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Secretive Va Launches New Ptsd Review

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Guest allanopie


Guest allanopie

fwd from: unifiedveteranscoalition


Just six days after canceling one PTSD review, the VA "sneaks in" another – Culture of secrecy makes agency designed to help veterans their biggest foe

by Larry Scott


Over the past year, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA), led by Secretary Jim Nicholson, has turned a deaf ear to veterans and quietly made numerous decisions designed to strip veterans of benefits and compensation.

Secretary Nicholson came to the VA with no understanding of veterans’ advocacy and no experience in the healthcare sector. He had been Chairman of the Republican National Committee and Ambassador to the Vatican. As one pundit put it, "Jim Nicholson can write a good political bumper sticker and knows how to kiss the Pope’s ring. That’s about it."

But, with Secretary Nicholson at the VA helm, veterans have come to feel isolated from the agency’s decision-making processes. And, recent developments have done nothing quell that uneasy feeling.

Earlier this year, veterans were surprised by the VA’s "second signature required" (SSR) policy. SSR applied to approved claims for many "high-dollar" disabilities and stipulated that the claim be re-approved by another VA staffer. However, if the claim was denied by the first staffer, there was no second review.

Veterans’ groups claimed that a SSR policy should apply to all claims for any condition whether they were approved or denied. The fact that the VA chose to apply SSR to disabilities with "high-dollar" compensation was proof to many veterans that the agency was just trying to save money by denying benefits.

The SSR policy was NOT announced by the VA. Only some very good investigative work by Cheryl Reed of the Chicago Sun-Times brought the story to light. This is just one of many instances where the VA has instituted policies detrimental to veterans without making the actions public.

The latest "unannounced" move by the VA is a new review of PTSD diagnosis, treatment and compensation. The VA’s plans came to light on November 16, just six days after they had canceled a review of 72,000 PTSD claims awarded at 100 per cent disability. Pressure from veterans’ groups and Democrat members of Congress forced the cancellation.

The VA’s new PTSD review was not announced by the VA. There was no VA press release. There was no VA press conference. The information was not posted on the VA web site.

Information about the new PTSD review was made public in a press release by Senator Larry Craig (R-ID), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. The release, in part, said, "The Department of Veterans Affairs announced today that it has contracted with the Institute of Medicine (IOM) on a two-pronged approach to the examination of PTSD."

Except, the VA hadn’t announced anything. They were using Senator Craig as their conduit to hand out the bad news. Since Craig’s press releases don’t have a high readership, this information has gone virtually unnoticed.

Upon reading Senator Craig’s press release I called the Public Affairs Office at the VA. They had no knowledge of the review. I then called the Institute of Medicine. They had no knowledge of the review.

Senator Craig’s office was more helpful. They forwarded the two documents the VA had sent to them. One document is a Fact Sheet detailing the contract between the VA and the IOM. The other is a Question and Answer sheet. (NOTE: The VA documents are available at the following URL – http://www.vawatchdog.org/newsflash/newsfl...1-23-2005-3.htm )

I encourage all veterans to read the VA documents. They detail a plan to redefine PTSD by altering diagnostic and treatment techniques that will then lead to a complete restructuring of VA compensation. Following are a few excerpts from the VA Fact Sheet.

The IOM "…will review the utility and objectiveness of the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM- IV), and will comment on the validity of current screening instruments and their predictive capacity for accurate diagnoses."

This will allow the VA to write an alternate definition of PTSD exclusive of the DSM-IV and institute new methods of treatment outside of normally accepted guidelines. I wonder what the American Psychiatric Association will say about this?

Also, the IOM "…will review the literature on compensation practices for PTSD…and how changes in the frequency and intensity of symptoms affect compensation practices for PTSD; assessing how compensation practices and reevaluation requirements for PTSD compare with other chronic conditions which have periods of remission and return of symptoms; and reviewing strategies used to support recovery and return to function in patients with PTSD."

And, this will allow the VA to lower PTSD compensation based on "frequency and intensity of symptoms" and "remission and return of symptoms." The VA will also be looking to deny PTSD benefits based on the concept of "recovery and return to function." VA Secretary Nicholson has often used the word "recover" (terribly close to the word "cure") when speaking of veterans with PTSD. The IOM reviews will be completed in a year.

Also, there were two big surprises found in the Question and Answer document. "QUESTION: Why is this study being conducted now? ANSWER: Over the next two years, the [VA] Secretary and the Veterans’ Disability Benefits Commission (VDBC) is (sic) closely examining compensation for all health conditions, including PTSD."

