Problems with the Miami VA, Praise for a VA Training Video

Patricia Kime, writing for the Air Force Times, finds members of Congress questioning assertions by VA staff that conditions have improved for veterans seeking medical at the Miami VA. Here’s part of her story:

Miami VA Medical Center

Two years after 3,000 veterans at the Miami VA Medical Center learned they had undergone endoscopic procedures with unsterilized equipment, putting them at risk for contracting HIV, hepatitis and other deadly infections, the facility continues to suffer problems that affect patient care, members of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee said Wednesday.

From a delay in notifying 18 veterans that their personal information recently was sold for profit, to a miscommunication in August that resulted in the death of an Air Force veteran, the list of issues at the Miami VA is vast — and no one is being held accountable, committee members said.

The committee sponsored the hearing to address specific problems at the Miami VAMC and question a top VA official about department management practices, safety and what several House members called a “culture of fear” that discourages employees from reporting problems.

Committee Chairman Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., cited a 2-year-old case of the hospital’s public affairs officer, who lost her email account and her job and was forced to transfer before an investigative board decided the 17 accusations against her were false.

“Things going on at the Miami VA Medical Center are atrocious. And if it’s better today than it was, I can only imagine how bad it must have been if you think it’s moving in the right direction,” Miller told VA Miami and headquarters officials.

You can read the full Air Force Times story HERE.

A problem of stolen identity and improperly removed patient records also surfaced at Tampa’s VA Medical Center. Howard Altman wrote in the Tampa Tribune that VA records were found at a marijuana bust at a Tampa motel back in May. There’s an ongoing local and federal investigation into how the records were removed.

On a different note, the Veterans Administration is being praised by Veterans for Common Sense for its new training video.  The VA recently hired U.S. Army veteran Kyle Hausmann-Stokes to produce the four-minute training video for department employees and new hires. You can watch it below:

Invisible Injuries Getting Second Look

Several years ago, a VA physician taught me about invisible injuries.” His experience started when he was teaching wounded warriors how to put on prosthetic devices to replace their missing limbs. But many had trouble remembering his instructions from one day to the next.

A closer look uncovered Traumatic Brain Injuries or TBI. The wounded warrior had no physical head wounds, but the impact of the explosive device that took their limbs also jarred their brains.

There are thousands of military members who survived an explosive device with no outward wounds. Their “invisible wounds” or brain injuries got little or no attention and were rarely considered a “wound” worthy of a Purple Heart.

A recent Air Force Times article, posted March 26, 2011, reports that attitudes may be changing. Below is a portion of that story, the full article can be read here.

Air Force Times

The services are engaged in a long overdue effort to clarify rules for the Purple Heart, one of the military’s most coveted medals.

All four branches are studying an Army-led push to declare that troops who suffer concussions as a result of combat actions are entitled to a Purple Heart.

That means, for example, that soldiers in a vehicle that hits a bomb buried in the road qualify if they suffer a concussion.

In theory, the rules already allow for that. But in practice, it’s clear that few such head injuries have earned wounded service members a Purple Heart…

…. This is not just about hanging a ribbon on troops. Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Chiarelli hopes that giving Purple Hearts for invisible injuries will help remove the stigma that often keeps troops from seeking the medical help they need to recover from concussions as well as post-traumatic stress — injuries that too often have been mistaken by commanders as signs of malingering or poor attitude.

If he’s right, perhaps these awards will result in something even more meaningful: helping to reduce the number of suicides, divorces and domestic violence incidents that plague troops coming home from the war zones.

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