A brief look at the VA
A while back there was a disturbing story out of Walter Reed Army Medical Center about the sub-standards our veterans faced in that facility. Many headlines, much wringing of hands, and heads rolling. Changes WERE made at WRAMC, but it seems there is STILL an epidemic of our veterans being treated with less care, respect than they have earned in service to our country.
In the course of my work with individual heroes, I have heard more than a few stories of our returning wounded being treated by less than what was intended by the Hippocratic oath. Whilst most of the wounded receive amazing care, and are treated by dedicated, absolutely awesome medical staff, it appears that there are still instances where our troops – who have stood for all the values we espouse – are bogged down by the bureaucracy that is the Veterans Administration. It can be no secret that today the VA is overloaded with returning wounded, who – perhaps – in previous wars, would not be expected to survive the battle trauma they face in today’s Wars.
Today, our veterans are able to survive and return to a fulfilling life, thanks in huge part to the miracles of medical advancements made. I have read many stories of tremendous strides made by returning wounded, courtesy of medical miracles by committed physicians and staff. Be that as it may, there are still disturbing revelations of veterans falling between the cracks of the mammoth bureaucracy. Last week I received the following in an email:
Two men face criminal charges for allegedly mistreating aging veterans at a nursing home in Pueblo. Court records identify one of the victims as Pueblo native and Medal of Honor recipient Raymond G. “Jerry” Murphy.
Donald L. Morton, 52, of Las Animas is charged with neglect of an at-risk adult, a misdemeanor.
Prosecutors allege Morton “knowingly neglected or knowingly acted in a manner likely to be injurious to the physical or mental welfare” of Murphy and four other men at the Department of Veterans Affairs Pueblo Nursing Home Care Unit at 2600 Oakshire Lane.
Darrel W. McTaggart, 55, of Ordway, is charged with a felony count of assault against an at-risk adult. Prosecutors allege McTaggart “knowingly or recklessly caused bodily injury” to another patient at the same nursing home. [ Pueblo Chieftain ]
Many remarkable facets to this, to me at least: that any facility that is charged with caring for our more senior veterans could have such abuse happening; that charges were actually laid; that this story made any newspaper. This may be just the tip of the iceberg.
I have been told quite a few stories of incidents happening within VA hospitals across the land. These vignettes include one veteran left to lie unattended in a VA hospital bed, with the IV’s and various other vital tubes un-noticed as empty. This veteran was unable to call for help for many hours. He lived to tell the tale. I heard of another outpatient veteran being inadvertantly given the wrong medications, to the point that he ended up in ER at the local VA, toxic. He also lived to tell the tale.
Were these errors due to a simple clerical error? We may never know. Stories of sick veterans trying, desperately, to wade through the cumbersome maze which is a typical VA facility abound. I have no statistics, and the stories I have heard can be considered anecdotal in nature, but even ONE veteran not given the top notch treatment available, as is their due, is unacceptable.
Out of Greenville, SC, comes the story of a veteran who felt totally betrayed by the Veterans Administration whose job – duty – it was to serve him. Grover Chapman, 89, was a WW2 veteran who was honorably discharged from the Army and Navy.
Grover Chapman committed suicide on April 24, 2008, outside a local VA clinic, after he had finally given up trying to make sense of the VA’s handling of what should have been a simple request.
Grover Cleveland Chapman told his family, “No matter what I apply for at the VA, they turn me down,” she recalled….
“He felt like the VA turned its back on him and a lot of other veterans,” … [ Read the rest of this sorry mess of VA red tape here: Greenville Online ]
Yes, committing suicide is an extreme response to what was obviously an untenable situation for Mr Chapman and all his family. I have no way of knowing, tight now, how many other veterans feel they have no option but to end their lives. Fact is, even one veteran feeling so distraught, dissatisfied with the response of the VA, is one too many. Yes, we can all agree there are always protocols to be followed in any bureacracy, but where was the HUMAN response to Mr. Chapman?
Truth of the matter is, every single veteran is loved by somebody. Every single veteran is a father, a son, a husband, a father etc etc. Every single one of our veterans has served our country with honour. The least we should expect, DEMAND, is that they are treated with respect and honour when they return home to us. All well and good for the administration to say, after the fact:
“We feel very badly for the family,” Creamer [Priscilla Creamer, a spokeswoman for the clinic,] said. “We’d be happy to talk with them further if there’s anything we can do.” [ Greenville Online ]
Bit damn late now.
No amount of “happy to talk” will bring Mr Chapman back to his family, where he belongs. Seems to me that time for talk is before things get to the point where one of our precious veterans sees no options. Now would be a great time to quit talking, and act to make sure these kind of situations never happen again. Our veterans deserve the very best we have to offer, don’t you think?