Some top officials knew of woes, before VA scandal (The New York Times)
Long before revelations in the spring that the Veterans Affairs hospital in Phoenix had manipulated waiting lists to hide that veterans were facing long delays to see doctors, senior department officials in Washington had been made aware of serious problems at the hospital, according to filings before a federal administrative board. The documents in the case of the Phoenix hospital director Sharon Helman, who had been contesting her Nov. 24 firing, provided new details of how much officials knew about the medical center, including patient backlogs, shortages of medical personnel and clinic space, and long waiting lists. The filings included the sworn statement of Susan Bowers, the executive in charge of dozens of hospitals and clinics from West Texas to Arizona, that she had warned her superiors in Washington that if any V.A. medical center was going to “implode,” it would be Phoenix. Ms. Bowers, who retired one month ahead of schedule in May as the scandal emerged, said that before Ms. Helman became the head of the Phoenix facility in 2012, an audit showed the hospital was out of compliance with a directive requiring patients to be placed on an official electronic waiting list. There was, in fact, no such active list for primary-care patients in Phoenix, even though a previous hospital director had certified compliance, she said. Ms. Bowers said that when she submitted a report stating that the Phoenix hospital was out of compliance, she was pressured by other officials to say that it was compliant. She also said that beginning in 2009, she briefed Eric K. Shinseki, then the Department of Veterans Affairs secretary, and other top officials several times a year about the patient backlog and other problems in Phoenix. She said that projects she pushed — like improving the scheduling system or adding clinic space in Phoenix so more patients could be seen — were defunded or delayed because, she was told, there was no money, or no legal mechanism to lease space.
Female veterans battling PTSD from sexual trauma fight for redress (The Washington Post)
Thousands of female veterans are struggling to get health-care treatment and compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs on the grounds that they suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder caused by sexual trauma in the military. The veterans and their advocates call it “the second battle” — with a bureaucracy they say is stuck in the past. Judy Atwood-Bell was just a 19-year-old Army private when she says she was locked inside a barracks room at Fort Devens in Massachusetts, forced to the cold floor and raped by a fellow solider. For more than two decades, Atwood-Bell fought for an apology and financial compensation from VA for PTSD, with panic attacks, insomnia and severe depression that she recalls started soon after that winter day in 1981. She filled out stacks of forms in triplicate and then filled them out again, pressing over and over for recognition of the harm that was done. The department labels it “military sexual trauma” (MST), covering any unwanted contact, including sexual innuendo, groping and rape. A recent VA survey found that 1 in 4 women said they experienced sexual harassment or assault. And the problem is growing more pressing because female veterans represent the military’s fastest-growing population, with an estimated 2.2 million, or 10 percent, of the country’s veterans. More than 280,000 female veterans have returned home from deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Veterans face a lack of empathy (The Hill)
Veterans from combat operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and countless other one-off endeavors around the globe face a crisis of empathy once they return to the United States. While this crisis is not without historical precedent, current factors in the composition and operations faced by our armed forces make the transition back to civilian life all the more difficult. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI) run rampant and although medical research has leapt forward since previous major combat operations, proper diagnosis and treatment leaves much to be desired. The solution lies as much with society as it does with the individual and his or her medical team. In order to properly support the veteran community, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the Department of Defense and outside organizations must take an integrated approach that looks outside the box and treads into issues sometimes less palatable to government agencies.
California man busted for impersonating Army soldier (New York Daily News)
He was all that he could be — and he pretended to be all that someone else was, too. A California man was busted earlier this week for impersonating a U.S. soldier — donning a fake U.S. Army uniform and bragging about accomplishments that weren’t his — all to get a 20% Starbucks discount for veterans. The man, whose name hasn’t been disclosed, was caught sporting a full Army uniform at the Fresno Yosemite International Airport on Monday when an actual veterans grew suspicious of his story after asking him questions about his service. “He’s wearing his hat indoors, which we don’t,” former Army combat engineer Christian Parmer told KMPH-TV about noticing inconsistencies in the man’s uniform. “He’s got a Confederate flag on his shoulder, which we don’t wear of course.” Parmer then asked the man about his service, on tape, revealing a hole-ridden story that fell apart in mere moments. According to KMPH, he purchased it at the airport, netting a 20% discount meant for veterans. Under the Stolen Valor Act of 2013, impersonating a member of the military to receive a financial or material benefit is illegal. Parmer alerted airport police to the situation and officers arrived to continue the interview.