The Feres Doctrine and the Military: Why it needs to go

doctors, performing, operation

Every military member that has ever served, or that is currently serving, will agree on this piece of advice for other service members, if you need any kind of medical procedure or advice, try and get a referral off base.

Everyone who has served for any amount of time has seen the horrors that medical has inflicted on service members. While I served, I knew a guy that had his jaw broken by dental, twice. That same guy had back surgery done by a military doctor, they botched it, so he’ll never walk right again.

I knew another service member who got a vasectomy by military doctors, now it hurts every time he has sex because they botched that procedure too. I can’t name all the people I know that have woken up while dental has been taking their wisdom teeth out because the anesthesiologist botched the dosage amount.

Me personally, I was sent for a pre-op appointment following a dislocated finger because the MRI they sent me out for said I had some torn tendons. Only when I got to the civilian doctor, he told me that OF COURSE I had some torn tendons, I had just dislocated my finger, but I certainly didn’t need surgery! His words “anyone who has been through medical school should know this”.

The good news for all these service members dealing with incompetent doctors? There isn’t a damn thing you can do. Thanks to something called the Feres doctrine, military members are barred from opening medical malpractice suits against their military doctors.

Now I certainly didn’t need a medical malpractice suit opened for my case, but what about the case of Sgt. 1st Class Rich Stayskal? His cancer showed up on a scan in January 2017, but did anyone tell him about it? No. How about a few months later when he was passing out and coughing up blood? Nope wasn’t worth mentioning.

It wasn’t until June when he was referred to a NON-MILITARY doctor, that he was told that he had cancer. And by then it had spread. His cancer is now terminal.

How about the case of Rebekah Daniel? She died following child birth due to excessive bleeding five years ago. What caused the excessive bleeding and why couldn’t the military doctors stop it? Well they’re not quite sure and they aren’t trying to find out. They don’t care.

Now don’t get me wrong the Feres doctrine has its worth, military doctors shouldn’t be held liable for treating wounds caused on the battlefield. Those are extraordinary cases where outcomes can’t be guaranteed, and doctors can’t be second guessing themselves.

But during routine medical procedures and care, military doctors should not be allowed to botch the medical care that they provide to military personnel without consequence. There are only two types of doctors in the United States that can practice without medical malpractice insurance, military doctors and civilian doctors that work on military personnel. This needs to change, our military members deserve better.

Dear Congress and Donald Trump: Let Mr. Motawakil into the Country

terminal_e_waiting_areaMohasif Motawakil risked his life by becoming an interpreter for US troops in Afghanistan in 2012. Despite the dangers to himself and his family he made the choice to help the Americans that were there, potentially saving our service members lives.

After waiting for years to be approved Mr. Motawakil finally had approval for him and his family to come live in America as a thank you for his service in Afghanistan. It should have been a time of immense joy for the Motawakil family.

But that was not to be the case. Instead Mr. Motawakil and his family were detained in Houston and they are being threatened with deportation, a fate that will likely lead to them all being killed upon their return, all because Mr. Motawakil’s medical documents were opened when they shouldn’t have been.

And while this is something to be looked into, it shouldn’t be something where deportation is even suggested. This man risked EVERYTHING to help American service members, when it would have been even easier to just turn his back on them and ensure his own safety.

This is not the way to treat people who risk their lives for our people. This is a situation that every Congressman and every Senator should agree on. Let Mr. Motawakil into the country, he and his family have earned that privilege, and please stop threatening to send this man to his death by returning him to Kabul.

 

Trump and his “National Emergency”

CBP_Tours_San_Diego_Border_Wall_Prototypes_with_POTUS_(25935924167).jpgAs President Trump gets more and more frustrated with the government shutdown it seems he is more and more likely to do the unthinkable, declare the lack of a border wall a “national emergency” and try and use the military to build it.

It’s an unthinkable abuse of power, one that would be instantly contested in court, and almost certainly be blocked. But the mere notion of suggesting that the military should be used to enforce a partisan agenda, is terrifyingly dangerous.  

