Words fail to describe how much I detest seeing the same abuses week-after-week, month-after-month, and year-over-year. To witness the disaster known colloquially as The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), as told from the Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG). Not merely witnessing but also being abused by the VA leaves such a bitter taste in my mouth.
“Matthew C. McPherson of Olathe, Kansas, was sentenced to two years and four months in federal prison without parole for defrauding the government. From September 2009 to March 2018, McPherson participated in a conspiracy to obtain contracts set aside by the federal government for award to small businesses owned and controlled by veterans, service-disabled veterans, and certified minorities. McPherson, who is neither a certified minority nor a veteran, owned and operated construction companies that used the veteran or minority status of coconspirators to obtain federal contracts to which the companies would otherwise not be entitled. The companies received approximately $346 million in federal contracts. On June 3, 2019, McPherson pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and major program fraud. In addition to his prison sentence, McPherson has forfeited to the government more than $5.5 million, which represents his share of the fraud proceeds.”
Honest question, how is this fraud any different from an elected official using insider trading to profit off the stock market? On another note, does this sound like a plea deal? If so, what was the deal, and who is being targeted? Plea deals used to be rare; now, they are cropping up anytime the government has a shaky case. Could Mr. McPherson have beaten the entire crime by using a better lawyer or connecting with a more powerful politician; of course, and that is disgusting!
I have applied for these government contracts, and the paperwork burden is immense, the bureaucrats authoritative and disreputable. When will the bureaucrats face criminal charges for abuse of power in allowing for the defrauding of government? Simple question, yet one to which no elected official will address.
Speaking of fraud and the need for bureaucrats needing to be held accountable:
“Dr. David Bellamah, a vascular surgeon who operates vein and surgery centers in Missoula and Kalispell, Montana, has agreed to pay the federal government $3.7 million to settle alleged False Claims Act violations. According to the civil complaint, from January 1, 2015, to March 31, 2017, Bellamah performed medically unnecessary surgeries based on improper techniques and submitted fraudulent bills for payment to four federal healthcare programs, including Medicare, Medicaid, TRICARE, and CHAMPVA. The settlement agreement between Bellamah and the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Montana, Department of Health and Human Services OIG, Defense Health Agency, VA, and a third party directs Bellamah to pay approximately $1.9 million in restitution and $1.8 million in additional damages.”
The article link is missing from the VA.gov website, reason unknown as of this writing. I received an email about this story, which is why I know of it, but cannot link someone else to it. Still, the questions remain, someone in the VA legion of bureaucrats had to have known and contributed to facilitating this fraud, and they are not being held accountable. Why?
- “Patsy Truglia of Parkland, Florida, was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison for his role in two consecutive conspiracies to commit healthcare fraud. According to a multiagency investigation, from January 2018 to April 2019, Truglia and his coconspirators generated medically unnecessary physicians’ orders via a telemarketing operation for durable medical equipment (DME).”
- “Ramón Julbe-Rosa pleaded guilty to 12 counts including theft of government property and introducing unapproved new drugs into the United States. His multiple fraud schemes included defrauding the Social Security Administration and Medicare by receiving Social Security Disability Insurance benefit payments while working; fraudulently receiving unemployability benefits from VA; and falsely stating that his primary residence—purported to be in Morovis, Puerto Rico—was damaged by Hurricane Maria, leading to the fraudulent approval of a Small Business Administration Disaster loan.”
- “Wayne Bowen of Jacksonville, Florida, has pleaded guilty to aggravated identity theft for using his estranged identical twin brother’s name, Social Security card, and military discharge papers to apply for federally subsidized housing benefits. Due to his fraudulent use of his twin’s identity.”
- “Matthew Smith of Palm Beach, Florida, has pleaded guilty to his role in a compounding pharmacy scheme that defrauded the Department of Defense’s Tricare and VA’s CHAMPVA benefit programs of approximately $88 million. Smith admitted to his role in fraudulently billing the two insurance providers for expensive, medically unnecessary compound drugs. To further the scheme, Smith and his coconspirators paid approximately $40 million in kickbacks to patients, patient recruiters, and doctors in exchange for them ordering expensive pain creams, scar creams, and vitamins without regard to the patients’ medical needs.”
