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Veterans stripped of dignity, then thrown-out on the street!!!

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by Terry Richards

A NEW INTERACTIVE SERIES

The stories you will read below happened in 1998 and 1999. We want to know if these abuses are still going on at VA or VA contracted Hospitals, Domiciliaries, Nursing Homes, Assisted Living Facilities, or Military facilities anywhere in the world.

All Vets and even active Military, especially Iraq and Afghanistan War Veterans who experienced abuse or mistreatment at VA or Military facilities are encouraged to participate. For consideration  in publishing your story, E-mail your story  to vnsla@yahoo.com.  A telephone contact is also required.

WRITER’S NOTE: After reading the VA’s Policy on Patient Abuse https://vnsla.com/2014/06/11/department-of-veterans-affairs-patient-abuse-policy-definition-and-procedures/  and this story about  Veterans Stripped of Dignity, then Thrown Out On Street, set forth below is all the Federal Court paperwork filed by this Writer, the settlement received in that lawsuit,  and the strategies I used to prevail in a Federal Tort Claim against VA Health Care Practitioners who verbally and emotionally abused me while a Resident-Patient at the Bay Pines VA Medical Center Domiciliary discussed in the story below, and ones you can use yourself to prevail as a “Pro Se” Litigant in Federal Court.  How to Prevail in a Lawsuit against the VA for Patient Abuse | vnsla

Posts about How to Prevail in a Lawsuit against the VA for Patient Abuse written by Veterans News Service Los Angeles

 

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A FEW DESCRIPTIVE EXCERPTS from Congressman and also the then Subcommittee Chairman Terry Everett on THURSDAY, March 11, 1999, before the U.S. House of Representatives, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Washington, DC.

“The VA is a corrupt and out of control Federal Bureaucracy that is beyond repair because it’s scourged with an epidemic of criminal misconduct, poor quality care, malfeasance, wrongful deaths, free speech repression, retaliation, and general mistreatment of and disrespect for Veterans.”

“My concerns about the VA culture of tolerating favoritism, cronyism, harassment, and retaliation are a matter of record. The VA has a history of turning a blind eye towards mismanagement and misconduct by senior officials while punishing anyone who dares to speak up. It is a prime example of the good old boy network.”

“The subcommittee’s investigation of the treatment of whistle-blowers by the DVA confirms this characterization—honest employees who have had their jobs eliminated and their lives destroyed because they attempted to expose poor patient care. The Conyersreport is no longer readily available, so the subcommittee has made copies and placed them on the table with the witness statements.”

Read Entire Hearing and Comments.

Human Rights Violations committed by other Nations is something that the United States Government is quick to point its finger at and publicly admonish the culprits. But every time the United States Government points its fingers at others, they have one finger pointing right back at them! The U. S. Government doesn’t have to look afar to find Human Rights Violations. They only need to look in their own backyard. Why? Because Veterans are treated like “second-class citizens” by the U.S. Government, and some of the American People. One Government backyard where Human Rights Violations have been committed on a regular basis is the VA…

“Truth is stranger than fiction” is a well-known cliché. And the Truthis that Human Rights Violations perpetrated against Veterans by both the U.S. Government and the VA is something they often like to cover-up. The eyewitness account of the story set forth below and witnessed by this Reporter took place at the VA Domiciliary located at the Bay Pines VA Medical Center in St. Petersburg, Florida in 1998 and 1999. Most Veteran Patients said they found that they were forced to tolerate this dysfunctional, abusive, and criminal behavior by these particular staff members out of fear of being “wrongfully discharged” in retaliation for verbally or physically defending themselves, and perhaps finding themselves sick and homeless on the streets of St. Petersburg.

These Veterans who came to this Domiciliary for rehabilitation and restorative therapy, or recovery from various physical injuries and/or emotional stressors, all said that because of maltreatment by staff that they felt worse off emotionally than the day they were admitted to this Domiciliary. Therefore, in essence, it’s not only ironic but a disgrace that these brave Veterans who once served in Our Nation’s Armed Forces to protect and defend for one, our Constitutional Rights to practice our Freedom of Speech, would be denied theirs.

