Investigation Shows VA's Failures Led to Marine's Suicide

Investigation Shows VA's Failures Led to Marine's Suicide

January 11, 2016

Investigation Shows VA's Failures Led to Marine's Suicide

A combat veteran, who killed himself at a gun range in 2014, had waited for 16 months to hear from the VA that he would receive no disability pay even after serving multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and being diagnosed with a brain injury. How could this happen?

An internal investigation was launched by the Department of Veterans Affairs to find out that very question. And the results of that investigation pointed the finger directly at the VA for botching former Camp Pendleton Marine Jeremy Sears' care.

The investigation came as his family, friends and veterans advocates questioned how the VA handled his case. Now according to their own internal investigation, the Department of Veterans Affairs determined that the VA's medical and benefits divisions let Jeremy Sears fall through the cracks while they could have done more to save his life.

The VA Fails Another Veteran

The VA has been under fire almost continually in recent years. The microscope was focused on the Department of Veterans Affairs when it was first revealed that there was a national claims backlog followed by whistleblowers exposing that administrators concealed long waits for medical care, mainly to pocket performance bonuses.

In Sears' case, the VA's own inspector general was asked to investigate after Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California and her office learned of the suicide from coverage in The San Diego Union-Tribune.

The internal investigation revealed that San Diego VA doctors continued to prescribe a narcotic painkiller -- hydrocodone, commonly known as Vicodin -- to the former Marine for 22 months without any oversight. They did this even though studies warn that chronic pain elevates risk of suicide attempts, and high suicide risk makes use of hydrocodone less appropriate.

The VA also failed Sears by never giving him a suicide assessment. The VA's very own guidelines says a veteran must be given a suicide assessment when starting pain therapy and during regular installments afterward.

On top of those failings, VA physicians never gave the veteran a follow-up plan for the treatment of TBI (traumatic brain injury). This was vital to Jeremy Sears' care as research shows a link between TBI and suicide.

Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, said the investigation shows the VA "putting expediency before excellence" despite the lessons of the past.

"Sadly, this report documents a host of failures, from medical inattention [to] inconsistent continuity of care," Miller said in a statement to the Union-Tribune. "The question VA leaders must now answer is: Who will be held accountable for these failures?"

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1 Response

Willy
Willy

February 22, 2016

I filed a claim in 1973 for tinnitus and hearing loss and a puncture wound in the foot making it hard to walk. It was actually shrapnel from the explosion of a ship being blown up at a pier in Vietnam I was standing on. Claim denied. Fast forward to 2002. A co worker who spent time in the National Guard from 1975 to 1995 and never left the US, Silesia a claim for a minor owie he got during one of his Annual Training sessions. He gets 20%. What?
Another co worker who is also a Vietnam vet and I went to a service rep about opening a claim. In the mean time his son was researching vessels used in Vietnam and came across an article about the USS Green Bay blown up and sank at QuiNhon pier August 17 1971. My medical records showed treatment for puncture wound the same day, security roster showed me on pier security the same day, I had them. So I got hearing loss, tinnitus and PTSD, total 40%, has been upgraded since to 60%. But look how long, and people now a days complain about 6 months.

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