Well, how’s this for irony? Last night’s episode of ABC’s hit show Nashville was a giant “salute to the troops” featuring a charity concert with Kellie Pickler at Kentucky’s Fort Campbell Army base, and even a special taped message from Michelle Obama.
Yet if you were following the news yesterday (and today), perhaps even reading USA Today during commercial breaks, you would have come across a very different kinda story about the treatment of vets – including recently returned home combat vets - that NBC news says “borders on criminal” behavior.
Specifically, there is a shocking new report from the VA's Office of Medical Inspector, which finds that delays in medical care for vets are so bad that dozens have already died as a result.
Department officials revealed last month that 23 deaths of veterans were linked to delayed cancer screenings dating back four years. More recently, a retired doctor, Sam Foote, alleged that 40 other veterans died because of treatment delays at a VA hospital in Phoenix. VA officials say there's no evidence so far to support those claims, but the hospital administrator was placed on leave pending an investigation by the agency's inspector general.
Clerks at the Department of Veterans Affairs clinic in Fort Collins [Colorado] were instructed last year how to falsify appointment records so it appeared the small staff of doctors was seeing patients within the agency's goal of 14 days, according to the investigation.…
Many of the 6,300 veterans treated at the outpatient clinic waited months to be seen. If the clerical staff allowed records to reflect that veterans waited longer than 14 days, they were punished by being placed on a "bad boy list," the report shows.…
A key allegation by the whistle-blowing retired doctor in Phoenix is that staff members manipulated records to hide delays. The same practice was found by the VA Office of Medical Inspector at the clinic in Fort Collins.
And just a reminder that when we are talking about the number of vets, which are spiraling, we’re talking about both “the aging veteran population and young combat survivors suffering multiple medical and psychological issues.”
VA hospitals and doctors, you may know, are immune from lawsuits. As we’ve noted before, a veteran injured as a result of medical negligence must file a claim through the Federal Tort Claims Act, a cumbersome process that relieves negligent VA health care providers of direct responsibility for killing or injuring patients. Even worse, active duty military personnel can’t even do that much. Their rights have been entirely stripped away because of the Feres doctrine, which bars them from bringing a claim for malpractice even under the limited FTCA.
In conversations with reporters, the Nashville cast has been talking up their support for the troops. “If you're going to do a show about country music, you need to do something about the involvement with the military, because there is a relationship there that is very strong," said “resident ‘Nashville’ hunk Chip Esten” in an interview with a local DC station. And Kellie Pickler spoke about last night’s episode, too: “It was so much fun to be on this particular episode of 'Nashville' since it was filmed at Fort Campbell, and I got to perform in front of our military and their families. I can’t wait to see the finished episode and hope they ask me to come back and do another one.” Well sure enough, she’ll be one of the country artists appearing on “ACM Presents: An All-Star Salute to the Troops,” airing May 20 at 8:00 PM ET on CBS.
These actors and artists have a platform to say something about this complete utter failure to support the troops and our vets when it comes to their health care. Is it too much to ask that they say something about this?