MMQB: Massive Cover-up of 40 Deaths at Phoenix VA Medical Center

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Phoenix VA Medical Center

Senator McCain and other lawmakers demand action following deaths of up to 40 veterans connected to delays in health care services and misconduct at the Phoenix VA Medical Center.

In other news, two veterans’ multi-million dollar lawsuits against VA see some recent success. As examples of VA malpractice spreads across the blogosphere, we can rest assured that more suits against VA will be hitting the news.

Hi, and thank you for checking in for another edition of Monday Morning Quarterback for Veterans. My name is Benjamin Krause, creator of DisabledVeterans.org. This is where I give a short report on pressing matters affecting veterans across the country.

Today, I focus on medical malpractice and veteran lawsuits.

  • 40 Veteran Deaths at Phoenix VA Medical Center
  • PTSD Vet gets $3 million med mal award against VA
  • Marine widow suit against VA moves forward
  • Veterans react to VHA report spin

 

40 Veteran Deaths at Phoenix VA Medical Center

“Gross mismanagement of VA resources and criminal misconduct” are cited as the cause by a recent Inspector General investigation into deaths linked to the facility.

A VA-whistleblower, Dr. Sam Foote, came forward with documents alleging medical-care failures and administrative misconduct that led to the investigation. Foote stated that investigators confirmed reports he made about problems at the facility, but that no Arizona VA administrators were removed while “patients are still dying.”

Numerous lawmakers highlighted investigations into the deaths of up to 40 veterans due to delays at the Phoenix VA Medical Center. US Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake held news conferences last Friday that revealed their support of further investigations and action into the deaths.

According to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, investigators concluded that up to 40 veteran deaths may be the result of delays in getting medical care at the facility. Current wait times at the facility are now averaging 55 days.

Foote and other employees alleged a variety of other institutional breakdowns in Arizona’s VA, including:

• Medical record-keeping so backed up the system is 250,000 pages behind, and millions of records reportedly are missing.

• A compromised mental-health system where patient suicides doubled in the past few years, while staff ­suicides also emerged as a serious concern.

• A swamped emergency room that becomes the last resort for veterans who cannot get appointments with primary-care doctors or specialists. In some cases, VA health system employees have told the newspaper, vets with life-threatening conditions have waited hours without diagnosis or treatment because nurses are overworked and undertrained.

• Discrimination, cronyism and security breakdowns in the VA police department that endanger the safety of patients and employees.

• Hostile working conditions that caused an exodus of quality doctors and nurses, producing backlogs in specialty areas such as urology, where bladder cancer and other serious diseases are detected. Patients reportedly are referred to out-of-state VA centers or private physicians for treatment.

“They (administrators) just don’t respect any rules at all,” Foote said. “They just don’t care. … They beat me to the ground. I retired just exactly so I could do this.”

Read More: https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/politics/2014/04/10/deaths-phoenix-va-hospital-may-tied-delayed-care/7537521/

 

PTSD Vet gets $3 million med malpractice award against VA

Stanley Laskowski III of Carbondale just received confirmation that his $3+ million award will go through for medical malpractice committed by VA.

Stanley Laskowski III of Carbondale and his wife, Marisol, filed suit against the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in 2010, alleging medical officials at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Plains Twp. improperly treated his PTSD for years, causing it to worsen.

The case went before Senior U.S. District Judge James Munley for a nonjury trial in September 2012. In a 69-page ruling issued in January 2013, the judge agreed doctors made numerous errors in treating Mr. Laskowski, 36, and awarded him $2.4 million for past and future lost earnings and $1.2 million for pain and suffering. Mrs. Laskowski was awarded $140,615 for loss of her husband’s companionship.

Attorneys at the US Department of Justice are still challenging $600,000 of the total $3.7 million reward, claiming the addition amount should not be awarded due to Mr. Laskowski’s disability compensation check.

Mr. Laskowski receives disability based on his PTSD. The government argues the value of those future benefits over his projected lifetime should be deducted from the award. Mr. Brier said he opposes that because there is no guarantee Mr. Laskowski will continue to receive the benefits as disability determinations undergo periodic review and payments could be halted in the future.

Regardless, this spells a huge success for veterans across the country that suffered at the hands of VA failures to treat PTSD properly. This is especially true for veterans and their families where the veteran runs into legal problems due to failures of VA to properly treat.

