LET’S MAKE THIS PERFECTLY CLEAR, SACHA BARON COHEN, MOCKING HANDICAPPED U.S. VETERANS IS A NO-GO

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Let’s make this perfectly clear. Don’t disrespect America, especially if you live or work here. And if you do live or work here, never disrespect an American Veteran of Foreign Wars, handicapped or otherwise. It’s uncool, it’s uncalled for. And it might be illegal. Instead maybe we could spend more of our energies on rebuilding America, not destroying what we truly stand for.

I’m tremendously grateful for the opportunities I’ve had in life. There’s no question I’ve worked hard to get this far, to survive – just one look at the wear and tear of soul etched into the lines of my face will tell you that – but I do recognize how fortunate I am to live in the greatest country on this planet, ever, right now.

History proves me correct on this bold assertion. America – and we have had our share of crooked elements in state-sponsored corruption, malfeasance, terrorism, and outright evil – stands for greatness because Americans are good at heart and we try to get it right. We try to make a positive difference. We are spiritual by nature and inspired by God. But we get misguided sometimes. The programming elements of a dying empire can misguide you.

Although I’ve never approved of the Banker’s Wars which have basically been nonstop across the world during my lifetime, I have always appreciated the men and women who have sacrificed so much of themselves and their families while working for our military overseas. Some argue that Veterans of Foreign Wars may have been guided into a false sense of truth behind what they were fighting for, but each one of them fought for what they believed was our freedom. Our freedom as a people, as sovereign individuals, was and still is at the heart of what young men and women commit to when they join the service. And I feel free thanks to that value displayed by American Veterans.

Many American Veterans, and Veterans from every other country that has fought in the endless series of bloody Bankers’ Wars, have suffered tremendously. They are rejected by the society from where they come. They are abused and neglected by the healthcare systems that care for the people they fight to protect.

American Veterans have taken a particularly severe beating under Obama, and other previous administrations, and only now is the American Veterans Administration beginning to look at itself in a deeper more transparent way; to reflect how badly it has failed and literally tortured America’s military heroes — and what needs to be done to change it. To drug our aging Veterans into compliance until death do us part is no way to treat with dignity anyone – especially those who serve our country in our name.

I see our Veterans every day, some as clients, others as the tortured faces of the homeless on our streets, bus benches, and even our jails. This is because our government has failed to provide American Veterans with the adequate housing and healthcare they require to deal with the plethora of serious physical and mental issues they have come home with. And now I gotta read this crap?

Sure, we’re talking Sarah Palin here, and she’s never been one of America’s trusted daughters, having previously aligned herself in a run for the White House with none other than former Hanoi Hilton songbird and dying GOP Arizona Senator John McCain. But Palin now represents herself as having been a pawn to the reprehensible and disrespectful actions toward handicapped American Veterans by CBS / Showtime and one not so funny British comedian who calls himself Sacha Baron Cohen.

SARAH PALIN VERSUS SHOWTIME VERSUS HANDICAPPED U.S. VETERANS

In a post on her Facebook page that has garnered national media attention, Sarah Palin writes of a recent experience where she was contacted by a speaker’s bureau regarding what she believed would be an opportunity to honor American Vets and contribute to a “legit Showtime historical documentary”.

Palin apparently bit hard as she and her daughter were asked to fly across country for an interview regarding what Palin believed would be a “thoughtful discussion with someone who had served in uniform.” Instead, the former Alaskan governor found herself sitting through what she describes as a long “interview” full of “Hollywoodism’s disrespect and sarcasm”.

Palin writes, “The disrespect of our US military and middleclass Americans via Cohen’s foreign commentaries under the guise of interview questions was perverse.” Palin removed her mic and walked out disgustedly before the interview was complete.

MATT DRUDGE DOESN’T LIKE COHEN’S ACT EITHER

American political commentator Matt Drudge doesn’t appreciate Cohen’s act either. In an article in thehill.com Drudge warns “Sacha Baron Cohen at it again.” On July 9th Drudge Tweeted: “This time for CBS / SHOWTIME. Lots of tricks played.”

The creator and editor of the Drudge Report rightfully maligns Cohen for his insensitive actions, but why does it have to come down to this? Why does “Borat” and Showtime have to continue to dishonor American Vets in a humorless, classless guise, hidden under a handicapped Veteran’s blanket and the American flag? Isn’t Cohen British anyway? He doesn’t even belong here. If anything maybe Sarah Palin’s admission to having been duped by a boorish British performer who has a history of denigrating Americans in his works, could be used to shine a light on what is really a very serious matter, and that is the respectful taking care of our handicapped American Vets with dignity.

Sgt. Joey Jones, a double amputee American Veteran doesn’t play that game either. Sgt. Jones offered a solution to FOX Business Network on Wednesday July, 11th. Jones believes what Sacha Baron Cohen has done might be illegal and the actor may have opened himself up for prosecution.

