ALARMING VETERAN STATISTICS

One Woman’s Opinion/Veterans
by – Sheri de Grom

The American soldier offers his/her life that we may continue to live in freedom. I find the following numbers not only shocking but appalling. It’s no wonder that less than 1% of the United States eligible population is willing to serve in our armed services.

  • Between 529,000 and 840,000 veterans are homeless at some time during the year.
  • Approximately 33% of all homeless men in the U.S. are veterans.

    HOMELESS VETERANS GETTY IMAGE

    HOMELESS VETERANS
    GETTY IMAGE

  • Veterans are twice as likely as other Americans to become chronically homeless.
  • Veterans represent 11% of the adult civilian population, but 26% of the homeless population.
  • Veterans are more at risk of becoming homeless than non-veterans.
  • One in ten veterans is disabled.
  • 45% of homeless veterans suffer from mental illness including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
  • 37% of all veterans returned from deployment to Iraq with mental health disorders.
  • The incidence of PTSD and suicide rates among veterans is increasing at an alarming rate.
  • One veteran takes his/her life every sixty-five minutes of every day.
  • The risks of women veterans becoming homeless are four times greater than male veterans.
  • 7% of the nation’s homeless veteran population is comprised of women.
  • 23-29% of female veterans seeking VA medical care reported experiences of sexual assault within their own chain of command.

All statistics were verified with the latest available data from: The Department of Veteran Affairs, National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, National Alliance to End Homelessness and The National Center on Family Homelessness.

This woman’s opinion: all children of the President and his appointees, all children of members of Congress and lobbyist’ should be required to enlist in the military and serve a minimum of four years active duty. And, we should not forget, currently, eighty-percent of our congressional members have never served their country in any military capacity. Individuals we’ve elected to lead us have no idea what’s required to serve in the United States Military and to sacrifice so much for so little in return.

Would our government be so eager to enter into every conflict in the world if the lives of ‘their children and loved ones’ faced the possibility of coming home in a flagged draped coffin, confined to a wheel chair, withdrawn completely into him/herself so thoroughly that no amount of mental health services can seem to reach them and their lives end in suicide. And what about the service member who leaves for war enthusiastic to defend his/her country, and before graduating from boot camp, their spirit has been crushed and the only way out is to commit suicide?

Thank you for reading with me. I appreciate the viewpoint of each of you. The builders of bigger and better war machinery are in operation and one crisis after another is exploding around the world.

 

 

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FROM CONCEPTION TO DEATH, MEDICARE DETERMINES YOUR HEALTHCARE

Medicare – 2015
by – Sheri de Grom

The biggest and best commercial insurance companies have a brand new battle cry.

MEDICARE'S BITE OUT OF HEALTH CARE

MEDICARE’S BITE OUT OF HEALTH CARE

” IF THEY can do it, WE can do it” has become the medical industry’s standard with the enactment of The Affordable Health Care Act. [Known as Obamacare]. THEY refer to Medicare and THEY [Medicare] are out of control.

The numbers don’t seem large until you review them cumulatively. A frightening reality is that all other methods of medical payments are cutting their reimbursements to match Medicare’s payments. Medicare is accountable to no-one. Every provider everywhere is receiving less.

Many medical facilities are operating with a dangerously low profit margin and rotating temporary layoffs have become routine. This lower level of payment and fewer Medicare-approved days for a designated hospital stay has driven some facilities to close their doors forever.

Physicians and hospitals alike are receiving a single payment from commercial insurance companies per diagnosis. They started this payment system upon reviewing the cost savings of Medicare. Loss occurs when treatments and tests pile up for the provider of care. Laboratory tests, x-rays and other exploratory findings became a part of the amount allowed per doctor visit or hospitalization.

My husband and I have each experienced this single payment fallout.

Those of you who’ve followed my blog for a time know that during a surgery in 2012: I lost well over one-half of my blood, sustained permanent nerve damage to my right arm and hand resulting in chronic pain leading to Complex Regional pain Syndrome. This past week my Scleroderma became a direct link to the 2012 hospitalization. In addition, I acquired a hospital staph infection. Medicare didn’t care how sick I was. They sent me home. I was too ill for any skilled nursing facility or home health nursing agency to accept me as a patient. Yet Medicare sent me home from the hospital knowing I was without a caregiver in the home.

The code for the surgery I had allowed a minimum number of hospital days and out I went. My doctor and the hospital didn’t attempt to fight for the complications involved in a six-hour surgery that Medicare coded as one and one-half hours.

You may read of my experience here.

Tom’s admission to our local hospital on September 22, 2014, for an infection diagnosed as  cellulitis of the left foot, seemed to be the answer for receiving powerful antibiotics he could only receive in a hospital setting.

