Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Taking It to the Streets

In 1981, during the late and unlamented reign of Saint Ronald, the VA health care system was in a shambles and had been for years. But the "trickle down" economic theories ("voodoo economics", according the description of one George Bush, who had a sudden epiphany to the contrary when he became St Ronald's sidekick) served to put the hobnail boots to it.

Descriptions of the VA hospitals in those days sound eerily familiar to today's readers: Moldy walls, dirty floors, a swarm of vermin, and complete denial by the administration that there was anything wrong.

Back then it took a catalyst to bring change. A man named Jim Hopkins, a real pissed-off veteran, drove his Jeep through the doors of the VA's Wadsworth Medical Center in LA and opened fire with an AR-14 into the photos of Reagan and Carter on the walls, and then to make it even more dramatic, also shot off a pistol and a shotgun.

Fortunately no one was injured, not even Hopkins when the police hauled him off in shackles. But he was shouting that Agent Orange was destroying his brain.

Back then we still had a media with some balls and a concept of investigative journalism. The Hopkins case turned into a national focus on the administration's denial of veterans, and specifically Agent Orange, PTSD and cuts in VA health care funding.

Hopkins died under mysterious circumstances in May of 1981, and his death sparked first a sit-in at the Wadsworth Center and then, after Reagan callously dismissed them as a bunch of whiners, it turned into a hunger strike.

When the strikers were ejected from the center by force, they regrouped in front of the White House and garnered international media attention that forced the world to focus on the shabby and unconscionable treatment of veterans in this country.

It was only after the embarrassment was too much for St Ronald that Congress negotiated a settlement.

And the result of that settlement as recognition of Agent Orange poisoning and PTSD.

Is it going to take another hunger strike on the part of this nation's veterans to bring about change to the VA health care system? Are we going to have to take it to the streets?

Oh, and you might want to remember the actions of St Ronald the next time one of your pinhead neocon reactionary friends tries that "Republicans take care of America's veterans" lie on you.

Source: See Killing Our Troops Slowly: Deja Vu All Over Again by Michael O'McCarthy.

9 Comments:

RoseCovered Glasses said...

We need to be careful to differentiate between the Active Service Hospitals and the Veteran’s Administration. There are major differences.

I am currently a resident in a Veteran’s Home after having undergone treatment through the VA for PTSD and Depression, long overdue some 40 years after the Tet Offensive that cap stoned my military 2nd tour in Vietnam with a lifetime of illness.

My blog has attracted the stories of many veterans such as myself and other sufferers from PTSD who were victimized by elements of society other than the VA system of medical and mental treatment. I, for one, became trapped in the Military Industrial Complex for 36 years working on weapons systems that are saving lives today but with such high security clearances that I dared not get treated for fear of losing my career:

http://rosecoveredglasses.blogspot.com/2006/11/odyssey-of-armaments.html

When my disorders became life threatening I was entered into the VA System for treatment in Minneapolis. It saved my life and I am now in complete recovery and functioning as a volunteer for SCORE, as well as authoring books and blogging the world.

When I was in the VA system I was amazed at how well it functioned and how state of the art it is for its massive mission. Below is a feature article from Time Magazine which does a good job of explaining why it is a class act:

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1376238,00.html

I had state of the art medical and mental care, met some of the most dedicated professionals I have ever seen and was cared for by a handful of very special nurses among the 60,000 + nursing population that make up that mammoth system. While I was resident at the VA Hospital in Minneapolis I observed many returnees from Iraq getting excellent care.

I do not say the VA system is perfect but it is certainly being run better on a $39B budget than the Pentagon is running on $494B.

We have bought into the Military Industrial Complex (MIC). If you would like to read this happens please see:

http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2007/03/spyagency200703

Through a combination of public apathy and threats by the MIC we have let the SYSTEM get too large. It is now a SYSTEMIC problem and the SYSTEM is out of control. Government and industry are merging and that is very dangerous.

There is no conspiracy. The SYSTEM has gotten so big that those who make it up and run it day to day in industry and government simply are perpetuating their existance.
The politicians rely on them for details and recommendations because they cannot possibly grasp the nuances of the environment and the BIG SYSTEM.

