The folks at Veterans for Common Sense (VCS) are at odds with reporters at the Associated Press on what frankly should have been an Opinion piece by the AP writers – NOT reported as News.
Allen Breed is a National Writer at The Associated Press, he also has a fetish for Stolen Valor, or exposing fake Veterans, so it doesn’t take long to see through his biased reporting.
Why is Allen Breed, or AP in general, violating its own standards of journalistic integrity by using ‘selective’ sources with questionable reliability to advocate the stolen valor issue?
The below story will be posted in two parts:
(1) Mr. Breed’s take on how a growing number of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans will potentially scam the U.S. taxpayer out of billions of dollars in VA benefits, and
(2) Posted separately will be the rebuttal from both VCS and VT News Network asking AP to honor its own standards of journalistic integrity or face potentially hurting the reputation of AP as a reputable source of news through our contacts in the Veteran, Military Family community, and Congress.
AP reporter Allen Breed uses ‘selective sources’ or worse yet vague or undefined sources plus precious few examples to prove his thesis that there are selective problems with the VA that make it easy for Veterans to defraud the American people.
He is in violation of AP’s journalistic integrity unless of course Mr. Breed makes it clear to AP readers, especially our Veterans and troops that what he has selectively found is his OPINION – not NEWS.
Breed obviously is a half decent journalist, or he would not be a National Writer for the Associated Press, it is not Mr. Breed’s opinions and views on Stolen Valor that we at VT have a problem with.
It is when any reporter, including one of our own, attempts to pass his or her own personal opinions or views off as accurate, well researched NEWS.
We intend to express this concern to the management at the Associated Press as being anti-Veteran, anti-Soldier rhetoric sounding more as if our troops should be blamed for their hidden wounds of war by labeling them as fakes. This achieves nothing but the AP exploiting the social stigma of Mental Illness to sell newspapers or increase readership, and it is doomed to failure.
If AP ignores the Veteran and Military Family community, we will appeal to the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees and mainstream media to demand that AP and related mainstream reporters be taught how to distinguish between anti-Veteran, anti-Soldier personal opinions and facts when it comes to Veterans and Troops Issues. Facts apply to the vast majority of Veterans and troops in any case study while rumors, views, and opinions about a ‘few’ Veterans is just that OPINIONS and VIEWS.
Robert L. Hanafin, Major, U.S. Air Force-Retired, VT News Network
Extracted from Mr. Breed’s Opinionated Report
THIS IS NOT NEWS BUT OPINION, Mr. Breed’s opinion!!!
In tide of new PTSD cases, fear of growing fraud
In Allen Breed and AP Washington D.C. Writer Writer Kimberly Hefling’s opinion, there are two problems with Congress and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
No the problems worth journalistic scrutiny and investigation ARE NOT that the VA is a broken system that harms the Veterans it serves, nor is it worth looking into the never ending backlog of Veterans Claims, not even how dissatisfied or satisfied America’s Veterans are with VA care. AP in fact rarely does an intelligent story on military operations tempo and how it impacts PTSD. When was the last time our readers noted any mainstream media outlet do a decent story on multiple deployments to Iraq or Afghanistan either negative or positive in nature?
NO, the problems Breed and Hefling see are:
1. A Congress bending under pressure from Veterans Groups to settle Veteran’s disability claims mostly in the vets’ favor. (Honestly, if such were the case there would not be so many Veteran’s Claims in the Appeal process AND there would not be a significant backlog of VA Claims both worthy discussions that Breed and Hefling ignore – intentionally?).
Note that not one Veterans Service Organization having a PTSD Committee was interviewed by either reporter as a reliable source and expertise in regards to PTSD and Fraud. Not even those who may believe that Vets are faking PTSD.
2. The problem: [in Breed and Hefling’s opinion is that] the VA system is dysfunctional.
Like this is something Breed and Hefling are just NOW finding out? Had they interviewed reliable Veterans Service Organizations and sincere watchdog organizations who have the best interests of all Veterans in mind, Breed and Hefling would have known that the VA is broken is an UNDERSTATEMENT!
