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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Intrinsic Problems With Veterans' and Military Health Care

The Walter Reed Hospital scandal is only the tip of the iceberg. And amazingly, although most of us have heard the horror stories that emanate from military and veterans hospitals and health centers, apparently President Bush has not.

According to Think Progress, a non-partisan "think tank":

"During yesterday’s White House press briefing, Tony Snow tried to play down the neglect uncovered at Walter Reed by portraying it as old news. President Bush “certainly has been aware of the conditions in the wards where he has visited, Snow said, affirming that the administration was aware of Walter Reed’s conditions “before the articles appeared in the paper.”

The White House has since backtracked from Snow’s comments. In a small addendum added to the bottom of yesterday’s briefing transcript on the White House website, a note now reads that Bush “first learned of the troubling allegations regarding Walter Reed from the stories this weekend in the Washington Post,” and that he is “deeply concerned” by the conditions:

Following the reversal, Snow told the Washington Post that “he did not know why the president, who has visited the facility many times in the past five years, had not heard about these problems before.”

Asked yesterday if Bush may talk about this scandal at some point in the future, Snow answered, “No.“

I've heard apologists for the administration claim that this is merely yet another way for the evil Democrats to try to find a chink in the armor of the Bush Administration. The truth is, either the conditions are poor or they are not. If they are not, then the truth will be most apparent. It's simply not that easy to dismiss.

However, it's very possible that President Bush genuinely didn't know. After all, he was raised by a father who didn't even know what a grocery scanner looked like until he made a public appearance at a supermarket during his Presidential campaign. And we all are fully aware that this is due to the rarified environment that this family exists in. It's quite possible that President Bush has never had a plebian friend or family member that has suffered at the hands of the V. A. (Veterans Administration). And yet, if he was at all informed as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Services, he would be aware of the complaints.

Problems abound. A very good friend who is a well-known surgeon in the Tampa Bay Area once practiced at the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System. I vividly remember when he left in disgust due to the terrible S.N.A.F.U. s that repeatedly occurred. He was warned to stay silent and cover it up. Instead, he chose to walk away from a losing battle. It's a shame, because the veterans were deprived of a top-notch surgeon who was staying on due to his love of the troops, yet had to leave when his principles were conflicted.

One of my best friends is a military veteran. Due to the stories she's heard and the experiences that she has had, she would rather go to a Medicaid free clinic than set foot in Bay Pines.

When my ex-husband contracted a strange disease with unusual symptoms (which he incurred as a direct result of his military service), he was repeatedly misdiagnosed by military doctors until he left and procured the services of a specialist who correctly diagnosed and treated the problem. Apparently the government wasn't too eager to admit to subjecting their troops to such hazards and they quietly gave him an honorable (not medical) discharge so that he could leave the service and get better without drawing any attention to the environment he had been subjected to.

A very close family member serves in the Air Force. When his wife was having complications with her pregnancy, they had heard enough horror stories about military base hospitals that they chose to place her in a standard hospital. He was very firm about it, saying that he'd never dream of subjecting his loved ones to the tender ministrations of the military medical system.

I've heard conservative talk show pundits claim that this is an example of what socialized health care would become if we instituted it in the U.S.A.

Nonsense!

The truth is, the military medical system is this horrendous because it is allowed to be. It remains in conflict with a dual responsibility both to the military and it's patients. When there is a direct conflict of interest, the military medical system answers to the people that pay the bills; the armed services. The patients come a distant second. Also, many soldiers and internal employees and doctors that complain are either repeatedly ignored or subjected to harassment. Such complaints are often seen as divisive and disloyal.

Of course when it comes to socialized health care, these complications wouldn't exist (though other complications would surely arise). To compare the military health establishment to socialized medicine is to compare Jerry Lewis to Bill Gates: We are dealing with apples and oranges.

Until the administration views military health care as enthusiastically as it views war, our troops and veterans will never get the treatment which they deserve.

There's a sign we've all seen in shops which sell fragile items: You break, you buy. As Commander-in-Chief, President Bush needs to take full responsibility and fix these problems immediately. The military and the government have created a system with more cracks than Humpty Dumpty. Let's hope that they can put it back together again.

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

Funny. One of your daily readers (me) works at Walter Reed. I'm watching the Independent Review Board on television right now.

Anonymous said...

There is always the conflict of "dual loyalty" for military medical providers but I would point to the Congress, which has failed to oversee and fund the care of veterans.

I hope they get it right now. Hopefully, this will be a good thing.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Anonymous, thanks for your contribution. I'm glad to know you're out there. I'm sorry to hear that you work there, because it is probably somewhat stressful. However, I'd love to hear any thoughts you might have from personal experience.

