Newsweek: How VA Fueled The National Opioid Crisis And Is Killing Thousands Of Veterans

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Art Levine just published a hard-hitting piece on continued problems veterans face in combating opioid addiction fueled by VA. His piece highlights some background and quotes from me and whistleblower Brandon Coleman amongst other advocates. Be sure to check it out, in addition to Levine’s recently published book, Mental Health, Inc. Relevant sections from the piece citing comments from me follow. My critique about President Trump keeping Shulkin, which de facto meant Trump would not be draining the swamp, at least in the Department of Veterans Affairs. Senior executives abiding by “the code” keep secrets quiet while law abiding employees cower in fear of retaliation: To some VA critics, Trump's selection of Shulkin to head the agency makes it unlikely that significant changes will be made. “For veterans who voted for Donald Trump, this is going to feel like a bait and switch,” says Benjamin Krause, founder of DisabledVeterans.org. “Keeping Shulkin will keep a host of flunkies and criminals who should have been part of the whole ‘drain the swamp’ promise.” (His own reputation as an ethically pure reformer was undercut by The Washington Post report in late September that he billed the government for his wife’s travel during a 10-day business jaunt that also included side-trips to the Wimbledon finals and a visit to Copenhagen’s “Little Mermaid” statue; these expenses were somehow approved by the VA’s ethics team but are now under investigation by the department’s Inspector General.) The fetid VA swamp has been spreading for years under the last three VA secretaries, including Shulkin. It’s an institution long notorious for vicious retaliation against whistleblowers and a penchant for falsehoods, obfuscation and delay, as well as rampant cover-ups of unsafe and sometimes deadly conditions—or even fraud—by the VA's watchdog agencies. This is all kept from view by what some longtime employees call “the code”—the institutional silence and protection offered wrongdoers. Likening it to the mob’s “omertà,” one high-ranking VA administrator, who insisted on anonymity, tells Newsweek, “You don’t break ‘the code,’ or your career is over…. It’s a fearful environment. “The code,” that VA official says, “is designed to do this: don’t fix the problems.” Whistleblower retaliation is still allowed because VA has failed to hold anyone truly accountable for their actions: All told, nearly 2,000 VA whistleblowers were forced in fiscal year 2016 alone to appeal to an independent federal agency, the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), to protest retaliation while reporting fraud or unsafe conditions—more than the next four problematic federal departments combined. As The Boston Globe reported in September, these employee complaints included nursing home residents at the Bedford, Massachusetts, Veterans Affairs Medical Center allegedly being starved of food for hours or left to lie naked in bed amid the squalor of soiled sheets. Shulkin has established a new office given a mandate to protect whistleblowers, but that hasn’t yet halted the retaliation. “I don't know of a single instance when a VA employee has been held accountable for harassing whistleblowers," says Krause. This turf-protecting has perhaps been most apparent in the VA's belated response to the national opiate crisis it helped usher in. The VA doesn't even keep an accurate count of how many veterans have died of legal or illegal drug overdoses, even though it officially launched an Opioid Safety Initiative in 2013 that has brought the VA's opiate prescribing down 30 percent. Nor does it regularly monitor opiate use by its patients who seek legal or illegal drugs outside the VA. Be sure to check out the Newsweek piece - - and share the heck out of it on social media to show the magazine we notice and support when reports do a great job highlighting our plight. Source: http://www.newsweek.com/2017/10/20/va-fueled-opioid-crisis-killing-veterans-681552.html
Photo from Newsweek

Art Levine just published a hard-hitting piece on continued problems veterans face in combating the opioid crisis and addiction fueled by VA.

His piece highlights some background and quotes from me and whistleblower Brandon Coleman amongst other advocates. Be sure to check it out, in addition to Levine’s recently published book, Mental Health, Inc.

Relevant sections from the piece citing comments from me follow.

My critique about President Trump keeping Shulkin, which de facto meant Trump would not be draining the swamp, at least in the Department of Veterans Affairs. Senior executives abiding by “the code” keep secrets quiet while law-abiding employees cower in fear of retaliation:

To some VA critics, Trump’s selection of Shulkin to head the agency makes it unlikely that significant changes will be made. “For veterans who voted for Donald Trump, this is going to feel like a bait and switch,” says Benjamin Krause, founder of DisabledVeterans.org. “Keeping Shulkin will keep a host of flunkies and criminals who should have been part of the whole ‘drain the swamp’ promise.” (His own reputation as an ethically pure reformer was undercut by The Washington Post report in late September that he billed the government for his wife’s travel during a 10-day business jaunt that also included side-trips to the Wimbledon finals and a  visit to Copenhagen’s “Little Mermaid” statue; these  expenses were somehow approved by the VA’s ethics team but  are now under investigation by the department’s Inspector General.)

