Quite frankly the veterans and disabled veterans and their families deserve better from Presidential Appointees, and Senate confirmed Cabinet Officer's. What makes matters worse is that the Veterans Administration is a law unto itself, the Secretary of the VA, can make medical problems service connected by a signature on a piece of paper, as Secretary Principi did for brain tumors for veterans of the first Gulf War, based on the facts of an IOM study published in March 2003. The VA has powers that no other agency has, and has no control except by Congress and the President, they can and do ignore court orders.
What inspired me to write today's column is the report in McClatchy's newspaper, by an investigative reporter Chris Adams, he has spent the past few years doing a lot of work involving the Veterans Affairs, compiling data bases of benefits, compensation, how many veterans per state are disabled and drawing what percentage of compensation. It is his and others from McClatchy's organization that has led to the Illinois review called for by Senators Dick Durbin and Barack Obama, last year.
This new article deals with the smoke and mirrors of what a "great agency" the VA Colonel has been portraying it for the past few years, since taking the helm from Secretary Anthony Principi. Chris Adams lays the case out here
To prove the quality of the VA's medical care, Nicholson and others - often using identical words to Congress or the news media - repeatedly have cited a study by the nonprofit RAND Corp.
In the last two years:
Nicholson said RAND ranked the overall quality of VA medical care as significantly higher than any other healthcare system in this country.
Dr. Jonathan Perlin, then the top VA health official, said in a radio interview that RAND "compared VA care to 12 other healthcare organizations, some of the best in the country," and found VA superior. Studies such as RAND's showed the agency's care to be "the best that you can get in the country," he said.
Kussman wrote in a statement to McClatchy earlier this year that RAND "recently" reported that veterans "receive better health care than any other patients in America."
The VA's public affairs department wrote in a magazine that the study "was conducted by the RAND Corporation, an independent think tank," as well as researchers from two universities.
As it turns out, the RAND study was neither fully independent nor all that recent. A VA grant helped pay for it. Two of its main authors had received VA career-development awards, and four of its nine listed authors were affiliated with the agency, according to the study's documentation.
It was published in 2004 but used data from 1997 to 1999, when the system treated far fewer patients than it does now.
The study does show that VA patients are more likely than non-VA patients to receive a range of needed tests and procedures. In the eyes of health experts, that's a real achievement; other studies have found similar results.
But Nicholson's claim that the agency performed better than "any other healthcare system in this country" and Perlin's assertion that RAND compared the VA with 12 other healthcare systems are wrong.
The study didn't compare the agency with other systems; it compared patients in the VA with those who weren't.
The non-VA patients were drawn from 12 large metropolitan areas across the country, while VA patients were drawn from two of its 21 regions. The two groups were surveyed with very different methods, and the non-VA sample had a far lower response rate than the VA sample.
Asked about the study, the VA said the agency had partially funded it but that the preponderance of money came from other sources; RAND has a long "reputation for independent evaluation," it said.
The VA did say that Perlin's quote was "partially inaccurate in describing the study," which it chalked up to confusion. It stood by the other statements.
In this article from Playboy of all places is an extensive article on James Nicholson and the VA it is an eye opener and I am sorry I haven't seen it before tonight.
Soon after Nicholson moved
into his new offices, the
VA, like the DOD, began to
aggressively roll back its
support for PTSD. ”
The story written by Mark Boal is long, 10 pages, but it is worth the read.
The government's attitude seems to be having the desired effect of keeping PTSD patients out of the DOD health care system and transferring the caseload burden to Veterans Affairs when the soldiers return home. Since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan started, 631,000 people have been discharged from the military, including National Guard and Reserve soldiers who are now deactivated. Of those, 73,000 have sought mental health treatment at the VA.
Critics say the VA, like the DOD, is falling short. A rumor going around the veterans community claims that, even in cases of existing injuries, military doctors are under diagnosing PTSD at military hospitals, preferring instead to use labels that do not entitle the soldier to combat-related compensation. "We've been hearing it all the time from our guys in the field who are working with these Iraq vets," says Joe Violante of Disabled American Veterans. Military doctors "are being told not to diagnose PTSD."
In 2004 leadership changed at the VA. The head of the agency, Anthony Principi, a longtime favorite of veterans groups, resigned. The timing of his resignation was suspect, as it came shortly after he told Congress the agency lacked funds to take care of veterans, and the move was widely interpreted as a firing. Bush replaced Principi with a high-level party operative named James Nicholson. A Republican power broker and a party heavyweight, he chaired the Republican National Committee during the 2000 presidential campaign, when he called Dick Cheney "one of the most qualified, beloved people in America."
Soon after Nicholson moved into his new offices, the VA, like the DOD, began to aggressively roll back its support for PTSD. First, in a move that echoed Burkett's charges, Nicholson ordered an investigation into the files of 72,000 veterans who had received PTSD compensation. Senate Democrats managed to undercut the review. In response, Nicholson commissioned a study at the Institute of Medicine to craft a new definition of PTSD, one more restrictive than that used by the American Psychiatric Association. That too fizzled. Finally, a second study was commissioned to "assess how PTSD compensation might influence beneficiaries' attitudes and behaviors in ways that might serve as barriers to recovery."
This new study from the IOM was released this week after two years of work, it was a critical report, although not the one the Veterans Affairs expected, it did show there are major problems with the diagnosis and compensation ratings across the nation, but not because of anything the veterans are doing, rather it is the fault of the VA Regional Offices and the lack of training for the adjudicators on how to assess and rate the cases for compensation. If this report is accepted as it should be, the implications are that compensation for PTSD will be greatly expanded.
Here is the story from the
VA Watchdog.org about the findings and attached newspaper articles.
The long-awaited IOM study on PTSD compensation is out...and, it's not good news for the VA...but, it could be good news for veterans.
If all the recommendations in this report are implemented, and they probably will NOT be, it would cost the VA billions and give veterans better and more consistent PTSD diagnoses and higher compensation because ratings would be based on how PTSD affects all aspects of a veteran's life, not just the ability to be employed.
At the time I put this together, the report was not posted. If you can't find it at the IOM web site (see press release below) and want a copy, just email me and I'll forward it to you.
We have three stories...first from The Washington Post...second the IOM press release and third an AP story.
The IOM PTSD
can be found here you can read it online for free or you can order it for 33.00 dollars, me I will read it online. I already have most of it.
To sum this up, Congressman Phil Haire has called for Secretary Nicholson to resign, he is a square peg in a round hole and does not have a clue on how to manage the largest healthcare system in the nation, nor manage the claims processing system that this nations disabled veterans depend on. There are an estimated 850,000 compensation claims on appeal in the VA system, either at local Regional Offices, the Board of Veterans Appeals or the Court of Veteran Appeals, many of this nations veterans will die before their claims process is completed, why? In this day of computers why are the claims files still handled the same way they were in 1945, all paper, folders that are measured in feet, not pages.
This is not political, this is just a statement of fact, the time is up for the VA Colonel, James Nicholson, you have proved you are nothing but a party shrill, and quite frankly Sir, this nation deserves better, as a veteran yourself, and an Officer, a Colonel, think of the men under you, the 26 million veterans and their families that deserve good leadership, and you have failed in that, you owe them and the President your resignation.
I ask the Kos Community to take the time today to either write your elected officials, Senators and Congress critters and let them know that we as Americans are fed up with a Cabinet Officer that lies to this nations veterans, their widows and all of the people they are accountable to, it is time for a change at the Veterans Administration and the VA Colonels time is up!!!!!!