Blake Uddin, a US Sergeant in the Wisconsin National Guard
, returned from his second tour in Iraq and sought help from the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center after suffering through six sleepless nights. He drove himself to the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs hospital in order to receive medical attention for voices inside his head telling him to do various things. After a two-hour medical exam, doctors refuse to admit him because they did not view him as a "threat to himself or others."
Instead, the doctor told him to come back in a week for a check-up. Four days after his unsuccessful trip to the the VAMC in Minneapolis, he admitted to hearing voices in his head telling him to run. "Run... Run.. They're coming," he heard. So he ran, and stole a car. He didn't make it far, however, because he crashed the car after speeding across four lanes of traffic during morning rush hour. Uddin was captured on camera stepping out of the car in front of a semi when he was hit by a van and launched 50-feet away into a ditch.
This situation is very sad, but not at all uncommon. An investigation was opened by the Department of Veterans Affairs inspector general last year after a soldier returned from Iraq and stepped in front of a train just three days after the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Palo Alto, California refuse to treat him. Another case involves a Lexington, Kentucky window whose husband committed suicide hours after the VA hospital refused to provide him treatment.
A recent report provides that one in three soldiers that return from Iraq attempt to receive mental health care from the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center. There is a growing concern over the VA for failing the key mission of helping soldiers deal with mental issues including schizophrenia, PTSD, depression, and suicidal thoughts. In response to a lack of immediate care, the DVA launched a 24-hour suicide hot-line that soldiers and their families can call when they are experiencing crisis.
Mental Health is not the only area where Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers fall short on providing proper care for Veterans. The John Cochran Veterans Affairs Medical Center
in St. Louis found itself in fire after notifying over 1,800 patients in 2010 that they may have been exposed to HIV, hepatitis or other viruses while receiving treatment at the dental clinic in the hospital. Four Veterans were later diagnosed with Hepatitis due to the un-sterile environment in the clinic.
Another case involves the Dayton Veterans Affairs Medical Center
where Chuck Pennington underwent a liver biopsy. The doctor performing the surgery injected too much blood thinner into the man, and did not have nurses check on him after the surgery. Pennington passed away as a result of medical malpractice. His wife received $940,000 in payments from the VA Medical center; she was one of eight families that received settlements for fatal errors during surgeries between 2005 and 2008.
A report released by the United States Government Accountability Office found that claims of medical malpractice at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers nation rise increased 33% over a five-year period ending in 2010. This is a big problem in quality of care provided to nearly 5 million veterans each year. Soldiers and veterans deserve more than negligent health care provided by the VAMC system. After all, they risk their lives for our country. The least we can do in return is provide them with quality and reliable health care.
I would encourage any Veterans or family member of a Veteran who suffers at the hands of the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center to contact the Disabled American Veterans
organization to report problems. The abuse and negligence will only continue until enough people speak out about their suffering or their family members who have suffered.