Paranoid VA officials use hyperbole and fear mongering to justify an unethical policy to reduce transparency while at the same time confirming that vets scare VA employees.
The Department of Veterans Affairs is not only pioneering how to take down a disruptive vet (the crash test dummy is a simulated veteran), but they are now seeking to revoke a veteran’s right to his medical records after a Compensation and Pension (C&P) exam because of a ludicrous fear of veterans.
Dr. Gerald Cross, head of VA’s Office of Disability and Medical Assessment, used outrageous and insulting hyperbole to get his point across rather than hard data when speaking with national media about the proposed change. His point is that veterans are scary so VA needs to revoke our rights:
“He walks past the [compensation-and-pension] clinic, and he’s very angry. Goes into the C-and-P clinic, and we have an incident of some kind,” said Dr. Cross. “Some of our C-and-P clinics are quite small, … and it doesn’t have much in the way of reasonable defense. We’re very concerned about that.”
Incident? What kind of incident would require violating a veteran’s right to review the C&P medical exam that is included in her VA medical file? I can only conclude they mean a violent incident, otherwise nothing else would warrant such an infringement. And why did VA, both explicitly and through implication, described a hyperbolic veteran with psychopathic tendencies who scares women without data or real life examples?
The article by the National Journal described a VA culture of paranoia and fear with its anxieties fixated on the same veterans the agency is sworn to serve. We now know beyond a doubt that VA officials are afraid of veterans. Apparently, at the core of this paranoid fear is the belief that veterans are so unhinged that we must be prevented from reading the results of a mere medical exam because there is a heightened risk we will act like crazed criminal psychos and cause an “incident.” According to the National Journal and related sources, “crazed psychos” is probably what a lot of VA employees think of us veterans these days as VA manipulates fears to justify a slow erosion of our rights and engage in training to take us down.
SO WHAT IS THE DOWNSIDE OF THE POLICY?
Rhetoric aside, this policy change proposal would withhold medical records created by the C&P examiner until after the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) has made benefits decision. The records would no longer be available to a pro se veteran through the Blue Button My HealtheVet portal, and the veteran would not be able to review them until after the benefits decision. VA claims this delay will reduce risk of assault against VA examiners, but in reality, it reduces transparency and oversight.
In light of Dr. Cross’s statements, VA officials appear to be doing little more than stigmatizing a protected class of people due to paranoid delusions created while under the influence of trash Hollywood psycho movies. That protected class of people are disabled veterans who where required to keep their cool while in very difficult and stressful situations while in military service. Now VA claims their fear of vets warrants a reduction in transparency.
Yet, how can VA call veterans “heroes” on the one hand while stigmatizing these same individuals by labeling them as criminal psychos VA doctors must be protected from? Is this a bigger sign that VA doctors are so disconnected that they no longer know how to interact appropriately with patients?
My take on this is that VA officials are using hyperbole and fear as a red herring to justify this reduction in transparency and violations of a veteran’s right to access their medical records in a timely manner. Medical records are, after all, the property of the patient.
I have a question. Why is President Obama letting his VA officials turn this agency into a perpetual Animal Farm where VA pigs are greater than everyone else? It seems like horrendous timing for politicians on the Left come this November’s election.
At the core of this is the premise that all disabled veterans must be presumed dangerous; so dangerous in fact that VA must keep them from their medical records. That is, VA must keep them from their records until after VBA makes a decision, then the presumed dangerous criminal veteran will be not as dangerous, supposedly.
This logic is lost on me. Somehow a dangerous veteran will be less dangerous after she is wrongly denied benefits because of a botched C&P exam? Why is VA presuming the risk is so great that it must deny access to medical records created during the C&P exam? What is the proof? Where is the data?
THIS FEAR OF VETERANS IS ONLY A RED HERRING
This new VA logic appears to be more of a shell game to impede oversight of the C&P process while using the notion that vets scare VA employees as a red herring.
Will violent veterans really be less violent after receiving bad news from both an examiner and VBA? Should VA be afraid of veterans to begin with? What kind of message does this send America? “If you serve your country, you will treated like a violent criminal later.”
The excuse for the proposed policy change is a red herring because it trots out this delusional and paranoid VA employee fear mongering of veterans to justify less transparency and less veterans rights. However, the reasoning is based on a flawed argument with no data support stated to the press. It is as if VA is saying, “Because of my delusional and paranoid fear of you, will you let me treat you like a criminal?”
LEGAL IMPLICATIONS OF NO C&P RECORD ACCESS
This policy change is illegal on its face because it withholds property (medical records) and it creates an environment of greater risk to a disabled veteran’s health. That risk is an increased risk of medical malpractice by not allowing a veteran to review medical records for accuracy prior to treatment. This should be a reasonable concern since C&P records are included for that purpose within VA’s medical health records system called VistA.
How often have you heard of a VA examiner making a horrific mistake during an exam? What happens if a VHA physician then uses that mistake to make an erroneous diagnostic decision? The veteran will be harmed or killed.
Further, the change would increase instances where a VA examiner’s mistake caused an improper denial of benefits and resulted in more bureaucratic roadblocks and backlogs. VA processes over 1 million claims per year. Do you have any idea of how many VA examinations contain material errors that a veteran would correct prior to a VA decision?