The admitting physician, an orthopedic surgeon, misdiagnosed Tom’s problem. I recognize misdiagnoses do occur but, seven subsequent medical specialists have also misdiagnosed Tom’s illness. Many of the doctors have been so arrogant I wanted to drop kick them back to medical school for a class on both ethics and another on communication skills.

A few days before Tom’s hospitalization of September 22, 2014, he had been diagnosed with psoriasis on the bottom of his feet and palms of his hands. I asked the orthopedic surgeon if this might have contributed to the infection in his left foot and he looked me straight in the eye and said, “Absolutely not.” With visible signs of outrage that I’d questioned him, I continued, “Tom has open wounds on the bottom of his feet and this is dangerous for a diabetic. It seems to me this would be a perfect place for bacteria to enter and become out of control.”

The good doctor in the long white coat, [the orthopedic surgeon] announced, “If you have all the answers, Mrs. de Grom, why did you bring your husband to me for treatment?”

I’ve asked myself that very question many times. At the time I thought I was making the correct decision.

Tom was released from the hospital with a prescription for powerful antibiotics, pain medication which would later lead to delirium and today, five months later, he’s still in so much pain he cannot walk.

I’ll blog in another post about the new path we’ve been on since Tom’s discharge from the hospital five months ago. At five months post the hospitalization for the infection in Tom’s left foot, he cannot walk on either foot. The pain is horrific and it turns me inside out to watch this man I love when he does his best to move from one place to another.

Tom worries about being even more of a burden on me. I urge him to let me know when he needs help.

A recent study in Health Services Research based on fifteen years of hospital data suggests that cuts in Medicare prices under the Affordable Care Act may slow the growth of overall Medicare spending. Many current hospital standard practices will not withstand the loss in operating capital.

The reports indicate that when Medicare tightens reins on its inpatient hospital prices, hospitals scale back overall capacity. This results in less hospital use by non-elderly patients, not just elderly patients, a senior policy researcher with Rand concluded.

Changes in Medicare prices affect our healthcare system broadly. Medicare is by far the largest payer of hospital bills in the U.S., accounting for more than thirty-percent of total hospital revenues.

A substantial majority of Medicare enrollees—roughly 87% have at least one chronic condition, and nearly half have three or more, compared to 21% and 7% of the general population, respectively. Forty-seven percent of Medicare enrollees have an activity limitation.

Medicare has announced that, “The party is over. The sort of money, where whatever you do, the more we’ll pay, and the more complicated thing you do, the more we will pay you, and the more risky thing you do, the more we will pay you – there’s a recognition now that, we aren’t doing that any longer.”

The above announcement would have cost Tom his life if his heart surgeon hadn’t bucked the Medicare rules for Tom’s emergency heart surgery June 11, 2014. However, as insult to the surgeon, Medicare pays more for three chiropractor visits than it does to a heart surgeon saving lives. I’m having a hard time accepting this fact!

At Mt. Sinai, the chair of surgery now demands his staff discuss hospice alternatives with terminally ill patients – and make an electronic note of the conversation that can be tracked. If it does not happen, he demands to know why.

The same chair of surgery also demands that patient’s with end-stage dementia not have three or four hospitalizations in the last three months of life or die in the intensive care unit. He closed his comments with, “This is a terrible experience for the patient and family and we lose far too much money.”

In my opinion, Medicare has become all too powerful. They have minimal oversight from any other governing body. Presidential appointees and their staff charge ahead making new laws within the administrative law division. The new laws have resulted in not only how little Medicare will reimburse providers of care but they are dead set on holding everyone seeking medical care hostage. THEY especially have their eyes set upon those ages sixty-five and over.

A physician in private practice, treating primarily Medicare patients can expect an average yearly income of $85,000. Take away the operating expenses of being in business, paying back student loans, attempting to maintain a middle-class standard of living and supporting a family – it’s easy to understand why doctors can’t afford to accept Medicare patients into their practice.

Medicare has taken away the health care I once thought I had securely protected and provided. Doctors must now fight bureaucracy to provide limited care. Often the medical care isn’t what the physician would choose for his/her patient.

Medicare is an agency brought about by congressional legislation in 1965 with the sole purpose of providing medical care for American citizens 65 and older. How has one agency within the government lost sight of the citizens it is to serve and protect?

In my opinion, Health and Human Services, [the agency with oversight of Medicare] must review the actions Medicare has taken within the last four years and the end results its had on the American people. It’s time for change!

Voices must be heard before change will come about.

Thank you for reading with me. I’d love to hear about your encounters with Medicare. Please share.

