(NaturalNews) A year ago, as the summer of 2013 dawned, the Obama Administration was hit with yet another scandal, one that would resonate with Democrat and Republican voters: VA Hospitals around the country were falsifying appointment records in order to satisfy treatment quotas, leaving scores of veterans without care which led to the deaths of perhaps 1,000 men and women who had honorably served their country.
As we reported at the time, veterans had been placed on “secret” waiting lists that were different from the published waiting lists which the VA hospitals were required to maintain as part of “open records” requirements. Some vets had been on the secret lists for more than a year; many died waiting for treatment.
The scandal eventually forced the resignation of former Army four-star Gen. Eric Shinseki, then the director of the VA.
“Over the past decade, more than 1,000 veterans may have died as a result of VA malfeasance,” said former U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, a three-time cancer survivor who added that the government should offer veterans access to private hospitals.
Now, a year on, there is a new danger confronting America’s vets: Big Pharma, and the military physicians beholden to it.
As reported by John Fund at National Review Online (NRO), the VA itself has said 22 veterans a day commit suicide, and yet the nation’s largest hospital system is likely contributing to those deaths by the manner in which it “treats” veterans.
Fund further reports at NRO:
Investigator James O’Keefe, whose previous undercover videos have exposed scandals involving ACORN, PBS, and voter fraud, has interviewed people who raise disturbing questions about the VA’s inability to treat the underlying causes of veterans’ emotional problems, as it falls back on a regime of drug therapies that often mask the problems or have serious side effects that make matters worse. A video from his group Project Veritas asks why an increasing number of military graveyards are being filled with people who died at their own hands rather than in combat.
You can see O’Keefe’s report here.
So much for “reform”
Both chambers of Congress have passed a VA mental health reform measure, but critics say it merely does what most “reform” efforts in Washington do – it papers over the organization’s deep-rooted problems, which, generally, are a) too little funding to accomplish b) too much of a task with c) too few resources. This is why government agencies, programs and “reforms” so frequently fail to live up to expectations and promises.
Coburn is well aware of this dilemma. On a recent visit to NRO, Coburn told Fund that the VA continues to endure poor patient care, wait times that are still (chronically) long and failures of data. Medical records are often poorly kept, when they are kept at all. Many contain inaccuracies and inadequacies.
Deputy chief officer of patient care services at the VA, Dr. Maureen McCarthy, said during a congressional hearing last year that she did not have faith in any numbers provided by her own agency, so she could provide no accurate estimate of how long vets wait for mental health appointments.
At the same hearing, retired Army Sgt. Josh Renschler, who has been afflicted with traumatic brain injury, told the same congressional panel that he experienced confusion and had become lost at chaotic VA facilities, yet was unable to find a friendly staff member to help direct him.
“I get better customer service at Best Buy,” he said then.
“VA might be helping turn vets into drug addicts”
McCarthy, in testimony before the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said, “we truly believe that one death by suicide is one too many.”
She added, “Veterans who reach out for help deserve to receive that help. A veteran in emotional distress deserves to find there are no wrong doors when seeking help.”
However, in statements made to an investigator for O’Keefe who was posing as a graduate student conducting research for a paper, she expressed some doubt that the VA was reforming itself, and she even suggested that the VA could be turning vets into drug addicts.
You know, it’s not you know what people think of as sick patients, so much. It’s people that have drug problems, some of which are caused by us and our prescribing…. We also look at the combination of patients on opiates, like morphine and benzodiazepine, like Ativan and Klonopin. …
That combination is like candy for some people. … [T]hey want it, they want it, they want it.
In his investigative report, O’Keefe tells the story of Cpl. David Cranmer, a U.S. Marine who fought in Iraq and came home with a major back injury. His father, Bob, said: “It took him over a year to be seen. He was diagnosed that he would require surgery to have his discs repaired. But they never scheduled the surgery, they just gave him, gave him painkillers. And that went on for a number of years. The primary drug that he was given was OxyContin.”
Cranmer had to enter a drug-addiction treatment facility after he became an addict.
Finally, the VA called Cranmer in; after an hour with a psychologist at a local hospital, he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. The psychiatrist prescribed him Zoloft and a pair of mood stabilizers.
However, Zoloft has been shown to increase suicidal thoughts; his father believes the drugs wound up doing him more harm than good.
A month after he was diagnosed, he used a ladder to hang himself, leaving behind a wife and a five-year-old daughter.
What’s more, Cranmer’s treatment was far from unique, as other VA personnel have testified.
Watch O’Keefe’s full report here.