A recent report related twelve negative stories about the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) during March 2015. They shined a spotlight on severe difficulties within the VA.
But from all of the stories about veterans having problems with the VA over the last couple of months, two stand out above all of the rest.
Wayne Littrell was a neuropsychiatric technician specialist stationed in a Naval Base hospital in San Diego, California during World War II.
In 1945, a patient attacked Littrell resulting in serious injuries including breaking his jaw and the loss of six teeth. After his discharge the following year, military officials decided his injuries were indeed “service-related service-related and qualified him for ongoing treatment but not disability pension.”
After the war, Littrell received ill-fitting dentures from the VA after settling down in Denver, Colorado. He continued to attempt to get his dentures replaced but he has been unsuccessful for…70 years!
His case has still not been settled. He recently commented, “They’re pulling teeth now. I can’t chew anything. It’s a real imposition, not to be able to put food in your mouth — except soups”
Littrell, who recently turned 95 years old, said, “I hear from them quite often, but they still haven’t settled that claim. I think they’re just waiting me out so they don’t have to do anything.”
It certainly looks that way.
In 2010, Michael Farley, a 60-year-old Navy veteran, started experiencing splitting headaches and partial blindness. Recognizing that these particular symptoms were most likely related to a serious condition, he went to the VA Medical Center in Manchester, New Hampshire, for treatment.
Doctors at the VA determined that he had suffered a stroke. However, according to witnesses, he was given not given Coumadin, the medicine usually prescribed for a stroke, and sent him home. As a court record later mentioned, “It is a basic principle of medicine that a patient who has suffered a stroke is generally at an elevated risk of suffering a second stroke.”
Six weeks later, Farley did indeed have another stroke but this time it was massive, resulting in tragic results: he was now in a “locked-in syndrome”. This condition is described as one “in which a patient is aware but cannot move or communicate verbally due to complete paralysis of nearly all voluntary muscles in the body except for the eyes.” Farley remains in this condition as it is incurable.
On April 16, 2015, it was announced that Farley received a “$21.5 million dollar payout” from the VA through a lawsuit filed on his behalf by his family. Although this money cannot be considered justice for what has happened to him, his family will not be financially penalized for his long term care.
Granted, good news about the VA does get reported but infrequently. For example, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald announced in 2014 an award of nearly $93 million in Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) that will help approximately 45,000 homeless and at-risk Veterans and their families. And earlier this year, the VA reported, “Standardized forms make your VA more efficient. A more efficient VA will get you a quicker and more accurate decision on your claim.”
This kind of news is certainly welcome. However, it is not sufficient to fully overcome the suspicion that many veterans have of the VA when they hear stories such as those of Michael Farley and Wayne Littrell.
And that is a shame!