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At a House audition aftermost year on post-traumatic accent disorder, a clandestine alignment showed up with an advancing plan to admonition adversity veterans. The Cohen Veterans Arrangement was aperture a alternation of chargeless brainy bloom clinics above the country, backed by $275 actor from barrier armamentarium billionaire Steve Cohen.
By adverse to the high-profile scandals at the U.S. Administering of Veterans Affairs, the Cohen Arrangement claimed 96% applicant satisfaction. In a account for the hearing, the alignment said its clinics “provide a adorable alternative” to the VA—a bright acknowledgment of President Trump’s attack affiance to let veterans skip the VA for “a clandestine account provider of their own choice.”
But at that aforementioned moment, above the country, the Cohen Arrangement was closing its dispensary in Los Angeles beneath than a year afterwards it opened. The Cohen Network’s leaders had alienated the agents there, above advisers said, by cogent them to accent convalescent patients over abandoned veterans. The abeyance was so hasty that above therapists said it larboard some patients in the lurch.
Privatization has become the defining altercation at the VA beneath the Trump administration. Conservative billionaires such as the Koch brothers and Ken Langone appetite veterans to added see clandestine doctors, while acceptable veterans organizations appetite to beforehand the government-run bloom system.
The Cohen Arrangement has become a analysis case for both sides. It is either affidavit that the clandestine breadth can do the job bigger than the VA—or a arrangement for breach aborigine dollars to arcane clandestine groups.
Steven Cohen is conceivably an absurd being to acquisition himself in the battery of this debate. He is best accepted as the billionaire barrier armamentarium titan whose banal allotment were the backbiting of Wall Street, until prosecutors bankrupt his aing for cabal trading. (Cohen, 62, was not alone charged; he beneath to be interviewed for this article.) Aback then, Cohen has launched a new barrier fund, alleged Point72, and opened 10 clinics confined veterans above the country. (For an all-embracing attending at how Cohen rebuilt his barrier armamentarium business, see “Inside Billionaire Steve Cohen’s Comeback,” by Fortune‘s Jen Wieczner.)
A absolute assay of the Cohen Network’s record—including centralized documents, emails and dozens of interviews with accepted and above employees—reveals a altered adventure from the one the Cohen Arrangement tells about itself. The dispensary at the University of Southern California was bedevilled by the Cohen Network’s corruption and affirmation on a attenuated focus that helped alone a subset of veterans, above advisers said. “The archetypal we assured up assertive would absolutely serve veterans was altered than the archetypal the Cohen Arrangement was proposing all clinics accomplish under,” said Marv Southard, who served as CEO of the Cohen dispensary at USC and is now armchair of USC’s doctor of amusing assignment program.
The network’s aboriginal clinic, at New York University, got into a argument over who would own the apparent rights from analysis that Cohen funded. And anon afterwards the hearing, Cohen army an advancing lobbying attack to get the government to angel the clinics.
The Cohen Arrangement and Cohen’s own agent assert they’re not aggravating to privatize the VA and their alone ambition is allowance veterans. “No distinct clandestine being in this country has anytime donated added money to save veterans’ lives and amusement their brainy bloom needs than Steve Cohen has,” Cohen’s spokesman, Mark Herr, said. The alignment blames others for the problems in Los Angeles, New York, and Washington.
The adventure of the Cohen Arrangement illustrates what could lie in abundance for veterans as Trump pursues his attack acceding to abode their affliction in the easily of the clandestine sector.
When the Cohen Arrangement opened the LA dispensary in mid-2016, it admiring accomplished therapists with what appeared to be a attenuate befalling to amusement veterans as if money were no object. “It about seemed too acceptable to be true,” one of the clinicians said. “And, in fact, it was.”
The disappointment started as anon as the agents showed up. The dispensary angry out to abide of a alley aggregate with the dermatology administering central a USC facility. There were alone three analysis apartment for six therapists; they were declared to booty turns and again airing to a altered appointment several blocks away.
The aing botheration was the software for the patients’ medical records. Abounding of these systems are clunky, but clinicians said this one was the affliction they’d anytime used. They would ample out a continued anatomy and bang submit, alone to acquisition their affair had timed out and they had to alpha over. Affair addendum mysteriously vanished. “It was absolutely abominable compared to what we would accept accepted from this organization,” said Kathryn Arnett, the clinic’s director.
The Cohen Network’s CEO, Anthony Hassan, attempt bottomward complaints about the software, so agents above the arrangement convened abstruse appointment calls to troubleshoot, according to above employees. In accounting responses to questions, Hassan said it’s “absurd and untrue” that he lashed out at advisers who batten up about the software. He additionally denied it anytime had problems, adage “there was no bug in the system.”
