Things That Matter

A Veteran Is Left With No Options After A Botched Surgery Left Her Paralyzed And The VA Won’t Cover Care Costs

We have always assumed that once you join the U.S. military, they’re supposed to have your back for life, aren’t they? They pay for college. They’re supposed to help you become a citizen. They’re supposed to help you always whether that is physically or mentally. The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is there to support servicemen and servicewomen during their time in the military and when they retire. We are learning, however, that is not always the case. The government is definitely not helping men and women become citizens despite their service for the United States.  And the VA doesn’t help like they’re supposed to, in fact, they sometimes make the situation worse. 

A 29-year-old woman who had corrective surgery at VA hospital, ended up paralyzed. She can’t sue them for malpractice because it wasn’t a civilian hospital.

Credit: Barbara Ospina / Facebook

This story is insane because it’s almost as if anything Barbara Ospina did worked against her. In 2013, the 29-year-old was serving her country as a public affairs non-commissioned officer for Fifth Special Forces Group at Fort Campbell, Kentucky — so technically not the front lines of war. She began to experience “headaches, tingling, and numbness in her limbs, and blurred vision,” the Daily Mail reports. So she decided to have corrective surgery. Instead of making her feel better, they caused her to have a stroke and left her paralyzed. We must note that these are all allegations at this point. 

The VA hospital where she was treated, informed her that she had a rare disease and that’s why she had ended up paralyzed. But that is not the truth, or so Ospina claims.

Credit: Unsplash

“The VA is claiming Barb’s condition is the result of ‘an Illness or Medical Condition,’ specifically Arnold Chiari 1 Malformation, and not from an ‘injury,’ “her husband said in a letter to appeal the VA denial. “Her current condition is due to INJURIES sustained from medical malpractice that occurred by a military Neurosurgeon, military nurses, and the overall horrible care she received at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.”

One of the biggest problems about this tragic story is that the retired military officer (a wife and mother) cannot sue the VA for malpractice. If she had done the corrective surgery in a regular hospital, then she could have sued but because it is the VA, she cannot. It’s so unfair. According to the Military Times, “the Feres Doctrine, a 1950 Supreme Court decision, prevents her from suing the Defense Department for service-connected illness or injury.”

To make matters even worse, she can’t receive financial help — about $30,000 — from the VA for a nurse to take care of her at home. She must pay for the service herself, which is taken from her disability check. 

Credit: Unsplash

Why won’t the VA provide for a nurse? Here’s the kicker: because her injuries weren’t caused ‘in the line of duty in the active military.” Can you imagine that? The injuries she is suffering from, that were obtained from a government agency will not pay for her to get help because she didn’t get hurt in the line of duty. That is some kind of bull crap.  

“Her story represents the egregious conduct, consistent lack of care and malpractice at the hands of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base,” her attorney, Natalie Khawam of the Tampa, Florida- and D.C.-based Whistleblower Law Firm told Military Times on Tuesday. “This case is an example of how flawed the system is, and why it’s time for a change,” she added. Um, ya think?

This story is so sad and appalling and it makes you wonder why anyone would want to join the military knowing that they could leave you to fend for yourself even when you can’t even move.

Credit: JeffOnWire / Flickr

While it’s so good that Ospina has her husband and lawyers to count on, it’s so tragic that she cannot be her own champion because she’s in constant pain. She’s paralyzed, unable to be with her young son or her husband and have a life of constant care. All of this could have been prevented. Her life didn’t have to end up this way, and her employer — the U.S. government — should have done more for her care and for her life. We hope the Ospina family continues to try to sue them. 

READ: This Military Veteran Served Two Tours In Afghanistan And Was Deported In The Middle Of The Night

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Vanessa Guillen’s Abuela Traveled From Zacatecas to Say Goodbye To Her While Further Seeking Justice

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Vanessa Guillen’s Abuela Traveled From Zacatecas to Say Goodbye To Her While Further Seeking Justice

Sergio Flores / Getty Images

Update: Vanessa Guillen’s abuela, Lorenza Almanza, made the trip to the U.S. by bus to be with her family. Almanza is here to say goodbye to her granddaughter and to continue to bring attention to the need for justice.

Vanessa Guillen’s abuela is in the U.S. as the demand for justice in the case grows.

“I just want justice for my little Vanessa because she did not deserve this,” Almanza told Telemundo. She added: “God knows how they made my daughter suffer.”

According to NBC, Almanza brought a bar of chocolate from Zacatecas to leave at her memorial because it was her favorite. Almanza traveled to the U.S. with her children to all pay their respects and be with family. Despite COVID restrictions, the family was given a special visa to cross the border during this time.

Guillen’s murder investigation has rocked the U.S. Army. The 20-year-old soldier went missing in April after attempting to report sexual harassment while at Fort Hood. Months later, her remains were found in a shallow grave. A soldier who was a suspect committed suicide and his girlfriend, a civilian, was arrested.

