West Virginia VA doctor: At least two waiting list patients committed suicide

VA hospital

US Dept of Veterans Affairs

Appalling if true. This story keeps going from bad to worse:

A West Virginia doctor is coming forward with new allegations against the Department of Veterans Affairs, claiming that she too was told to put patients seeking treatment off for months on end — and that at least two of them committed suicide.

The claims add to the mounting controversy surrounding the VA, and allegations in several states that workers were concealing information about the long wait times veterans encountered. VA Secretary Eric Shinseki testified last week before Congress on the scandal, but so far has resisted calls for his resignation.

Dr. Margaret Moxness, who says she was employed at the Huntington VA Medical Center in Charleston, W.Va., from 2008 to 2010, told “Fox & Friends” on Monday that she was told to delay treatment even after she told supervisors they needed immediate care. She said at least two patients committed suicide while waiting for treatment between appointments.

“I was in a very tight-knit community,” Moxness said. “There was lots of extracurricular support: family, faith, vet centers. So we had help, but no thanks to the VA. …I mean, these men were eventually going to need more than a visit every 10 months.”

Moxness, a psychiatrist, says the VA administrators lost touch with patients and claims they were compassionless.

[…]

Moxness, who is currently writing a book on suicide, said her patients would be forced to wait  “months” for a second visit. She said that “means they’re partially treated, which means they’re worse off than no treatment at all.”

Moxness said when she complained to her supervisors that it was harmful to partially treat patients, they stopped talking to her.

“I was functionally silenced,” she said.

As the article goes on to note, many others in several cities around the country have stepped forward as well to note the excessive wait times at other VA facilities nationwide.

Citing this as a prime example of the serious downsides of government-run healthcare, John Fund writes in response:

If our government has any obligation to fulfill its many promises on health care, it should be first and foremost to the men and women who served in our armed forces. But the scandal over hidden waiting lists at a growing number of veterans’ hospitals (seven so far) — wherein dozens of veterans died while waiting months for vital treatment, and the VA covered up the lengthy wait times — should make everyone wonder whether we can place our trust in a government-managed health-care system. The Dayton Daily News reported on Sunday that its investigation of a database of claims paid by the Department of Veterans Affairs shows that the words “delay in treatment” were used 167 times. The VA paid out a total of $36.4 million to settle the claims. There could well be many more cases of “death by delay” at the VA that never came to light.

Are there lessons in the VA scandal for the rest of us if Obamacare survives and even expands?

You betcha. The first lesson is that as government expands taxpayer subsidies for health care, the demand will always outstrip supply.

[…]

The veterans’ hospital scandals now in the news in the United States show just how bad things can get when the pressure of patient demand and waiting lists affects bureaucratic behavior. As many as 40 veterans reportedly died at a Phoenix veterans’ facility because they couldn’t get the care they needed. VA administrators there and at other hospitals apparently covered it up by establishing secret waiting lists and falsifying reports.

No one is suggesting that such scandals are widespread in the general health-care system. But they should serve as a warning sign of what could happen as the pressure to ration, inherent in all government-managed health care, is applied to the general population.

Indeed.

France refuses to fly US WWII vets to Normandy for D-Day anniversary

**Posted by Phineas

"First they stormed Normandy, then their own memorial"

“Dear France, you’re welcome.”

It’s the 70th anniversary, and the men who carried out the landings are in their 80s and 90s, now. You would think, given France’s miserable performance during the war, they could show a little respect and gratitude to those who risked their lives to kick the Nazis out of their country (1). But, no. They’re French, after all.

Ingrates:

Seven decades after ­Allied troops stormed Normandy’s beaches and saved France from the Nazis, the surrender-happy nation is turning its back on hundreds of US veterans who want to return next month to mark the invasion’s 70th anniversary.

France has broken its promise to pay for the vets to fly to this year’s commemoration, according to Rep. Michael Grimm.
“Our chief-of-staff heard it from the French Embassy in DC — that they would be flown out to France [for free],” said Nick Iacono, a spokesman for the Staten Island congressman.

But when The Post contacted the embassy Friday, the French turned up their noses as if smelling rotten Camembert.

“The French government never offered to pay for the plane tickets of the veterans traveling to France for the 70th commemoration of D-Day,” said Dana Purcarescu, a spokeswoman for the French ­Embassy in Washington.

Let’s hope this is the result of some sort of miscommunication, and not the slap in the face it appears to be.

But, I doubt it. This is France we’re talking about. They’ve made condescension and insult into an art form.