Read More: https://m.thetimes-tribune.com/news/vet-with-ptsd-to-receive-3-1-million-from-government-1.1671207

 

Marine widow suit against VA moves forward

The lawsuit of a widow against a VA Medical Center is being allowed to proceed against VA according to the US 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Widow Tiffany Anestis sued VA for over $22 million after it refused to treat her husband twice after he threatened his life and attacked her. Marine Cameron Anestis was turned away from two separate VA Medical Centers over two days during a suicidal spell. The second facility gave Anestis some forms he needed to fill out prior to getting care. He was unable to fill out and became frustrated and hostile. He attacked his wife and then took his own life as a result of the frustration.

According to VA policy, no veteran should be turned away if he/she is deemed to be a danger to himself or in need of immediate help. The attorney for Ms. Anestis states they are suing VA for negligence when it turned away Mr. Anestis, twice.

VA attorneys claimed they could not be sued for the decisions of its emergency room intake personnel when they turned away the Marine for care. VA claimed it was shielded from suit because the decisions were discretionary.

In the appeal, the US 6th Circuit concluded the decisions of staff to treat or not to treat were not the equivalent of policy decisions. That kind of claim by VA, if upheld, would make VA impervious to lawsuits for medical malpractice. Luckily, the 6th Circuit saw through the smoke screen VA was using and decided in favor of the widow.

When they do turn away a veteran in need of immediate care, or if the veteran threatens harm to others or self, the agency must provide care. If VA officials fail to care, the agency could incur liability.

Read More: https://bigstory.ap.org/article/court-reinstates-lawsuit-over-marines-suicide-0

 

Veterans react to VHA report spin

Last week, we reported on VA using its spin machine to defray harm to its public image cause by back to back to back to back VA Health Care scandals.

In Veterans Health Administration Fights Back, I cited two reports VA released last week about surprising satisfaction numbers of veterans using VA medical services.

The bias in the reports is clearly that they only survey veterans using VA medical services. They likely do not include feedback from the 80 percent of veterans not using VA medical care. They likely also do not include feedback from veterans and their families who were killed through VA malfeasance.

This would be referred to as selection bias meaning that those surveyed were also most likely to conclude a positive experience. Thus, the survey is not useful as a measure beyond merely attesting to the number of veterans happy with VA health care who use the health care.

In light of the timing issue related to the scandals, I asked veterans whether the timing was “Good Timing” or “Shameful Timing.” The vast majority of veterans found VA’s public affairs timing to be “shameful.” In fact, all 100 percent of veterans who answered the survey agreed that VA was not using “Good Timing.”

Here is what some veterans had to say:

J. Edward Vernon jr. says:

THIS IS “FRIGHTENING”. WE ARE WORLD “LEADERS” IN FREEDOM, HEALTH CARE, HUMAN RIGHTS, ETC., AND THIS IS HOW WE TREAT OUR “VETERANS”. HEAVY IS THE HEAD THAT WEARS THE “CROWN”.

American Veteran says:

No surprise here, really. Obama’s choice to lead the VA, Suckup Shinseki, refuses to defend military veterans from the recent insane editorial at the New York Times that deliberately attacked military veterans as prone to be domestic terrorists. It is disgusting that our war heroes are being demonized by Obama and his liberal demagogues. This also should leave a bad taste in every military veteran’s mouth!

Lawrence Kelley III says:

There are a few key facts about these so-called unbiased surveys VA has done to show that veterans just love what VA does for them in healthcare.

First, these VA satisfaction surveys are based on direct mail solicitations with an average response rate of about 5-7% at the very best. That means that 93%+ of all veterans who were sent the survey actually responded. Funny thing happened on my way to 2014: The VA has never sent me any of these new surveys since my last one that blasted poor VA care in 2009. I would urge everyone to read the parts of the these surveys — the actual report and not take VA’s press releases — and look for the section titled, “Empirical Methodology.” There you will see that the facts stated above are quite true. The VA satisfaction percentages are based on survey samplings just like other opinion polls. But other serious exceptions prevail since they are more telling of the truth.

Second, many veterans who are younger and just out of the service have never had the good fortune to experience private sector healthcare. The same actually applies to just as many older veterans who have had nothing but VA to rely for healthcare since their discharge or disability rating. The point here is that since such veterans have never experienced great private healthcare, such persons have no valid basis by which to make comparisons on the better value of the two. That is simple deductive logic.

Third, as Ben Krause points out here in this post, VA does NOT survey all those veterans who are outside the VA-VHA healthcare group to see WHY they do not use VA for their healthcare services — since its as great as they claim?

