Veterans Affairs Wrongly Denied 50 TBI Cases

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Benjamin KrauseVeterans Affairs wrongly denied 50 veterans with TBI access to benefits for the complex neurological condition because they used unqualified doctors to diagnose the condition.

NBC KARE 11 in Minneapolis published a 4-part series last weekend covering its exposure of the Veterans Affairs TBI scandal last Sunday; VA now claims at least 50 veterans were wrongly denied TBI benefits.

Days after the production went live, VA admitted that 28% of veterans who received new exams (50 veterans of 181 reexamined) also received service-connection for TBI after being wrongly denied. The primary variable that changed was VA decided to use qualified doctors instead of unqualified doctors.

RELATED: 50 Veterans Wrongly Denied TBI Benefits

Makes sense right? When you are required by law to make an assessment of a complicated neurological condition like brain injury, it makes sense to use a qualified doctor.

VETERANS AFFAIRS TBI SCANDAL BACKGROUND

This scandal was outted by yours truly at the beginning of the year through my own policy work about TBI going back to 2013. I uncovered what looked like a major problem between St. Paul Regional Office and Minneapolis VAMC where unqualified doctors performed TBI examinations.

I took my preliminary findings to NBC investigative reporter AJ Lagoe who hammered VA in the press over the course of a year. After VA was initially questioned by Lagoe, the agency scheduled new examinations for over 300 veterans who received flawed exams.

Of the 181 who underwent exams where VA previously denied TBI, 50 veterans received affirmative diagnosis once a qualified doctor conducted the exams.

WATCH: Invisible Wounds Four Part Series

TBI SCANDAL SUMMARY FROM NBC

The Department of Veterans Affairs has been using unqualified medical personnel to do examinations – and deny benefits – for traumatic brain injuries (TBI) at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center, according to records obtained during a year-long KARE 11 News investigation.

Instead of being examined by a specialist, records reveal more than 300 cases in which a veteran was examined by a doctor not qualified to diagnose traumatic brain injuries according to the VA’s own policies.

After KARE 11 began asking questions, the Minneapolis VA began sending letters out to hundreds of area veterans informing them they are entitled to new examinations.

VA policy says the initial diagnosis for TBI’s must be made by one of four specialists. But records obtained by KARE 11 through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) show that between 2010 and 2014, only one of the 21 medical professionals who conducted initial TBI exams at the Minneapolis VA was a qualified specialist.

The disclosure has prompted a federal investigation to determine whether similar improper exams were done at other VA facilities nationwide.

Current legislation and bad case law generally precludes lawsuits in circumstances like this meaning it is time to put pressure on Congress to amend FTCA tort law. Apparently the courts believe veterans can get plenty of justice through the benefits adjudication process, including these 50 veterans who were wrongly denied benefits for years including health care treatment.

How much did VA save by the scheme?

Source: https://www.kare11.com/story/news/investigations/2015/12/26/invisible-wounds-veterans-administration-traumatic-brain-injuries/77708974/

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62 Comments

  1. I can’t help but wonder if the 131 not found to have TBI of the 181 retested are actually really having genuine and serious health issues, and if the VA will grant service connection for PTSD or something because I would hate to think the VA simply now views those 131 as “malingerers”, meaning, they will now have to go through years of hell of VA Appeals?
    Make no mistake, am very glad those 50 are now receiving their medical care and disability income via service connection. It just seems too “tidy” of an even number.
    I worry that the VA is still denying service connection on many of these 131 cases simply because they are “marginal”?!! Or…is the VA trying to say any symptoms are related to when they played football as a child?

    Hope to hear a follow-up on this and if though MRI’s and other types of scans were utilized rather than depending on whatever the VA gave to their ‘contracted Dr.’…you know, like, “…you have the contract to re-examine but only ‘find’ no more than -50- and your bonus is deducted substantially if you fine additional TBI’s, per Vet…”!!??

    Yeah, call me cynical but it’s almost like half-ass admitting they screwed-up but god forbid that 100% of them were misdiagnosed!! I could be wrong.
    How is the VA revamping their TBI examination process across the board? This certainly could not statistically be isolated to this VAMC or State?

