Monthly Archives: July 2014

JUST ANOTHER TAP DANCE…..


This is another post from Mrs. Grossman. EF had asked us to hold it back to see how things played out with the VA. Well, after nearly a month, it’s all still relevant. So here’s one more from a very astute Mrs. Grossman.

Eric Shinseki, the current patsy and sacrificial lamb, has been forced to fall on his sword at the altar of grandstanding politicians.  This is nothing more than an effort to cover up their own failure to protect America’s veterans.  It is a game of ‘smoke and mirrors’ being played out in the political arena during an election year.  Since the scheduling issues at the Phoenix VA came to light, the VA has been in the middle of a major scandal, and politicians have wasted no time in attempting to capitalize on that scandal.   Professing their outrage, they are scrambling to prove their concern and introduce legislation to ‘fix’ the problems of the VA, as if these are brand new issues, and they just found out problems exist.  The truth of the matter is that Congress and the Senate had been aware of these particular issues for over a decade, and probably back as far as the Vietnam War.  Where was the ‘oversight’?  There have been many bills introduced, over the years, yet, here we are.  As always, one major issue appears to be funding the VA to provide the resources required to take care of the growing number of veterans in need, and provide the benefits they earned.  The same politicians that give away billions of dollars in foreign aid, can’t, or won’t provide enough funding to take care of America’s veterans.  There always seems to be more than enough money to fund war, and send Americans to die in those wars, just not enough money to take care of those Americans when they come home.

If you look at the individual voting records of our politicians, it becomes obvious which of them really care about doing right for our veterans and vote on the merits of a bill, and which vote only along party lines.

Senator John McCain, who should have been the first to be aware of the problems at the Phoenix VA hospital, since it is in his district, voted no less than ten times since 1993, and failed to vote four times, against bills to benefit veterans.  Senator Jeff Flake, new to the Senate, voted against one bill to benefit veterans, and while in the House of Representatives, voted against bills to benefit veterans no less than thirteen times, failing to vote twice.  Richard Burr voted against no less than nine bills to benefit veterans, failing to vote one time, since 1999.  Senator Tom Coburn voted against bills to benefit veterans no less than fourteen times since 1996, failing to vote one time.

Senator Bernie Sanders, who voted to pass no less than fourteen bills to benefit veterans since 1993, and did not miss a single vote on veterans issues during that time, introduced a bill (the Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Pay Restoration Act) which greatly improves VA benefits and resolves many of the current issues, in February 2014.  The Republicans attempted to use that bill as a point of leverage to force sanctions on Iran that would have imperiled the ongoing international nuclear talks, and had absolutely nothing to do with helping our veterans.  It was just another attempt to blackmail the Senate into giving them their way.  Fearing sanctions would endanger the delicate negotiations Senator Harry Reid blocked the sanctions, so the Republicans blocked the bill, altogether.  Senator Sanders is re-introducing that bill, at this time.  It would be wonderful if the Republicans would choose the welfare of our veterans over their political agenda, but I’m too much of a realist to believe in that possibility.  Remember, they forced the government to shut down because they could not get their way, proving themselves to be masters of ‘cutting off America’s nose, to spite her face’.  Of course, it is never a Republican’s nose that gets sacrificed.  It is always someone else that must pay the price, and in this case, it is our veterans.

ADDENDUM……THE TAPDANCE CONTINUES

According to an article in the June 5, 2014 Huffington Post, Senator Bernie Sanders and Senator John McCain announced a Bipartisan deal on the Veteran’s Health Care Bill.  According to Sanders, the bill would allow for construction of an additional 26 VA medical facilities, provide $500 million for the VA to hire new doctors and nurses, make it easier for the VA to fire personnel and allow an appeals process for those firings, set up a two year trial program to allow veterans experiencing long wait times (or who live more than forty miles away) to go to private doctors, provide veterans aid for college, provide resources for victims of military sexual assault, update rules allowing spouses of veterans killed in battle to take advantage of post 9/11 GI Bill, and establish a presidential commission to work with the private sector to develop better technology for the VA.

Sanders also said in that article that he would have preferred that proposal went further, but “…given that he and McCain ‘are people who look at the world very differently’ their compromise is a major success.”  He also said “I hope we will be back on the floor to continue the effort to deal with the many unmet needs of veterans.   But right now we have a crisis, and it is imperative that we deal with that crisis.”

Well, that was a fast compromise, and very convenient for McCain, since the scandal reflected badly on him, due to it breaking in Phoenix, and questioned his competence for allowing it, if he was aware the problems (and since he is the ranking Republican on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee which has held dozens of hearings on VA issues, it is natural to assume that he was aware), or if he was not aware, then he failed to know what was happening in his own state.  The compromise came just in time for McCain to attend “a community forum on the allegations of gross mismanagement and neglect of veteran’s health care in Phoenix”, and announce that “Key senators have reached an agreement on a bipartisan proposal to address the delays in getting health care for military veterans,” according to Reuters.

