Frank Sherman, a Marine Corps veteran from Minnesota, needs a kidney transplant badly, but VA refuses to place him on the transplant list.

When I first got word of this story, I thought there might be complicating factor keeping Sherman from help. Maybe a glitch with the Bureau of Indian Affairs happened. Sherman is a member of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, and interagency communications can sometimes cause issues.

But, no. No legal problems crop up when getting First Nations people approved… that is, not unless you factor in VA, and its incalculable ability to screw up the most straightforward issues. We are not talking about the funky VA math, though, that frustrates many veterans seeking disability compensation. And, we are not talking about some mystery wait list.

Nope. We are talking about racism. VA’s given reasons for refusal of Sherman’s needed transplant is actually a race-induced complication. Apparently, this veteran has “neurocognitive deficits” that somehow disqualify him from a kidney transplant.

Given how crystal-clear he looks and sounds in his interview (you should watch the KARE 11 report),  I have to dispute this. Mr. Sherman has a vibrant personality and is in control of his mental faculties.

VA is citing cognitive testing Sherman took between 2015 and 2016, to determine whether he could care for himself after a transplant… testing given in English, even though Sherman grew up speaking Ojibwe.

This may not seem like a big deal, but cognitive testing is known to bias against certain people groups where English is not the first language, including Native American tribes.

One of the questions he remembers getting wrong involved the word “escalator,” which Sherman did not know at the time. Again, though, this is not because he has a cognititive deficit. Language barriers and poverty resulted in confusion as to what escalators are.

“We don’t have those on the reservation,” he said. Seems reasonable. A person cannot exactly remember a device they never see or use in the first place.

In other words, after hundreds of years of rhetoric about the “intellectual superiority” of whites masquerading as science, we have ended up with government agencies who say this stuff with a straight face. The whole thing stinks. But you already knew that.

RELATED: VA Board Judges Removed For Racism

The VA transplant wait list is not only long, but largely prevented from getting longer, making veterans wait longer than private citizens on similar lists.

“I have a life I want to fight for,” said Sherman, who served from 1972 to 1976 and rose to the rank of Sergeant. “I’ve never missed a day [of dialysis]. If I stop doing it, I ain’t going to be here no longer.”

RELATED: VA Has Double Standard On Racism

His former VSO, now retired, reached out to local news organizations because cases like Frank’s still haunt him. Hugh Quinn watched KARE 11’s investigation project titled “Distance, Delays and Denial” about… you guessed it, the VA Transplant Program and its myriad of inefficiencies.

The Frank Sherman case fit right in with these stories, so he called up the station. To make matters even more gruesome, Sherman’s kidney failure is a confirmed service-connected (SC) disability. He served at Camp Lejeune, drinking water VA knows was contaminated for four straight years.

RELATED: Racist VA Official Calls Co-Worker ‘Mudshark’

Camp Lejeune is infamous for this. Even given its infamy and proven history of wrecking service members’ health, VA seems insistent upon refusal to treat Frank Sherman.

The patient is average-risk for a transplant, perfectly capable of caring for himself (as his commitment to excruciating dialysis clearly shows), and definitely SC for this kidney failure.

At this point, a person has to ask: what WOULD it take to get this guy approved? A jar of Halloween vampire face paint?

Source: https://www.kare11.com/article/news/investigations/kare-11-investigates-marine-veterans-battle-for-kidney-transplant/89-574394750

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35 COMMENTS

  1. I am working off of memory on this one.
    Last year there was posting about VHA organ transplants and some of the insane guidelines in practice. One was that the “new” organ had to come only from another VHA patient. We all know that SC Vetrean’s are the lowest class of patient on VHA’s roster and routinely denied any diagnosis for any illness other than the common cold or a terminal condition they can pummel with drug or proceedure testing.

    Since we as SC Veteran’s are the ultimate readily available multitudes of test dummies for those previously untested drugs, our organs are run through the gammut to provide FDA approval for the non-veteran community. How many times have we been given some new on the market drug only to be denied that drug after FDA approval, and put back on some previously tried less effective drug only because that is what is on the formulary.

