Thursday, May 01, 2008

Other Items

Neil MacFarquhar's "Closing Arguments in Suit on Veterans' Mental Care" (New York Times) reads like the nonsense one would expect from a reporter who sat through the trial with VA flacks whispering in his ear, which, for the record, he did. The minute that became public, the paper should have removed him from the story but the San Francisco bureau is the worst run of the paper. (Do they do anything other than send out angry e-mails? No one's ever seen anything to indicate that they do.) Karen Jowers' "Senator: Focus on mental health costs of war" (Navy Times) hits harder than anything Neilsie (and the VA flacks) can muster:

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., is calling on President Bush to issue a directive making it clear that veterans’ mental health issues will be fully addressed.
"The buck stops at the president’s desk. The president needs to issue a directive that the costs of the war, particularly of mental health, is an issue we’re all going to deal with," Murray said following a Wednesday press conference at which senators called on the Department of Veterans Affairs to be honest and forthcoming with their data, and to start an extensive outreach program to encourage veterans to get help.
Murray and Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, said they’re concerned that VA is withholding information about rates of suicide and attempted suicide among veterans, which they said hinders lawmakers’ efforts to give VA the funding needed to help those with mental health issues.
Murray called this one more sign of "a lot of downward pressure from the administration to downplay the costs of the war."
At a Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee hearing April 23, where senators learned that 17 veterans a month commit suicide while under VA care, Murray and other senators demanded the removal of VA’s mental health chief, Dr. Ira Katz.

The wronged include today's Afghanistan and Iraq War veterans as well as veterans of past wars and KGET's "Family of Taft veteran killed by officer says system failed" drives that home:

The family of a veteran killed by Taft police said he wanted to die.
Richard Salcido was a Korean War Veteran who lived with post traumatic stress disorder.
Salcido's family is talking about their loss, including their losing battle to get Salcido help.
Richard Salcido's family said the shooting was the only way for their loved one to escape the ghosts of his past.
[. . .]
They aren't faulting the officer who shot and killed him instead they are placing blame on the Veterans Administration which they believe failed the former private.
Salcido's wife Linda was on a crusade to get him help with his honorable discharge certificate in hand.
She was denied many times, even at the Veteran's Hospital in Los Angeles.

Back to the court case, from Bob Egelko's "Vets' case rests with call to overhaul system" (San Francisco Chronicle):

The suit was filed last year by two groups, Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans United for Truth. They accused the VA of making mental health care virtually unavailable to thousands of discharged soldiers through perfunctory exams, long waits for referrals and treatment, and a prolonged and complex system of awarding medical benefits.
The plaintiffs want [U.S. District Judge Samuel] Conti to order the VA to carry out its own plan to improve suicide prevention and overall mental health care - issued in 2004, but still mostly at the pilot-program stage - and to direct the agency to set timetables for benefits and allow veterans to be represented by lawyers. Gonzalez said the judge should appoint a representative, known as a special master, to make sure the agency complies.
The plaintiffs' most striking evidence came from internal VA e-mails, released in response to the suit. They reported 18 suicides a day among all veterans and 1,000 suicide attempts a month among those under VA care.
There are 24 million veterans in the United States, and about 30 percent receive VA care.
The agency has not disclosed what proportion of suicidal veterans served in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the plaintiffs' witnesses and lawyers said there was evidence that returning troops are taking their own lives in greater numbers. They said there has been a steady increase in the veterans' suicide rate since 2001, and a comparatively high rate among veterans ages 20 to 24.

From AP:

[Arturo] Gonzalez said most VA facilities don't have plans for dealing with veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, and that those coping with post traumatic stress disorder are not being given the immediate attention they need, often being made to wait more than 30 days for referral to a specialist, he said.
Hundreds of thousands of other veterans are waiting for medical claims to go through, he said, and with an appeals process that can take years, some are dying while their appeals are pending, he said.
"The system, your honor, has crashed," Gonzalez said. "It's been overwhelmed."
"And the pattern of neglect continues," he said.
The veterans groups are asking the judge to order the VA to fully implement its own mental health strategic plan; to comply with an internal VA memo delineating "specific programs intended to stop the suicides"; and to shorten claim times.

We'll note "In New NC Ad, Maya Angelou Says Hillary 'Intends to help our country become what it can become'" (

In a new 60-second ad, Maya Angelou talks about why she is supporting Hillary for President. Dr. Angelou says that Hillary “intends to help our country become what it can become,” and that she has found the person she thinks “would be the best president for the United States of America.”

Watch the ad here.

The ad is airing statewide.

TV :60

Maya Angelou: Hillary Clinton is a prayer of every American who really longs for fair play.

Working men and women have had their jobs snatched from underneath them, their homes snatched away from them. And what we need, I think, is a person, a President who can make a difference in our country.

She intends to help our country become what it can become. She dares to say human beings are more alike than we are unalike.

I watched her become interested in public health and in education for all the children. And I watched her stand.

I have found the person I think would be the best president for the United States of America.

Hillary Clinton: I'm Hillary Clinton and I approved this message.

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