Friday, October 11, 2013

Look how they cover






Scott Alan McDonald died because of the VA.  His widow Heather McDonald explained what happened to Congress this morning.

Heather McDonald:  For 15 years, he served honorably in the uniform of his country and was proud to serve as a UH-60 Blackhawk mechanic and Crew Chief for MEDEVAC Unit.  Bosnia, Panama, Iraq and Afghanistan are only a few of the war-torn countries he dedicated his life to changing.  In his career, he experienced heartache, unimaginable violence, death and the overall devastating effects of war.  He saw many of his fellow soldiers give the ultimate sacrifice -- narrowly escaping many times himself.  He loved his country and what the American flag stands for.  He was a brothers in arms to thousands of fellow soldiers and a truly remarkable man that never met a stranger.  Scott had larger than life expectations for his children.  And because of his commitment and honor, in January of 2011, we married.  On April 30, 2011, Scott's career with the army came full circle and he hung his uniform up for good. He began seeking the treatment from the VA for back pain and mental illness.  The Chalmers P. Wylie VA Ambulatory Care Center in Columbus, Ohio immediately started prescribing medications beginning with ibuprofen, nurofen, meloxicam and graduating to vicodin, klonopin, celexa, Zoloft, valium and Percocet.  This is where the rollercoaster began.  My husband was taking up to 15 pills a day within the first six months of treatment.  Every time Scott came home from an appointment, he had different medications, different dosages, different directions on how to take them.  And progressively over the course of a year and a half of starting his treatment, the medications had changed so many times by adding and changing that Scott became changing.  We researched many of the drugs that he was prescribed online and saw the dangerous interactions that they cause.  Yet my husband was conditioned to follow orders.  And he did so.  On September 12th of 2012, Scott attended another of his scheduled appointments.  This was when they added Percocet.  This was a much different medication than he was used to taking and which they prescribed him not to exceed 3,000 milligrams of ibu -- acetaminophen, I'm sorry.  Again, my husband followed orders.  Approximately zero-one-hundred hours on the 13th of September, I arrived home from my job.  I found Scott disoriented and very lethargic.  I woke him and asked him if he was okay?  He told me he was fine and that he just took what the doctors told him to take. At approximately zero-seven-thirty, I found my husband cold and unresponsive.  At 35-years-old, this father of two was gone.  I ask  myself why everyday.  And when I ask the VA why more tests weren't performed to make sure he was healthy enough, they responded by saying: "It is not routine to evaluate our soldiers' pain medication distribution."  A simple "I am in pain" constitutes a narcotic and a "This isn't working" constitutes a change in medication.  I was sickened and disturbed by their response and I decided at that point no one else should die.  I have no doubt that if the proper tests were being performed on our men and women, I would not be here today -- because my husband would be.  I have no doubt that for thousands of the soldiers that have fallen after coming home from war would be here today.  [Wiping tears] I'm sorry.  As the silent soldiers and spouses of our military members. we almost expect the possibility that they won't come home from war.  But we cannot accept that they fight there for their country and after the battle is over they come home and die.

A study published last year in The American Journal of Psychiatry found that, "Among patients receiving care from the Veterans Health Administration, death from accidental overdose was found to be associated with psychiatric and substance use disorders. The study findings suggest the importance of risk assessment and overdose prevention for vulnerable clinical subpopulations."  That study was published in January of 2012.  Does no one in the Veteran Affairs Department know how to read?  Clearly, they don't know how to take action but are they at least literate? 

Nine months before Heather lost her husband, a peer-reviewed, medical study was published warning of what was taking place.  Where was VA Secretary Eric Shineski?  Mismanaging again?

It has been one scandal after another under Shineski.  It really is time he resigned. Heather McDonald was testifying before the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Health -- US House Rep Dan Benishek is the Chair of the Subcomittee and US House Rep Julia Brownley is the Ranking Member -- as part of the first panel retired Air Force member Kimberly Stowe Green, retired Sgt Joshua Renschler and retired 1st Sgt Justin Minyard.  Panel two was Dr. Pamela Gray, Claudia J. Bahorik, and the VA's Dr. Steven G. Scott.  The third panel was the VA's Dr. Robert Jesse accompanied by Robert Kearns.

Kimberly Stowe Green's husband, like Heather's husband, should be alive.  He went in for back surgery.  That's not usually life threatening.  But what the VA did before that ensured that it was.

