VA Doctor’s Hard Line on HBOT Leads to Veteran Suicide

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As a military veteran with PTSD and TBI, I encounter many brave warriors who have had difficulties getting proper treatment from the Department of Veterans Affairs (“the VA”).

All of these conversations have been disturbing and caused me to relive the terrible ordeals I faced when dealing with the VA.  Nothing quite compared to the disturbing letter I received from Debbie Lee, the founder of America’s Mighty Warriors (“AMW”).

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Veteran Eric Bivins serving his country.

In her open letter (summarized and slightly edited below), Debbie describes the heart-wrenching conversation she had with Kimi Bivins, whose husband Eric (a Marine Veteran), had committed suicide after the callous indifference shown by doctors at the VA to his PTSD and TBI.

Several weeks ago Veteran Eric Bivins reached out to us via email for help with his PTS (Post Traumatic Stress) and getting into Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy treatments. We replied to his email and told him we would be glad to help. He was scheduled to start Aug 2nd at Rocky My Hyperbaric.

I didn’t hear anything back until Wednesday when his wife called. She informed me that her husband had committed suicide. She was calling to try and get HBOT for her husbands friends he had served with. We are working to connect with them to provide HBOT to provide healing and hope.

Over the last 4 years our foundation, America’s Mighty Warriors (“AMW”) has been an advocate to make this standard of care at the VA and with Tricare. We have paid for over 30 Veterans to receive this 2 month treatment. Every Veteran we sponsored who received treatment has received improvement with their symptoms for PTSD/TBI .

We spoke for about and hour and she shared that her husband was super excited about getting the treatment and had hope for his future. He had numerous problems with the VA in Tennessee.

Long story short, his last visit at the VA was with the Chief of Staff, Dr. John Nadeau to at that facility. When Eric shared his excitement for getting the HBOT treatment Dr Nadeau told him several times that HBOT was a waste and that people were just trying to scam him for his money. 

His wife said he left a defeated man and had his hope crushed by that doctor. We both agree that her husband’s blood is on that doctor’s hands. They had numerous botched surgeries and doctors who disrespected and misdiagnosed or wouldn’t diagnose his medical problems.

Eric had been sober for about 18 months and that next day started drinking and ended up taking his life after several days of abusing alcohol and prescription drugs.

I am working with her to expose this atrocity. She has two daughters who are 12 and 10. I spent about an hour on the phone with her tonight just listening and providing comfort. While we were talking I asked when social security would kick in for her kids and she said hopefully August. I asked about insurance and she said none. I asked how she was doing financially, and she said they are struggling. Then she shared that her roof caved in a few days ago and that they had their roof replaced two years ago and it wasn’t done correctly and they insurance will only cover $2000 in “rot” damage, not the replacement costs.

AMW did a Random Act of Kindness for Kami and her children to help during this difficult time and sent a check for $5000.00. This program was started in response to my sons amazing last letter home. He mentions that Random Acts of Kindness could change our world and I know when I shared with Kami what our board had approved her life was changed, and she was deeply moved.

Please help us to expose another VA that is responsible for killing a Veteran and the help and healing that HBOT is providing for our Veterans struggling with TBI and PTSD.

I have worked with Veterans who have shown me a gallon size baggie of prescription drugs that they were prescribed to take and 2/3rd’s of them say “may cause suicidal tendencies” and we wonder why our suicide rate is so high. Then they find alternative therapies that are helping and have their hope ripped from them by doctors who are not familiar with HBOT and the success our Vets have seen who have received this. How many more lost lives are these Doctors responsible for?

It is hard to fathom the reasons why any qualified VA doctor would rob a patient a moment of hope, particularly when the VA has been demonstrably incompetent in providing an alternative.

Kimi’s story, as reported by Debbie of AMW, serves as a daily reminder that we all need to take action to expose the lies, hypocrisy and arrogance of the VA.  For many Veterans, the VA is a failed institution that treats our brave heroes with disdain.

How can let this young woman’s desperate plea go unheeded?

It is hard for me to watch this video, but Kimi’s experience is not unique. How many more Veterans need to suffer such indignity?

For those wishing to know more about Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy or HBOT, please CLICK HERE:

And please, take the opportunity to visit our website where we have many resources and articles devoted to helping Veterans find alternative therapy programs for PTSD and TBI.

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Medical Benefits More Costly for Active and Retired Military

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“Leave no man behind,”  is certainly a long-standing military phrase that captures the essence of the pride and valor of men and women serving in our armed forces. The origins of this phrase are not known, but  is used by the US Army Rangers, the USMC and special forces units around the world.

Regardless of its origins, the message is clear:  Our military takes care of their own and does not leave their wounded and brave heroes behind when they have sacrificed so much to defend our liberties. Clearly, political and military leaders in DC don’t operate with the same code of ethics and integrity.  Specifically, the Pentagon is proposing significant changes TRICARE, the military health-care program, to meet budget reduction targets.

As reported by USA Today earlier this month, “the Pentagon is proposing substantial increases in health care premiums for working-age military retirees. For some retirees, the premiums for TRICARE, would nearly quadruple from $520 per year to $2,480 in 2017.

“Veterans’ advocates denounced the proposed increases. Retired vice admiral Norb Ryan, president of the Military Officers Association of America, called it a ‘a significant breach of faith with those who have already completed arduous careers of 20-30 or more years in uniform.'”