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OUR VETERANS NEED YOU

Veterans – 2015
by – Sheri de Grom

A veteran, possibly in your community, needs your help.

Veteran Affairs coordinates volunteers in their No Veteran Dies Alone (NVDA) program.

HONORING OUR VETERANS - Getty Images

HONORING OUR VETERANS – Getty Images

Their mission is that no veteran will die alone.

We promise to take care of all veterans during life and in death. Many believe the ‘death’ portion of the promise refers to the burial benefits to which a veteran is entitled.

The NVDA volunteer program is an extension of the VA Hospice or Palliative Care Programs. For a veteran to qualify for the volunteer program he/she must participate in the VA Hospice or Palliative Care Program.

Many VA Hospitals lack sufficient bed space and comfort for this end-of-life population and the veterans are placed in community nursing homes where Hospice care is available. In many cases the care is available from their homes.

Often our veterans have out-lived their family and friends or the military lifestyle itself has wounded in ways that veterans find themselves estranged from their families.

Veterans represent 11% of the civilian adult population, but veterans make up 26% of the homeless population. It’s not surprising to learn a veteran has broken ties with family members long ago and the areas of the country where they used to live are as foreign as the battlefields where they once served.

Many veterans presenting to the VA for care are fearful of the agency that’s let them down so many times before.

Many veterans have gone without medical care for well over twenty years for any number of reasons. Often they haven’t had: transportation, lived too far away, couldn’t get an appointment and had no one to assist them in fighting the bureaucracy that is the VA

By the time a veteran actually makes it in the door of a VA Medical Center, often the only treatment remaining is to make him/her as comfortable as possible. Advanced disease processes have consumed their bodies.

Volunteers are needed to sit with veterans, read or talk to them, play music and sometimes offering a physical presence by holding the veteran’s hand.

The NVDA program is about good conversation, positive interaction, spiritual support, reminiscing, life review, therapeutic touch and an overall sense of connectedness and closure.

Volunteers are needed. When our soldiers come home, they shouldn’t have to die alone.

To participate as a volunteer in NVDA, visit http://www.volunteer.va.gov/ and fill out a volunteer application.

I thank you in advance for caring about our nation’s veterans.

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ANNIE OAKLEY I’M NOT

Mental Health/Suicide/Gun Control
by – Sheri de Grom

Logo for those of us dedicating much of our lives toward advocacy on behalf of the mentally ill.

Logo for those of us dedicating much of our lives toward advocacy on behalf of the mentally ill.

Compiled from journal notes, April 27 – July 1, 1996, Washington, DC

I’d admitted Tom to another mental health unit in a new Virginia hospital. I had no choice after I discovered him with a gun in his lap. (You may read that post here).

Did I dare hope this hospital’s treatments would be superior to all the others? I would never give up on obtaining the best professional help for Tom.

I hadn’t wanted to go into the office yesterday but it wouldn’t have been fair to my staff to stay home. Our team had an exhausting roster of hot spots requiring investigation. I had to go to the office. If I looked into my soul, all I wanted was the friendship of Jack Daniel’s.

When I arrived at the office I tried to appear calm. But, Ted, my deputy, took one look at me and asked, “How can I help?”

Uncertainty and fear accompanied me everywhere. I should have been ready for this, something, anything—why God—why haven’t I learned yet how to cope with one mental illness hurdle after another?

My meetings and staff reports proceeded as planned. I rushed from building to building at

Walter Reed Army Medical Center Before Moving To Bethesda, MD.

Walter Reed Army Medical Center Before Moving To Bethesda, MD.

the largest Army Medical Center in the United States. As the director of a large division, at the pinnacle of my career, nothing had significance or held my interest.

I despaired, frozen in fear and sadness. I did not want to see or talk with anyone, go anywhere or do anything. Hiding in my office was out of the question. Policy meetings, once exciting, now seemed tedious. My life became pointless. I wanted Tom and I to live happily ever after.

I was furious when Tom’s mother gave him his father’s guns. She even provided ammunition. What could be worse? Why didn’t she just give him permission to shoot himself? My stomach muscles tightened at her complete denial of Tom’s frail existence. I rationalized that she didn’t know what she was doing.

The guns became my nightmare. Tom, with his logical intellect, would debate which gun would be the most accurate for killing himself. I had to dispose of the guns immediately, but didn’t know how. The weapons were not registered in Tom’s home state and they could not be registered in DC.

Two months into Tom’s hospitalization, his psychiatrist told me, “Destroy the guns,” Dr. Frank continued, “I can’t release Tom to day treatment until the guns are gone.”

