New residential treatment program announced

Dear Sgt Shaft,

I wanted you to know that St. Joseph's Addiction Treatment and Recovery Centers is proud to announce the June 2014 opening of our new Veteran's Intensive Residential Program. The Col. C. David Merkel, MD Veteran's Residence is an intensive residential treatment program located on St. Joe's main campus in Saranac Lake, NY. The Merkel Residence is a trauma-informed healing space with a multitude of holistic programming.

Some of our services include:

  • Integrated treatment of substance abuse and mental health issues
  • Family counseling and reintegration
  • Spirituality groups and pastoral counseling
  • Somatic therapies such as Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention and IRest Yoga
  • Recreational therapy in the heart of the Adirondacks
  • Vocational and educational components
  • Participation in community activities

In order to receive services at St. Joe's Merkel Residence, an individual must be a male who has had military experience and who has been diagnosed with a substance use disorder.

For more information or to make a referral, contact St. Joe's admissions at:

Toll Free: 844-891-VETS (8387) or 518-891-VETS (8387)
Michelle Beaudoin, LMHC, CASAC
Director of Inpatient Services
St. Joseph's Addiction Treatment and Recovery Centers
PO Box 470
Saranac Lake, NY 12983
(518) 891-3801 Ext. 235

Shaft Notes

There have been many responses to the resignation of VA Secretary Shinseki. They include:

Representative Gus Bilirakis, Vice-Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, issued the following statement about the resignation of General Eric Shinseki, the United States Secretary of Veteran's Affairs:

“Secretary Shinseki has honorably served this nation, but given the recent revelations about the VA’s lack of care — such as examples of secret wait lists and excessive delays in care for Veterans — I believe it is appropriate for the Secretary to resign.

However, the General’s resignation will not solve all the problems at the VA. Our Veterans deserve better care than they currently receive. The VA has systemic failures that promote a culture of mediocrity and discourage transparency and accountability. That has to change. I will not rest until the deeper problems within the VA are addressed, and all Veterans get the timely access to quality health care that they have earned.”

Former chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04) issued the following statement today following the resignation of the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

“I remain gravely concerned that the VA’s structural and systematic problems will not be resolved solely with Secretary Shinseki’s resignation,” said Smith, former chairman of the House Veterans Affairs’ Committee from 2001-2005 and author of more than a dozen veterans’ laws. “However, his exit provides an opportunity—a chance to have a game-changing VA Secretary who will conduct a top-to-bottom review, cut through red tape, eliminate bureaucracy, and hold all VA employees accountable for the culture that has crept in and allowed for secret waitlists and cover ups.

Veterans died and if any information gleaned from the investigation suggests a criminal referral is appropriate, it should be done immediately.

“While there are still needs that are not fully funded or addressed and we must work overtime to meet them, additional resources can only do so much. American veterans deserve real accountability and a cultural change at the VA. We can and must send a clear signal to the VA’s top leaders and those entrusted with the sacred task of caring for our veterans throughout the entire department that anything less than treatment comparable to their sacrifice will not be tolerated.”

Senator Patty Murray made the following statement on the resignation of Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki.

“There are serious problems at the VA that won’t be solved simply by replacing the Secretary, but I am hopeful that this leadership change will spark structural, cultural, and personnel changes, from the top of the organization to the bottom, to make sure our veterans are getting the care and support they expect and deserve.

“I will be working closely with President Obama and his Administration as they look for a new Secretary who will provide strong leadership for the Department and who will work with me and others to make much-needed changes and improvements at the VA. This transition is also a time for every employee at the VA to step up and do everything they can to help veterans and work toward a culture of transparency as changes are being implemented. And as these changes are being made, I will work with my colleagues in Congress to make sure these improvements are being supported.

“I stand with veterans and families in Washington State and across the country in thanking Secretary Shinseki for his years of work for veterans and for his lifetime of service to the United States of America.”

Retired Navy Vice Adm. Norb Ryan, president of the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) reiterates MOAA’s May 16 recommendation to the Commander in Chief, President Barack Obama, urgently recommending he establish an independent, high-level commission to examine the VA health care system for the nation’s veterans in the 21st century.

MOAA members are deeply concerned over recent reports that a VA hospital in Phoenix, Ariz. was keeping two waiting lists for veterans seeking care. A ‘secret’ list allegedly was used to deny access to care for veterans so that overall numbers would look good. A retired VA physician alleges the list led to the untimely deaths of as many as 40 veterans. The VA Inspector General is investigating the charges.

In writing to the President, Ryan noted, “We believe the current situation concerning allegations of secret waiting lists at the VA Phoenix hospital presents a unique opportunity to take a fresh look at VA health care in the 21st century. The VA health care system delivers consistently high quality care to our nation’s veterans with few exceptions, once veterans can get in. However, as the current crisis has shown, our veterans’ access to care is often thwarted by bureaucratic red tape and inefficiencies.”

Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, P.O. Box 65900, Washington, D.C. 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330, call 202/257-5446 or email sgtshaft@bavf.org.