Moreover, the free speech repression enforced by the VA and this Medical Center, not only stripped Veterans of their Constitutional Rights but “stripped them of their dignity” as well. On top of all this, Veteran Patients of the Domiciliary said they also had to contend with the medical incompetence of Charles Alaimo, one of the two Nurse Practitioners assigned to the Domiciliary.

As a Resident Veteran-Patient of the VA Domiciliary at Bay Pines VA Medical Center near St. Petersburg, Florida, from October 13, 1998 to March 05, 19999, it appeared to this Reporter that out of about 30 medical and administrative staff members at this Domiciliary that about half of them seemed to be working out their “unfinished business from childhood” on Veteran Patients in the form of verbal and physical abuse, manipulation, and control. All this adds-up to “Patient Abuse,” a criminal offense under Federal Law.

Veteran Patients also advised this Reporter that Cheryl Rockwell, the other Nurse Practitioner at this Domiciliary was very abrupt with them when they tried to talk with her about their medical problems, she had an unpleasant disposition and “bedside manner,” and in at least one case Rockwell told a Veteran Patient who had sought her medical assistance that she did not have the time to talk with him, and told the Veteran Patient to write her letter.

Further free speech repression and reprehensible conduct were also found at the Patient Representative Office where Veteran Patients were supposed to be able to bring their complaints and have them resolved by one of the Patient Representatives without fear of retaliation, harassment, or intimidation. The Patient Representative’s Office is supposed to be an independent fact-finding branch of the Medical Director’s Office.

However, our investigation revealed that in fact, the “strings” of the Patient Representatives are pulled by Thomas H. Weaver, the Medical Center’s Director at the time, who in this case is part of the problem, not the solution. This Reporter, and other Veteran Patients who have brought legitimate complaints to the Patient Representative Office for resolve, recounted that they were met with hostility and threats of removal by one Rod Miles, one of the two Patient Representatives working there.

Also according to several pro-Veteran VA employees, many Veteran Patients have complained about the disrespectful way Miles treats them. Yet miles still not only maintains his position as a Patient Representative but his employment with the VA as well. Miles claims that he’s a Veteran himself? If Miles is a Veteran, than Miles has forgotten that the reason he works for the VA is to help Veterans. Numerous other Veteran Patients who had met with Patty Defalco, the other Patient Representative said that Defalco appeared to show little interest in their dilemmas, or implied lack of authority in being able to settle any of their issues for them.

Stan Flormanwas also a Veteran Patient of the Domiciliary during this same period of time. Florman’s freedom to express his opinion guaranteed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution was thwarted with punishment by his Caseworker, one Harry Roth.

In a private counseling session with Roth, Florman expressed his frustration and disdain to Roth about a new VA Physician that had been assigned to him. Florman felt that his new Physician who happens to be a woman, was very rude to him, and had a nasty “bedside manner.” In an attempt to describe to Roth the way his new VA Physician had treated him, Florman told Roth that in his opinion he felt his new VA Physician was a “Bitch.”

Since the only person that heard Florman’s comment was Roth, Florman’s comment could not have offended or “infringed” upon his newly assigned Physician’s Rights. Reasonable minds would conclude that Flormanwas just “letting off some steam,” venting his anger, a “catharsis” is you will, to his Caseworker Roth in a private counseling session meant exactly for those kinds of purposes, and which is also supposed to be confidential.

Additionally, Florman’s “Bitch” comment could not be construed in any way that it was a “sexually suggestive” comment or any kind of “threat” to his new VA Physician. In fact, and in pertinent part, one of the definitions for the word “Bitch” that can be found in Webster’s 3rd New International Dictionary is: “to complain or gripe about someone or something.” Also, according to Webster’s Dictionary: “Bitch” is also defined as a malicious, bad-tempered, or an aggressive woman. Slang Versions of the word “Bitch” also includes anything that is especially unpleasant or difficult, or to behave spitefully or angrily toward a person.