Of course, in that same Huffington Post article, McCain did encourage other senators to add any amendments that they thought might strengthen the bill, but urged that they don’t allow “politics to get in the way of urgently needed legislation.”   In an era where politics seems to get in the way of EVERYTHING, McCain is surely aware that his open invitation for additional amendments is bound to further arguments, delays, and possibly prevention of this bill ever passing.  Remember, the bill has to pass the Senate, AND the House of Representatives (who hates funding anything), before it can be signed into law by President Obama.

I believe Senator Sanders has been consistently sincere in his attempts to help America’s veterans.  His voting record proves that.  I am not so sure about Senator McCain’s intentions.  This bipartisan deal came very quickly, but means very little if the bill is not voted on or passed.  Remember, Republicans are notorious for blocking bills to benefit veterans, and McCain tends to vote his party’s line.  However, announcing this deal gives the impression that he is a champion of veterans, and very good for campaigning in this election year.  And if the bill had failed to pass, he could have always blamed Obama.

Ref   Huffington Post – Posted 6/5/14 by Jennifer Bendery   “Sens. Bernie Sanders, John McCain Announce Bipartisan Deal On Veterans’ Care Bill”

Ref  MSN News – Posted 6/5/14 by Reuters     “Senators Reach Bipartisan Deal On Veterans’ Healthcare”

Ref Congressional Negotiators Strike A VA Reform Deal

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder AKA PTSD


This post was written and contributed by Mrs. Grossman:

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a term used often to describe a multitude of problems suffered by our soldiers coming back to the world from war. Simply defined, it as an anxiety disorder caused by traumatic events. PTSD can actually be caused by any major traumatic event, but it is most often identified now days as a soldier’s disease. This is a great improvement for our soldiers because there were many years when PTSD was either unidentified or unacknowledged as a legacy of war.

Unlike the Vietnam War, today’s Military has procedures to help soldiers reintegrate into society (Such as voluntary classes a couple of weeks before release, tests and screenings for PTSD, etc. In reality, these procedures should be required, not voluntary.).  This requires the soldier ask for help.  Unfortunately, for the most part, soldiers coming back are in denial, even to themselves, and unable to admit they have any emotional or mental problems.  Often, they are in shock from the sudden change of environment, and it takes a long time for that shock to wear off, if it ever does.   Combat veterans suffer from survivor’s guilt, and shame.  They are afraid to ask for help.  They believe their problems are nothing, compared to those that never made it back, and they see their own problems as signs of weakness.  So, they suck it up and just try to deal.  Some of them struggle for years before breaking down.

Six years after coming back to the world from Vietnam and trying to live with his demons, my husband suffered a psychotic break.  He was picked up at night in a North Hollywood Park, cut and torn from racing through the neighborhood, wearing only his underwear.  He believed that he had been caught outside his Special Forces camp in the highlands of Vietnam, and had to evade the enemy.  It was not until he saw the statue of Amelia Earhart that he snapped back to reality and realized the war had been over six years for him.  The only ‘enemy’ he had evaded was the North Hollywood cops that had been trying to chase him down.  We were lucky because in 1976 the officers involved were themselves veterans.  They may not have known what to call it, but they recognized the symptoms of PTSD and took him to the VA.  If that had happened today he may have been just as likely to be shot by the police, instead.

Throughout history, soldiers have suffered from PTSD. In the past it was referred to as ‘battle fatigue’, ‘shell shock’, and ‘exhaustion’.  It was not until 1980 that the cause of PTSD was thought of by the world as being from ‘an outside event’, instead of ‘a weakness of character’.  Is it any wonder that veterans try so hard to deal with it internally, instead of asking for help?  I believe every soldier exposed to the trauma of combat suffers from PTSD, and most are afraid to admit it.

Although the VA claims veterans only need to wait a maximum of two weeks to be seen by a doctor, according to documents released in March 2013 by the Internal Veterans Affairs Department, “At least two veterans died last year waiting to see a doctor, while others couldn’t get primary care appointments for up to 8 months.  49% of new patients and 90% of established patients are able to see a primary care doctor, or specialist within the VA’s goal of 14 days, but first time patients who were not seen within 14 days waits an average of 50 days.”  And according to Debra Draper, Healthcare Director at the Government Accountability Office, which looked into the matter in December 2013, “The bottom line is it is unclear how long veterans are waiting to receive care in VA’s medical facilities because the reported data are unreliable.  The GAO analysts found that more than half of the VA’s 50,000 schedulers did not know how to accurately report the information needed to determine wait times, which includes logging the data a veteran wants to be seen, as well as the actual date of the appointment.  Others admitted to changing the desired date so the time aligned with the VA’s established goals of 14 days.”

According to the Vietnam Veterans of America, a 1990 report by the Research Triangle Institute concluded “…..that 830,000 Vietnam Veterans have full blown or partial PTSD.  Only 55,119 had filed claims, and the Adjudication Boards have only believed 28,411 of those claimants.”

Is it any wonder that veterans don’t trust the VA?  Indeed, how can we, as Americans trust the VA to care for the men and women who sacrificed so much on our behalf?  PTSD is not a veteran and VA problem, it is this nation’s problem, and we need to do much better to help our veterans to heal.