REFORM NEEDED: Brain-injured vets getting lost in the VA


Brain-injured vets getting lost in the VA

I found this in the Opinion Section of the Atlanta Journal Constitution.  It dovetails with an article I was already writing and  nicelly illustrates the enormous problem of finding enough doctors and specialists to adequately care for our heroes that need treatment NOW.  I’ve decided to post it now and follow up with just released GAO testimony relating to the problem which will appear in my next post.  “Stay tuned.”  


By Kevin Ferris
Philadelphia Inquirer

Published on: 11/12/07

Allen McQuarrie is looking for a few good doctors.  He wants them to volunteer their time and talents to their local Veterans Administration hospital.  Nothing against the quality of the folks already working there. The problem is. there simply aren’t enough doctors and specialists to go around for diagnosis and treatment — or to guide vets through the bureaucratic maze.

Worse, one of the current conflict’s signature wounds — brain injuries — makes it difficult for some vets to juggle the appointments, record-keeping and other demands the VA puts on them.

“We’re doing a wonderful job of getting the wounded off the battlefield and into a hospital in Germany and then back here,” McQuarrie says. “But continuing care once they’re out of the military is what needs systemic change.”

McQuarrie learned of the system’s shortcomings because of his son Doug, a 21-year veteran of the Navy SEALs who has back and brain injuries sustained in combat and training.

Doug McQuarrie has shuttled from the VA to civilian doctors, while trying to hold down a job and support his family in Virginia. The civilians say he needs immediate care, but the VA can’t see him for months — although he can call daily, hoping for a cancellation.

Allen McQuarrie has tried to help from his home in Doylestown, Pa., calling the VA but also seeking assistance from senators and representatives. In the process, he’s learned that Doug’s case isn’t unique — and that the VA desperately needs help.

Despairing and angry, he wrote to Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.): “It may be better for our men and women to come home dead than to suffer such painful and ultimately mortal deterioration.”

In the same letter, he asked for emergency legislation to encourage civilian doctors to “adopt” vets and provide the immediate neurological care many need. He suggested tax incentives and improved military insurance to help offset the volunteers’ costs.

McQuarrie’s hopes for a more responsive, faster-acting VA are shared by others including Congress’ Veterans Disability Benefits Commission.

One commission member, retired Marine Corps Maj. Gen. James E. Livingston, a Medal of Honor recipient, emphasizes three required changes.

Have a single review for disabilities. Now there are two.

Streamline the record-keeping process as vets move from care by the Defense Department to the VA.

Adopt the technology that will improve efficiency and speed up treatment.

And don’t worry about the costs.

(there is more to this story in the AJC – click on the link above and read the rest)

Now you have a flavor of the problem:  Not enough doctors to go around, too much paperwork, not enough technology – as viewed from the patient/family side of the problem.   Stay tuned for the recent GAO Testimony on the problem, coming up in my next post.


2 responses to “REFORM NEEDED: Brain-injured vets getting lost in the VA

  1. David H. Marshall

    David H. Marshall

    50+ years (1957) later, still without the requested Congressional and VA help for 76 others. “Had some trouble with hearing while working on warm-up crew for F-86 D with very high noise levels.” The physician’s 29 Jan. 54 USAF Cadet Wing Commander washout statement. A then 1952 to 1956 known certain injury for seventy seven (77) unprotected flight line personnel of a Project 7210, 158 dB noise level of an at least 87,381 sound pressure multiple (X). Fifteen (15) of the 77 were repeatedly subjected to a “warm-up crew” level of over 699,051 X (@ 176 dB); LIST ENCLOSED! All 77 were disabled in direct disobedience of the 1948 Air Force Regulation 160-3 required protection at 95 dB and 59 X! Many of the 77 sets of service records were destroyed in the 1973 National Personnel Records Center fire. Those that survived had the names of all other subjects censored out by Congress’s 1974 Privacy Act.

    The 4 April 2008 BVA lost in-hand proof for all from 1952 evidence, “We are writing to you about your appeal pending before the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA or Board). According to our records, your claim file was received at the Board on January 28, 2006. However, despite extensive search efforts, we are currently unable to locate your file.” The veteran then resubmitted over 100 records that underlie this clear and unmistakable error (CUE) hearing loss only 7/9/57 claim. This is the in-hand evidence such as service records and the VA’s own error proving, 6/25/58 USAF “disqualified”. Then the 1/22/59 USAF “recommended for reenlistment” Menieres symptoms diversion. In 2006 there is the VA’s unemployability award cited, “Social Security Administrative Law Judge…disability benefits solely as a result of his service connected condition” 1/28/97 decision and the VA’s 9/15/99 “…clearly are documented in his service record” error verifications! The reestablished file is evidence for the 76 others, the 7/9/57 “disqualified” CUE, the 47 years later awarded 3/26/04 60% Menieres disease and subsequent 3/8/06 100% unemployability. On this resubmission a VA 10/16/08 letter stated “…because of insufficient or inaccurate information we cannot identify the proper record.” Silence has greeted the veteran’s 11/7/08 yet again submitted evidence that includes 77 names and serial numbers. This letter, with its 16 verifying documents, is email available on request.

    On 5/7/57 the VA Boston Regional Office (RO) requested and then stamped as 6/3/57 received the originals of the veteran’s 6/25/52 to 5/21/56 to-date retained with its names and service records. This was followed by the RO Rating Board’s 7/9/57 ERROR of an awarded hearing loss only. As proven by their 4/26/57 attending physician’s 4/3/58 evidence resultant USAF SURGEON’S 6/25/58, “PERMANENTLY MEDICALLY DISQUALIFIED FOR MILITARY SERVICE”! Then the very effective “episode of symptoms (of Menieres Disease)” connection to service canceling, 1/22/59 “HONORABLE DISCHARGE” WITH “RECOMMENDED FOR REENLISTMENT – YES”.

    Acting on HMO physician advice, due to the increasingly from 1957 worse “episode of symptoms”, the veteran returned to the VA in 1991. During an ongoing 18 years overcome were interim VA LAYMEN oversights, e.g., the treatment of the 699,051 X “permanently medically disqualified” 7/9/57 hearing loss only error as an all-in-the-mind 4/13/94 “perceptive type hearing loss”. Then a 6/27/96 designation of a Fellow of the College of the American Surgeons, along with 18 from 1991 other exam physicians, plus in-service physicians as having provided “no competent medical evidence”. “THE VETERANS SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF MENIERES DISEASE CLEARLY ARE DOCUMENTED IN HIS SERVICE RECORD” with the results of “A STRESS REACTION MAY PRECIPIRATE AN EPISODE OF SYMPTOMS (OF MENIERE’S DISEASE), AND CYCLES MAY REPEAT ENDLESSLY”. This is the VA Chief of Otolaryngology’s 9/15/99 statement regarding the since 1861 medically known hearing loss, tinnitus with episodes of nausea and vertigo disease.

  2. Glenn Kluge, MD

    I am trying to find and help brain injured vets in Ohio and Texas with hyperbaric medicine, as a DAV myself I am aware of some of the difficulties. How do I find them?

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