United States war veterans on waiting lists dying


This video from CNN in the USA is called 40 deaths result from VA hospital’s secret waiting list.

From CNN in the USA:

A fatal wait: Veterans languish and die on a VA hospital’s secret list

By Scott Bronstein and Drew Griffin, CNN Investigations

April 24, 2014 — Updated 1315 GMT (2115 HKT)

At least 40 U.S. veterans died waiting for appointments at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care system, many of whom were placed on a secret waiting list.

The secret list was part of an elaborate scheme designed by Veterans Affairs managers in Phoenix who were trying to hide that 1,400 to 1,600 sick veterans were forced to wait months to see a doctor, according to a recently retired top VA doctor and several high-level sources.

For six months, CNN has been reporting on extended delays in health care appointments suffered by veterans across the country and who died while waiting for appointments and care. But the new revelations about the Phoenix VA are perhaps the most disturbing and striking to come to light thus far.

Internal e-mails obtained by CNN show that top management at the VA hospital in Arizona knew about the practice and even defended it.

Dr. Sam Foote just retired after spending 24 years with the VA system in Phoenix. The veteran doctor told CNN in an exclusive interview that the Phoenix VA works off two lists for patient appointments:

There’s an “official” list that’s shared with officials in Washington and shows the VA has been providing timely appointments, which Foote calls a sham list. And then there’s the real list that’s hidden from outsiders, where wait times can last more than a year.

Deliberate scheme, shredded evidence

“The scheme was deliberately put in place to avoid the VA’s own internal rules,” said Foote in Phoenix. “They developed the secret waiting list,” said Foote, a respected local physician.

The VA requires its hospitals to provide care to patients in a timely manner, typically within 14 to 30 days, Foote said.

According to Foote, the elaborate scheme in Phoenix involved shredding evidence to hide the long list of veterans waiting for appointments and care. Officials at the VA, Foote says, instructed their staff to not actually make doctor’s appointments for veterans within the computer system.

Instead, Foote says, when a veteran comes in seeking an appointment, “they enter information into the computer and do a screen capture hard copy printout. They then do not save what was put into the computer so there’s no record that you were ever here,” he said.

According to Foote, the information was gathered on the secret electronic list and then the information that would show when veterans first began waiting for an appointment was actually destroyed.

“That hard copy, if you will, that has the patient demographic information is then taken and placed onto a secret electronic waiting list, and then the data that is on that paper is shredded,” Foote said.

“So the only record that you have ever been there requesting care was on that secret list,” he said. “And they wouldn’t take you off that secret list until you had an appointment time that was less than 14 days so it would give the appearance that they were improving greatly the waiting times, when in fact they were not.”

Foote estimates right now the number of veterans waiting on the “secret list” to see a primary care physician is somewhere between 1,400 and 1,600.

Doctor: It’s a ‘frustrated’ staff

“I feel very sorry for the people who work at the Phoenix VA,” said Foote. “They’re all frustrated. They’re all upset. They all wish they could leave ’cause they know what they’re doing is wrong.

“But they have families, they have mortgages and if they speak out or say anything to anybody about it, they will be fired and they know that.”

Several other high-level VA staff confirmed Foote’s description to CNN and confirmed this is exactly how the secret list works in Phoenix.

Foote says the Phoenix wait times reported back to Washington were entirely fictitious. “So then when they did that, they would report to Washington, ‘Oh yeah. We’re makin’ our appointments within — within 10 days, within the 14-day frame,’ when in reality it had been six, nine, in some cases 21 months,” he said.

November: A dire situation in South Carolina

In the case of 71-year-old Navy veteran Thomas Breen, the wait on the secret list ended much sooner.

“We had noticed that he started to have bleeding in his urine,” said Teddy Barnes-Breen, his son. “So I was like, ‘Listen, we gotta get you to the doctor.’ “

Teddy says his Brooklyn-raised father was so proud of his military service that he would go nowhere but the VA for treatment. On September 28, 2013, with blood in his urine and a history of cancer, Teddy and his wife, Sally, rushed his father to the Phoenix VA emergency room, where he was examined and sent home to wait.

