“That’s Crazy!!!” – More Chronicles from the VA Chapter 8

I-CareI fully admit I got behind in April.  Dear reader, my apology.  I have been whipsawed between emergency room visits, depression, extreme pain, and other issues.  Not offering an excuse but a tiny peek into my world as a disabled veteran.  Luckily, I have maintained employment because my employer allows me to work from home.  My driving privileges are threatened again with removal due to the neurological issues I suffer, and this will dynamically change my life, but this article is not about me, but the continued catastrophe called the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Inspector General (VA-OIG) reports published.

We begin with a financial efficiency review reported from the inspection of the Durham VAHCS of North Carolina.  I know the jokes write themselves when we discuss any government agency and financial efficiency, but I digress.  This is a head exploding report of leadership failure in the observation and governance of employees who did not perform the functions they were hired to perform.  The VA-OIG found the following from October 1, 2020, through March 31, 2021:

    • The healthcare system had 309 inactive obligations totaling $81.7 million.
    • Of these 309 obligations, 200 (totaling over $74 million) had no activity for 181 days or more.
    • In a subsample of 20 obligations, VA staff had not reviewed 17, as required.
    • Contrary to VA policy, healthcare system staff used purchase cards instead of contracts for 21 of 40 sampled transactions (53 percent), totaling approximately $328,000. These 21 transactions were missing required supporting documentation to verify that the transactions were approved and payments were accurate, resulting in $308,000 in questioned costs.
    • 105 more administrative full-time equivalent staff than the expected number, all not doing their jobs as required under Federal Law!

While not all of the findings, those mentioned are the most egregious and in need of corrective action.  Would the citizens of Durham, North Carolina, please tell me, has this been reported in the local news?  Has anyone lost their jobs as the VAHCS right-sizes the financial department?  I can find no additional information that this problem has been corrected, and I am really curious!VA 3

Oh, the irony is thick; consider the following:

The Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General Training Act of 2021 would help ensure that VA employees continue to be empowered to assist the OIG in improving VA’s operations and using taxpayer dollars to the greatest effect; helping protect patients and improving their care; and ensuring veterans and others receive services and benefits for which they are eligible.”

The above-quoted material originates from Chris Wilber, who testified to Congress’s HVAC Subcommittee on oversight and investigations.  What is the number one failure on every comprehensive healthcare inspection (CHIP); the lack of staff training, the inadequacy of staff training, or adequately trained staff.  Yet, the statement by the VA-OIG indicates that training has met a threshold for providing adequate training.  Let’s talk about a specific action, “the VA secretary signed a directive in September 2021 mandating that all employees complete a one-time training within one year—an important step in improving VA’s culture of accountability.”  It is now May 2022; the VA-OIG is pushing for training directives to be legislated, not dependent upon any single VA Secretary.  Are you freaking kidding me?  Where is the congressional oversight and scrutiny that allows VA training to continue to be subpar and threaten the lives of veterans?

Long have I wondered how the VA could frustrate VA-OIG actions, investigations, inspections, etc.  Guess what; the answer has become available:

“… there have been instances in which the OIG has been informed that staff have been told that they cannot share information with OIG investigators without first clearing it through supervisors or leaders—contrary to the Inspector General Act of 1978 (the IG Act), as amended.  Under that authority, VA employees at all levels have a duty to cooperate with OIG personnel, including providing information and assistance in a timely manner.”

Employees have been caught lying to the VA-OIG regularly, and what action is taken to remove those employees promptly and efficiently from government service?  From direct observation and employee conversations, it is clear that plans are carefully laid before a scheduled VA-OIG visit to present what the VA-OIG wants, but to gloss over the problems, and nothing ever happened to the managers, supervisors, and employees who lied and misdirected the VA-OIG.  All contrary to established Federal Law!VA 3

Want a specific example of employees intentionally misrepresenting information to the VA-OIG?  Look no further than the statement by Chris Wilber, and this incident was covered as a failure of leadership in a previous article.

Hospital staff at a VA facility in Fayetteville, Arkansas, had concerns about potential substance abuse by the chief of pathology that were not heard and promptly acted on by local management, which allowed him to work while impaired for years.  He misdiagnosed about 3,000 patients with errors resulting in death or serious harm and is currently imprisoned.  The OIG found a culture in which staff did not report serious concerns about the chief pathologist, in part because they assumed that others had reported him, or they were concerned about reprisal.”

From personal experience, I reported problems to the VA-OIG concerning patient abuse, fraud, waste, and other issues.  Never were my concerns acted upon promptly, and I was removed from employment for being a whistleblower.  The culture of corruption at the VA is incredible.  The examples mentioned by the VA-OIG only further sustain the problem with leadership and how sick the VA truly is as an organization!VA 3

We next turn our attention to the VA-OIG report on the inspection of information technology security at the VA Financial Services Center, another head exploding example of leadership failure bordering on criminal!  The findings include:

    • component inventory
    • vulnerability management
    • flaw remediation
    • Identifying 252 vulnerabilities, of which 228 the local IT team could not identify.
    • the VA-OIG team identified access control deficiencies, as 107 of the 278 FSC systems failed to generate or forward audit logs for analysis.
    • the video surveillance system was not fully functional. Ineffective monitoring and recording facility activities supporting information systems minimize the FSC’s incident response capabilities.

How do you spell failure; these findings spell failure to me rather pointedly and dramatically!  Want to laugh; staff training remains a concern, but not a finding, of the VA-OIG inspection team.  Frankly, with this level of incompetence, staff training should have been a finding.VA 3

To be concise and illustrate further the poor leadership, convoluted processes, and brazen noncompliance of VA officials, the following discussion is about two different VA-OIG reports that reached similar conclusions.  First, we have the VA-OIG report on “Noncompliant and Deficient Processes and Oversight of State Licensing Board and National Practitioner Data Bank Reporting Policies by VA Medical Facilities.”  Second is the VA-OIG report on “Concerns with Consistency and Transparency in the Calculation and Disclosure of Patient Wait Time Data.”  Nothing says convoluted processes more than having two written policies, both originating from Washington DC.  The superseded policy does not have an expiration date.  This means that employees have a designed incompetence excuse ready for not adhering to the most current and applicable policy.  Don’t believe me; one of the key findings was, “VHA has presented wait times to the public without clearly and consistently disclosing the basis for their calculations.”  Designed incompetence does not come more blatant than this, and who suffers, the veteran.  Worse, wait time correction and policy clarification has been stalled by COVID-19, the neverending excuse paying dividends to bureaucrats everywhere!Timelines for Wait Time Calculations

However, both reports are substantially summated by the VA-OIG; thus, “The lack of programmatic oversight contributed to the failure of VHA leaders to detect and intervene upon facility noncompliance.”  Meaning that due to COVID-19, the VHA has refused to do their jobs in deference to the pandemic, and since this is a good enough excuse, the VA-OIG has bought the designed incompetence, lock, stock, and barrel.  The VHA leadership is failing; doctors or dentists let go for poor performance were not reported to state and federal boards, so these providers lacking can continue to harm patients.  It is a federal law (42 US Code § 11151, US Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration Bureau of Health Workforce, NPDB Guidebook, October 2018, chap. A., 8 USC ⸹ 7462(a), 38 USC ⸹ 7401(1), among others) that providers let go for cause must be reported within 7-days to the regulatory boards at the state and federal levels.  Wait times are hidden because they are so bad; the VHA is embarrassed, so the leaders fall back on designed incompetence to shield themselves while looking for another excuse for poor performance!  In both reports, the ramifications of noncompliance are putting people at risk for sentinel events (death, injury, disability, etc.), and the leadership is at best lackadaisical in the performance of their duties.  VA 3

Where are the congressional overseers in ending the abuse?  When will this insanity and bureaucratic inertia end?  How many “sentinel events,” including deaths and permanent injuries, will it take until those tasked with scrutinizing the executive branch finally take committed action and hold people accountable?  When will the elected representatives stop throwing good taxpayer money at problems that money cannot fix?  If these questions are too difficult to answer, please stop running for elected office, for the citizenry is not happy!

We conclude with two related reports so astoundingly obtuse they defy logic and sanity.  The first is the annual CliftonLarsonAllen LLP (CLA) audit of the VA’s information security for 2021.  The second is the continuing failure of the new electronic health record modernization (EHRM) program.  The VA has failed the CLA audit for more than a decade, with many of the hits repeated year-over-year.  In fact, the CLA audit is so bad this year; it has taken my mental breath away and stunned me into a gibbering idiot!  Reading this report was infuriating; describing it as my head exploding is akin to comparing an M-80 to a nuclear bomb.  How in Dante’s Inferno can this level of incompetence be allowed to remain employed?  But, as bad as the CLA audit is, the continued failure of the new electronic health record system pales in comparison.  The new EHRM continues to suffer from reliability weaknesses, which is polite speak from the VA-OIG for the new system fails to do the job.  We are three years from the new extended deadline, we are already past the original deadline, and the system is worthless today than it was a year ago.  With this success rate, the new EHRM will be utterly bereft of value and need replacement before the year’s end.  How many millions (billions, or trillions) of good dollars must chase this ineptitude before the plug is pulled and those involved held accountable?VA 3

Join me in having your head explode:

Additional deficiencies included known tasks not being reflected on schedules, no risk analysis, lack of longer-term actions scheduled, and no complete baseline schedule or overall schedule that fully integrated individual project schedules. VA also did not comply with federal regulations when it paid its contractor for deliverables before accepting them (reviewing compliance with contract requirements).”

Consider this other gem from the VA-OIG report, “$1.95 billion in cost overruns per year” are estimated, meaning the final tab will be significantly higher and compounded year-over-year.  In plain speak, the contractor is being paid for products delivered that fail, the products offered are not usable, there is no schedule of completion, there is no schedule for deliverables, many of the products paid for have never been delivered, and costs are overrunning like a plugged toilet. Worse, no one is being held personally liable for these problems, which were apparent in the last EHRM update from the VA-OIG a year ago!  Like the CLA Audit, I am thrilled the VA agrees with the VA-OIG findings, but what are they DOING to fix the problems?

FYI: the image below is a year old, and comes from the last major update to the EHRM.EHR-VA-OIG

?u=https1.bp.blogspot.com-aqaqk18MHoEWRHHsCi_TyIAAAAAAAAAXc7hY4JQuyylIQHYudoR8sbezGZntic4SSwCLcBs640Betrayal2BSayings2Band2BQuotes2Bwww.mostphrases.blogspot.be.jpg&f=1&nofb=1There is no excuse for behaving like the VA’s bureaucratic legions behave.  Bureaucrats, from the city government (including the school board) to the Federal Government, you hold a sacred trust to act better than you are currently performing.  I refuse you any leeway for acting like pompous overlords when you are paid through forced taxation!  You have trespassed upon my patience and kindness long enough, and the day of reckoning has arrived.  You work for me; you work for every taxpayer and citizen in this country, and you have violated our trust, charged us too much and too often, and if you do not begin to show yourself worthy of the sacred trust, we will force you from your cushy jobs and hold you liable for the monies you have squandered!  The law is on our side; you need to begin showing you honor our trust and investment forthwith!

© 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.

“That’s Crazy!!!” – More Chronicles from the VA Chapter 7

Oh, how I wish and long for, and am working for, the day when the VA is cleaned up, cleaned out, and corrected completely!  The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) – Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) has been busy reporting more on the failures of the VA to act.  Yet, where is Congressional action in scrutinizing the executive branch’s actions?  Honest question, repeated only for emphasis; we elected you to do two jobs, write fair and equal legislation for all citizens, and scrutinize the executive branch; when are you going to do your jobs?