The only conclusion that reasonable minds would come too, is that Flormanwas just expressing and voicing his opinion and feeling of frustration and dislike toward his newly assigned VA Physician. Yet, Roth felt that Florman’s remark was a “sexually suggestive” remark toward his new VA Physician, and felt that Flormanshould be disciplined. Accordingly, Roth called for a meeting with Kirk Albough and Bill Workman who were two other Staff Members of the Domiciliary and part of Florman’s treatment team.

Roth, Albough and Workman all rendered a decision to discipline Florman with seven days restriction to the VA Medical Center grounds as punishment for Florman’s remark. To make matters worse, after advising Florman of his punishment, Florman said that Roth threw a pamphlet at him which contained the addresses of HUD rental apartments that were available, and then advised Florman that all three staff members were going to recommend that he be discharged early from the Domiciliary.

This scenario you have just read is another typical example of “free speech repression” imposed and enforced by the VA and how Veterans are punished and dealt with by the VA for expressing their opinions, or complaining about mistreatment and poor quality care.

According to one of the VA employees who worked in the Sexual Trauma Program VA Bay Pines VA Medical Center and who wishes to remain anonymous, state that Roth, Albough and Workman, and the Florman scenario clearly demonstrates how the VA hires some personnel who have worse emotional disorders than some of the Veteran Patients they are supposed to be helping.

Witnessed by this Reporter was an attempt by Florman to bring this issue to the attention of Patty Defalco, one of the Patient Representatives that was mentioned earlier. When Florman complained to Defalco at her office about his unjust punishment, Defalco refused to talk to Florman about his complaint and stated that she did not have any jurisdiction over the Domiciliary and implied that Christy Galbreath, Chief of the Domiciliary Care Unit could do anything she wanted to do. Repressing, punishing, harassing, intimidating, or retaliating against Veteran Patients for expressing their opinions or filing legitimate complaints is not only a violation of Veteran’s Patient’s Rights but of Veteran’s Constitutional and Human Rights as well.

Wiley Ingram, a VA employee who also worked at the Domiciliary at Bay Pines VA Medical Center was highly respected by Veteran Patients for his continuous and exceptional efforts in always trying to help them with the Incentive and Compensated Work Therapy Programs, and Educational Grants for College or Vocational School. Upon hearing of this Reporter’s and then Veteran Patient’s “wrongful early discharge” from the Domiciliary in March of 1999, in retaliation for having dared to speak up and file a formal complaint with Richard J. Griffin, the VA Inspector General, and Congressman C.W. “Bill” Young of St. Petersburg, Florida, exposing Criminal Misconduct by key Administrators and VA staff members of the Domiciliary, Ingram stated (paraphrased): “Even though you haven’t fully recovered from your back injury, Christy Galbreath (Chief of the Domiciliary Care Unit) and her Management Team are sending a message to the remaining Veteran Patients that we know you Veterans have the legal and Constitutional Right to blow the whistle on us if we commit unlawful or criminal acts, but if you do we will discharge you early, even if you’re still sick.”

In the spring of 2000, by happenstance, this Reporter saw Ingram at a Mall. We chatted for a while and then Ingram advised me that he was stripped of all his responsibilities at the Domiciliary because he made it known that if called upon by the VA Inspector General or Members of Congress that he would attest to the misconduct by domiciliary staff members that he has personally observed.

Bob Burkhart, a former VA Supervisor at Bay Pines VA Medical Center who was also highly respected by Veteran Patients for his exceptional efforts in always trying to help Veterans, warned this Reporter and then Veteran Patient that if I came forward and filed a formal complaint exposing certain VA employees who were guilty of Criminal Misconduct against Veteran Patients that: “The VA will retaliate by any means necessary to shut you up,” Burkhart told this Reporter.

Since the end of World War 2, and the beginning of the “cold war,” and the end of the Vietnam War to present day, the presence or near proximity of America’s Armed Forces in a multitude of European, African, and Asian countries and oceans have not only acted as a deterrent to an unlawful International aggression by certain nations and brought an end to the “cold war” and Communism as we once knew it, but also has encouraged Democracy and economic growth which has led to new markets for America’s businesses, and the longest, largest and strongest economic “boom” in U.S. History. Yet, Veterans are treated like “second-class citizens” by the United States Government, the VA, and by some of the American People.