“They wrote on his chart that it was urgent,” said Sally, her father-in-law’s main caretaker. The family has obtained the chart from the VA that clearly states the “urgency” as “one week” for Breen to see a primary care doctor or at least a urologist, for the concerns about the blood in the urine.

“And they sent him home,” says Teddy, incredulously.

Sally and Teddy say Thomas Breen was given an appointment with a rheumatologist to look at his prosthetic leg but was given no appointment for the main reason he went in.

The Breens wait … and wait … and wait …

No one called from the VA with a primary care appointment. Sally says she and her father-in-law called “numerous times” in an effort to try to get an urgent appointment for him. She says the response they got was less than helpful.

“Well, you know, we have other patients that are critical as well,” Sally says she was told. “It’s a seven-month waiting list. And you’re gonna have to have patience.”

Sally says she kept calling, day after day, from late September to October. She kept up the calls through November. But then she no longer had reason to call.

Thomas Breen died on November 30. The death certificate shows that he died from Stage 4 bladder cancer. Months after the initial visit, Sally says she finally did get a call.

“They called me December 6. He’s dead already.”

Sally says the VA official told her, “We finally have that appointment. We have a primary for him.’ I said, ‘Really, you’re a little too late, sweetheart.’ “

Sally says her father-in-law realized toward the end he was not getting the care he needed.

“At the end is when he suffered. He screamed. He cried. And that’s somethin’ I’d never seen him do before, was cry. Never. Never. He cried in the kitchen right here. ‘Don’t let me die.’ “

Teddy added his father said: “Why is this happening to me? Why won’t anybody help me?”

Teddy added: “They didn’t do the right thing.” Sally said: “No. They neglected Pop.”

First hidden — and then removed

Foote says Breen is a perfect example of a veteran who needed an urgent appointment with a primary doctor and who was instead put on the secret waiting list — where he remained hidden.

Foote adds that when veterans waiting on the secret list die, they are simply removed.

“They could just remove you from that list, and there’s no record that you ever came to the VA and presented for care. … It’s pretty sad.”

Foote said that the number of dead veterans who died waiting for care is at least 40.

“That’s correct. The number’s actually higher. … I would say that 40, there’s more than that that I know of, but 40′s probably a good number.”

CNN has obtained e-mails from July 2013 showing that top management, including Phoenix VA Director Sharon Helman, was well-aware about the actual wait times, knew about the electronic off-the-books list and even defended its use to her staff.

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Dutch government helps US drone assassinations


This video from the USA is called Confirmed: American Citizens Killed By U.S. Drones.

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

“The Netherlands provides metadata for drones

Update: Thursday 24 Apr 2014 13:43

The U.S. uses Dutch metadata for liquidations by drones in Somalia. Thus says a former drone pilot in daily NRC Handelsblad.

Metadata provide information about who is calling whom and when. Such information is essential for the Americans says former pilot Brandon Bryant. They are even more important than what exactly was discussed, he said.

Bryant calls it naïve and incorrect to think that such information would not be used. Various political parties in the House asked for guarantees against that last night during a debate with Minister of Defense Hennis.

Minister Hennis claimed during that parliamentary debate that the data were not used. A false claim, according to Bryant.

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Torture in Bahrain update


From the Bahrain Center for Human Rights:

23 April, 2014

Bahrain: Urgent Appeal: Al-Ghasra and 8 Others At Serious Risk For Torture

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses grave concern in regards to the health and well-being of Hassan Sabah Al-Banaa, Redha Al-Ghasra, and seven others (listed below) arrested by the Bahraini government on Wednesday, 23 April 2014. Al-Ghasra’s family informed the BCHR that they received a seconds long phone call in which Al-Ghasra was only able to say hello and that he was fine before the line was cut; a member of family reported that Al-Ghasra’s voice sounded very weak. The BCHR has documented a pattern of these types of telephone calls as a common practice during episodes in which the detainees report that they are subjected to torture.

The family protested outside the Criminal Investigations Department on the day of his arrest. Officers outside the building threatened the family, stating that if any pictures of their protest in front of the CID is broadcast, Al-Ghasra will not be allowed to contact them. The photo below, of Al-Ghasra’s mother, is included at the specific request of the family.