      • Yes. Also, TBI research, as you have really *only seen* happen is sadly because of pro football players, not so much the priority because of Vets, even though these types of injuries go hand-in-hand with being exposed to concussion/shockwaves inherent with any explosion. Larger the boom, or booms, the bigger the impact on our brain which is indeed surrounded by fluid…but as especially Navy folk and science geeks well know, shockwaves do the exact same thing through fluids…very *new* filed, and probably only because some boardroom medical center members saw there was $$$$ to be made off this now…so how exactly reliable is ANY -1- external M.D. doing these re-examinations?
        Were these Vets allowed to have a second opinion with someone not remotely affiliated with the VA?
        Second outside independent medical opinion and exam would seem to go hand in hand with any ‘Scientific Method’, esp. this being such a newly researched or dusted off field, those exams will likely be tainted by research that aligns mostly with the VA.
        Does this make sense?

      • I doubt the VA would have admitted to the significance of TBI without the research from the NFL.
        Years ago when I was on a committee looking at funding veterans medical research, many many researchers on the committee readily admitted there was very little research on it outside the NFL. These were all private, civilian medical researchers, deans of medical schools or med school professors who knew very well about lots of research that had been done.
        If left up to the VA, they would have continued diagnosing PTSD or a brain injury, then decided no treatment was possible. There was no mention of TBI in veterans that I am aware of previous to the Iraq war.
        Imagine how many veterans from WWI on that had little or no quality of life because the VA decided it was not treatable.

  2. So what else is new? We will never get the real story. Congress will have to be motivated to do a FTCA tort law change. But how? My experience with 2 senators, seems to take the side of the VA. I am still awaiting just a call back.

  3. I one veteran whom they denighed service connected. They give the same response each time.need proof.

    The proof is in my medical file and placed there by a VA neurologist stating I have a tbi from being shot in the head.

    I suffer severe migrain headaches.in fact I’m having one now. Memory is just terrable. The VA found this over ten years ago after a brain scan.

    I just happened to request a copy of my records and seen the report where it stated veterans scan shows adnormal scan and should be followed up.

    It took me six years of telling my provider about their report and finely got them to follow up.

    Told I have a tbi and something else.told it maybe brain cancer and gave all scan yearly.told the scans have not changed.so whatever or is it’s not growing ?

    They are supposed to get the veterans records.guess it was to much trouble. What can a veteran do when they don’t review the chart.

  4. Any word on who is doing this probe of whether the VA is doing this at other VAs?
    Excellent work in getting this exposed Ben. The VA was denying millions to these veterans and their families, not to mention proper health care for a condition needing an accurate diagnosis.

  5. How do we put pressure on congress to change. Who do we write to.I’ve written twice to a congressmen in Colorado that’s in the veterans committee and he has never replied.

    I called the veterans committee and my call was never returned.

    I think our elected officials just don’t care.

    I think it’s just a matter of time.before this country will implod upon it self and or God will destroy all countries or let the devil do it for him.

    The devil is having his way right now.man has brought this on themselves and will continue until they destroy it completely.

    God have mercy in us all because he’s the only one who has the power. He I think has seen enough and will not be kind in stopping it.

    • James I was told by veterans committee and got through but they took my message but nothing was done …….my belief with the Lord’s permission all the Commanders have to bug the Congressional Leaders to give what they believe is what they believe that how Veterans Healthcare can get better such as my belief if a Veteran Professional makes a MEDICAL or Mental Mistakes I believe they get fired immediately and if a Veteran has to wait for new Doctor they have freedom of going to any Doctor of the Veteran choice but keep actually good medical notes.

      • Well I hope they do. I agree since veterans are not being treated line human beings.veterans should have a choice to see whom they want. Its really sad that employees can claim a veteran has been disruptive and never have to provide any proof.and the disruptive committee accept hearsay as fact.

        I really don’t think VA employees are trained in judiciary matters and should get out of that business.

        The way it is now.any employee can say anything about a veteran and have them punished and what their doing is denying the veterans of due process and takes away all of their civil and constitutional rights to a fair trial.