On YouTube Sgt. Jones says: “We have a Stolen Valor Act of 2013 that says you can’t take medals, honors and basically the stories of the heroes of this country and use them to benefit yourself in a tangible way. So at this point if this interview is used on Showtime I think there is an argument that any dollar made off of advertisement violates the Stolen Valor Act.”

I would like to imagine Sgt. Jones to be correct on all counts. I would like to see Showtime display the classless Sacha Baron Cohen as a disabled Vet and the show make tons of advertising dollars for its left-leaning defeatist commentators. And then I want to see some organization representing American Veterans sue the sh*t out of Cohen and Showtime under the Stolen Valor Act of 2013, beat them in court, win punitive damages, and have all proceeds go to housing and healthcare for our senior Veterans.

 

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LAWMAKERS DEMAND DAMAGING SECRET VA NURSING HOME DATA BE RELEASED TO PUBLIC

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Darkness is coming to the surface for senior healthcare. In this instance it’s the Veteran’s Administration, where VA internal quality data documents that were obtained in a USA TODAY/The Boston Globe investigation reveal for the first time that VA nursing homes performed worse on average than private nursing homes on a majority of key measures, including:

  • Reported pain in the last five days
  • Received anti-psychotic medicine, which the FDA has associated with an increased risk of death in elderly dementia patients
  • Experienced marked decrease in abilities to perform daily activities like bathing, eating, and using the bathroom
  • Had a catheter left in their bladder, which can lead to urinary or blood infections and other complications
  • High-risk residents with serious bed sores, which may be prevented by repositioning/cushioning

As a result, several members of Congress have demanded that the Department of Veterans Affairs release a full complement of nursing home data that the agency has kept hidden from public scrutiny for many years.

Donovan Slack of USA TODAY and Andrea Estes of The Boston Globe write at bostonglobe.com that the VA pushed back by downplaying the contrary findings and calling the story “fake news”.

Yet to be released data includes the VA’s underlying quality data, such as rates of infection and injury. Several lawmakers have called for the release of the information immediately.

In a June 18, 2018 article at usatoday.com Slack and Estes describe one of the worst ranked VA nursing homes in the U.S., a place where American veterans are sent by family members in belief they would receive more specialized care, only to find they’ve been turned into “zombies” through the administration of too many anti-psychotic drugs accompanied by too little personal care.

The agency has tracked detailed quality statistics on its nursing homes for years but has kept them from public view, depriving veterans of potentially crucial health care information, the article says.

VA officials argued that the VA nursing home system, overall, “compares closely” with private nursing homes despite caring for typically sicker residents.

The VA’s hospitals have drawn intense criticism for repeated scandals involving health care in recent years, including preventable deaths, but the agency largely has operated its nursing homes with scant public scrutiny.

Internally the agency has long monitored care at its nursing facilities through quality indicators and unannounced inspections and, since 2016, through star rankings based on the indicators. Until now, the USA TODAY article says, it has kept all of these quality measures from the public eye.

Under federal regulations, private nursing homes are required to disclose voluminous data on the care they provide. The federal government uses the data to calculate quality measures and posts them on a federal website, along with inspection results and staffing information. The regulations do not apply to the VA. This information is not available to the public who are in the market looking for veteran’s homes.

But darkness is turning to light. The USA TODAY/The Boston Globe article quotes VA press secretary Curt Cashour as blaming the Obama administration for resisting making quality data public. “But under President Trump’s leadership,” the articles quotes Cashour from a June 12, 2018 statement,” transparency and accountability have become hallmarks of VA.”

Both the Republican-led House and Senate VA committees requested briefings from VA officials following the damning report. Transparency and accountability is what’s coming to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, then the “fake news” won’t matter.

U.S. VETERANS GETTING CLOSER TO ACCESSING MEDICAL MARIJUANA

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The U.S. Congress is making important if not snail-paced strides toward helping to make medical cannabis accessible to military veterans. First, Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) recently reintroduced the Veterans Equal Access Act, which would expand medical cannabis access to eligible veterans.

Secondly, on May 8, 2018, members of the House Veterans Affairs’ Committee approved H.R. 5520. This combined with S. 2796, a Senate companion legislation, that was introduced on May 7, 2018, and referred to the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, would work toward facilitating the necessary research regarding medical marijuana and its affects in treating multiple symptoms suffered by military veterans.

EXPAND VETERANS’ ACCESS

H.R. 1820 would expand medical cannabis access to eligible veterans. In its language The Veterans Equal Access Act authorizes physicians and other health care providers employed by the Department of Veterans Affairs to “provide recommendations and opinions” to veterans “who are residents of States with State marijuana programs” regarding the participation in said medical cannabis programs. The bill further authorizes the VA to complete any forms necessary to reflect such recommendations and opinions.

In further effort to reverse the VA’s decades long attitude against medical cannabis, Representative Blumenauer also filed an amendment that would forbade the VA from utilizing any of the funds derived from this bill for the purpose of prohibiting “VA providers from completing forms seeking recommendations or opinions regarding a Veteran’s participation in a State marijuana program.”