The fetid VA swamp has been spreading for years under the last three VA secretaries, including Shulkin. It’s an institution long notorious for vicious retaliation against whistleblowers and a penchant for falsehoods, obfuscation and delay, as well as rampant cover-ups of unsafe and sometimes deadly conditions—or even fraud—by the VA’s watchdog agencies. This is all kept from view by what some longtime employees call “the code”—the institutional silence and protection offered wrongdoers. Likening it to the mob’s “omertà,” one high-ranking VA administrator, who insisted on anonymity, tells Newsweek, “You don’t break ‘the code,’ or your career is over…. It’s a fearful environment.

“The code,” that VA official says, “is designed to do this: don’t fix the problems.”

Whistleblower retaliation is still allowed because VA has failed to hold anyone truly accountable for their actions:

All told, nearly 2,000 VA whistleblowers were forced in fiscal year 2016 alone to appeal to an independent federal agency, the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), to protest retaliation while reporting fraud or unsafe conditions—more than the next four problematic federal departments combined. As The Boston Globe reported in September, these employee complaints included nursing home residents at the Bedford, Massachusetts, Veterans Affairs Medical Center allegedly being starved of food for hours or left to lie naked in bed amid the squalor of soiled sheets.

Shulkin has established a new office given a mandate to protect whistleblowers, but that hasn’t yet halted the retaliation. “I don’t know of a single instance when a VA employee has been held accountable for harassing whistleblowers,” says Krause.

This turf-protecting has perhaps been most apparent in the VA’s belated response to the national opiate crisis it helped usher in. The VA doesn’t even keep an accurate count of how many veterans have died of legal or illegal drug overdoses, even though it officially launched an Opioid Safety Initiative in 2013 that has brought the VA’s opiate prescribing down 30 percent. Nor does it regularly monitor opiate use by its patients who seek legal or illegal drugs outside the VA.

Be sure to check out the Newsweek piece – – and share the heck out of it on social media to show the magazine we notice and support when reports do a great job highlighting our plight.

Source: http://www.newsweek.com/2017/10/20/va-fueled-opioid-crisis-killing-veterans-681552.html

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J. Klapper
J. Klapper

Thanks for NOTHING! The numbers behind this latest attack and stigmatization of true Chronic Pain sufferers do not add up. If someone dies of a HEROIN OD that is NOT a Legal Prescription, although it’s counted as such to justify this crack down/movement to FORCE PAIN SUFFERERS TO JUST SUICIDE! Which we are ALREADY SEEING out here in the REAL WORLD.
Yeah, VA employs some should have had their licenses pulled or better yet never issued to begin with, but not every Md/MBBS is a lazy flake. Some of us have gone through in my case 9 years of trying EVERY RECOMMENDED TREATMENT for our chronic pain, not matter it’s source, BEFORE we had to admit that the ONLY THING that worked AT ALL were full narcotic opiates. And if you happen to be in the 20% of the population that has one of the alternate CYP-450 enzyme pathway, most of those wont work, or wont work properly either.
Thanks a bunch, YOU are now KILLING PEOPLE and with the latest BS that the VA is planning on using on EVERYONE no matter the individual treatment history, a LOT of the people you are going to have KILLED are going to be VETERANS… A LOT more will die at their OWN HAND than are dying from ODing on legal HEROIN! Or dying from actual really are Schedule 2 or below narcotics that mysteriously were prescribed to be bought of the STREET!
Hope you like going to FUNERALS.
Any questions or better yet GUILT I suggest you check with ANY of the organizations that represent/derive their membership from CHRONIC PAIN VICTIMS so you can do something other than get your name in print…
Josie Klapper

Pain News Network ([email protected]
http://www.drugpolicy.org/news

Dennis
Dennis

The stigma of opiate use is born from several thousand years of men observing what happens to their peers who begin using opiates for any reason. The stigma is owed in part to the change in behavior that is inevitable once a person like myself becomes dependent upon opiate.

What society sees is not a pain patient, but somebody who suddenly shifts all activities to center around the next dose of opiate. Society sees folks argue until the sun goes down and the lights go out that morphine is the only saving grace for a livable life in an otherwise untolerable human existance and society sees folks who behave that way.

I can spot a fellow opiate addict who is still using in the rare moments they show up to the apartment swimming pool. Inevitably they nealry ALWAYS bring up their ailments to all within earshot at the pool, they rarely if ever actually swim or excersize for enjoyment, and they are always angling with argument for more opiate; opiate users are VERY quick to offer up argument about how devastatingly painful their own condition is and it seems to me they do this to bounce their arguments off of neighbors in prep for what they will tell the doctor. Opiate patients NEVER ask the doc to reduce the dosage and ALWAYS accept/ask eventually for prescriptions for higher dosage.