        If a person acts up at Wal-Mart they call the police and that person has his day in court.

        They way it is now.the VA becomes accuser.Prosecutor.judge.jury and punisher and the veteran has no say so what so ever.

        Yet VA employees can hurt veterans and get away with it.

      • RIGHT ON JAMES I GOT YOUR EMAIL MAKE SURE YOU CALLED THE VETERANS COMMITTEES BACK and Get a name just in case they give the wrong direction and get the name of the person who Veterans Committee gave you play ping pong and tell your Veterans Friends the do the same……Remember in this case the moe pens you have its sharper the sword…….SEMPER Fi make it one of your New Year Resolution.

  6. 12/31/2015

    Dear Benjamin Krause,

    Your Christmas Present just came in —-“Justice Department shuts down 46 investigations into VA wait time scandal”—–that is what the Government just gave all the Veterans!

    https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/justice-department-shuts-down-46-investigations-into-va-wait-time-scandal/article/2579329

    Lockheed’s old lawyer does it!!!—-Remember that is where all the old VA Secretaries go—over to QTCM; you can bet Bob McDonald will be there.

    You can just smell the Treason in the Morning!

    Sincerely,

    Don Karg

  7. 12/31/2015

    [email protected]

    The Oklahoman Editorial Board consists of Gary Pierson, President and CEO of The Oklahoma Publishing Company; Christopher P. Reen, president and publisher of The Oklahoman; Kelly Dyer Fry, editor and vice president of news; Christy Gaylord Everest, member at large; Scott Briggs, Vice President of Administration, OPUBCO Communications Group; Owen Canfield, Opinion editor; and Ray Carter, chief editorial writer.

    Re: Unflattering portrait of Oklahoma VA treatment

    Dear Oklahoman Editorial Board,

    When do you call it Treason? When do you call it a crime against your Countrymen? When do you call it a crime against your Country? When will you act?

    Sincerely,

    Don Karg
    Enclosed is a letter to the Chief of Police in Phoenix
    And the 55 page starter book called the VA Empire.

  8. I’d like her to look into where the VBA is hiding the SMC T money. Even Rep Lee Zledin who sits on the Veterans Affairs Committee cannot find out how much the VA is getting for it or how much actually goes to the veterans. Keep in mind that SM CT pays at the same rate as r2, the highest aid and attendance.

    It is a simple 8 line law passed by congress that the VA is using to steal from veterans. Yes, steal from veterans.

    My husband is 100% service connected for TBI, three doctors have filled filled out 21-2680’s and for TBI related issues.

    Michael Stephens the Indianapolis VBA director and a former claims examiner himself filled out the NOD in his own handwriting. He wrote symptoms of TBI as stand alone issues caused by infection, not injury. They held a four hour hearing and forgot to turn the reorder on for two out of four hours, they sent VA CID and Homeland Security to my house to harass us.

    ANYTHING BUT PAY OUT THE *K A MONTH TO A VETERAN WITH TBI!

    Baghdad Bob McDonald is now refusing to answer Rep Zelden since last August. First Hickey and he needed 60 days, then 90. Then he actually told the congressman he will not be answering! Like his cell phone and Fox News Baghdad Bob is not taking calls please call back later.

    Right now a friend is thinking a writ of mandamus. I am thinking Trump.

    • so much for contacting congress, senators and the like, huh? sorry to hear it but its a never-ending story for most of us.

      like the senator & congress office i call periodically to ask their help regarding claim. they say they’ll get back in touch, but its me (us the veterans) that do the calling back. same ol story line, “you’re another veteran in a long queue, gotta wait your turn”, we’ll call you back when we speak to them. though they never call back. they don’t even want to speak with my attorney. that seems weird to me, that is, if they were really wanting to get to the bottom of things. i would think they would want to hear our side, or maybe they don’t really want to understand the issues and actually then have to do something?

      so that’s the response from these folks to the veteran. they make such big statements on tv and in print though regarding the failure of VBRO and the wait time.

      anyone ever get the feeling these congress types are in with the VA? their actions leads one to conclude yes versus their BS replies to the veteran via the personal level when no on is around…like a reporter or lawyer.

      hope @robin gets some help soon in the next year.