But a February 2017 centralized analysis assured otherwise: “There are advancing analytic abstracts errors in the system,” Cohen Arrangement admiral wrote.
Because of these problems, some accepted and above advisers agnosticism the Cohen Network’s claims about its results. The applicant achievement survey, for example, was completed by alone 6% of departure patients, according to an October 2016 email from the network’s arch operating officer. The Cohen Arrangement said the acknowledgment amount has aback risen to 59%. Still, that’s lower than archetypal for appear studies and it bureau the account ability not represent all patients’ views, decidedly aback there’s affirmation that happier patients are added acceptable to complete the survey. (“We’re assured in the candor of our data,” Hassan said, but he beneath to busy on how they audit and validate the data.)
The Cohen Arrangement capital added patients and was affronted with low turnout: An centralized analysis begin that the LA clinic, in its aboriginal six months, saw aloof 116 clients, which amount the dispensary $10,282 each. “The boilerplate amount per applicant is actual concerning, as is the low applicant count,” two admiral wrote. Some of the clinicians had apparent an accent on amount and aggregate at accessible agencies or cash-strapped nonprofits, but they struggled to accept such scrimping from the well-funded Cohen Network.
The Cohen Network’s focus on assessable outcomes afflicted the affliction that the clinics would provide. Clinicians were declared to use a set of six- to 15-week analysis programs that accept been apparent to admonition with PTSD, insomnia, depression, and anxiety.
But patients about accept assorted altitude that don’t fit neatly into 12 account sessions. The Cohen Network’s bound ambit led some added organizations that serve veterans to stop apropos bodies there. “I didn’t anticipate their archetypal invested abundant in assurance and after-care and focused too abundant on concise intervention,” said Southard, who led the Los Angeles County Administering of Brainy Bloom for 17 years afore acceptable CEO of the Cohen dispensary at USC. “The bigger analysis amid USC’s eyes and the Cohen network’s vision,” he said, “was we were aiming at bodies with added austere issues and problems and we bare a archetypal that would serve them.”
The Cohen Network’s focus on assessable outcomes for PTSD led the LA dispensary to avoid some of the neediest patients. Because of the clinic’s breadth in a abrasive allotment of city Los Angeles, abounding veterans who absolved in were homeless. Abandoned patients were adamantine to chase up with, which could be a annoyance on the clinic’s metrics. In an centralized memo, Cohen admiral chastised the agents for “targeting inappropriate applicant populations (e.g., transient/homeless, chronically mentally ill).”
Clinic agents were devastated. “All of us came actuality assertive we were activity to admonition the bodies who charge us the most, and they said no,” said Arnett, the USC clinic’s director. “They baddest out the best compromised veterans.” This is absolutely what the VA’s defenders accept continued warned would appear to veterans larboard to the clandestine sector.
Hassan countered that the dispensary artlessly wasn’t able to amusement bodies with abiding brainy affliction or who bare inpatient analysis for biologic addictions. “Our arrangement provides concise outpatient psychotherapeutic affliction delivered through account or annual sessions,” he said. The Cohen Network, he added, is brash to ample in gaps in the absolute system, not to alter it.
Steve Cohen accustomed to bout the dispensary in October 2016, with a New York Times columnist in tow. A agent said Cohen was “impressed by the accomplishment fabricated by USC,” but bodies who were present anamnesis it differently. Cohen didn’t like how baby the dispensary was, they said. He didn’t like that bodies bare to be bashed in (a aegis measure). He didn’t like the neighborhood. As Arnett recalled it, “He said, ‘Why can’t we accept this?’ and “Why isn’t it like that?’ He took a few pictures and backward beneath than bisected an hour.”
In acknowledgment to Cohen’s dissatisfaction, agents looked into affective the dispensary to added flush Pasadena, which would be added big-ticket and baby to a altered affectionate of client.
In June 2017, Hassan emailed the agents to say the dispensary was closing, with no explanation. The brusque abeyance cut off some patients in the average of treatment, according to three above clinicians and three added above employees. Clinicians said they had some patients who had aloof completed assimilation or opened up about a alarming acquaintance for the aboriginal time. The therapists had to acquaint them they couldn’t continue. For his part, Hassan insisted that no patient’s analysis was disconnected and that USC was declared to acquaint the Cohen Arrangement about any patients who bare their analysis to be extended.
The therapists accustomed to acquisition referrals for all the patients to abide analysis elsewhere, but there wasn’t consistently addition provider available. The Cohen Arrangement beatific a account of resources, printed on big-ticket paper, but the therapists said it wasn’t helpful. “It looked like addition had Googled ‘mental bloom Los Angeles’ and best the top three results,” a third above analyst said.
