A surprise occurred in this week’s Department of Veterans Affairs – Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) reports; the Boise VAMC in Idaho performed well in their comprehensive healthcare inspection (CHIp). Even though 10 recommendations were left, the VAMC as a whole is performing above average, with no significant complaints found by the VA-OIG. Congratulations to the Boise VAMC!
Let me stress something; leadership is the reason why a VA Healthcare System (VAHCS) or VA Medical Center (VAMC) performs well or poorly! Yet, too often, the leadership IS the root cause of the problems in a VAHCS or VAMC. The Boise VAMC just proved this point precisely; are any Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) leaders in Washington DC paying any attention?
The VA-OIG performed a CHIp in Portland VAHCS and found moral distress in the employees, again! This means that the Eastern end of the state is receiving better care than the western end of Oregon State! Yet another VAHCS or VAMC with employees feeling morally distressed by the commands and directives of their leadership in how they treat veteran patients! The VA-OIG report makes everything sound like rainbows and lollipops at the Portland VAHCS, but if employees feel “morally distressed,” there are problems, just not those included in the CHIp scope!
Where problems outside the scope of an investigation are concerned, the following is GREAT NEWS!
“Robert Seifert, 63, of Utica, New York, pleaded guilty to making telephonic threats to Albany Stratton VA Medical Center employees. Seifert, who has been convicted twice before of threatening VA employees, admitted that on 14 January 2021, he made three calls to employees for no reason other than to harass and threaten them.”
I am going to repeat it, only for emphasis, “Leave the families out of your anger!” Never, EVER, attack, threaten, or speak against the families. They are OFF LIMITS! I become very frustrated with the VA Leadership, but violence is not the answer, and threatening families is repulsive and counterproductive! Seifert is scheduled for sentencing on 06 October 2021; may the judge throw the book at him, for this is his third conviction for threatening families of VA Employees.
On the topic of frustrating leadership who need to lose their jobs and reimburse the government for all wages, the following VA-OIG report is the epitome of failed leadership in action!
“The VA’s Office of National Veterans Sports Programs and Special Events (NVSPSE) granted $47 million to organizations with experience in managing adaptive sports programs from fiscal year (FY) 2017 to FY 2020. … The VA-OIG found that the NVSPSE was not effectively managing the program. The NVSPSE’s director had not established adequate internal controls, including developing standard operating procedures for managing adaptive sports grants. As a result, the NVSPSE could not effectively evaluate risks from grant recipients, did not reimburse some recipients’ expenses on time, did not always close out grants on time, and did not appropriately authorize extensions for using funds. By not closing out grants on time, the NVSPSE failed to free up about $346,000 that could have been used for other purposes. It also improperly allowed recipients to spend $328,000 in FY 2017 appropriations outside the approved period and improperly reimbursed 19 recipients a total of about $247,000.”
The VA-OIG recognizes that these failures to audit and control the adaptive sports program properly potentially violate both the Purpose Statute and the Antideficiency Act, federal laws with direct consequences for Federal Employees. I am taking bets. Will anything come out of the director being referred to the lawyers; I doubt any action will ever be taken! That’s not just my cynicism speaking; that is the experience in watching directors at the VA skate accountability and responsibility better than gold-winning Olympic figure skaters.
In reporting the following VA-OIG report, do not rationalize that every suicidal person will eventually find a way or means to commit suicide. I ask you do not think this for two reasons: one, it is a lie lazy people tell themselves to disregard the act; two, helping people with suicide ideation is not cut and dried textbook medicine. Assisting people with suicide ideation takes time, effort, getting to know the person, and a lot of interlocking care from professionals.
“The patient, who was over 70 years old at the time of death, had diagnoses that included post-traumatic stress disorder and major depression. After approximately 15 years of care at a California VA facility, the patient transferred care to the Las Vegas facility in summer 2019. The VA-OIG substantiated that the patient died by suicide from a VA resident mental health clinic on the day of discharge. The emergency department social worker documented an incomplete comprehensive evaluation. The suicide prevention team did not assign the patient a high risk for suicide patient record flag despite the patient’s stressors and history of suicide behaviors. Staff did not adequately assess the patient’s substance use, incorporate relevant history into the treatment plan, or address the patient’s change in demeanor and concerning statements. The discharge safety plan had not been modified for approximately eight months despite significant life changes. Leaders had not established a mental health treatment coordinator (MHTC) policy. Staff assigned the patient an MHTC at the patient’s tenth visit and four MHTCs over nine months. Staff did not coordinate care with a geropsychologist, with whom the patient had nine appointments. Leaders did not effectively address the patient’s expressed complaints. The VA-OIG substantiated that leaders did not conduct an institutional disclosure” [emphasis mine].
The last sentence is the dead giveaway that the leadership knew there were problems and designed processes intentionally to have an excuse when a patient died! This veteran was suffering to a great degree, and I hope that with his passing, his family and friends can find peace in the knowledge that the veteran is now pain-free. But, the VA leadership should be held legally responsible for this death, they failed this patient, and the world is worse for the veteran’s passing.
Suicides are hard on family, friends, communities; suicides at any age are the ultimate declaration that failure occurred, the pain was missed, and the medical community and support systems failed. Survivors often feel a great degree of guilt and carry that guilt to their graves. But, when medical providers go out of their way to hide the problems, refusing to document, and declare, it means that the medical community had written the patient off as too costly to save. Who speaks for the loss of intelligence and potential of the failed patient; I do!
I will continue to speak to the failures of the VA to provide the care they promised, and demand leaders are held accountable and responsible. This was preventable, and the leadership must be held accountable if the system is to be changed! This veteran did not have to die by his own hand, and the medical community at the VA in Southern Nevada HCS, located in Las Vegas, should be ashamed!
Follow this link if you would like to see a recap, with links, to the shenanigans reported by the VA-OIG in June. June 2021 has been a month of incredible and horrendous behavior documented by the VA-OIG of the leadership failures at the VA. The elected leaders of America either need to begin scrutinizing the VA more closely or vacate office. There is no excuse for the continued irrational and detestable behavior at the VA.
The last two items are testimony recorded before a Senate and a House of Representatives Committee. Statement of deputy inspector general David Case Office of Inspector General, Department of Veterans Affairs before the US Senate Committee on veterans’ affairs hearing on VA electronic health records: modernization and the path ahead 14 July 2021. Statement of Leigh Ann Searight deputy assistant inspector general for audits and evaluations Department of Veterans Affairs – Office of Inspector General before the subcommittee on oversight and investigations committee on Veterans’ Affairs US House of Representatives hearing on modernizing the VA police force: Ensuring accountability 13 July 2021. Frankly, both statements are pure vanilla because the subcommittees refused to act, which was known before making the statement and the hearings. Hence, why should the VA-OIG prepare action plans if the Senate and House will not take action?
Repeating, only for emphasis, “Until the US Legislative Branch will do their jobs, and scrutinize the Executive Branch with the intent to demand accountability, no single government agency will ever change.” Want to help veterans? Contact your elected representatives and send them these articles, demanding they take action in support of legislation and scrutinization, demanding accountability and responsibility of government employees who are currently active in refusing to change! Want to help veterans? Share these stories far and wide. Everyone should know what the VA is doing and realize that every government agency from the city to the President is employing tactics to steal liberty, rob freedom, and murder veterans!
© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
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