Sunday, August 31, 2008


The Veterans Administration is supposed to help wounded veterans not make them prove their wounds are combat related.

By Joshua Kors
This article appeared in the September 15, 2008 edition of The Nation.

Wounded soldiers returning from Iraq are increasingly being wrongly diagnosed by the military, which prevents them from collecting benefits. What Jimenez didn't realize is that before he could receive benefits for his wounds, he'd have to prove that those wounds came from war. Three and a half years later, the sergeant is still making his case. The Department of Veterans Affairs isn't convinced. And it won't give him his benefits until it is.

The VA requires all veterans to prove their wounds are "service-connected" before it writes them a check. Jimenez thought that hurdle was merely a formality. The Army sergeant had been struck by two roadside bombs. The first sliced into his arms; six months later, a second bomb sprayed scrap metal into his face, knocking him unconscious and leaving him brain damaged. He began having seizures and suffering from memory loss. The blast left a persistent ringing in his right ear. The stress sparked nightmares, flashbacks and acid-reflux disease.
"I'm a different person now," Jimenez says glumly. "I come home; I lock myself in my room. I don't really talk to anyone. I used to be fun." Now, he says, he can't even have a bowl of cereal. It gives him heartburn for days. "That second bomb, it killed me--it just left my body." Sick, suicidal, the sergeant sought help from the VA.

The VA's diagnosis: too much caffeine. "They said I was drinking too much Red Bull. That's what was causing my problems."

Jimenez got mad. At that point, he did something few veterans even consider: he sued the VA.

The sergeant is a member of Veterans for Common Sense (VCS), one of the most prominent veterans' groups in the country. In July 2007, executive director Paul Sullivan filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of Jimenez and the thousands of veterans in his organization who were wounded in Iraq and, he says, were rebuffed by the VA when they sought disability and medical benefits.

"The VA needs more than a few minor changes at the margins. It needs a massive overhaul," says Sullivan. His organization's lawsuit asked Judge Samuel Conti to do exactly that: radically restructure the VA and the way it processes veterans' claims. The VA moved immediately to get the case dismissed, asserting that Sullivan's organization didn't represent the nation's wounded vets and had no standing to demand an overhaul of a $94 billion government organization.
Judge Conti disagreed.

The 86-year-old World War II veteran scheduled the trial for the end of April, and he demanded VA's top officials appear and take the stand. Over seven days VCS's lawyers would press them to explain internal e-mails and studies, statistics and videos, all suggesting that high-ranking officials purposely deceived Congress and the public, twisted data to cloak the VA's poor care of the ill and injured, and fired a prominent doctor who decided to expose the problems.

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Labrys the Furious said...

That is the most disgusting story I have read today. No wonder my son has not applied for benefits from the VA....he knows he will be blown off.

Bill Corcoran said...

I first want to extend my thanks to your son for serving our country.

I'm sorry to have to bring a story like this to your attention, but you and I know the mainstream press in the US is as bad as the VA about not reporting what is happening to people like your son and thousands of others.

Thanks for the comment.

Bill Corcoran, a military veteran, U.S. Army Combat Engineers.

Anonymous said...

This, Cork, is another reason why a draft is a bad idea. It only perpetuates wars, which are no-win anyway, and the VA mess is what the surviving GI's get to look forward to. Hell no! We won't go!!

Bill Corcoran said...

Thanks for writing. I still don't think it is right that so few people have to fight these wars started by Republicans and the same few keep getting sent back to Iraq again and again.

That IMO is not right.

Anonymous said...

That's why, Cork, I say bring ALL the troops home. You don't pull out of quicksand by sending MORE people into it. And the way I see it, war in the Mideast is a 6-mile deep quicksand with an undertow---waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyyyyy past the quagmire stage. The people here need to rebel, so you won't have these stupid wars of choice.

Shauna said...

It is an atrocity what our government is doing to our Vets. They also are misdiagnosing the traumatic brain injuries these vets are suffering from. The IED's are causing more brain damage, that they are having to prove to the government came from an explosion, and they are not receiving the treatment that can help their brains heal.. Hyperbaric Oxygen... they have chambers at Walter Reed, but won't use them, instead they give the Vets drugs to mask they symptoms of a much bigger problem!

Bill Corcoran said...

Thanks for writing. I agree with your comment.

Bill Corcoran said...

Shauna: Thanks for writing. Something has to be done and very quickly or more returning vets will commit suicide.