Noting that America’s veterans continue to bear the physical, mental, emotional and economic scars of answering the call to service in defending Americans’ freedoms abroad and should not have their own freedoms short-changed, The Rutherford Institute has come to the defense of a disabled veteran, who is also an outspoken advocate and activist for veterans’ rights, who was threatened with removal from an outpatient Veterans Administration (VA) medical facility, which could result in a denial of medical care, if he does not remain “fully cooperative” and engages in behavior or uses language which staff deem to be hostile and/or intimidating.
In coming to the defense of Vietnam-era veteran John Miska, Institute attorneys warn that the VA medical facility’s subjective and vague determination of what constitutes threatening, abusive or intimidating behavior threatens to impose an unwarranted chill upon Miska’s First Amendment activities, particularly as they relate to his efforts to advocate for better treatment of veterans by the U.S. government and its representative agencies.
“Should John Miska be compelled to refrain from speaking out on behalf of himself and other veterans at the risk of losing his medical care, this will constitute a clear violation of his right to freedom of speech protected under the United States Constitution,” said Whitehead, author of A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State. “This is yet another example of the poor treatment afforded to veterans by their government, which has gone to extreme lengths in recent years to paint veterans as potential troublemakers, label them as terrorists, diagnose them as suffering from PTSD, seemingly in order to deny them access to lawful weapons, and subject them to all manner of surveillance. Truly, this is a sorry way to show our appreciation to individuals who have put their lives on the line for the sake of our freedoms.”
John Miska, a disabled Vietnam-era veteran, devotes much of his energies to various veterans causes, including ensuring that veterans receive the medical care they are due. After taking issue with the insufficient treatment of veterans by staff at the facility, Miska was targeted and threatened with removal from the grounds of the Charlottesville Community-Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC) of the Veterans Administration (VA) grounds by the Chief of Staff of Hunter Holmes McGuire Medical Center, who mischaracterized Miska’s outspoken advocacy for veterans’ rights as hostile and intimidating and insisted that he be fully cooperative. However, as Whitehead noted in his letter to the VA, “When he sees needs not being met or failings in the system, Mr. Miska will speak out and attempt to rectify the situation on behalf of the individual veteran. Indeed, his advocacy activities are an exercise of his fundamental constitutional rights to speech and to petition the government for the redress of grievances.”
Within the past year alone, Miska has filed complaints with the applicable Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN 6) about the failure of veterans to receive necessary custom prosthetics because of attempts by some within the VA bureaucracy to cut corners by supplying “off-the-shelf,” but unsuitable, prosthetics. He also intervened with VISN 6 on behalf of veterans when they were being denied travel reimbursement simply because they did not have drivers’ licenses. Miska also drew the ire of VA personnel after taking issue with the lack of handicapped parking spaces for himself and other veterans at the Hunter Holmes McGuire Medical Center.