    As the preferred drug testing guniea pigs for the FDA drug approvals, it stands to reason that those SC Veterans that don’t have SC conditions for their transplantable organs, likely are poor transplant donors because of kidney/liver complications from the VHA/FDA experiments. This leaves a far smaller pool of donor candidates to fulfill the guidelines for a VHA provided organ transplant.

    It is all figured out by those that are trying to keep the “cookie jar” overflowing. They keep making life threatening guidelines to kill us off without the taxpayers figuring out their duplicitous scheme. They keep rediculous crap in the news as being more important than anything that requires an educated decision.

    Oh by the way, unless I really did dream it, the power parade has been cancelled. Well for this year anyway!

  2. Deep subject racism, getting second opinions against the VA, media getting involved, getting high powered politicians involved rather than supporting the evils and corrupt. More to come.
    “http://www.wthitv.com/content/news/US-Congressman-tours-Terre-Haute-hospital-491063551.html”

    His staff passed on my issues and said since a senator was or has been involved in my complaints they don’t want to mess things up using more than one representative agency or office. He also, his staff, are not concerned about six hour long waits in any hospital or pain clinic, or about how and why civilian health care is harassing and doing the same things the VA did while others are covering-up for VA damages and threats. He refused a one to one meeting like his staff said “May happen” never did. All requests to get involved denied. But the scum did take time out to visit and promote the den of sin and corruption. Sure doesn’t take them long to circle the wagons and show some grand facade on the media. To hell with us serfs and veterans with major issues dealing with the ‘machine.’ We see who gets the support in Indiana. Another bit of info to show how areas to individual care is not all alike.

    • Messing things up. Their words are “wasting valuable resources using more than one governmental office.” Or the ‘redundancy will cause too much confusion.” Etc.

  3. “Camp Lejeune, drinking water VA knows was contaminated for four straight years.”
    It was more like, From the 1950s through the 1980s contaminated with the industrial solvents trichloroethylene (TCE) and perchloroethylene (PCE)

    • My brother was a corpsman at Lejeune. “He bro – what’s it like out there”. “It’s Marine base dipshit, and the water stinks – I won’t touch it”.

      • Wg……,.Well if he took a shower he touched it, and if he ate at the chow hall he ingested it……Never met a corpsman I didn’t like, They have more brain power than any Doctor.

  4. Frank Sherman deserves a kidney transplant, says “I have a life I want to fight for”, verifiably service connected, I mean he deserves it, start up the 3D printers, get this man a kidney. To stress this man out, and make him run the VA gauntlet, is in itself a form of physical , and mental punishment. If he was a 1%ER they’d have a kidney ready for him yesterday, probably from a veteran. And the VA playing the race card on this one is just despicable. Rosie nailed it dead center. There is just a total value system breakdown within the VA. Frank deserves a new kidney, now, not more horse shit from the VA.

  5. Racism or not, the VA will come up with anything to Delay, Deny, and pray you Die.

    The VA is full of animals that should be locked up for crimes to humanity…they are worse than war criminals.

  6. Seems like the VA doesn’t want to get this veteran the necessary help needed for this man to live, the same applies to veterans that served in Korea and the VA claims that there is no evidence of any agent foilage lingering around after it’s use, I say bullshit and the VA needs to gets it shit together because i have symptoms of those that effect ones Central nervous system, I hope to be around a little longer to prove to them my ailments, I hope this veteran gets the necessary assistance he deserves

  7. Rise and Shine it’s Primary Election coming make sure who you voting for so hopefully you can contact the Veteran Affairs Committee your belief how to improve Veterans Healthcare.

    • And WHY do you keep on insisting on bringing politics into this? It has nothing to do with this subject and I wish Ben would go through and remove ANYONE who tries to bring politics into a Veterans issue.

      • All veteran’s issues are political issues. Politicians make the decisions that direct the VA. They appoint the personnel that run the VA. They sign (or don’t) the checks that fund the VA. They are the focus and center of the narratives and national discussions about veteran issues. They wrap themselves in the legacies of dead veterans and hold up the wounded as props for their campaigns. You are a fool and a dimwit if you believe it’s somehow incorrect to “bring politics into a Veterans issue.” All veteran’s issues are political issues. It’s clear that you have some very specific reasons for wanting to avoid discussing politics in discussing veterans issues – probably revolving around your awful politics and that you are well aware that the politics and politicians you support are indefensible on veterans issue. You are dismissed.

