Posts Tagged ‘Epidemic’

The Denial Twist

Thursday, March 19th, 2009

Why is the VA unwilling to feature suicide prevention on their website? Suicide prevention used to show up only in the “Top Info Requests” section on the home page, and now it is completely gone.

If you go into the Health Care section of the site, there is a small banner buried within all of the clutter.

Maybe Everett (Call me Ev) Chasen, Ira Katz, or Michael Kussman, have been sending emails to the website people with subject lines like “Shhhh…”

Anyone with a website that gives a rats ass about the welfare of Veterans has a prominent banner linking to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

It is patently offensive and completely unconscionable that the VA does not prominently display suicide prevention on their home page.

When you have Michael Kussman justifying the number of Veterans committing suicide by saying, Well, there are so many of them…, it is no wonder that the VA is burying Lifeline information right along with all those Veterans killing themselves.

suicidepreventionlifeline.org

National Disgrace

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008

On May 11th we said: ”

“I disagree with the premise that there was some effort to cover something up,” Kussman testified Thursday. “We don’t obfuscate.”

That came from testimony Kussman gave in the “Veterans Lawsuit“.

In an article appearing in The Saginaw News on May 9th, Jean Spenner states: “Comments from Ed Mason, president of the union chapter at the center, must go through the public affairs office, said Carrie Seward, public affairs officer.”

The story is about a hangman’s noose that was found in an employees locker at the VA hospital in Saginaw.

I have been a very vocal critic of the VA spin and rotation propaganda machine for a long time.

And that’s why.  At the same time that Kussman is testifying, under oath, that the VA doesn’t obfuscate, Carrie Seward is giving us another example of just how the VA does obfuscate.

By ensuring that all comments from the employee union president are routed through her, Carrie Seward can guarantee that only the “Official Message” makes it out.

And that’s the way the VA works.  Just like in the email that Katz sent to the VA spin doctor Everett (call me Ev) Chasen asking for guidance on how to spin the fact that 17 Veterans EVERY DAY are committing suicide.

The Nazi and Soviet propaganda machines could have learned many lessons from the VA.

The Chinese, Cuban, and Myanmar propaganda machines still can.”  And today we can add Russian propaganda to that list.

Any reasonable person would think, given the intense scrutiny the VA is under about its fundamental failure to make any meaningful progress on reducing the number of suicides among Veterans, that Everett (call me Ev) Chasen would not be allowed to continue to spin this issue; However, the VA isn’t well stocked with reasonable people.  Quite the opposite actually.  This is Everett Chasen’s bio from his employment with something called “The National Writers Group”:  

“Everett A. (Ev) Chasen has been the Veterans Health Administration’s Chief Communications Officer since November 2003. Ev has been with VA since 1987, as OPA Regional Director for Public Affairs in the New York area; Director of VA’s Protocol Staff; Chief of Support Service for the Office of Administration; and Director of the Office of Media Relations. From 1998 to 2003, he was the principal speechwriter for Secretaries Togo West and Anthony Principi.

Before coming to VA, Ev spent thirteen years with the Army Corps of Engineers as a historian and Public Affairs Officer. He has published numerous articles on collectibles, gardening and home decorating, and is a contributing editor to Country Decorating and Country Collectibles magazines.”

Stunning.  Absolutely stunning.  The guy in charge of spinning the failure of the VA has written several articles on home decorating. Further, he is moonlighting with this National Writers Group, which is clearly a conflict of interest. Not only is it a conflict of interest, it is a perfect example of how Washington Insiders, like “Ev”, are getting rich off the backs of tax payers. Following is “Ev’s” latest transmogrification of an extreme negative into a “positive” with our fact checking OK, there’s just too many disparities to fact check now.  Instead, we are providing this link to the actual report:

http://vetsburg.org/PDF/Blue_Ribbon_Report_FINAL_June3008.pdf

Panel Praises VA Suicide Prevention Efforts
A blue–ribbon panel has praised VA for its comprehensive suicide prevention strategy. The panel noted a number of VA initiatives, including a Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the hiring of suicide prevention coordinators. The panel also made a number of recommendations for additional actions. With more than 17,000 mental health professionals, including dedicated suicide prevention coordinators in each of VA’s 153 medical centers, VA is the nation’s largest provider of mental health care. VA’s mental health program this year is funded at more than $3 billion.

“Panel Praises VA Suicide Prevention Efforts

VA Suicide Prevention Panel Completes Draft Report

September 9, 2008

Group Lauds VA’s Comprehensive Strategy

WASHINGTON – A blue-ribbon panel has praised the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for its “comprehensive strategy” in suicide prevention that includes a “number of initiatives and innovations that hold great promise for preventing suicide attempts and completions.”