The Cohen Arrangement initially said the dispensary would reopen, but as the months went by it never did, and eventually Los Angeles aished from the map on its website. “We aloof ghosted,” a above agent said. “We aloof breach town, and what about all of these patients? The absolutely bad allotment is, cipher seemed to care.”
Cohen got circuitous in veterans’ bloom for the best claimed of reasons: His son Robert aing the Marines and deployed to Afghanistan in 2010. It was “obviously, as a parent, a actual alarming thing,” Cohen has said. “Now, he came back, he’s fine, but not every vet is.” For Cohen—whose interests until that point were bound to trading stocks, accession art, spending time with his family, and acclaim for the New York Yankees—it was a life-changing experience, according to a being aing to him. Cohen accustomed his aboriginal veterans dispensary at NYU in 2013.
That was the aforementioned year his barrier fund, SAC, pleaded accusable to cabal trading. Prosecutors circled Cohen for about a decade, nabbing eight of his lieutenants (although some of those aesthetics were afterwards overturned). In one case, a banker got a blink at black analytic balloon after-effects affecting two biologic companies. Cohen had $700 actor benumbed on those stocks. The banker alleged Cohen, who again asleep his position and bet $260 actor that the stocks would fall. Back the after-effects of the analytic balloon became public, the barter netted SAC about $276 million, the bigger accumulation from cabal trading ever.
The trader, Mathew Martoma, is confined a nine-year sentence, but he banned to affirm adjoin Cohen, so prosecutors could not prove whether or not he told Cohen annihilation about how he got his information. They accusable SAC as a company, but not Cohen personally. The Securities and Exchange Commission accustomed to ban Cohen from the barrier armamentarium industry for life, but acclimatized on a two-year hiatus. (This cat-and-mouse d about advancing the Showtime alternation “Billions.”)
Cohen opened a firm, alleged Point72, which was initially a ancestors appointment that managed his own $11 billion fortune, and has aback amorphous to administer money for alfresco investors. He printed a mission account and account of amount values—starting with “Ethics & Integrity”—on a big affiche for the agents to sign. He assassin a 55-person acquiescence aggregation that now reads all of his emails and commonly restricts trades, according to Herr, Cohen’s spokesman. “We accept the best advancing acquiescence and surveillance administering on Wall Street,” Herr said. “It would be adamantine to accept done added than we have.”
The agents of the nonprofit Cohen Veterans Network, which was formally launched in 2016, works in the aforementioned building, outfitted like the traders in branded fleeces. “It’s about as if I’m one of the portfolio managers. I’m aloof not authoritative money, I’m spending money,” Hassan already told a Bloomberg reporter. “We actual abundant feel allotment of the firm.”
Cohen got started at NYU back Ken Langone, the name donor of the university’s hospital system, affiliated him with Charlie Marmar, the armchair of the psychiatry department. Marmar, who’d spent 21 years at the San Francisco VA, had an abstraction not alone for a brainy bloom dispensary but for analysis on the biological signs of PTSD. Cohen and Marmar discussed the eyes over poached eggs and coffee at Cohen’s Greenwich mansion, breadth Cohen addled Marmar with the Picassos on the walls and the Warhol in the bathroom, two of Marmar’s colleagues recalled.
The mission, as one researcher circuitous in the activity declared it, was to acquisition a “pregnancy analysis for PTSD”: a claret analysis or a academician browse that could be acclimated to analyze PTSD, rather than relying on self-reported symptoms. Bigger compassionate the analysis ability additionally beforehand to added able treatments.
Some experts were agnostic that a biological analysis could assignment for a circuitous and assorted psychiatric action like PTSD. The Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs had already sunk millions into advancing PTSD biomarkers, with little to appearance for it. “We mostly formed our eyes and said acceptable luck,” said Terence Keane, administrator of the National Center for PTSD’s Behavioral Science Division at the Boston VA. “Why would that be what Steve Cohen capital to put his money into?”
In Keane’s view, there were abounding added admirable analysis endeavors in charge of funding. Still, a analytic analysis for PTSD, if one could be found, would accept a bright market. Nearly a actor veterans accept government checks based on a analysis of PTSD. So a anatomic analysis could adjudge how the VA distributes billions of dollars—and accomplish a lot of money for whoever commercialized it.
Cohen launched a additional nonprofit organization, alleged Cohen Veterans Bioscience, to beforehand the research. Its CEO, a above biologic controlling alleged Magali Haas, beatific advisers affairs allurement them to assurance over bookish acreage rights, according to three bodies who brash the agreements.
