Anyone who reads or watches the news outlets has no doubt been recently made aware of the rampant abuses of authority and corruptions of power revealed within the Veterans Administration. The defiance and hubris expressed by top VA officials who have been called on the carpet is indicative of an autocratic agency which believes itself autonomous and not subject to external influences. They could be very mistaken about this.
Although a very long laundry list of the VA’s disgraceful policies, misdeeds, and arguably criminal actions has come to the attention of the American public (which I personally have coined “VA-Gate”), I would like to focus here on one quasi-secretive element within the VHA which has been handed a mandate to police ( and punish) the behavior of veterans enrolled for medical benefits, care and treatment. The secretive bodies who oversee and adjudicate “unacceptable” behaviors are known as ‘Disruptive Behavior Committees’.
Disruptive Behavior Committees have received their mandate through CFR 38 17.107, which is dedicated to patient issues and conflicts titled: VA Response to Disruptive Behavior of Patients. This regulation can be traced back to broad new authority conferred upon various federal agencies via the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), post 9-11. According to a Dept. Of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General review, ‘Management of Disruptive Patient Behavior at VA Medical Facilities’, [March 7, 2013], incidents and behaviors which are tracked and overseen by DBC committees include: verbal aggression, drug seeking behavior, physical violence toward a person, threat of harm with no weapon mentioned, unspecified or vague threat, threat of harm with a weapon, threat of suicide threat of property damage, or an active suicide attempt.
The DBC is empowered to impose a variety of ascending severe consequences upon vets accused of disruptive behavior. This regulation is blatantly unconstitutional, because it does not allow for the veteran to have a hearing BEFORE being admonished (or punished) for their alleged behavior. A veteran may be allowed a chance to appeal only AFTER a decision to restrict medical access has been implemented. This process may be triggered by something as simple as an argument, or raising your voice to staff while on the phone. It is worthwhile to point out that a full 57% of alleged disruptive behavior incidents are categorized as “verbal aggression” or verbal attacks.
One of the criticisms, and subsequent areas of recommendation, focused on in the VA OIG inspection of this management program was the wide variation in what facilities documented in regards to disruptive incidents, referrals to DBC’s, deliberations by DBC’s, and the recommendations or actions taken as a result. Their discussions with VHA officials support that there is no clear guidance or agreement on this issue. In other words, accusations of disruptive behavior can be made by any staff member who interacts with a veteran; these allegations are completely subjective. “Some officials told us that they did not support having guidelines that are too specific—instead, they believe employees should report any actions or incidents in which they feel at risk. The officials’ concern is that overly prescriptive guidance will discourage employees from reporting potentially dangerous incidents, or incidents with the potential to escalate.” [ VA OIG Inspection Report]
Subsequently, this unconstitutional, Orwellian-designed behavior-modification & punishment division of the VHA does not have a comprehensive definition of what constitutes disruptive behavior. Facilities apply their own definitions, which are not consistent from facility to facility. Therefore, the program is being administered more subjectively than what is appropriate. This would seem to pose grave doubts as to the validity of this ersatz-Politburo arm of the VHA in and of itself: but wait, it gets much, much worse! *see next installment: Red Flags have Veterans Seeing Red!
PLEASE NOTE: For timely, indepth articles on VHA GATE, please see Benjamin Krause’s website, ‘Disabled Veterans’. http://disabledveterans.org/ This is, bar none, the best source and most comprehensive collection of articles, essays, and veteran’s comments/stories related to the breadth and depth of abuse, bullying, retaliation, illegal secret committees, unconstitutionally-invoked punishments without hearings, corruption, and intentional restriction of access to health care and services occurring within the VHA today.