The Year-End Maelstrom! – More VA Shenanigans! (Where is the accountability?)

2021 has finally ended, but before it ended, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) – Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) increased the pace, and the following is but a taste of the year-end insanity foisted into my inbox.  With more than 45 emails to sift thru, some of the topics had to be culled, and I regret that I had to cull the emails.  Each and every VA-OIG report deserves to be scrutinized, evaluated, and the actors punished, many times with criminal court.  I don’t know what’s worse, summating these stories or getting hit with a truck; seeing as I have been hit by a truck, I think the truck is easier.

We begin the recount of VA-OIG stories with another veteran, deceased because the VA Medical Center refused to do their job and provide continuity of care after a 33-day hospital stay.  Leaving me wondering if this was intentional malpractice due to the cost of the veteran to the VA.  Listen to the findings of the VA-OIG, then make your own decision.

The Malcom Randall VAMC’s interdisciplinary team (IDT) failed to develop a discharge plan that adequately ensured patient safety and continuity of care.  The Malcom Randall VAMC did not have a discharge planning policy that outlined IDT membership, communication expectations, or roles in discharge planning.  The OIG found that the occupational therapy provider did not verbally communicate a new recommendation for a home safety assessment or take action to stop the discharge until the safety concerns were addressed.  Additionally, an attending physician failed to review written recommendations for home healthcare services from consultative and ancillary providers before composing the discharge plan for the patient.  The social worker, who had significant responsibility for ensuring the adequacy and safety of the patient’s discharge plan, also failed to incorporate recommendations by the occupational therapy provider and failed to discuss and offer home health services to manage the patient’s venous leg ulcer and monitor infection of the right leg.  The OIG also found that social workers did not consistently complete thorough and detailed psychosocial assessments that would be pertinent to discharge planning.

Remember when the media became hysterical when then VP Candidate Gov. Sarah Palin suggested ObamaCare would institute “Death Panels?”  Bureaucrats decided that the government had invested sufficient money into a patient and was going to stop providing medical care.  When this media hissy-fit was going on, I claimed that the VA had been exercising this right to discontinue care for a long time.  Several people took umbrage at this commentary; yet, what do we find from the VA-OIG, a dead veteran, five recommendations by the VA-OIG to do the job these “providers” were already hired to perform, and I am left thinking, “Death Panel in action.”

What else should I conclude with no accountability, responsibility, and consequences?

On the topic of holding a job with responsibility and not being held accountable, we find another hit to the VA and their lack of IT/IS security.  Desiring brevity but passing along factual information, the following summary has been condensed:

The Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) standardizes security and risk assessments for cloud technologies for federal agencies, including VA.  In April 2019, the VA Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) received allegations that VA’s Office of Information and Technology’s (OIT’s) Project Special Forces (PSF) was not following FedRAMP policies or VA policy for deploying software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications.

      • The VA-OIG found that OIT granted security authorizations for applications FedRAMP did not authorize.
          • Eight of the nine applications cited by the complainant were used on the VA network—some without FedRAMP or VA authorization.
          • Another three applications were approved to operate on VA’s network without FedRAMP authorization.
      • The OIG did not substantiate that PSF-developed applications were improperly managed outside the VA Enterprise Cloud group.
      • PSF did not follow VA security requirements in developing interfaces that allow third parties to “plug into” the VA to send and retrieve data.
          • OIT personnel stated, “no formal OIT authorization process until April 2019.” After that date, the review team did not find instances of VA-authorized applications without FedRAMP authorization.
      • OIT staff “apparently” misunderstood the FedRAMP authorization requirements for SaaS applications containing data classified as less sensitive.

Please note if you think the VA IT/IS performance has improved since April 2019.  You are sadly mistaken, as in 2021, there have been three major VA-OIG reports declaring how IT/IS systems at the VA remain insecure, failing legislative mandates for basic security, and are hopelessly too expensive and useless.  I have two VA-Apps on my phone, both of which work “sometimes,” and never sufficiently support the end user.  Worse, these apps do not interface with the old software the VA is helplessly tied to while the new software continues to prove its uselessness and security problems in real-world beta testing.