Quite understandably, the proposed increases in medical insurance premiums has provoked a firestorm in DC.  Reports the Washington Free Beacon,  “’We shouldn’t ask our military to pay our bills when we aren’t willing to impose a similar hardship on the rest of the population,’ Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and a Republican from California, said in a statement to the Washington Free Beacon. ‘We can’t keep asking those who have given so much to give that much more.'”

While there are many sacred cows that may need to be sacrificed to bring our federal budget deficit under control,  axing medical insurance premiums and medical care for our veterans and active military personnel is not one of them.  If we as a nation can’t care for our brave heroes, then we shouldn’t be placing them in harm’s way in the first place.

Former Secretary of State and Chairman, Joint Chief of Staff, Colin Powell said that, “War should be the politics of last resort.  And when we go to war, we should have purpose that our people understand and support.   Perhaps, General Powell should have added “and that we as a Nation have a clear responsibility to care for those we send to war.”

I am quite sure that General Powell would have assumed that to be the case, but it would appear that “sense of responsibility” seems to have been replaced by “sense of entitlement” among the current breed of Beltway bandits.

 

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Military Budget Cuts: Does it make sense?

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Secretary of Defense Robert Gates unveiled a new plan which calls for significant cuts in our military budget.   In a Washington Post article published today, Secretary Gates and the administration agreed to of less than 2.7% based on the 2012 military budget of $553 billion.

This represents a major victory for the Pentagon, military contractors, lobbyists and armaments manufacturers.  While the traditional beltway insiders continue to benefit from the Pentagon’s largess, the ultimate sacrifice will be paid for the the men and women in uniform who will experience a cut of 6% in active duty personnel  (reduction of 27,000 in the Army and 20,000 Marines) plus increased contributions for medical insurance (Tricare) for service members.

If Congress buys into this tepid plan to curb military spending then I doubt that little will be accomplished with other areas of our Federal, State and Local governments to cut spending.   In all fairness to the Obama administration, they were reportedly seeking spending cuts of $150 billion and settled for $78 billion following a strong sell by the Pentagon.

If this was a “real” business where each dollar had to be justified by “results,” the leaders managing this budget process would have put out to pasture long ago.  In this merry-go-round of spending tax dollars unwisely, the military – like many other federal entities – doesn’t want to bite the bullet and do the right thing for our taxpayers and its service members.

If I interpret this budget correctly, Secretary Gates is arguing that it costs US taxpayers $553 billion a year to provide our country with the military security it needs.   But – and this is an important BUT – “If you want us to engage in combat, it will cost you more!” Ummm . . . That’s interesting.

While I am not a military budget expert, something doesn’t add up.    The proposed cuts simply look like window-dressing when a full-scale evaluation is required of how our military is positioned (both here and abroad).  Who is the enemy (both now and in the future)?  Do we have the “right” mix of human and physical resources to deal with those threats?  Simply waiting for the troops to come home from Afghanistan in 2014 to make budget isn’t budgeting, it’s simply bean-counting.

Secretary Gates, let’s cut the fat out of our budget and deal with the out-dated structures, procurement processes, military alliances and Cold War holdovers that severely hamper our ability to field a properly equipped and effective military force to deal with real threats.   Let’s leave “Nation Building” to the Peace Corps, the United Nations and the responsible citizens of a country who truly aspire to Nationhood.

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Military News Highlights: December 21, 2010

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For Brain-Injured Soldiers, Top Quality Care From a Philanthropist, not the Pentagon

The primary health care plan for our active duty force, called TRICARE will not provide “cognitive rehabilitation therapy” (CRT) for treatment of traumatic brain injuries (TBI) because the treatment is “still unproven.”  Project Share, a charity based out of the Shepard Center for Brain and Spinal Cord Injury in Atlanta is singularly focused on assisting brain-damaged soldiers – their efforts, to serve as a model for the Department of Defense and provide CRT as a means to close the gap created by TRICARE and military hospitals that lack the expertise and staff to treat complex TBI injuries, are falling on deaf ears. 

The 2007 ECRI Assessment on Cognitive Rehabilitation for Traumatic Brain Injury report provides specific details on CRT costs and benefits.  CRT is not some hokey-incense burning-meditation protocol – it’s a proven therapy that our servicemembers need access to.

 Admitting that CRT is timely and oftentimes complex, the former Home Depot executive and philanthropist Bernie Marcus and founder of Project Share makes the compelling case that our servicemembers that are grievously wounded and affected by TBI deserve only the best treatment and options.    SFTT agrees!

NATO fails to deliver half of trainers promised for Afghanistan

The trap door out of Afghanistan is supposedly lined with the premise that the Afghan National Security Forces will stand up beginning in 2011 and begin to assume increasingly more security responsibilities – the trap door is the US/NATO exit plan.   But the required effort to make this possible will cost $6 billion per year in perpetuity and require a host of trainers and equipment resources – problem is, that by the end of 2010 NATO can only provide half of the required trainers.  Making matters worse is the ad hoc nature of the training effort and programs and the lack of accountability of ensuring training standards are being met – most startling is that Kabul (NATO) “is still discovering training programs operating around the country that headquarters commanders did not know existed.”   Can you imagine that?  A critical training mission staffed at 50% with a $6 billion tab and training programs that no one knows exists?

 25,000 Soldiers headed to Afghanistan in 2011

 The roster of units deploying to Afghanistan are as follows:

  •  I Corps Headquarters, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
  • 159th Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Ky.
  • 82nd Airborne Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.
  • 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Knox, Ky.
  • 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii
  • 1st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Fort Wainwright, Alaska
  • 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y.
  • 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo.
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