- “Seven Texas doctors have agreed to pay more than $1.1 million to resolve False Claims Act allegations involving illegal remuneration in violation of the Anti-Kickback Statute and Stark Law. According to a multiagency investigation, from 2015 to 2018, the doctors allegedly received thousands of dollars in illegal remuneration from eight management service organizations (MSOs) in exchange for ordering laboratory tests from Rockdale Hospital doing business as Little River Healthcare, True Health Diagnostics LLC, and Boston Heart Diagnostics Corporation. Little River funded the illegal remuneration to the doctors in the form of volume-based commissions paid to independent contractor recruiters, who used the MSOs to pay numerous doctors for their referrals.”
Take a moment, read the full articles reporting these crimes, and ask yourself, have ALL the guilty parties been held accountable before the law, or are some parties noticeably missing? If you reach different conclusions, please note this in the comments, and let’s discuss. Show me your thinking, I want to learn!
Fraud, to succeed, requires willing people in positions of authority not to do their jobs properly. Yet, for all the rules, mandates, political attention, and legislation, the fraud continues. Why; because if you are the approving authority and have a plausible excuse, you are never held accountable! The situation is untenable; the maze of red tape regulations preclude honest people from participating and opens the doors for nefarious actors to swindle, cheat, steal, and profit. Simple question, when will those legally responsible for not allowing fraudulent activities be held accountable?
The VA-OIG conducted a Comprehensive Healthcare Inspection (CHIPs) of the Charles George VAMC in Asheville, North Carolina. Want to understand more about the quagmire of the VA personally? Read one of these CHIP reports. Long have I wondered how leadership could be fully measured when the leader of the hospital leadership team has been in their position for two (2) days. The VA-OIG couches this by claiming the associate director had been in the role for 18-years. Do you see a problem?
Where and how are veterans being abused, staff training, and the “Disruptive behavior committee.” Some might ask, how is staff training an abuse to veterans? What do you consider “disruptive behavior?” Did you know if you ask a doctor questions, that doctor can report you as presenting disruptive behavior to the Federal VA Police and get the veteran charged and fined? If you request to speak to the administrators and they refuse, you can also be charged with presenting disruptive behavior, hindering hospital operations, disturbing patients, being arrested, and fined? The bureaucrats have designed a self-fulfilling system in the VA that protects wrong-doing and punishes anyone who dares question the status quo, and this is trained into the employees. Worse, this is about the only training they receive that is competently delivered!
A CHIP was completed at VISN 8, the Sunshine Healthcare Network in St. Petersburg, Florida. Congratulations are for passing the CHIP with only two recommendations for improvement. Honestly issued praise. My concern is the low bar for success that was surpassed, but this is not the fault of VISN 8’s leadership, but the VA leadership in Washington, DC.
Long have these articles mentioned and decried the designed incompetence found in every single process, procedure, and action taken by the VA. It is not surprising then that design incompetence is still seen and cost resources. Nothing new, but you, the taxpayer, need to be aware of this, for the excuses have run so thin you can read contractual mouse print through the excuses!
“In October 2017, VA entered into an interagency agreement with the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) to use its Electronic Catalog (ECAT) to order VA medical supplies and equipment not available through existing contracts. VA created the ECAT Ordering Guide to describe VA policies and procedures for placing orders and outline the ordering officials’ responsibilities. As of April 1, 2021, VA had spent approximately $592 million on purchases through ECAT.”
“The VA-OIG found that the Procurement and Logistics Office (P&LO) did not govern the ECAT program adequately.
- The ECAT Ordering Guide excludes the requirement for VA ordering officials to consider the Federal Supply Schedule (FSS) contracts for sales orders; purchasing through FSS could have saved VA up to $4.4 million.
- The guide also incorrectly describes how to apply the Rule of Two, potentially excluding veteran-owned businesses from contracting opportunities.
