In Protest of the VA’s Policy on Medical Marijuana, Veterans Demonstrate in Washington

The Department of Veterans Affairs’ policy on pot? Don’t ask, don’t tell. At least, that’s how the situation appears when VA doctors can’t even mention that medicinal marijuana could be a healthier alternative to the scads of psychoactive drugs they prescribe for PTSD. And that even goes for the states where medical marijuana is legal.

Now, our veterans and marijuana advocates have taken the fight to the front of the White House as they dumped hundreds of empty pill bottles to represent the ones they’ve been over-prescribed. There is also a bill in Congress, the Veterans Equal Access Amendment, that aims “to provide recommendations about participating in such state programs.”

Twenty-two small American flags were planted in the ground at the front of the park, each representing a veteran to illustrate the oft-cited statistic that 22 veterans commit suicide each day. Each flag was adorned at its base with empty pill bottles and glow sticks meant to signify syringes.

This protest comes at the same time that the VA has been racked with scandal, so how do they respond? By giving out $142 million in bonuses. To the department, these were merely handed out to attract and retain employees. This sounds sickeningly reminiscent of the defense by Wall Street and Big Banks during the Bailout. When your company, department, organization, anything fails at doing the job, why would you hand out a single bonus!

The VA also rewarded executives who managed construction of a facility in Denver, a disastrous project years overdue and more than $1 billion over budget. They took home $4,000 to $8,000 each. And in St. Cloud, Minn., where an internal investigation report last year outlined mismanagement that led to mass resignations of health care providers, the chief of staff cited by investigators received a performance bonus of almost $4,000.

As one of his final acts last year before resigning, then-VA secretary Eric Shinseki announced he was suspending bonuses in the wake of revelations that VA employees falsified wait lists to meet wait-time targets — ostensibly as part of efforts to secure the extra pay. But he only curtailed them for a sliver of VA executives -- those in senior levels of the Veterans Health Administration, which oversees health care.

The Warhawks wave their flags when it’s time to send our fighting men and women overseas to do their bidding, but as soon as they get back, they turn a deaf ear to their pain. Then, to add insult to injury, they shower their cronies at the top with unearned rewards. This is an incredible way to remember those who died for our freedom on Veterans Day.


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