“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.

Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes? – The Role of the Citizen in Government

Public Service NoteThe links in this article are essential to review.  If you know better resources, please let me know in the comments.  Thank you!

QuestionIn The Satires, VI, Juvenal poses a question of great importance, “Who will watch the watchmen?”  As more and more dirt on a host of politicians comes to the fore, as China expands its heinous reach in the Pacific Ocean, threatening trade and disrupting lives, as the Russia/Ukraine crisis grows, we, the citizens, are left asking this question.  There is only one answer, we, the citizens of representative governments, are charged with watching the watchmen.  A more critical and cogent point has not presented itself in these writings.

Regularly I write about the findings of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) – Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG).  As a disabled veteran, a person falsely arrested, injured by VA Police Officers, and flagged fallaciously as a “behavioral problem,” I am a watcher of the watchmen and report on the findings.  Unfortunately, the VA has turned both a blind eye and a deaf ear to the VA-OIG and my summarizations of the VA-OIG’s conclusions.  You, the taxpayer, need to know what the government is doing in your name and with your tax dollars.  We, are the watchmen tasked with watching the watcher (elected political officials), who were hired (elected) to scrutinize the government.  Is our role in the direct representative government of this constitutional republic clear?Apathy

Did you know your neighbors sued the Baltimore Public School system for breach of public trust?  For more than 40 years, the Baltimore Public School system has intellectually abused children and misappropriated public funds through forced taxation.  The unelected school district has done this while tax revenues drop precipitously, students cannot read (yet still pass high school graduation), and the neighborhoods in Baltimore become more unsafe.  Illiteracy is directly tied to crime rates, poverty, and helplessness; yet, the school board in Baltimore cannot even be bothered to allow parents the right of school choice.  What is the role of citizens in Baltimore, the same as it is everywhere else; protect children, scrutinize government, elect different leaders, and watch more closely those elected to protect the rights of all citizens.  “Who will watch the watchmen;” you are the watchers of the watchmen, and you are being lulled to sleep!

In our constitutional republic, we have three co-equal branches of government, the executive, the legislative, and the judicial.  President Biden is reported to be in full swing of destroying the power of the judicial.  Recently the world watched aghast while a wholly unqualified person was measured for a position with the Supreme Court, the court of last resort in American Jurisprudence.  President Biden is on record claiming he would nominate the first black woman to the supreme court; after ensuring that two other more qualified women of color were refused nomination earlier in his career.  Do you sense a hypocrite, liar, and charlatan?  The judge nominated cannot tell the difference between a man and a woman, allows sexual predators to have lighter sentences as she legislated from the bench.  Yet, we, the watchers, are expected to believe she is remarkably qualified and uniquely capable of sitting on the Supreme Court.  I have serious reservations, not because she is a woman or a person of color.  My reservations rest solely upon her record as a judge, which I find detestable at best.Patriotism

Everyone is aware, COVID-19 has plagued the world since late 2019, originating in China, and the costs have been exorbitant and extreme.  Only until the Russia/Ukraine crisis came along did the global media find a new story for wall-to-wall, 24/7 coverage like feckless beasts fighting for a bone.  Repeating only for emphasis, “Where has the opposition party been during COVID-19?”  The watchers, every single one, from the mayor to the US House and Senate, went to sleep and allowed bureaucrats to overcome law and common sense to the detriment of every single citizen.  Where did the watchers go, and why did they leave the citizenry to the incautious, ineffectual, inefficacious, and abortive bureaucrats who fired professionals, broke the law without regard, and still are running free?  Liberties, rights, freedoms, were stolen without consideration, and the opposition party was nowhere to be found.  Indeed, “Who will watch the watchmen?”

The Duty of AmericansOn the topic of China, why is Marco Rubio the only member of the US Congress willing to say aloud what the citizenry is wondering?  2020 closed with China owning $1.9 BILLION or roughly 192,000 acres of prime American farmland.  Want to know where those crops grown on American soil go; I bet you can guess they aren’t traveling to US Supermarkets.  China is still buying prime farmland, and nobody in the US House or Senate is willing to listen to farmers, ranchers, and dairymen about how their land is being purchased by China and they run out of business.  Rep. Dan Newhouse was quoted regarding farmland ownership by Chinese investors as a national security issue.  “The current trend in the United States is leading us toward the creation of a Chinese-owned agricultural land monopoly.  There are currently no federal safeguards against the creation of this monopoly.”  In response to Rep. Dan Newhouse, Rep Grace Meng proclaimed, “Can we honestly say that this Amendment, which singles out one country, won’t have repercussions on Asian-Americans across our country?  Let’s include all of our adversaries.”