Tell me, would you trust the government, any of the alphabet agencies, with your child to babysit?  If not, why do we trust the government to secure our identity?  If so, please elaborate, for I would love to know of a government/NGO operating with trust and efficiency.

Continuing under the heading of failure to perform the job hired for, we find the VA-OIG issuing a total of 20 recommendations to Vet Centers.  The Vet Centers included record keeping of suicidal veterans seeking mental health support as a point of reference.  Not for the first time, but I keep hoping it’s the last.  The VA continues to fail veterans, abuse veterans actively, and take advantage of veterans, and I remain unconvinced this torture of their customers is not intentional.  Maybe not all employees, for I have met some great employees, but the leadership appears hellbent on killing as many veterans as possible.

Why isn’t this big news, huge headlines, and a major story to the corporate media?  Where is the coverage?  You cannot convince me that 1)You are not aware of this story and 2) That you are unfamiliar with its implications.

VA statement on GPO printing and mailing delay

WASHINGTONDue to supply chain and staffing shortages, the vendor contracted by the Government Publishing Office to provide printing services for the Department of Veterans Affairs is experiencing delays in printing and mailing notification letters to Veterans and claimants.  The disruption may impact the ability of some claimants to meet required deadlines via written correspondence with the VA.

In response to the mailing delays and to protect the best interest of claimants, the Veterans Benefits Administration is extending its response period by 90-calendar days for claimants with letters dated between July 13, 2021, and Dec. 31, 2021.

For those not aware, everything in the bureaucracy abbreviated as the VA is time-sensitive.  Miss a deadline, and you have no opportunity to recoup lost time without investing significant amounts of resources.  Since I continue to be in an embroiled battle with the VA over not receiving a proper decision in 2004, time delays represent problems untold due to budget cuts and bureaucracy, and the VBA and VHA bureaucracies will do everything they can not to help you.  Then we add the time delays, and the consequences can be disastrous.  Think veterans dying with an active application for benefits, and you come close to how big this story is, and not covering it with wall-to-wall coverage is the epitome of lackluster asininity!

It took dead veterans on waiting lists to get bad press through the Media fawning over President Obama; what will it take to penetrate the media quilt for Biden?  Continuing under the heading of failing to do the job you were hired to perform, we find another VA-OIG comprehensive healthcare inspection (CHIp).  Guess what; this one is beyond utterly dismal and flagrantly reprehensible!

The administration and delivery of care to female veterans continues at its expected and atrocious, slovenly pace, being outstripped by one-winged butterflies.  How can the VA Leadership continue to keep their jobs when they allow such incorrigible behavior from lower staff members?  Would the elected Representatives and Senators address this question?  You were hired to scrutinize the government; that is the only other job you have after writing fair and equitable legislation to all citizens.  Why should you be re-elected when this behavior abounds, and you refuse to scrutinize the executive branch officers?

Consider the following,  “The VA-OIG audit team estimated that improper payments for acupuncture and chiropractic care amounted to about $136.7 million during fiscal years 2018 and 2019.”  Continuing, “The audit team also found that VHA did not always follow guidance when reauthorizing acupuncture and chiropractic care.  Not documenting assessments of prior treatments before authorizing additional care may interfere with veterans’ treatment.”  Failure to ensure your underlings have established proper processes and procedures that are effective and followed is a prerequisite to holding a leadership position.  Where is the leadership at the VA?  Where is elected representative scrutiny?  What are the consequences for doing a poor job of cleaning the house and protecting the taxpayer?

How big is this problem?  Try upwards of $341 Million, on top of the $136 Million already discussed, and before the full force and cost are known on delays in properly notifying veterans in a timely and efficient manner.

The VA-OIG audit team found that some providers are billing VA at a significantly higher rate for high-level evaluation and management services than their peers in the same specialty.  The team determined that in fiscal year (FY) 2020, more than 37,900 non-VA providers billed and were paid for significantly more high-level evaluation and management codes than were all providers in that specialty on average.  These non-VA providers received about $39.1 million (13 percent) of the approximately $303.6 million paid for all non-VA evaluation and management services.

Additionally, some providers billed separately for evaluation and management services when the global surgery package was in effect.  This package is supposed to cover all surgery-related services for a set period.  The review team identified more than 45,600 providers were compensated about $37.8 million in FY 2020 for these evaluation and management services.