Let’s begin with some softball issues repeated from previous VA-OIG comprehensive healthcare inspections (CHIPs), specifically how employees report feeling morally distressed while working at the VA.  Moral distress is a leadership failure and is widespread enough to reflect the problem is not limited to a single VAMC/VAHCS.  From Virginia to California, Maine to Florida, and Montana to Arizona, too many VA facilities are poorly led, poorly administered, and poorly executed.  The VA is actively abusing the veterans for political gain; some have asked why I consider the VA is actively abusing veterans; let me see if additional disclosure can explain the problem.

VHA Directive 1004.08.  VHA defines an institutional disclosure as “a formal process by which VA medical facility leader(s), together with clinicians and others as appropriate, inform the patient or personal representative that an adverse event has occurred during the patient’s care that resulted in, or is reasonably expected to result in, death or serious injury, and provide specific information about the patient’s rights and recourse.”

The above quote is from the regulations governing VA care.  The VA-OIG quotes this directive, which has been published and is openly available, yet repeatedly the VA-OIG finds directors.  Hospital administrators who are informed and able to repeat this directive.  Who repeatedly refuse to follow this directive or train their staff to follow this directive.  When sentinel events occur (death, permanent injury, non-permanent injury, disability, etc.), the families report having no idea what to do because the disclosures were never provided to the veteran or designated caregiver.  Is this not abuse of the patient?  Is this abuse not driven by ideologues who gain from the harm they cause others?  Should this abuse not be scrutinized until it is eliminated?  Please feel free to read some of these comprehensive healthcare inspection reports from the VA-OIG, see the resulting injuries and problems caused by the failures of government medical providers, and then tell me whether these atrocious actions need more or less scrutiny and qualify for the title abuse.

North Carolinian veterans, VISN 6 is all yours, and would you be shocked to learn that even with newer leadership, moral distress remains a persistent problem in the VA employees throughout VISN 6, which just happens to include Durham, Asheville, Fayetteville, Hampton, Richmond, Salem, and Salisbury North Carolina?  Probably this is not unfamiliar as the patient experience survey scores remain persistently below VA averages, reflecting that new leadership is akin to putting lipstick on a pig.  Interestingly, medical staff credentialing remains a significant concern in North Carolina.

Western New York veterans, especially those receiving patient services in the Buffalo VAHCS, do you agree with the VA-OIG report?  The Buffalo VAHCS includes Buffalo, Batavia, Jamestown, Dunkirk, Niagra Falls, Lockport, West Seneca, and Olean, and the comprehensive report is mystifying to me.  For example, the VA-OIG reports that “Patients generally appeared satisfied with their care.”   At the same time, “Employee survey data revealed opportunities for leaders to improve workplace satisfaction and reduce feelings of moral distress.”  This is a combination not generally found in these CHIP inspection reports.  Something is definitely off, and I would love to know what, especially since the leadership needs significant improvement in identifying and reporting sentinel events.  Do you agree with the VA-OIG findings?  Please let me know your firsthand experiences, for the double-talk in this CHIP report is above what I usually observe.

With almost identical findings and recommendations in the Syracuse NY VAMC’s comprehensive healthcare inspection, covering communities of Syracuse, Auburn, Freeville, Potsdam, Rome, Binghampton, Watertown, and Oswego, NY., I am concerned that the veterans in New York are in as bad or worse shape than Phoenix’s veteran community.  Hence, I have to ask the VA-OIG, has something changed in your measurement and analysis tools to report such disparate findings as “Employee survey data revealed opportunities for leaders to improve servant leadership and decrease employees’ feelings of moral distress.  Patients generally appeared satisfied with the care provided?”  The double-talk level is higher in these CHIPs from NY, which is rarely observed outside of Phoenix and VISN 22.  Two final thoughts on the CHIPs, staff training, continues to be a high-risk finding, and this continues to be a leadership failure for every VAMC/VAHCS/VISN in the VA; why has progress not occurred?  Training is a system, and leadership and organizational risk, system redesign, and improvement is a quality, safety, and value problem of the highest importance; why is action never taken by leadership or the congressional representatives who are expected to scrutinize the executive branch?

28 March 2022, the VA-OIG released their long-awaited annual “Comprehensive Healthcare Inspection Summary Report: Evaluation of Medical Staff Privileging in Veterans Health Administration Facilities, Fiscal Year 2020.”  I have been interested to see what, if anything, the VA had accomplished in improving their medical staff privileging.  If I were a congressional representative, knowing that medical staff continues to harm and kill veterans, I would have been anxiously awaiting to see if the repeated hits from past years had finally been rectified.  Unfortunately, the VA continues to live down to expectations (digging the hole ever deeper), suffers from failed leadership, and the veterans continue to die or suffer abuse.

What did the VA-OIG discover?  Understand, “The OIG conducted detailed inspections at 36 VHA medical facilities to ensure leaders implemented medical staff privileging processes in compliance with requirements.  The OIG subsequently issued six recommendations for improvement to the Under Secretary for Health, in conjunction with Veterans Integrated Service Network directors and facility senior leaders.  The intent is for VHA leaders to use these recommendations to help guide improvements in operations and clinical care at the facility level.  The recommendations address findings that may eventually interfere with the delivery of quality health care.”  The OIG identified deficiencies with focused and ongoing professional practice evaluation, provider exit review, and state licensing board reporting processes.  Specifically:

    • use of minimum criteria for selected specialty licensed independent practitioners’ focused professional practice evaluations
    • inclusion of service-specific criteria in ongoing professional practice evaluations
    • completion of ongoing professional practice evaluations by other providers with similar training and privileges
    • recommendation by executive committees to continue licensed independent practitioners’ privileges based on professional practice evaluation results
    • completion of provider exit review forms within seven business days of licensed independent practitioners’ departure from a medical facility
    • the signing of exit review forms by service chiefs, chiefs of staff, and medical facility directors if licensed healthcare professionals failed to meet generally accepted standards of care
    • initiation of state licensing board reporting within seven business days of supervisors’ signatures on exit review forms to indicate licensed healthcare professionals failed to meet generally accepted standards of care.

The OIG found ongoing issues from the fiscal year 2019 CHIP summary report that warranted repeat recommendations for improvement.  The OIG issued three repeat recommendations related to the following:

    • inclusion of minimum specialty criteria for focused professional practice
      evaluations
    • inclusion of service-specific criteria in ongoing professional practice evaluations
    • recommendation by executive committees of the medical staff in continuing licensed independent practitioners’ privileges based on professional practice evaluation results.

Boiling the findings of the VA-OIG down, essentially, the administrators and leadership are not weeding out poor and horrible practitioners, reporting these underperforming practitioners, and not acting in the best interests of the veterans seeking care at VAMCs and VAHCSs across the country.  I repeat, only for emphasis: Is this not abuse of the patient?  Is this abuse not driven by ideologues who gain from the harm they cause others?  Should this abuse not be scrutinized until it is eliminated?  Please feel free to read some of these comprehensive healthcare inspection reports from the VA-OIG, see the resulting injuries and problems caused by the failures of government medical providers, and then tell me whether these atrocious actions need more or less scrutiny and qualify for the title abuse.  The link to the full report is available; please feel free to make your conclusions and post your thoughts in the comments section.

On a final note for today, consider with me the problems of the Atlanta VAHCS with pallets of unopened mail containing patient health information, community care provider claims needing payment, and a plethora of other unopened mail.  Understand that when community care providers cannot obtain compensation from the VA, they go to the veterans, who then send in correspondence, which is unopened, thus causing more problems, concerns, and issues for an already abused veteran community!  Want your head to explode?  Look at the pictures the VA-OIG helpfully sent along with this VA-OIG report, and ask yourself if any other business or organization could get away with this type of abuse of the customer.

What did the VA-OIG find?  Well, prepare for your head to explode, again:

    • VA Leadership should have established a formal agreement explicitly detailing each office’s responsibilities.
    • VA HCS leaders did not include responsible managers in decision-making discussions and lacked a clear understanding of the volume of mail processing work they were accepting.
    • Atlanta VA HCS did not ensure mailroom staff was adequately prepared or trained to handle or sort the influx of mail. POM (Payment Operations Management) officials were later reluctant to help, citing the verbal agreement.

Buried in the report is this tidbit, “POM is implementing similar transitions at sites across the country; POM and medical facilities need to ensure adequate staff with sufficient training to handle the mail processing workload.  VA concurred with the OIG’s five recommendations.”  Meaning that in a VAMC/VAHCS near you, unopened mail due to verbal agreements will soon add more distress and disgust to the veteran experience.

I have documented in these articles how verbal agreements, verbal standards of work performance, and verbal processes and procedures are the problem and way of life in too many CHIPs and observed practices at the VA.  Yet, these verbal shenanigans are more apparent than in the dilemma Atlanta faces due to unopened mail.  Payment operations to community care providers are on a controlled and fixed timeline.  Failure to process these payments according to the required timeline leaves providers unpaid, which diminishes the community care provider pool of providers.  Talk to a community care provider, and they will discuss the risks of doing business with the VA and the real possibility of not being paid timely enough or being caught in sufficient red tape never to receive payment.

I know of a provider who called me three years after receiving care and was still trying to appeal and correct the paperwork to receive payment.  A provider recently contacted me who wanted to ruin my credit for failing to pay the balance due from care received, and they are charging interest.  Correcting this problem cost me 48 business hours, 20 calls, and frustrations galore.  By the way, the problem still has not been rectified, an appeal is in process, and we have to wait for the VA to make a decision; this incident was caused by the VA changing the process and the paperwork.  The provider told me they are not accepting any more veterans seeking care, the risk is too significant, the timeline to receive payment is too long, and the VA never pays what is charged.  For example, I recently received a declaration declaring payment to a community care provider.  The VA sent me to this provider, which means they knew the prices beforehand and agreed to the fees.  The declaration declared the VA was charged $2,000 and paid $120, not actual amounts, but close enough to communicate the problem.  With inflation, or without inflation, if you were paid less than 1/10th of what you billed (invoiced), would you continue to conduct business with that company or organization?  Now add the unopened mail problem to the mix.  Would you continue to conduct business with this entity?

America, the Department of Veterans Affairs is sick.  All of the other alphabet agencies in the Federal Government are sick.  We continue to elect people who actively refuse to care enough to act according to their mandated duties.  We cannot afford the government we currently have, which is part and parcel of the problem with inflation in America right now!  Debt is entered into to pay for this bloated feckbeast called government; from the city to the federal government, the bloat is too great to be sustained!  Why is the VA able to skirt responsibility, accountability, and improvement?  They can hide behind the size of their convoluted and twisted organizational shield.  Why can the Post Office and the IRS get away with deplorable, at best, customer service?  They are protected by the congress refusing to scrutinize and hold people accountable.  When your head is done exploding, please remember and act in the ballot box to hire better representatives!

© 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.

“That’s Crazy!!!” – More Chronicles from the VA Chapter 6

I-CareI promised a follow-up article after Chapter 5; it took me the better part of 48 hours to cool down sufficiently to write coherently to effect an update.  On 18 March 2002, I wrote about an appointment with my Primary Care Provider (PCP) being tardy, unprepared, and bureaucratese in supposedly holding a phone appointment with me.  01 April 2022, not an “April Fools Joke,” at 0731 hours, lasting 9 minutes, my PCP called me to get my approval to have me changed from her PACT team to another provider’s team.  Apparently, in the highly red taped world of PCPs at the El Paso VAHCS, there must be an hour-long handoff call when a provider initiates a change of PACT team.  I have my doubts and smell designed incompetence!

