Today Aaron Glantz and the Center for Investigative Reporting report the disturbing news of 1,000 veterans who died wrongful deaths (the VA had paid out $200 million for these deaths):
In that time, CIR found the agency made wrongful death payments to nearly 1,000 grieving families, ranging from decorated Iraq War veterans who shot or hanged themselves after being turned away from mental health treatment, to Vietnam veterans whose cancerous tumors were identified but allowed to grow, to missed diagnoses, botched surgeries and fatal neglect of elderly veterans.
On PRI's The Takeaway with John Hockenberry today, Aaron Glantz spoke about his new report. Excerpt.
John Hockenberry: Aaron Glantz, what is it that the VA was doing here by putting up this process instead of treating veterans' symptoms which you would think a medical institution ought to be doing?
Aaron Glantz: This is something that we hear so often talking with veterans coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan and where the VA has some of the best psychologists, doctors, psychiatrists in the country at treating war trauma. But then the agency has this unyielding bureaucracy that makes it difficult for anyone to see any of these clinicians. We always hear about long wait times for necessary care and what we found in our investigation that since 9-11, the VA had paid out over $200 million to nearly a thousand veterans who died under the VA's care -- and many of them died waiting for necessary treatment that might have saved their lives.
John Hockenberry: Now, Aaron, some might look at that $200 million in wrongful death claims and the 1,000 individuals that are involved here and say, "Okay, the system is working. The VA has a huge amount of responsibility. These are some errors that were corrected." How do you view this?
Aaron Glantz: It's true the VA sees more than 6 million veterans every year. Somebody could take a look at the 1,000 deaths that the VA paid out money in a wrongful death settlement and say, "Well some degree of medical error is inevitable dealing with a system this big." The way I look at it is these are people who served their country, who went to war, they did what we told them to do and then they got home with the expectation that the government, which sent them to war, had created a health care system which would take care of them and meet their needs. And it's important that we really assess how often we fail these veterans and whether or not the VA is doing enough to prevent these deaths from occurring.
Matthew M. Burke (Stars and Stripes) reports on efforts to address this and other issues, US House Rep Jeff Miller is the Chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee:
In February, Miller and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., introduced the VA Management Accountability Act of 2014 in the House and the Senate, respectively. The legislation by the Florida Republicans would give the VA secretary complete authority to fire or demote VA Senior Executive Service or equivalent employees based on performance — the same authority members of Congress have to fire their own staffers. Congress would then be notified for purposes of oversight.
The legislation was introduced Feb. 11 and the committee heard stakeholder opinions during a March 25 hearing. It has 40 co-sponsors from both parties and the support of the major veterans service organizations. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, joined GOP leaders and representatives of several veterans’ service organizations Thursday in the Capitol to discuss the legislation.
“There are some serious problems over at the VA,” Boehner said during the news conference, and the legislation is “another tool” to hold VA facilities accountable.
“What’s missing from the equation is not money or manpower, it’s accountability,” Miller told Stars and Stripes.
At the Defense Dept website, Erin Wittkop notes retired General Peter Chiarelli continues to advocate on behalf of veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress, "Nobody who's 22-years-old wants to be told they have a disorder, that's why I don't call it PTSD. That's why I call it Post-Traumatic Stress." Eleanor Goldberg (Huffington Post) writes about PTS today:
One solution is "getting rid of the 'D' in PTSD," Sgt. Thomas James Brennan, a Marine who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, said on HuffPost Live. "My diagnosis absolutely broke my heart. It’s not because I didn’t know that I didn’t have problems. The word 'disorder' made me feel as though I was damaged. I was embarrassed."
At the heart of the issue, experts say, is that service members are trained to be tough, stoic and independent warriors who can withstand anything when it comes to defending their country and their brothers.
Being a fighter and also having an illness that impairs mental health in many cases is a dichotomy that veterans can’t accept.
Labeling it a "disorder" has created a stigma and yet we see the government 'struggle' to do the right thing which is start referring to it exclusively as PTS. If Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel gave that order (or President Barack Obama), the Pentagon would immediately begin referring to it as PTS as would the VA. This would have a ripple effect on the Congress and the press. And veterans with PTS would be the ones to benefit. The stigma would be removed. And it wouldn't cost a dime.