The two bills add up to major steps toward overcoming legal hurdles that have been used to outright prohibit VA doctors from making recommendations to veterans for medical marijuana use, even if compliant under state law.

The above-mentioned legislative attempts to change the law are important because the U.S. Veterans Affairs Department has a lengthy history of withholding support for medicinal cannabis access by military veterans. In October 2017, Tom Angell, writing at marijuanamoment.net, recorded how a new update to the VA’s Website had confirmed the longstanding agency policy of disallowing government physicians from helping veterans qualify for state medical cannabis programs.

“Veterans should know that federal law classifies marijuana – including all derivative products – as a Schedule One controlled substance,” Angell writes of the VA department Website page that can no longer be accessed. “This makes it illegal in the eyes of the federal government. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is required to follow all federal laws including those regarding marijuana. As long as the Food and Drug Administration classifies marijuana as Schedule One VA health care providers may not recommend it or assist Veterans to obtain it.”

The FDA could take forever on that one. Angell wonders what if VA doctors were still allowed to recommend medical cannabis to veterans, even though it is considered illegal under federal law? Wouldn’t that still be a benefit to a veteran’s health if a VA doctor believed as much? And what about the fact that the above referred to VA Website page has been taken down? Might that be proof that the VA is changing their prohibitive stance against medical cannabis?

For many years the VA has thrown up major obstacles to American veterans’ safe access to medicinal cannabis as a treatment option for veterans suffering from PTSD, chronic pain, and other post-war ailments. Yet VA doctors have had no problem prescribing seriously addictive opioids that have been attributed to thousands of American deaths. It’s time for this treatment model to change. Our veterans deserve the opportunity to exercise their free will and have more equal treatment from their treating physicians who know them best, to wit their VA doctors.

What is important for the VA administrators and doctors to understand is that we are talking about “recommendations” or “opinions” of VA doctors for the use of medicinal cannabis. We are not talking about prescriptions. The law is very clear in states and nationally. No physician in the United States, whether paid by the U.S. government or in private practice, can prescribe pot to patients. It’s against the law because the prescription process is federally-regulated and cannabis currently falls under the Controlled Substances Act’s restrictive Schedule I. Schedule I drugs are those considered to have a high potential for abuse without any currently accepted medical value.

Even with marijuana’s Schedule I status, there is nothing in federal law that prevents VA from allowing its doctors to recommend or give their opinion on their patients’ usage of medicinal cannabis in the states where it is legal to do so. It’s now time for VA doctors to do so as well.

THE STUDIES MUST BE DONE

The medicinal cannabis studies have to be done, for the benefit of military veterans and the greater civilian public, and H.R. 5520 is a good place to start. This new legislation seeks to authorize and instruct the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to research medical marijuana for use in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain in American soldiers returning from war.

As ordered and reported by the House Committee on Veterans Affairs on May 8, 2018, H.R. 5520, The Veterans Affairs Medicinal Cannabis Research Act of 2018, would act to codify VA’s existing authority to conduct such research. On that basis, CBO estimates that implementing H.R. 5520 would cost less than $500,000 over the 2019-2023 period, primarily to prepare and submit the necessary reports to the Congress. That spending would be subject to the availability of appropriated funds.

FACILITATE MEDICAL MARIJUANA RESEARCH

The road to progress has not always been paved for success by the VA, which is another reason S. 2796, the Senate companion bill to H.R. 5520, was introduced in Senate on May 7, 2018, after which it was referred to the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. Regarding The VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act of 2018, this bill (1) authorizes the VA to conduct and support research on the efficacy and safety of certain forms of cannabis and cannabis delivery for veterans enrolled in the VA health care system diagnosed with conditions such as chronic pain or post-traumatic stress disorder, and (2) Collected data shall be preserved in a manner that facilitates further research.

SOLUTIONS

The bottom line is the VA must act to change the internal prohibition of medical access for veterans to cannabis. Congress will have to continue to force the issue if the VA isn’t going to do anything to help veterans have access to medicinal cannabis.

House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Phil Roe, M.D. calls the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act of 2018 a “pragmatic and bipartisan piece of legislation that would advance our understanding of the impacts of medicinal marijuana usage and could improve the lives of veterans and other Americans.” But it’s just a start. We need to push harder for federal government evolution on the issue of medicinal cannabis research and access for military veterans.

The government must permit VA medical providers to be able to discuss with U.S. veterans the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes and to be able to give recommendations and opinions in those states where medical marijuana laws exist.

We need to keep pushing for rescheduling of marijuana.

The VA needs to stop blocking federally-approved researchers from recruiting veterans for research on medical cannabis.

Studies must be performed regarding medicinal cannabis’ effects on veterans with PTSD issues. Such studies need to be performed and veterans must be given access to them.