Torture in Bahrain

Al-Banaa and Al-Ghasra reportedly escaped from Jaw Central Prison at three o’clock in the morning on Tuesday, 22 April. While serving his prison sentence, Al-Ghasra was reportedly denied rights allocated to other prisoners. He had his hands and feet chained, and was not allowed access to books nor able to purchase supplies from the prison store. During his entire imprisonment period, Al-Ghasra was either in solitary confinement or in a locked cell with two criminal prisoners in a three meter by two and a half meter cell, and not allowed to go outdoors or interact with other political prisoners.

Given the previously documented force used against Al-Ghasra, and the pattern of arrests and subsequent systematic torture documented by the BCHR, the BCHR believes he is at serious risk for ill-treatment and torture. Prior to his 22 May 2013 arrest, Al- Ghasra was arrested twice, once in May 2011 and again in April 2012. During his last arrest, Al-Ghasra refused to speak of the worst torture he endured. However, he did give details including how everyday during his reported torture, all the officers present would spit into his mouth. He was also subjected to beatings on his face that resulted in several broken teeth as well as beating with sandals on his face that resulted in swelling that lasted for approximately two months. The severe swelling was witnessed by his family during their first visit to Al-Ghasra. Al-Ghasra told sources who spoke to the BCHR that during the torture he was subjected to he would reach points during which he “would wish for death.” Even when the torture stopped, he was in continuous pain. From the date of his arrest to the date of his escape, he was not allowed access to any kind of medical treatment.

The Al-Ghasra family has been repeatedly targeted by the authorities. Their home has been subjected to at least 70 house raids in a two-year period [1]. Two of Al-Ghasra’s brothers, Sadiq and Hassan, both under the age of 21, are currently in juvenile prison, and two of his other brothers are exiled and unable to return to Bahrain.

In a video capturing sound reportedly made during his May 2013 arrest, Al-Ghasra can clearly be heard screaming from severe beating. In December 2012, the government’s targeting took a reportedly more serious turn when Al-Ghasra was fired upon by the security forces at close range with shotgun pellets. Both he and his friend, Aqeel Abdulmohsen, were targeted with a gunshot from a close distance that led to his injury in the shoulder, while Aqeel’s face was dramatically injured [2].

Warning: Graphic Content

Link to the photo of Abdulmosheen’s injury.

Bahraini officials also arrested Sayed Mohammed Sayed Mohammed, Ahmed Saeed Ali Zahair, Hassan Ali Hussain, Hussain Jassim Ali Jassim, Sayeed Alawi Sayeed Taleb, Ahmed Maatouq Ebrahim Ali, and Jaffar Ali Mattouq, who is blind; all of these individuals were previously wanted by the Bahraini government. Following his arrest, Al-Ghasra’s father and brother were called in for interrogation by in relation to his whereabouts, their lawyer announced hours later their release.

The BCHR believes that due to unsatisfactory prison conditions, previously documented cases of torture and excessive use of force, and psychological intimidation, the lives of Al-Ghasra, Al-Banaa, and the seven other arrestees’ lives are potentially at great risk.

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls on the United Kingdom, the United States, and all other close allies of the Bahraini government to pressure the authorities in Bahrain to:

Immediately release Al-Ghasra, A-Banaa, and all other prisoners who are held on politically motivated charges due to the ongoing popular protests for freedom and democracy;
End the practice of torture and excessive use of force and uphold Article Five as a signatory of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
Adhere to the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners and end the practice of denying prisoners fair treatment.

The BCHR holds the Bahraini authorities responsible for the life and well-being of Redha Abdullah Isa Al-Ghasra, Hassan Sabah Al-Banaa, Sayed Mohammed Sayed Mohammed Ahmed Saee Ali Zahair, Hassan Ali Hussain, Hussain Jassim Ali Jassim, Sayeed Alawi Sayeed Taleb, Ahmed Maatouq Ebrahim Ali, and Jaffar Ali Mattouq.

[1] http://www.bahrainrights.org/en/node/6146

[2] http://manamavoice.com/index.php?plugin=news&act=news_read&id=11436, http://bahrainrights.org/en/node/5551

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