Dec. 5: VCS Issues Strong Statement Against Peake’s Nomination to be VA Secretary

Veterans for Common Sense Statement Opposing Nomination of
LTG James B. Peake as Secretary of Veterans Affairs

Veterans for Common Sense (VCS) urges Senators to block the nomination of Dr. James Peake to become the next Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA).  Instead of Dr. Peake, VCS would prefer that President George W. Bush nominate a veterans advocate who will support and implement S 1606, the “Dignified Treatment of Wounded Warriors Act,” that already passed the Senate, but remains bogged down in House-Senate negotiations.

VCS opposes Dr. Peake’s nomination because of his poor performance as Army Surgeon General from 2000 to 2004, when he presided over the negligent treatment of our wounded, injured, and ill Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.  VCS is also concerned with Dr. Peake’s possible knowledge of the torture of enemy prisoners of war.  Here are the hard facts that provide extensive evidence that Dr. Peake is unqualified to become the next VA Secretary:

1. Walter Reed Fiasco:  VCS believes that the general who presided over the Walter Reed fiasco must never be permitted to become the highest government official responsible for the same veterans that he failed to assist just a few years ago. The Wall Street Journal reported the problems at Walter Reed on their front page in August 2003.

2. More Walter Reed Scandal:  Based on serious complaints in 2003, VA researchers thoroughly documented enormous out-patient problems at Walter Reed that emerged while Dr. Peake was Army Surgeon General. Dr. Peake possessed firsthand knowledge of this outrageous crisis and failed or refused to respond, thereby allowing the situation to worsen without addressing it. Please read the 2004 VA report about Walter Reed:

3. Illegal Torture:  VCS does not allege Dr. Peake was personally involved in torture; rather, VCS wants Senators to ask Dr. Peake what he knows about the use of military physicians and psychiatrists at Guantanamo Bay. Please read this article published in The New York Times in 2005 about the documented use of our U.S. military doctors to torture enemy prisoners of war:

4. No Army Plan for Casualties:  In 2002, when the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) produced an estimate of the cost of the war, the CBO had no estimate for the number of casualties and no cost estimate for casualty healthcare and benefits. Dr. Peake had no plan for long-term out-patient care and rehabilitation, especially for mental health casualties:

5. No Data Transfer from Army to VA:  In 2002, when VA reported that 50 percent of Gulf War veterans had already filed disability claims against VA, the Army failed to transfer medical records of new veterans to VA so veterans would not wait months or years for VA healthcare and disability compensation after discharge.  According to VA, 264,000 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans were already treated and diagnosed at VA hospitals, and 224,000 recent war veterans filed a disability claim against VA.  These veterans lack the documents necessary to get fast VA help.

6. No TBI Awareness for Army:  Based on the lessons learned from the Gulf War, where retreating Iraqis tossed large quantities of mines and unexploded ordinance (early versions of roadside bombs or IEDs) in front of advancing U.S. troops, and where Iraqis extensively used mine fields, Dr. Peake left the Army unprepared for the surge in deadly and devastating TBI.  The Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center estimates up to 20 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans suffer from mild TBI:

7. No PTSD Plan for Army:  Based on lessons learned from the Vietnam War, where up to one-third of veterans suffered from PTSD sometime after returning home, including thousands of veteran suicides, Dr. Peake left the Army unprepared for the expected increase in anxiety, depression, PTSD, and suicide cases. However, the military illegally discharged as many as 22,500 soldiers with a bogus “personality disorder” when, in fact, the soldiers suffered from TBI and/or PTSD.  VCS supports S 1817, legislation aimed at preventing further discharges for “personality disorder.”

8. Conflict of Interest Working for QTC – a Major VA Contractor:  Dr. Peake leads a for-profit corporation making millions of dollars from taxpayers because VA didn’t hire enough physicians to perform disability claim exams.  Congress must take additional steps to prevent a repeat of the rampant contractor abuses that plagued Walter Reed and the Iraq War:

VCS recognizes Dr. Peake’s honorable military service, including his combat duty in the Vietnam War and his stellar performance positioning the best military trauma surgeons in the Iraq War where countless thousands of lives were saved due to his leadership.  However, despite our deep respect and appreciation for his wartime service, VCS believes Dr. Peake is the wrong man to lead VA though their worst crisis since VA became a department in 1989. 

In conclusion, VCS opposes Dr. Peake’s nomination because he presided over the widely publicized Walter Reed scandal when it was first reported in August 2003.  VCS remains deeply troubled about the possibility of naming someone to the President’s cabinet who may have knowledge of the President’s illegal policy of torturing enemy prisoners of war. 

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