Hans said...

Walter Reed Army Medical Center is a not VA Hospital. It’s an active U.S. Army Hospital. It doesn’t fall under the jurisdiction of the Veterans Administration but is the responsibility of the Department of Defense. So throwing rocks at the VA (which they may well deserve) doesn’t really have any relevance to this situation. Apples and Oranges.

Ignorance of the situation is not an excuse on the part of anyone including our Commander in Chief. It was his ultimate responsibility to make sure that our wounded soldiers are given the best possible care. If he knew about it and did nothing it’s dereliction of duty. If he didn’t know its negligence. Either way it’s a failure and can only be viewed as such.

So what happens next? Walter Reed is cleaned up, the Democrat’s raise their heads and in unison scream Halliburton (absolutely no relevance to this situation but clearly the root of all that is wrong and evil in the world) and then return to hammering each other and John Q. Public returns to watching American Idol. No lesson learned

Hans said...

Walter Reed Army Medical Center is a not VA Hospital. It’s an active U.S. Army Hospital. It doesn’t fall under the jurisdiction of the Veterans Administration but is the responsibility of the Department of Defense. So throwing rocks at the VA (which they may well deserve) doesn’t really have any relevance to this situation. Apples and Oranges.

Ignorance of the situation is not an excuse on the part of anyone including our Commander in Chief. It was his ultimate responsibility to make sure that our wounded soldiers are given the best possible care. If he knew about it and did nothing it’s dereliction of duty. If he didn’t know its negligence. Either way it’s a failure and can only be viewed as such.

So what happens next? Walter Reed is cleaned up, the Democrat’s raise their heads and in unison scream Halliburton (absolutely no relevance to this situation but clearly the root of all that is wrong and evil in the world) and then return to hammering each other and John Q. Public returns to watching American Idol. No lesson learned

The Lazy Iguana said...

What is in it for Bush to improve military hospitals? Really. What is in it for him? His buddies in the defense racket have become much richer as a result of his war for profit. And the emergency trauma field care is excellent - to keep the death toll numbers down. This helps him continue his war for profit.

But once they are off the battlefield, and into the outpatient system - what use do they serve to this crazy man? None. So why spend the money on them?

Everyone in the Bush family IS evil. And so is this entire administration. From Barbara Bush saying that "this is working out well for all of them" in reference to the New Orleans (mostly very dark) evacuees living in the super dome with no working toilets after the hurricane, to all the other things said and done by this force of evil over the past 6 years - I think my point is proven.

This is a war for profit. Make no mistake about that. And once someone is no longer profitable - then who cares about them. They should consider themselves lucky to get anything. Sound like what the system is providing?

This is also why the medical insurance system here is not working. The insurance companies and the hospitals are FOR PROFIT. So if you are going to cost them money they dry to get rid of you. Need to see a specialist? Your insurance company says no. And if you die? Well at least you will not be costing the insurance company any money. If the insurance companies had their way only the healthy would get covered - and after one single illness that required a hospital stay you would be dropped. Like a car insurance company drops you after one accident or a homeowners policy drops you after one hurricane.

R2K said...

My uncle was in 'nam and now has serious health problems including partial blindness. He goes to the VA often and I have found several things about the VA system. Yes it is very hard to deal with - they might make you take three tests in one day and then spread the next three out over a month. The schedule is insane and constantly changes without warning.

They refuse expensive but well accepted medical work like hyperbaric chambers, but they almost throw pills at you: he gets $1000 worth of pills a month - more than he could ever take! Every month this huge package arrives and the old pills are just tossed out. And I know that others must get even more in the way of pills.

In other words - typical of what you expect from government. They are great at times, and then horrible at others. And always, despite inexpensive methods, you can bet that tax money is being spent like sand on the beach.

But I should say this: while never that great, I have not seen any of the horrible conditions on the news right now. The VA hospitals in Manhattan and Brooklyn were dark and depressing but not really as bad.

OldHorsetailSnake said...

It appears to me The Decider has decided he doesn't much care about the VA hospitals. So maybe they will go away.

Anonymous said...

Walter Reed Army Medical Center is a not VA Hospital. It’s an active U.S. Army Hospital. It doesn’t fall under the jurisdiction of the Veterans Administration but is the responsibility of the Department of Defense. So throwing rocks at the VA (which they may well deserve) doesn’t really have any relevance to this situation. Apples and Oranges.

Hans, you tool, I know the difference between active duty and veteran care. Believe me. My point was simply that the problem is SYSTEMIC beyond the department level. I meant it was systemic of the federal system itself, which is under the purview of the Congress.

YOU don't get confused.