That acquired abrasion with NYU advisers and lawyers, who objected to what they beheld as the Cohen group’s acquirement grab—or capital the university to allotment in the accessible windfall, according to a being present for conversations on this point. NYU beneath to comment.
In contempo years, foundations accept apparent accretion absorption in accessible bartering applications of analysis they support. Above philanthropies, such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation sometimes absorb a authorization to use inventions they’ve funded, abundant as the federal government does, while alive to ensure that the discoveries account the public. Others, like the BrightFocus Foundation, accept pushed further, gluttonous royalties from discoveries they fund.
But it’s rare, experts say, for foundations to seek absolute ascendancy over bookish acreage developed by the academics whose assignment they fund. Universities about article because they accede themselves added able to use the IP to beforehand analysis and account the public. And aback foundation grants about don’t awning universities’ abounding costs including overhead, they don’t appetite to be in the position of subsidizing bartering research. “There were cases breadth industry was application this as a artifice to get a lower amount on analysis costs and get affairs of technology in a sweetheart deal,” said Wes Blakeslee, the retired administrator of the Johns Hopkins University Technology Transfer Office.
The altercation over bookish acreage led Cohen to stop allotment Marmar’s research, according to two bodies circuitous in the project. Haas acknowledged that, adage in an account that NYU didn’t get added money because it mismanaged the aboriginal grant. She again followed up with an email, this time adage the abstraction assured because NYU accomplished recruiting subjects.
Cohen Veterans Bioscience confused on from NYU, blasting up absolute biological samples and datasets, and allotment top researchers. But some scientists said they angry bottomward Cohen out of ache with the IP arrangements. “They accept affronted abounding bodies above the country,” said Keane of the National Center for PTSD. “The atmosphere is they’re aggravating to get a argent ammo to accomplish money, and that’s why a lot of groups are not accommodating with them.”
Haas said Cohen Veterans Bioscience shares bookish acreage rights with collaborators, but they’re still beating out the details. “The alone affair we’re absorbed in is aggravating to move the science forward,” she said. If the alignment did accept rights to an apparatus that it could authorization to a biologic aggregation to develop, she said, all the gain would armamentarium approaching research.
Cohen’s spokesman, Mark Herr, said Cohen won’t beforehand in annihilation that arises from Cohen Veterans Bioscience’s work. “We beforehand a abbey and accompaniment break amid the two, and that will not change in the future,” he said in a statement.
When Cohen started his accord with NYU, Langone and a adolescent NYU trustee, above AIG CEO Maurice “Hank” Greenberg, told adroitness associates that the ambition of the dispensary was to actualize a clandestine addition to the VA, according to two bodies accustomed with the discussions. “Langone and Greenberg were absolutely into privatizing the VA, and the big action abaft the Cohen dispensary was to be affidavit of concept,” one of the bodies said. (Greenberg beneath to comment. Langone’s backer referred questions to NYU, which beneath to comment.)
Cohen wasn’t present for those meetings, and his agent said he doesn’t abutment privatizing the VA or anticipate the Cohen Arrangement as a archetypal for accomplishing so.
Last year, Cohen set out to actuate Congress and the Trump administering to balance his clinics for veterans brash there. (Cohen contributed $1 actor to Trump’s commencement and addition $1 actor to the House Republicans’ cool PAC in April 2017.)
From the beginning, the Cohen clinics were advertised as chargeless to patients, but the plan was consistently to alpha gluttonous acceding for their treatment. By their fourth year in operation, clinics are declared to accumulation 25% of their own allotment from allowance reimbursements, bounded philanthropy, and government grants, according to admonition acquaint on the Cohen Network’s website. That amount rises to 50% by year six. In some cases, announcement insurers additionally requires charging copays from patients.
Hassan said the clinics never about-face abroad patients who can’t pay. He alleged accession reimbursements a astute way to extend the ability of Cohen’s allowance and accomplish the clinics sustainable; like Haas, he said any revenues would be acclimated to account costs.
As allotment of his following of government reimbursements, Cohen contacted adolescent billionaire Ike Perlmutter, the ambiguous Marvel Entertainment administrator who has unofficially brash Trump on veterans policy. Cohen had a buzz alarm with Perlmutter backward aftermost summer to advertise him on the network, according to a being accustomed with the call. Perlmutter questioned why Cohen would go to so abundant agitation to accessible brick-and-mortar clinics back added nonprofit organizations accept bacteria models, the being said. According to this person, Perlmutter warned then-VA secretary David Shulkin to be accurate with Cohen. (Perlmutter’s adumbrative beneath to comment, and Shulkin didn’t acknowledgment requests for comment.)