    • Why did they come to your home.what did they tell you why they were there.

      This does sound like the Nazis type of action.they are way out of control.

      Maybe Ben can give us advise on his to handle this rule of situation.

      • James i hear you with both ears keep after trying to get Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald email address or better yet a telephone he must have both but i really don’t why Veterans can’t get either one….and tell your Veterans Friends collect money to advertise in your newspaper about your feelings about your concerns about Veterans Issues and how to improve Veterans Healthcare. …………SEMPER FI do not surrender.

      • Type in his contact name.it will give you both. Its going to take a lot of us to e-mail how office.

        Is gave and his employee Stephanie called twice.telling me that they were told that the employee who falsely accused me of disruptive behavior.no longer works for the VA.

        Nothing could be further from the truth and after I told McDonald’s employee Stephanie that she had been lyed to by the VA.she stopped calling me.

        They known that the Denver vamc lied to them or McDonald’s office is lieing to me and don’t want to help or just plainly don’t care if an employee falsely accused me of disruptive behavior and never furnished or provided any proof at all.

        But veterans should continue to e-mail.write letters.phone his office ever day until he does his job to hold employees accountable for their illegal actions.

        Now can anyone punish anyone and proof not be required.

        Plain crazy

      • James I asked you did you say you did email Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald and if you did why can’t email me his address or that is something you can’t give it up…..Thanks. ……Semper Fi.

      • Your very welcome.please keep us informed as to your results dealing with McDonald’s office.

        All veterans and family members need to flood his office with their concerns.

  9. I am ashamed of our system and how our veterans have and are being treated. My son is among them, he is dying and we are fighting to get him benefits. The top officials are living high using money that should be going to our guys that put their lives out there for the United States, These officials would not last 2 seconds if they had to go to war..they are cowards with a capital C

    • I’m also ashamed.I was proud to serve veterans when I worked for the VA and mace sure they received what ever they needed.like information.

      Once I obtained my service connected disability and retired on medical disability and no longer an employee. The VA let an employee acuse me of disruptive behavior and only did so in retaliation For something I said about her job performance as a chairman of a committee.

      And after I found Ben’s site and now see hundreds of other veterans are being lied about and being hurt and employees not being held accountable.has made me ashamed of the agency as a whole.

  10. Good work @Ben!!! those veterans and their caregivers-families would have suffered needless suffering on top their already medical issues if not for you and i guess this website for exposing this and getting it to the public view. we all know what kind of other suffering they would have endured with the “VA fight” just to get a correct diagnosis much less the VARO/disability-wheel.

    a bright spot for the new year for those veterans you helped.

    a good new year to you and to this community here on this site. keeping the momentum rollin….

  11. Happy New Years Veterans have you Veterans got your second resolutions in place about how you going to improve Veterans Healthcare I know I do bug the Legislation of hiring more people working on Conpensation claims and Veterans Benefits…….Semper Fi.

  12. For many getting out at Fort Bragg,NC is where it started, The neurology dept. told many soldiers who clearly were diagnosed with TBI or PTSD, that it was “stress”. Those who tried to fight were then diagnosed with “adjustment disorder and threatened to court martial them for malingering. This would allow them to put them out of the army with no benefits. Corruption from the start and deny until you die.

    • Brad Bolden I got your email and its meaning the Veterans Affairs been screw up a long time time ……….even when it comes from Veterans Medical Centers Directors…..I would appreciate it i have been chatting with James he supposed to give me the email address of Robert McDonald Secretary of Veterans Affairs he claim he gave to me but I never got it can you chat with him to get for me because I want Robert McDonald email address maybe I can put bug up Robert McDonald up in his ears…..so he can start listening. …so with that is you Brad Bolden keep in touch do not surrender. ….Semper Fi.

    • You are right rhats that they do and that’s that they told me.

      I know something was wrong with me and a psychology doctor said I was a milinger and I was busted from e4 to pfc and the digonosis was neurosis.

      VA Saud they did not known what that ment. If you being up rhis digonosis know.it will state neurosis is another term for ptsd.