Among the initiatives and innovations the group studied were VA’s Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-TALK.  The lifeline is staffed by trained professionals 24 hours a day to deal with any immediate crisis that may be taking place.  Nearly 33,000 veterans, family members or friends of veterans have called the lifeline in the year that it has been operating.  Of those, there have been more than 1,600 rescues to prevent possible tragedy.

Other initiatives noted included the hiring of suicide prevention coordinators at each of VA’s 153 medical facilities, the establishment of a Mental Health Center of Excellence in Canandaigua, N.Y., focusing on developing and testing clinical and public health intervention standards for suicide prevention, the creation of an additional research center on suicide prevention in Denver, which focuses on research in the clinical and neurobiological conditions that can lead to increased suicide risk and a plus-up in staff making more than 400 mental health professionals entirely dedicated to suicide prevention.

With the praise, the panel also recommended a mixture of more research, greater cooperation among federal agencies, and more education for health care workers and community leaders to further strengthen and share VA’s ability to help veterans and their families.

“Every human life is precious, none more than the men and women who serve this nation in the military,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. James B. Peake. “The report of this blue-ribbon panel, and other efforts underway, will ensure VA mobilizes its full resources to care for our most vulnerable veterans.”

Called the “Blue Ribbon Work Group on Suicide Prevention,” the five-member group was composed of suicide prevention experts from VA, the Department of Defense, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institute of Health, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.  The group was created by Peake and met June 11-13, 2008.

Among the panel’s recommendations to further enhance VA’s outstanding programs, many of which VA has already begun to implement, are:

  • Design a study that will identify suicide risk among veterans of different conflicts, ages, genders, military branches and other factors.  VA has committed to work with other federal agencies to design such a study within 30 days.
  • Improve VA’s screening for suicide among veterans with depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  VA is in the process of designing a new screening protocol, with pilot test undertaken during the fiscal year quarter beginning Oct. 1, 2008.
  • Ensure that evidence-based research is used to determine the appropriateness of medications for depression, PTSD and suicidal behavior.  VA’s is providing written warnings to patients about side effects, and the Department’s suicide prevention coordinators are contacting health care providers to advise them of the latest evidence-based research on medications.
  • Devise a policy for protecting the confidential records of VA patients who may also be treated by the military’s health care system.  VA is already developing a plan to clarify the privacy rights of patients who come to VA while serving in the military.
  • Increase research about suicide prevention.  VA has announced several funding opportunities this year for research on suicide prevention and is developing priorities for suicide prevention research.
  • Develop educational materials about suicide prevention for families and community groups.  VA is examining the effectiveness of support groups and educational material for the families of suicidal veterans, and producing a brochure for the families of veterans with traumatic brain injury about suicide, which will be available within 30 days.
  • Increase training for VA chaplains about the warning signs of suicide.  VA offices responsible for chaplains and mental health professionals are studying ways to implement this recommendation, with a report due by Nov. 1.
  • Develop a gun-safety program for veterans with children in the home, both as a child-safety measure and a suicide prevention effort.  A VA directive establishing the program is being developed, with full implementation expected during the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, 2008.

VA is the nation’s largest provider of mental health care.  More than 17,000 mental health professionals, including dedicated suicide prevention coordinators in each of VA’s 153 medical centers, are available to care for veterans.  The Department’s mental health program this year is funded at more than $3 billion.”

Will You Believe Me Now?

Sunday, May 11th, 2008

“I disagree with the premise that there was some effort to cover something up,” Kussman testified Thursday. “We don’t obfuscate.”

That came from testimony Kussman gave in the “Veterans Lawsuit“.

In an article appearing in The Saginaw News on May 9th, Jean Spenner states: “Comments from Ed Mason, president of the union chapter at the center, must go through the public affairs office, said Carrie Seward, public affairs officer.”

The story is about a hangman’s noose that was found in an employees locker at the VA hospital in Saginaw.

I have been a very vocal critic of the VA spin and rotation propaganda machine for a long time.

And that’s why.  At the same time that Kussman is testifying, under oath, that the VA doesn’t obfuscate, Carrie Seward is giving us another example of just how the VA does obfuscate.

By ensuring that all comments from the employee union president are routed through her, Carrie Seward can guarantee that only the “Official Message” makes it out.

And that’s the way the VA works.  Just like in the email that Katz sent to the VA spin doctor Everett (call me Ev) Chasen asking for guidance on how to spin the fact that 17 Veterans EVERY DAY are committing suicide.

