As Obama administration officials pivot like haywire jewelry-box ballerinas to divert attention away from the nationwide Veterans Affairs disgrace, a reader who has been fighting the system urged me to urge Capitol Hill and the American public to stay focused.
This former Special Forces soldier and medic served his country for 25 years. He worked in the health care field managing military field medical clinics. "I know how health care is supposed to run, even in austere or low-budget environments," he says. And in his nightmarish, ongoing experience, the VA is an epic, deadly, monstrous failure. He minces no words: "They're getting billions of dollars, and they treat veterans like s-t. There's no accountability, no buy-in, among civilian unionized employees. We mean nothing to them. It's like going to the DMV for your health care."
Over the past four years, the veteran tells me, he has been under direct VA care for two major line-of-duty-related injuries, including one combat-related injury. One of the medical centers that treated him -- or rather mistreated him and maltreated him -- is the Coatesville, Pa., VA. It's the same facility where four vets died due to medical malpractice, leading to nearly $1.4 million in settlements to vets' families, according to The Center for Investigative Reporting.
The harrowing cases included two fatal failures to monitor patients, improper management of a psychiatric patient, and wrongful diagnosis or misdiagnosis of a patient.
These details are all too familiar to my reader. "I have been misdiagnosed, had a missed diagnosis, and had delays of care lasting months," he says. "My records have been lost, changed, split and mismanaged." He has experienced firsthand the same "slow-walking" of care that millions of other VA patients have encountered and scores have died from -- a systemic modus operandi of "lie, delay, deny."
The vet gets a catch in his voice as he relates a horrible anecdote. After refusing to return to the Coatesville facility and seeking treatment at another VA clinic one day, he became nauseous. Instead of allowing him to lie down on a gurney, a nurse made him vomit outside so he wouldn't soil the bed. He believes the office was open not to treat patients, but as a front for nurses to pick up extra shifts. He has encountered similar degrading and condescending treatment across the VA system.