Improper payments were not easy to detect because VHA staff did not retrospectively audit medical documentation as required.  Additionally, the OIG found no evidence that VHA or contractors trained non-VA providers on documenting evaluation and management services, similar to how VA providers are qualified.  The OIG determined VHA risked overpaying for evaluation and management services by about $19.9 million in FY 2020.”

While discussing audits, failed processes, and the lack of consequences for senior leadership, we must break and wish a “Happy Birthday” to the audit hits turning 10, 12, 15, 21, and older.  It never ceases to amaze me how these financial failures can continue to age, and nobody is held accountable!  May you age out and finally be corrected!  Would the elected leaders of America like to know why the VA is consistently failing financial audits?

VA continued to be challenged in consistently enforcing established policies and procedures throughout its geographically dispersed portfolio of outdated applications and systems.”

Now, explain why we should re-elect any elected official to office?

Elected officials, your job is to scrutinize and write legislation; that is what we, the electorate hired you to do.  Do you realize the far-reaching consequences of your failure to perform your job?  Let me introduce you to an example:

Anthony Medrano, a veteran of the US Marine Corps and former employee of VA, admitted that between approximately November 2015 and May 2020, he submitted claims to VA in which he purported to be disabled to obtain caregiver benefits for his wife, when he was actually able-bodied and even participated in fitness challenges and coached youth sports.  Medrano was sentenced in federal court to eight months in custody for defrauding VA out of more than $183,000.  He executed this scheme while employed by VBA as a veterans service representative, a position in which he explained benefit programs and entitlement criteria to veterans applying for VA benefits.”

Or the following:

Barry Wayne Hoover of Tampa, Florida, a veteran of the United States Navy, exaggerated the extent of his visual impairment to receive VA disability benefits to which he was not entitled.  Specifically, Hoover manipulated the results of subjective tests of his peripheral vision to reflect that he had only a five-degree visual field and was legally blind.  VA found that Hoover was 100 percent disabled based on those manipulated tests.  Hoover was found guilty of theft of government funds and making a false statement to a federal agency.  He faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison.  His sentencing hearing is scheduled for March 2022.”

How about this:

Professional Family Care Services, Inc. (PFCS), a home health services company based in Fayetteville, North Carolina, has agreed to pay more than $45,000 to settle civil False Claims Act allegations related to fraudulent billings for work by a recently convicted felon under their employ.  During 2015 and 2016, PFCS billed VA for home health services provided to W.R., an Army veteran, even though, at that time, W. R. was residing with the company’s employee, Certified Nurse Aide Tracey McNeill.  PFCS based its billing for those services on falsified timesheets provided by McNeill, who failed to provide both the time and quality of care required under the VA program.  After several months living with McNeill, purportedly receiving home health services provided by McNeill through PFCS, W. R. had to be admitted to the hospital.  He was extremely malnourished and ultimately died within a few days of admission.  Earlier in 2021, McNeill was convicted of wire fraud for her misconduct related to W. R., sentenced to 12 months and one day in federal prison, and ordered to pay over $90,000 in restitution.”

Morality is exemplified by leadership and then exercised under scrutiny.  Because you, the elected officials, refuse to be morally upright and scrutinize the government, the executive branch officers and employees have become careless, irresponsible, and taken the American Taxpayer for a ride!

Each time the VA-OIG reports an investigation beginning with the death of a veteran, the root cause is always a failure of people to do the job they were hired or contracted to perform, and the casualty is a dead or severely injured veteran.  The culling of the email included a urologist who performed procedures, puncturing internal organs, and not notifying the patient.  Several other CHIp summaries reflected the egregious and despicable leadership hidden at VHAs and VAMCs across the country.  Other Vet Centers possess failing bureaucrats just trying to hide until they reach retirement and escape.

America, you deserve better from the alphabet agencies representing the executive branch!  Fellow veterans, please do not give up hope; we can still help protect this country from those enemies domestically located who make your lives a living hell.  Please pass the word, these VA-OIG investigations deserve to be read, and questions asked!  Elections are coming; join the fight as a citizen and run for office.

© 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.