- Ordering officials did not follow documentation requirements in the ECAT Ordering Guide, and P&LO did not conduct required annual reviews of the interagency agreement.”
Do you see the designed incompetence? The VA gets green-lighted to consolidate ordering to save time and money, then develops the processes and procedures to open the door for fraud, theft, and abuse, providing excuses for the VA-OIG to accept when responsibility and auditing occurs. Hence, roadblocks are launched instead of saving money and reducing the government’s costs. Instead of bringing order out of chaos, more logs of chaos are added to the fire.
Worst of all, the VA-OIG has to invest money to tell the VA common-sense solutions, couched as recommendations, to fix the problems the VA purposefully designed into the process. That is your tax dollars at work, your neighbors losing opportunities, and your employers getting the shaft intentionally by the VA. Again, only for emphasis, I ask, “When will the bureaucrats be held accountable for their malfeasance and culpability in abusing people, committing fraud and theft, and refusing to do their jobs properly?”
When discussing malfeasance and designed incompetence, the following inspection at the Carl T. Hayden VAMC in Phoenix, Arizona, is applicable as an example. The VA-OIG conducted an inspection to assess allegations concerning sterile processing services. The list of findings reveals a lot of bureaucratic shenanigans, and with my knowledge of the leadership, I deduce the shenanigans were driven by leadership at the hospital.
- The VA-OIG found Sterile Processing Services (SPS) staff failed to don personal protective equipment in decontamination areas.
- The VA-OIG did not substantiate that SPS staff falsified Resi-Tests by documenting the same lot number for endoscopes.
- The VA-OIG identified missing documentation of Resi-Test results from October through December 2020 but found that the policy was followed. Leading to a question about the effectiveness of the policies and the designed incompetence in those policies and procedures, which the VA-OIG never addressed as this would have been outside the investigatory scope; more designed incompetence?
- The VA-OIG found no infection concerns associated with inadequate reprocessing of equipment.
- The VA-OIG did not substantiate that SPS staff failed to follow validation testing requirements for biological indicators and Bowie-Dick tests for sterilizers.
- The VA-OIG found that SPS staff followed reprocessing steps according to standard operating procedures and instructions for use.
- The VA-OIG did not substantiate that SPS staff did not have adequate reprocessing supplies.
- The VA-OIG found that floor-grade instruments received in decontamination areas were discarded and not reprocessed.
- The VA-OIG found that SPS staff reviewed instructions for loaner trays upon receipt at the facility.
- The VA-OIG did not substantiate that SPS staff failed to receive documentation for instruments sterilized at another VA facility.
- The VA-OIG concluded that SPS leaders were knowledgeable of the practice standards.
Again, a mixed bag of findings. After a tumultuous year of sterile scandals, it is refreshing (almost) to observe a sterile facility operating at standard. Draw your own conclusions about the role of the leadership in this inspection. To me, the most critical part of sterilization of reusable equipment is the proper use of personal protective equipment, but the VA-OIG did not appear to see this as crucial as I do. From the inspections I have experienced, failing to use personal protective equipment properly is an automatic failing grade, but the VA-OIG only made a single recommendation for improvement.
While the above are not all the reports from the VA-OIG launching 2022, they present the bulk of the criticisms and reflect the need for greater scrutiny and improved leadership at the VA. More to the point, these represent the danger the American public is in from a runaway government that keeps biggering (with a nod to The Lorax and Dr. Seuss)! The VA is abusing your veteran neighbors, and you are paying for it. Doesn’t this stir in you feelings motivating to action? If not, please ask yourself why. Do veterans deserve to be abused relentlessly? Do you like being complicit in a crime perpetrated by bureaucrats, cheered on by elected officials, and paid for by your tax dollars and the future of your children through forced taxation and out-of-control debt? The choice is yours, I know my choice, and I WILL continue to resist the government atrocities every step of the way!
© Copyright 2022 – M. Dave Salisbury
The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the images. Quoted materials remain the property of the original author.