Monday and Tuesday this week, 28 and 29 June 2021, the Department of Veterans Affairs – Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) returned three more investigations, inspections, or criminal reports. While no veteran is dead in this batch of reports (Thankfully!), the behavior exhibited remains egregious and blatantly criminal, and the bureaucrats and bureaucracy remain intact to continue to commit malfeasance, misfeasance, and malpractice!
Before getting into the VA-OIG reports, I want to hand out some praise. The El Paso VAHCS was the focus of a major problem just a couple of years ago when the VA Police attacked a veteran and ended up pulling his arm out of his shoulder socket. I am now a patient at the El Paso VAHCS, being seen at the VA Out-Patient Clinics instead of the Las Cruces Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC). While the fallacious claims of the Phoenix VAMC continue to dog me, I am very happy to report that the VA Police in El Paso were professional, polite, and the customer service displayed was top-notch. Growth has occurred since the veteran incident mentioned, and I, for one, am grateful!
The VA-OIG has announced that Dr. Kenneth C. Ramdat has received one year of probation after being allowed to “plead guilty” to touching two women’s breasts without permission. When the VA is compared to a criminal syndicate, where the administrators are actively against the employees and the patients, I can see the connection! What else happened at the Louis A. Johnson VA Hospital in Clarksburg, West Virginia, while this doctor was on staff and is not included in the criminal trial? West Virginia keeps coming up as another morally distressed VA Health Care System; what is the VISN doing to improve the environment for illegal activity? If Phoenix and VISN 22 are an example, nothing, which is negligence worthy of criminal investigations!
How can employees trust each other when plea deals are allowed, and behavior worthy of criminal punishment exists? I was physically attacked, as an employee, by another employee, and the administration swept the incident under the rug. After being discharged during probation, I learned that the employee who attacked me had done this previously with no punishment and the revelation that the administration was gunning for my removal for reporting the attack. How many VA Employees lost their jobs before Dr. Ramdat was finally forced to be held accountable for sexual assault? Why the plea deal? Doesn’t this plea deal re-injure the victims, the perpetrator got off, essentially?
Sexual assault pled down to simple assault with probation – criminal syndicate indeed!
Kristopher M. Voyles’s trial ended with a sentence of 27-months in prison, 3-years supervised release, and restitution of $20,502. While this is a good sentence for theft of medical treatment, Mr. Voyles was never charged and investigated for the actual crime, identity theft of a veteran! Mr. Voyles stole the name, date of birth, and social security number of a veteran fraudulently created documents, and then obtained care. Thus, theft of medical care was criminal activity. Until we read, “Subsequent investigation revealed that Voyles had previously been prosecuted by Atlanta, Georgia authorities for using the same veteran’s identity to obtain prescription drugs from the VA Medical Center in Atlanta.”
Do the veterans targeted know that Mr. Voyles stole their ID and used it fraudulently? How did Mr. Voyles repeatedly target and steal the identities of veterans? Is the ID Theft related to any VA data breaches, losses of veteran identities, or IT problems consistently occurring at the VA? Were any of these questions asked during the “subsequent investigations?” If so, where are those VA-OIG reports? This criminal intentionally targeted veterans, stole identities, used those identities; how many other veterans’ identities does he have or have access to? The Department of Veterans created the problem of ID Theft; when will they be held accountable for the loss of ID? Better still, when will the data theft from the VA end?
Our final example (today) for the repugnant and criminal behavior of VA Employees needs a little background to be fully understood for those outside the military and government employment. In government, contracting officers liaison between the facility receiving goods and services, the government paying for goods and services, and the third-party hired to provide goods or services. Some third-party contractors receive government-issued identification cards similar to an employee identification card, both of which are called a “Personal Identity Verification” (PIV) card. These cards act as keys to the facility, prove identification and authorize the contractor to be doing what they are doing. The contracting officers are the end-all in the responsible party for that third-party contracted vendor.
Contracting officers and third-party contractors act under Federal Regulation called “Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR). FAR is like the Bible; it has everything in it outlining duties, responsibilities, and authorities. Contracting officers are supposed to know the regulations before contracting goods and services, and they teach the contractor their responsibilities. Especially where a PIV has been issued, the contracting officer, as the liaison, IS THE Responsible Party, not the contractor.
Now, gauge the following VA-OIG report with these facts in mind.
The VA-OIG “… examined a random sample of 46 professional service and healthcare resource contracts. None of the reviewed contracts had adequate evidence to demonstrate FAR requirements were met. VHA contracting officers’ noncompliance with PIV card requirements occurred because they were unaware of their responsibilities and the requirements. In addition, VHA did not have policies or procedures detailing supervisory oversight of contracting officers’ duties regarding PIV cards, the internal audit office did not review compliance, and there was no automated tool for continuous tracking and monitoring of PIV cards issued; to contractors’ personnel.”
Did you catch that; a 100% failure in a random sample of contracts, contracting officers, and oversight supervisors were unaware of their roles and responsibilities. How long has this failure been occurring? How many government PIVs are available granting access to facilities where the contract has concluded? This is not the first time the government contracting officers and offices have utterly failed to perform their roles and responsibilities; yet, this is one of the most dangerous to the PIV system’s security, safety, and reliability. This is just an investigation from the VA, how bad is this problem across the entire government contracting establishment?
I cannot understand how a contracting officer, with all the training, re-training, and refresher training that is mandated, could use the excuse, “I didn’t know that was part of my job!” As a person who has worked around contracting officers, I knew this was their job, and I am not a contracting officer. It is simply common sense; if you facilitate obtaining identification, keys, and access codes, you are responsible for getting these things back!
While the behavior of the contracting officers is part of the problem, the culture of passing the buck and dodging responsibility is readily apparent in the following statement from the VA-OIG list of recommendations. “The OIG also recommended VHA assess whether the existing and planned information systems could have the functionality to allow effective and routine monitoring of contractors’ PIV cards or a new system is needed.” Designed incompetence will allow the IT failure to be the problem, to finagle more money from Congress for IT infrastructure upgrades and new systems, as the legacy systems were purposefully designed not to accommodate regular, daily, routine activities!
I refuse to believe the VA has ever designed a system that works, is cost-effective, does its job, and can be useful. Why; because, having worked at the VA, been a patient at VAMC’s across the country, and reading the VA-OIG reports, the VA has proven their utter incompetence! If a local hospital allowed this type of failure in their contracting department, heads would roll, and Congress would be demanding investigations to ensure HIPAA was not breached. Yet, the VA can get away with murder, and Congress cannot even care, let alone issue a mild rebuke or increase scrutinization.
Thus, I call upon every American to share my disgust and demand action! Stop allowing this detestable behavior, paid for by taxpayers, to thrive. End the abuse! Not just for veterans harmed by the VA bureaucracy, but for your hard-earned tax dollars and the disrespect the elected officials display towards you, the boss! Tell me, if your employees displayed the same behavior witnessed by elected officials and bureaucrats of all stripes, how long would they keep their jobs? If your boss showed you the same disrespect, how fast would you be looking for new employment and telling everyone not to apply there? Now, answer this question, “Why do we accept this abuse by government officials and elected representatives?”
© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.