It is not the job of the military to do the bidding of the President in partisan issues. The fact that this is even a thinkable action to be taken goes to show how far the role of Commander in Chief has gone astray.

The role of the Commander in Chief should be to direct troops into wars that have already been authorized in Congress, or direct troops into a war that is being approved by Congress (something that has been abused by Presidents’ of both parties in recent years).

But the use of the United States military to enforce domestic partisan policies significantly raises the risk of the United States taking a step towards becoming an authoritarian government. If the President can order the military to build his wall, why can’t he order the military to enforce drug policies? Isn’t that a national emergency too? What about immigration control in sanctuary cities? The implications of what the President thinks he can do is appalling and terrifying.

And while attempting to use the military to circumvent Congress will be challenged and overturned in the court system, the mere mention of using them degrades our service members. They joined to serve their country and they deserve better then to be used as political pawns by the President to enforce his domestic political agenda.

Blue Water 2019: It’s time to FINALLY do the right thing

Vietnam_Veterans_with_Washington_Monument.jpgBlue Water Vietnam veterans have been fighting Congress for decades to have their service related health care problems covered by the VA. Congress’ response has always been the same, it’s too expensive.

Last year the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2018 passed unanimously in the House before it stalled in the Senate because of comments made by VA Secretary Robert Wilkie with concerns about the cost.

Here’s the thing when it comes to the cost of providing healthcare for service related issues, yeah it might suck that it’s so expensive, but if you want to stop paying those bills stop sending people to fight your wars.

America’s Soldiers, Marines, Airman, and Sailors deserve to be taken care of while they are serving our country and after they are done serving it. They deserve to be treated better than a used washrag after they made so many sacrifices in the defense of our country.

Secretary Wilkie and every Senator that helped to prevent these veterans from getting the help that they need, not just last year, but every year before that, should be ashamed of themselves. Their policy has been unwavering, just keep pushing it down the road and eventually all the Vietnam veterans will die off.

Instead of treating these veterans the policy has been to let the diseases that they acquired because of their military service kill them, and the quicker the better so this whole fiasco just goes away.

Of all the cheap, immoral, and downright appalling ways to try and save a buck.

The good news, the House just passed the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019. Now its just up to the Senate to do the right thing and give these veterans that they help that so desperately need and deserve.

The GOP and Trump’s flawed border wall arguments

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The GOP has come up with some creative arguments for trying to justify building an archaic wall to stem illegal immigration at our nations southern border. But the problem with most of their arguments lack substance.

Argument One:

The GOP is the only party that cares about illegal immigration.

The Reality:

Former President Obama, as well as just about every other major leader in the Democratic Party, is against illegal immigration. But what the GOP is against in the Trump era isn’t illegal immigration, it’s immigration from the Middle East, Mexico, Latin America, and South America.

It doesn’t matter if people from Latin America are coming seeking asylum. To Trump they are “invaders” or “terrorists”. People seeking a legal immigration status in the United States are being turned away by the Trump administration before they even have the chance to apply. They are looking to do it legally but are being miscategorized as “illegals” to better fit the Trump narrative.

To be clear Democrats are anti-illegal immigrant, Trump and the GOP are anti-immigrant.

Argument Two:

A border wall will solve our illegal immigration problems.

The Reality:

Most illegal immigrants entering the United States today, around 65 percent, are visa overstays. Additionally, the amount of people crossing the border illegally has been dramatically declining since 2000, from 1.64 million then to just under 304 thousand in 2017.

It all ties into the fact that over 75 percent of the illegal immigrants living in the United States have been here for over a decade, and that only 5 percent of illegal immigrants have arrived in the last 5 years.

The problem facing the illegal immigration crisis in the United States today isn’t that too many people are crossing illegally today, its that too many people were crossing illegally years ago. If we’re going to fix this problem, we need to figure out what to do with the people already here, not spend billions of dollars preventing an “invasion” of people that aren’t coming.

Argument Three:

Mexico really IS paying for the wall

The Reality:

Trump repeatedly ran on the campaign promise that Mexico would pay for the wall, and since being elected he’s repeatedly backtracked on that promise. Any way you cut it, if the money needs to be approved by the United States Congress then the American people are going to be paying for it. And any way you cut it, the American people have far more important things to be funding then an archaic wall that won’t solve our nations illegal immigration problems, namely the trillion dollar deficit and 22 trillion dollar national debt.