Let me pause here for a moment.  I generally need two hours to write an article after conducting research.  18 March 2002, it took a bit longer to draft that one due to the need to blow off steam with some choice words and choke down the urge to beat a few brick walls with my fists.  I am generally a very controlled person, and the fact that this PCP was so stunningly incompetent, rude, and HIPAA clueless, I admit I lost my cherub-like demeanor!  That the patient advocate was able to get my secure message, upload the comments into the electronic medical record, and contact the provider before the provider had even logged the patient notes, speaks volumes about the ineptitude of the PCP.  Worse, in the call on 01 April, the PCP was still on speakerphone, still disregarding HIPAA security, and quoted lines out of context from my message to the patient advocate.  Speaking volumes about the processes and procedures of the patient advocate’s office to investigate patient claims without breaching confidentiality.  Another topic for another day entirely!PACT_model

28 March 2022, I received the following from the patient advocates office, quoted completely:

We have received your secure message addressing your concerns.  I will be sending a Patient Advocate Tracking notification with your concerns to our Primacy Care Service for review.  They will be contacting you via telephone to discuss your concerns.”

I never heard anything from this mysterious “Primary Care Service” group/team.  01 April 2022 was the first response, and that was from the PCP.  Sourcing the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG), the PCP is the second most important member of the Patient-Aligned Care Teams (PACT) at the VA; the patient is the essential member and an actively engaged and knowledgeable patient is preferred.  I promise the VA-OIG has not even scratched the surface of the problems with recalcitrant, snowflake, and bureaucratic PCPs endangering patient health with the VA.  Not my first run-in with an inept PCP; I sincerely hope it is my last!PACT 3

In returning to the 01 April call, we find another interesting piece of data.  The PCP affirmed that abdominal pain could radiate from, say a hernia, to other parts of the abdomen, but this is for a specialist to diagnose, not a Family Practitioner.  Get that; the PCP is directly reversing all the published documentation by the VA and the VA-OIG by declaring that a specialist is the only person who can adequately decipher and detail why pain is occurring—putting all the PCPs in the VA Health Administration under the bus as merely button pushers and drug dealers.  Then the PCP has the temerity, nay the chutzpah, to suggest a trust deficiency existing between myself and the PCP.  Is it any wonder that people are detested, forlorn, melancholy, madder than a wet chicken with a raging case of hemorrhoids with the care they receive from VA healthcare providers?

Again, I repeat, only for emphasis, when any updates arrive on this issue, I will publish them in their entirety to allow the VA the opportunity to rebut, refute, or explain.  Like the ongoing saga with VISN 22, the Phoenix VAMC, and being arrested and injured three times by the VA Police, I am not holding my breath and awaiting a logical response.  If this were the only problem in the two weeks since the PCP shenanigans, the VA would be in pretty good shape.  Alas, we know, dear readers, that the VA is in dire condition, and the elected leaders need to be scrutinizing the VA a LOT more closely than they are.VA 3

We begin the latest chapter of VA-OIG reports with yet another physician bilking the government:

Robert Clay Smith, a Louisiana physician, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud, wire fraud, and illegal remunerations (taking kickbacks).  According to court documents, the scheme, which ran from 2013 until 2017, involved individuals associated with a medical supply and billing company recruiting Smith to dispense pain creams and patches to his workers’ compensation patients by offering him a split of the profits.  The company acted as the billing agent for Smith, handling all the paperwork and submitting the allegedly fraudulent claims to the US Department of Labor, Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs, and private insurers.  In exchange, the company paid Smith 50 to 55 percent of the profits collected from successfully billing insurers, at markups of 15 to 20 times what the medications cost.”

Plus the following:

Robert Schneiderman of Langhorne, Pennsylvania, admitted to participating in a massive compounded-medication kickback scheme that he and others ran out of a pharmacy in Clifton, New Jersey.  Schneiderman pleaded guilty in federal court to one count of conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud and one count of conspiracy to violate the Anti-Kickback Statute.  From 2014 through 2016, Schneiderman and his coconspirators used Main Avenue Pharmacy, a mail-order pharmacy with a storefront in New Jersey, to run a fraud and kickback scheme involving compounded drugs like scar creams, pain creams, migraine mediation, and vitamins.  Schneiderman was the president of Main Avenue Pharmacy and was a founder and CEO of its corporate parent.  Main Avenue Pharmacy received over $34 million in reimbursements from healthcare benefit programs on compounded medications alone.  Approximately $8 million of that total was paid by federal payers.  Schneiderman himself earned over $400,000 through the course of the scheme.  This case was investigated by the VA OIG, FBI, Department of Defense OIG, Defense Criminal Investigative Service, and Department of Health and Human Services OIG.”

Don’t forget this one:

Dr. Harry Doyle, a psychiatrist from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and his wife, Sonya Doyle, have agreed to pay $3 million to resolve alleged violations of the False Claims Act.  The alleged violations include submitting false billing to the US Department of Labor Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP) for psychiatric services that were not provided and upcoding and double-billing patient claims.  The Doyles have also agreed to be voluntarily excluded from federal healthcare programs for 25 years as part of the settlement.  This is the largest recovery against a single psychiatrist in the history of the OWCP.  A multiagency investigation of Dr. Doyle’s practice revealed that from January 2013 through April 2021, the Doyles allegedly billed for services not rendered, some of which occurred when they were not physically present in the United States.  This case was investigated by the VA OIG, the Department of Labor OIG, and the United States Postal Service OIG.”

More is coming on this one:

Ten Texas doctors and a healthcare executive have agreed to pay more than $1.68 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.  The MSO payments to the doctors were disguised as investment returns but were based on and offered in exchange for the doctors’ referrals.  As part of their settlements, the defendants have agreed to cooperate with the Department of Justice’s investigations of other parties involved in the alleged law violations.  To date, 17 doctors and two healthcare executives involved in this scheme have agreed on settlements totaling more than $2.7 million.  The civil settlements resulted from a coordinated effort between the VA OIG, Department of Health and Human Services OIG, Defense Criminal Investigative Service, and the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Texas [emphasis mine].”

Elected officials, the next time you are asked about the incredible amounts of fraud in government-provided healthcare and insurance, do not buy the media talking points that the fraud is minimal, contained, or anything but designed incompetence on the part of the bureaucrats to act as a jobs program for investigators!  The same investigators who are refused sufficient tools to investigate shenanigans by employees in the Federal Government adequately.?u=http2.bp.blogspot.com-fGEUjJsJ2h4VcJgswaisnIAAAAAAAABcsoFqEewPF_E4s1600quote-if-the-freedom-of-speech-is-taken-away-then-dumb-and-silent-we-may-be-led-like-sheep-to-the-george-washington-193690.jpg&f=1&nofb=1

Frankly, all of these cases need the government workers to be held accountable, and the myriad of red tape loopholes CLOSED!  I remember an election; I forget who and the exact when, but a significant election plank in the platform was healthcare reform, promising to clean up the swamp and bring accountability to Washington and the government.  The public is still waiting, and I know enough of you have run on this topic from both parties to repaper the walls (inside and outside) of the White House.

Yet, even if only outside providers and executives were scheming, the VA might not be in too bad a condition.  Except for the employees of the VA, VHA, and VBA, which continue to be caught up in ethics violations at a minimum:

The VA-OIG conducted an administrative investigation that included a congressional request to look into allegations that Charmain Bogue, former executive director of the Veterans Benefits Administration’s Education Service, committed ethical violations arising from her spouse’s consulting work for Veterans Education Success (VES).  VES is a nonprofit advocacy group that regularly had business before the Education Service.  The allegations also pointed to possible incomplete financial disclosures by Ms. Bogue concerning her spouse’s consulting business.  In their work, investigators uncovered evidence of other potential conflicts of interest and related misconduct by Ms. Bogue [emphasis mine].”

VA-OIG finding:

    1. Bogue participated in Education Service matters involving VES without considering whether it raised an apparent conflict of interest and acted contrary to the ethics guidance she received from her supervisors.
    2. Bogue sought résumé feedback from the president of VES to aid in her search for career advancement without considering whether this raised apparent conflict of interest concerns in subsequent VES matters. VES also endorsed Ms. Bogue for presidential nominee positions.
    3. Bogue provided insufficient detail about her spouse’s business in 2019 and 2020 public financial disclosures; VA ethics attorneys had found them compliant. She remedied the subsequently identified deficiency in her 2021 disclosure.
    4. The OIG found that Ms. Bogue refused to cooperate fully in the OIG’s investigation by refusing to complete her follow-up interview. Her husband and VES president also refused to participate in OIG interviews, and the OIG lacks testimonial subpoena authority over individuals who are not VA employees.   Bogue resigned from VA in January 2022.VA 3

UPDATE: 14 April 2022Sen. Grassley was hoodwinked by the VA on this issue and The Daily Signal (linked) has more of this report.  I covered this before, I repeat only for emphasis, when you are discharged from the VA, you lose your ability to be a “whistle-blower.”  As a point of fact, this is how the VA is able to hide a lot of their shenanigans, get rid of the person rocking the boat, invent the paperwork, cover the whole incident over as a “bad-apple” and keep you collective heads down and mouths shut until the VA-OIG investigation concludes.  The VA’s ability to abuse whistle-blowers is further compounded by Federal Attorneys who cherry-pick the cases they know they can win.  Which further protects the VA’s shenanigans and disheartens and mystifies those who have been wrongly terminated.  The Daily Signal reflects this pattern of corruption perfectly citing the records obtained by Empower Oversight.

Some commentators have claimed that blaming elected officials for not scrutinizing or not providing tools to investigate entirely is unduly unfair to the congressional representatives.  Really?!?!?!  The VA-OIG conducts an investigation, the people being investigated refuse to comply, and the VA-OIG is toothless to enforce a full and complete investigation to initiate Attorney General and FBI investigations and actions to recompense the defrauded taxpayer.  Ms. Bogue and the VES have invalidated any trust the taxpayer should have in their respective activities, but this, like so many other investigations into VA employees, will die of apathy before anyone is held accountable.  Even though a congressional representative demanded an investigation, nobody is being held liable.  Nobody is forced to compensate the defrauded taxpayer, yet the taxpayer is still expected to elect the same old representatives to their jobs.  Blaming the congressional representatives (legislative branch) for not scrutinizing the executive branch, one of only two jobs these people have, is somehow unfair?  NO!Exclamation Mark

Remarkably, between the 18 March disaster with the PCP and 01 April’s compounding idiocy, the VA-OIG published an ironically titled investigation report.

Improved Governance Would Help Patient Advocates Better Manage Veterans’ Healthcare Complaints.”

Imagine that, more designed incompetence negatively impacting the veterans seeking care at a VA medical facility, stating the obvious by the investigators.  Who on earth would be responsible for seeing that regulatory agencies had the tools needed to scrutinize and demand corrective action?  Calling all elected officials, did you notice that one of the prima facia tools a veteran has to report problems, conveniently called “patient advocates,” does not have the sufficient authority, adequate oversight, and tools to execute their jobs?  The VA-OIG reports the following:

The Patient Advocacy Program helps advance the Veterans Health Administration’s (VHA) efforts to improve customer service, support veterans’ access to quality care, and provide a mechanism to resolve healthcare issues.  Patient advocates document veterans’ concerns, communicate the resolution, provide follow-up and feedback, and identify trends for potential opportunities to improve medical facilities.  In FY 2020, VHA tracked about 162,000 serious complaints in its patient advocate tracking systems.”

