Category Archives: Congress

VA overrates its success stories

VA overrates its success stories

This problem was first brought to light by an article written by Chris Adams that appeared in the Ledger Enquirer in an article printed May 11, 2007.  

The McClatchy Newspapers study shows that the VA has “habitually exaggerated” its success stories in ways that would assure Congress that the agency is doing a good job of caring for our soldier heroes.   The indented areas below are details taken from the article linked above.  Large portions of the original article are omitted and others paraphrased.  You should take the time to read the original article in its entirety to get all the details.  

The agency has touted how quickly veterans get in for appointments, but its own inspector general found that scheduling records have been manipulated repeatedly.

For example, on Oct. 2, 2003, a veteran was referred to an ophthalmology clinic. On May 3, 2004, a scheduler created an appointment, saying the “desired date” was June 21. The appointment was scheduled for June 23, the inspector general said.

Actual waiting time: 264 days. Reported waiting time: two days. Some schedulers even kept “informal waiting lists” to consult when they were ready to make formal appointments.

The VA boasted that its customer service ratings are 10 points higher than those of private-sector hospitals, but the survey it cited shows a far smaller gap.

The article details how that the gap narrows to 3 points (still favorable but not nearly 10 points higher) when adjusted to the same conditions.  

Regarding the key issue of PTSD treatment, the VA said this about the PTSD treatment teams: “There are over 200 of them,” Dr. Michael Kussman told a congressional subcommittee. He indicated that they were in all of the agency’s roughly 155 hospitals.

When McClatchy asked for more detail, the VA said that about 40 hospitals didn’t have the specialized units known as “PTSD clinical teams.” Committees in the House of Representatives and the Senate and experts within the VA have encouraged the agency to put those teams into every hospital.  

Dr. Jonathan Perlin, then the top VA health official, said in a radio interview that RAND “compared VA care to 12 other health-care 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.

Those are pretty lofty statements, but 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.  In additon, the “12 other health care organization” were not organizations at all but 12 health care regions under many mixed organizational entities.

Once again, we see some deliberate misleading statements from the VA, often directly to Congress.  Yet they seem to get away with it.  

Oldtimer

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Wounded warriors battle with VA – Story and Videos

Wounded Warriors Battle With VA

I watched a horrifying story on CNN last night.  I missed it on regular programming, checked the programming guide and waited for the midnight repeat.   The CNN title of the story was:

Broken Government: Waging War on the VA

It repeats tonight, Sunday night (Nov 18) at 8 Eastern, so if you get a chance, please check your schedule.   It is a powerful indictment of the VA’s handling of disability claims.  It is the story of 3 wounded veterans trying to get justice and only able to do it by virtually going to war again to fight for their rights.

One of the wounded warriors and a really heartbreaking story was Ty Ziegel, 25 years old who had been severely injured by a suicide bomber, “sent back to the states to die”, but lived.  Despite losing nearly half of his skull and a large portion of his brain, penetrating shrapnel and bone fragments in his brain, with both ears, nose and lips burned off and impossible to replace,  loss of an eye and resulting enormous disfiguration, the VA listed him as having “10% head trauma”.  10% head trauma.  In addition the damage to the left lobe of his brain,  loss of an eye and jaw fracture as haveing 0% trauma.  0% for loss of 1/4 of his brain, loss of an eye? He also lost one arm at the elbow, and two fingers and a thumb from his other hand, plus numerous other injuries for which the bulk of his small disability payment was granted.    Far below the poverty line disability for a man disfigured and totally disabled.

Ty Ziegel before and after

Ty Ziegel, before and after.   CNN News photo

(Click on the picture or here to see the video).  These videos are short promo clips about 2 minutes long and I don’t know how long they will keep them up on their site.  Go to  CNN and see the real thing.  Click here for part 2

Another veteran, Garrett Anderson received a roadside bomb injury that sent shrapanel into his head and body, and he lost an arm while driving a truck in a convoy.  The VA initially rejected his claim, saying that it was “not service connected”.   He was also suffering from what he thought was PTSD.  In Garrett’s case the letter stating that there were “shrapnel wounds all over his body, not service connected” had the signature cut out of the letter with a knife.  Apparently the signer was not proud of his decision and knew it was wrong.  

Garrett Anderson

Garrett Anderson.  Click on the picture or here for the video clip.

In Ziegel’s case, within 48 hours of taping an interview with CNN, the VA changed his disability to 100%.  In Anderson’s case, his wife took a sneak peak at his case file while a nurse was out of he room and she discovered they had  him listed in their files a suffering from Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), but had failed to tell him or give him any disability credit for it.   He went to Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois who turned up the pressure on the VA and subsequently has been awarded disability for TBI.

The third story was about Tammy Duckworth who lost both legs and had severe injuries to one arm and her body.   She later ran for Congress with the hope of improving things for disabled veterans.  She lost but has been appointed by the Governor of Illinois to be the Director of the IL Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

Click here for the CNN news promo clip for her story.  Go to the link with Tammy’s name above and click on “veteran’s issues” to get a flavor of what she has learned about the Va while she was in their care and her run for Congress.

Our wounded warriors, our heroes, should not have to fight for our country, then fight for their life and still have to fight for their benefits!

Oldtimer