Original: The search for Vanessa Guillen has ended after human remains were identified as the missing soldier. An investigation into the crime has led to suspects being identified and arrested. Here’s what we know so far.

A soldier, who was a suspect in Vanessa Guillen’s death, committed suicide Wednesday.

Human remains were discovered Tuesday and identified as Vanessa Guillen on Wednesday. The suspects in Guillen’s death have not been named but one of the suspects committed suicide on Wednesday morning. The military suspect shot himself while law enforcement was searching for him.

Tim Miller, the founder of Texas Equusearch, told the Houston Chronicle that he believes the military suspect killed himself at 1:30 a.m. local time. The military suspect, who was in Killeen, Texas, committed suicide shortly after human remains were discovered near the Leon River in Bell County, Texas.

Guillen’s family have expressed their grief at press conferences since the body was identified.

The family is demanding justice. One civilian suspect is currently in jail after being arrested in connection with Guillen’s death. One of Guillen’s sisters recognized the military suspect. Mayra Guillen told the press that she met the military suspect who committed suicide.

“At approximately 1:29 a.m., officers located the suspect in the 4700 block of East Rancier Avenue,” reads the statement from the Killeen Police Department website. “As officers attempted to make contact with the suspect, the suspect displayed a weapon and discharged it towards himself.  The suspect succumbed from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.”

The suspects have not been identified, however, we do have descriptions of the suspects.

“The person who took his own life earlier today in Killeen after being sought by Killeen police and federal marshals was a soldier from Fort Hood and had fled the base earlier in the day,” reads a statement by the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command. “A civilian has been arrested in connection with Vanessa Guillen’s disappearance. The civilian suspect is the estranged wife of a former Fort Hood Soldier and is currently in custody in the Bell County Jail awaiting charges by civilian authorities.”

The case has captivated the nation as some people hurt for the family.

The investigation into Vanessa Guillen’s death is still ongoing. There are no answers yet but her family alleges that Guillen was coming forward with sexual assault and harassment allegations. The family’s recounting of Guillen’s sexual assault allegations is renewing the conversation of sexual assault in the military.

The family is calling out Fort Hood and the military’s response to the disappearance of Guillen. According to the family, they have been pleading with Fort Hood and the U.S. Army to conduct an investigation but saw nothing happening.

READ: Partial Human Remains Found Near Fort Hood Likely Vanessa Guillen’s

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Military Members Are Sharing Stories Of Sexual Assault In The Military Using #IAmVanessaGuillen

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Military Members Are Sharing Stories Of Sexual Assault In The Military Using #IAmVanessaGuillen

David Dee Delgado / Getty Images

Vanessa Guillen went missing on April 22 from a parking lot at Fort Hood. Before going missing, Guillen confided in her family about alleged sexual assault and harassment she faced at the U.S. Army base. Her story sparked an online movement to talk about sexual assault in the military.

Women are using #IAmVanessaGuillen to talk about sexual assault in the U.S. military.

It wasn’t until recently that movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp made it clear that society was done with making excuses for sexual assault. Powerful and influential men have fallen because of their behavior. The disappearance of Vanessa Guillen is shining a renewed light on sexual assault in the military.

The stories range from inappropriate behavior from superiors to rape from fellow soldiers.

Women see themselves reflected in Guillen and her story. Former military women are shedding the shame and fear of coming forward to tell their stories in a public space. The unity on social media is offering women comfort and support as they open up about the most personal thing someone can talk about.

Some of the stories are absolutely heartbreaking.

According to a report from the Defense Department, sexual assault in the U.S. military went up 3 percent between fiscal years 2018 and 2019. The department reported 7,825 reports of sexual assault on service members. However, Pentagon officials assert that the change cannot be characterized as an increase in assaults. A prevalence survey on sexual assault in the military is conducted every other year.

According to some women, the assault and harassment started quickly.

The same study found that sexual assault at the 3 military academies saw a spike of 32 percent. The figures show an increase of 117 reported sexual assaults in 2018 compared to 149 sexual assaults reported in the academies.

“Our Academies produce our future leaders. At every turn, we must drive out misconduct in place of good order and discipline. Our data last year, and the findings from this year’s report, reflect the progress we have made in some areas, and the significant work that remains,” Elizabeth Van Winkle, the executive director of the Office of Force Resiliency, said in a statement obtained by ABC News. “We will not falter in our efforts to eliminate these behaviors from our Academies and to inculcate our expectation that all who serve are treated, and treat others, with dignity and respect.”

Some men have also used the hashtag to share their own experiences.

According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, 1 out of every 10 rape victims is male. The study also shows that 1 out of every 33 men will experience an attempted or completed sexual assault.

If you or someone you know needs to talk to someone, you can call 1 (800) 656-HOPE (4673) or visit RAINN by clicking here.

READ: Partial Human Remains Found Near Fort Hood During Search For Vanessa Guillen

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