Early one morning, two months after I’d admitted Tom to the hospital for having the pistol in his lap (you may read that blog here), I openly carried the shotguns and handguns from our home. They included: a German Luger, a pair of matching Ivory-Handled Revolvers, another Ivory-Handled Colt 36, other guns from the 1920s and 30s as well as 4 double-barreled shotguns.

It was late spring, but in my heart, there was nothing but winter ice for the task before me. The cold steel of the guns felt like white-hot coals against my skin. Repulsed, I threw the weapons with their ammunition into the trunk of my car and drove to work.

I never thought about what might happen if anyone saw me with the guns or if I were involved in an accident in the DC beltway traffic. It never entered my mind that my car might be pulled over for a random search at the military installation where I worked. The only thing on my mind was getting rid of those guns.

I moved in a stupor throughout my day at work, knowing I would visit Tom at the hospital on the way home. I was keenly aware that before I got there, I must somehow dispose of my deadly cargo. I panicked; there was nowhere in metropolitan DC to ship the guns from. Once again, I could not share my secret plight with anyone. I was on first and I accepted my responsibility.

Nine p.m. approached as I neared the last possible shipment site before arriving home. I found one parking space in the center of a strip mall that advertised a UPS.

I hadn’t covered the guns, or purchased shipping materials or anything else that I might need. I couldn’t face planning for disposing guns I had never wanted in our home. I had to send the guns far away, anywhere.

I’d never planned to perform an ‘Annie Oakley.’ I walked with confidence, twice, through the cold night air toward the store, with the deadly steel in my arms.

It’s a miracle I wasn’t attacked that night. I still wonder why no security guards approached me or why the UPS clerk hadn’t pushed the panic button beneath the counter when he saw me.

The clerk said, the guns could be shipped if they weren’t loaded.

I don’t have a clue. I signed a certificate verifying the weapons were unloaded, paid $390 and sent the toxic package back to Tom’s mother. I had no intention of buying insurance for safe delivery. I called his mother and told her the guns were being shipped. I doubt she ever understood why her only child couldn’t possess guns.

Tom was dismissed from the hospital to home and day treatment for an indefinite period of time. I became afraid to sleep. What if Tom died while I was sleeping?

I felt detached, as though I were watching someone else’s life unfold. This was denial.

I now acknowledge I didn’t have the power to save Tom’s life then and never will. If he lives it will be because God wants him alive. I play a bit role in Tom’s safety. I pray, God’s will be done.

While I like to think I can save Tom’s life, it means I must sacrifice myself. This sacrifice allows me to deflect from my own issues and emotions because I always thought Tom’s pain was more intense, more agonizing, and therefore, his needs far more significant than mine.

Almost Two Decades Later – I carry on removing guns Tom continues to purchase. THERE IS NO STATE OR FEDERAL LAW PREVENTING THE SALE OF A WEAPON TO SOMEONE WHO HAS ATTEMPTED SUICIDE.

New Hampshire Firearm Safety Coalition

New Hampshire Firearm Safety Coalition

Our routine has been the same from state to state as my career has evolved. I can’t say how many times we’ve driven, in the middle of the night, to the emergency room because Tom has decided not to live any longer. The ER admission process has not improved (you may read my blog here about stigma in the ER). We’re separated as Tom enters the in-patient mental health ward and I hear the triple-tumbler lock swing into final position. My heart is ravaged much the way a prairie is in a raging fire. The man I love has been locked away with his torment in the psychiatric unit, alone, and I travel the edgy rails of life wondering how we arrived at this junction of our lives.

Thank you for your support. My blog has become a haven where I can express how the disease of bipolar disorder has affected our daily lives for twenty-seven years.

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MAYBERRY, USA MEETS MEDICARE

Pharmacy/Medical – 2015
by – Sheri de Grom

Any Small town USA Getty Image

Any Small town USA
Getty Image

A rural pharmacy, along with a bank, grocery combination dry goods store and post office anchored small towns that were the backbone of America for decades.

Four-hundred-ninety rural pharmacies closed their doors forever between the years 2003 and 2013. This is a significant loss considering the average age of a farmer/rancher today is 65 and over.

Today's farmers and ranchers are still using equipment 20 or more years old. They cannot afford to upgrade.

Today’s farmers and ranchers are still using equipment 20 or more years old. They cannot afford to upgrade.

There are approximately 6,700 independently owned rural pharmacies operating today. In addition to providing prescription and over-the-counter medications and consulting about their proper use, these pharmacies offer other essential health care essentials. These include: blood pressure checks, diabetes counseling and immunizations.

Added value as independent pharmacist helps older patient understand medication and how to take the medicine.

