Ruminations on the VA Medical Center in KC (Pt. 1)


Veterans Affairs police officers on VA grounds across America ” have beaten veterans, bungled sensitive investigations, falsified arrest reports, conducted improper searches, and ignored basic procedures, like reading citizens their Miranda rights.-The Intercept

By Kevin Stoda

Every evening and morning, I look out at the Kansas City VA Medical Center just down the hill from where I live here off Linwood Avenue in eastern Kansas City, Missouri. It is also a place where Vets go to get help as well as a place to go to commit suicide.

It is a humongous building and makes me pray for the victims and perpetrators of war American-style decade-after-decade. It is a place where vets die from confrontations in the parking lot.

You see, earlier this year, Dale Farhner, “of Kingston, Missouri, was driving himself to the emergency room at the Kansas City VA Medical Center in May 2018 because of an infection from a hernia surgery he’d had there. A VA Police officer stopped him because he was going the wrong way in the parking lot. An argument ensued, and one or two officers took Farhner to the ground, according to a suit filed by his family. He was semi-conscious when he got to the emergency room and was transferred to the University of Kansas Hospital, where he died two days later at age 66.”

In addition, “The VA has also refused to provide information about Farhner’s death to members of Congress and Farhner’s family, who filed their wrongful death suit in May 2019 after they got no response to an administrative complaint.”

WAIT TIMES

According to Tory Waldron, “Since 1930, the United States has provided medical services for war veterans in the form of Veterans Administration (VA) hospitals. Those qualifying for VA medical care include veterans that served in active military, naval, or air service with an honorable discharge. With so many veterans seeking care, these hospitals prioritize those that incurred a service-related permanent disability, followed by former prisoners of war, purple heart recipients, housebound and catastrophically disabled veterans, and those on VA pensions and Medicaid. This, unfortunately, also can also lead to longer wait times for the “less-priority” veterans.

Aside from stress of being on long wait lists, Vets have too often been systematically discriminated against when mental health has caused them to leave the military in disgrace. The Intercept released a long article castigating the VA not long ago.

In the article, according to The Intercept, “Violent incidents like [the one note above in KC’s VA Medical Center] can have fatal consequences. In 2014, the VA paid out a $500,000 settlement to the family of Jonathan Montano, a veteran who died following a physical altercation with police at the VA hospital in Loma Linda, California. Police ruptured Montano’s carotid artery, which resulted in blood clotting and a stroke. ”

Moreover, “

Today, nearly 4,200 Veterans Affairs police officers are stationed at 139 VA medical centers across the country. These cops are tasked with keeping order on VA grounds and overseeing a patient population that includes many highly trained ex-military members with psychological trauma. The force’s motto is “Protecting Those Who Served.” Yet for Hathaway and scores of other veterans, that maxim hasn’t matched the reality on the ground. After reviewing internal police reports, legal documents, and local news reports spanning the past 10 years, The Intercept has identified dozens of credible allegations that VA cops in every corner of the United States have neglected standard police procedures, violated patients’ constitutional rights, or broken the law.

The Inspector General’s own report of December 2018 had indicated that the VA’s Offices do “not have adequate and coordinated governance over its police program to ensure effective management and oversight for its approximately 4,000-strong police officer workforce.”

” The OIG’s 2018 report was the latest in a string of embarrassing inquiries dating back to the late 1980s,” The Intercept has noted. Meanwhile, ” VA police in Washington, D.C., allege that they were repeatedly ordered to falsify training records, dispatch journals, and police reports.

PARKING LOT SUICIDES

The Washington Post has noted, meanwhile, “Veterans are taking their own lives on VA hospital campuses, a desperate form of protest against a system that they feel hasn’t helped them.”

“Justin Miller, a 33-year-old Marine Corps trumpet player and Iraq veteran” committed suicide in the parking lot in Minneapolis in February this year. The Post article went on to note that “federal investigation into Miller’s death found that the Minneapolis VA made multiple errors: not scheduling a follow-up appointment, failing to communicate with his family about the treatment plan and inadequately assessing his access to firearms. Several days after his death, Miller’s parents received a package from the Department of Veterans Affairs — bottles of antidepressants and sleep aids prescribed to Miller.”

In a single 13 month period (from Oct. 2017 through Nov. 2018), some 19 veterans committed suicide on grounds and parking lots of VA hospitals across the USA. However, this has been going on for years before the trend was noted nationally, e.g. “ John Toombs, a 32-year-old former Army sergeant and Afghanistan veteran, hanged himself on the grounds of the Alvin C. York VA Medical Center in Murfreesboro, Tenn., the morning before Thanksgiving 2016.

In August of this year (2019) another veteran took his life in front of a North Carolina VA hospital. Incongruous VA “Department officials have also said the rate of suicide on VA medical campuses has decreased in recent years, even as the number of veterans who take their own lives in public areas of those locations has risen.”

On the other hand, ” According to department estimates, about 20 veterans a day take their own lives nationwide. Of that group, 14 of them have little to no contact with the department.”

MISFOCUS ON DRAFT NOW RISING IN U.S.A.

Elliot Ackerman , the author of the memoir Places and Names: On War, Revolution, and Returning and three novels, including Waiting for Eden, wrote an article for TIME magazine in October 2019 advocating a draft to end the fact that only the poor and misled youth go to war these days.  

Ackerman served five tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, received the Silver Star, the Bronze Star for Valor, and the Purple Heart. For me, this is incongruous, too.

Why aren’t Vets demanding the end to war en-masse in order to save Americans from more suffering?

Quite logically, as a whole, most citizens of the USA are a bit brainwashed or very brainwashed by endless war propaganda dating back to the Cold War and post-Vietnam War amnesia and mind-manipulation sponsored by the Pentagon and other stakeholders in America’s large standing army–abroad. The needs of Empire need to soak the poor (in order to push them to the militarization of selve option) and have financing of the rich.

So, major media circles still do not pushing to end America’s overreached military footprint and enable us to have things like having a good society for the majority of Americans as presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren has finally featured in her newest health care plan.

Vets need to circle the wagon with the Progressives and reduce our military footprint globally, bring the boys and girls home, and Really Make America Wonderful Again

About eslkevin

I am a peace educator who has taken time to teach and work in countries such as the USA, Germany, Japan, Nicaragua, Mexico, the UAE, Kuwait, Oman over the past 4 decades.
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