Did safety net fail suicidal Marine? | UTSanDiego.com



Jeremy Sears is the kind of combat veteran that America desperately wants to help — a Marine who served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Yet the safety net designed to support returning troops seems to have failed in his case, according to his wife and veterans advocates.

After waiting 16 months in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs claims logjam, Sears was denied all disability payments and, untreated for trauma injuries and facing financial difficulties, took his own life.

Jeremy and Tami Sears— Facebook photo

The 35-year-old former Camp Pendleton infantryman killed himself last week, almost exactly two years after being discharged. On Monday, Oct. 6, Sears went to an Oceanside shooting range and put the gun to his head.

Just days before, he first admitted to his wife that he might have “survivor’s guilt” — sometimes seen as a symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder.

According to people close to him, Sears became despondent in February. That’s when the VA sent a letter saying that the government wouldn’t pay him anything, despite acknowledging that he had traumatic brain injury and hearing loss from his military service.


VA denial letter


Additionally, Sears never got medical help for the brain injury.

Jeremy Sears’ widow, Tami, said this week that she sees a failure in care starting years back, but climaxing under the VA.

“I just don’t want anyone else to suffer and go through the pain that my husband went through for so many years and didn’t tell anyone,” Tami Sears said.

“I don’t know what the VA needs to do, but they need an overhaul and to take care of these veterans.”

Officials from the San Diego VA health care system and VA regional benefits office put out a joint statement on Tuesday, in response to questions from U-T San Diego.

“The Department of Veterans Affairs deeply regrets the loss of veteran Jeremy Sears, and our sincere condolences go out to his family. VA wants to ensure that all veterans receive the benefits and health care to which they are entitled under the law,” the statement said.

“We are presently looking into the specifics of Mr. Sear’s case and will be reaching out to the family to provide support and assistance.”

Sears left the Marine Corps as a sergeant in October 2012 after eight years of service. His wife and friends said he knew staying in would likely mean a desk job, which he didn’t want.

via Did safety net fail suicidal Marine? | UTSanDiego.com.

VA bills dead veteran for 59 cents

AVONDALE, Pa. (Delaware Online) – The first letter addressed to the late David Perry arrived five weeks after he died at home June 5.

Sent from the Department of Veterans Affairs, the envelope was to be opened “by addressee only.” Perry’s wife Helena opened it anyway.

“You remain eligible to receive (VA) health benefits,” it read. A handwritten yellow sticky note added, “Please provide copy of death certificate.”

Helena thought she’d notified VA. Regardless, she said, “It’s kind of hard for him to open it when he’s not here – and even harder for him to send the death certificate.”

Several days later, a VA billing statement addressed to David Perry arrived. Helena opened that one too. Her late husband, it seemed, owes the government 59 cents.

“So if it’s not paid by October the 11th, I’m going to have additional – or he will have additional charges on his 59 cents,” she said. “So I did call and talk to them, and informed them again that he was dead, and I just didn’t think he would be able to pay it.”

via VA bills dead veteran for 59 cents.

Changes at Wilmington VA raise concerns

Union clinicians at the Wilmington Veterans Affairs Medical Center fear that a recent reduction in surgical capability and other changes are signals the facility could lose its independent status, will continue shrinking and become a branch of the much larger Philadelphia VA hospital.

The Wilmington director doesn’t say it won’t. Rather, she says with conviction, that she hasn’t heard it being talked about during meetings at the regional and central office level.

“Each VA has its little niche that they provide, and they help each other out – and so that’s still ongoing,” said Robin Aube-Warren during an interview Friday. “But there is nothing that I’ve ever been made aware of that there were any discussions about changing our role and having us fall under Philly, or anything like that.”

Aube-Warren, in charge since March, did acknowledge the possibility.

“As [VA] Secretary [Robert] McDonald has said, he has a plan to reorganize VA as we move forward,” she said. “That hasn’t been shared yet. And I don’t know what those changes will be, and we’re all anxious to see what he has in mind.”

via Changes at Wilmington VA raise concerns.

How the Koch Network Exploited the Veterans Affairs Crisis | The Nation

As the scandal over waiting lists at Veterans Affairs hospitals exploded earlier this year, there was widespread outrage—and justifiably so, as the country learned that more than 100,000 veterans waited over ninety days for care or never received it.