Saudi Arabia and Parenting: How to Persuade Bad Actors to Behave


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Tonight my wonderful son decided he didn’t want to eat his dinner. His belly only wanted desert he told me repeatedly. But of course, you don’t get desert if you don’t eat your dinner. So, he cried, screamed, begged and pleaded his case to no avail.

When his sister got her desert his pleas only got louder. Still, no dinner, no desert. Finally, he relented, reluctantly eating his dinner before being allowed chow down on his much-desired desert. Now imagine if I had handled that differently.

Say I made a deal with him along the lines of “if I give you your desert now do you promise to eat your dinner afterwards?”. Now every parent reading this knows exactly how this would have worked out. He would have taken the deal in a heartbeat, eaten his desert then promptly refused to eat his dinner.

It’s common sense that this strategy wouldn’t work, yet it’s exactly the type of strategy that the United States is currently deploying with Saudi Arabia. We agreed to sell them 110 billion dollars of war materials; tanks, missiles, guns, etc.… and in return we got a meager investment into our already thriving military industrial complex.

We decided to sell weapons to a nation that orchestrated 9-11 (15 of the 19 terrorists were Saudis) and hid away Osama bin Laden for years (and we trusted the government so much to help us catch him that we didn’t bother to inform them when we conducted a military raid in their country to get him).

And what happened in return? Saudi Arabia used those weapons to conduct human rights violations in Yemen (killing thousands of civilians, raping women, conducting torture, and using child soldiers as young as 8 according to the UN) and kill journalists in foreign countries.

And yet the United States continues to sell them weapons to bolster their military. It’s beyond time that the United States wakes up to the fact that you can’t persuade bad actors like Saudi Arabia to behave responsibly after you’ve given them their desert.

 

White Privilege and High School Football: How I realized racism is still alive and well today

When I was 20 years old I worked for a newspaper company down in Abilene, Texas going around covering high school football games. I didn’t get paid much but I had it pretty easy, I would go to small towns all around the area (and in Texas “the area” means up to an hour and a half away) and record stats and write a brief story about it after the game.

For a sports nut like myself it was a dream job, I got to watch a bunch of football games and bring home some extra cash in the process. Still the biggest takeaway from the job happened at one game, and it had nothing to do with football or writing.

The game was in a small town called Comanche, population 4,335. The day started out like any other, driving through the barren desert that is West Texas, out to a small town and following all the other cars to the stadium. I gathered up my laptop, notepad and other materials that I would need to cover the game and headed into the stadium.

I got to the gate told them that I was with the paper and they let me in. No credentials or anything, it wasn’t needed, who else could the stranger in town coming to watch their beloved Indians be? So, I trekked my way up to the press box and gathered my bearings.

There were the coach’s rooms (because only in Texas would you need two coaches calling plays down to the sideline from the press box for high schools of 50 kids), the radio and stadium announcer’s box, and a separate press box for me.

The press box was tiny, four seats across and already there was another man sitting in there. I headed in and set up my stuff, so I would be ready before the game started and struck up a conversation with the man beside me.

I’d done something similar at every game I’d went to, everyone had always been more than generous to me proving true their southern hospitality that you’re always hearing about. I’ve been offered free food and drinks, programs, and anything else that I could possibly need up in a press box.

This man was no different at first. The conversation that we struck up was much like the conversations that I had at every other game that I had covered. We started by talking about the game that we were about to watch and trust me when I say that everyone in a small Texas town is an “expert” when it comes to high school football.

The conversation went from that to college ball, and inevitably to the NFL. Now this was before players started kneeling during the anthem, but after the Ray Rice debacle showed how the NFL repeatedly tried to brush domestic abuse under the rug.

So, to me the man’s question of “Do you know what’s wrong with the NFL today?” didn’t seem out of sort. There were PLENTY of things that he could be talking about. So, I answered with what I thought was an intelligent response about how players coming from nothing are suddenly bestowed with millions of dollars and didn’t know how to handle it.