Footnote:
(1) And, for the record, I think the French government owes the same respect  and honor to the surviving members of the British, Canadian, and Polish armies that also risked everything on D-Day.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

QOTD: @JakeTapper grills WH Chief of Staff on VA hospital deaths

Jake Tapper

Jake Tapper – CNN’s Chief Washington correspondent and anchor of ”The Lead” afternoon program.

CNN’s Jake Tapper is one of the few DC journalists who hasn’t forgotten that their jobs involve holding the government accountable for their actions and digging beyond their standard talking points no matter the party, and he doesn’t disappoint here – as Newsbusters’ PJ Gladnick recaps:

[Thursday] White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough kept defending the record of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinkseki over his handling of the Veterans Administration hospitals scandal on CNN’s The Lead. Finally an increasingly agitated Jake Tapper grew frustrated with the excuses until he exploded in anger: “How Many Dead Veterans Do You Need?”

It was an all too familiar administration two-step but the normally mild-mannered Tapper wasn’t going to have any of it. In the dramatic video below the jump, you can see a clearly  upset Tapper finally lash out at McDonough.

Gladnick provides video of the exchange at the link above.  Below is a contextual transcript of the back and forth:

MCDONOUGH: And we work with Chairman Miller, we work with Chairman Sanders, we work with all of the members of the House and Senate to make sure that they have it.

That’s why the president has seen dramatically expanded investments in Veterans Administration operations over the course of these last five years, year on year, historic increases in that budget, at a time, by the way, Jake, when we have seen budgets under intense pressure. We will continue to make those investments.

-Gladnick – Finally Tapper could take no more of the excuses:

TAPPER: How many stories like this, how many letters like this, how many dead veterans do you need before somebody asks the question within the White House, maybe this guy isn’t the best steward of these veterans?

MCDONOUGH: The question, Jake, is, are we doing everything we can every day to get the veterans the care and the opportunities that they deserve?

TAPPER: But you are not. This letter was sent a year ago. And you guys ignored it.

MCDONOUGH: And we have been working aggressively to ensure that not only is health care expanded, opportunities made more ready to our vets, but that people are held to account, as Ric is doing in this case. We will continue to do that.

TAPPER: Last question, sir. And that is, I appreciate your being here and I appreciate your coming and facing these questions live on television.

Drew Griffin has been trying to get an interview with General Shinseki for months, literally. He is the one that broke the story. He’s the reason there was a hearing today. Why has Shinseki avoided reporters like Drew Griffin? Why does the VA cordon itself off from accountability, not only from lawmakers and the public, but the press? Doesn’t there need to be a bigger cultural change there?

Well done, sir. Make sure to watch the video clip at the link above as well.

Tapper, formerly of ABC News, is no stranger to issues impacting veterans and their families.  He has a book titled The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor which you should promptly buy and read, if you haven’t already.

It’s a shame the UK doesn’t have a death penalty

**Posted by Phineas

Lee Rigby, victim of jihad

Lee Rigby, victim of jihad

For these two brave knights of Allah blood-crazed jihadis richly deserve it:

Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale were found guilty on 19th December 2013 of killing 25-year-old soldier Lee Rigby, who had served a tour of duty in Afghanistan.

Adebolajo, 28, was sentenced to a whole life tariff.

Adebowale, 22, was sentenced to 45 years in prison.

The pair were said to be shouting in the court room earlier, screaming “Allah hu Akbar” before they were removed by guards.

Judge Nigel Sweeney delayed sentencing in order to take account of a Court of Appeal ruling on the principle of jail terms for life.

Justice Sweeney said during the sentencing, “You have both gloried in what you have done.” He also stated that the two “butchered” Lee Rigby: “You, Adebolajo, concentrated on his neck. You, Adebowale, concentrated on his torso. What the two of you did resulted in a bloodbath”.

Adebolajo and Adebowale are Muslim converts who knew exactly what they were doing: waging jihad fi sabil Allah — “war for the sake of Allah” — in accordance with the Qur’an:

Therefore, when ye meet the Unbelievers (in fight), smite at their necks; At length, when ye have thoroughly subdued them, bind a bond firmly (on them): thereafter (is the time for) either generosity or ransom: Until the war lays down its burdens. Thus (are ye commanded): but if it had been Allah’s Will, He could certainly have exacted retribution from them (Himself); but (He lets you fight) in order to test you, some with others. But those who are slain in the Way of Allah,- He will never let their deeds be lost. 