Added value as independent pharmacist helps older patient understand medication and how to take the medicine.

Often, these rural pharmacies serve as a gathering place for community citizens to meet and chat. Local news is discussed and the drugstore (as it’s often called) is the only social contact for many rural and small town residents. These individuals do not, as a rule, depend on social programs or government programs to provide their needs. They find out what their neighbors (30 and 60 miles apart) need help with, and that help is provided with nothing asked in return. This may include nourishing meals provided, fences mended  and providing rides to wherever the individual may need to go. Normally, these rural communities make every effort to take care of their own.

Medicare Part D makes it more and more difficult for the independent rural pharmacist across our nation to serve the customers who’ve always depended on have coverage of some kind. This population is proud. They grew up and moved into adulthood during the great depression and they made it ‘then’ and they are determined to make it ‘now.’

The money squeeze is affecting everyone and especially our most vulnerable.

The money squeeze is affecting everyone and especially our most vulnerable.

Rural independent pharmacies have been at the mercy of two major Medicare policies related to payment for prescription medications.

The Medicare prescription drug discount cards (introduced January 1, 2004) were offered by Medicare-approved private companies (primarily large pharmacy chains and insurance groups).

The Medicare prescription drug benefit introduced (Medicare Part D, began January 1, 2006) and makes prescription drug coverage available to everyone with Medicare. [This statement is true if the individual can afford the premiums for Medicare Part D, have the income to cover the co-payments for prescriptions and are able to survive the doughnut hole when the insured must pay the full price of their prescription.

With the implementation of Medicare Part D came increased administrative efforts, payment timeliness and low reimbursement levels. Independent pharmacies cannot compete with the large chain stores.

Residents of communities that have lost their only pharmacy may adapt by driving farther to another pharmacy, using mail order, or obtaining courier service from another location, but access is always a concern for anyone with limited mobility.

HOW WILL OUR SENIORS RECEIVE THE MEDICATIONS THEY NEED ON A TIMELY BASIS?

HOW WILL OUR SENIORS RECEIVE THE MEDICATIONS THEY NEED ON A TIMELY BASIS?

With the advanced aging of rural America exacerbating the gutting of downtown America by Wal-Mart, independent pharmacies have rapidly become just another empty storefront town.

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A SISTER TO HONOR – LUCY FERRISS

The Berkley Publishing Group/2015
by – Sheri de Grom

Book Cover - SisterA Sister To Honor by Lucy Ferriss is a novel long past due.

A Sister To Honor will be released January 6.

Ms. Ferris embraces the realities of daily life for Pakistani women. By page six the theme of the novel is clearly set forth in a scene between mother and daughter and the plot never allows us to forget what is happening or what is about to happen next. The plot and characters are always in motion.

On page 6 we read, [From now on, Sobia (younger sister to Afia, a primary character in the unfolding story) would need to learn how to keep her breast covered with her dupatta.She would fast this year during Ramadan. She would no longer play in her old rough ways with her cousin, Azlan. She would walk with a new firm carriage, protecting the treasure of her womanhood.] Sobia wanted her older sister, Afia, close

Girl, very much an adolescent preparing to assume role in arranged marriage.

Girl, very much an adolescent preparing to assume role in arranged marriage.

She needed her big sister to tell her what was happening with her body. Why couldn’t she play games with the boys any longer? Sobia was just a child herself. Was she destined to prepare for an arranged marriage from this day forward? Why did Afia have to go to America? Sobia cries in her room and wishes for her sister.

A Sister To Honor quickly moves to the story of the two main characters: Shahid Satar and his intelligent, beautiful younger sister, Afia. Both are from a small remote town in Pakistan.

Shahid escaped the confines of his life in Pakistan to become a squash star athlete at a small northeastern university and holds close to his heart, dreams of going on to Harvard. Each time he returns to his small village, it’s quickly noticed how Americanized Shahid has become. Shahid cannot admit to anyone that he can’t imagine returning to Pakistan and becoming a farmer. That is his destiny as planned by the family.

Afia is the quiet, studious and oh so beautiful sister. She’s earned a scholarship to a university near Shahid’s university. Since childhood she’s dreamed of becoming a doctor but understands the cultural obstacles blocking her desired destiny. It doesn’t matter that she wants to become a doctor to serve the women of Pakistan.

Afia’s father and other male members of the extended family finally agree she may attend university in the states and assigns Shahid the duty of defending his sister’s honor.

A Sister To Honor is more than a story about a brother and sister who leave their

Woman - Stoned To Death

Woman – Stoned To Death

homeland and learn a new culture and freedom in the United States. Lucy Ferriss paints a vivid picture of a tension-filled cultural divide between family and self.