What I heard next from this stranger legitimately stunned me. He cleared his throat and said “No it’s more than that. The problem is all the black people”.

Now I’m not from Texas, my formative years were spent in a rural town in Pennsylvania. And we had racism, but not like this, at least not that I had experienced as a white male. People from my town know, and for the most part accept, that racism isn’t cool. So racist behavior, for the most part, is confined to the confines of one’s friends and family. In public you wouldn’t dare come out with it. So never in my life had I heard a full-blown racist rant before.

But while I sat there still stunned from the man’s second sentence that’s what I started to hear. He continued “You see the problem is somewhere along the line people got it in their head that black people are better athletes then whites, and that’s just not true. Just look at Peyton Manning and Tom Brady and all their receivers, they’re all white because whites are better athletes”.

Now I was only 20 at the time and I wish I could say that I had this super witty response or put him in his place. But still I knew that I didn’t want to keep hearing this man talk about how the white race is superior to all others.

So I did what I thought would help and started listing prominent African American receivers that both quarterbacks had played with, before finishing up by talking about how in some areas African Americans are generally athletically superior to Caucasian athletes (it helped that I had just finished reading The Sports Gene which is a book that high lights these physiological reasons for these differences).

But before I could finish my point he cut me off “no, no no. You see it’s just all in your head. White athletes are far superior. And the problem is that enough people in the NFL think like you, so they keep drafting blacks. They’re like animals and they can’t control themselves”.

Now I’m sitting there wondering how my perfectly normal conversation about football had morphed into this conversation based in nothing but bigotry. Bewildered how quickly it had gone from normal to insane. I guess the man realized that he had made me uncomfortable because he up and left or maybe he just didn’t want to deal with me anymore.

But the conversation with this man got me thinking in a way that I never had before. It made me think of my African American coworkers, especially the ones that worked at the newspaper with me. All that hospitality that I had experienced in every small Texas town, would I have still gotten those warm smiles and offer of food if I was black? Did they?

This was before I had ever heard of the term “white privilege”, but in that moment I understood it. I never wondered if the people I shared a room with were racist or not. I never had to worry about how they were going to treat me based off the color of my skin.

And if you’re a white male like myself and you haven’t had an eye-opening moment like this I don’t think you can ever fully understand how privileged you are. It’s not until you take a step back and look at what other people must go through can you understand how lucky you are.

Who do you believe, Kavanaugh or Ford? Depends if you’re a Democrat or a Republican.

Mike_Pence,_Brett_Kavanaugh,_Mitch_McConnell,_and_Jon_KylEven in the post-Trump world of US politics not many things have garnered the level of attention and controversy that his confirmation process of Judge Brett Kavanaugh has brought.

Still it’s just another example of the stark political divisions that reside within the country today. Think about it, and whether you believe Judge Kavanaugh or Doctor Christine Blasey Ford can almost always be answered by one simple question, are you a Republican or a Democrat?

And if you think your side has the moral high ground, think again. Because I can guarantee you that if the roles were reversed and it was a Democratic nominee being contested by Republicans you would almost certainly feel the exact opposite of your current stance. All one needs to do is look back at the allegations surrounding former President Bill Clinton to see this.

Think about the situation objectively for a second. A Supreme Court nominee stands accused of sexually assaulting a woman 36 years ago while he was in high school. Currently only two people know what truly happened that day 36 years ago, Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford.

If you claim to “know” otherwise you’re only fooling yourself. You choose to believe Judge Kavanaugh or Dr. Ford, and your belief is likely directly tied to your political views.

If the Senate confirms Judge Kavanaugh and he is guilty they just put a rapist on the Supreme Court. If they deny him the chance to serve on the Court and he didn’t do it, they just ruined an innocent man’s life. It’s an impossible decision to make if you aren’t being influenced by outside factors, which is why the issue is so starkly divided by political lines.

More importantly though, nothing being said in the Senate is going to change anyone’s mind. Republicans will believe Judge Kavanaugh and Democrats will believe Dr. Ford, and once again the political lines that divide this nation will be dug a little deeper.