Angry Wet ChickenOn a side topic, VA-OIG, how do you define a “significant complaint” and separate it from other types of complaints?  Honest question, the information was, to quote my PCP, “remarkably” missing from your investigation report!  Would the VA-OIG like to know why so many veterans’ complaints have risen to a “serious” level?  You reported the exact problem:

A complaint is considered resolved when the complainant communicates the outcome, and the record is closed in the tracking system.”

Maybe, the VA-OIG merely overlooked the logic problem, but complaints increase when the solution pushed down the throats of the veterans does not fix the actual situation.  Honest question, no sarcasm involved.  Is a “serious” complaint one where significant harm or death to the patient has occurred?  Is a serious complaint one that breaks federal laws, EMTALA, comes readily to mind??u=https3.bp.blogspot.com-fYRTNk48SCwT8ua0IRDWPIAAAAAAAAFZUpexSmJsN2Kos1600overcoming-adversity-help-yourself-believe-cubby-motivational-1289878102.jpg&f=1&nofb=1

Having had “solutions” forced down my throat, speaking only for myself, I am thoroughly sick of having the patient advocates bureaucratize my complaint, then fail to act, and then compound the problem by quoting policy to me as a reason to close the complaint, when the VHA never have written policies and procedures!  Maybe, you might want to look into the root causes of some of those “closed” complaints and ask root causation questions!

What did the VA-OIG find when they investigated the patient advocates?

    • VHA lacked adequate governance of the Patient Advocacy Program.
    • VHA did not effectively issue and implement adequate policy, monitor complaint practices, and provide guidance to medical facility directors responsible for local program management.
    • Patient advocates did not always enter complaints into the system.
    • Even though complaint records generally appeared to be closed on time, patient advocates did not always document the communication of the outcomes to the complainants.
    • The VA-OIG substantiated an inadequate program policy to identify clear expectations and responsibilities.
    • The VA-OIG found that they (patient advocates) did not always adhere to the documentation requirements to show full complaint resolution.
    • At the local and VISN levels, responsible personnel did not consistently analyze patient advocate tracking system complaints about trends.

Feel free to read the complete abomination of designed incompetence for yourself.  Essentially the VA-OIG concluded that the VHA has been burning taxpayer money in a patient advocacy program, and the designed incompetence is so apparent it can be tracked from L2, where the James Webb telescope is located!  Worse, you won’t need the James Webb telescope to see the designed incompetence!James Webb Space Telescope

Unfortunately, I could have guessed the first three findings without looking.  Every VA program is designed so ineptly, reprehensibly led, criminally incompetent, and with such dastardly deceptive doings that fiction writers’ storylines have to be written better to sell books.  You cannot make this stupidity up and make a profit.  Hollywood would run screaming into the night if they made a true story about the ineptitude found at the VA!

Knowledge Check!Elected officials, where are you?  The VA-OIG presents copies of their findings to you, and I have yet to witness a single one of you holding the VA Leadership criminally responsible for the failures at the VA.  Even when the VA is killing hundreds of veterans, the US Congress refuses even to act upset, let alone scrutinize for a change!  Remember how many veterans were intentionally killed in Phoenix waiting for treatment?  How many VA employees lost their jobs and pensions or were forced in front of a judge for murder?  It is a fair question, where are the elected officials in the legislative branch working to end the criminal “fraud, waste, abuse,” and designed incompetence in the executive branch?

© 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.

Jacob and Esau – The Perils of Government; An Analogy

Bobblehead DollSeveral books of scripture, in multiple religions, record the story of Jacob and Esau.  Jacob and Esau are twins male children of Isaac and Rebekah.  The boys were competitors for their entire lives.  Esau acts outside his parent’s wishes in marriage, sells his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of pottage (stew or beans; something cooked in a pot), and late in life is reconciled to Jacob even though his people continue to have animosity towards Jacob’s people to this day.  While the story of these twin brothers remains useful to those in religion and teaches several morals of importance, Jacob and Esau represent a classic tale of why government should be limited in size and scope.

Genesis 27, Old Testament, contains the story of how Jacob obtains the birthright blessing, which had been sold to him by Esau for the aforementioned bowl of pottage.  Consider with me what would have happened if the same bloated government we have right now had meddled in the affairs of Isaac, Jacob, and Esau.  The cost of meddling in the internal family affairs, the government would have taken 40% inheritance tax.  Esau would have always had the government as a millstone and ready excuse for not reconciling with Jacob, and lawyers and government officials would have further sundered the family.

Remember this, for it has importance in the following discussion, the government does not grant freedom, EVER!  As described and stated in the US Constitution and US Bill of Rights, freedom comes from a power higher than government, and government was only, ever, instituted for the benefit of man.  Ask yourself, is your government benefitting you?Plato 2

I guarantee the answer is no; regardless of the political spectrum, you prefer.  Why, because the government should not be exerting powers in areas that control or curtail the freedoms of the people.  Esau never valued his birthright, so selling it was easy, and a bowl of pottage was a rich reward for something he did not value.

How expensive is government-funded medical treatment?  Some will claim, but those receiving treatment never see a bill; really?  Costs are more than merely a statement representing the need to pay money.  What about the loss of privacy?  What about the loss of freedom to choose what treatments and providers are best for you?  What about the loss of innovation to the thumb of oppression from the government?  What about the loss of self-reliance and the health benefits of independence?  What about the destruction of your community and the connections people felt with and pride for community hospitals?  What was lost when the medical community forced, through the abuse of government intervention, the knowledge of herbs for the sterility of Big Pharmaceutical drugs?

For the hope of a prosperous retirement, what was sold; freedom and money in the now.  Yet, one should ask, where does the government get the power to take money, then give it back at some future point?  Except, how many of those government retirement Ponzi Schemes are fully funded, even with all the money flowing in?  The answer is as empty as Esau’s bowl.  Still, the government continues to steal money through forced taxation and purchase the hopes and liberties of citizens for that hoped-for bowl of pottage, prosperity in retirement.Plato 3

For the hope of reducing poverty, the government purchased a class of people whom they could abuse and ignite for political gain anytime they want or desire.  To create this aggrieved class of people, the government took over welfare programs, bought people with bread and circuses, asked them to stay in government houses, live on government food, enjoy government-provided entertainment, etc.  What was sold for this bowl of pottage; liberty, potential, freedom, upward mobility financially, safety and security, and hope.  What has been the consequences of this purchase; a permanently aggrieved class of people who look longingly at another’s possessions and desire them through theft because hard work is racist, demoralizing, and stops the government handouts.  Worse, the government had to grow in power and size to “manage” this class of people, creating those with six-digit salaries to rub the purchased people’s faces in the irony of what was lost in the purchase.

The United States has been waging a “War on Drugs,” almost since its founding.  The government considers one drug “good,” mainly due to the ease of controlling it for taxation purposes, and another drug “bad.”  Yet, how successful has it been in this “war?”  Not at all, and its failures are increasing year-over-year, even while new methods of taxation are being invented to manage “legal drugs.”

Alcohol in the United States has had a history of acceptance, tolerance, legal banning, and returned to tolerance and acceptance, all through human desires, abuse of government powers, and the need for tax revenue.  Sin taxes, the class of tax used to allow a citizen government approval to get drunk, stoned, or inject poison into their bodies, are among the highest taxes in America.  Yet, the more the taxes increase, the more people want these products, and the more the government wants people to use these products, for we see the purchase of something transitory using something highly precious to barter.  What is more precious than time and physical health, and what is purchased but something that can only temporarily ease pain or provide relief at best.Apathy

Tobacco has been a favorite drug of the government for its population to enjoy, pushing the popularity of the drug even while condemning and restricting how, when, where the drug can be enjoyed.  Tobacco farmers have played vital roles in American history, and the product has been a significant cash crop for government revenue.  Have you ever wondered where the money and research facilities originate to improve cigarette addiction?  Have you ever considered where the marketing materials originated to pitch the health benefits of smoking?  Do you realize that government is the biggest provider of money for research and marketing purposes?  Never forget the government has become flush with cash, pushing tobacco, regulating tobacco, and licensing tobacco.  Now ask yourself, why would the government give on the one hand and take on the other, because it is making money with both hands as people sell something precious for something valueless and transitory.

Do people get injured and need assistance; yes, but the government is never the answer to provide help.  Are there those who are trying to thrive and escape poverty; yes, but the government is never the answer to providing help.  A truth from time immemorial, governments do not produce anything; thus, the government must first take through legalized theft, taxation, and legal abuse to give to someone else.  Every representative government must walk a balancing act between what a government is and what responsibilities a government must shoulder.  Except, how many continue to make Esau’s mistake and sell something incredibly precious for something transitory and essentially valueless?

Worse, evaluate the consequences of allowing the purchase to occur.  First, the seller experiences buyer’s remorse, anger, jealousy, regret, and the government making the purchase laughs, making the bitterness of the sell more poignant.  Second, the seller needs an outlet for this buyer’s remorse.  In an effort to continue to purchase while appeasing, the government allows the seller to go destroy the property and goods of another less politically connected person and calls this social justice.  Third, the abused class of people who are not politically affiliated or are political rivals, whose property is being destroyed, looks on, and envy, malice, and contempt are bred, which furthers the goals and desires of the government.The Duty of Americans

Esau took a long time to be reconciled to Jacob, but it first required admitting that he had sold his birthright (something of great value) for something transitory and valueless (food).  Jacob and Esau’s story remains of great importance and a cautionary tale, especially for understanding why government needs to be smaller, less involved, and less able to abuse the citizenry.  For too long, the governments worldwide have either abused their powers to purchase or been established as a tyrannical and oppressive government.  Either way, the government is the problem, and the answer continues to be the same, curb the government!

Knowledge Check!If COVID has taught the populations of the earth anything, let us learn this valuable lesson, the government is the problem, not the solution!  The size of government is oppression, the cost of government is theft, and the loss of precious freedom and liberty for transitory and valueless gifts or benefits which come at too high a price in treasure and other precious resources.  We, the owners and the abused of government, must change how we think and feel about the role of government before all is lost to the ever-hungry maw of government and self-interests!

© Copyright 2021 – 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.

That’s Crazy!!! – More Chronicles from the VA (CH 5)

I-CareThe end of the year inundation continues unabated.  Unfortunately, so to does the failure of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) – Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) to inspire and motivate change.  Thus, my continual efforts in opening the transparency and demanding accountability for the VA leadership, and insistence that the American Congress do its job in scrutinizing the executive branch!  I repeat, only for emphasis, the US Congress (the US Senate and US House of Representatives collectively) only have two jobs.  1) write laws that are constitutional and for the benefit of all, themselves included, American citizens.  2) scrutinize the executive branch to protect the American Citizen from abuse and runaway actions.  Feel free to read the links to each story for more information, the failure of elected officials to act and prevent this behavior is abysmal, and these are just summaries, the full story is detestable!

In yet another fraudulent scheme, the fraudsters are penalized but the VA employees are left without penalty.

Thomas Farese, 79, of Delray Beach, Florida, and Domenic J. Gatto Jr., 47, of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, are charged in an 11-count indictment with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit health care fraud, health care fraud, conspiracy to transact in criminal proceeds, transacting in criminal proceeds, and conspiracy to violate the federal Anti-Kickback Statute.VA 3

Two VA employees, over the course of four years, caused the VA to lose $1.38 million in kickbacks.

