New hidden camera footage released by award-winning journalist James O’Keefe reveals officials and employees stating the Department of Veterans Affairs encourages a pill-pushing opioid culture.
During the course of an undercover interview, Dr. Maureen McCarthy, deputy chief of patient services for the Veterans Health Administration, admitted overprescription practices are a significant issue across the country.
“It’s not you know what people think of as sick patients, so much,” McCarthy said, referring to the recipients of opioids. “It’s people that have drug problems, some of which are caused by us and our prescribing.”
For many families, overprescription isn’t a problem in the abstract. In the video produced by Project Veritas, Bob Cranmer stated that after his son hurt his back, it took over a year for the VA to finally see him. Physicians determined he needed surgery for disk repair but they never actually scheduled a surgery, electing to issue pain killers instead for several years.
David Cranmer soon realized he had an addiction problem and checked himself into an outpatient drug addiction treatment center. At that point, a psychologist at the VA further diagnosed David with PTSD and issued more drugs, including an anti-depressant called Zoloft. A month after the diagnosis, David used a 10-foot step ladder and a rope to take his own life. One of the potential side-effects of Zoloft is “suicidal thoughts and actions.”
“I’m angry at the VA. It wasn’t necessary,” Bob Cranmer said.
But still, the VA continues to aggressively prescribe pills.
“In my opinion, they are creating drug addicts,” Georgeann Davis, a senior VA volunteer in Buffalo, N.Y., said.
Veteran Rodney Edwards, who now works as a driver at the Martinsburg VA in West Virginia, said that even before a diagnosis takes place, the tendency is just to prescribe medication as a way to get veterans out of the hair of physicians. It took a year of popping pills before the VA realized that Edwards didn’t even need the medication. When Edwards attempted to explain how the medication had negatively affected him, the VA said another medication might be useful to counteract the problem. But at that point, Edwards had had enough.
The problem of overprescription affects some areas more than others, with the Tomah VA facility in Wisconsin receiving much of the attention as of late. Veterans have called Dr. David Houlihan, the hospital’s chief of staff, “the candy man” because of his penchant to recklessly prescribe opioids. In one case, based on the testimony of whistleblower and former Tomah pharmacist Dr. Noelle Johnson, Houlihan continued to issue 36 tablets every day to a veteran known for substance abuse problems. (RELATED: Tomah VA Hearing Reveals Shocking Details About Retaliation And Opioid Abuse)
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