tagged w/ Veterans Affairs
A former Veterans Affairs researcher turned whistleblower tells Congress the department repeatedly withheld data on Gulf War syndrome and neglected suicidal vets. Jamie Reno reports.
PHOTO: Retired Army Col. Gil Roman, a Gulf War veteran, in his war room with the medication he takes to combat symptoms associated with Gulf War syndrome. He takes 15 medications twice a day. Roman retired a full colonel in 1994. (Craig F. Walker/The Denver Post, via Getty)
The Department of Veterans Affairs routinely disseminated false information about the health of America’s veterans, withheld research showing a link between nerve gas and Gulf War syndrome, rushed studies out the door without taking recommended fixes by an independent board, and failed to offer crucial care to veterans who came forward as suicidal.
These are the allegations of Steven Coughlin, an epidemiologist who worked at the VA’s Office of Public Health until he resigned last year, citing “serious ethical issues.” On Wednesday Coughlin will testify at a congressional hearing on the health of Gulf War veterans.
“What I saw [at VA] was both embarrassing and astonishing. I couldn’t stay any longer,” says Coughlin, who left the VA in December, just four and a half years into the job.
The VA didn’t respond to repeated calls and emails for comment on this article.
Coughlin was previously associate professor of epidemiology and director of the program in public-health ethics at Tulane University and is a former chair of the writing group that prepared the ethics guidelines for the American College of Epidemiology.
In an interview with The Daily Beast, Coughlin said that whenever he spoke out about any alleged unethical activity, his bosses “intimidated and admonished” him. He says they first tried to silence him after he spoke out about a major health study of 60,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. Coughlin believed that the nearly 2,000 subjects who self-identified as suicidal should have been checked up on afterward by mental-health clinicians. Instead, he says, the researchers interviewed them and moved on.
Coughlin says his supervisors also frequently “obscured the facts” about the impact of toxic exposures on troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and the causes of Gulf War illness.
“Many of those veterans are now homeless or deceased,” he says. “It’s very unfortunate. My supervisors did all they could to block my efforts.”
After getting nowhere with his superiors, Coughlin says, he contacted the chairman of the VA’s Institutional Review Board and the VA inspector-general to request that the study be put on hold until his supervisors could identify clinicians to call back suicidal veterans.
“That’s when all hell broke loose,” he says. “My supervisors tried to remove me from the study, and I received a written admonition. It was shocking. All I was trying to do was help ensure the safety of the veterans participating in our study.”
Coughlin says he was unsuccessful in getting OPH to address the problem in the study of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, but he managed to incorporate clinician callbacks in a separate Gulf War survey, and he says those calls “saved lives.”
Coughlin says his supervisors also frequently “obscured the facts” about the impact of toxic exposures on troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and the causes of Gulf War illness, which afflicted as many as 250,000 veterans, according to the Institute of Medicine.
While the cause of Gulf War illness has been debated for years, a number of peer-reviewed scientific studies have concluded that it is a neurological condition caused by exposure to nerve gas, pesticides, and other toxic elements.
However, says Coughlin, “the people I worked for refuse to release any information to the public that reaches that conclusion. They insist on holding on to the outdated theory that Gulf War illness is psychosomatic.”
He says there is VA data on adverse health consequences of toxic exposures in the Gulf War that “the public has never seen, and I’m sure will never see.”
He says his supervisors paid the Institute of Medicine $1 million to review the latest literature on Gulf War illness, but the first five outside experts they invited to the IOM committee all reported that it was psychiatric and not neurological. “This understandably outraged Gulf War advocates,” Coughlin says. “It was so obviously biased.”
Anthony Hardie, a Gulf War veteran and advocate who will also be testifying at the congressional hearing, tells The Daily Beast that Coughlin’s story “only confirms what Gulf War veterans have believed all along: this cabal of federal bureaucrats and contractors who continue to obfuscate, manipulate, and lie remain a serious obstacle to ill Gulf War veterans’ legitimate quest for treatments and justice.”
Coughlin says the OPH’s 2009–10 National Health Study of a New Generation of U.S. Veterans, which targeted 60,000 post-9/11 veterans, cost $10 million, plus the salaries of those who worked on it. He says 20 percent to 30 percent of these veterans were also Gulf War veterans, and the study produced data regarding their exposures to pesticides, oil-well fires, and pyridostigmine-bromide pills.
OPH never released any data from the study, or even the fact that it exists, Coughlin says. The VA’s official position on pyridostigmine-bromide pills, which the Department of Defense says Gulf War veterans took as protection against nerve gas, did not cause Gulf War illness. But a 2008 study by Beatrice Golomb at the University of California, San Diego, “thoroughly, conclusively shows that this class of chemicals actually are a cause of illness in Gulf War veterans.”
