I believe in public shaming; I am an equal opportunity shamer. Where the VA is concerned, well, I tend to be more motivated to pass out shame than any other government entity. Not that I won’t pass along shame, or congratulations, when warranted, the administration of the VA deserves a few more scoops from the shame bucket today!
The Department of Veterans Affairs – Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) passed along two issues today, and I have to weigh in on serving more shame, cold, hard, and well deserved. Long have I maintained that the administration and administrators of the VA are the problems in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Today’s VA-OIG reports provide more justification for demanding cleaning of the house for administration officials at all levels in the VA.
- “Rita Copeland, 59, of Portsmouth, Virginia, pleaded guilty today to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft in connection with a scheme to defraud veterans. Copeland operated an entity known as Veteran Services of the Commonwealth and purported to provide various services to veterans from 2016 through 2020. She caused a number of victims to apply for VA home improvement grants and then used a portion of the grant payments to her own benefit instead of performing the promised work.”
- “Sophia J. Quill, 60, was charged with defrauding the VA and the Michigan Department of Treasury out of $470,000. Quill and her co-conspirator Melissa Flores, who was arraigned last year, allegedly created aliases and obtained or created fraudulent documents to make it appear that they were heirs to various individuals who died.”
If this is VA Excellence in action, we all need to be concerned! Do you notice anything missing from these reports? Let me help; where are the approving officials expected to do due diligence in being held culpable for allowing the fraud to thrive? I fully admit I have limited experience being a document reviewer and approving authority. I cannot help but ask about these approving officials who have been trained and gathered experience for their employment role.
I submit documents to the VA all the time, and every time I have to submit anything, the intake “officer” has to certify the document’s validity. Heck, the VA had my NGB Form 22 and both DD 214’s, and I still had to submit valid copies to ensure I was not defrauding the government. Forget innocent until proven guilty; submit forms to the VA, and you are guilty until they begrudgingly claim you are innocent. Submit documents to Social Security for a claim, same thing, same process, same everything. Yet, somehow three different people were able to defraud the government, stealing money, and are now hosts of the government.
Now, returning to the VA-OIG reports, who authorized accepting the fraudulent documents? Where were the inspectors? How many veterans had to complain they were being cheated before anyone took notice of Copeland’s crimes? How many congressional members were contacted for help that never arrived? How many letters to administrators were written that were never answered? How long did veterans suffer before the VA took action, especially in Copeland’s case? How many evidence intake specialists lost their jobs in either case? Were any held accountable for failing to do their jobs?
Congress, you have two straightforward jobs, write laws that are constitutional and scrutinize the legislative branch to protect the citizen from runaway government. After the last two weeks, I have to ask, where are you in performing either role? Passing District of Columbia Statehood for the “umpteenth time” is unconstitutional! Overlooking the scrutinizing of the legislative branch is unconstitutional and criminal negligence of your sworn duties.
The administration of the Department of Veterans Affairs is rotten to the core! Yet, even when directly responsible for fraud, negligence, and dead veterans, the administrators are given a “Get out of Jail Free Card.” Wasn’t Speaker Pelosi pretty upset with CEOs and “Golden Parachutes?” Yet, the VA Administration has precisely this and more, and the veterans and taxpayers cannot even get your attention for a second of work! Where is the corporate media taking the politicians and the VA administration to task for criminal negligence and failure to protect the citizen? It seems to me we can add a culpable third party to the needs a dish of shame, the media, who are also criminally negligent in performing their duties.
Where are the lawyers? Copeland’s case undoubtedly deserves a Class-Action Lawsuit to help those defrauded get the money they need. Where are the lawyers, hungry to see change and willing to risk becoming known for taking on the VA and winning? The actions of the VA Administrators need to be corrected. If Congress refuses to scrutinize appropriately, the lawyers need to begin processes in all 50-states and US Territories and Districts to demand the VA get fixed!
The time for kid-glove treatment and soft-shoe approaches is past and dead; more positive and forceful measures are required. Where are the lawyers?
© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
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