Kimberly Stowe Green: My husband Ricky Green died as a result of the VA's skyrocketing use of prescription pain killers.   On behalf of my husband, my self and our two grieving sons, I want to ask this Committee to do all that it can to prevent other veterans from dying in the same manner that my husband died. My husband died on October 29, 2011 -- at the age of forty-three -- four days after lower back surgery.  The Arkansas State Crime Lab and it's medical examiner performed an autopsy and determined that the cause of death was mixed drug intoxification complicating recent lumbar spine surgery.  My husband died because of the prescription pain and sleeping medications that the VA and its doctors prescribed for him and dispensed to him out of the VA pharmacy.  In treating Ricky's service-connected back pain, the VA doctors wrote prescriptions for the following drugs.

She noted the 2010 VA clinical practice guidelines have not been fully implemented and they're not being followed.  What does Eric Shineski say to that?  More to the point, what does US President Barack Obama say to that?  How many screw ups is Shinseki going to rack up before his inability to do his job results in his resignation?

Kimberly Stowe Green stated, "Ricky survived serving in combat zones in his over 20 years of military  service but he could not survive the VA and its negligent treatment of him."

Iraq War veteran Josh Green survived a mortar attack in Iraq and the pain from the wounds led the VA to prescribe one pill after another -- he was taking 13 pain killers at one point.  The result?  The VA medical treatment left him with liver damage and no feeling in his left leg.  (Heather McDonald noted her husband had Stage II liver failure but it was "only discovered by the coroner.") That is awful and the VA owes Green much more than an apology.  But something else should be registering.  If it's not, let's note this statement from Green about Percocet, "And what happened was, the more I took it, the less it worked because my body became tolerant to it. 

Do you get it yet?

Do you get the problems that are being created under Shinseki?  The problems that will cost millions to clean up and will be harrowing for the veterans going through it?

You can't just dispense pain killers like they're Flintstone chewables or candy out of Pez dispenser.  This attitude was overcome long ago everywhere except the VA.  It's why former First Lady Betty Ford went public and set up The Betty Ford Center.

When it comes to addiction, there may not be a more vulnerable population than veterans.  The reasons for that are they are taught to mask the pain while serving and, as both widows pointed out, to follow orders -- the following of orders often carries over the medical treatment from the VA.  The VA doctors are prescribing like it's 1947 and, as a society, we've never heard of pain killer addiction. 

People in pain need help and need treatment.  They do not, however, need to develop an addiction because a bunch of lazy or quack doctors don't want to do their job.

Under Shinseki, the prescriptions are killing veterans, yes.  But also under Shinseki, the prescriptions are resulting in addictions that will have be treated years from now.

That's unacceptable -- from a health standpoint and from a taxpayer standpoint. 

Shinseki is supposed to be on top of things.  He shouldn't need a Congressional hearing to take action.

It was really distressing to hear Josh Green detail his objections to the pills and how, when he would raise these objections, he would be prescribed more pills.

Iraq and Afghanistan War veteran Justin Minyard suffered from chronic back pain (tied to a 72 hour continues shift at the Pentagon, searching for any survivors after the Pentagon was hit on 9-11).  The existing back pain was amplified by his later service in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The treatment?  Pills, pills and more pills.  That's all the VA offered him.  He explained, "My life revolved around when is my next pill, when is my next dosage increase and when can I get my next refill?  At my worst point I was taking enough pills daily to treat four terminally ill cancer patients."

Repeating, this isn't just medical malpractice with effects people see and feel now, this is medical malpractice that is turning veterans into addicts.  That is unacceptable.  Civilian doctors prescribing in this manner risk loss of license and criminal charges but the VA just looks the other way. The VA motto appears to be: "Addiction gets you out the door!"

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"
"Iraq: The Wild West in the Middle East"
"Ed Snowden awarded, Barack called out"
"The Mindy Project"
"Greg Gilman is a joke"
"The VA killed Heather McDonald's husband (Ava)"
"VA bullied doctors into prescribing narcotics"
"The awful ObamaCare"
"The fake apology from Dr. Jesse"
"Barry gets ready to slash"
"Working It For BP (Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte)"
"Norman Pollack, Noam Chomsky and more"
"Barry o gets exposed again"

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