Wednesday, June 4, 2014

EXCLUSIVE: White House Honoree Slams VA, Says Administration's Investigation Barely Scratches the Surface

U.S. troops during Gulf War - va.gov
On Wednesday, Sloan Gibson, the acting secretary of Veterans Affairs, announced he will visit the embattled Phoenix VA to discuss immediate actions taken as a result of recommendations outlined in the recent interim Inspector General (IG) report. But Jim Binns, a veterans advocate who was honored by the Obama administration for his service to veterans, said the administration's investigation of the manipulation of wait times may be successful, but an investigation of any other alleged wrongdoing at VA is unlikely to be effective until bigger changes are made at the top management levels of the agency.

In a scathing letter sent on Tuesday to Gibson, White House Deputy Chief of Staff Rob Nabors, who was handpicked by the president to oversee the government's VA investigation, and other officials, Binns said the investigation cannot be entrusted to VA staff or even the IG.

"The Chief of Staff, the Acting Undersecretary for Health, and the Undersecretary for Benefits are themselves directly implicated," wrote Binns, who chairs the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses, which Congress established in 1998 to advise VA on research to improve Gulf War veterans' health. "Like the Gulf War battlefield," he wrote, "VA is a toxic environment."

Binns, who is also an executive, attorney, former Department of Defense policy official and Vietnam veteran, was awarded the Bronze Star for meritorious service. He urged the administration to "look much higher and much deeper than hospital administrators scamming wait times with tragic results."

Jim Binns  -  whitehouse.gov
Binns, who in 2011 was recognized by the Obama administration as a "Champion of Change," said in the letter that for the past two years, VA staff has been engaged in a "backdoor campaign to rig scientific studies and reports in order to revive the discredited 1990’s fiction that nothing special happened" to Gulf War veterans. 


Binns described other VA misdeeds such as slanting research studies, failing to publish critical research results, disseminating false information to the medical community, manipulating even reports of the Institute of Medicine, and failing to conduct Gulf War studies as ordered by Congress.

While multiple reports by his committee and the Institute of Medicine have "conclusively established" that Gulf War Illness is real and not a psychiatric condition, Binns wrote, the 250,000 veterans suffering from this illness "still have no effective treatments. But instead of seeking treatments, VA is quietly trying to revive the stress theory by fabricating science."

Binns told The Reno Dispatch on Wednesday evening that the wait list problems "may get addressed because they have been thoroughly publicized," but added that any acting secretary or secretary "who comes in from the outside and has to rely on the existing career staff has virtually no hope of becoming aware of, let alone solving, the systemic issues" at the agency. 


As CNN and many other news organizations reported last week, IG found in its interim report that at least 1,700 veterans waiting for their first appointment to see a doctor were never even placed on a wait list. A Phoenix resident, Binns has been closely following the developments there. 

"As inexcusable as the revelations here have been, what VA has been doing to Gulf War veterans for twenty years is far worse," he said. "Instead of middle managers lying to senior officials to get bonuses and cover up that veterans aren't getting care, you have senior officials and middle managers lying to Congress, to veterans, and to the medical community, to purposely deny veterans access to care."  

Binns said he was inspired to write the letter by the example of Dr. Sam Foote, the recently retired VA doctor who was the first whistleblower to reveal what was going on in Phoenix.

"It took a long time before the people who could change things finally paid attention to what he was saying," Binns said. "Our committee has been reporting on VA's abuse of Gulf War veterans for a long time, but now there is hope the right people will finally focus on how VA - our government - has been deliberately shafting a quarter of a million men and women who fought for this country." 

Anthony Hardie, a Gulf War veteran and board member of Veterans for Common Sense (VCS) who's testified numerous times before Congress on Gulf War issues, told The Reno Dispatch, "VCS hopes Chairman Binns' letter will help bring new attention to fix yet another area where VA is badly broken: VA's utter failure of veterans of the 1991 Gulf War. For the more then one-third of Gulf War veterans suffering from Gulf War Illness, VA has no effective treatments, no implementation of a plan to develop solutions, no confidence in VA's ability to find treatments, and VA denial of Gulf War veterans' disability claims at an overwhelming rate."

Meanwhile, Binns said that while he has heard back from several House and Senate offices, including those that received copies of the letter, "I have not heard anything from the White House or VA."

23 comments:

  1. Excellent piece Jamie. As usual, very well done.

    Semper Fi
    David K. Winnett, Jr.
    CAPTAIN, USMC (Ret.)

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  2. The community of ill Gulf War Veteran's is truly blessed having a man of such fortitude and candor at the forefront of our fight as the inimitable Mr. Binns. For someone who has little stake in the treatment of Gulf War Veterans, Jim Binns fights tooth and nail on our behalf.