      It took me forty years to find out I had a tbi and was never treated because they did not put two and two together for forty years.

      And it did not help that the VA hid or lost my records.until I found a lawyer and once he became involved all of a sudden my records were found and I how have my disability.

      • James it’s good to hear from you again believe it or not I got PTSD and Bipolar the Bipolar disorder is service connected but the PTSD isn’t it took the VA at least 12 years to say in my VA Mental Health Records plus have you of MyHeathyVets that is no help my belief if your proactive with your Health Conditions your shit out of luck. So that is why is as Veterans and VSO she get a meeting going with Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald by way to you go on the computer their must be a way we can communicate ……so with that I say keep in touch so we can help to improve Veterans Healthcare and Veterans Benefits…….Semper Fi..

      • If you have ptsd from the military and they won’t make it service connected.

        Contact Kenneth carpenter out of Topeka Kansas he works for veterans to get their ptsd disability.

        He only gets paid if he wins your case.you have nothing to loose and ever thing to win.

        Make sure you ask for him to get your back pay to when you first applied and tell other veterans about him.

      • James Thanks for the information you gave me about that Attorney like you say that i have nothing to lose. ….what branch of the Service was you in? As for me i was in the U.S.M..C i original come from Massachusetts my wife from Maine now i am from Arizona …….so with that keep in touch …..SEMPER FI REMEMBER BEING AWARE IS BEING ALIVE. ..especially when it comes to Veterans Healthcare.

      • That is the wrong email address for Robert McDonald Secretary of Veterans Affairs 911 Veteran may be i get the right one sometime. ….Thanks Happy New Year. …..SEMPER FI

      • James can you tell 911 Veteran he gave me the wrong email address for Robert McDonald SECRETARY OF VETERANS AFFAIRS……THANK YOU SEMPER PLUS REMEMBER I AM VETERAN HEALTHCARE NUT SOME HOW THE THICK GRANITE BE BROKEN UP IN SMALL PIECES.

  13. My husband Andrew was diagnosed with a TBI while still on active duty in the Marine Corps (by way of an EEG report and 2 Neuropsych exams). He was medically retired in 2011 with a 40% TBI rating. In 2012 he went in for his first C&P exam for his TBI, which resulted in no change to his rating, thankfully. However, we weren’t so lucky with his March 2015 exam, which resulted in a complete loss of his TBI rating. Dr. Richard Wayne of the Syracuse VAMC did both exams. He stated in BOTH reports that Andrew didn’t have a TBI or residuals of a TBI even though there is ample proof of it in his medical records (he even stated that Andrew made-up going to combat). We even brought in a new EEG report from November 2014 which clearly shows that Andrew has a TBI, that was ignored. We are appealing the reduction.

    What I would like to know is where do look/find out if a doctor is even qualified to be conducting TBI C&P exams while you are building your database?

    • Dr. Richard Wayne went to Georgetown University Med school. His VA listing shows Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. His Vitals dot com profile shows Physiatrist (physical, rehabilitation). The NY Professional Misconduct and Physician Discipline web page shows no actions taken against his license, but that doesn’t mean much since it has to be particularly bad for it to end up reported by the VA. His NYStateDoctorProfile shows the same as above.
      I don’t find any special indication he has any particular qualification for performing TBI exams.
      In your Notice of Disagreement to their decision removing his TBI rating, you should request a new C&P exam by someone qualified to perform them. You might also ask for specific medical evidence proving his TBI was miraculously cured. I’m sure there are a lot of medical researchers that would be interested in that.
      It may not result in much, but given his military medical records showing he was diagnosed with TBI in the military, I would immediately file a complaint with the NY state medical licensure board, and give a copy to the Chief of Staff at the VA. It may rattle them hard enough to actually provide him with a proper examination.

    • Thanks the only thing that i need is two problems solve one is they find a cure for Bipolar and the second one a Lawyer that handles Veteran Doctor Medical Negligence case i lived in Prescott Valley, Arizona the Lawyer has to be from Arizona. Thanks for sharing your message i am a Marine also. ..SEMPER FI.

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