Bleak circumstances are front and center of the story. Before page fifty, I knew Shahid had failed to protect the honor of his sister and the penalty would be severe. The circumstance is textured with the first romantic encounter of Afia’s young life. She’s on her own with emotions no one has discussed with her and that she’s never encountered. She can’t talk with Shahid and the American girls in her housing unit would laugh at her. Afia was on her own.

PG 42 [He pointed to the screen. A photo bloomed into being: a rally of some kind, and his sister, his sister, her mouth open, shouting something, and her hand holding another hand, definitely, yes, he sat clutching Coach’s wrist while the photos looped through and he could see it again, a big hand attached to a muscular arm. A man’s hand.

He slapped at the screen with the back of his hand. “What the hell is this?” he shouted. He stood up. His heart felt full and tight. “What is she doing?” He looked at Coach, who had a strange, pale look.

“Shahid, calm down, she said. “That’s Afia, right? You’re upset because–?”

“Turn it off! Turn the bloody thing off!”

She peered once more at the image as it loomed up, then closed down her browser. She stood to face him, “She’s at a rally,” she said. “There’s nothing wrong. You’ve had your picture on the Enright site. She’s not being inflammatory or anything. If you want me to talk to her . . .”

“It’s not what she’s doing Coach. It’s what she’s holding.” ]

The attention to detail propelled me further into the depths of the story. Ms. Ferriss’ subject matter knowledge is trust-worthy over and over and I entrusted her version of events as they unfolded page by page. The novel is a work of fiction but the story holds true to the lives of hundreds of thousands of woman today.

Protest of Honor Killings Honor Killings Are Occurring in the U.S.

Protest of Honor Killings
Honor Killings Are Occurring in the U.S.

Each turn of the page took me into the hearts and minds of both Shahid and Afia. Additionally, the sub-characters have their own internal conflicts and struggles. Shahid’s female coach is a prime example. Her own personal crisis has her reckoning with the past to cope with the demands of working in a male environment. It’s a daily challenge for her to live her own life.

Within the pages of A Sister To Honor, Miss Ferriss provides the reader a smart, thought-provoking, emotional and compelling read. You won’t find easy gimmicks. You’ll read a novel with intricate relationships and characters to care about.

I recommend A SISTER TO HONOR, available January 6. You may place pre-orders now. I received an advance reading copy of A SISTER TO HONOR from the publisher in return for a fair and honest review.

I previously reviewed The Lost Daughter by Lucy Ferris and you may read that review here.

I’ve been away from my blog for several weeks and I’m thrilled and honored to have read your comments when I reblogged my first Morti and I post. You’ll find Morti’s story #2 here and story #3 here. Morti #4 will arrive soon.

Tom has been ill [physical doctors want to blame everything on mental health issues although mental health has nothing to do with the demise of his current condition. I’ve gathered more information during my absence about the increasing shambles of medical care than I ever wanted to know.

I’m one of the most fortunate bloggers in the universe. You’ve been so kind and so willing to stay and wish Tom and I well. I thank you for hanging in there with me.

May your New Year deliver fulfilled dreams, unconditional love and surprise you with days when all is right within your world.

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THE YEAR GONE BY COLORS THE WAY OF THE FUTURE

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 13,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 5 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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MORTI AND ME

sheridegrom - From the literary and legislative trenches.:

November is National Caregiver Month and I find it’s the perfect time for me to take a break from blogging. I’ll still be around reading blogs, commenting here and there and I have some housekeeping chores to take care of on my own blog. I also plan to spend time with Tom, organize parts of my pile management along with coming up with an idea of how to handle the 30,000+ messages in my in-box. Many I’ll delete of course but others need to go into folders for later research and on and on. I also may pop in with some blogs I’ve stumbled across and simply leave you the link. These are blogs I believe are worth reading (but that’s simply my opinion). The gardens need additional preparation for winter and I want to curl up with my precious shih tzu, our afghan, a great book and something delicious to drink.
I’m wishing you wonderful holidays and I’ll see you around the blog. Love to all, Sheri

Originally posted on Sheri de Grom:

Morti and Me
Slice Of Life
  By – Sheri de Grom 

Four decades ago, on a Thanksgiving morning, I met one of the greatest loves of my life.

It all started as “let’s play a joke on Sheri” and ended twenty-seven years CAT IN WINDOW later with my being a better person for having been loved and owned by a tabby cat with the name of Mortichi Muffin Mouse-Catcher Bowser-Brown. (Morti for short).

My first paid writing gig came about from my being in the right place at the right time and being high on life. Mortichi filled my life with love and laughter.