    I have had the privilege of hearing this man talk with Senate staffers as well as hearing him chair a meeting of the Gulf War Research and Advisory Committee (RAC). I've also had the honor of spending some private time with him over dinner with some fellow veterans while we were in DC last month. There is nothing about this man that is not impressive and genuinely sincere.

    Amidst the uproar in the media of the Waiting List Scandal, Jim Binns continues to make his voice heard over the din of a thousand other voices, ensuring that the pleas of so many ill and suffering Gulf War Veteran's is not lost.

    I do not know how the current pro-tem VA Secretary will respond to the tenacity of Mr. Binns but, rest assured, he will make his case on our behalf and I have no doubt that he will not rest until the VA sets things right with the 175,000 ill Gulf War Veterans who he represents.

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  3. Keep it up, Jamie. This and the state of education in this country are my two pet subjects!!

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  4. Greetings,

    I'm a nobody when it comes to understanding the governmental, political or military internal workings however I have a friend that just now sent me this page who has issues with this problem and it is all becoming very clear to me now because of your writings how badly this is for at least a handful of my older VA friends in my life.

    My friend in Missouri has always been a bit of a 'strange bird' going on and on about this very topic and I've had to talk him down from suicide on several occasions when he's called VA and told them his situation and they continually deny him help.

    This situation has been brewing with my friend for 24 years and I really don't know how much longer he can hold out. He 'claims' that the VA has changed his files, lied about his severe diagnosis, changed his medical background paperwork, 'lost' certain records and for the past four years they have completely denied his medication and refuse VA 'stay' when he gets into really bad mental states. My friend was one of the original VETS to go to the pre trial gulf war illness evaluations.

    Over the years because of denial after denial he's had to even pull out most all of his own teeth due to lack of help after 13 years of suffering just from dental issues.

    In Feb 1991 he was hit by a scud missile and most all of his friends from this event passed or have passed on now after not receiving help themselves.

    I had another friend of mine who is 66 years of age that barely missed being homeless because VA wouldn't due diligently step in with his 'earnings due' as a VA vet last year and I stepped in to find him a home. It's just so tragic.

    Now, again I will say, I'm a nobody from no where that doesn't know hardly anything about all this but it is complete hogwash that we as a government and society can so easily take in outsiders and give away billions on other countries but cannot seem to have the stuff it takes to help our own people!

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  5. You want an easy to figure out what is causing the backlogs, and lack of treatment, just cross reference the list of VA hospitals with problems, against the list of 50 VA hospitals running the Million Veterans Project. Phoenix VA hospital is one of them. The staff, and most available funds are being utilized by their massive Genome study. An easy way for the VA to save money, is to never figure out someone has cancer. That way you never have to treat them.

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  6. Great piece Jamie. Do you think that anyone will even care?

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    1. Thanks, Sandy. I actually do think people care. But they need to do more than care. This country needs to come together for all who have fought in our wars. It's that simple.

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  7. Going beyond putting yellow ribbon magnets on our vehicles, sending cookies and care packages, beyond “Thank you for your service”…

    Some of the oldest stories from all cultures are about those who are called to preserve and protect what is SACRED to them: the safety of the community, the country, their people. This a reciprocal relationship. But what if the reciprocity is incomplete? Are we in the community holding up our end of the bargain?

    How can citizens truly support and help heal our Veterans from the invisible wounds of war?
    While we are at the grocery store, or texting a friend, or watching a ballgame, attending religious services or taking a shower, someone in our military is in harm’s way, being subjected to unrelenting stress, and perhaps being wounded or killed. And not all of the wounds are visible. It is estimated that at least 30% of returning Veterans–thousands– will meet the criteria for combat stress injury, PTSD.

    But none will return unchanged. Our country is at war.

    The invisible wounds are those of the spirit, the identity, the very soul, that are created when a person is wounded by what he or she has experienced…witnessed…had to do…lost. We all can participate in acknowledging these wounds, giving them honor and dignity.

    As they who protect and guard us are being wounded, so too are we citizens. Our entire country is at war. By ministering to the wounds of our Veterans, we can tend and help heal the wounds of our nation and our society.

    Citizens can tend the wounds by being ready to receive our veterans, providing and assuring that our communities feel like a safe place to come home to. We can create a culture of compassion in which healing can take root. This can be done in many ways, but one of the most profound is in truly hearing the stories of the experiences of those who have returned from war, listening deeply to the pain and the suffering without turning away. As we engage in this kind of hearing and deep listening, we can begin to transfer and share the burdens and responsibility for actions taken during warfare.
    “Our Veterans cannot heal unless society accepts responsibility for its war-making. To the Veteran, our leaders and people must say, ‘You did this in our name, because you were subject to our orders, and because we put you in untenable situations. We lift the burden of your actions from you and take it onto our shoulders. We are responsible for you…

    We cannot continue with business as usual. We must actively engage in healing our Veterans so that all of us can heal.