Two Chicago-based VA employees were charged in connection with a fraud scheme that involved pocketing cash payments from vendors in exchange for steering orders for medical equipment to those vendors. Andrew Lee is charged with one count of wire fraud, while Kimberly Dyson is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit bribery and four counts of bribery. Lee and Dyson worked as prosthetic clerks in the VHA Prosthetics Service in Chicago, where part of their duties was to select vendors to order medical equipment for VA patients using government purchase cards. The charges allege that Lee and Dyson schemed with coconspirators who owned or operated medical supply and distribution companies, in some cases placing orders for unnecessary and more costly monthly rentals of medical equipment, rather than purchasing the equipment as VA physicians had ordered. The scheme fraudulently caused the VA to overpay one company by more than $1.38 million from 2016 to 2020. Lee and Dyson pocketed kickbacks of at least $220,000 and $39,850, respectively.VA 3

From fraud to theft, we find another VA employee improperly taking advantage of their position for personal gain.

Former VA-certified registered nurse anesthetist, Elizabeth Prophitt of Saline, Michigan, was sentenced to three years’ probation for stealing controlled substances, including several opioids, from hospital-dispensing machines. Prophitt pleaded guilty to five counts of obtaining controlled substances by fraud, misrepresentation, or deceit. She used her position as a surgical nurse to steal more than 2,000 vials of Schedule II and Schedule IV controlled substances, which included fentanyl, hydromorphone, morphine, and midazolam. Prophitt would use protected patient information and falsify medical documents to obtain the controlled substances. Instead of using the medication on patients, she diverted the drugs for her own personal use.VA 3

For all those people who shudder when they think of how porous the government is in protecting personal identifiable information (PII), the following should alert and provide more fodder to end the political ambitions of representatives who continue to refuse to do their jobs!

Five out of seven conspirators were convicted for their roles in a scheme to defraud the VA and the Social Security Administration of more than $1.8 million. A Florida jury found Omar Shaquille Bailey and Ronaldo Garfield Green guilty following an eight-day trial, while a third codefendant, Jamare Mason, pleaded guilty on the second day of trial. Two other codefendants, Kadeem Gordon and Mario Ricketts, had pleaded guilty prior to trial, while two remaining codefendants have yet to be apprehended. The members of this conspiracy obtained the personally identifiable information of disabled veterans and Social Security beneficiaries and used this information to fraudulently open bank accounts and prepaid debit cards. They also forged documents in the victims’ names that directed the VA and the Social Security Administration to deposit benefit payments into those fraudulent accounts. The defendants and their coconspirators withdrew these funds from ATMs and banks throughout South Florida and Georgia for their own personal use. Much of the funds were ultimately funneled to the architects of the scheme in Jamaica. The five guilty defendants are awaiting sentencing.VA 3

Please remember, an indictment is not a conviction, and every person is allowed their day in court, in front of a jury of their peers, before sentencing and judgment is passed.  With that said, the following indictment is pretty compelling.  If found guilty, may the defendant be forced to do community service in distinctive clothing, in a public place, and carrying a sandwich board detailing their crimes.  Inexcusable and unforgiveable are terms not used enough for some crimes!

Rosemary Ogbenna of Washington, DC, was named in a 35-count indictment for allegedly carrying out a scheme to steal more than $400,000 in government benefit funds provided by the Social Security Administration (SSA) and VA. According to the indictment, Ogbenna operated a rooming house business and perpetrated the scheme to target some of her tenants. She obtained and maintained control over SSA and VA benefit funds intended for the care of elderly, mentally ill, disabled, and veteran beneficiaries, and used the funds for her own personal use and benefit.VA 3

The Raymond G. Murphy VA Medical Center (VAMC) in Albuquerque, NM is in the news again.  No surprise if you, like me, are familiar with the conditions and leadership at this VAMC.  Unfortunately, another veteran has died due to the malpractice and malfeasance, abuse, and lack of leadership in the VA.

The VA-OIG determined that poor oversight of resident physicians (residents) likely contributed to the patient’s delayed lung cancer diagnosis. A resident ordered an abdomen and pelvis computed tomography (CT) scan. Although a follow-up chest CT scan was recommended within 90 days, it took 175 days to complete. The chest CT scan results included resolution of a spiculated lung nodule and worsening of opacities in the lung representing a cavitary infection or cancer, and a positron emission tomography/CT (PET/CT) scan was recommended. The follow-up PET/CT scan showed a lesion in the right lung, but a biopsy was not done. The patient was examined and diagnosed with cancer at a non-VA hospital.

The VA-OIG concluded that deficiencies in care coordination between Primary Care, Pulmonary, and Emergency Departments’ staff also contributed to delays. In addition, contract teleradiologists did not use available prior images for comparison.  The facility failed to use quality management and patient safety processes to evaluate the care of the patient.VA 3

Here’s the kicker, and it should infuriate every taxpayer in America.  The Raymond G. Murphy VAMC was recently found to be meeting all SAIL metrics in a comprehensive healthcare inspection completed by the VA-OIG.  SAIL metrics are how the VA leadership are measured in being knowledgeable and competent in these positions.  Check out the link on SAIL metrics for more information.  Leaving only one question, “How can the VA leadership be found competent, and still be killing veterans?”

Angry Wet ChickenWhen discussing the abuse of veterans and the failure of VA leadership, it never ceases to surprise me the utter half-truths, bloviations, and oratorial yoga, and logical pretzel twisting that is accepted by the US Congress.  The following link takes you to a list of witness testimony given by VA-OIG representatives to the US Congress.  If these “witness” statements leave you sick and mentally struggling, don’t say you were not warned.  The VA-OIG, like the VA, is replete with verbal contortion performers and nowhere is this most noticeable than in “witness” testimony!

Regarding verbal chicanery, oratorial yoga, and despicable verbal gymnastics to provide job security while taking zero action, here is the link to the Semiannual Report to Congress by the VA-OIG.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you, the bureaucrats are out in full force and are playing every card in the deck to protect themselves from Congressional Scrutiny, while attempting to pass themselves off as honest, fair, and doing a good job for the American People.  The problem is in Congress not properly scrutinizing these shenanigans and demanding compliance with the law!

VA SealThe remaining 15 notifications from the VA-OIG are the standard reports on comprehensive healthcare inspections (CHIp) where leaders are measured, never found wanting, even though too often the leaders are failing and useless.  Other notifications included the audit for data security and IT measures completed by a third-party auditor, and which the VA continues to fail but Congress refuses to hold people accountable.  The third and final series of notifications in this batch were several dealing with individual VISN level of local VAHCS/VAMC level inspections on specific topics, such as COVID response, supply chain failures, and other issues.

Unfortunately, the answer is always the same the leaders are inept, inadequate, and incapable of initiating change before a veteran dies, before fraud and abuse occur, or before the VA-OIG makes an attempt to inspire change.  Not that the VA-OIG is very capable or properly equipped to inspire change, simply that the VA-OIG made an attempt.  The root cause remains clear, Congress refusing to do their job has led to the US Military Veterans being actively abused by the Department of Veterans Affairs.  Lackadaisical scrutiny, politicization, and two recent presidents who allowed Congress to label the US Military Veterans as “domestic terrorists,” have had detestable consequences for the American Taxpayer and the US Military Veterans and their families.?u=http3.bp.blogspot.com-CIl2VSm-mmgTZ0wMvH5UGIAAAAAAAAB20QA9_IiyVhYss1600showme_board3.jpg&f=1&nofb=1

Are you sufficiently inspired to change how you vote, demand elected leaders to act, and improve how the government in America from the city/county to the US President operates?

© Copyright 2021 – 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.

Let’s Talk – Thoughts on Several Issues

GavelMountainview Medical, the surgical center in Las Cruces, NM., informed me politely that I was not welcome as a patient for my inability to wear a mask.  Once my failure to wear a mask was resolved, I was welcome to return, but I was not welcome until then.  This was made pretty clear to me today (27 September 2021).  Regardless of a wet signature signed letter from my VA-provided primary care provider, I cannot wear a mask, irrespective of the fact that the VA had arranged this appointment and was paying the bill.  I was persona non grata.

One would think that having accepted a contract, the accepter would do everything to fulfill the contract.  Yet, apparently, a mask is sufficient legal cause to forfeit a contract.  Does anyone else find this strange and odd?  Would a lawyer please step forward and explain contract law to me.  When I have accepted a contract, my job has been to fulfill that contract to the best of my abilities or be found in breach and liable for the damages to the contract issuer.Apathy

Changing topics.  I was taught, look people in the eye when speaking to them.  Be honest, forthright, and confident enough as a person to render respect.  I have studied people and psychology for a long time.  I am lost on this topic and if you have insight, please feel free to add your comments below.  Why do women feel the need to either become hostile or play with their clothes, hair, or refuse eye contact when talking to me?  I am not horrendous to look upon; I am certainly not good-looking either.  I am not flirting; I interact with other people for professional reasons; yet, I cannot get people to look me in the eye and have professional conversations.

What has happened to eye contact in American society?  What has happened to confidence in communicating?  Look, I get it; right now, the media has everyone scared to shake hands.  I was raised providing a firm handshake, looking people in the eye, and socially interacting is the highest skill you can learn to succeed.  I was having this conversation randomly the other day, and the other person was scapegoating millennials.  I feel this is 100% unfair as the problem is multi-generational and crosses all industries and situations.  Consider the following, and let’s have this conversation.Einstein

Changing topics.  What is more acceptable to you; all talk and no action, or all action and no talk?  In reviewing some transcripts of a ZOOM meeting where President Biden was in attendance with many Democratic National Committee (DNC) leaders and party flunkies, the president made remarks to the effect that since he was the only one speaking to a point, the DNC should be grateful.  One of the reasons I have been hesitant to expand the blog is that I prefer to be a person of action.  Yet, with my disabilities, I find taking action less and less the course I can physically handle.  Thus, I must find new outlets, and training others is a course of action I am good at.  Thus, the blog was born; but not taken without reservations.

QuestionNow, America finds itself at the mercy of a person who considers himself a person of words and thinks others should be grateful to have his words on a particular subject.  In psychology, this method of thinking is generally classified as narcissistic.  A narcissist is a person full of pride and egoism, which shows extreme love for themselves and only for themself.  I cannot think of a better adjective to describe Joe Biden.  Thus, I wonder about the question posed, do you prefer a person of many words and little action, or do you prefer someone of few words and plenty of action?

Strip politics, identity, sex, gender, and all other adjectives and names from this comparison.  Simply make a distinction between words and no action and lots of action and few words.  Then lay that preference out on the world and make choices based upon that preference.  As a person of action, I prefer other people of action.  I like people of action for actions can always be guided and shifted; words mean everything is stuck awaiting action.  If you prefer words to action, please let me know in the comments section why and explain to me how words are better than action.  I am genuinely interested in and appreciate logic and reason.kpi

Changing topics.  Last week my cousin succumbed to his injuries and passed this mortal coil.  I learned something that made me furious, and frankly, I am still not my “cherub-like self.”  I had always thought my cousins escaped the chains of abuse.  My uncle and aunt on my father’s side are just so tender-hearted and innocent; I thought their kids would escape the evils of abuse so prevalent on my side of the family circle.  Unfortunately, the clutches of sexual abuse tormented their family, and my cousin did not ever receive the training needed to overcome the abuse and was a victim his entire life.