Both sides need to step back and realize that the accusations around Judge Kavanaugh can never be proven or disproven, and that if they were on the other side of the aisle, they’d be believing the other person. Instead of focusing on the accusations we should be looking at his record on the issues that he will be addressing if he is nominated to the Court.

As a nation we need to start looking at the issues that matter in the country and start ignoring some of the political and media fluff that is designed to draw votes and money.

 

Dear NFL: Take a Knee

Washington Redskins National Anthem Kneeling
Photo Credit: Keith Allison: Raiders at Redskins 9/24/17

With the recent changes to the NFL policy regarding player conduct during the country’s national anthem, and the decision by President Trump to withdraw his offer to the Eagles to show up to the White House for the annual Super Bowl Celebration, the spotlight has turned back to the player protests during the anthem.

The issue has often been convoluted into something it’s not, with many individuals labeling the protesting players as “unpatriotic” or claiming that they are “disrespecting the military”. But by shifting the focus of the protest to something that it has never been about allows those opposed to it to avoid what needs to be talked about, the racial disparities and inequalities present in our country today.

In 2017, 457 white individuals were shot and killed by police. In that same year 223 blacks were shot and killed. This is despite the fact that 63.7 percent of the population is white, while only 12.2 percent of the population is black.

So statistically speaking if you reversed the population percentages (so 63.7 percent of the population is black while 12.2 percent of the population is white) you would have 1,164 black individuals shot and killed by police, and 88 white individuals. And if all these numbers just seem like gibberish to you just remember this one, in the country today blacks are more than 2.5 times more likely to be shot and killed by the police then a white individual.

The sad fact is that this is just one statistic representing the disparity in the way our police force handles black individuals. When you look at statistics on police brutality and other means of excessive or deadly force, the trend remains roughly the same. Blacks are more than 2.5 times more likely to be brutalized by police.

Take a step back here and forget about all the protests and just look at the numbers. It’s clear there is a problem that needs to be addressed. So instead of worrying about the fact that players are kneeling during the anthem, look at WHY they are kneeling.

And in the meantime, lose all that gibberish about the kneeling disrespecting the military, kneeling during the anthem was RECOMMENDED by a veteran to Colin Kaepernick, the athlete that got all this started.

And lose the nonsense stating that kneeling during the anthem makes them “unpatriotic”. This is the country where protesting is your constitutionally guaranteed right and exercising that right surely doesn’t make you hate the country that grants that right to you to begin with, in fact, it might make the individual exercising that right even more grateful to be in a country where they have that right. And wouldn’t that make them even more patriotic?

But most importantly, don’t lose focus on the reasons behind the protests. And if you really want them to stop, start by correcting the issues that caused them in the first place.

Roseanne and Racism: How did we get here?

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Roseanne Barr, star of the show Roseanne, was fired by ABC following a racist tweet comparing Valerie Jarrett to a monkey, and conservatives collectively lost their minds.

Let’s begin by getting one thing straight, comparing an African American to a monkey is racist. Failure to recognize this overlooks years of racial oppression and the use of this comparison to marginalize Africans’ and African Americans’ for years. It is racist (If you still can’t wrap your mind around that read more about it here).

Secondly, conservatives being “outraged” by a private organization choosing to act on an individual for making a “political statement” is laughable. After years of conservatives preaching that the NFL should punish players for kneeling during the national anthem, they claim outrage that a private organization can punish an individual for exercising their free speech.

The same conservatives that voted for Donald Trump, who said this about the NFL protesters “Wouldn’t you love to see one of those NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of bitch off the field right now. Out. He’s fired. He’s fired!’”

You don’t get to get upset when every private organization doesn’t follow your political and personal ideology. You either continue to support the company or you don’t. Personally, I don’t see a problem with a company condemning racism.

The fact that this has divided the country epitomizes what exactly is wrong with the United States today. Racism in all it’s forms must be stamped out. Since when did that reemerge as a partisan issue? Since when did open racism become acceptable once again? And more importantly, how do we condemn it once and for all?