The Nazi and Soviet propaganda machines could have learned many lessons from the VA.

The Chinese, Cuban, and Myanmar propaganda machines still can.

Head, Meet Wall

Monday, May 5th, 2008

Another Hearing Another Day. The Hearing is being pimped as “The Truth About Veterans Suicides”.

The first panel of witnesses is Peake, Cross, and Katz. Would you trust these three and their minions to provide valuable testimony at a hearing?

Maybe the committee missed the emails.

If you, and me, and a few thousand of our friends faxed the emails to the committee at (202) 225-2034 or called the committee at (202) 225-9756 and refreshed their memories.

Remind them that Peake, Kussman, and Katz think that it is OK that 120 Veterans are committing suicide every week.

You know what they will say, don’t you? They will say that they are going to “grill” them. The politicians will feign righteous indignation and will tell those VA bureaucrats that they are “angry” and “frustrated”.

The politicians will read “heartfelt” statements that were prepared by high-paid lawyer staffers.

Another sham hearing just so politicians can posture.

 At the end of the day the VA will still be unwilling, to the point of belligerence, to do anything about the Veterans Suicide Epidemic.

More Fuzzy Math

Thursday, May 1st, 2008

Anyone who has been a homeless Veteran knows about the “monkey trail”. In Washington, D.C. there’s a comparable occurrence. It’s the never ending flow of bureaucrats from 810 Vermont Ave. NW to Capitol Hill and back.

One key difference between these groups is that the homeless Veteran has nothing to carry and the VA bureaucrat has another bureaucrat carrying their water.

Lately, many of these bureaucrats have been trudging up the Hill to tell “outraged” politicians that the VA has hired gazillions of mental health professionals to help alleviate the non-existent Veterans suicide epidemic.

What the bureaucrats don’t tell and what the politicians don’t ask is how many of the existing mental health professionals are quitting the VA in droves, or are being fired or forced into “early retirement”.

The reason for this is simple. They do this because if people knew the truth they would be outraged and demand accountability. They don’t like accountability. Accountability is hard. Feigning outrage is easy, and it plays well on TV.

However, some people are doing some research at websites like http://www.fedscope.opm.gov/index.asp

And an interesting thing shows up in the statistics. An example is the 4th quarter of FY08. In that quarter the VHA had 8,049 accessions and 4,865 separations during that quarter.

Net result = 3,184 new people. The VA won’t tell you that though. They just talk about the accessions.

The end strength reported for 4Q FY08 in VHA is 233,274. Ira Katz claims that 17,000 of those are mental health professionals. He also claims that the mental health professionals group consists of: “part-time psychiatrists, part-time psychologists, social workers, mental health nurses, counselors, rehabilitation specialists, and other clinicians.”

Why doesn’t he mention residents? Anyone who has been a victim of VA healthcare knows that the vast majority of the experimentation done on Veterans is done by residents.

The majority of the time that the part-time psychiatrists and psychologists spend is on the supervision of these residents.

Is the term “other clinicians” a codeword for resident? We think it is.

Bottom Line? The VA is engaging in fuzzy math tactics to alleviate the intense scrutiny that would come from honesty and forthrightness.

The unobfuscated truth is that only seven percent of VHA employees are “mental health professionals”.

It is reasonable to conclude that there are at least 1 million Veterans seeking mental health treatment through the VA. That is twenty percent of enrolled Veterans. Logic would suggest that seven percent of employees dedicated to twenty percent of the “population” is a woefully inadequate response.

O! Wait. We forgot.

“I disagree with the premise that there was some effort to cover something up,” Kussman testified Thursday. “We don’t obfuscate.”

Silly me! The VA doesn’t obfuscate.

Short Attention Span Theater

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

So Senators Murray and Akaka are holding a press conference today to “Talk about the state of mental health care at the VA and renew their calls for strong leadership and improved care.”

We still haven’t heard anything from Akaka about why he circumvented the normal process and scheduled the confirmation vote on the Peake nomination “expeditiously”, despite assurances by the committee that there would be 48 hours advance notice.

We also haven’t heard why Akaka is only calling for the resignation of Ira Katz and not any other criminally culpable VA bureaucrat.

Murray stated during Peake’s confirmation hearing: “While we shouldn’t dwell on the mistakes of the past, we must learn from them and I expect General Peake to
learn from his predecessors’ failures.  If he fails to change the direction of this agency, he will have to answer for it.”

On the nomination of Kussman, Akaka stated: “I urge you, Dr. Kussman: if you are confirmed, to first and foremost serve as an advocate for veterans. I am quite cognizant of the constraints placed upon you by the White House and OMB. I promise you my full
cooperation and assistance, but I tell you now, that I will not be satisfied unless you work to uphold the promises made to all our troops.”