The fact is that there are over 26 million veterans alive — and only about 6 million use the VA for healthcare. Ask yourself why, IF VA healthcare is so great, that over 80% of all veterans choose not to use it?

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22 Comments

  1. I, for the life of me, have never been asked to rate the service of any VA facility that I was associated with. Maybe my address is not on file for that DEPARTMENT, or I do not FIT the “criteria”, or some other REASON. that is why %s and numbers do not impress me much, they can be “JOSTLED” to say what the surveyor wants to convey. We must remember to READ BTWEEN THE LINES, that is often where the real TRUTH lies.

  2. Same here, I have never been asked for or have done a survey about the VA and their way of treating us. Maybe Ben could make a like survey for us that are on this site to fill out and see what we think. I know it would not be an official survey but it would be a “closer to the truth” and more realistic. I think it would be a very interesting thing to do just to get the responses and I would believe what was on here versus what they (the VA) is saying. Just a thought.

  3. My VAMC (Dayton) banned me from their FB page because I posted the truth about my care there. They told me that their FB page was only for “positive” postings! Recently, I received a letter from them stating that some of my personal and health information had been wrongly accessed by a staff member and released to a 3rd party. They refuse to tell me who my information was released to, when, how…anything! They told me it was “VA Policy” to not disclose my own information to me…when I pushed for a copy of this “policy”, it suddenly changed to they are following the CFR. I checked and the particular section of the CFR they referred me to doesn’t apply. They are obviously covering up for someone. The care there is pathetic. I recently waited 3 hrs at the ER to be seen (my BP was extremely high), and I was never seen…so I left. I don’t trust them anymore…but I still need healthcare.

  4. In response to the case of the VA mistreating a PTSD case and making it worse. Here is a small part of the mistreatment of my PTSD and making it worse by the VA. I have been married 4 times. The VA has told my current wife and previous two to divorce me based on their claim that my PTSD is so severe that I am a hopeless case and they need to move on in life. The VA blocked me from getting care with them during my first marriage, so they did not have a chance to tell my first wife to divorce me. During so-called PTSD therapy the VA has used therapists that have convinced me to confide in them, then they hand over my entire file to the police and demand I be arrested. I have been arrested several times and spent years in jail, one time was almost for two years. The VA always has a financial motive for what they do. So, instead of treating a severe case of PTSD they play the veteran against the legal system, they will try to get you shot or arrested, you lose your compensation benefits in jail and then it is a major nightmare to get them back. I have been nearly shot by the police several times, one time was while my 4 year old son was sitting next to me in the car, even though there is no legal basis for the VA violating confidentiality and handing my file over to anti-American authorities who will gladly murder a veteran or frame them into prison, on the false pretense that they are dangerous to society or broke some law; it’s all about funding for these authorities too. The VA’s latest was to trick me one final time to make me believe that I was going to finally start what they called a “golden opportunity” for a PTSD program at San Francisco VA Medical Center. When I arrived there with my wife it turned out to be at the VA police station and VA Criminal Investigation Office. Two doctors immediately told me and my wife that I could not freely discuss my PTSD case with them or anyone in the world because my PTSD comes from my service in the classified sector. A few days later a federal document came in the mail warning me that I cannot ever discuss my case with anyone, anywhere, or face severe federal penalties. I have written to Benjamin Krause about this to his personal email and he has either ignored me or is too overwhelmed with too many emails to respond. The VA can find so many ways to harm and even kill a veteran through malpractice, and they could certainly find a way for me to get PTSD therapy after all these years of mistreatment and deliberate damage if they wanted to. They don’t want to, because they stand too much to gain by doing nothing, as in collecting their paychecks while they find ways to decline to treat my severe PTSD, and hoping the police, including their own, will finally kill me. Benjamin Krause, where are you on this? Why don’t you ever answer my emails about this?

    • Bruce, I am slammed right now, but I would strongly encourage you to speak with a local attorney in your area who can represent people in these situations. It is a unique issue that not a lot of attorneys have experience in handling, but it sounds like you need a legal solution to their treatment of you.

      • Benjamin, I appreciate your suggestion, but would recommend that idea not be taken wrong by veterans in my situation. An attorney is probably not an exception to DoD mandates. What I mean is that your suggestion seems to apply that it would be okay for me to speak freely with an attorney. Unless they are a JAG officer, and they aren’t going to be, I don’t think that is a good idea. Your website really does give veterans the idea that you somehow have the resources to get involved in important issues. That is why I asked for your input in the first place. I now realize that is not the case. Thanks for your consideration though. I will go back to my hole in the ground, never being able to speak to anyone about my service or get help with a very bad case of PTSD. I am sure that will make the VA happy. I realize you are simply overloaded, and I appreciate that you took the time to write back. Take care, and Semper Fi.