An ever-present force in this debate was a group called Concerned Veterans for America. Its leader, Peter Hegseth, frequently appeared on cable news segments about the scandal, and CVA was often mentioned on the floor of the Senate.

Though the group doesn’t disclose its donors, it has for a long while been clear the group is funded in part, or perhaps even in full, by the Koch brothers. Any remaining doubt can now be erased thanks to audio from the secretive Koch donor retreat this summer, obtained by The Undercurrent and reported here.

Hegseth addressed the crowd and not only confirmed that the Koch network “literally created” CVA but explained giddily “the central role that Concern

via How the Koch Network Exploited the Veterans Affairs Crisis | The Nation.

DPS looking for potential victims of Tucson man arrested for impersonating a doctor | KVOA.com | Tucson, Arizona

The Department of Public Safety is searching for any potential victims of a Tucson man who was arrested last week for criminal impersonation and providing false information to an officer, after he attempted to pass himself off as a physician.

According to a DPS press release, Joshua Abeyta asked a DPS officer where the hospital was located in Coolidge. The officer became suspicious due to Coolidge not having a hospital and Abeyta wearing hospital scrubs and a stethoscope around his neck.

The name ‘Dr. Anthony Pena’ was embroidered into the hospital scrubs Abeyta was wearing, DPS said.

During the questioning of Abeyta, he told the officer he worked at the VA Hospital in Tucson and was an orthopedic surgeon at the Scottsdale Hospital.

Officers contacted the VA Hospital in Tucson and found out hospital security was searching for Abeyta after he was found in a secure area, while trying to pass himself off as an orthopedic surgeon.

During a search of the 2000 Ford Expedition Abeyta was driving, officers found baggies with various pills in them. They also found a prescription with another person’s name on it.

Officers also found a bag containing medical equipment, DPS said.

DPS conducted a search of Abeyta’s girlfriend’s apartment in Tucson and found another set of hospital scrubs belonging to Abeyta.

His girlfriend told police she believed he was a doctor and he had given pills to friends when they were sick.

Anyone who may have come in contact with “Dr. Anthony Pena,” is asked to call DPS at (602) 223-2212.

via DPS looking for potential victims of Tucson man arrested for impersonating a doctor | KVOA.com | Tucson, Arizona.

.OIG’s Unannounced Inspection at Atlanta VA Medical Center Confirms Ongoing

Problems with Medication Carts

OIG conducted an inspection to evaluate allegations of medication cart deficiencies,

unsafe medication administration practices, and insufficient leadership response to

these problems at the Atlanta VA Medical Center (VAMC), Decatur, GA. During an

unannounced site visit, OIG found that four of the five carts used in the Community

Living Center for medication pass had to remain plugged-in due to insufficient battery

power and some of the medication drawers on two of the carts did not lock. Of the

14 carts in service on the 7th and 10th medical floors, 5 had to remain plugged-in due to

short battery life and 6 had unsecurable medication drawers. The computers and

scanners were functional on all 19 medication carts observed, but OIG noted that some

computers were slow to operate or required multiple reboots. OIG found that due to

inadequate and/or non-functional medication carts, nurses have had to administer

medications late and that nurses did not consistently document the reason for late

Two Employees Of Veterans Affairs Hospital, Including Logistics Warehouse And Mail Center Supervisor, Charged With Conspiracy To Distribute Cocaine

Two Employees Of Veterans Affairs Hospital, Including Logistics Warehouse And Mail Center Supervisor, Charged With Conspiracy To Distribute Cocaine

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Philip R. Bartlett, the Inspector-in-Charge of the New York Office of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (“USPIS”), Jeffrey G. Hughes, Special Agent-in-Charge, Northeast Field Office, of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General (“VA-OIG”), and Albert Aviles, Chief of the Department of Veterans Affairs Police Detachment in Bronx, New York, announced that ROBERT TUCKER, of Bronx, New York, and ERIK CASIANO, of West Orange, New Jersey, were arrested yesterday for allegedly engaging in a conspiracy to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine. The defendants will be presented in Manhattan federal court this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald L. Ellis.

via Two Employees Of Veterans Affairs Hospital, Including Logistics Warehouse And Mail Center Supervisor, Charged With Conspiracy To Distribute Cocaine.

