American Veteran News 03.10.16

PHOENIX VA EMPLOYEE SAYS PHYSICIANS ARE SCHEMING TO KEEP VETERANS OUT OF APPOINTMENTS — An employee at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Phoenix hospital just revealed physicians are blocking off open time slots so they can retain easy schedules, effectively increasing wait times for veterans, some of whom have waited over 400 days for an appointment. Kuauhtemoc Rodriguez, a former Army infantry officer, has repeatedly brought the issue of physician scheduling to leadership at the hospital, only to be ignored. Now, he’s letting Congress and the media know exactly what’s happening at the facility. Rodriguez noted psychotherapy physicians are putting a hold on large time slots and refusing to let staff unblock them, even though some veterans have languished for over 400 days waiting to see a psychotherapist. This process lets some doctors have between three to five hours of free time every single day by blocking off the hours of 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 1 to 4 p.m., according to emails obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation. Since Rodriguez’s staff cant schedule veterans into open slots, these veterans have to be placed on electronic waitlists. “When I first reported it, there were hundreds of vets waiting up to 400 days. Now we have close to 100 still waiting over 120 days for there first appointment,” Rodriguez told TheDCNF. “My fellow Veterans deserve the mental health care that they earned and they should not continue to have their care delayed because MH psychologists want a cushy schedule,” Rodriguez added. Not only do physicians block off large segments of the day, they also have astronomical appointment cancellation rates. In five clinics out of a total of 20, the cancellation percentages were: 33.33 percent, 35 percent, 24 percent, 11.43 percent and 21.05 percent.

VETERANS COMING FORWARD IN SUPPORT OF WHISTLEBLOWERS — PHOENIX (KPHO/KTVK) – Our VA investigations are now garnering national attention, as one veteran sheds light on the very person who now runs the Phoenix VA. Ted Stachulski says current Phoenix VA Hospital Director Deborah Amdur refused to give him key information about his treatment and lied to a senator about it when she was the director overseeing the Vermont VA Medical Center. After watching our numerous reports about long wait times, unsanitary practices and veteran suicides, Stachulski stands with the whistleblowers that have come forward. The U.S. Marine veteran was the subject of a bombshell in Vermont, and with the latest reports coming out of the VA in Phoenix, he said he doesn’t want history to repeat itself.

LEGISLATION WOULD HALT BAD MILITARY DISCHARGES DUE TO PTSD, TBI — Lawmakers want to avoid having troops disgracefully forced from the ranks because of behavior related to post-traumatic stress or traumatic brain injuries, but Pentagon officials may already be on the way to fixing the problem. Last week, a coalition of Republican and Democratic lawmakers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan introduced legislation to ensure that military discharge review boards must consider troops’ mental health issues, and must accept a PTSD or TBI diagnosis from a professional as an acceptable rebuttal to a dismissal. The move could affect thousands of military discharges each year and open the door for a review of more. Army officials have confirmed that at least 22,000 combat veterans have received less-than-honorable discharges since 2009, many for minor offenses like alcohol use or lateness. For some troops, those infractions are a sign of untreated issues like PTSD and TBI. A less-than-honorable discharge severely limits the care and support options for those veterans, leaving them with decreased medical support and an increased risk of suicide.

“Those discharges could be a death sentence for these veterans,” said Kris Goldsmith, an advocate behind the legislative push.

BUPRENORPHINE MAY BEAT OPIOIDS FOR TRIAD OF PAIN, PTSD, SUDS — Buprenorphine (multiple brands) may be superior to opioids in the treatment of veterans with the difficult triad of chronic pain, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and substance use disorders (SUDs), new research shows. In a retrospective cohort study, investigators found that twice as many veterans treated with the partial nociceptin opioid receptor agonist experienced improvement in PTSD symptoms, beginning at 8 months and increasing over time. In contrast, those treated with opioids experienced a worsening of symptoms. “This positive effect on PTSD symptoms, although modest, increased with increasing time on buprenorphine without an increase in pain. In contrast, there was a nonsignificant trend toward worsening of PTSD symptoms with more time on opioid therapy,” the authors, led by Karen Seal, MD, MPH, San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the University of California, San Francisco, write.

APPEALS OF PTSD VICTIMS UNJUSTLY DENIED — The military has, over the past few years, acknowledged the role post-traumatic stress disorder can play in behavioral problems that result in less-than-honorable discharges. Such stigmatizing discharges can ruin lives, dogging a person for a lifetime by denying benefits and job preferences. The military’s newfound acknowledgment is not helping enough of those who were discharged before this awakening. The burden to prove the condition — and that it’s service-related — has been on veterans. Their appeals to upgrade their discharges have been dismissed in rubber-stamp fashion. These denials have occurred though, post-discharge, a VA hospital has diagnosed PTSD in those individuals soon after their service separations.

SENATORS ASK DOD TO DELAY TRICARE AUTISM THERAPY RATE CHANGES — Tricare should postpone plans to cut payment rates for providers of autism therapy until they can conduct a “careful re-evaluation” on research of what the rates should be, four senators wrote in a letter sent Tuesday to the Defense Department. “We are writing to express our great concern about the Defense Health Agency’s (DHA) proposal to reduce Tricare reimbursement rates in 2016 for Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy to beneficiaries diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD),” the letter states. “We, therefore, ask that you postpone these reimbursement rate cuts until valid reimbursement rates for ABA providers have been established.”


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