Surprise number one is that the VA has not announced that Secretary Nicholson is examining compensation "for ALL health conditions." Veterans can only look forward to fewer benefits and lower compensation with Nicholson directing this endeavor.

The second surprise is Secretary Nicholson’s mention of the VDBC. The VDBC, by law, is "independent of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs." However, to discover that they are coordinating their efforts should not be a surprise. The VDBC is made up of 13 members who are currently studying all areas of VA compensation. Nine VDBC members were appointed by Republicans. Secretary Nicholson was appointed by President Bush.

Then there is the matter of timing. The VDBC’s charter stipulates that their reports must be done by October of 2006. But, the VDBC has also contracted with the IOM for studies that will not be complete for at least a year. They will be asking for an extension. This means that the VDBC reports from IOM and the VA reports from IOM will be released at the same time, well AFTER the 2006 elections. I don’t believe in coincidence.

Sometime in early 2007, after the elections, VA Secretary Jim Nicholson will be armed with reports from the VDBC and the VA’s IOM studies. Expect a two-fisted attack on veterans’ benefits and compensation from an administration that is the first to shout "Support Our Troops"…until they become veterans.


Larry Scott (larry@vawatchdog.org)served four years in the U.S. Army with overseas tours as a Broadcast Journalist in Korea and the Azores and a stateside tour as a Broadcast Journalism Instructor at the Defense Information School (DINFOS). He was awarded DOD's First Place Thomas Jefferson Award for Excellence in Journalism. After the Army, Larry was a news anchor on WNBC Radio in New York City. He receives VA compensation for a service-connected disability. Larry is a regular on the Thom Hartmann show on KPOJ radio in Portland, Oregon. Today, Larry resides in Southwest Washington and operates the website VA Watchdog dot Org.

View it at http://xsorbit27.com/users5/unifiedveteran...ic=2711.new#new


The unifiedveteranscoalition Team.

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Guest allanopie

I also agree with the lady from CA.

I wonder why, sick veterans are allowed to be targeted by budgetary head hunters like, Nicholson & Buyers? They feed on the well being of veterans like hungry magots.

With no evidence or basis to their reasoning as to why these vets should be targeted, they persue them eagerly and persistantly.

One of us has already taken his life over this relentless attack to target funding of mentally ill Veterans with PTSD.

This tag team, has an obvious vendetta towards veterans.

I'm not going to worry about it either, but I find it discusting behaviour by those in a position to determine care for veterans.

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They're not going to stop until the VSOs and/or our representatives take a moral stand on PTSD. I'm sure they can easily look up the statistics of, exactly, how many vets have died as a result of PTSD and their dealings with the VA and use it against them, but it will require some hard work and dedication and I just don't see that out of the VSOs or our elected officials at this time.

It all comes down to american influence. They know that if this stuff get presented to the american public that they will ALL lose their jobs and the VA budget will double, because the american people will not stand for policies that hurt disabled veterans. This is why I am not a fan of VSOs...I believe they intentionally keep the battles out of the public eye in order to make it look like they're helping vets in the small circle of vet related issues, but they keep it in said small circle as to not rock the boat and effect major change. Honestly, I can't see how the american public wouldn't have heads rolling if they knew what goes on in the VA.

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I sent a copy of that report to my 2 senators from MN, for what good it will do. as one is a republican, and the other a democrat, not seeking re-election, in 2006.

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  • HadIt.com Elder


I think that you are mistaken in the belief that the average American gives a da**, about Veteran's benefits.

Given that the present Administration has glorified the concept of untrammelled greed, and self-interest, the average AMerican has too many fiscal concerns of their own, to care very much about anybody else.

The only people I know who have concerns about Veterans, are other Veterans.

The Government can do about anything they want to, since they have already dumped on the general population as a whole, and created a society where there is little time to be concerned about anything but personal survival.

The major VSOs are nothing but a minor political influence, who are more concerned with their own personal agenda, than in addressing Veteran's needs. Now that Buyer has taken away their access to the House, maybe they'll stop playing Washington politics, and start doing what they are collecting dues for. But I won't bet on it.

The VSOs are like any political organization, they focus on the majority of their members. Since many of these are NOT disabled, they can safely ignore their most pressing concerns. You would think, given their name, that DAV would be different - but they're not, in my experience.

In stead of trying to be everything to everybody, the VSOs should focus ALL their attention on ONE matter at a time, and pursue that ONE item with furious determination. That MIGHT achieve something. But, each one has an axe to grind, and so the effort is spread over too big an area of concern, to be effective.

However, as long as mini politicians run the VSOs, they'll not ever achieve a consensus on what to pursue.

Pessimistic? Sure! But I've never seen anything from AL, VFW, DAV, that would change my mind.

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