I learned from an early age how to fight.  I was raised to be the last bastard standing in a room full of bastards.  I learned how to win, fight dirty, and be it fists, words, ideas, or weapons, I was going to be the victor.  I grew the antibodies against abuse by being abused.  I do not like admitting this, but it is the truth, plain and simple.  My cousin never got this training, I never knew he needed this training, and his family has suffered incredibly from a guidance counselor in the school district who abused my cousin in the second grade.Grit - Defined

To the abused; I am sorry!  You are now faced with a choice, do you give the person who abused, or is still abusing you, power over the rest of your life, or do you choose to fight and win back your life, dignity, and potential?  That is the only choice you make, and you will make this choice every day for the rest of your life.  How you choose dictates your destiny; do you have gravel in your guts sufficient to take back what was stolen from you or not?  You have friends, associates, and support, but at the end of the day, in the wee hours of the morning, you, and only you, have the power to defeat your abuser, and you must wield the sword to defeat the abuser!Angry Wet Chicken

To the abusers; I detest you!  With all the power I possess, I will actively work against you to defeat you!  There is nowhere you can run, nowhere you can hide, and nothing you can do to evade and escape.  I am not justice; I am simply a man who will not allow you the power to continue to abuse.  I know many like me who are just as committed to seeing you stand in front of a judge and be punished for your crimes, and we will continue to work for this day to our dying breath!

I have met too many abused and broken people who do not understand the simplicity of conquering abuse.  The action is simple, choose to stop allowing yourself to be abused.  The reality and activities to support that choice are hard, painful, and the struggle is real physically, mentally, emotionally, and on every level possible.  But, I promise you, freedom from abuse is possible!  Make the choice to stop allowing yourself to be abused!  Need a friend, contact me; need help, reach out.  There are plenty of people locally and more virtually who understand and are happy to help.  Just allow us to be there for you!Angry Grizzly Bear

The accepted praxis in society is to not talk about abuse and abuse recovery as this is a topic for “someone else” to discuss.  Well, that myth ends today!  Abuse is happening too often to continue to ignore, sidestep, or push it under the table.  Abuse is not just a topic for annual teacher training classes, nurses, and doctors.  Abuse does not just happen to low-income families, bad people, or those who “deserve it.”  Abuse comes in many different types and styles, forms, and methodologies.  The single unifying factor in abuse is a single person who is gaining power over another person through manipulation and dominion.

Sexual abuse is about power and dominion, as well as sexual gratification.  Sexual abuse is NEVER about love, and I do not care if it is male-on-male, male-on-female, or female-on-female; it is always about power, not love!  Physical abuse is always about dominion and power over another person; they are always selected for their weakness.  The abused person is constantly victimized until they cannot live without the abuse, or so they are trained.  Verbal abuse is all about power and dominion, feeding the ego of the abuser on the weakness of those abused.  When directed at another for personal gain, apathy is abuse and needs to be corrected before additional harm and further abuse are committed.

Pornography and masturbation are self-abuse.  Drug abuse is self-abuse, alcohol abuse is self-abuse, and these abuses lead to physical, sexual, verbal, and other types of abuse.  Abuse of self leads to abuse of others.  Abuse of others causes society to detest and denigrate you, exasperating self-abuse and addictive behaviors, which further exasperate drug and alcohol abuse and abuse of others.  Vicious cycle indeed!

Knowledge Check!Agree or disagree, leave a comment and let’s have the conversations that need to be discussed.  Let’s openly discuss root causes and look to create solutions that can generate positive outcomes.  Better, let’s open our hearts and hands to lift and support.  There has undoubtedly been sufficient abuse, torment, anger, and hatred in this world.  We need to find different solutions!

© 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.

If Everyone Cared – More Detestable VA Stories

I-CareAs I went to catalog more of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) – Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) reports, Nickelback’s song, “If Everyone Cared,” was playing.  I cannot think of a better title to proclaim the need for raising awareness and what is needed to fix the VA.  Until everyone is aware and the scab hiding the infection inside the walls of the VA are ripped away to be exposed to the sunlight disinfectant, nothing will change, and taxpayers will continue to pay for the abuse of veterans who deserve so much more.

We begin with an indictment and a reminder.  An indictment does not indicate guilt or innocence, and the parties mentioned are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law by a jury of their peers.

Scott Mitchell Brown, John Henry Swiencki, and David Jeffery Hughes, Jr., were all charged with one count of conspiring to distribute hydrocodone, oxycodone, and amphetamines. Brown was also indicted for stealing prescription medications, possessing stolen mail, and obtaining unauthorized health information from the Kerrville VA Medical Center in Texas.”VA 3

I am a big fan of punishing liars and thieves of all stripes and support justice served in this case.

David Naylor, 59, of Spring Hill, Florida, was sentenced to two years and three months in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for theft of government funds. Naylor made false representations regarding his physical limitations in connection with his application for VA disability compensation.”VA 3

While the following perpetrator has been caught and sentenced, she represents but the tip of the iceberg.

Rita Copeland, 59, of Portsmouth, Virginia, was sentenced today to nine and half years in prison for wire fraud and aggravated identity theft in connection with schemes to defraud veterans. She operated Veteran Services of the Commonwealth, which claimed to provide veterans with caregiving, contracting, and rental assistance services. In total, from at least 2017 through 2020, Copeland’s schemes impacted at least 29 victims and resulted in a combined loss of approximately $430,000.”VA 3

Again and again, the following questions are asked and never answered; yet, the questions remain pertinent.   Who at the VA had to have known this abuse of veterans was occurring and did nothing to stop the abuse?  There are too many checks and balances, too many hands, and too many inspectors for fraud of any magnitude to exist for very long without raising flags needing investigating.  Where were the VA employees?  Who knew?  What did they not do?  Are they still Federal Employees?

Another veteran died, needlessly at the hands of VA providers, due to ineptitude, failed management, poor training, and a series of unfortunate events that cascaded.  I weep for the family of this veteran and mourn for their loss.  I am sorry you have had to experience this tragedy and wish there was something more I could do than simply spread the story of this deleterious behavior and hope for sunshine disinfectant.  The patient died from “presumed anoxic brain injury (his brain failed to receive enough oxygen).”

The VA-OIG found that physicians’ failure to provide adequate benzodiazepine dosing to address the patient’s delirium tremens, review the patient’s abnormal electrocardiogram before haloperidol administration, and transfer the patient earlier likely contributed to the patient’s deterioration and ultimate death.  The VA-OIG substantiated that a non-VA paramedic documented that the oxygen flow was not active.  Facility leaders and staff reported a lack of knowledge about the failed oxygen delivery. The nursing staff did not complete all required alcohol withdrawal assessments.  A physician improperly ordered restraints, nurses failed to obtain full vital signs while the patient was in restraints, and nurses did not receive restraint training as expected.  The VA-OIG substantiated that facility leaders and staff did not communicate initiation of emergency detention with the patient’s family; however, notification is not required.  Leaders did not conduct an institutional disclosure with the patient’s family timely or in person and did not provide a relevant update.”VA 3

Did you catch that last sentence; while the patient was dying, the facility leaders and providers, including the nursing staff, were more concerned with CYA (covering their own acts) than notifying the family they had screwed up, and their family member had died.  If the nursing and staff did not have the training, why and how could they use restraints on a patient? This is blatantly illegal!VA Seal

Let’s cover one more egregious item from this summary of unfortunate events; I visited a doctor who is transitioning out of medicine who made the following comment, “Medicine has changed, practicing medicine has changed, and the practice of medicine is no longer about treating people, but checking boxes, the patient be damned!”  The patient was a “walking chemistry experiment, and no single nurse or provider took a minute to stop providing care, assess the patient, and stop administering drugs!  Instead, they just kept pumping more drugs in until the patient died and then covered their tracks with designed incompetence to protect their failed inadequacies.  This is not “practicing medicine,” you would not treat an animal in this manner; at least not and keep your license!

A death row convict is not allowed to die from anoxic brain death, as it is considered incredibly painful and a cruel and unusual method of death, which is why the gas chamber has been banned as a legal means of causing death for death row inmates.  Yet, under a medical team’s care, a patient in a VA hospital is allowed to die in this horrific manner, and nobody is held accountable.  Is it any wonder why this article is suitably titled “If Everyone Cared?”LinkedIn VA Image

Not many outside of the veterans affected and their families know that the VA has been pushing opioids for decades down the throats of veterans.  At the height of the opioid crisis, the VA shut off all opioid drugs and told the veterans to seek help for addictions to pain medications.  The VHA did not evaluate the individual patients for need, did not seek alternatives, did not try to reduce dependency over time, simply cut off all opioids, and told the veterans to deal with the problems.  Unfortunately, opioids were not the only drug series that the VHA cut off suddenly on veterans without notice, cause, or individual patient consideration, and deficiencies in coordination for the care of patients and drug mandates from VHA has lead to suicides, murders, and other violent problems as addictions cause social problems.VA 3

When discussing failures to coordinate care for patients, abuse of patients, and the need for patients to be housed in the proper treatment centers for their needs to receive the right care, the following should boil your blood and comes from Fayetteville VAMC in North Carolina.

The VA-OIG identified that the psychiatrist used the involuntary commitment process in a manner that was inconsistent with the state’s established parameters and failed to adequately assess and document the patient’s capacity to make informed decisions and determine whether the patient had a healthcare agent. In addition, the patient’s primary care providers and psychiatrist missed an opportunity to coordinate specialty care needs for the patient.”VA 3

Essentially, a bureaucrat incarcerated a veteran against their wishes, without a trial, an appeal process, and proper medical care.  Now, imagine you are the family of this veteran or a friend, and you see this occur and feel powerless to help, impotent to intercede.  Every avenue you approach is blocked because of the authorities, the bureaucrat in charge who wields their power illegally.  How do you feel?  What do you do?  Where do you turn?  Is it any wonder why this article is suitably titled “If Everyone Cared?”

I-CareAmerica, we need to care about what is happening in our representative government, in our name, with our tax dollars, and to our neighbors, family, and friends.  There are no excuses for the abuses witnessed!  There are no excuses for medical providers to get away with this outrageous behavior in private hospitals or government-paid-for-care.  Let us all heed Nickelback’s song and the intent; let us be the “everyone” who cares!

© 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.

The Walmart Effect – Competition is NOT Just Cost

Exclamation MarkAfghanistan and the fraudulent President Biden have had me thinking about the Walmart effect over the last three days or so, and I cannot help but think there are some lessons to be discussed.  More to the point, the lines of congruence between the Walmart effect and the current political situation possess the potential for correcting course and saving America.  Not just America, but representative governments worldwide.  The Walmart effect is a global pandemic more powerful and pernicious than COVID ever will be, and we need to at least recognize this truth.

What is the Walmart Effect?

Working DollarWalmart has always competed on price.  As if there was nothing else to compete upon.  Lowest prices, regardless of the junk sold, price mattered more.  Hammer the price to nothing in every aspect of the supply chain.  Hammer the costs of doing business to lower costs to consumers.  Cheapen and eliminate packaging, “helping the environment,” and reduce costs.  Force suppliers and vendors to absorb traditional costs stores assumed, lowers costs, and increase profit margins.  Everything in the Walmart model is about lowering consumer costs, and Walmart has been very successful at twisting arms and breaking heads to reduce costs.