Whistleblower says IG report on patient deaths at Phoenix veterans hospital a ‘whitewash’

Whistleblower says IG report on patient deaths at Phoenix veterans hospital a ‘whitewash’.

WASHINGTON — A doctor who first exposed serious problems at the troubled Phoenix Veterans Affairs hospital said Wednesday that a report on patient deaths there is a “whitewash” that minimizes life-threatening conduct by senior leaders at the hospital.

Dr. Samuel Foote, a former clinic director for the VA in Phoenix, said a report by the department’s inspector general appears designed to “minimize the scandal and protect its perpetrators rather than to provide the truth.”

At best, “this report is a whitewash,” Foote told the House Veterans Affairs Committee. “At its worst, it is a feeble attempt at a cover-up. The report deliberately uses confusing language and math, invents new unrealistic standards of proof … and makes misleading statements.”

The Aug. 26 report said workers at a Phoenix VA hospital falsified waiting lists while their supervisors looked the other way or even directed it, resulting in chronic delays for veterans seeking care. The inspector general’s office identified 40 patients who died while awaiting appointments in Phoenix, but the report said officials could not “conclusively assert” that delays in care caused the deaths.

Acting Inspector General Richard Griffin denied that the report sugarcoated any information about the Phoenix hospital or the VA, and he disputed suggestions by several Republicans that the report was altered at the request of the VA.

Inspector General: Maybe VA Fraud in Phoenix Did Result in Deaths After All – Guy Benson

Remember the VA scandal? You might be forgiven for letting it slip your mind, given that (a) its series of disgraceful revelations was several crises ago, and (b) that Congress has passed decent (but not permanent) legislation to “fix” the system. But there’s a reason why the CNN correspondent who’s covered this story most closely bluntly questioned the feasibility of righting the VA ship without “throwing out” vast numbers of its managers: An endemic culture of corruption and accountability-dodging.  Drew Griffin’s skepticism was no doubt reinforced when the department’s Inspector General released its findings in late August, concluding that it could not definitively link the VA’s pervasive and deliberate manipulation of wait times and care lists to any deaths. Critics immediately questioned the methodology behind that verdict, complaining that the IG’s standards of proof made were “virtually impossible” to meet.  Whistleblowers had previously alleged that VA corruption had resulted in at least 40 deaths in the Phoenix area alone.  Sources told CBS News that agency officials successfully pressured the IG to “water down” its findings:

Two of the doctors who first blew the whistle on the veterans’ deaths in Phoenix say the inspector general botched the investigation and went too easy on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). One says the IG engaged in a whitewash of what happened there, bowing to pressure from inside the agency, reports CBS News correspondent Wyatt Andrews. The issue surrounds the investigation into whether more than 40 veterans at the Phoenix VA died while waiting to see the doctor. The IG’s final report in August concluded that it “[could not] conclusively assert” that long wait times “caused the deaths of these veterans.” According to one whistleblower who spoke to CBS News, however, that crucial assertion was not in the original draft of the report. He told CBS News that the Inspector General added the line about how wait times did not cause the deaths at the last minute. Our source, who works at VA headquarters and who spoke exclusively to CBS News, said officials inside the agency asked for a revision of the first draft. That’s standard practice, but in this case the source said it amounted to pressure on Inspector General Richard Griffin to add a line to water down the report. “The organization was worried that the report was going to damn the organization,” the whistle-blower said. “And therefore it was important for them to introduce language that softened that blow.”

via Inspector General: Maybe VA Fraud in Phoenix Did Result in Deaths After All – Guy Benson.

Veteran calls local VA hospital house of horrors – ArkLatexHomepage.com

A patient describes a local medical facility as a “house of horrors.”

Thursday night Overton Brooks Medical Center hosted a town hall meeting. The meeting was one of many being held around the country.

Hospital leaders are hoping to fix the broken health system for veterans.

At the meeting veterans were able to receive immediate access to medical representatives.

The hospital’s chief of staff says, “If I don’t know something is broken I can’t fix it.”

The interim medical director told veterans he is aware of the problems and working to fix them

Another town hall meeting will be held in Texarkana in the near future.  The new VA secretary of Veterans Affairs, Robert McDonald initiated the meetings to build trust with veterans nationwide.

via Veteran calls local VA hospital house of horrors – ArkLatexHomepage.com.