how the u.s. really supports its troops

I have a lot of links sitting around, too many to give them all serious attention, but too good to delete. So here they come, in short form.

From the How the US Supports Its Troops file.

  • In Miami, veterans get medical procedures with improperly sterilized equipment:
    A Veterans Affairs hospital here has notified thousands of patients that their colonoscopies were performed with improperly sterilized equipment, officials said Monday.

    The hospital urged about 3,260 patients who had colonoscopies between May 2004 and March 12 of this year to get tests for HIV, hepatitis and other diseases.

    The VA insisted the risk of infection was minimal, saying the tubing that was improperly cleaned didn't make contact with patients.

    It was the second recent announcement of errors during colonoscopies at VA facilities.

    . . .

    Last month, 6,378 patients at a clinic in Murfreesboro, Tenn., were told they may have been exposed to infectious body fluids during colonoscopies.

    The VA said 1,800 veterans treated at an ear, nose and throat clinic in Augusta, Ga., were also alerted they could have been exposed to an infection due to improper disinfection of an instrument, though officials said the risk was "extremely small."

    The VA hasn't said whether it expects more facilities to announce similar problems, though Meek cautioned the number of affected people "could quickly expand to include a much larger pool of people."

  • And if that happens to you, good luck getting any restitution, because military health care is immune from lawsuits.
    About a year ago, CBS News reported on the story of a Marine, Carmelo Rodriguez, who died of skin cancer that military doctors noticed but left untreated. Rodriguez's family cannot sue the government for malpractice - the law won't let them. ...

    "Carmelo wanted his story to be heard, even if his life couldn't be saved," she said. "He wanted to ensure that what happened to him could not happen to another service member."

    In nearly 60 years, no one has ever successfully challenged the Feres Doctrine. But no ever made it this far either.

  • Quality aside, aren't veterans at least guaranteed care, at no cost? Not necessarily. US Army veteran billed for health care for combat wounds:
    Erik Roberts, an Army sergeant who was wounded in Iraq, underwent his 13th surgery recently to save his right leg from amputation. Imagine his shock when he got a bill for $3,000 for his treatment.

    "I just thought it was bull---- that I'm getting billed for being wounded in Iraq doing my job. I always put the mission first, and now that I was wounded in Iraq, they're sending me bills," he said.

    "I put my life on the line and I was wounded in combat, and I came back and they're not going to take care of my medical bills?"

    It's a level of outrage shared by his mother, as well as the doctor who performed the surgery. . . .

    CNN on Wednesday contacted the office of Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from Roberts' home state of Ohio who serves on the Senate's VA committee. Brown's office had not heard of Roberts' case, but immediately reached out to the soldier and alerted the VA about his situation.

    In less than 24 hours, the VA got back to CNN. "The VA will be paying the bill," said VA spokesman Sean Nelson.

  • Sexual assaults in US combat zones are up by a whopping 25 percent. Most people writing about this are focusing on a stupid statement made by Kaye Whitley, director of the Pentagon's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office. There's no doubt that Whitley is in the wrong line of work, but her gaffe is hardly the problem. Luckily, Bob Herbert didn't miss the more important point.
    Rape and other forms of sexual assault against women is the great shame of the U.S. armed forces, and there is no evidence that this ghastly problem, kept out of sight as much as possible, is diminishing.

    By Bob Herbert

    I had a conversation several weeks ago with a former Army officer, a woman, who had been attacked in her bed a few years ago by a superior officer, a man, who was intent on raping her.

    The woman fought the man off with a fury. When she tried to press charges against him, she was told that she should let the matter drop because she hadn't been hurt. When she persisted, battalion officials threatened to bring charges against her.

    "They were talking about charging me with assault," she said, her voice still tinged with anger and a sense of disbelief. "I'm no longer in the Army," she added dryly.

    Tia Christopher, a 27-year-old woman who lives in California and works with victims of sexual assault in the military, told me about the time that she was raped when she was in the Navy. She was attacked by another sailor who had come into her room in the barracks.

    "He was very rough," she said. "The girls next door heard my head hitting the wall, and he made quite a mess. When he left, he told me that he'd pray for me and that he still thought I was pretty."

    Christopher left the Navy. As she put it: "My military career ended. My assailant's didn't." . . .

    New data released by the Pentagon showed an almost 9 percent increase in the number of sexual assaults reported in the last fiscal year — 2,923 — and a 25 percent increase in such assaults reported by women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Try to imagine how bizarre it is that women in American uniforms who are enduring all the stresses related to serving in a combat zone have to also worry about defending themselves against rapists wearing the same uniform and lining up in formation right beside them.

    The truly chilling fact is that, as the Pentagon readily admits, the overwhelming majority of rapes that occur in the military go unreported, perhaps as many as 80 percent. And most of the men accused of attacking women receive little or no punishment. The military's record of prosecuting rapists is not just lousy, it's atrocious. [More here.]

    My thanks - my heart - to Tia Christopher for speaking out.

    MSEH said...

    So depressing...

    redsock said...

    Thousands of buildings at U.S. bases in Iraq and Afghanistan have such poorly installed wiring that American troops face life-threatening risks, a top inspector for the Army says.

    "It was horrible -- some of the worst electrical work I've ever seen," said Jim Childs, a master electrician and the top civilian expert in an Army safety survey. Childs told CNN that "with the buildings the way they are, we're playing Russian roulette." ...

    He said problems are "everywhere" in Iraq, where 18 U.S. troops have died by electrocution since 2003. All deaths occurred in different circumstances and different locations, but many happened on U.S. bases being managed by various military contractors. ...

    Of the nearly 30,000 buildings the Army's "Task Force Safe" has examined so far, Childs said more than half "failed miserably." And 8,527 had such serious problems that inspectors gave them a "flash" warning, meaning repairs had to be completed in four hours or the facility evacuated.

    He said the majority of those buildings were wired by contractor KBR, based in Houston, Texas. ...



    CNN reported that an Army Special Forces soldier, Staff Sergeant Ryan Maseth, died by electrocution in his shower stall on January 2, 2008. Army documents showed that KBR inspected the building and found serious electrical problems a full 11 months before his death. ... In January 2009, the US Army CID investigator assigned to the case recommended that Maseth's official cause of death should be changed from "accidental" to "negligent homicide". ... Despite these issues, KBR was recently awarded a $35 million contract for major electrical work.