These murderers took Drummer Rigby from his wife and two-year old child, but will themselves live for decades at the British taxpayer’s expense. Doesn’t seem like justice to me.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Asking for trouble: the Obama-Hagel defense budget

**Posted by Phineas

U.S. Navy, post-Obama

U.S. Navy, post-Obama

Long ago, the Roman writer Vegetius wrote perhaps the wisest thing anyone has ever written regarding war and peace:

“If you want peace, prepare for war.”

In other words, if your potential foes know you are strong, that you are willing to use force to defend your interests, and that they are not likely to win, then they will not pick a fight with you.

President Obama and his dullard Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, have evidently never read Vegetius:

Stating that a postwar environment was the time to do some shrinking, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel unveiled a budget proposal Monday that reduces the Army to pre-World War II levels despite “a world that is growing more volatile, more unpredictable, and in some instances more threatening to the United States.”

“Our force structure and modernization recommendations are rooted in three realities: first, after Iraq and Afghanistan, we are no longer sizing the military to conduct long and large stability operations; second, we must maintain our technological edge over potential adversaries; and, third, the military must be ready and capable to respond quickly to all contingencies and decisively defeat any opponent should deterrence fail,” Hagel told reporters at the Pentagon today.

You can read the details in Bridget Johnson’s article, but, quickly, the Army would be reduced to 450,000 soldiers, the Marine Corps to 182,000, the Navy would be kept at 11 carrier battle groups (unless further cuts are needed), and, among other cuts, the Air Force would eliminate its entire force of A-10 “warthog” ground-support aircraft. I’m sure infantrymen everywhere are thrilled with that one.

Hagel’s opening statement is nonsensical: in one breath he proposes devastating cuts to our military capabilities, while, in the other, he claims (rightly) that the world is growing “more volatile, more unpredictable,” and “more threatening.” When he claims this configuration will allow us to defend ourselves from foes by relying on high tech, he ignores his own assertion that the world is unpredictable. Who knew on September 10th, 2001, in the wake of the Clinton-era defense cuts, that we would find ourselves in a war that required liberating and occupying two nations? While we are leaving Afghanistan and have left Iraq (God help them), we are still at war with a transnational terror group waging holy war against us. What if they should take over another country as a base (Syria? Mali? Iraq, again?)?  Do we then shrug our shoulders and say “No can do?” What if North Korea decides to invade the South, again? Those A-10s will be sorely missed, I guarantee it.

Those are just two among the myriad possible threats we face as dictators grow emboldened by our feckless leadership. When Ronald Reagan launched our military buildup in the 1980s, it wasn’t just to have plenty of ships and tanks on hand, it was to demonstrate a will to resist the world’s tyrants, so that they would make no miscalculation. The Obama-Hagel defense cuts, on the other hand send just the opposite message, one of weakness and a lack of confidence, of opportunity for the enemy because this administration is renouncing our traditional role as guarantor of a liberal world order.

And it’s deliberate. In an essay that now seems truly prescient, Charles Krauthammer made it plain that, for an ideology that sees American power as a problem, not a solution, for the world’s challenges, decline is a choice, one made in sacrifice to the desire to turn the US into a gelded European social democracy:

This is not the place to debate the intrinsic merits of the social democratic versus the Anglo-Saxon model of capitalism. There’s much to be said for the decency and relative equity of social democracy. But it comes at a cost: diminished social mobility, higher unemployment, less innovation, less dynamism and creative destruction, less overall economic growth.

This affects the ability to project power. Growth provides the sinews of dominance–the ability to maintain a large military establishment capable of projecting power to all corners of the earth. The Europeans, rich and developed, have almost no such capacity. They made the choice long ago to devote their resources to a vast welfare state. Their expenditures on defense are minimal, as are their consequent military capacities. They rely on the U.S. Navy for open seas and on the U.S. Air Force for airlift. It’s the U.S. Marines who go ashore, not just in battle, but for such global social services as tsunami relief. The United States can do all of this because we spend infinitely more on defense–more than the next nine countries combined.

Those are the conditions today. But they are not static or permanent. They require constant renewal. The express agenda of the New Liberalism is a vast expansion of social services–massive intervention and expenditures in energy, health care, and education–that will necessarily, as in Europe, take away from defense spending.

This shift in resources is not hypothetical. It has already begun. At a time when hundreds of billions of dollars are being lavished on stimulus and other appropriations in an endless array of domestic programs, the defense budget is practically frozen. Almost every other department is expanding, and the Defense Department is singled out for making “hard choices”–forced to look everywhere for cuts, to abandon highly advanced weapons systems, to choose between readiness and research, between today’s urgencies and tomorrow’s looming threats.