      • Dan,

        Politics and Politicians ultimately run the VA!
        Without them, think how much worse off we’d be! Not to say it’s not bad right now! As a matter of fact, some – and I do mean ONLY “SOME” – politicians do help us. Others, probably a majority, are no more interested in helping veterans than monkeys in a cage!
        That’s the hand veterans have been dealt!

        ~Now, if you can explain how politics doesn’t effect/affect veterans, especially this Marine Corp. Native American Vet., in the VA, please do!!!!~
        That’s one explanation many on here would like to read!

        @vafuckyou
        @afgefucky’all

  8. @ Dan,
    Really? I don’t see where the poster made any outrageous or overt political statement.
    In the country I live in and signed the line for, all things VA are very politically oriented, politically controlled and politically funded.
    Any questions?

  9. I am outright being denied choice 30 for cataract exams because they have people at the va to do them, but I don’t trust the va with my eyes or any other intrusive operation and if i have to wait more than 30 days i want non-va care. I want that anyway and would refuse an appointment if it were tomorrow.

  10. This kind of story makes my heart hurt and my blood boil. The evil, corruption, mismanagement of veterans issues, lack of integrity, and downright incompetence on the part of the VA will never get fixed until someone with the power to do so initiates a complete gutting, and restructuring of this agency. The quality of medical care also seems to vary infinitely depending on the region you live in, and the people in charge of making decisions according to policy. I live in the northeast region, and although the benefits side of the VA here in order to get the rating you deserve requires an abundance of persistence, I will say that the medical side of the region here does a pretty good job. We do have good doctors up here that do “really” care, and often communicate that to me along with their frustration with having to fight the same battles we do in order to get the proper. required care that the veterans deserve.

    Unfortunately these stories are a dime a dozen, and don’t seem to be improving, which to me indicates that the level of corruption is so deeply rooted that no one has been able to devise a plan to get all of the “bad” (people, policies, and procedures) swept out into the garbage where it belongs…

    • A #walkout by all those “good VA employees” would be a good start!
      Instead of them moaning and crying, STRIKE!
      Let that “…most corrupt afge union…” and government agency (VA) leaders know they can’t skirt the laws any longer!
      There’s been too many veterans MURDERED due to the MASSIVE corruption, waste, fraud and abuse within this fucked up agency! It’s time for something to happen to these assholes?!

  11. I agree, AJ…

    The VA isn’t some rogue entity. Our politicians put people to run the VA and write laws for the VA…And, their answer to the carnage at the VA is to raise dog and pony show hearings and send a letter asking for the VA to explain it’s atrocities….and, nothing changes.

    The VA is a taxpayer funded cash cow for big pharma, private industries (i.e. contractors), and people who want to experiment on desperate subjects.

    Cut off taxpayer funding and change will happen.

  12. Hi guys, the Old Sarge here; This crap of using race denying an Indian vet a kidney transplant is a bunch of bull. I am of Cherokee descent, my father was born in Indian Territory and was from 8% to 25% Cherokee (depending on family oral history which may or may not be 100% accurate – still researching that). Baylor refused my blood donation because of my Indian ancestory. It didn’t matter that I had donated in every blood drive the military gave from 1954 onwards or that I was a rare blood type (B+). Just kept my mouth shut and marched on. I gave next drive. We need to get together an get this bull thrown out or scientifically proved as to its validity.

    Frank, good luck ! How can I help? (PS: I was exposed twice to Agent Orange, both in Viet Nam AND Thailand Ben; got any suggestions?