Coughlin also says the OHP released a major survey on Gulf War veterans without fixing it as recommended by the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses, which was mandated by Congress in 2002. Coughlin says his supervisors told the VA that implementing the fixes would cost the government $1 million and delay the study for a year or longer.
“None of this was true. It would not have cost nearly that much to restart the study,” Coughlin says. “But as a result of the false statements made by my supervisors, the chief of staff ordered the survey to proceed without the changes.”
Coughlin says he’ll ask Congress to initiate legislation to cure the “epidemic” of ethical problems at the OPH and urge the committee to direct the VA to identify procedures to ensure that veterans who participate in large-scale epidemiologic studies receive appropriate follow-up care to prevent possible suicides.
“The VA is the nation’s largest health-care provider, and these large studies cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars and are so important to veterans’ health,” says Coughlin, who is currently looking for another job. “My only motivation for coming forward is to help veterans. That’s the only reason I paid for my own flight to come to Washington. I think the attention from the House committee and the media will lead to positive changes. It will hopefully help veterans.”
Read the rest of the story here: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/03/13/whistleblower-veterans-affairs-covered-up-data-on-mental-health-gulf-war-syndrome.htmlA former Veterans Affairs researcher turned whistleblower tells Congress the... more
2 months ago
While enjoying your freedom on the 4th of July, you should take a moment to watch this video of military vets who are suffering from combat trauma.
http://tiny.cc/iw0xgwWhile enjoying your freedom on the 4th of July, you should take a moment to watch this... more
"VETS News Release: [05/02/2012]
Contact Name: Jason Kuruvilla of Mike Volpe
Phone Number: (202) 693-6587 or x3984
Release Number: 12-0780-NAT
US Department of Labor announces availability of approximately $12 million in grants to provide job training services for more than 6,000 veterans
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Labor today announced the availability of approximately $12 million in grants through the Veterans' Workforce Investment Program to provide job training and skills development services that will help approximately 6,000 veterans succeed in civilian careers.
"These men and women served our country, and now it is our turn to serve them and to support them. The grants announced today will help ensure our nation's veterans receive the assistance they need as they make the transition to civilian life," Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis said.
Through funds provided by this program, veterans will receive skills assessments, individual job counseling, labor market information, classroom or on-the-job training, skills upgrades, placement assistance and crucial follow-up services. Veterans also may be eligible for services through other Workforce Investment Act programs for economically disadvantaged or dislocated workers.
The department will award at least 10 grants in 10 states on a competitive basis to state and local workforce investment boards, local public agencies and nonprofit — including faith-based and community —organizations. Grantees must be familiar with the areas and populations to be served, and have demonstrated that they can administer effective programs.
More information about the Department of Labor's unemployment and re-employment programs for veterans can be found at http://www.dol.gov/vets/.
The solicitation for grant applications is available at http://www.grants.gov. It also may be viewed at http://www.dol.gov/vets/programs/vwip/main.htm. "
A small payment on the debt the nation owes it's veterans. Now, we need to 'support the troops' by making sure the $$ actually goes for the training they need to get jobs, and not just some shell game movement of funds to corporations that pretend to provide training."VETS News Release: [05/02/2012]
Contact Name: Jason Kuruvilla of Mike Volpe... more
Know them by their deeds, not the words they speak in hopes their illusions will get you to vote for them so they can work against the interests they are supposed to serve,
Enter Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Penn.). At the behest of the Catholic Church, and unbeknownst to the Home, Santorum slipped an amendment into the 1999 National Defense Authorization Act handcuffing how the home could cash in on those 49 acres. The amendment forced the Home to sell—and not lease—the land to its next-door neighbor, the Catholic University of America. Ultimately, the Catholic Church bought 46 acres of the tract for $22 million. The Home lost the land for good, and by its own estimates, pocketed $27 million less than the land's value and $83 million less than what it could've made under the lease plan. Santorum's amendment sparked an outcry from veterans' groups and fellow US senators, who barraged his office with complaints.
If Rick's primary concerns are the interest of his church, fine. Let him work for his church. But the POTUS should not serve the interests of one Church over the interests of the people who serve the nation by putting their lives on the line for the nation.
No Rick Santorum for public office ever again.Know them by their deeds, not the words they speak in hopes their illusions will get... more
Some of war's most disturbing moments don't happen on the battlefield. Such was the case when Sergeant Chuck Luther sat before a Congressional committee and described how he was tortured by U.S. Army officials.
Luther had been confined to a closet at Camp Taji, Iraq. He was held there for over a month, under enforced sleep deprivation, until he agreed to sign documents saying his mortar fire wounds were caused by a pre-existing condition, making him ineligible for benefits.