That was in 2009, and now we’re seeing the inevitable product of that vast expansion of the welfare state. And the world is going to become much more dangerous because of it.

To paraphrase Vegetius, “If you want war, pretend your enemy wants peace.”

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Suicide-bombing instructor blows up his own class

**Posted by Phineas

Former ISIS faculty member

Former ISIS faculty member

As you can imagine, I’m shedding rivers of tears over this news.

Tears of laughter:

A group of Sunni militants attending a suicide bombing training class at a camp north of Baghdad were killed on Monday when their commander unwittingly conducted a demonstration with a belt that was packed with explosives, army and police officials said.

The militants belonged to a group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, which is fighting the Shiite-dominated army of the Iraqi government, mostly in Anbar Province. But they are also linked to bomb attacks elsewhere and other fighting that has thrown Iraq deeper into sectarian violence.

Twenty-two ISIS members were killed, and 15 were wounded, in the explosion at the camp, which is in a farming area in the northeastern province of Samara, according to the police and army officials. Stores of other explosive devices and heavy weapons were also kept there, the officials said.

I bet that taught them a lesson they’ll never forget.

I wonder if a jihadi qualifies for his 72 virgin goats if he dies in the dumbest way possible?

via Moe Lane

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Iran tests U.S. maritime borders

**Posted by Phineas

"Iranian Navy in action"

“Iranian Navy in action”

Oh, how cute! The Iranian Navy is trying to show the Great Satan (1) that it’s all grown up, now!

A senior Iranian naval commander says his country has sent several warships to the Atlantic Ocean, close to U.S. maritime borders for the first time.

The commander of Iran’s Northern Navy Fleet, Admiral Afshin Rezayee Haddad, is quoted by the official IRNA news agency as saying Saturday that the vessels have already begun the journey to the Atlantic Ocean via waters near South Africa.

The “task force” sending us this message consists of a destroyer and a helicopter carrier.

I’m sure U.S. Fleet Forces Command will be sure to be duly impressed, once they’re done laughing and pointing.

Seriously, Iran says this is in response to us for stationing the 5th Fleet in and near the Persian Gulf. Hey, Afshin! Buddy! It’s called “freedom of the seas,” and we take it very seriously. If you weren’t periodically threatening to close a lifeline for much of the world’s oil, we wouldn’t have to stand ready to knock some much-needed sense into you.

Schmucks.

Footnote:
(1) For those without a program, that’s us.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Iraq and Syria: al Qaeda on the march

**Posted by Phineas

The flag of al Qaeda

The flag of al Qaeda

Boy, it’s a good thing President Obama destroyed al Qaeda, isn’t it? Otherwise they’d have conquered the world, by now.

As it is, we can be grateful they only control more territory than they ever have:

From around Aleppo in western Syria to small areas of Falluja in central Iraq, al Qaeda now controls territory that stretches more than 400 miles across the heart of the Middle East, according to English and Arab language news accounts as well as accounts on jihadist websites.

Indeed, al Qaeda appears to control more territory in the Arab world than it has done at any time in its history.

The focus of al Qaeda’s leaders has always been regime change in the Arab world in order to install Taliban-style regimes. Al Qaeda’s leader Ayman al-Zawahiri acknowledged as much in his 2001 autobiography, “Knights Under the Banner of the Prophet,” when he explained that the most important strategic goal of al Qaeda was to seize control of a state, or part of a state, somewhere in the Muslim world, explaining that, “without achieving this goal our actions will mean nothing.”

Now al-Zawahiri is closer to his goal than he has ever been.

(…)

In September a CNN reporting team concluded, “Al Qaeda has swept to power with the aim of imposing a strict Islamist ideology on Syrians across large swathes of Syria’s rebel-held north.”

In sum, al Qaeda affiliates now control much of northern and northwestern Syria as well as some parts of eastern Syria, as well as much of Anbar province, which is around a third of Iraqi territory.

Thank goodness Obama and his Smart Power team came into office to fix George W. Bush’s mistakes, no?

Like I said before, this would likely not have happened had the Obama administration not bollixed the SOF negotiations with Maliki’s government. In both political and military matters, our proven ability to act as a trusted mediator between Iraqi factions probably would have prevented the political difficulties that gave al Qaeda this opening in Anbar, and provided the Iraqi Army with the support they need to deal rapidly and effectively with the threat. This was demonstrated time and again during the Surge operations.