It is these things played out over thousands of years that has stigmatized opiate use and nothing else. Dead opiate users (and we ALL die from it via liver cancer if we do not stop) do not stigmatize at all. It is the folks using opiate who present themselves as a group undergoing uniquely terrible life circumstances who cause the stigma in part because the argument presumes the most absurd notion that only a select few among us endure the true pain of life. I know about pain worthy of opiate and it comes with a bones that are shattered lengthwise, broken ribs, punctured lungs, and internal bleeding.

When this is the immediate diagnosis then trust me the doctors have no problem prescribing the stuff which frankly even then could not stop the screaming. It hurt. Now it doesn’t but it hurt getting to this point of walking without crutches and if I had been on morphine continuously I doubt I ever would have tried.

R. Michael Maddox
R. Michael Maddox

My only comment to this one is, prior to the new “guidelines” on Opioid use, I never heard anyone tout there pain or there need for medications. Hardly ever. But now that we have been lumped in with back ally Heroin users, most feel they must defend themselves. No disrespect Sir, but I will bet you would never know I was a pain med. patient if we met. You might know I have a spine issue due to my posture. Outside these forums, I do not complain about my pain or my meds. I know how people get sick of hearing someone complain about “hurting” all the time. I try my best not to burdon others with my problems. Noone really cares anyway. Much respect Dennis. And, Thank You For Your Service!!

Oldmarine
Oldmarine

OOOO No…….. they wouldn’t do that
Full Document: Unclassified “http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/news/200”

Crazy elf
Crazy elf

Since today’s blog is in reference to the “opioid scandal”. And we’re talking about drugs, I ran across this just now.
From;
“The Next News Network”
Gary Frenchi reporting.
Dated: Oct 15, 2017 (05:33 minutes long)
Titled:
“PHARMACIST BREAKS SILENCE, REVEALS DRUGS HE’S BEEN DELIVERING TO CONGRESS!”

“Mike” the owner of the “oldest pharmacy in Washington D.C.”, “Grubs Pharmacy” speaks out! After which, he reverses his statement!

Want a laugh? Y’all gotta watch this video!

ANutterVet
ANutterVet

@Crazy elf – – – I recently heard about this pharmacy that delivered medications to Congress members. A nice perk for our loving Politicians. You can bet that the Doctors that treat them aren’t going through what regular citizens are facing. – – – Nutter.

Crazy elf
Crazy elf

Yea, Nutter,
Congress spares no expense on their healthcare. Why should they? There’s is paid for by the taxpayer’s monies!

ANutterVet
ANutterVet

Hey elf, I wouldn’t mind about Congress having their meds delivered so they don’t have to be inconvenienced by going to the Pharmacy, only if they were doing their job, and not stalling on important issues that they should be addressing for the benefit of taxpayers. Plus, I bet you that the Doctors don’t pressure DC’s Politicians to taper off of pain meds like the VA is doing (hypocrites).

And, since the VA is requiring Vets to taper off of pain meds, but to only be prescribed SNRI’s and SSRI’s, and doing so by what is called, OFF SCRIPT.

OFF SCRIPT = Not FDA Approved. VA pukes (Drs.) prescribe these meds based off of only what is reported from others how these meds work to POSSIBLY reduce pain, spasms, PTSD symptoms. They do this WITHOUT DOUBLE BLIND RESEARCH. Research done before a drug can be approved by the FDA to treat for the relief of certain ailments.

But yet, I had a less invasive surgery by Laser Spine Institute (LSI) for the debilitating condition of sciatic pain, which ran from my right buttock down to my toes. Incision was less than an inch.

The operation was 100% successful. No pain. LSI paid for 3 days in a hotel room for my wife, Service Dog, and me. Plus, LSI paid for all meals. Afterwards, LSI waived all medical fees for their services. Corporate did this because we asked them for it, and all they wanted was a recommendation.

VA Pain Management Specialist, didn’t even want to know about LSI because most of their procedures weren’t FDA approved. If I had more issues, I’d go back to LSI instead of VA or most others performing a more invasive procedure, say like a 4-6 in. incision.

VA will use OFF SCRIPTS even though not FDA approved, but VA will not accept LSI’s services that aren’t FDA approved as well. VA uses this tactic for their own benefit not ours.