  13. Over time, during the last 20 years, I have watched health care provided by the VA go from excellent to life threatening. The record speaks to this.
    Held captive by age and infirmity, those of us who served in WWII, are easy targets for abuse and this abuse has been heaped upon us in great measure. I am 91 years of age, an Atomic Veteran with an 80% service connected disability and have limited mobility
    It is a sad commentary, that lives not lost on the field of battle, should be forfeited to an agency of the very government they fought to preserve.
    Staff an airline in the same manner as is the VA medical system and the planes would be falling out of the sky like rain.
    Case in Point:
    Dr. Phyllis Hollenbeck, who worked at the VA in Jackson, Miss. is one of the whistleblowers. Her complaints included an allegation that she experienced pressure to sign prescriptions without the opportunity to see the patients in question. And she said the hospital is not properly staffed.
    “Essentially everything that happens in primary care at the Jackson VA can be included under the umbrella of being unethical, illegal, heartbreaking, and life threatening for the veterans,” Hollenbeck said at a House Committee on Veterans Affairs Congressional Hearing in Pittsburgh, Pa.
    The agency isn’t holding employees, especially executives, accountable for preventable deaths, Miller said. Department officials also gave bonuses to doctors even if they practiced without a license or left residents unsupervised during surgery, according to a Government Accountability Office report last month.
    I frequent the VA clinic in Lawrenceville, Ga. and am seen by Dr. Saima Khan. My visits with her are like this:
    I am ushered into her office and am seated. She types uninterrupted for 5 to ten minutes without any input from me and then has me sit on an exam table and listen to my heart beat. That is the extent of her treatment and always has been. I go there in order to get my medication. I am denied any meaningful medical treatment.
    Over 15 million men served in WWII. By the end of the next decade, we will all be gone. Tragically, many of us were sent to premature graves by VA medical.
    A. Fragapane,

    • Angelo,
      It’s that way all over the place.

      Here’s an interesting fact!
      Vietnam Veterans, per capita, are dying at a faster pace than WWII Vets. That was reported on about 10 to 12 years ago!

  14. The point you seem to miss people is when you start injecting politics into anything, people turn a deaf ear as they get all of that crap and more from the media and the newspapers and so on. So if you want people to ignore you trying to make a point to benefit Vets, then please do continue trying to inject politics into everything. And I bet in time you will see people walking away from you to make sure they dont have to listen to your ranting. And when that happens all you have done is shot yourself in the foot as you have gained nothing. I am a life member of the American Legion. A Life member of the Disabled American Veterans. A life member of the VFW and a Life member AND Post officer of the local AmVets. I have seen this happen over and over and over again. When a person comes into the posts and all they want to do is bitch and moan about how bad they are being treated by Politicians, people either leave the post to get away from them or they just leave. I have seen one person in the AmVets empty the cantina faster then a strainer does with water, all because this is all they wanted to do.

    So please do continue, and when people ignore you then you know why. You want to inject politics then run for freaking office. Or find yourself being the crabby fellow that nobody wants to be around.

    • @Dan
      August 17, 2018 at 5:21 pm
      The point you seem to miss people is when you start injecting politics into anything, people turn a deaf ear as they get all of that crap and more from the media and the newspapers and so on. So if you want people to ignore you trying to make a point to benefit Vets, then please do continue trying to inject politics into everything. And I bet in time you will see people walking away from you to make sure they dont have to listen to your ranting. And when that happens all you have done is shot yourself in the foot as you have gained nothing. I am a life member of the American Legion. A Life member of the Disabled American Veterans. A life member of the VFW and a Life member AND Post officer of the local AmVets. I have seen this happen over and over and over again. When a person comes into the posts and all they want to do is bitch and moan about how bad they are being treated by Politicians, people either leave the post to get away from them or they just leave. I have seen one person in the AmVets empty the cantina faster then a strainer does with water, all because this is all they wanted to do.

      So please do continue, and when people ignore you then you know why. You want to inject politics then run for freaking office. Or find yourself being the crabby fellow that nobody wants to be around.

      ** Dear Dan,
      Your comments:
      “I am a life member of the American Legion. A Life member of the Disabled American Veterans. A life member of the VFW and a Life member AND Post officer of the local AmVets. I have seen this happen over and over and over again. When a person comes into the posts and all they want to do is bitch and moan about how bad they are being treated by Politicians, people either leave the post to get away from them or they just leave. I have seen one person in the AmVets empty the cantina faster then a strainer does with water, all because this is all they wanted to do.”….