Who will watch the watchmen?” An honest and fair question.  I agree that no enemy of America should be allowed to own land inside America.  Not that Saudi Arabia is an enemy to America, but it is important to note not just China is purchasing farms and ranchland in America.  Worse, fresh water in California is regularly purchased to grow alfalfa for shipping to the Saudi Kingdom.  California keeps declaring they are in a drought.  The water crisis continues with or without Saudi purchases through the government’s mismanagement of resources, the need for liquid capital to keep the debt wolves away from the door, and the silly environmental laws.  “Who will watch the watchmen; is apt and very important when discussing national security issues, the acquisitions of foreign entities inside America, and the need to meet citizen needs before foreign markets.quote-mans-inhumanity

On the topic of Biden, specifically the Hunter Biden laptop and the shady deals with China, one has to ask about the timing of China’s massive land purchases ramping up.  At the same time, Joey was Vice President, and Hunter was slipping the “Big Man” money.  The Hunter Biden laptop story has been closely followed since October 2020, and the revelations released in the various news outlets on this story leave me appalled, alarmed, and amazed.  I keep asking myself about the timing, why Joey was so valuable an investment, and the answer lies in his access to Obama.  One of the media pundits discussed how Obama and Clinton are tied into the sale of access by Joey, and not all of the financial analysis is completed even now.  Leaves me asking who got paid and why during the Obama presidency?  A careful records review shows China going on a land purchasing spree simultaneously, and more questions for Secretary of State Clinton need to be addressed immediately!  “Who will watch the watchmen?”Beware of Scam Phone Calls and Emails Disguised as Vendors : The New York City District Council ...

Detective 3The US Constitution, in the 10th Amendment, provides all the authority any citizen needs to demand the watchers scrutinize the government and, if required, replace the watchers.

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

We, the citizens, own the direct representative government in America, and it is time for those elected to fear the citizenry.  Not because we have become violent, but because we are firing them, electing new representatives, and holding those removed from office accountable for their mismanagement while in elected office.  Our country is being sold out from under our feet by those elected to office, and it is time they are held accountable before the bar of justice.  Our national security is a hiss and an insult to them, all while they become enriched, and their children funnel money, and I am sick to death of seeing this nepotism.  We, the watchers of the watchmen, deserve answers from transparent and speedy investigations that conclude with people wearing distinctive clothing and permanently disgraced.

Knowledge Check!How have the watchmen become millionaires while holding public office?  This single question should be the watch cry of every single citizen in America until they are all held accountable and disgraced.  You deserve better watchers.  Our children deserve better watchers.  The world deserves better representatives of the people, by the people, and for the people.  Remember this in November!

© 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.

Fed UP! – More Detestable Bureaucratism from the VA.

I-CareI hate being lied to!  More than I hate being lied to, I detest, with every fiber in my being bureaucrats and the inanity they promulgate to excuse their stupidity and throw a wrench into the works.  Today I suffered through yet another call with my VA-appointed primary care provider (PCP).  Not an online conference, but a phone call.  Who was in the office with the provider and why?  How can I guarantee my HIPAA information during a phone call on an unsecured line?  How do I know who I am talking to?  These concerns and more arise when you receive a phone call to discuss important medical information, and my PCP does not care!  My PCP refuses to use the VA’s tools to conduct patient appointments and instead creates workarounds; what an ingenious method for telling lies and spreading falsehoods as bureaucratic inertia; I’m so thrilled!

The PCP continuously claimed all my imaging is “normal” and “unremarkable.”  The pain experienced cannot be related, and the sources are questionable.  In polite speak, the PCP is trying to tell me it’s all in my head; a previous provider from the VA already used this as an excuse for not performing their job.  For more than 10-years, I have been fighting the VAHCS for help in reducing pain and in getting to root causes for the problems experienced.  Yet, today’s call was just more of the same BS wrapped in feel-good words, platitudes, and bureaucratic non-answers.  Honestly, after the third time the doctor related, the imaging was normal and unremarkable; I lost my cherub-like demeanor!  I did not swear until I got off the phone, but I am not anywhere close to a happy patient.

