Tags: veterans affairs | hospital | scandal | probe | deaths | suicide

Ex-Army Barno: Ill Vets Committed Suicide While Waiting on VA

By Courtney Coren   |   Wednesday, 14 May 2014 04:18 PM

The wait times at Veteran Affairs Hospitals have gravely affected those suffering from mental health problems, leading some to commit suicide because they can't get the help they need, says Army veteran Amber Barno.

"With some mental healthcare issues, people aren't getting their appointments even when they're being told what to do as far as coming forward within the right amount of time," Barno told J.D. Hayworth and John Bachman on "America's Forum" on Newsmax TV.

"They're not getting those healthcare appointments, and that's very critical when there's some mental health involved . . . some people have committed suicide because the wait has been so long," Barno added.

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The Associated Press reported Army veteran Kryn Miner was killed by one of his children when he pulled a gun on the family. His widow, Amy Miner, claims that he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder caused by a blast in Afghanistan in 2010 and that the VA hospital in their area was not equipped to help him.

"If we can't take care of our vets, we shouldn't be sending them off to war," she told the AP.

Barno called the Obama administration's reaction to the VA scandal "apathetic."

"The administration, as well as Secretary [of Veterans Affairs Eric] Shinseki, has taken a very apathetic stance to what's going on in the VA," she added. "They're very much okay with the fact that the VA inspector general is investigating right now and that they decided that there's going to be this nationwide audit of all of the VA facilities, but we all know how bureaucracy works."

Besides the VA's own investigation, Barno recommends "some external eyes on the VA to figure out what is wrong."

Attorney General Eric Holder says he has no plans to have the Justice Department investigate the matter.

Barno said that she agrees with Rep. David Schweikert of Arizona, who told Newsmax on Monday that he thinks this is likely a nationwide scandal.

"This is a nationwide scandal, as we've seen over the past weeks more and more whistleblowers are coming out with allegations against the VA that they have been cooking the books," Barno said.

CBS News reported Tuesday that a Veterans Affairs Hospital in the Chicago area has also been maintaining a secret waiting list to hide how long VA patients have been waiting to see a doctor. This is in addition to similar reports from workers at VA hospitals in Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado, Texas.

David Patten, senior editor of Newsmax magazine, said Tuesday that one of the problems is the requirement established by the Department of Veterans Affairs that patients at VA hospitals are not to wait more than 14 days to see a doctor. If this 14-day waiting period lapses, employees are written up, but they also receive bonuses if they are able to meet the requirement. 

"[VA workers] are essentially using that 14-day waiting period and using the secret waiting list as ways to get bonuses," Barno explained. "If they ensure that their books reflect that they're upholding the 14 day standard, they then will receive bonuses."

Barno has joined others such as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in calling for Shinseki to resign.

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