Staying in the US, Marty Graham (Reuters) reports on the trial into the March 21, 2012 murder of Iraqi-American Shaima Alawadi. Today, Shaima's daughter Fatima Alhimidi took the witness stand and revealed the family took a trip to Iraq in 2011 where her parents -- Shaima and Kassin Alhimidi -- fought over an arranged marriage the father wanted to implement between their daughter and a man in Iraq -- a male cousin in Iraq. The daughter testified, "My mom told him, 'Don't pressure the girl. If the girl doesn't want to marry him, she doesn't have to'." She testified that she finally agreed to the marriage to stop her parents fighting. When the family returned to the US, the daughter announced she wasn't marrying her cousin. She also testified that her mother was seeking a divorce, "My mom couldn't stand him. She didn't want to speak with him anymore." Kassin Alhimidi is on trial for the murder of Shaima.
Let's move to Twitter and stay with the topic of US and Iraq.
I'm doing Benghazi as a footnote so we can stay focused on Iraq but go to the "*" at the end of the snapshot for that issue.
I don't know why anyone would bring up Iraq and the GOP not wanting an inquiry except to falsely imply that the Democrats in Congress want or wanted one. They clearly did and do not.
First off, they control the Senate, they could have one tomorrow. Second, when they controlled the House, they could have held an inquiry (start of 2007 to the start of 2011) but they didn't want to. And Barack Obama has had no desire for one.
Barack's refused to hold Bully Boy Bush and cronies accountable for the Iraq War. Just last November at the Centre for Research on Globalization, Paul Craig Roberts noted:
Now that we have complete proof that the criminal Bush regime took our country to wars in Afghanistan and Iraq solely on the basis of intentional lies, how can the legal institutions, the courts, the American people possibly tolerate the Obama regime’s ignoring of the obvious crimes? How can America simply accept Obama’s statement that we mustn’t look back, only move ahead? If the US government, which has committed the worst crimes of our generation, cannot be held accountable and punished, how can federal, state, and local courts fill up American prisons with people who smoked pot and with people who did not sufficiently grovel before the police state.
Doubtless, the Obama regime, should it obey the law and prosecute the Bush regime’s crimes, would have to worry about being prosecuted for its own crimes, which are just as terrible. Nevertheless, I believe that the Obama regime could survive if it put all the blame on the Bush regime, prosecuted the Bush criminals, and desisted from the illegal actions that it currently supports. This would save the Constitution and US civil liberty, but it would require the White House to take the risk that by enforcing US law, US law might be enforced against its own illegal and unconstitutional acts by a succeeding regime.
And not only will Barack not demand accountability or an inquiry, he attempts to circumvent inquiries conducted by other countries. As Press TV noted last November:
The US government has explicitly ordered Britain not to publish the contents of the four-year-long inquiry into the Iraq War carried out by Sir John Chilcot.
According to a recent report by The Independent, the administration of US President Barack Obama insists that certain parts of the Iraq inquiry, known as the Chilcot Inquiry, could not be released as it is focused on the pre-war conspiracy hatched by former US President George W. Bush and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
If Democrats had made any move for accountability in 2007 -- when they controlled both houses of Congress -- Cindy Sheehan wouldn't have announced she was running for Congress in 2007. She challenged then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and did so because, as she noted in her announcement that she was running, "The Democrats will not hold this administration accountable so we have to hold them accountable, and I for one, will step up to the plate and run against Nancy Pelosi." Did Manker miss all that? Did he miss the shameless attack Katha Pollitt launched on Cindy from The Nation magazine? We covered it here and David Walsh (WSWS) also called Katha's nonsense in real time:
In fact, Pollitt and the magazine’s staff as a whole are supporting Pelosi against Sheehan, although they don’t care to say this explicitly. Pollitt writes, “Pelosi has been a cautious—too cautious—leader, and if a lefter candidate could take her seat, fine.” But it’s clearly not “fine,” because Pollitt is advising Sheehan, someone who enjoys considerable popular support, to desist from opposing the House speaker.