      … makes me think it may be due time, in the best interest of Veteran’s seeking organized support, that you consider stepping down and far away from your volunteer posts and efforts.
      Jus’ saying.

      • @ Dan,

        My apologies, Dan, I’d intended on sincerely saying, to you, “Thank You for Your Years of Service (s)”.

        I can be harsh at times, but I’m always grateful for those who sacrifice and volunteer.

  15. Well , if you read the stuff that is going through the U.S. Congress, you’ll see that they wish to cut off more, or most of the funding for the V.A. They don’t think that it’s a good use of federal funds. So, ya this is a great example of how the politicians truly see us , the vets of our countries military, ewe as it sounds, aren’t a good use of federal funds, ain’t that a kick in the head! I guess that they see themselves as a good use of federal funds, they can’t even do the jobs that they have been elected to do, and they get anything that is going to keep them from getting themselves taken care of, pulled by the Supreme Court, it’s a violation of their civil rights. To bad they can’t see the wrong that they do to the rest of the people who are Americans, they only see themselves and their richest friends as important enough to be able to help spend federal funds on.

  16. Question who in a position can request a list of the 300 thousand veteran’s have died waiting for treatment that never came.

    Showing their numbers by nationality or Race, I really hate that word. Anyone born in America, their nationality is an American Citizen.

    It would be interesting to see if a certain group of veteran’s are being targeted. Not only in the Death’s. But also veteran’s who are having their current disabilities denied.

    This is just insane what the VA and our elected officials and justice department and the American people are not making Law’s to make it illegal to falsely deny disability claims illegally.

    I am sure there are more law’s to put some of these employees in prison. They work for a federal government.

    So, they are eligible to be prosecuted by our federal government.

    Don’t you find it wierd that the country can set up a court system (just), for veteran’s.

    How about a special court to hold VA employees accountable.

    I will pray for this veteran and all of you.

    I believe anyone who reads these posts or posts on this site. Start reading all the news reports concerning anything to do with the VA, most report’s let’s people use Facebook to give comments.

    I believe as many veteran’s that can, post on as many site’s or report’s as possible.

    These news reports are a tool for veteran’s. We have a voice and we can use Facebook as our tool, to spread the word.

    You may get trolls responding to you. Tell them to go to you know where. Just kidding !

    Do not feed the trolls.

    Here is another story, my brother after forty years or more finely granted his disability for his back.

    70% unemployable for his back. He asked the local clinic treating person ( a nurse). For a wheelchair and was sent a walker.

    He contacted the clinic and was told that the Nurse told the clerk, send him a walker he does not need a Wheelchair.

    No doctor, no consult, the Nurse making the decision what veteran’s need to get around.

    His disc is shattered. Bone against bone. He falls quite often and not only need a Wheelchair.

    He needs to have that disc fixed. They know how. Just does not care.

    Let’s bombard all of these news reports with all the horror stories we or others you know have had to deal with.

    If we can’t all get a reporter to come to us, let go to them !

    I do this with any report from the inspector general’s office and anything to do with the VA.

    I am fighting every chance I have to try and get someone to dismantle the Illegal Disruptive Committee.

    The VA in Denver contacted me and my wife in june and admitted that the Disruptive Committee in Denver, had NOT been run properly back in 2004 and if my case would have come in front of the Disruptive Committee today.

    You would have never been punished. They even asked Mr Gallegos if we could do something to make this right, what would you like us to do to.

    How about having the Denver VA Director or the Chief of staff, write me an apology letter and cleanse my official medical records.

    Response from the Denver VA representative ! WHY should we apologize to you for something that happened before we were in charge.

    Why did you call me anyway if your not going to help veteran’s who have been harmed.

    Answer: because we had to the Secretary of veteran’s affairs sent us an inquiry and we had to. In an angry voice. She was Disruptive to me and my wife.

    This is August, think anyone has tried to contact me after this phone call. Nope!

    Surprised of course not.