But, what has been the result of focusing just on costs the consumer sees?  First, lots of hidden fees have become observed.  Some of which was a good thing, most of which have become more obscure, and this is not such a good thing.  Worse, think of the fuel fees and delivery charges you now pay for having a pizza delivered.  Once a fee is begun to be charged, it is very difficult to stop charging the fee.  The Walmart effect passes costs onto consumers and shows the consumer why they are paying a higher fee, then the consumer accepts the fee as the cost of doing business and does not complain.  Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why there are so many fuel fees and why they became apparent almost overnight; I promise the cost of fuel was not the reason, the Walmart effect was the reason, and making money is the purpose.

Pigeon RevengeSecond, quality and service have disappeared in competition.  Safeway, as a grocery store, has excellent service; but they cannot compete on service and quality because the Walmart effect has changed these two adjectives to be synonymous with higher consumer costs.  Believe it or not, the grocery store model has not changed in the last 200 years. Walmart changed society to believe everything was about competing on consumer costs, and the rest of the competition has played along.  Want to know a secret, you as a consumer are being deceived into believing that Walmart has the best prices, but when quality is added to the picture, Walmart is selling you junk.

Third, all big-box retailers employ science to lure you into their stores.  Bright lights, color schemes, smells, all carefully crafted to keep you in the stores.  Musical shelves where products move from day to day in the store to lengthen your time walking the aisles.  Everything is carefully planned and organized to influence you to spend more money.  Now, back to Walmart and the claim about junk.  Some of the items in Walmart are end runs of name-brand products.  Some of the items are cheap knock-offs.  Some of the fruit and vegetables are almost spoiled or completely raw.  Yet, Walmart pushes those products for sale anyway.  Purchasers for Walmart are under strict order to find products for sale at the lowest costs.  After working with a manufacturer supplying big-box retailers, I can tell you that many manufacturers hate dealing with Walmart because of the Walmart costs of doing business.Lemmings 3

Fourth, all big-box retailers represent a plethora of manufacturers trying to get their products in front of customers in the easiest way possible.  This is a truth, and a problem, for the manufacturers, are always competing, think Kraft and General Mills, Post, and other brand names.  These manufacturers compete for every dime you spend; they compete for shelf space; they compete for advertising space; they compete for every second you spend in the store, and dealing with these manufacturers is like herding long-tailed cats in a room full of rocking chairs.  A loose conglomeration controlled by access to the customer portal, Walmart manages an extensive customer portal, Safeway, Home Depot, Lowes, etc. All control certain customer portals and commit to selling XX amount of goods for the manufacturers.  But, this is not “friendly” competition by any stretch of the imagination.  One manufacturer scores a benefit that improves their access to customers over another manufacturer; you can bet another manufacturer will be competing to repeat the performance.  All of which increases costs to the consumer in hidden fees, generally through rebate scams, BOGO “deals,” or my favorite “Rollback prices.”

Interestingly, the political situation in all representative governments is similar to America’s current situation.  A phenomenon I find both alarming and intriguing, but one with enormous potential to be taken advantage of to correct and save representative governments.  The one thing cost-focused competition cannot do is compete with service.  When customer service is truly the focus, cost competitors melt away.  Therein lay the answer, but we must first describe the lines of congruence before we can discuss solutions.Lemmings 5

Consider point one of the Walmart effect, competing on price both hides and reveals costs.  Every representative government worldwide has an entire industry working 24/7, working tirelessly to plasticize words where taxes are concerned to make progress bad and regression good.  Regressive taxes are considered good, even though they kill jobs, ruin lives, cost more, and eventually lead to the ruination of liberty and freedom.  Progressive taxes are hailed as bad, even though they cut government costs, increase liberty and freedom, allow people to keep more of their hard-earned money, and force the government to live on a budget.  While the tax language has been around longer than Walmart, the truth is, the Walmart effect has improved the tax language to the point that representative government can rob you blind, and you never know.  Just like that fuel surcharge on pizza receipts, after the cost of ingredients for the pizza skyrocketed.

Point two of the Walmart effect; where has customer service gone in government?  Since I was a kid, citizens’ accessibility to elected officials has dropped like a sack of lead.  Worse, we have seen active animosity from the elected officials towards the citizenry.  Mayors allow terrorist mobs to destroy public and private property without regard, mobs and gangs to rule, entire sections of cities lost to civilization, and elected officials do not care until they utter empty words in an election campaign.  Enter a government office for a permit, license, get a question answered, etc., and you are treated like scum, and the bureaucrat is doing you a tremendous favor by granting you an audience.  Now, how do you honestly feel when you walk into Walmart and ask an associate a question, provided you can lasso an associate to ask?

Gravy Train 3On the third point in the Walmart effect, politicians spend enormous amounts of effort to use marketing science to play upon emotions to get and keep an audience.  The same marketing science employed to keep you in a retailer making purchases keeps you “connected” to your political party.  Worse, because there are familial traditions in being one political party or another, there remain tighter ties to a political party.  These strings are played to the fullest to bind you ever tighter, so you do not use conscious thinking when voting the party line.

Finally, we come to the fourth Walmart effect, the one with the most pertinence to current political dogma, the bundling of obscure groups into a ruling party.  I have never been shy about admitting that two-party political rule is terrible for America.  I am all for having 10-15 separate major political parties; in the confusion generated by the many voices, better governance occurs, mostly.  I respect the Israelis for their political system with their separate and ungainly political parties because of the need to gain coalitions and be very connected with and responsible to the people in those coalitions and the citizens they represent.  Recognizing that the political system does not always work, a robust system of codified laws is mandatory to keep the government in check and accountable to the people.

Bobblehead DollFrankly, I do not care what side of the political spectrum you come down upon.  What matters to me is how your representative governs.  Once an elected official of a representative government gains office, they cannot simply think they only represent that political party while in office.  Thinking this way is the epitome of the Walmart effect and stems from competing on cost alone.  Worse, thinking that the representative only represents those who placed them in power places that elected representative into a position to abuse their office.

Using others is what Walmart has done because they control such a vast portal to customers, and the manufacturers have been paying a steep price in more than dollars and cents ever since.  Unfortunately, so have the customers.  The harm to the manufacturers is delivered to the end consumer, and Walmart does not care as they are just a portal through which a manufacturer sells goods.  The same thing for the politician, all of society is harmed when a politician can be purchased and influenced; when harm comes to one person because of their political leanings, everyone suffers.

Knowledge Check!Therein lay the other answer to the Walmart effect, recognizing that we must join together, or fall individually, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle since we are all interconnected.  Service and joining together are the only paths forward.  We must not allow divisive political agendas, carefully crafted scientifically marketed political pogroms, and slick groomed politicians to sway us from the important points of freedom, liberty, and a pursuit of happiness.  We cannot afford the governments that have ballooned and festered over the last 60-years.  We cannot afford the Walmart effect; the cost is just too great!

© 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.

Chronicling the VA – May We Remember the “Pobrecito!”

I-CareA Spanish-speaking Mexican colleague taught me this term, “pobrecito,” meaning “poor little one.”  As I chronicle the VA ineptitudes, failures, criminal behaviors, and abusive actions, I am always conscious of the pobrecito, the poor little one, the poor victim who got harmed.  Too often, the victims never receive any compensation, acknowledgment, or retribution, nothing for having become a victim of the VA.  Too often, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) – Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) investigates long after the abuse has occurred, and the victims are not covered in the scope of the investigation, or worse, the victim was killed, and the family is left to mourn, and nobody can help.

Angry Grizzly BearWhy chronicle the VA abuses; because the needs to be held accountable, speak the language, and have tougher skin and broader shoulders than the VA’s normal victims.  The VA is slowly learning they can harm me, but they cannot shut me up!  I will not stop fighting the VA for humane treatment, honorable service, and dedicated systems.  The VA is sick because apathy and inertia were allowed to replace common sense and decency, leadership was replaced with cost accounting and bureaucratic red tape, and human kindness was eradicated and replaced with drones and robots.  I know how to make the VA better; I do not have all the answers, but I know how to launch the revolution and begin cleaning the VA, and I will not stop calling upon those responsible for fixing the mess they created!

Starting this week’s VA-OIG headlines of crimes and inspections, we find a couple in South Florida who used the system to bilk more than $20 Million in purchase order scams.

Earron Starks was sentenced to 30 months’ imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay over $2.4 million in restitution. Carlicha Starks was sentenced to three years of supervised release, including one year of home confinement, and ordered to pay $501,000 in restitution. They paid kickbacks to VA employees as part of a large-scale bribery scheme, which enabled the Starks couple and other corrupt vendors to receive over $20 million in purchase orders from VA medical centers in West Palm Beach and Miami. Fourteen additional defendants were charged for their roles in this scheme.”VA 3

Who’s the pobrecito in this case; the taxpayers, the veterans, and the United States.  Federal Employees had to not only know the crimes occurring but be complicit in the crimes.  Will they lose their retirement benefits, have to repay their wages, and face criminal charges and jail time for their culpability?  Fourteen additional defendants, how many were supervisors in the know and on the payroll who were promoted during this scheme whose supervisors failed to do their jobs and scrutinize the work of their underlings?  The shadiest part of this entire scheme is encapsulated in the following sentence:

All VA Employees were either terminated or resigned.”

Name me one private-sector employer who could get away with a massive scheme and enjoy similar benefits!Survived the VA

We find another VA employee embroiled in theft of equipment which sold the stolen goods in Ohio.

Kevin Rumph, Jr., of Fairburn, Georgia, pleaded guilty to stealing more than $1.9 million in medical products while employed at a VA community-based outpatient clinic in Atlanta. Between 2013 and 2021, Rumph made hundreds of unauthorized purchases of equipment used to treat obstructive sleep apnea. He then stole and sold the equipment to a vendor in Ohio. Sentencing is scheduled for November 17, 2021.”

I have worked in purchasing in both the US Military and in the private sector.  If I went to my bosses with “hundreds of purchase orders for supplies,” they would naturally be curious.  Repetition of hundreds of similar requests would raise red flags and demand audits of my records and proof of need.  Why did this not occur at the VA?VA 3

In the US Navy, I was in charge of ordering stock and saw requests for certain o-rings spike, as I knew the Chief Engineer would spot this and ask why, I asked why, went to the equipment records, dug up the maintenance reports, and asked questions of the mechanics and technicians.  In doing so, we discovered an unreported problem with machinery.  This is called due diligence; why was it not being practiced by the supervisor of Mr. Rumph?  You cannot tell me a seven-year trend line is something that was an anomaly and easily missed in budget reporting year-over-year!

Exclamation MarkLet’s admit a truth for certain; COVID has been a farrago of gargantuan size from day 1.  In acknowledging this, no blame is being proportioned to the front-line workers in any way, shape, or form.  But, the administrators, policymakers, politicians, and government bureaucrats have certainly proved they could unscrew the inscrutable!  Worse, the bureaucrats proved that their idiocy was highly contagious, infecting more people than COVID, spreading faster than COVID, and killing more people than COVID.  Our proof of this concept arrives from Houston and the Michael DeBakey VAMC.

The VA Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) conducted a healthcare inspection regarding allegations of incompletely screening for COVID-19 and treatment of a patient with serious mental illness who presented for same-day care at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center (facility).”