But apparently Dr. Cross and friends are comfortable with that increased threat to veterans’ health and due process rights. But can he really claim the reason is because his employees are paranoid and irrationally afraid of the people they have served for over 100 years? Are VA employees watching too much trash TV and playing too many video games like Call of Duty? What is so different today about VA employees than in the past? Are they smarter? Or more ethical? Or more sensitive?
WHAT CHANGED TO NECESSITATE THE POLICY PUSH?
One significant change is the use of VA’s secret Disruptive Behavior Committees (DBC) that utilize profiling and other strategies to identify “high risk” veterans under the VA Behavior Threat Management Program. This means VA employees are focusing more than ever on perceived “high risk” traits such as raising your voice and disagreeing with authority figures. The program has its roots in Portland, Oregon, and Lynn Van Male, PhD, psychologist and longtime VA employee, currently runs the program from her perch out there.
As noted, the program teaches VA staff about profiling veterans and therapeutic containment of veterans (VAnguard, pg. 14-15). Does that photo look therapeutic to you if instead of a crash test dummy it was a 65 year old Vietnam veteran? Do you think this kind of new training makes VA employees more scared of veterans than before?
Regularly, I hear of veterans being thrown to the wolves before these DBC’s because the veteran uttered displeasure at the decision of a VA health care professional. Sometimes the threat is real, but often the threat is either irrationally perceived or alleged for retaliatory purposes to blacklist an outspoken veteran.
At least one VA official did voice opposition to this unethical position to restrict access to C&P examination records. “I hate to say this, but what is the ethical justification of removing the C-and-P exams from the Blue Button?” asked Michael Simberkoff. He is the executive chief of staff at the VA’s NY Harbor Healthcare System.
ANOTHER VA OFFICIAL CONFIRMS PARANOID FEAR
Nonetheless, other VA officials clung to their story on this one without any stated data supporting the need for the unethical VA policy change:
But department officials tied the move to one factor: Potential risk to VA staffers. In addition to changing when a veteran can see part of his or her file online, they are also considering adding extra security to the clinics, such as requiring a code to unlock doors.
“Many of the C-and-P docs are females, and they seem to be the ones that seem to have the evening hours or are in these far-flung [clinics],” said Denny Devine, the VA’s project executive for disability and medical assessments. “Those are the ones on our weekly calls raising these concerns.”
But where is your data, Dr. Cross and Denny Devine? Are these VA employee fears justified? What studies have you run to compare these two groups? Will the policy reduce any risk at all? Have you done any assessment?
When you read the piece in the National Journal, the clear answer is, “No, and we do not care.” They do not care because their Animal Farm pigs are more important that veterans.
This begs a few questions. Are veterans more likely to be criminally dangerous than civilians? How about criminals who are innocent before proven guilty? Why does military service give a person less rights than those of a criminal?
Further, in this environment of criminal records falsification and wait list scandals, is it really a great time to create more barriers for veterans to review their medical records? Can we trust that VA employees will not tamper with records?
In response to this problem, I wrote Secretary Robert McDonald an email expressing my disappointment with this increased obfuscation and insulting treatment of veterans.
You should email him to and tell him I said “Hi”: [email protected]. Provide him with some of the answers to my questions above and send me a copy!
LETTER TO SECRETARY ROBERT MCDONALD
Dear Secretary Robert McDonald,
This is why your VA is broken.
VA executives are making decisions based on hyperbole, hypotheticals, and at best an anecdote or two while ignoring its long history of working with veterans and a veteran’s right to property in the form of their medical records. This decision must be ethical and justified with data. VA has lots of data. Why is VA not using its data to justify this decision to the public????? Why are you, Secretary McDonald, allowing this kind of unethical behavior?
My assumption is that this fear and panic is based on research of the Patient Flag System that originated at the Portland VA in the 80’s. However, this kind of profiling (secret Disruptive Behavior Committees – Category 1 Veterans) is unconstitutional, unethical, not justified and only increases fear and panic within VA employees across the country through unneeded training to profile veterans while not training them to understand veterans in a healthy and holistic manner.
What other hospital systems in the country do this the way VA does?
The medical records created are the property of the veteran. I have seen no justification beyond hyperbole as to why VA needs to change this policy now regarding access to patient records. Were there actual instances of a veteran doing this or are VA staffers so disconnected and fearful of the population they have served for 100 years that now suddenly this extreme disconnect has created greater fear and panic than ever before?
C&P exams are medical reports used by both VBA and VHA. VHA uses them to treat, and if there are errors — which we all know exist — VA will be liable for medical malpractice. Further, by allowing a veteran access to her property, it gives her a chance to get a second opinion or to address errors before her claim is processed incorrectly. This policy will only increase instances of due process violations and medical malpractice. So I am confused as to what the justification is beyond the outrageous hypotheticals posted by Dr. Gerald Cross?
If nothing else, this is a sign VA does not know its veterans anymore. What a shame.
I would appreciate a response, Secretary McDonald.
Benjamin Krause, Esq.