Veterans Roundup: Congressional Frustration Won’t Solve Veteran Suicide, Feres Doctrine Comes Under Fire, and More

Posted by Fred Wellman

Hours After 7th Vet Suicide at VA, Officials Repeat Plea for Public to Help, Patricia Kime (@patriciakime)
I’m tired of talking about veteran suicide in terms of its intractable nature, and can understand the frustration of AMVETS’ Sherman Gillums, who wrote in an op-ed about the latest Congressional hearings: “everyone simply admired the problem and relished in its complexities while leading the room full of observers to a cul-de-sac of nothing.” Veteran suicide rates are not declining despite the full attention of the community being trained on the issue. I don’t have the answers, but I have listened to a lot of smart people with informed opinions, and have heard three things that continue to stick in my mind. First, veteran suicide is being fueled by our unwillingness to talk openly and frankly about restricting access to firearms for at-risk veterans. Veterans are more likely to die by suicide due to a firearm than non-veterans, and the role of guns is huge on suicide data across the board, but we dance around the issue. This must stop. Second, the VA does a relatively good job of preventing suicide among veterans who are actively receiving care—despite the recent spate of suicides occurring at or near VA facilities— which is why most veterans who die by suicides are not connected to the VA. We need to avoid blaming the VA for suicides by Americans it has no contact with, but we also need to figure out how to get more at-risk veterans connected with the VA or related community resources for mental health care and to ensure that the VA has the ability to communicate with them, so they know they are not alone. Finally, we need to recognize, as I wrote back in 2016, that suicide is an American problem, and that despite higher rates, the veterans who die by suicide look similar to civilians who die by suicide. Increased veteran suicide rates are influenced by broad societal factors, not just unique elements of the military experience, and we need to work holistically to tackle suicide as an issue that knows few boundaries. And of course, as the VA urges, we just need to “Be There” for our friends and family. Ultimately, I’m not an expert, so what am I missing? What else do we need to do that will move the needle on veteran suicide?  -Brian Wagner, COO of ScoutComms

New measure would allow troops to sue for military malpractice mistakes
Military Times, Leo Shane (@leoshane)
New legislation introduced by RepresentativeJackie Speier would carve out exemptions to the long standing Feres Doctrine that bars service members from suing the Department of Defense for medical malpractice. The doctrine comes from the U.S. Supreme Court case Feres v. United States, in which servicemen who picked up highly radioactive weapons fragments in the late 1940’s from a crashed airplane were not permitted to recover damages from the government. It has since been interpreted to protect any military medical provider, and even contractors, from malpractice lawsuits even in the most extreme cases. During the hearings this week on the topic, a Green Beret with Stage 4 cancer was blatantly misdiagnosed until it was too late. There are long time stories about operations on the wrong limbs and a host of other cases that leave the victim with no recourse. Government officials worry that the costs of lawsuits would drain the budget and fear that victims of botched medical procedures would get more compensation than someone injured in combat making those injuries somehow less valued. In the end, like all things government, it’s about money and in the end, like many things related to military service, we owe it to those who put on the uniform to take care of them when that service leaves them ill, injured or wounded. Yes…there is a cost but we can’t expect future generations to volunteer to serve if that service means they will be left damaged for life with no support. – Fred Wellman, CEO and Founder of ScoutComms

Salon, Center for Public Integrity Lead Winners of 2019 Military Reporters & Editors Awards
Military Reporters & Editors Association
The Military Reporters and Editors Association announced the 2019 winners of the Military Reporters and Editors Awards. Carmen Gentile was the winner of the Galloway Award for detailing his own account of being hit in the face with a rocket-propelled grenade. The Crawley Award, which honors first-rate print journalism, was awarded to Patrick Malone and R. Jeffrey Smith of the Center for Public Integrity. Additional awards were given for Large and Small Market in Print – both domestic and overseas, Radio, Television, Online, and Commentary. The Military Reporters and Editors Association will recognize the winners at their annual conference in October.

Military Not Following Own Rules for On-Base Domestic Violence Investigations, Richard Sisk
In a new report from the Pentagon’s Office of Inspector General, it is stated that of 219 examined domestic violence cases, 201 did not comply with Defense Department policies. These policy violations include not conducting thorough interviews, being lax in regularly filing incident reports and not collecting important evidence. The report made recommendations for quick action to resolve future policy violations that may occur.

Microsoft is helping veterans game again with Xbox Adaptive Controllers
The Verge, Tom Warren (@tomwarren)
Microsoft’s Xbox Adaptive Controller is designed for gamers with disabilities by being much more accessible than the standard controller. They are now giving veterans with limited mobility the opportunity to game again through a partnership with the US Department of Veterans Affairs. 22 VA rehab centers will be provided with Xbox Adaptive Controllers to be used in therapeutic and rehabilitative activities.

2019 Virginia Women Veterans Summit
May 16th & 17th | Hampton, Virginia
“This event brings together executives, community leaders, employers, and government agencies from the federal, state, and local levels to raise awareness about the services and benefits offered specifically for women veterans.” Read more & register here.

Fred Wellman

Fred Wellman, President ScoutComms, brings us his weekly review of veteran news via The Scout Report. Fred served over twenty years as an Army officer in both aviation and public affairs. Follow Fred on Twitter @ScoutComms

This entry was posted on Monday, May 06, 2019 11:47 am

One thought on “Veterans Roundup: Congressional Frustration Won’t Solve Veteran Suicide, Feres Doctrine Comes Under Fire, and More”

  1. A least it seems that some progress has finally been made on the Feres Doctrine. Understand that Feres also protects lawyers from legal malpractice as well as unethical government lawyers. When I was on active duty, I was threatened by Army lawyer CPT Matthew Fitzgerald to do something against regulations resulting in losing over $50,000. Fitzgerald’s motive was to tout this as his first accomplishment on his annual performance report of which I later got a copy. When I asked the top lawyer (then LTG Dana Chipman) for help, they appointed Fitzgerald’s previous boss/friend to investigate. I filed the same complaint with Fitzgerald’s state bar proving he lied more than 10 times. All thrown out of federal court due to Feres despite slam-dunk evidence in my favor. Fitzgerald since got promoted TWICE just to add the insult to my financial injury. The US Government should no longer be protected from flagrant malpractice when such protections are not available in the private sector. Feres was NEVER designed 50 years ago to protect against corruption, misdeeds, and cover-ups. Go to the link and you will see it all.

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