It is a favorite line of the Nation that Pelosi and company have been overly ‘cautious’ in their opposition to Bush. As John Nichols commented delicately, “Pelosi is a war critic, but she has never gone to the mat on the issue.”
The reality is otherwise. The Democrats in Congress were politically complicit in the preparations for war in Iraq and the March 2003 invasion itself, and they remain complicit in the ongoing neo-colonial occupation.
As Sheehan has noted, the escalation of the war has taken place since the Democrats regained a majority in Congress and was only made possible by their collaboration. They are critical of the Bush administration’s tactics, particularly since the results have been so obviously disastrous, but they have no disagreement with the “global war on terror,” a phrase that conceals the American ruling elite’s drive for world domination. They propose shifting the main battlefield to Afghanistan or elsewhere, while maintaining tens of thousands of US troops in Iraq to safeguard American control over its oil supplies.
The reverence evidenced by left-liberal circles for Pelosi is a sign of their right-wing orientation. ‘A Democratic speaker of the House, and the first woman in the job!’ The fact that Pelosi is a multi-millionaire supporter of American imperialism and militarism, who voted for the Patriot Act and supported Bush’s program of warrantless wire-tapping, doesn’t faze Pollitt or her colleagues terribly much.
Manker's Tweets a lot like the propaganda the Democratic Party used to take control of Congress in the 2006 mid-terms and then decided they could use in the 2008 elections as well. In fact, using it in the 2008 elections is part of the reason Democratic Party leadership made the decision not to end the illegal war in 2007, not to kill their own personal golden goose.
Staying with Tweets, here's a very popular one -- based on reTweets:
No one could have seen anyone around the world taking offense with that 'news' -- oh, wait, we called it out on Tuesday.
Way to win those hearts and minds around the world. First, Mark Thompson and others in the press made March all about US troops not dying in Iraq being news (despite Thompson's outlet having the position that there are no US troops in Iraq) while ignoring the March death toll in Iraq and then, on Wednesday, Barack jumped on the stupidity pile.
People used to speak of how Barack could change public opinion of the United States, that really isn't panning out, is it?
It was just last week that Barack was lying about Iraq (see "Iraq snapshot," "Iraq snapshot," "Iraq snapshot," and Third's "Editorial: Land of 1000 Dances"):
It is true that the Iraq War was a subject of vigorous debate – not just around the world, but in the United States as well. I happened to oppose our military intervention there. But even in Iraq, America sought to work within the international system. We did not claim or annex Iraq’s territory, nor did we grab its resources for our own gain. Instead, we ended our war and left Iraq to its people and a fully sovereign Iraqi state could make decisions about its own future.
The next Tweet can be seen as a response to Barack's asinine comments:
That's the reality Barack won't face. In terms of the words Barack needs to be saying? He could take a hint from Desmond Tutu:
The words must be said to the people of Iraq, "We invaded you on the basis of a lie. We are sorry." http://www.huffingtonpost.com/desmond-tutu/never-too-late-to-apologi_b_5083741.html …
Instead of saying that, the US government, led by Barack, arm a despot who attacks the Iraqi people. Joel Wing (Musings on Iraq) crunches the March numbers and offers:
The real cause of March being the deadliest month of 2014 was the fighting in Anbar and Salahaddin. There were 213 incidents in Anbar last month resulting in 343 killed and 622 wounded. That was almost double the number of dead seen in the previous two months, which was 184 each. Despite the provincial government’s claims Ramadi has seen the most fighting in recent weeks. It accounted for 71 of the incidents in March. That was followed by 42 incidents in Fallujah. However many of those were government artillery and mortar fire that killed 122 and wounded 400 civilians. That meant that the government was responsible for 35% of the deaths and 64% of the injuries in Anbar.
And yet the US backs thug Nouri al-Maliki and his assault on Anbar Province.
