After spending years trying to meet the demands of the most recent generation of veterans, while tending to those of previous wars, the Department of Veterans Affairs is still missing the mark. In a special report by USA Today, Donovan Slack writes that as the VA struggles to address the complex medical needs of veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Vietnam era veterans require more care.
This means that an already beleaguered system is only going to be put under greater strain in years to come.
The department's failures have gained national attention in recent years, from the benefit-claims backlog to the manipulation of patient wait-time records. While there have been changes to the VA at the highest levels, with former secretary Eric Shinseki Stepping down, and the passage of major bills like the Choice Act and the creation of the Choice Card Program, it can be hard to tell if the situation has improved.
For instance, in the last three years, the Oklahoma City VA Medical Center has had five directors, and is awaiting the appointment of a sixth, reports USA Today.
“Measures of patient safety — the rates of in-hospital complications and adverse events following surgeries and procedures — are among the highest of VA facilities across the country, as are mortality rates for patients suffering from pneumonia or congestive heart failure,” writes Slack, adding that the Oklahoma City VA also has the highest turnover rates among registered nurses, and according to the department's own statistics, has one out of five stars for performance.
The problems and challenges facing the department are most keenly felt by the veterans who seek treatment through the VA.
When 65-year-old George Washington Purifoy originally complained of severe pain after radiation therapy damaged the bone under his nose, clinicians at the VA sent him to receive root canals and other procedures, thinking it was a dental problem.
Now Purifoy has no nose or front teeth and he’s still in pain.
To add insult to injury, the passage of the Choice Act should have allowed Purifoy to seek treatment from a private healthcare provider nearby, but instead he has to drive six hours from his home for treatment at a VA facility in Shreveport, Louisiana.
While the VA says it has hired more than 1,500 doctors in the past year to increase patients’ access to care, the agency said there is still no VA surgeon in the state who can treat Purifoy, writes Slack.
“I don’t know if there are others — there probably are, but it just seems like there’s a lot of miscommunication among the departments, a lot of lost time where patients come for appointments and the doctors they’re supposed to see are not there, a lot of people managing things but missing the big picture,” said Dr. Marci Levine, who reviewed Purifoy’s case along with four others at the request of USA Today. “And then the patients are obviously suffering at the end.”
Former Marine Commandant Gen. Charles Krulak has issued a statement urging President Donald Trump and members of Congress to oppose pardons for those accused or convicted of war crimes since, he argued, it would "relinquish the United States' moral high ground."
"If President Trump follows through on reports that he will mark Memorial Day by pardoning individuals accused or convicted of war crimes, he will betray these ideals and undermine decades of precedent in American military justice that has contributed to making our country's fighting forces the envy of the world," said Krulak, who served in the Marine Corps for more than three decades before retiring in 1999 as the 31st Commandant.
Editor's Note: The following story highlights a veteran atAssociated Materials. Committed to including talented members of the military community in its workplace, Associated Materials Incorporated is a client of Hirepurpose, a Task & Purpose sister company. Learn more here.
Associated Materials, a residential and commercial siding and window manufacturer based in Ohio, employs people from a variety of backgrounds. The company gives them an opportunity to work hard and grow within the organization. For Tim Betsinger, Elizabeth Dennis, and Tanika Carroll, all military veterans with wide-ranging experience, Associated Materials has provided a work environment similar to the military and a company culture that feels more like family than work.
President Donald Trump will nominate Barbara Barrett to serve as the next Air Force secretary, the president announced on Tuesday.
"I am pleased to announce my nomination of Barbara Barrett of Arizona, and former Chairman of the Aerospace Corporation, to be the next Secretary of the Air Force," Trump tweeted. "She will be an outstanding Secretary! #FlyFightWin"
The Trump administration is trying to assure Congress that it does not want to start a war with Iran, but some lawmakers who fought in Iraq are not so sure.
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford both briefed Congress on Tuesday about Iran. Shanahan told reporters earlier on Tuesday that the U.S. military buildup in the region has stopped Iran and its proxies from attacking U.S. forces, but the crisis is not yet over.
"We've put on hold the potential for attacks on Americans," Shanahan said. "That doesn't mean that the threats that we've previously identified have gone away. Our prudent response, I think, has given the Iranians time to recalculate. I think our response was a measure of our will and our resolve that we will protect our people and our interests in the region."
U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brian M. Wilbur/Handout via REUTERS
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump warned on Monday Iran would be met with "great force" if it attacked U.S. interests in the Middle East, and government sources said Washington strongly suspects Shi'ite militias with ties to Tehran were behind a rocket attack in Baghdad's Green Zone.
"I think Iran would be making a very big mistake if they did anything," Trump told reporters as he left the White House on Monday evening for an event in Pennsylvania. "If they do something, it will be met with great force but we have no indication that they will."