    So, this is a community issue and not just a government problem. It is extremely important for our communities not to be in an illusion and think that the government is addressing the needs of all of our veterans that have sacrificed so much for us.

    This is a national problem and one that we can tackle and end - quickly, if we will just all come together as a community, as churches, as Associations, as businesses, as employers, as mentors, and as people to give others their greatest opportunity to overcome lost chances for success in a world where they feel hopeless, lost, and alone.

    We have to recognize and resolve this problem - not avoid it. The struggles within our communities, in itself is something that we need to all rise up against, Veterans struggling is something that we should not tolerate as a nation or State.

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  8. The first thing the Congress should do is to eliminate a purely socialistic system within the VA that gives all kinds of benefits to individuals who have never suffered physically or mentally from being involved in an armed conflicts. All those who have not been wounded or maimed should never have been eligible for those benefits to begin with. That includes the vast majority of men and women in uniform who have, and never will, see combat and all their dependents. The civilian world does not get those benefits that range from housing to education and from transportation to health care. Yet, those very recipients almost always rally behind the Republicans who would give them more rather than less. What hypocrisy. All of them berate socialism and at the same time they are the greatest beneficiaries of such system.

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    1. Says the guy who will not pick up a weapon and, "Follow Me". I find it amusing that such people like you, almost always make it a Political issue. As if someone who is injured severely, when not at war, does not rate these benefits for him or herself, nor family. Yeah, we should make them homeless! Wait, your liberal agenda has already done that. Keep sprinkling that money to everyone else. Then we shall see who will answer that call. Will it be you? Your son or daughter? I doubt it, mr. sheep. But at some point, that choice, may be taken away. Will it be Okay then? I bet money is found then. Until that day, be thankful for those that do answer that call, in peace and war. Hanging that bumper sticker on your Honda, doesn't count. If you decide to stop being a sheep....come on out and let's talk.

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  9. It is sad that all we hear is "we are going to fix the problem." The issue at stake is 1) it has been happening for decades, 2) awards are made as wrong doing are happening, 3) no one really cares that can do something about the problem, and 4) the program is second to none but the operators are none in line. I have filed hundreds of VA claims and just like the medical services that I have read are twins. Let us help one another because the opposing force are much closer that we want to admit. The greatest Americans are not being treated well, many are expiring and like it is said by VA correspondences the case is "moot."

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  10. the FOREIGN MEDICAL PROGRAM is ordered to pay for my meds.for cancer "agent orange" they say no,can you help?

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  11. Why not just sell the VA as a private enterprise via tender bid process and delist them as an administration? Allow private parties to bid for services to veterans and allow that organization to fire incompetent workers as gov't is unable to remove anyone, by will nor by choice. Then the private contractor could lose the contract if enough VA members reject them on satisfaction and cost scale.

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  12. Im of the prevailing opinion that Veterans use private sector doctors and use government vouchers to pay for their treatments. I think the VA is now viewed as a dinosaur whose time has passed. Ever see some of the property these institutions sit on? What a waste of money. Also, I think one can access not only timely care but better doctors

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  13. You are absolutely right to make your concern known to the public. We have read it and I do believe that Whitehouse has done the same. But don't expect everyone, including the Whitehouse to respond to your remark.

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  14. I am absolutely astounded and appalled at the conduct of the VA, having failed to recognise that the effective treatment of Gulf War Illess was established beyond credible dispute by a Professor Garth Nicholson, decades ago.

    The fact that relatives of sufferers often begin to show similar symptoms themselves in the following years, along with doctors treating the Vets, shows that the illness is clearly communicable and thus not resultant from chemical exposures etc.

    Professor Nicholson isolated a pathogenic mycoplasma infection as the cause and when treated with standard tetracyclines (very cheap), Vets gradually recover, as does anyone suffering from the similar illness of Fibromyalgia. The research proves this absolutely beyond credible dispute.

    However, there is a slight problem, the strain of mycoplasma that Nicholson identified as responsible for GWI is Mycoplasma Fermentans and the US government owns patents for the deadliest strain of this. For inexplicable reasons, it had also been supplied to Saddam, when he was killing the Kurds and Iranians etc, before the West fell out with him, so he was in a position to test it and other weapons on them, ironically before US and EU troops went out there and came back with the exact complex symptoms that Fermentans causes.