I pointed this out to VA Rep, that got pissed off at me at first. But then, when I called shot because of VA’s behavior, and letting her know that according to her degree that she wasn’t practicing pragmatic science and research behavior, she shut up, and then later agreed with me.

Other Vets should be aware of these manipulative tactics of the VA. This behavior makes the VA data look good for when asking for more monies. IMO (In My Opinion). – – – Nutter.

ANutterVet
ANutterVet

Plus, VA hasn’t admitted that there is a pre-epidemic of addiction per the use of SSRI’s and SNRI’s. There has been some Physicians that’re already talking about this future problem.

Per the VA admitting this, are you kidding. If VA admits to something, that means that it could possibly put a wrench in their plan of having Veterans being addicted to other medications as well. A WHEELOF FUNTUNE for PIG PHARMA, and for VA’s database, at the expense of the lives of Veterans.

And, so what if the VA messes up, their not accountable. Basically then, VA can deliver medical services as long as they’re not committing murder. Those Veterans that aren’t intimidated by the VA’s Disruptive Behavior Committee and EPERS List, have been speaking out loudly, and still the VA continues on with their Non-FDA approved treatment modalities.

What VA needs to do is this, is to let Veterans treat their pain, and PTSD symptoms, with MMJ or their own Cannabis that they’ve cultivated themselves. I told the VA, that since I’m not getting relief from the symptoms that I have, that I’m forced into treating myself, along with what services that I deem beneficial from the VA.

VA has failed me in the past, and lets be real here, time isn’t on our side anymore. – – – Nutter.

Ted
Ted

Veteran affairs is one step lower than a terrorist organization. only reason they haven’t considered going full jihad is the media news outlets has figured out there is no money on taking news on what veterans go through on a life to life bases within the VA, especially with opiates. failed drug war means failed policy which gives veterans the run around or the rope around the neck … gives American doctors impunity

veteran affairs can cover up any story that hits the mainstream about any veterans life situation. if the truth came out on why vets were truly killing themselves, no one would give a fuck to take action. it already has …its sad but true.
the only thing Americans pay attention to anymore , more violence.i fought for peace now the Americans civilians are handing it over for more televised violence to drug us up with opiates .. the American government gives a veteran no choice but to commit to violence from taking away veterans reform by giving them a challenge by baiting us with compensation and and a stalling period.

, . do u know how much add and fucking paste there is when it comes to editing a veterans life story on any national televised business . people just tune out or change the channel to more fucking violence.

.ratings go down whether a vet is doing good or bad. that’s just business . vets need to start commencing second civil war. think about it, do u know how fast our appeals process would be if the news cast a group of veteran shooters every 30 minutes across the nation the people would just give up and blame the government.American civilians would go after politicians why veterans are in groups killing people in America. American politicians would have no choice but to bag up or shut the vA down.

VA would have to shutdown and have to create a new system. it needs to happen.one day there will be a armed veteran faction no US swat team can take down
there will be veteran splinter cells in America , wait and watch and see how fast every news media sponsor wants to get a hold of u if your apart of an organization that has been messed around by the American government.

VA pray that we over dose on opium puts more money in employees pockets through insurance policies …

America wants American veterans dead . the American bureaucracy believes that veterans are second hand individuals that don’t need benefits . that is what is coming down too.

all the actions of the American establishment has revealed it ,yet says they are trying to help which even creates a bias of how they are trying to destroy the American veteran or keep them dependent among the government by using 2 faced doctors with pharmaceutical sponsors or fiduciary programs.

American’s really don’t give a fuck about vets. just proves in action that veterans are not justifiable allocations by a false democracy. american democracy is a puppet and its strings are guided by false judgement of the world richest nothing more.

p.s have u called the veteran crisis line today…sad 60minute and 42 second wait while representatives use um’s to fill in words from complete sentences.

namnibor
namnibor

This evening’s “60 Minutes” uncovered how not only did Pig Big Pharma KNOW they were igniting an opioid crisis and consequently, a heroin epidemic, BUT CONGRESS KNEW…the Congress Critters all have their ratty claws in the Pig Pharma’s panties and ass…the DEA KNEW…sounding like one organized American “Final Solution” for Vets and anyone else that’s considered a DRAIN on society…this was so disgusting it ignited my anxiety this evening….now to wrestle my cat for the vaporizer.
Much better now…
Even better now…
Fuck Off Big Pig Pharma!! Am thinking ‘^0 Minutes” episode may make Isaacson fly-off the Stairmaster this A.M. at the congressional critter romper-room.
Those phucks KNEW and kept raking-in the dough…and Obama ,enabled the escalation with a hush-hush signing of handing the henhouse to the foxes at big pig pharma.
Cat, give me that….
Much better again…