    • My son had to sign a 70 year non disclosure agreement about what he did on active duty. He was negligently treated by VA doctors and ended up on life support. At the magical one year time frame; which is the statute of limitations, his 100% was reduced. I am not ignorant of the VA, as I too am 100% (Infantry Officer) and we fought his case together. He was re-issued his 100% and is now left alone. Two college degrees a photographic memory and he watches cartoons most of the day. Can the VA or military give him back his mental abilities? What jobs require such BS paperwork to keep you quiet?

      • Robert, your comment about you and your son truly merits the highest praise for both of you. It is truly anti-American and profoundly pathetic that the VA would cut off your son’s benefits. Fortunately, his benefits, as you say, were re-instated after both of you went after the VA about it. You ask what job in the service would cause this sort of abuse by the VA? Your question is actually helping me grow stronger in my resolve not to say a word about my service. My initial reaction to your question was to start talking about my issues. But, I cannot do that. I can say though that the VA has lost their way, and so has the military, if they truly believe that a veteran with the worst case of PTSD imaginable should not be able to get therapy. Something is seriously wrong in the balance of things when the world’s most powerful military and largest veterans health care system can’t find a way to allow such vets to get PTSD therapy. They certainly could come up with a PTSD unit that helps the veteran while at the same time has fail-safe measures in place to assure no harm to national security. The resources are all in place to do that very thing. Instead, profound stupidity and senseless pain is dished out instead. In the case of the military, it would be like building a new aircraft carrier then sinking it because it could conceivably fall into the enemy hands if some highly unlikely chain of events were set in motion. Or, for the VA, it would be like them building a huge new hospital, filling it with the latest medical equipment, furnishings, computers, phone systems, etc., but never opening the doors because someone might trip on the stairs some day and get badly injured. H.R. 3387, the Classified Veterans Access to Care Act, could change all that, and allow veterans who served in classified sectors or sensitive areas to finally get PTSD care without fear of all hell coming down on them. Unfortunately, there is only a 6% chance of this House Resolution passing, according to the congressional website I checked the other day. Benjamin Krause’s take on this, if I read his reply to me today correctly, is that the VA wants classified veterans to commit suicide. I will not give Benjamin or anyone any details on what I was put through in the service, especially after the latest extreme threats from the VA and USDOD they made against me. But, Benjamin and the people he knows are very, very bright. They may surprise us and someone somewhere will come up with a way to serve and help veterans with this sort of background, instead of sending them off to prison or executing them. If Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Sadam Hussein, and Osama Bin Laden were still alive they would certainly enjoy knowing that this is how America treats many of their own wounded. I will go back to my own private hell now. I hope at least a few patriotic Americans somewhere have a sense of what this is like, and maybe someone appreciates the people who have to endure this. And, thank you again, to you and your son, for all that you both went through.

  5. The VA counselors trashed me and got me turned down four different times for PTSD service connection. First, they trashed me and dragged me through the mud when all I was trying to do was get counseling for PTSD.Then when I realized that I was never going to get the counseling I deserved, I decided to go for service connection for PTSD. That opened up an entirely new ball game with those people and they trashed me even worse this time. The situation never, ever gets any better with them. They’re just adversarial to veterans and to the needs of veterans. They always have been this way. They are never going to change!

  6. The VA is a well oiled bureaucracy that has lived up to the definition of the word: “an administrative policy group comprised of non-elected government officials” – so says Wikipedia. Merriman-Webster further explains that it is a non-elected governmental body that establishes policies and reasons for its existence and operation.

    The commonality of the definitions is that the VA exists FOR the long term future security and growth of the Department of Veteran Affairs and not necessarily for the long term future security and growth of the veterans that are the ‘purpose’ of the bureaucracy. We veterans have allowed ourselves to believe that our federal legislators will protect and enhance our veteran entitlements, when in reality, those legislators view veterans as pawns to be used as diversions or to be sacrificed in their own re-election game of chess. The VA bureaucracy has a heavy blanket of rules, regulations and mandates that insulates itself from legislators who want to change the behavior of the department without having to introduce ‘new’ federal legislation. We have allowed non-elected officials to spend hundreds of billions of dollars, write there own policies, determine there own evaluations of their usefulness, and have the power to break legislators who work too hard to change departmental policy.

