“Unnecessary Risks” For Patients: Yet Another Veterans Hospital Investigation Finds Troubling Conditions



By Lily Dane

“Taking care of our veterans is a cost of war. If you can spend six trillion dollars sending people to war, you can spend a few billion dollars taking care of them when they come home.” – Senator Bernie Sanders

Sanders may get a lot of things wrong, but he’s absolutely correct here.

The war machine continues to create more veterans, but the government isn’t taking adequate care of the ones it has already created.

Today, the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General issued a rare preliminary report to alert patients and the public about the dangerous conditions at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

That VA location is about four miles away from the department’s national headquarters and a block away from the White House. It has faced problems for “some time” without improvements, the report states.

It “serves” more than 98,000 veterans in the region.

The investigation, which stemmed from an anonymous complaint on March 21, found that during the past three years, there have been 194 reports that patient safety has been compromised because of insufficient equipment.

Among the findings:

  • In February 2016, a tray used in repairing jaw fractures was removed from the hospital because of an outstanding invoice to a vendor.
  • In April 2016, four prostate biopsies had to be canceled because there were no tools to extract the tissue sample.

  • In June 2016, the hospital found one of its surgeons had used expired equipment during a procedure
  • In March 2017, the facility found chemical strips used to verify equipment sterilization had expired a month earlier, so tests performed on nearly 400 items were not reliable
  • Also in March 2017, the medical center ran out of bloodlines for dialysis patients on the second shift—they were able to provide dialysis services to those patients only because staff borrowed bloodlines from a private hospital.
  • On March 29, 2017, a nurse emailed the patient safety manager, reporting that during an acute episode, she needed to provide oxygen to a patient. The floor was out of oxygen nasal cannulas (tubing that fits into a patient’s nose and provides oxygen). The nurse was able to use one found on the crash cart, but reported the shortage as a risk to patient safety.

After the report’s release, the VA issued a statement saying that the medical center director, Brian Hawkins, was relieved from his position and placed on administrative duty, “effective immediately.”

The inspection is ongoing, and a final report will be released when it concludes.

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This is not the first time that abysmal conditions have been reported at a VA facility. Nor is it the only way in which veterans are mistreated by the US government.

Here are a few shocking examples.

On February 24 of this year, retired Marine Stephen McMenamin and his wife, Hanna, were at the Durham VA Medical Center in North Carolina when they noticed elderly veterans struggling in the waiting room. The veterans were ignored – and then yelled at – by the staff, despite being in obvious pain. One of the men, Jesse Lee, a Vietnam veteran, was in the wheelchair. He went to the VA for severe phantom pains after a leg amputation. He said he was in pain for several hours before he was finally seen.

In March 2016 it was reported that, as of December 2015, the VA revoked gun ownership rights for more than 260,000 veterans who have a fiduciary trustee to act on their behalf for legal or financial matters. All veterans with this arrangement are being automatically declared “mentally defective” – without any kind of case-by-case evaluation at all.

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In May 2016, it was reported that the Department of Veterans Affairs had wrongly declared 4,201 veterans dead since 2011, cutting off their benefits. This “accident” happened to over 1,000 vets just in 2015 alone.

In October 2016 it was reported that, ten years after promising $15,000 bonuses to soldiers willing to re-enlist in 2006 and 2007, the Pentagon decided to force California veterans to pay back those bonuses.

Also in October 2016, the VA Inspector General’s office reported that that 215 deceased patients had open specialist consultation appointments at the Phoenix, Arizona facility on the day they died. The report also found that one veteran never received an appointment for a cardiology exam “that could have prompted further definitive testing and interventions that could have forestalled his death.

In September 2015, the VA Inspector General released a report that exposed devastating findings: the VA’s Health Eligibility Center’s record-keeping system is in such bad shape that there is no way to know for sure how many veterans died while waiting to be approved for care. As of September 2014, over 307,000 pending requests were for individuals reported as deceased by the Social Security Administration (SSA). Because the system is so flawed, the IG’s report states that there is no way to know the true number.

An average of 20 veterans commit suicide daily.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates that nearly 50,000 veterans are homeless on any given night. Another 140,000 are currently in jail, many of them for victimless crimes like drug possession.

Veterans are used by the government to serve its war-for-profit agenda. The “war on terror” has been – and will continue to be – an utter and complete failure.

The US government always manages to “find” plenty of money for war. How about taking care of things here at home instead?

Oh, right…there’s no profit in that.

Let’s look at some quick stats from John Whitehead’s recent article “Beware the Dogs of War: Is the American Empire on the Verge of Collapse?”

The Pentagon’s annual budget consumes almost 100% of individual income tax revenue.

America’s expanding military empire is bleeding the country dry at a rate of more than $57 million per hour.

The government has spent $4.8 trillion on wars abroad since 9/11, with $7.9 trillion in interest: That’s a tax burden of more than $16,000 per American.

The government lost more than $160 billion to waste and fraud by the military and defense contractors.

Taxpayers are being forced to pay $1.4 million per hour to provide U.S. weapons to countries that can’t afford them.

The U.S. government spends more on wars (and military occupations) abroad every year than all 50 states combined spend on health, education, welfare, and safety.

The cost of waging war in Syria (with or without congressional approval), and the burden on taxpayers soars to more than $11.5 million a day.

The cost of launching that 59 Tomahawk missile-strike against Syria? It’s estimated that the missiles alone cost $60 million.

Think about how much good use that money could be used for here in the US.

Taking care of veterans would be a start.

Why does the federal government continue to spend trillions of dollars of taxpayer money on war?

I think the late United States Marine Corps Major General Smedley D. Butler said it best – way back in the 193os:

War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small ‘inside’ group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.

George Orwell summed up Butler’s point with one simple yet powerful line:

War against a foreign country only happens when the moneyed classes think they are going to profit from it.

It is way past time to take care of the veterans the US government has already created, and to stop creating more.

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Contributed by Lily Dane of The Daily Sheeple.

Lily Dane is a staff writer for The Daily Sheeple. Her goal is to help people to “Wake the Flock Up!”

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