Below is a video of Luther's testimony, as he lays out the graphic details of his torture. As a reporter who covers veterans' issues, I'm often asked what Americans can do to honor our soldiers. My answer: watch this video. Share it with your friends. Ask them to share it with theirs.
On this Veterans Day, don't let the voices of soldiers like Sgt. Luther go silent.
Follow Joshua Kors on Facebook: www.facebook.com/joshua.kors
Follow Joshua Kors on Twitter: www.twitter.com/joshuakorshttp://globalpoliticalawakening.blogspot.com/2010/11/video-of-torture-hearing-released-... more
Footage from the 2009 Veterans Holiday Celebration event, December 6, 2009
Troubling new data has revealed that there are an average of 950 suicide attempts each month by veterans who are receiving some type of treatment from the Veterans Affairs Department.
Seven percent of the attempts are successful, and 11 percent of those who don’t succeed on the first attempt try again within nine months.
The numbers show about 18 veteran suicides a day, about five by veterans who are receiving VA care.Troubling new data has revealed that there are an average of 950 suicide attempts each... more
A tea party member thinks socialists are nuts and threatens "death to commies," but his form of socialism...well, that's ok.A tea party member thinks socialists are nuts and threatens "death to... more
4,370 US Soldiers Killed, 31,582 Seriously Wounded
U.S. SPENDING IN IRAQ
Spent & Approved War-Spending - About $800 billion of US taxpayers' funds spent or approved for spending through mid-2009, including $76 billion requested by President Obama and approved by Congress.
U.S. 2009 Monthly Spending in Iraq - $7.3 billion as of Oct 2009
U.S. 2008 Monthly Spending in Iraq - $12 billion
U.S. Spending per Second - $5,000 in 2008 (per Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on May 5, 2008)
Cost of deploying one U.S. soldier for one year in Iraq - $390,000 (Congressional Research Service)
Lost & Unaccounted for in Iraq - $9 billion of US taxpayers' money and $549.7 milion in spare parts shipped in 2004 to US contractors. Also, per ABC News, 190,000 guns, including 110,000 AK-47 rifles.
Missing - $1 billion in tractor trailers, tank recovery vehicles, machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and other equipment and services provided to the Iraqi security forces. (Per CBS News on Dec 6, 2007.)
Mismanaged & Wasted in Iraq - $10 billion, per Feb 2007 Congressional hearings4,370 US Soldiers Killed, 31,582 Seriously Wounded
U.S. SPENDING IN IRAQ
CNN news anchor John Roberts asks "How far would you go to get good health insurance?" A report this morning tells the heartbreaking story of a man who lost his job as a computer consultant, and along with the job went the health insurance for his family.
Army SPC Greg Missman had ended his military service 11 years earlier, but signed back on in order to provide his young son Jack with health insurance coverage.
After only one month on the ground in Afghanistan, Missman's father Jim received the news that Greg's convoy had been ambushed, and Greg was killed in the attack.
CNN reports that a "Pentagon spokesman said there is no way to count how many soldiers have joined the armed services to get health care benefits. As for Greg Missman, his son will continue to receive military health insurance so this soldier's sacrifice will live on."
The following YouTube video is from a CNN news report originally aired Mon., Sept. 7, 2009:CNN news anchor John Roberts asks "How far would you go to get good health... more
FOX News Chis Wallace Interviews Veterans Administration's Tammy Duckworth About "Death Book For Veterans" - 08/23/09
Veterans can buy the book for 5$ This book is about Advance Directive!FOX News Chis Wallace Interviews Veterans Administration's Tammy Duckworth About... more
WASHINGTON – Outside the Veterans Affairs Department, severely wounded veterans have faced financial hardship waiting for their first disability payment. Inside, money has been flowing in the form of $24 million in bonuses.
In scathing reports this week, the VA's inspector general said thousands of technology office employees at the VA received the bonuses over a two-year period, some under questionable circumstances. It also detailed abuses ranging from nepotism to an inappropriate relationship between two VA employees.
The inspector general accused one recently retired VA official of acting "as if she was given a blank checkbook" as awards and bonuses were distributed to employees of the Office of Information and Technology in 2007 and 2008. In some cases the justification for the bonuses was inadequate or questionable, the IG said.
The official, Jennifer S. Duncan, also engaged in nepotism and got $60,000 in bonuses herself, the IG said. In addition, managers improperly authorized college tuition payments for VA employees, some of whom were Duncan's family members and friends. That cost taxpayers nearly $140,000.
Separately, a technology office employee became involved in an "inappropriate personal relationship" with a high-level VA official. The technology office employee flew 22 times from Florida to Washington, where the VA official lived. That travel cost $37,000.
The details on the alleged improprieties were in two IG reports issued this week. VA spokeswoman Katie Roberts said the agency was extremely concerned about the IG's findings and would pursue a thorough review.