    Your numbers indicate 26M living veterans. That’s one helluva voting block, huh? ‘Bitching’ about the VA is an exercise in frustration. ‘Fighting’ the VA on a case by case basis will wear your butt out after about a year and a half! ‘Blaming’ Shinseki or Obama is a red herring. I don’t care if you re-incarnate Ronald Reagan, or get Colen Powell to run the VA, neither would be able to penetrate the insulation that the VA has protecting itself. What we need is Veteran Reform. We need to take these cacophony of Veteran Acts, CFR’s and Mandates that provide cover to the department, and re-tool the system to actually serve the veteran and not the financial and career objectives of this non-elected body of bureaucrats.

    • THAT should be force-fed to the ears of every American, every week, through to next two/four years of coming elections.
      As Veterans, we are indeed a force to be reckoned with at the election booth. Now, what we *lack* as Veterans is mobilization to make the changes we need in the VA System. One would think that without regard to political party or alliance, we could come together as Veterans to make this change.
      I am quite sure it’s up to us at this point. Call it ‘social revolution’ or whatever you wish–most importantly, we need a change for current and future Veterans of this great USA!!!
      Think about it, the current system as it stands only benefits by we Veterans NOT being an unified voice to be reckoned with at the polls.

    • Excellent synopsis Tom.H . I came to this conclusion a few years ago and make the decision that I did not have the financial resources or mental fortitude to take on the VA, so I left the United State. Thank God…

  7. On May 4th,2014, James J. Schickel,Sergeant Major, USMC,Ret., is giving a talk on Law Enforcement and Community Awareness-Veterans dealing with PTSD/TBI (How to help Veterans with the legal system). The meeting is at 9:00 am to 11:00 am at Pacific Clinics-Training Institute- Wilson Auditorium,2471 E. Walnut Street , Pasadena, Ca., 91107. Cost: FREE
    My “devil dog” knows what he is talking about! Please come!!!

    • Did you mean whiners ….. winos….. or winners. Weren’t very good at details …. a lot like the VA: ambiguous and not very accurate.

    • Your ability at spelling is right-on-par with the type of folk the VA indeed hires to give such a great *disservice* to we Veterans. Lastly, the context of your sentence is just as incomplete, making yourself sound like a “center” is talking, without qualifying the occupational noun.
      No, we veterans are not the dumb-asses you assume us to be:-)

  8. All these reported things are the very reason I not only do not trust the VA, but since I have Medicare now, I simply do not use the VA period! Here’s why:
    Medicare is considered the “first payer for the VA”, meaning, after Medicare pays what they will pay, THEN the VA will “decide” what, if any, they will pay….by the time the VA actually gets around to their end of deal it’s ALREADY been in collections for MONTHS! This is particularly scary for my health conditions, having TWO serious imuno-compromised conditions that were IN-FACT given to me by USAF Military Health Services in way of either tainted blood transfusions from surgical procedure AND/OR incredibly unsterile surgical procedures in same.These conditions require me to have incredibly expensive antiretroviral medications that the VA Health System even tried to deny me by stating they were “NOT ON FORMULARY” and suggested different medicines to my then-civilian Dr., whom told me to get THE HELL OUT OF VA HEALTH SYSTEM because they were going to end-up killing me with their antiquated science!!

  9. My experiences with VA and my PTSD diagnosis were used by Mr Krause a few months back. After 3 years, I am still fighting VA over a diagnosis of PTSD I never asked for. The VA psychologist TOLD me I have PTSD, and of course when I filed for it, the rater turned it down 3 years ago. My case is based on the death of my team chief dying in a work related situation I was at, and another team member committing suicide, and for 30 years I have had the nightmares, the extreme anger, and everything that goes with PTSD. Now, after these 3 years, and me filing a BVA appeal, VA decides to re-evaluate my case, and they or the Air Force can’t even find the records of these two active duty troops dying on duty, so my case is still sitting on someone’s desk in Nashville, not even being sent to the BVA. What’s also scary is, Nashville VA was in a recent news article about how one of their raters let his work pile up for 2 or 3 years, basically doing nothing on any of the cases assigned to him, and then he got PROMOTED to a Washington DC job. His boss ended up resigning when this was found out by the media, and I don’t know what happened to the rater, but they really both should be prosecuted.

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