By the way, I have personally met people who have been fired. I know these issues far, far better than you, buddy.

Anonymous said...

I know Walter Reed is an "active U.S. Army hospital" and not a VA hospital because I WORK there, Hans.

Anonymous said...

And it's not apples and oranges b/c a lot of medical holding company soldiers and medical holdover soldiers are in the same boat as veterans as they await their medical board decisions.

There is a bit of overlap, buddy. You wouldn't know this but there are VA personnel working AT the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Anonymous said...

Hans, I should have said that the Congress has failed to oversee the care of veterans (and soon-to-be veterans discharged for medical reasons).

Matt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

One more point and I'll shut my hole.

It's not (necessarily) the VA's fault that their medical care has serious problems, nor is (necessarily) all Walter Reed's fault that there have been (some) problems with medical care.

In the past, I've attended plenty of congressional hearings, listening to congressmen wax poetically about the need to support veterans but watching the entire body vote otherwise.

Hey, money doesn't grow on trees, right?

Also, here's a point to consider. The Walter Reed Army Medical Center is funded by the Congress through supplementals.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, and one more thing, Hans. There IS overlap between the two systems as the military uses VA medical centers (in addition to purchasing private medical care at civilian institutions such as Yale University Hospital) to treat Army Reservists and Guardsmen.

Apples and oranges they ain't.

Hans said...

Anonymous-

Before you continue your name calling get your facts straight.

"The Walter Reed Hospital scandal is only the tip of the iceberg. And amazingly, although most of us have heard the horror stories that emanate from veterans hospitals and health centers, apparently President Bush has not."

This is what I'm referring too. The first paragraph of your host post.

The apple to oranges analogy is a direct retort to her comparing the military health establishment to socialized medicine. I was trying the point that she was comparing apples to oranges.

In my second paragraph I address the back tracking by Tony Snow by trying to point out lack of knowledge of the situation is no excuse.

What would possibly make you think I was responding to you?

Ideas can be exchanged and ,possibly, minds changed if we can keep our conversations civilized and free of name calling.

Hans said...

Anonymous-

Your last comment is what I would call the exchange of information that I'm looking for.

Hans

For the record Saur is my host too.

Franz said...

What if one apple is a Granny Smith and one is a Red Delicious. The VA Hospital has always been good to me and it's free.

Anonymous said...

Hanz, I misfired. I read your comment and thought you were indeed responding to me.

Often on these sites, readers play off each other's comments. It's very common.

Sorry. :)

hans said...

Franz-

Hold on, Franz? Am i being mocked? You should know Franz, if that really is your moniker, I have a keen sense for being mocked.

If it matters I like Granny Smith. Red Delicious are sweet but I prefer mine a little Saur.

Anonymous said...

My father gets VA care, too.

Hans said...

Anonymous-

Apology accepted. Unconditionally. Keep up the good fight.

I know what I know from what I see in the media. I have no first hand experience.

Three Score and Ten or more said...

I have pointed out elsewhere that the conditions both for Active Duty and VA hospitals have been a problem since 1947. This is news, but not new. If the current uproar with the Dole commission solved the problem under Bush's watch, no one will give Bush credit, but if it gets solved it will be a joy, and it will be a solution to a problem that has existed for sixty years and numerous Democratic and Republican administrations and congresses.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Everyone, thanks for your comments. I read them thoroughly and enjoyed them (some were quite entertaining). ;o) I appreciate your interest a great deal!

I need to add that this sentence:
The Walter Reed Hospital scandal is only the tip of the iceberg. And amazingly, although most of us have heard the horror stories that emanate from veterans hospitals and health centers, apparently President Bush has not.

was altered slightly to reflect what was intended and now reads:

The Walter Reed Hospital scandal is only the tip of the iceberg. And amazingly, although most of us have heard the horror stories that emanate from military and veterans hospitals and health centers, apparently President Bush has not.


I would argue that both the military and veterans hospital/heath centers, while perhaps overseen by different governing bodies, have the same problems for ultimately the same reasons.

Cranky Yankee said...

In 1989 I spent some time in Madigan Army Medical Center. My injuries, the result of an airplane crash, were substantial. My doctors were amazing and my care was great but the place was a dump. At the time they blamed it on "Graham-Rudman."

Over the next few years they built a new Hospital. My daughter was born at the new Madigan. She required a week of Neonatal intensive care. Once again the doctors were amazing but this place was no dump.

The moral of this story is that there has always been bad and good in the military medical system, but at the end of the day the patient care was always good.

That is no longer the case. In a "bad" war and GOP effort to privatize military medicine the care has lapsed severely.

This is truly the shame of a nation.