However, AP is quick to focus on blaming the Veterans. Instead of zeroing in on the real problems of the VA: delay, deny, until Veterans die, and the significant backlog of VA claims, VA management passing along emails instructing subordinate VA managers to downplay or deny PTSD claims, Breed and Hefling’s priority is BLAMING THE VETERAN. To AP rumors that America’s Veterans cannot be trusted is more important than the broken promises to America’s Veterans. Not surprising coming from a mainstream media that is not top heavy in military Veterans.
AP’s opinion of America’s Veterans, and the VA, is that the system is an open invitation for Veterans, who cannot be trusted, to commit fraud. And the VA has proposed changes that could make deception even easier. How ironic, Veterans who not long ago were trusted with our nation’s security, Veterans once the jest of Support Our Troop yellow ribbon campaigns NOW cannot be trusted with the American tax payer’s money.
(Note AP’s opinion is based on a FEW ‘selective sources,’ and some unidentified Stolen Valor watchdog group more interested in tracking down a few fake Veterans than cleaning up the back log of VA Claims. The use of sources selected primarily for their Stolen Valor views and AP reporters failure to mention who their reliable source really is and what their hidden agenda is places their entire opinion piece and the journalistic integrity of AP in question?)
In the opinion of the Breed and Hefling, both reporters place the reputation of the Associated Press on the line, by saying “some undeserving vets have learned how to game the system, profitably working the levers of sympathy for the wounded and obligation to the troops, and exploiting the sheer difficulty of nailing a surefire diagnosis of a condition that is notoriously hard to define.”
There is nothing wrong with this view as an OPINION, however that is not how it is pitched by AP. Breed and Hefling try selling this as a news story.
However, neither Breed nor Hefling mention how many ‘some’ Veterans actually are except using three examples selectively chosen to support their opinion (not news story but opinion) plus their selective use of one, just one psychiatrist who they say happened to have worked for the Army – an Army that BTW has a medical corps with a mission and track record of sending troops back into combat with PTSD.
This leads to questioning what part, if any, did Dr.Dan G. Blazer who they quote play in the diagnosis of troops having ‘personality disorders’ as opposed to PTSD, and what is Blazer’s relationship to Sally Satel who most learned Veterans know has a hidden right-wing American Enterprise Institute ‘partisan’ political agenda when she practices medicine or psychiatry.
VT News did a background check on Dr. Dan G. Blazer and there is nothing in Dr. Blazer’s bios that indicate he ever worked for the Army or if he did what exactly did he do for the Army? In fact, there is little to no mention of PTSD in the many book chapters and scientific articles Dr. Blazer has written.
Would or should any experienced journalist conclude that Dr. Blazer was an expert on PTSD, we do not believe so, because most of Dr. Blazer’s expertise focus on the topics of depression, epidemiology, and consultation liaison psychiatry, especially with the elderly. Dr. Blazer’s research has focused on the prevalence of physical and mental illness in the elderly. His specialty is Geriatric Psychiatry not PTSD among young Veterans or our troops.
BIO Dr. Dan German Blazer, Duke University Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health. http://www.spiritualityandhealth.duke.edu/faculty/blazer.html
BIO Dr. Dan G. Blazer, Duke University Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences Department/ Geriatric Psychiatry Division. http://www.dukehealth.org/physicians/dan_g_blazer
During Dr. Blazer’s many years of experience and education with psychiatry, he is undoubtedly an expert, but his background reflects only one book related to PTSD in which he collaborated, and a focus on older Veterans, but his primary expertise is on mental illness in the elderly not PTSD among young Veterans or our troops. His claim that PTSD is “among the easiest (psychiatric) conditions to feign” is unreliable and debatable due to the fact that he has spent little professional time focusing on PTSD. We at VT News could find nothing in Dr. Blazer’s professional portfolio showing he was employed by the U.S. Army much less worked as a consultant on PTSD. We are sure AP could have found much more reliable experts on PTSD than Dr. Blazer.