Since Veterans have served and died in combat and have otherwise served and sacrificed to preserve Our Nation’s and other Nation’s freedoms throughout the world, this Reporter would like to propose to President Obama and future Presidents and Members of Congress that a Constitutional Amendment be enacted to protect and guarantee Veteran’s Rights while they are Patients on VA Property. Simply put, it’s specifically because of America’s Veterans that we and many other nations throughout the world still even have a Democracy and Constitution. And it’s specifically because of America’s Veterans that the U.S. and the World economy was “booming” in the 1990’s and for the reasons stated earlier. Have you thanked a Veteran today…???

“Repress” means to subdue, keep under due restraint. “Abridge” means to shorten, cut off, curtail. “Infringe” means to violate, transgress, encroach, trespass. “Redress” means to: set right, remedy, relief, atonement, compensation. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution exactly says: “Congress shall make no laws respecting an establishment of Religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the Freedom of speech, or of the Press; or the right of the People peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of Grievances.”

If the American People permit our Government to “infringe” upon the Constitutional Right of “freedom of speech” for Veterans, then certainly we open the door for them to infringe upon, repress, and abridge upon other American’s Constitutional Rights, such as “freedom of religion,” and of the Press, and all the other Constitutional Amendments that follow the First Amendment…

Charlton Heston, Actor and former President of the NRA stated: “Our Second Amendment Right to keep and bear arms is not archaic. It’s not an outdated, dusty idea some old dead white guys dreamed up in fear of the Redcoats. No, it is just as essential to liberty today as it was in 1776.”

The ACLU sums it up in several of their creeds. “The ACLU defends the right of people to express their views, not the views that they express.” “And believing once the government is empowered to violate one person’s rights it can use that power against everyone.” The ACLU works to stop the erosion of civil liberties before it’s too late.”

Although organizations like the NRA and the ACLU can lobby Lawmakers or keep you informed as to what Constitutional Rights the Government may be trying to subdue, curtail, or encroach upon, it is only the American People who can control what actually happens to Am0erica in the future. If the American People want change they must voice their discord through the ballot box and by peaceful demonstrations to let the Government know what they want. And several of the changes Americans should voice are for Congress and the President to: 1. Enact legislation for “Mandatory VA Funding” (MVAF) for the Veterans Health Care Act; 2.

The utmost quality of free or low-cost medical care for Veterans; 3. More expedited and approved service-connected disability compensation with higher rating percentages for Veterans whose injuries or disease were incurred or aggravated or by service; 4. A public law enacted which permits all Veterans rated with a VA disability rating of 10% or more to use the DOD (Department of Defense) MWR’s (“Morale, Welfare, and Recreational” Facilities) throughout the World… Currently, DOD and other Federal Employees, and certain Civic Organizations are permitted to use these facilities but not Disabled Veterans who have a service-connected rating of less than 100%. 5. The Repeal of the “Feres Doctrine” which would allow the Active-Duty Men and Women of U.S. Armed Forces (USAF) or their surviving Dependents, to file a Federal Tort Claim if they are injured or die due to the negligence of any Federal Employee.

This Reporter believes that: “People must stand up for injustices not just when they happen to that person, but when they happen to others as well. By doing this you may prevent those same injustices from happening to you.”

Abraham Lincoln said in part of the last sentence of his Gettysburg Address: “That government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.” Let’s not prove Abraham Lincoln wrong, and perish.

The vast majority or at least 80% or more of the eligible American voters in America must get out and vote in at least every Congressional and Presidential election. Currently an average of only 34%-37% of eligible voters are voting in the Congressional only election years, and an average of only about 47%-52% of eligible voters are voting in both the Presidential and Congressional election years. Do you want the minority of eligible American voters to decide what’s best for the majority of America? If your answer is no, then get out and vote.