Because Akaka has a warm and fuzzy relationship with Kussman he is satisfied with Kussman’s status as “advocate” despite the email in which Kussman accepts that it is OK for 120 Veterans per week committing suicide because there are 24 million Veterans.

Because neither Murray nor Akaka are doing anything besides political posturing, Peake, Kussman, Katz, Chasen, Zeiss, Cross, Van Diepen,  O’Grady, and a whole host of other VA bureaucrats who committed felonies by covering up information that could save countless Veterans lives, are getting another free pass.

When will these criminals be brought to justice?  If their fate lies with Murray and Akaka, the answer is never.

Never in this time, that is.  Their actions committed in the dark will be brought into the light, sooner or later, and they will have to answer.

Peake To World: “Erroneous”

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

Despite the unassailable smoking gun evidence of the  emails, Peake stated:

“The notion we’re not trying to get the truth out there is erroneous”

 

Fascinating. Peake also thought that the complaints he was getting about Walter Reed were “erroneous” when he was the Army Surgeon General. The hypermyopia of Peake, Kussman, Katz, and others is doing nothing to stop the Veterans suicide epidemic. The May 6th hearing is listed as “The Truth about Veterans Suicides”. It seems that if Congress wanted to get at the truth, the last person on Earth to testify at that hearing would be Peake. Congress could hold hearings every day, all day, and have an inexhaustible supply of witnesses in the group of War Veterans that have attempted suicide and the parents of War Veterans who succeeded. When will we say “enough”? When 220 War Veterans a week are committing suicide? 440? 880? When? Until Peake and his ilk are held accountable there will be no progress, it will only get worse.

 

 


Will You Believe Me Now?

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

You may have heard about the lawsuit.  Evidence presented includes emails from Ira Katz.  He is the main mental health bureaucrat at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

In this email Katz tells Everett (Call me Ev) Chasen to keep quiet about internal numbers on Veterans suicides.

In this email Katz acknowledges what is being widely reported that there are 120 Veterans per week committing suicide.  In that same email, the Under Secretary for Health at the VA, Michael Kussman, states that 120 Veterans per week committing suicide “Sounds awful but if one is considering 24 million veterans.”

So the Under Secretary for Health at the VA, who is an Army Veteran, believes that 120 Veterans committing suicide per week is OK because there are “24 million”.

Since these emails became public, politicians were quick to jump on the bandwagon and feign righteous indignation.

Message to politicians:  Too Little, Too Late.

These same politicians who are now feigning righteous indignation are the same politicians who have heaped praise on these VA bureaucrats for “Doing the right thing for Veterans”.

We have been telling these politicians for a long time that their praise is misguided.  we have been telling them that there is a culture in the VA bureaucracy of Obfuscate, Deny, Manipulate, Lie, Spin, and apply the full weight of the VA propaganda machine to make sure that the VA “message” is one that disparages critics and buries bad press.

These emails are the absolute best evidence to completely obliterate the rosy facade the VA propaganda machine has built to mislead the public.

Our heartfelt thanks go to CBS News, Armen Keteyian, Pia Malbran, and the rest of the crew that worked so hard on the exhaustive investigation into the epidemic of Veterans suicides.

Our heartfelt thanks also go to all of the good people involved in the lawsuit.  Godspeed.

Please join us in telling Congress that we expect that these VA bureaucrats who have lied to Congress, under oath, will be prosecuted for that felony.

Maybe if one or two dozen of the most heinous of these people are given a perp walk, the rest of the VA bureaucrats will take notice and straighten up their act.

 

 

 

 

Suicides Shut VA Psychiatric Ward

Sunday, April 20th, 2008

More reporting on the Veterans Suicide Epidemic that the VA adamantly denies exists.

More Blame The Veteran Shenanigans At The VA

Thursday, April 17th, 2008

“Dallas VA closes psychiatric wing after 4th patient kills himself.”

Said Dr. Orsak. “No one was ignoring this, and everyone was working hard on the fixes. And then you have a tragedy and you realize there’s more you can do, and some patients have such a will to end their lives, it’s hard to protect them.”

 The Orsak quote is in this article.

She is just another VA employee who would rather blame Veterans for the chronic and massive failures of the VA than take responsibility for those failures.

When will the VA do what they said they would do, and what the law tells them they must do, to end the epidemic of suicides among Veterans?

 

O. I forgot. There is no suicide epidemic among Veterans.

We wonder how Catherine Orsak can look at herself in a mirror after disparaging Veterans so heinously.