Vet at War with the System

I realize there are people who disagree with some or all of my opinions and decisions. Even though we do not agree about everything, I am glad you visit my blog and spend your valuable time sharing comments about my posts.

Based on the following article, and many similar stories, my conclusion is the United States Department of Veteran Affairs is an excellent role model of extremely poor customer service. Since we elected the people who send soldiers into combat, or the people we elect choose the people who send soldiers into combat, we are accountable for providing the training, resources, and intelligence soldiers need to be successful. If something goes wrong, and a soldier is injured, we are also responsible for ensuring the soldier receives the treatment necessary to succeed beyond adversity.

Leaders who are incapable of making decisions that are in the best interest of our injured soldiers should be replaced by people who are better skilled in decision making. Although the following article refers to United States veterans, my comments pertain to leaders everywhere, not just those in the United States. If you send people to fight, you also need to provide for them when they are injured. We are all accountable for our actions and our inactions.

Ideally, there would be no war.

Excerpt of Article by Eric Newhouse | Great Falls Tribune

(Photo: TRIBUNE PHOTO/ABBY REDFERN)
(Photo: TRIBUNE PHOTO/ABBY REDFERN)

Two months after a state licensing board reprimanded a United States Veteran Affairs (VA) psychologist for an allegedly improper traumatic brain injury assessment, there has been no change – and the VA says there won’t be.

“The [case] points to the issue of federal supremacy, which lies at the foundation of this [dispute],” said a letter to the Montana Board of Psychology, signed by three VA officials in Washington, D.C. “Federal law controls matters relating to Veteran Affairs.”

The case involves Charles Gatlin, now a graduate student at the University of Montana in Missoula. A Ranger-qualified former Army captain, Gatlin suffered a brain injury after a truck bomb knocked him unconscious near Kirkuk, Iraq, in 2006.

The Army put Gatlin through a three-day battery of neuropsychological tests in 2006, 2007 and 2009 and concluded he had suffered significant attention problems, processing speed deficits and persistent frontal lobe dysfunction. After three years, the final test concluded, the injuries had stabilized and appeared to be permanent.

Retired with a 70 percent TBI disability rating, Gatlin and his wife, Ariana Del Negro, returned to Montana. At the Fort Harrison VA hospital, staff psychologist Robert Bateen ran Gatlin through a short exam. The psychologist concluded that Gatlin’s cognitive deficits were not significant, and dropped his TBI disability rating to 10 percent.

Gatlin appealed that ruling to the VA Board of Appeals last year and testified in Washington, D.C., in October 2013. He also filed a separate challenge with the state board in Helena that licenses psychologists, arguing that the screening assessment wasn’t adequate to measure his cognitive ability, that Bateen wasn’t qualified to make the assessment, and that Bateen incorrectly characterized the results of that test.

The board agreed on all counts.

“To the extent Licensee asserts he was following the procedures of the VA, Licensee has an independent professional obligation to ensure his work as a psychologist complies with the statutes and rules governing his license,” said the board, which had the power to suspend his license.

It reprimanded Bateen, and it directed him to reverse his ruling and recommend the VA find a board-qualified neuropsychologist to assess Gatlin’s brain injury. He did so, but the VA said it sees no reason to change its assessment.

“Based on Dr. Bateen’s education, training and professional experience, Dr. Bateen was practicing within American Psychological Association ethical guidelines and accepted standards of care,” said a letter to the board signed by Dr. Thomas G. Lynch, assistant deputy undersecretary of health for clinical operations; Lois Mittlestaedt, chief of staff to the undersecretary for benefits; and Richard J. Hipolit, deputy general counsel.

Credits

Click here to read another Beyond Adversity post.

Thanks to Charles Gatlin for sharing his story, Eric Newhouse for writing the article; Great Falls Tribune for committing its resources to the article; Google for helping me find the article; and all the other people who, directly or indirectly, made it possible for me to include the picture and text I used in this post.

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