I think this author is correct...the Walter Reed scandal is just the tip of a very large iceberg.
by Jonathan Alter
[url=http://www.rawstory.com/showarticle.php?src=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.msnbc.msn.com%2Fid%2F17709628%2Fsite%2Fnewsweek%2F]A Fatal Dose: A rash of drug overdoses at a Veterans Administration hospital in California raises new questions about the quality of military health care
March 20, 2007 -
The poor conditions uncovered at Walter Reed Army Hospital may be only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to sub-standard treatment of veterans. At the Veterans Administration hospital in West Los Angeles, hospital administrators confirmed to NEWSWEEK and NBC News last week that five veterans there died of overdoses of illegal and prescription drugs in less than three months this winter. After learning that family and friends of a dead Iraq War veteran were about to go public, VA administrators ordered major policy changes at the 660-bed facility.
Toxicology reports and multiple investigations are still pending, and Dr. Dean Norman, chief of staff of the hospital, says that details of the five overdose deaths vary by case. But veterans treated at the hospital say that lax supervision of prescription drugs was a serious problem, particularly in the domiciliary, the dorm-like residential halls the VA uses to help veterans make the transition to life outside the hospital. “They were handing the meds out like candy,” said Joe Romo, a member of the local AMVETS post.
At least one of the deaths, that of 28-year-old Marine Lance Cpl. Justin Bailey, was the result of over-prescription of methadone, a highly addictive drug that has traditionally been used to treat heroin addiction but is increasingly prescribed for pain relief. After suffering a groin injury in Iraq, Bailey was operated on at the VA hospital. When the pain did not subside, he was prescribed methadone. After being given a 30-day supply, Bailey suffered a nonfatal overdose in December.
Hospital records indicate that Bailey’s parents then alerted the hospital that he should be watched more closely. He was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which resulted, in part, he told friends, from having taken part in accidentally killing civilians in Iraq. After the first overdose, VA doctors reduced his prescription to a 14-day supply, which he self-administered in combination with at least four other prescription medications. On Jan. 26, Bailey was found passed out in his bed in the domiciliary and he died shortly after. “The man suffered from PTSD, and this was a terrible tragedy,” said Norman.