illness like “You look perfectly healthy to me.”.

    A total heartbreaking disregard for my internal illness. It is so frustrating, and complaints may as well be flushed down the toilet.

    • patiently waiting for the next killing spree! VA doesn’t get Abrahams Lincoln’s mission statement “to care for him who borne the battle” Once they stop caring then Veterans stop caring and there is so much they can take and feel they have nothing else to lose. To much of this is happening. Patiently waiting!!

  30. Ignorant author of this blog..the kill was not senseless if it’s going to shake the VA into providing thorough care for PTSD. Guy didnt do his job, patient killed him, resonates poetic justice to my ears.

  31. Serrato deserves a Medal! He did what most of us fantasize on doing to our “so called” care providers at the VA. Fuck the VA! They’re a Fucking JOKE! And they do not care! Every provider I have ever seen that cared has either quit because of their “Quack” peers or have been fired for non complience because they did care. They listened to the Veteran. Made sure he or she was not in constant pain or mental anguish. Gave us the necessary medication to ensure us a better way of life. Oh No! Can’t be having that Shit. They gotta go, because they won’t follow the real agenda of the VA. If the Veteran doesn’t leave with higher blood pressure, pain, and anxiety, than when they came in there not doing there job! We fulfilled our duty, our contract, and our promise to this nation. Our only mission now is to heal. I was told today I should demand treatment. I should request. FUCK THEM AND FUCK THAT! I fought and almost died for my country, more so fought for the soldiers around me. I have earned the right to demand whatever treatment that I need. I DESERVE! And so do the rest of you. We need to stop giving in and laying down for the VA because that’s what they expect us to do. We were and always will be soldiers and Combat Killers. We are stronger than this. We need to stand together and stand up to these Fucks. Let them know we will not stand for this ANYMORE. Thanks for letting this broke down Infantryman rant. Something has to change. So ask yourself, will you stand and fight with me?

    • Goddamn right, I’m dealing with these quack sonsa bitches every time I go to see them and it’s getting maddening to say the least. Einstein’s insanity definition says it best, “doing the same thing over and over expecting change and getting the same results” someone is going to get hurt and IDGAF! They had it coming and no and I mean NO GODDAMN sympathy is coming from this damn disgruntled veteran. Piss on all of them!!

  32. My primary care doctor from VA logged on my medical record “never been to combat”,!,I wished I’ve never been to combat ,,I wished I was lying,,,He don’t even have access on my service record ,why the F#*€£ he said that? why can he just be a treating doctor and not fortune teller…living everyday with this unpleasant memories,maybe he wants to see me in a combat mode ,,,

    • I’m having all kinds of thoughts and feelings right now after this VA doctor logging on my health record that I was lying in my direct support to the combat operation during gulf war,,he assumed by seeing me smiling first time that I’m living a happy life ,,thats so fucked up though ,I’m trying to smile and I was accused of lying,,, he has no slight idea how I feel right now ,,he’s putting myself and my family down ,,,

      • Should I call the VA crisis line and tell them that I’m having thoughts in hurting someone or hurting myself?,! Yes,no,maybe

  33. It’s time for those ignorant VA so called doctor to feel how to be in a combat zone,,I know there will be consequences for what I’m thinking to do ,,,let them feel the fear of constant threat ,,,
    You can punch me,kick me,call me MF ,shoot me but don’t call me lying for my service and the sacrifice I made,,,

    • Get after em Pit snipe, go see a psychologist or psychiatrist and rant on that bastard. Make him feel the need to call security during your rant of this so called dr calling you a liar. who the fuck is that dr to say shit like that? I’d be after his fucking ass!!

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