    It’s ok I will continue until they fix this injustice or I die or they kill me.

    I can not standby and let another 300 thousand veteran’s die waiting for treatment that never came.

  17. Trump has to be stopped. I can not take no more of his bullshit killing this country. This piece of shit needs to be taken out.

  18. Pt-2:
    Part II
    Advances in medicine are working miracles on battlefield casualties like never before. According to an American Legion report, the wounded-to-killed ratio in Afghanistan is 7.4 to 1, versus 1.7 to 1 in World War II and 2.6 to 1 in Vietnam. Consider, for instance, how at least five quadruple amputees have survived catastrophic injuries over the last decade. And in March, a team of 11 surgeons at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore made medical history when, over the course of 14 hours, they transplanted a donated penis and scrotum onto a veteran who got his genitals blown off in Afghanistan.

    The bottom line, however, is that those who might have died a generation ago can suffer pain-management challenges that have failed to keep pace with life-saving technologies.

    In 2012, a land mine near Kandahar stripped Jose Martinez of both legs and his right arm. At one point in Martinez’s recovery, the Army infantryman was ingesting up to 150 daily VA-prescribed pills for pain and post-traumatic stress disorder.

    But it was only after getting better results from rolling joints and packing bowls that Martinez managed to end his opioid addiction. In 2015, he joined two dozen other veterans who showcased their contempt for outdated formulas by dumping their prescription pills and scattering the plastic containers at the gates of the White House.

    The protesters were affiliated with the Weed for Warriors Project, just one of many grassroots nonprofits sprouting like wildflowers across the nation: the Veterans Cannabis Project, the Veterans Cannabis Group, Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access, the Santa Cruz Veterans Alliance, HeroGrown, Hoosier Veterans For Medical Cannabis, etc.

    In memory of her dead son, Janine Lutz joins veterans and civilians outside the Department of Veterans Affairs to warn Americans that opioids can and do generate suicidal ideations. [Photo by David Dickerson]
    On Memorial Day weekend, more small groups converged on Washington amid this rising tide of national discontent. One was called the Live To Tell Foundation, established as a veterans peer-support group, by the mother of Janos “Johnny” Lutz.
    Late last year, the VA and Janine Lutz resolved the malpractice lawsuit she filed following her son’s suicide in 2013. A paper trail indicated VA doctors twice violated their own protocols, and ignored instructions on her Marine son’s medical records, by prescribing him Klonopin for anxiety.

    A benzodiazepine-family sedative assigned to the Schedules III and IV categories, Klonopin is associated with suicidal ideation and has gained notoriety for turning up in the autopsies of Playboy centerfold Anna Nicole Smith, Hollywood producer Don Simpson, and novelist David Foster Wallace. The VA website “strongly recommends against the routine use of benzodiazepines in veterans with PTSD” based on “unproven efficacy … and well-known risks for abuse and dependence.”

    Even so, according to an American Legion White Paper released in July, more than 25 percent of veterans newly diagnosed for PTSD are being prescribed “benzos,” and the veterans organization cited a 2013 study indicating that 43 percent of military personnel who attempted suicide from 2008 to 2010 “had taken psychotropic medications.” It also warned that 16 percent of PTSD veterans are getting morphine-equivalent opioid doses alongside benzodiazepine, which “puts individuals at increased risk for overdose.” That’s what happened to Johnny Lutz.

    In addition to Klonopin, during the same VA visit, the young Marine was also prescribed 90 morphine pills with a dosage increase from 45 milligrams to 75. Lutz had been trying to taper off, and another doctor had weaned his morphine dosage down to 35 milligrams.

    Rather than gamble with protracted and costly litigation, his mother settled for $250,000 in October. But her boy is still gone. And as long as federal health care providers continue to dispense dangerous medications with no allowance for cannabis — an option she feels would have “100 percent” saved Johnny’s life — Lutz intends to keep calling out Schedule 1 hardliners at every turn. Until marijuana prohibition ends, she says, every veteran is at risk.