"VA does not condone misconduct by its employees and will take the appropriate correction action for those who violate VA policy," Roberts said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.
The number of claims the VA needs to process has escalated, and the Information and Technology Office has a critical role in improving the technological infrastructure to handle the increase. President Barack Obama has said creating a seamless transition for records between the Pentagon and the VA could help eliminate a backlog that has left some veterans waiting months for a disability check.
.................linkWASHINGTON – Outside the Veterans Affairs Department, severely wounded veterans... more
August 14, 2009
Department of Veterans Affairs
WASHINGTON -- Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki announced Aug. 14 that combat veterans will receive readjustment counseling and other assistance in 28 additional communities across the country where the Department of Veterans Affairs will establish vet centers in 2010.
"VA is committed to providing high-quality outreach and readjustment counseling to all combat veterans," Secretary Shinseki said. "These 28 new vet centers will address the growing need for those services."
The community-based vet centers, already in all 50 states, are a key component of VA's mental health program, providing veterans with mental health screening and post-traumatic stress disorder counseling.
The existing 232 centers conduct community outreach offering counseling on employment, family issues and education to combat veterans and family members. Staffs also offer bereavement counseling for families of servicemembers killed on active duty and counseling for veterans who were sexually harassed on active duty.
Vet center services are earned through service in a combat zone or area of hostility and are provided at no cost to veterans or their families.
They are staffed by small multidisciplinary teams, which may include social workers, psychologists, psychiatric nurses, master's-level counselors and outreach specialists. More than 70 percent of vet center employees are veterans themselves, a majority of whom served in combat zones.
The vet center program was established in 1979 by Congress, recognizing that many Vietnam veterans were still having readjustment problems. In 2008, the vet venter program provided more than 1.1 million visits to over 167,000 veterans, including over 53,000 visits by more than 14,500 veteran families. More information about vet centers can be found at www.vetcenter.va.gov/index.asp.August 14, 2009
Department of Veterans Affairs
WASHINGTON -- Secretary of Veterans... more
WASHINGTON - The number of US troops who have suffered wartime brain injuries may be as high as 360,000 and could cast more attention on such injuries among civilians, Defense Department doctors said yesterday.
The estimate of the number injured - the vast majority of them suffering concussions - represents 20 percent of the roughly 1.8 million men and women who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, where blast injuries are common from roadside bombs and other explosives, the doctors said.
The estimate came during a Pentagon news conference on activities planned this month to bring attention to brain injuries. The doctors said the number could be as low as 180,000, based on estimates that between 10 percent and 20 percent of troops might have such injuries.
The previous high estimate offered publicly was 320,000 in a study released a year ago by the private Rand Corp. It was based on about 1.6 million who had done tours of duty Iraq or Afghanistan from late 2001.WASHINGTON - The number of US troops who have suffered wartime brain injuries may be... more
I like the moral highground. I can see all the bullshit more clearly from up here.
Barack Obama embarked on the wholesale deconstruction of George Bush's war on terror, shutting down the CIA's secret prison network, banning torture and rendition, and calling for a new set of rules for detainees. The repudiation of Bush's thinking on national security yesterday also saw the appointment of a high-powered envoy to the Middle East.
Obama's decision to permanently shut down the CIA's clandestine interrogation centres went far beyond the widely anticipated move to wind down the Guantánamo Bay detention centre within a year.
He cast his scrapping of the legal apparatus set up by Bush as a way for America to reclaim the moral high ground in the fight against al-Qaida.I like the moral highground. I can see all the bullshit more clearly from up here.... more
WASHINGTON -- An Army investigation calls the electrocution death of a U.S. soldier in Iraq "negligent homicide" caused by military contractor KBR Inc. and two of its supervisors.
In a document obtained by The Associated Press, an Army criminal investigator says the manner of death for Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth, 24, has been changed from accidental to negligent homicide because the contractor failed to ensure that "qualified electricians and plumbers" worked on the barracks where Sgt. Maseth died.
The Green Beret from Shaler died of cardiac arrest on Jan. 2, 2008. He was electrocuted while taking a shower in his barracks in Baghdad.WASHINGTON -- An Army investigation calls the electrocution death of a U.S. soldier in... more
President-elect Barack Obama has named a decorated Vietnam veteran as his choice to head the Department of Veterans Affairs.President-elect Barack Obama has named a decorated Vietnam veteran as his choice to... more
President-Eleck Barack Obama has chosen General Eric Shinseki as Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) during his transition.
General Shinseki is a former Army Chief of Staff and 38-year Army veteran who served two combat tours in Vietnam.President-Eleck Barack Obama has chosen General Eric Shinseki as Secretary of Veterans... more