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Veteran Dies Like A Dog In VA Parking Lot; Family Charges Cover-up

By       Message Patricia Axelrod     Permalink
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The Facts:

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1) Veteran Lawrence Sinnin died of complications of heart disease after the James Lovell Federal Health Care Facility refused appropriate and timely emergency-room care by denying him access to the ER for approximately 20 minutes, during which time Mr. Sinnin ceased breathing on his own even as his son, Terrell Green, pleaded with the facility to treat his father. Lawrence died a victim of the reckless institutional negligence typical of the VA. The James Lovell Federal Health Care Facility is a joint Department of Defense/Veterans Affairs facility serving active and retired soldiers.

2) Thereafter the facility manipulated the medical record reflective of the death and destroyed video evidence of the event.

Here are the details surrounding the facts.

April 28, at about 10:05 AM, Tarrell Green drove his sick and groaning father Lawrence Sinnin from Wauken, IL, to the James Lovell Health-Care Facility. Lawrence, who then resided in Waukegan, was a Vietnam veteran and a purple-heart recipient who had routinely sought care at the VA, which was only 5 minutes away from his residence.

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Terrell pulled up to the valet and asked the valet for help. The valet said he couldn't help. Referring Tarrell to the emergency-room receptionist, the valet offered to watch Lawrence while Terrell went into the building to seek assistance. Terrell presented to the receptionist and asked for help whereupon she "went to the back," says Terrell. Time was squandered as Terrell waited for the receptionist, who finally came out to instruct Terrell to as he said to "drive his father around the back to the ambulance bay". Terrell did so where he encountered two ambulance attendants and asked them to help his father.

The ambulance attendants instructed Tarrell as he reported "to move his car" away from the bay and wait for help. Tarrell did so and waited for ER personnel to respond. Minutes passed and ER personnel failed to appear, whereupon Terrell again went to the attendants to plead with them to get help for his father. Finally the attendants called the ER and ER personnel appeared with a wheel-chair and brought Lawrence Sinnin into the ER. The time was then about 10:25 AM and Lawrence was non-responsive and not breathing on his own. The CPR team was called at 10:45 and arrived at 10:50. Lawrence Sinnin was declared dead at 11:10. Son Terrell Green requested an autopsy and was led to believe that one would be performed. The VA did not did not follow through and an autopsy was not conducted.

Pathologist Dr. Jon Minarcik believes an autopsy would show that Lawrence Sinnin died of "acute coronary thrombosis," a condition in which timely care makes the difference between life and death. "Minutes count here and rapid medical response can save a patient's life," says Dr. Minarcik. "That's why we have hospitals."

Adding insult to injury the VA took Lawrence Sinnin's corneas, stole his wedding ring and glasses, and then began to cover up their wrongdoing in a number of ways.

First VA executives blamed Terrell Green for his father's death and when that didn't work the facility manipulated the medical records in an attempt to exonerate them from wrong-doing. Additionally, video evidence that would verify the failure of the facility to treat Lawrence Sinnin in a timely fashion disappeared; but this carefully orchestrated cover-up would be discovered and overturned when Terrell Green recruited help dealing with the VA.

Working with veteran advocate Patricia Axelrod -- who chose to act undercover presenting herself as a friend of the family -- Tarrell Green requested and received his father's medical record and found that the record did not accurately or truthfully record the facts of the matter. Specifically the record stated that he had driven with his dying father to the VA from about one hour away from Kenosha, Wisconsin, rather than from Wauken, IL, which is just five minutes away, and also that his father was dead on arrival. Taking note of video cameras surrounding the emergency room, at the valet entrance just one door over from the ER entrance, and also at ambulance bays, Axelrod and Tarrell then filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests regarding the matter specifically requesting ER hospital regulations as well as all audio or video film that might have captured the facility's April 28th denial of care of Lawrence Sinnin. The FOIAs were filed July 9th.

July 10, Acting Director of the facility Captain Jose Acosta met with Axelrod and Tarrell Green to say that the subject video had been destroyed. Axelrod replied that she would bring this matter to the attention of the Senate investigative team looking into VA malfeasance, whereupon Director Acosta pleaded with Axelrod and Tarrell Green not to do so. And then a desperate Acosta, his feet to the fire, signed a statement attesting to the destruction of the video and wrote an additional statement to the effect that in the absence of the video he "believed Tarrell Green" regarding the denial of VA appropriate and timely care of his father.

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Investigation into the matter of the alleged disappearance of the video film finds that the facility -- which is a joint Department of Defense and Veterans' Affairs facility -- utilizes CCTV (Closed-Circuit Television) at all entrances and surrounding the facility and therefore falls under the requirements of Homeland Security for preservation of CCTV records for six months. This is confirmed by review of 'Privacy Impact Assessment for the DHS CCTV Systems, DHS/ALL/PIA-042, [dated] July 18, 2012 (page 3, section 1.4., states the requirement preserve CCTV footage). Informed of this regulation Captain Acosta became visibly shaken and then declared that he would need to consult with his attorneys about the regulation. Since then Illinois Congressman Brad Schneider has entered into the fray to request that the VA release the film and other documents requested by Terrell Green. The VA has replied it will comply with FOIA law.

Terrell Green is contemplating suing the VA but finds the process to be onerous at best. For those litigating against the VA are denied the same access to the court as is routinely available under the US Constitution as litigants are denied trial by jury. Rather they must submit to a six-month administrative process after which they may come before a federal judge should they choose to. "The VA fights every case tooth and nail and so cases drag on for years," said Cristobal Bonifaz, a Massachusetts attorney who has sued the VA. Compounding the difficulty of suing the VA is the restriction of attorneys' fees resulting in payment most lawyers would consider too little for too much work on behalf of Vietnam veteran, purple-heart recipient Lawrence Sinnin, who died like an unloved dog in the parking lot of the VA hospital. Sadly, Lawrence Sinnin became one of the many who fought for America only to die on the VA battlefield.


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I am the Director of the Desert Storm Think Tank and All Veterans Advocate as well as a not-for-profit law project conducted for the benefit of the poor called "The Peoples' Advocate." I am also an election activist and OPEDNEWS published my work (more...)

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Veteran Dies Like A Dog In VA Parking Lot; Family Charges Cover-up