    “During the hearing, they asked the doctor who gave Johnny the Klonopin ‘Are you aware they don’t prescribe benzos for PTSD?’ She said, ‘Yes, I am aware of it.’ My lawyer said, ‘But that didn’t matter, did it?’ She kept silent. This is not just ‘screwing up’ when somebody dies. As far as I’m concerned, (two) VA doctors are guilty of murder.”

    • • •

    On May 18, under questioning from the House Judiciary Committee, acting Drug Enforcement Administration chief Robert Patterson delivered perplexing testimony. Thirty years with the agency, and Patterson was a pillar of selective knowledge.

    Quizzed about what percentage of the 64,000 fatal American drug overdoses in 2016 were from nonprescription opioids, Patterson said “Fentanyl alone makes up for about 20,000.” Combinations of heroin and fentanyl, he added, accounted for the balance.

    Pressed further, Patterson said he was unfamiliar with surveys from legal medical marijuana states that showed patients are using cannabis to sever their dependencies with pharmaceuticals. He was unaware of a 2017 study by the National Academy of Sciences affirming that marijuana products do, in fact, mitigate chronic pain.

    Asked how many Americans had suffered fatal marijuana overdoses, Patterson replied, “I am aware of a few deaths from marijuana,” but he could supply no substantiating numbers. The DEA website states, “No death from overdose of marijuana has been reported.” Unable to recite the amount of arrests for illegal drug use logged in 2016, he was informed by U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Georgia, that marijuana alone accounted for 800,000, that African-Americans were nearly 3.5 times more likely to face those charges, and — reading from a Washington Post headline — that “more people were arrested for pot than for murder, rape, aggravated assault and robbery combined.”

    Patterson managed a significant concession by declining to label marijuana as the gateway to more dangerous drugs. Yet, when asked why cannabis remained classified as a Schedule 1 substance, every bit as lethal as heroin and more dangerous than cocaine, Patterson’s demeanor was so unflappable he could’ve been holding a pair of deuces or a royal flush. “The reason it remains in Schedule 1,” he said with a straight face, “is because of the science.”

    In June, Patterson announced his intention to retire, stating his job had become “increasingly challenging.”

    • • •

    Anticipating the worst, Jose Belen of Lake Mary told his wife to hide his guns. The Iraq stuff kept banging back on him — the death of his best buddy in 2003, the civilians in the car, the dying little girl he and his jumpy Army cohorts had shredded with gunfire.

    Belen left the military with a PTSD diagnosis in 2005, but he kept it on the down low — how would that play with prospective employers? In his lucrative role as a salesman with a high-profile insurance company, smoking pot helped. But he lived in fear of random corporate drug tests, so he sometimes went months between tokes, feeling like a deviant with a double life. He tried holding it together by taking mild mood-leveling scripts for depression and insomnia.

    Anticipating the worst, Jose Belen of Lake Mary told his wife to hide his guns. The Iraq stuff kept banging back on him — the death of his best buddy in 2003, the civilians in the car, the dying little girl he and his jumpy Army cohorts had shredded with gunfire. [Herald-Tribune staff photo / Thomas Bender]
    By 2016, things at home were getting so scary that his wife, Danielle, insisted he level with the VA doctors. They prescribed heavy-duty meds. But after weeks of rage and binge-drinking, another doctor told him it was the wrong combination, he needed to get off, ASAP. But he needed to first go clean for two weeks, cold turkey, before beginning a new regimen.
    The spins, nausea and hot flashes flared up the very next day, as Belen was working out at a gym. He dashed to the bathroom and convulsed over the toilet. He needed to go home. He texted Danielle, who couldn’t shake free. He grabbed his daughter from gym day-care downstairs.

    “By this time, I could barely walk, the migraine, the nausea, dry heaving, all coming at one time. I lived 10, 15 minutes from the gym and by this time, I’m actually throwing up, my daughter’s in the car, I’m sweating, I call my stepson and say, ‘Be in the driveway, I’m really sick, get your sister and lock yourself in your room.’

    “By the grace of God, I made it to the house, I had my shirt off, I’d puked all over myself, and my son got my daughter. It was terrifying and I didn’t want them to see, and it kept getting worse and worse. I had my underwear on, I was in a fetal position in the living room.

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