I’d hired into StarKist Foods on Terminal Island, California (across the bridge from San Pedro, and near Los Angeles harbor). How I convinced the head of the accounting department I’d make a great addition to their department I’ll never know. I’d never bothered to balance my own…

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EVERY SIXTY-FIVE MINUTES A VETERAN COMMITS SUICIDE

Mental Health/Veterans/Suicide
by – Sheri de Grom

Suicide Prevention Ribbon

Suicide Prevention Ribbon

Every sixty-five minutes a United States Military Veteran kills themselves. We lose one-hundred-fifty-four Veterans per week. The reality of how many Veterans commit suicide is unknown. The number is higher than the actual number provided. Two of our largest states, California and Texas, don’t report suicides.

Veterans have problems connecting with The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to obtain help. Many Veterans don’t trust the VA and the abundance of double-talk that often occurs when they seek help. Fewer than half of our nation’s 22.3 million eligible veterans are enrolled with the VA.

The VA itself admits veterans face huge challenges getting their assistance. Once the veteran does ‘get into’ the VA system, appointments are difficult to get. After the initial appointment, there are long delays in receiving a treatment plan and follow through.

Vietnam era veterans, in particular, are often distrustful of the VA. Fifty-eight thousand American’s died in the Vietnam War. Over one-hundred-fifty thousand have committed suicide since the war ended.

Many older veterans are at the age where the structures of their lives are loosening up. Before retiring from their civilian careers, they pushed their depression and PTSD down and focused on work and the demands of family life. They returned from Vietnam and Korea without developing community involvement or other activities. Upon retirement, many turn to alcohol to push the unwanted wartime memories away. More than half of our veterans committing suicide are fifty or older.

A VA study reported that the percentage of older veterans with a history of VA health care that committed suicide was higher than that of veterans not associated with VA health care.

Attention to veteran suicide has focused on service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. However, the most recent numbers reflect that seven out of ten veterans who have committed suicide are over the age of fifty.

Eleven years after the first troops entered Afghanistan and two years after combat operations ended in Iraq, our nation still does not know why its fighting men and women are dying after they come home. No governmental entity follows the fates of the hundreds of thousands of veterans who aren’t enrolled with the VA—nearly half of all recent veterans.

Last year, the San Francisco-based Bay Citizen reported that since 2007, more service members have died after returning home than in combat. VA officials told the news organization they had no interest in determining causes of death for every veteran, insisting the agency already had a handle on the problem.

If the VA has a handle on the problem, why are our service members committing crimes they have no interest in completing? They tell their buddies they want the pain to go away and the criminal action is referred to as “suicide by cop.” Other Veterans drink themselves to death or an overdose of drugs. Some eat their gun. Research reveals hundreds of one-vehicle accidents involve a Veteran driving into a no-win accident where death is guaranteed.

Achieving any health care program for a veteran within the VA system is a hit and miss situation. [I speak from years of experience in assisting hundreds of veterans obtain the health care they deserved]. It was from my position with JAG in California that I came head-to-head with the inadequacies of The Department of Veterans Affairs and knew Veterans would always be a part of my advocacy work.

Veteran suicides are not reported unless the family or someone close to the veteran elects to notify the VA that the death was a suicide. In this instance, the veteran is living independently of any VA programs and there’s no requirement to report the cause of death to The Department of Veterans Affairs.

In closing, while researching this and other topics I came across some disturbing facts about our Vietnam Veterans. I cannot take credit for compiling the information. Charlene Rubush recently reread Chuck Dean’s book, Nam Vet, and set them forth for consideration:

  • Since 1975, nearly three times as many Vietnam Veterans have committed suicide than were killed during the war.
  • Fifty-eight-thousand-plus Americans died in the Vietnam War. Over 150,000 have committed suicide since the war ended.
  • The national accidental death and suicide rate among Veterans is fourteen thousand men per year—33% above the national average.
  • Of those veterans who were married before going to Vietnam, 38% were divorced within six months after returning from Southeast Asia.
  • The divorce rate among Vietnam Veterans is above 90%.
  • Five-hundred thousand Vietnam Veterans have been arrested or incarcerated. There are an estimated 100,000 Vietnam Veterans in prison today, and 200,000 on parole.
  • Drug and alcohol abuse problems range between 50% and 75%.

Forty percent of Vietnam Veterans are unemployed and 25% earn less than $7,000 per year.

Thank you for reading with me. I’d planned for this to be a September blog to go along with National Suicide Prevention Month. I had no idea just how much the topic and the proportionate numbers would pull at not only my heart and soul but at my emotional and physical self as well.