The Declaration of Independence which was written before the “Bill of Rights” puts forth the fundamental principles that: “Government exists for the benefit of the people, deriving its powers from the consent of the governed and that whenever any form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and try to institute new Government.”

Our founding Fathers were talking about the Government of England when they wrote this Declaration. If the vast majority of Americans doesn’t wake up and start voting and getting involved, the “Declaration of Independence” is going to sound like it was meant for our present Government

The ninth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is one that most Americans are not familiar with but should be because it is really one of the most important Amendments in the “Bill of Rights.” In paraphrasing the 9th Amendment, it simply states that: Just because a Right is not enumerated or mentioned in the Constitution, it does not mean that the people do not retain that Right.

The VA violated all my Constitutional Rights and tried to destroy my life by “wrongfully discharging” me from the Domiciliary before I had fully recovered from a severe back injury, all because I endeavored to exercise my freedom of speech. The physical and emotional damages the VA has caused me are irreparable.

As of July 26, 2000, when this article was completed, subtle retaliation continued against this Reporter and Veteran by the VA. Examples of this retaliation were holding “hostage” my service-connected disability compensation claim for service-connected “cluster headaches” at the VA Regional Office in St. Petersburg, Florida, and preventing it from being heard by the Board of Veterans Appeals simply by refusing to forward it to them and fabricating all kinds of bogus reasons why they need to delay it.

This maneuver is a typical example of how the VA unlawfully delays and denies most Veterans claims from going through the Appeals process, except in my case it’s more vindictiveness and retaliation for my filing formal complaints and writing numerous articles which criticize the VA as the then Volunteer Managing Editor of the Veteran’s Free Press Newspaper on the Internet which is currently “archived” and can be read by going to my Website noted just above my photo and then clicking onto the Veterans Free Press link. In reality, it was not only my Freedom of Speech that was being abridged by the VA, it was also my “Freedom of the Press” which was also being abridged. The freedom to write about fact or opinion without censorship, which is supposed to be guaranteed under the First Amendment.

When I was sworn into the U.S. Army in 1968, I took an Oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America at all costs. Although I am no longer in the Military, I have never rescinded that Oath, and never in a million years did I expect that I was going to have to protect and defend the U.S. Constitution from the same Government that established it.

The price of Freedom is visible at all VA Medical Centers throughout the United States and in the streets of America each and every day, as the U.S. Government continually fails to appropriate enough funds to provide housing for all the 250,000 homeless Veterans who live and sleep there.

What does it say about a country and its government that spends tens of billions of dollars each year to shelter, feed and clothe over a million convicted criminals in Federal and State Prisons throughout the United States, yet it fails to provide its homeless Veterans who are guilty only of believing in America and serving their Country, with the basic necessities of life that it provides its imprisoned criminals.

What does it say about a Country and its Government that in1999 had a 250 Billion Dollar Budget Surplus and is quick to share its wealth with and provide financial aid to the less fortunate citizens of other nations, but is apathetic toward and fails to take care of its own less fortunate Citizens?

Let not the United States Government or any American point their finger at any other nation for Human Rights violations until they house and feed all the estimated 250,000 –350,000 homeless Veterans; and an estimated 750,000 – 1,000,000 non-Veteran homeless Americans living on the streets of America; provide more ample food for an estimated 10 million more American adults and children who go to sleep hungry every night; and provide total Medical Care and Prescription Medication for every American adult or child who is unable to afford it on their own, especially many of America’s Senior Citizens.

“Our rights as individuals depend on the willingness of the people to defend them, and so long as we have enough people in this country willing to fight for their rights, we’ll be called a democracy,” says the ACLU.

The U.S. Constitution expressly states in such clear and precise language and terms as: “Shall not be infringed,” and “Congress shall make no laws prohibiting or abridging the Free exercise thereof,” yet, you have read that in fact the VA, a branch of the United States Government still denied Veterans their Right to exercise their Freedom of Speech without fear of oppression.

Now, you hopefully understand, and clearly and plainly see, that: “If Freedom doesn’t ring for Veterans, then for whom shall it ring?”

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