Findings:

      • The VA-OIG substantiated that facility staff did not complete the patient’s COVID-19 temperature screening.
      • The VA-OIG substantiated that facility staff failed to manage the patient with COVID-19 symptoms medically.
      • Sent the patient to the drive-through testing area without medical evaluation, did not isolate the patient, complete a care plan, or follow the policy for transporting patients suspected to have COVID-19.
      • The vulnerable patient disappeared while in the facility’s care, was found off-site four days later experiencing a medical emergency, taken back to the facility, and died the following day [emphasis mine]!
      • The VA-OIG determined that the Mental Health Intensive Case Management team failed to address documentation discrepancies related to the patient’s surrogate and educate the family on COVID-19 visitor policy and screening processes.
      • The VA-OIG identified the facility’s noncompliance with the missing patient policy.
      • Facility leaders’ failure to report an adverse event and ensure a timely review of the patient’s episode of care.
      • The VA-OIG identified facility leaders did not timely or accurately disclose to the patient’s family the medical mismanagement that led to the patient’s adverse clinical outcome, e.g., death!
      • The VA-OIG concluded the failure to screen, isolate, and evaluate the patient resulted in potential COVID-19 exposure to staff, patients, and the public when the patient moved through facility grounds.VA 3

What was not covered in the scope of the VA-OIG investigation was whether the staff had proper training on the written policies or if training had been suspended due to the “pandemic health emergency.”  Failure of training has been a running and recurring theme for the VA before the pandemic, and the failures of training have led to thousands of “adverse clinical outcomes” at the VA, up to and even including death.  Yet, as evidenced in this example, small decisions lead to catastrophic events.  The infected patient was mentally unstable and missing for four days; how many people interacted with the patient as a superspreader event?  Who is at blame at this VAMC for this event, the leaders!  They failed their people, failed this patient, and failed this family!

Detective 4Before continuing, we must pause and take a moment to send heartfelt congratulations to two VA Health Care Systems (VAHCS) who passed their comprehensive healthcare inspections (CHIp), if not with flying colors with significant improvement, and are deserving of the highest praise.  Would the leaders of the Fort Harrison VAHCS in Montana and the Western Colorado VAHCS in Grand Junction please stand and take a bow.  Your improvements, conduct, and capacity to achieve reflect that success is possible with good leadership.  Keep up the good work; find ways to improve daily, and may continual success be ever yours!

Finally, we come to a regular topic, the failure of the VA as a whole entity to manage to pass a simple audit on financial matters and the continuing debacle where hiring is concerned during the pandemic.  Let me refresh your memories on the hiring debacle; first, the VA-OIG found that VISN leaders “were generally pleased with the “flexibility” provided during the pandemic for speedier hiring.”  What did the American people get for reduced hiring practices at the VA?  More criminal employees, more employees with shady pasts, more employees with sticky fingers, and more employees who could not find employment in public schools, now working for the federal government.VA 3

How did that relaxing of hiring practices work out for the American people and the veterans receiving care; not very well!  But, let’s all relax; the VISN leaders are “generally pleased.”  Frankly, I would be shocked if anything ruffled the VISN leaders’ feathers long enough for them to care; they are mostly at the top of their career ladders and failing a presidential appointment to Washington, know they are set for life.  So, why rock the boat?!?!

As for financial audits, the VISN leaders know that money continuously is appropriated to carry them and their poor decisions forward.  Just ask the Denver VAMC where the construction cost overruns are still costing the taxpayers, and no one was ever held liable for that boondoggle or any other crime and scheme for that matter.

Question 3Why?  Why are victims left to rot, the assaulters and victimizers promoted, and the VA as an organization left in the hands of disreputable, dishonest, unethical, and immoral people?  Why is the VA a culture of corruption, greed, envy, sloth, and disinterest when the US military is the exact opposite?  America is not what is found in the halls of the VA, why has the VA been allowed to become something anathema to the American people?

Knowledge Check!Great Britain, you find similar in your halls of government.  Your people are amazing; your government workers are just as despicable and deleterious as the American VA, IRS, and DMV.  Australia, great people, absurdly detestable government workers.  France, interesting people, but the government employee seems to have been drug from the bottom of the scum sucked from the Seine.  I have met incredible people in Italy, Greece, Germany, South Korea, etc., but the story rings true everywhere; the government does not represent you.  Pobrecito; what has happened?

© 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.

Ineffective Governance – Chronicling the VA

I-CareIn a scheme fit to fully infuriate patients and pad wallets, the VA providers prescribe medications; generally, the medication provided is a cheap knock-off, a generic mixture, or drugs with rebate incentives where the hospital providers are “encouraged” to use one drug more than another and the “higher cost” is rebated back the hospital in a profit-sharing scheme.  All these schemes and more play out at your local hospital and VA facilities, so please do not think this is industry-specific to the government.  However, as proved by the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) – Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) reports, t improper controls and governance wastes the rebates, harms patients, and still cannot get the programs correct.

Angry Wet ChickenI have three prescriptions hindered by the pharmacy practices of the VA, where the knock-off drug is useless, the mixture of the medication does not do as well as the original medicines prescribed, and where the cost of an ingredient has changed one medication to another and made the prescription less effective to the point where more medication is required for less overall effectiveness.  If the patient has to take more medication, does that mean that the cost savings never happened or that the cost savings were pushed down to the customer?  Does the patient even have a voice in the pharmaceutical decisions?  Why?

We begin the VA-OIG reports with a New Jersey man, who from 2017 thru 2020 stole more than $8.2 million in HIV medication from the VA.  Where were the supervisors when procurement officers for the VA over-ordered medication, stole the excess, sold the stolen goods, and pocketed the profits?  Where were the oversight accountants?  Where were the hospital directors?  People had to know, yet somehow the scheme could exist and thrive; this is as much a failure of leadership as it is ineffective governance, poor inventory control, and useless organizational controls.  Truly a pathetic example of VA leadership!VA 3

On the topic of ineffective governance of pharmaceutical contracts, and diversions of drugs, the VA-OIG report the following:

The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) spent about $6.6 billion on prescription drugs in fiscal year (FY) 2019. Most were dispensed to veterans by medical facility pharmacies. VHA pharmacies can return drugs that become damaged or expire before use through a reverse distributor for credit or destruction. In FY 2019, VHA expected to receive about $52 million from drug returns.  The VA-OIG found VHA pharmacy chiefs did not effectively implement the program and did not follow requirements in VA’s contract with the reverse distributor, Pharma Logistics. These issues increased the risk of drug diversion and ultimately put about $18.1 million at risk. Pharmacy chiefs did not always secure, and track drugs held for return or complete required analyses to maximize returns. They also failed to meet contract requirements to return for credit-only drugs due to expire within 120 days. VA’s National Contract Service and network contracting officers needed to do more to ensure contract terms were met. The Office of the Deputy Under Secretary for Health for Policy and Services and the Office of the Deputy Under Secretary for Health for Operations and Management did not effectively govern the program or communicate requirements to medical facilities” [emphasis mine].

VA 3Someone help me out, for I cannot understand how incompetence can be designed into these systems, policies, procedures, and responsible parties retain their positions of power.  What happened in 2018, 2017, 2016, and earlier?  We have a single fiscal year (FY) snapshot at a program that is an absolute failure.  By any measurable standard, that should have ignited a full audit of previous years until finding a successful year when the program worked.  Will there be a follow-up to this investigation to see if the VA-OIG’s recommendations are followed and implemented?  The VA-OIG has the leadership caught dead to rights on ineffective governance of a program worth $6.6 Billion to the American Taxpayer, and no accountability or responsibility of personnel is to be found anywhere.  Why?

Plato 2In a separate investigation, the VA-OIG found:

In October 2020, VA ended its contract with Pharma Logistics.  The vendor continues to process and issue final invoices to facilities as the returned drugs become eligible for and receive manufacturer credit. The final invoice process will continue until at least April 2022.  VHA medical facility pharmacies lost at least an estimated $2.1 million worth of drug return credits because pharmacy chiefs did not always effectively monitor or review job settlement statements before Pharma Logistics issued final invoices.  In addition, although the vendor established a dashboard that provided information on the status of drug return credits at the facility level, it cannot provide a national report on all outstanding credits.  This hurt VHA’s ability to maximize potential drug return credits and minimize the risk of lost credits.  VHA will continue to be unable to ensure it is receiving all credits for drugs returned by medical facilities if pharmacy chiefs do not routinely monitor preliminary invoices, reconcile job settlement statements to identify outstanding credits, and request extensions to final invoices to allow additional time for credit processing. This risk will persist for any future drug return contract(s)—whether awarded nationally or locally—if the reimbursement structure remains the same” [emphasis mine].VA 3

Did you catch that; the vendor created software to help track medications, making it easier to return medicines, and the VA pharmacy chiefs could not follow the dashboard and increased the risk of losing money for the VHA.  You were hired to perform a job; a collateral duty of your job is inventory management, tools are provided and supported to aid you in making decisions, and you refuse to use these tools.  How is this the vendor’s fault?  Why do you still retain your position?  Ineffective governance is barely the tip of the VA’s problematic iceberg created the good ship America has hit!

Liars, Thieves, and Fraud Artists Beware

GavelA Norwood, Massachusetts woman has been indicted, remains presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, by a jury of her peers, for stealing social security and workman’s compensation benefits.  The Norwood woman’s actions are continuing to support the claim that complexity breeds criminal abuse.  Unfortunately, also proving that the government is not doing their jobs in checking tax records before providing benefits.

A man from Georgia has pled guilty to running a Ponzi scheme and defraud the American government during the COVID pandemic.  Frankly, I am thrilled to see another fraudster being stopped before his crimes become astronomical in scale.  I remain convinced that the government procurement system is wide open to abuse, and the complexity of the procurement system is too costly, cumbersome, and risk inviting.  The criminals see too much opportunity in the government procurement system, and the complexity breeds the ability to lie, steal, cheat the American taxpayer.

QuestionThe following remains a case where there are too many lawyers and not enough truth to ascertain what in the world is going on.  If you have further insight, please weigh in.  “Sunrhys LLC, a landlord and property management company, headquartered in Tacoma, Washington, agreed to pay $16,618 to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act by overcharging a tenant and by fraudulently obtaining federal funds from a federal program designed to provide housing to homeless Veterans. The United States alleged that Sunrhys violated the agreement and the HUD-VA Support Housing program requirements by fraudulently overcharging a veteran for monthly rent between July 2019 and April 2020.”

Highlights, Audits, and Inspections

July 2021 – Highlights:

Each month, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) publishes highlights of our investigative work, congressional testimony, and oversight reports. Each month’s highlights are meant to provide a brief overview of the most significant OIG work conducted in that period.”

blue-money-burningThe VA-OIG conducted a financial efficiency review of the Miami VAHCS.  From the findings, the VHA, VBA, National Cemeteries, specifically, and the VA generally, could learn much about fiscal responsibility.  But this was already well documented!  The VA has never successfully passed an audit with transparency, accountability, and responsibility; why am I the only person demanding to know why?  Want to laugh; the VA-OIG recommends “more scrutiny” for financial transactions to the VA as a recommendation.  Like the current system for scrutiny is working, and just a bit more effort will help.  Go ahead and read the report for more specifics; my stomach cannot handle writing about the gross inefficiencies, the actual harm, and out-of-control governance failures.  Fiscal insanity is one thing; what is occurring at the Miami VAHCS is beyond insane and bordering on the unbelievable!  Almost the beginning of the Twilight Zone.

Survived the VAThe Sheridan VAMC in Wyoming continues to be performing well and deserves hearty congratulations for the results of their latest comprehensive healthcare inspection.  I prefer to issue congratulations than butt-kickings, and the congratulations are well deserved.  Keep up the good work moving forward.

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
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