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EXTREME PRESCRIBERS – ELDERLY AT RISK

The American Recall Center/Medicare Part D
by – Sheri de Grom

Doctor Writing Prescription - Morgue File

Doctor Writing Prescription – Morgue File

How can one doctor continue to write an excessive amount of prescriptions, and have them filled—151 times more than the average doctor’s tally for all Medicare patients—and not have it raise a red flag? The cost to the government was $9.7 million.

Pro Publica’s investigative reporters analyzed four years of Medicare prescription drug data and examined the prescriptions of all health professionals across specialties. It examined all prescriptions—1.7 million in 2010 alone—not just those in general-care specialties or mostly urban areas.

Medicare’s prescription drug program was launched in 2006 and now accounts for one

Medication Prescribed - Getty Photo

Medication Prescribed – Getty Photo

in four prescriptions dispensed, according to the Inspector General. Last year the government spent $62 billion subsidizing the drugs of 32 million people.

Medicare has failed to protect patients from doctors and other health professionals who prescribe large quantities of potentially harmful, disorienting or addictive drugs. It’s impossible to maintain medication safety for the Medicare population when a government agency turns a blind eye to the needs to a vulnerable population.

I rarely agree with anything Senator Tom Coburn (R) of Oklahoma comments on and his voting record reflects an extreme right approach. However, I do agree with his statement, “No one wants Medicare telling doctors which drugs to prescribe. But, the government does have a responsibility in preventing fraud and abuse.”

Medicare Difficult To Understand - Getty Photo

Medicare Difficult To Understand – Getty Photo

The Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services has repeatedly directed the Center for Medicare officials to be more vigilant. Yet the agency has rejected several key recommendations as unnecessary or over-reaching.

Pro Publica has created an online tool at this location. Click on the link to search for individual providers and see which drugs they prescribe.

Nursing Home - Unable to Hold on to Conversation - Getty Image

Nursing Home – Unable to Hold on to Conversation – Getty Image

After I retired from government, an advertisement for a Chief Financial Officer for a group of nursing homes in North Carolina caught my eye. I knew from previous investigations that the abuse of pharmaceuticals as money-makers was wide-spread but I had no idea how bad it was in the civilian sector until I accepted this position.

The prescribing practices I found the most deplorable were for profit margin and not for the benefit of patients.

A private practice psychiatrist visited the facility once a month and fraudulently annotated in the patient charts to reflect he had assessed the patients for the high levels of pharmaceuticals he prescribed. Each note in a patient’s medical chart was billed as an office visit by the doctor, resulting in a hundred or more office visits per day. The doctor visited five nursing homes each month and he billed for 300 patients per nursing home. This doctor did not need to maintain an office, he made his fortune via fraudulent billing.

Pharmaceuticals had the largest profit margin of any other department at the group of nursing homes where I was employed and anti-psychotics were prescribed two to one over any other drug.

I hadn’t been hired by the nursing homes’ corporate office to investigate pharmacy, Medicare, or other types of abuse. I’d been hired to look for new sources of revenue and to collect back debt.

I couldn’t allow the patient population to receive excessive sedating drugs. The patients included: the elderly, veterans, the disabled needing extensive physical therapy and hospice patients. It’s no wonder the patient population seemed more confused, became agitated and fell often creating even more work for an industry that’s routinely under-staffed.

White Collar Investigation Getty File

White Collar Investigation
Getty File

Thankful, for many reasons, I don’t have Medicare Part D for my prescription coverage and I’m grateful a portion of my health-care coverage has stayed almost level. I’m still able to use my same independent pharmacy where we’ve had prescriptions filled since we moved to our home eight years ago.

It’s no wonder medications are so costly today. The United States is the only country in the civilized world that charges its consumers the cost of research and development for every brand name drug sold.

Additionally, Congress has served up a blank check to pharmaceutical companies for Medicare Part D. It prohibits Medicare from negotiating with companies for lower prices. Medicare places no cap on the cost of medications they approve and these results in the patient having a higher co-payment.

Medicare might benefit the patient if it allowed the same negotiating of payment policy with physicians and other healthcare services.

What do you think? Will Medicare Part D be what you need when it’s your turn to need pharmaceutical coverage?

Congress and Medicare gave the pharmaceutical companies a blank check with our tax dollars held for ransom. Why is this okay with Congress, the Presidential Administration and the Supreme Court? This is not equal opportunity, it’s not safe medicine and it’s not justice!

Thank you for reading with me. I always appreciate you support. The month of October marks the calendar as “Talk About Your Medicines” month. I’m honored that www.recall.com/community asked me to be an extension of their campaign. Please visit their site.

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