Veterans from the United States military seeking medical treatment have been body-slammed to the ground in troubling encounters with Department of Veterans Affairs police at VA hospitals around the country, according to recent Congressional testimony.
On Tuesday, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs held a hearing during which new details were shared on excessive force encounters between VA police and veterans, according to American Military News.
Representative Kathleen Rice from New York said one of her constituents, veteran Jean Telfort, who suffers from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), was seeking therapy at a VA hospital in June 2018 after spinal surgery when he became frustrated with incorrect referrals.
After several experiences of not being treated, Department of Veterans Affairs police officers were called.
They responded with excessive force.
Rice’s testimony about the incident describes how Telfort suffered in pain and agony before and after his encounter, as well as how he was retaliated against with false criminal charges, can be heard below.
“He was literally body slammed onto the ground, with his arms twisted behind his back,” Rice says about Telfort.
“This is someone who was post spinal surgery; he informed them of that, ‘I can’t breathe; I just had spinal surgery.”
It happened in June 2018 after a VA hospital told Telfort he could no longer receive therapy from a civilian doctor.
The hospital referred Telfort to another facility, which did not offer the therapy Telfort needed.
Telfort was then referred to the VA hospital in Northport, New York. That’s where the incident occurred after Telfort says he grew frustrated with the process and being given the runaround.
Police handcuffed Telfort, holding him to the ground.
A physical therapist protested, telling officers he was not a threat to them.
But officers did not move.
Telfort later appeared in federal court several times on criminal charges.
However, the charges were deferred after it was revealed a VA worker input fraudulent information into his file.
Rice says Telfort’s experience isn’t an isolated incident.
“This incident keeps going on and on and on,” she said.
“The questions that I have are many.”
Rice is referring to a separate incident where 65-year-old veteran attempting to leave a VA hospital in 2011 after waiting hours for a procedure ended up dead after officers used force to stop him from leaving.
“They pretty much took him, slammed him to the ground, hit his head and he ended up dying,” Represenative Gilbert Cisneros, a vocal critic of VA police, said.
Another incident in May 2018 at a Missouri VA hospital resulted in another veteran’s death.
“I mean, really, what are they doing over there?” Cisneros asked.
“Why are we having these situations where individuals are being injured or hurt or killed?”
A December 2018 investigation attributed the incidents to management failures and staffing shortages.
The Department of Veterans Affairs employs approximately 4,000 police officers across the country.
At last Tuesday’s hearing, VA officials said they have appointed new security management and police supervisors in order to improve quality of management and officer training.
It’s not yet clear if Telfort plans on filing a civil rights lawsuit after his encounter.