They also use one, just one, retired VA Claims examiner Mark Rogers without providing very much background on him either. On closer examination it turns out there is not record of Mark Rogers having been a VA Claims examiner and even if he was his ATTITUDE of the lazy malingering Veteran with the main incentive of Veterans to get VA is for compensation reflect more of a negative opinion of the Veterans that a few VA employees, including professional people have had at least since 1994 way before the current wars began for a younger generation of Veterans.
The hostile environment towards our nation’s Veterans, especially those claiming the hidden and stigmatized wounds of PTSD was laid within the VA system long before the first books hit the ground in Afghanistan or Iraq.
In an article published circa 1994, VA employees did paint a negative picture of those they served for without Veterans they would have NO JOB. We will post this article as a reflection upon which Mark Rogers, Reporters Breed and Hefling, even Dr. Blazer may have – a negative attitude that any Veteran who claims PTSD is a malingerer faking it just for the money.
Writing way back in the Fall or Winter of 1994, CBS Money Watch reporter Douglas Mossman made a lame attempt to blame a downturn in the U.S. economy on you got it America’s Veterans with the help of VA professional and administrative employees expressing the same attitudes as Mark Rogers.
Check out At the VA, it pays to be sick – Department of Veterans Affairs on CBS Money Watch to see that the negative anti-Veteran attitudes of AP today are nothing new. When America has an economic meltdown, or submits to endless wars, those who do the fighting and dying eventually get to be scapegoats for a society in which less than one percent of the population wants to do what we do.
In January 2009, the same Mark Rogers that AP uses as a reliable source on PTSD and the VA made this statement on blog, “Money and PTSD – Mark Rogers – Jan 21st 2009. All of the above comments [in the blog item Why the VA doesn’t want to diagnose Iraq War Veterans’ PTSD] came from people seeking money for a disability that cannot be objectively tested. The VA cannot possibly tell who has PTSD when so much secondary gain is at stake. Take the money out of the system and then see how many people [claim] PTSD. Offer unlimited treatment but no money and the claims will go away. No? Try to find someone getting PTSD money who would be willing to have his claim viewed by the public, even with his identity disguised. I saw hundreds of these claims working at VA and never saw one that I thought a jury would buy, if there were someone arguing each side.”
Speaking of being objective, we at VT News contend that AP Reporters Breed and Hefling intentionally sought out someone claiming to be a former VA employee with Mark Roger’s negative anti-veteran attitude. Using Mark as a source frankly was anything but objective reporting, and only served to reinforce Breed and Hefling’s predisposed anti-Veteran attitudes. Could this be a reflection of the attitude shared by the Associated Press?
Our point is what did Breed and Hefling base their source credibility on, and why did neither reporter interview reliable representatives from well establish Veterans Service Organizations like Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) who do have PhDs on staff intimately familiar not only with PTSD but the issues of fraud and Stolen Valor. These sources not only would have been credible but certainly not as biased as Mark Rogers.
This is not to say that a few, VERY FEW, Veterans do not scam the VA. However, their numbers are so insignificant to make Breed, Hefling, and the Associate Press appear to be more FOOLISH than Journalists.
Lastly, both AP reporters not only appear to be in violation of the Associated Press Statement of Principles and Journalistic Integrity, but AP owes America’s Veterans an apology for publishing such an opinionated piece based on lame to little evidence. The article needs to be retracted of published as an opinion piece NOT NEWS.
According to the Associated Press Statement of News Values and Principles , what Mr. Breed, and Ms. Hefling selectively researched and wrote has got to be an opinion piece (their shared opinion with those they interviewed for the article) NOT News as reported. Though they did give the full name of their sources, they did not give as much information as needed to identify their sources nor why their sources are credible. For instance, just having worked as a psychiatrist for the Army or any service does not provide the qualifications to be a credible source unless other Mental Health folks who have worked for the Pentagon or even VA are interviewed for balance and comparison.
What and who Breed and Hefling did provide as sources lacked credibility by not including any report, e-mail, or news release. Instead they took the word of some watchdog organization but failed to even provide the name of that unreliable source.
This was a very lengthy story, opinionated, with selective sources that claim to be reliable and are in the opinion of only Breed and Hefling. Such a lengthy story, but Associated Press admission should have included an extended editor’s or writer’s note at the end, detailing interviews, research, and methodology.