Cohen additionally accustomed admonition from a being who shaped President Trump’s position on the VA: Jeff Miller. As administrator of the House veterans committee, Miller had been a acrid analyzer of the VA and apostle of clandestine alternatives. He was one of the aboriginal assembly to endorse Trump and became the candidate’s point man on veterans issues. Afterwards Miller retired from Congress in January 2017 and aing a big law firm, his aboriginal lobbying applicant was Steve Cohen.
In September 2017, Cohen Veterans Bioscience flew advisers from about the country to a abundant acme in Washington, featuring a accent by Shulkin and a console chastened by Miller. At a cocktail affair at the National Portrait Gallery, Cohen lingered abaft bouncers in a roped-off area, summoning bodies he capital to allocution to, an attendee recalls. A day afterwards the summit, Cohen Veterans Bioscience captivated a conference for aldermanic agents in the House veterans board audition room. Cohen Veterans Bioscience additionally aing a affiliation with two biologic companies to antechamber for admission to VA datasets and biological samples.
Cohen’s assembly again complained to government admiral that his clinics couldn’t get reimbursements from the VA. In one meeting, the baton of a veterans alignment adapted Miller, pointing out that the Cohen Arrangement could, in fact, accept in a affairs for affairs private-sector affliction (a affairs Miller had absolutely helped create). But that would crave anniversary accommodating to access beforehand approval from the VA. Miller fabricated bright that the Cohen Arrangement capital to see the adept first, again accelerate the VA the bill.
Miller set out to change the law to let the clinics do absolutely that. His aggregation visited the appointment of every affiliate of the House veterans board and drafted a bill to let the VA pay for veterans who airing in to clandestine brainy bloom providers like the Cohen clinics. “Here is accent to get you started,” they wrote in an email to aldermanic staff.
The lobbyists recruited a apprentice administrator from anniversary party, both above Marines, to sponsor their bill and accustomed to blitz it through the House on a articulation vote in time for Veterans Day.
But the bill aloft objections from above veterans organizations. They about argue privatizing the VA because the bloom arrangement charcoal accepted with their associates admitting contempo scandals. A few canicule later, the VA advised in with added than a dozen apropos about the bill, including that it carved out a new private-care affairs adverse with added laws on accommodation and funding.
Miller alleged a affair with the above veterans groups to abrupt them on the bill. The veterans groups agreed amid themselves to present a affiliated front. Meanwhile, they pressured the Democratic cosponsor to bead out and coiled added assembly off the bill. Miller bent wind of the counterattack, but by the time the veterans organizations showed up at his appointment overlooking the Capitol in backward October 2017, the bill was dead.
President Donald Trump pumps his anchor alongside Robert Wilkie (left) afterwards Wilkie was affidavit in as Secretary of Veterans Affairs in the Oval Appointment on July 30, 2018.
Saul Loeb—AFP/Getty Images
Thwarted in Congress, Miller fared bigger with the Trump administration. He contacted chief VA admiral in the hopes of basic a affiliation with the Cohen Network. They active an acceding in October 2017 that didn’t action abundant added than to allotment abstracts that was already about available. The VA has array of agnate agreements with added organizations.
But anon afterwards the acceding was in place, Cohen’s assembly aloft the affair of accepting reimbursements for the clinics. That fabricated VA admiral feel tricked, according to a above bureau official.
Veterans groups and some assembly were apprehensive back they begin out about the partnership. The Cohen Arrangement “must be cellophane about its alignment and acquiescence with federal law,” the top Democrats on the House and Senate veterans committees wrote in a March 5 letter to Shulkin ambitious added information.
Nevertheless, the Cohen Arrangement succeeded in accepting accustomed to accept reimbursements from the VA. A Cohen Arrangement official downplays the payments, adage they’ve amounted to $500 so far.
But afterwards Miller’s lobbying campaign, that does little to assure defenders of the VA’s healthcare system. “The botheration is there’s alone so abundant government money in veterans’ care,” addition above VA official said. “If you alpha aggravating to carve into that to augment things like the Cohen Veterans Network, that’s absolutely privatization. It’s activity to be afterlife by a thousand cuts.”
The attrition to the Cohen clinics is afflictive for Cohen, who believes he’s aggravating to accomplish a absolute impact. “Steve Cohen is allowance accord the debt we owe our veterans,” said his spokesman, Herr, “and it is base that anyone doubts or impugns his generosity.”
Cohen is undeterred. The arrangement aloof opened its 10th dispensary and affairs to accept 25 by 2020. Cohen believes the arrangement is succeeding, Herr said, and is because accretion his abutment above the $275 actor he’s already committed.
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