    As the efficacious treatment of the illness is very cheap and thus not prohibitive, one might reasonably conclude that the rather odd actions of those who are supposed to protect the interest of the VETS, are due possibly to a motive such as not wishing the public to be aware of the FACT that the troops are suffering from an infection, one strain of which the US military has done very extensive work on. The political implications, if the strain of Mycoplsma Fermentans killing the troops and others close to them turned out to be manufactured in the West, would be a major peacetime disaster for senior military and political figures.

    Anyone ill with GWI should read Nicholson's protocols for treatment, which are both cheap and have minimal side effects, particulalry when compared with what they feeling now and contact his Lab. Anyone doubting his research could ask themselves, what is there to lose?

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  15. Jim Binns has been focused as any veteran can be on Gulf War issues his focus remains strong even if he is not of this era. I recognize him as a true veteran warrior and being a Vietnam veteran is valuable as a mentor to our issues as anyone.

    I met Jim Binns in April of 2014 while attending the VA RAC GWI committee, he earned my respect from the beginning because for the first time he allowed the veterans in attendance to come as part of the RAC presentation to the committees. I was never so hopeful for the Gulf War veterans as I was that day. During my time at the meeting we spoke about what issues I had, some of the newer research that was coming, and then assurances of himself that we are getting attention.

    This meeting was so good for continuing my hope for the future because I was actually talked to each of the committee members, gained insight from them, and learned some tips for managing my medical issues. I could not have been more impressed that there were people out there in the scientific field that truly cared for what caused our illness. Coming back and reflecting on what I learned has kept me strong in getting the healthcare I deserve from my VA system.

    I was able to take the information learned at the RAC talk to my personal Primary Care Physician at home make changes to my treatment program and got manageable conditions on my health. I know that no cure is possible but with that little bit I learned I can say small improvements were possible in my quality of life.

    Jim Binns pulled this collaboration of scientific researchers into a great committee and produced quality information to recommend advances that may bring the quality of life to every Gulf War veteran. I do know personally he receives no payment for what he does at this committee but his fortitude is strong in getting progress for us as veterans. I really wish I had more to say of what this committee means for us but my space is limited, but I can respectively say I am ecstatic over what they have done for this veteran.

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    1. Thanks for sharing this, David.

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    2. It's like dancing without a partner. As the VA has been doing this song and dance for so long, but the music stopped and they are still dancing. While the rest of America watches them look like FOOLS! But instead of fixing the problem, they keep up the dance. Good luck. VV saw it, they polished it with GWI and the music stopped as they started the same 1970's Dance Fever Moves.

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  16. My husband hasn't been able to work for about four years. His VA representative told him he has Gulf War Illness and one of his VA doctors told him he has GWI but that she isn't allowed to diagnose it. Not sure what our steps are. Should we hire outside doctors (out of pocket) to get a diagnosis? I can't imagine how costly that would be. For the time being, we have hired a lawyer to get his current disability percentages upped to 100%, but these still won't be connected to GWI. The pain and daily issues he faces are horrible. He has extreme pain, numbness and tingling in his hands and legs, loss of feeling, muscle spasms, degenerative discs, arthritis, intestinal problems, headaches and migraines, issues with his back and neck, loss of strength, muscle spasms, etc.

    Working with and talking to the VA gives him anxiety. It's as though they have some sort of plan set up to defer you X number of times, not answer your calls X number of times, finally call you back, make you wait X number of months for an appointment, make you wait X number of hours to see the doctor, and defer you again three months later.

    My husband had surgery at the VA hospital over a year ago. He called them at least five times to schedule a follow up appointment and no one returned his calls. Can you imagine having eight holes cut in you and no one returning your calls for a follow-up appointment? They discharged him right after the surgery even though he was in a tremendous amount of pain. They had me push him in a wheelchair to the parking garage by myself at night. No one escorted us. He was vomiting pain meds on the way to the car. They released us the night of a storm so I had to drive us over three hours home in a snow and ice storm. This is in NC where they are not prepared for such weather.

    There are countless other issues we've dealt with over the years such as the time they operated on the wrong hernia and he had to go back two weeks later for more surgery. He couldn't help with our two young children for over two months. What a nightmare that was. There's also the other hernia surgery he had where they said he would have a small one inch T-shaped incision. I took off the bandage and found a jagged incision with nine staples. Another doctor saw it and asked about the butcher shop he went to.

    My husband has been a disabled vet for over 20 years. During this time, I have seen his health get progressively worse until he was unable to work. It is so sad to see this system fail us. I think the public would be appalled to see just how terrible it is. I have told my husband that he should wear a hidden camera and we should do a documentary on it. For now, we are waiting on the lawyers to do their work so that he can at least get some financial compensation so that he can better provide for his family. The finanical struggle for me being the primary bread-winner has been more than difficult, especially in addition to the mounting health problems he has faced daily.

    Thank you for bringing attention to these issues with the VA.

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