The Associate Press strives to seek a goal of providing its readers with enough information to have full confidence in a story’s veracity. If republished as the opinion piece that is really is, a few AP readers might find these AP opinions reliable. However, Breed and Hefley’s opinions leave much to be desired in the realm of credibility, insults the intelligence of America’s Veterans and Military Families.
We at VT News believe that such opinions held by representatives of the Associated Press reflects an instigation and spreading of rumors that betrays our troops in the field by belittling PTSD, and harms the reputation of AP as being a reliable source for NEWS.
Veterans for Common Sense (VCS) has asked AP to retract the article, and we ask that other Veterans Service Organizations join VCS and VT News Network in condemning this story as news and asking AP to better educate and monitor their journalists on the difference between writing opinion pieces and reporting NEWS.
The Associated Press needs to spend more time and energy focused on the huge backlog at the VA instead of distracting the public with rumors that Veterans are prone to faking their wounds or war. That VA claims backlog in fact includes a large number of Vietnam Veterans who have been denied compensation using delaying tactics until most of them have died.
Add to that the increase in VA Claims backlog experienced by Gulf War Veterans of Desert Storm dealing with Gulf War Illness that like Agent Orange most Vietnam Vets were exposed to our government has downplayed and challenged.
What the Associated Press is doing today amounts to the same thing that happened to Veterans of previous wars who claimed illness related to Agent Orange. What next a rumor that PTSD is still a conspiracy between liberal doctors in the VA, and a few Veterans Service Organizations to defraud the public with a tsunami of fake Veterans?
AP is part of the old thinking of the liberal media that spread rumors about our Vietnam Veterans, then as now when the war gets to be old news turn on the Veterans and troops fighting and dying in it and abandon our POWs.
Robert L. Hanafin, Major, U.S. Air Force-Retired, VT News
HAVE A GREAT VETERANS TODAY DAY!
Part Two will include the rebuttal from VCS to AP.
RESOURCES & CREDITS
- Nam Guardian Angel
- A Special Thanks to Chaplain Kathie, Senior IFOC Chaplain at DAV Auxiliary Chapter 16 Chaplain. Chaplain Kathie is PTSD Consultant and noted blogger for Veteran causes at Wounded Times
Readers are more than welcome to use the articles I’ve posted on Veterans Today, I’ve had to take a break from VT as Veterans Issues and Peace Activism Editor and staff writer due to personal medical reasons in our military family that take away too much time needed to properly express future stories or respond to readers in a timely manner.
My association with VT since its founding in 2004 has been a very rewarding experience for me.
Retired from both the Air Force and Civil Service. Went in the regular Army at 17 during Vietnam (1968), stayed in the Army Reserve to complete my eight year commitment in 1976. Served in Air Defense Artillery, and a Mechanized Infantry Division (4MID) at Fort Carson, Co. Used the GI Bill to go to college, worked full time at the VA, and non-scholarship Air Force 2-Year ROTC program for prior service military. Commissioned in the Air Force in 1977. Served as a Military Intelligence Officer from 1977 to 1994. Upon retirement I entered retail drugstore management training with Safeway Drugs Stores in California. Retail Sales Management was not my cup of tea, so I applied my former U.S. Civil Service status with the VA to get my foot in the door at the Justice Department, and later Department of the Navy retiring with disability from the Civil Service in 2000.
I’ve been with Veterans Today since the site originated. I’m now on the Editorial Board. I was also on the Editorial Board of Our Troops News Ladder another progressive leaning Veterans and Military Family news clearing house.
I remain married for over 45 years. I am both a Vietnam Era and Gulf War Veteran. I served on Okinawa and Fort Carson, Colorado during Vietnam and in the Office of the Air Force Inspector General at Norton AFB, CA during Desert Storm. I retired from the Air Force in 1994 having worked on the Air Staff and Defense Intelligence Agency at the Pentagon.
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In fact, intentional disinformation is a disgraceful scourge in media today. So to assuage any possible errant incorrect information posted herein, we strongly encourage you to seek corroboration from other non-VT sources before forming an educated opinion.
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