Staying with violence, Xinhua counts 52 dead and thirty-two injured in violence today and notes, "The deadliest incident occurred near the Iraqi capital Baghdad when security forces fiercely clashed with gunmen who tried to storm a military base in Dwiyliba area outside the town of Yousifiyah, some 25 km south of Baghdad, an Interior Ministry statement said." National Iraqi News Agency reports a Buhriz roadside bombing left 2 Iraqi soldiers dead and two more injured, Baghdad Operations Command stated they killed 4 suspects in between Baghdad and Falluja, a Mosul roadside bombing left 1 Iraqi soldier dead and three more injured, Baghdad Operations Command announced a battle in Yousyfiah left 40 rebels dead, Joint Operations Command state they killed 8 suspects, a Sulaiman Bek car bombing left 4 Iraqi soldiers dwad and twelve more injured, 2 bombings in Hilla left one person injured, a Baquba roadside bombing left two people injured, a Hilla car bombing left 3 women dead and two people injured, a Baghdad car bombing killed 1 person and left eleven more injured, and a Tal al-Sh'eir Village battle left 1 civilian dead and three SWAT members injured.
As campaigns for Iraq's parliamentary elections heat up, it's worth noting that the MPs will vote on someone to be President of Iraq and that Iraq currently does not have a functioning president and has not had one in nearly a year and a half.
December 2012, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani suffered a stroke. The incident took place late on December 17, 2012 following Jalal's argument with Iraq's prime minister and chief thug Nouri al-Maliki (see the December 18, 2012 snapshot). Jalal was admitted to Baghdad's Medical Center Hospital. Thursday, December 20, 2012, he was moved to Germany. He remains in Germany currently.
CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq Tweets today:
Here are all three photos:
Jalal may not be able to fulfill his duties as president but he's clearly the new reverse Streisand. For years (up until Funny Lady), Barbra hated to be filmed from an angle that emphasized the right side of her face.
For some reason, Jalal refuses to show the left side of his face.
That's true in the photos above, true in all of the photos released so far including back in May of 2013 when Jalal was posed for his first series of photos (below is one example).
What's wrong with Jalal's right hand? And why does the Talabani family keep releasing still photos instead of video? Can Jalal speak? What range of motion is he capable of?
Like all the previous photo releases, the latest ones don't answer those questions.
The only advance evident in the latest photos is that Jalal can now smile and show teeth. That's not sarcasm. Whether he can do a full smile or not is unknown. He may only be able to manipulate the right side of his mouth. Clearly, his recovery has not been the 'progress' that the Talabani family has repeatedly announced.
Yesterday, there was another Fort Hood shooting. Eleanor Goldberg (Huffington Post) sums it up, "On Wednesday afternoon, Ivan Lopez, 34, opened fire at Fort Hood in Texas, killing three and injuring 16 before turning the gun on himself. The violence was particularly disheartening because Fort Hood was the site of the worst mass killing at an American military installation, which left 13 people dead and more than 30 injured in 2009." Between the two Fort Hood shootings, there was also the Washington Navy Yard shooting (September 16, 2013) in which Aaron Alexis killed 12 people and left three more injured. Paul D. Shinkman (US News and World Reports) notes the Pentagon review of the Navy Yard Shooting, "The review calls for centralizing security oversight at military installations, trimming the number of people who have security clearances and making it easier for officials to trace the criminal records of those who hold these clearances." Ernesto Londono and Christian Davenport (Washington Post) reported on that review March 18th. Where's the call for a review for yesterday's shooting?
*The Republicans want more attention on Benghazi. And should based on Mike Morrell's testimony on Wednesday that it was known there were no protests from the beginning -- a detail that seemed important in the hearing but one which didn't feature in the 'reporting' of the hearing. US House Rep Dutch Ruppersberger, the Ranking Member, deserves credit for noting the four dead Americans by name and doing so in his opening remarks, "We mourn the deaths of Ambassador Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyron Woods and Glen Doherty, and we honor the other men and women who acted courageously that day to save the lives of others." Members of Congress like Eleanor Holmes-Norton who have rudely refused to name the dead and been dismissive as well have insulted family members of the dead and that insult is part of what continues to fuel the issue. So good for Ruppersberger. For the hearing itself, you can read Sharyl Attkisson's report -- click here. Note, she is not doing individual posts. The report is April 2nd, if you're reading this a great deal afterwards, you will have to scroll through her reports to find the April 2nd one.
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