So, the system has to go bust and then be re-scaled, fixed and re-designed to run efficiently and prudently, just like any other big machine that runs poorly or becomes obsolete or dangerous.

This situation will right itself through trauma. I see a government ENRON on the horizon, with an associated house cleaning.

The next president will come and go along with his appointees and politicos. The event to watch is the collapse of the MIC.
For more details see:

http://www.rosecoveredglasses.blogspot.com

UH1charlie said...

"My blog has attracted the stories of many veterans such as myself and other sufferers from PTSD who were victimized by elements of society other than the VA system of medical and mental treatment."

Your blog must not have attracted Combat Veterans that were savaged and shamed by the VA system of the 60's & 70's. I don't think of my self as a 'victim', I think of the people in the system that try to fuck with me or my Brothers to be victim's....LOL.

I've helped hundreds of Veterans from the Second Iraq War to WWII deal with the dysfunctional VA Family. I find the most needy Veterans least likely to get help from the VA. I don't expect it to change any time soon, no matter what face you put on it. There are good people that work for the VA but their the outlaws.
Nuff said,
UH1Charlie

chelsea said...

Dear One Pissed Off Veteran,

I'm a producer for a national public radio show, Open Source, www.radioopensource.org.

We're putting together a show on the obstacles that Iraq war veterans face. How is their experience unique? What is the government failing to do? What are US citizens failing to do? How does this war differ from previous wars as far as taking care of veterans? I'd like to get your perspective on this-- as a Vietnam Veteran what 's your take?

Are you interested in participating? If so, I'd like to record a phone interview with you, which we would play during the broadcast.

We are aiming to broadcast this show next Monday, 7:00-8:00 PM, EST. Please email me or call if this is of interest.


Many thanks and best regards,
Chelsea Merz
__________

Chelsea Merz
Producer
www.radioopensource.org
617-497-8093

C-dell said...

shame. What is happening when even the soldiers are mistreated in the public shpere?

Farnsworth said...

RCG, you are correct. My wrath sometimes results in a conflation of all military service medical care into one large entity.
It is important to differentiate between the unconscionable chaos at Walter Reed -- part of the regular Army medical system -- and the regular chaos over at the VA.
To my chagrin, I am aware of that difference and did not express it.
Congratulations on your recovery. I know many who were not so lucky.
Everybody, surf on over to his blog. It's worth the read.
Welcome home, brother.

Farnsworth said...

Chelsea, thank you for your interest and your invitation. I'll give you a call tomorrow.
I have only one stipulation: You have to allow me to shamelessly promote my book...

Seven of Six said...

The VA works wonders for some.

For others it is a nightmare.

If you don't have copies of your medical records they easily get lost, for no explained reason. (In reality it because it puts the onus back on the Veteran to produce those records and proof of injuries!) I hand carried all my medical records from each duty station.
When it was time to ETS, I waited until they were in my hand. I had to go back 3 days until they were ready. I was not leaving without them. This was advice my Dad (WWII Vet) gave me, BTW.

I was discharged 0% at first. It was not until a suicide attempt that they knew something was wrong. Even then my first evalution was only 10%. It really does depend on who is interviewing you. On my second suicide attempt, they determined that I had serious problems. I was confined to a Psychiatric ward for 90 days. They then learned of my back injury in the military, shoulder injury, and other misc. nagging injuries. I was finally getting the attention from the VA that I should have gotten when I was originally discharged from the Army. It's fucking hard to concentrate on life when your hurt and in major pain.

Of course I could go on and on about the 3 other VA hospitalizations but what's the point, I have mine know. And the VA is good at prescribing all the meds in the world for you. They just aren't good at continuing the in depth treatment.

Plain and simple, they just don't have the bodies or funding.

Seven of Six said...

BTW, RCG has been making the rounds with the same story. Plant possibly?

I'd like to talk to him more.

Anonymous said...

'BTW, RCG has been making the rounds with the same story. Plant possibly?'

Hummm,
I personally E-mailed him, feeling a bit bad for having jumped on him for using the word 'Victim', when referring to veterans. I mentioned that I served two tours and was wounded during the TET Offensive. Funny,I never heard back.
Still sore or working for the VA?....LOL
Xin Loi,
UH1Charlie