But, under President Obama’s wise leadership, we left Iraq. We also dithered on Syria until jihadists became the dominant opposition force.

And now the black banner of jihad flies from Aleppo to Fallujah.

via Jim Geraghty, who writes:

Remember, “Bin Laden is dead and Detroit is alive”? Detroit is bankrupt and al-Qaeda now controls more territory than ever.

Heckuva job, Barry.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Smart-Power Success! Al Qaeda takes Fallujah!

**Posted by Phineas

Your Obama foreign policy team

Your Obama foreign policy team

Not “al Qaeda central,” as the Obama administration likes to call it, but the revived affiliate “al Qaeda in Iraq” (Zarqawi’s old outfit), which is more or less merged with its Syrian equivalent in one big happy family of murdering jihadi psychos.

And, taking advantage of internal Iraqi political frictions, they’re making their move:

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham, an al Qaeda branch in the Middle East, and its tribal allies have taken control of Fallujah less than one week after launching an offensive in Iraq’s western province of Anbar. Meanwhile, the military and tribes that oppose the ISIS have launched counterattacks in Ramadi and other cities and towns along the Euphrates River.

Security officials and reports told the BBC that the ISIS fighters “control the south of the city,” while “tribesmen allied with al Qaeda hold the rest of Fallujah.” Reuters reported that “the northern and eastern parts of the city were under the control of tribesmen and militants.”

(…)

Jihadists waving al Qaeda’s black flag have occupied police stations and government buildings, and are issuing calls from mosques for men to join the fight against the government.

The military has responded by shelling areas of the city under ISIS control. The total number of people killed during the fighting in Fallujah is not yet known.

ISIS fighters seized control of parts of Fallujah and Ramadi, the two largest cities in Anbar, on Tuesday after the Iraqi military withdrew from the cities in the wake of clashes between government forces and the tribes following the arrest of a senior Sunni politician in Ramadi. [See LWJ report, Al Qaeda seizes partial control of 2 cities in western Iraq]. Maliki ordered the troops to return to the cities after cutting a deal with the tribes, but not before the ISIS quickly moved in and seized control.

Politics between the Sunni tribes in Anbar with each other and strained relations with the Shiite Maliki government in Baghdad gave ISIS their opening (for example), but I have a hard time imagining this coming to pass if Team Smart Power hadn’t a) utterly bungled the negotiations over a Status of Forces agreement with Iraq, thus leading to our total withdrawal, and b) also bungled the Syrian situation so badly that a promising opportunity to bring down Assad and deal a body-blow to Iran was instead practically given gift-wrapped to al Qaeda affiliates (and Iran…).

Bungling. That seems to be the common element here.

Fallujah, Ramadi, Tal Afar, Baquba, and so many other places in western Iraq and around Baghdad were liberated by American and Iraqi blood and treasure. I don’t know if this situation will deteriorate into a crisis, or if Iraqi security forces can push ISIS out, but, as of now, Barack Obama and his foreign policy geniuses are flushing everything those men and women fought for down the toilet.

RELATED: via Hot Air, Secretary of State Kerry says “You go, Iraq! Just don’t expect any real help from us…”

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Americans held in Libya, head-meets-desk quote. Update: released?

**Posted by Phineas

There’s breaking news tonight that four Americans, likely military, are in the custody of the Libyan government, having been taken during a visit to the Roman ruins at Sabratha. As of this writing, no information has been released as to any charges, and the State Department has issued no statement. (Probably wise, until we learn more.)

Reading the NYT article, I did a double-take when I read the following:

Since the attack on the United States Mission in Benghazi that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens on Sept. 11, 2012, employees of the American Embassy have operated with extraordinary caution. Rigorous security rules preclude any movements outside the heavily fortified embassy compound without advance planning and an armed guard. The compound is locked at night, and no one is permitted to enter or exit. Counterterrorism has become a central focus of the work there, and the compound brims with well-armed security officers.

Just brilliant. It takes the needless deaths of four US personnel, including an ambassador, at the hands of our sworn enemies for us to finally start providing anything resembling adequate security. Hillary Clinton’s legacy is secure, and I’m sure the souls of Ambassador Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty, and Tyrone Woods are ever so relieved.

Meanwhile, I would suggest to the Libyan government that it remember who put them in power in the first place and that, if any of these men are hurt in any way, we have long memories, and Barack Obama won’t always be president.

UPDATE: Per CNN via KCCI, the four have been released. No confirmation yet, nor any word on their condition or why they were held in the first place.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)