Honest question, does the VAHCS troll medical school for the bottom of the barrel, those people who can barely pass a class, let alone qualify for medical privileges?  I need competence, and I get useless lumps.  I ask questions, and the snowflakes pop out of the woodwork like ticks on a deer or fleas on a dog.  I am thoroughly sick of being treated like a know-nothing inconvenience.  The most important person in the VA marketed PACT Team is the patient who will be active, engaged, and informed.  The second most important member of the VA Marketed PACT team is the Primary Care Provider.VA 3

Since 2002 I have had a problem in my gastro-intestinal system; since 2010, the pain has been debilitating, and four years ago, I was diagnosed with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.  Today, 22 March 2022, the PCP reviewed the problems area on my electronic health record (EHR), which coincidentally resides at the top of the electronic health record and was mentioned four different times by myself, and noted that non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is not listed.  Tell me, how would that make you feel?  The PCP ordered today’s call before the recent imaging appointment on my abdomen and pelvis, but the provider, who called me almost 30-minutes late, did not even look up my record before calling.  Had not studied the imaging results and formulated a plan of action to move forward, yet as the second most important member of the PACT team, I am supposed to trust this bureaucrat; I think NOT!

Through the miracle of modern technology, I had read and researched the imaging results more than 24 hours before the scheduled appointment to discuss the results.  I came prepared, but the provider could not be bothered to prepare for a call they demanded, then had the sheer effrontery to keep repeating that the imaging is “normal” and “unremarkable.”  Then the provider has the gall to tell me, repeatedly, that I was yelling, when in fact, she only did not like being spoken to with emphasis and insistence that she do her job!  Yes, I called her a bureaucrat and a snowflake, whereupon she threatened to hang up the call, but I disconnected first.  I miss those old rotary phones you leased from AT&T, they had heft, and when slammed, they made you feel better about disconnecting a call.PACT_model

From research, it is abundantly clear that pain from hernias can show up or be felt in areas far removed from the hernia site.  Constipation is both an indicator and a symptom of hernias.  Muscle weakness in the legs, burning sensations, and much more are all indicators of a hernia.  Yet, when I asked about all the other pains and problems experienced in my abdomen, I was told the hernia could not be the root cause, and the imaging is “normal and unremarkable,” but the PCP could not answer why these other symptoms are unrelated when asked.  Where is the research, seeing as “Dr. Google,” is discouraged; Johns Hopkins and the Mayo Clinic, plus I have access to the medical libraries at the University of Phoenix and Grand Canyon University.  With less than five minutes of research, I can locate and read data from reputable sources to form the basis of questions to ask a PCP, which is encouraged of patients by the VA.  Yet, the doctor cannot be trusted to provide any intelligent data, do any preparation, or knowledgeably speak to a symptom list; when will the VA answer why their PCP cannot do their job?PACT 1

If only I were the only person experiencing these problems and issues with the VA.

Former VA cardiologist John Giacomini of Atherton, California, pleaded guilty to one count of felony abusive sexual contact.  In the fall of 2017, Giacomini repeatedly subjected a subordinate electrophysiologist to unwanted and unwelcome sexual contact, including hugging, kissing, and intimate touching while on VA premises.  On 10 November 2017, the victim explicitly told Giacomini she was not interested in a romantic or sexual relationship with him.  Nevertheless, Giacomini continued to subject his subordinate to unwanted sexual advances and touching, culminating on 20 December 2017, when Giacomini turned out the lights in an office, pulled the victim out of her chair, and fondled her until a janitor opened the office door and interrupted the encounter.  The victim later resigned from her position at the VA, citing Giacomini’s behavior as her principal reason for leaving.  Sentencing is scheduled for 12 July 2022.VA 3

Will the VA-OIG troll through this former provider’s employment history seek out the other victims, or will this be swept under the rug not to tarnish the VA?  Having been an employee of the VA, will anyone, EVER, look at how employment law is abused by the leaders in the VA and correct the problems?  This incident should never have occurred, nor should it have taken years of abuse to end this despicable behavior.  Yet, what does the VA do, shut both eyes and pretend it does not occur in consequence of the designed culture at the VA.

Why did the victim have to tell another adult that their behavior was unwanted, and quit their job, before the VA took action?  Will there be an inquiry from congress?  Will any lawyers stand up and demand the VA correct this detestable hole that allows this behavior to promulgate?  I am not holding my breath!

Speaking of electronic medical health records, the VA-OIG has issued three separate reports on this topic, and none of them paint the VA with anything that shows competence.  In the report titled:

Medication Management Deficiencies after the New Electronic Health Record Go-Live at the Mann-Grandstaff VAMC in Spokane, Washington.”  The following findings were related:

Deficiencies in medication data migration and management resulted in patients having inaccurate or incomplete medications in their records or made filling prescriptions accurately more difficult—all of which can affect patient care and safety.  Areas of concern included:

(1) Data migration
(2) Medication formulary availability
(3) Medication order processing
(4) Provider notification and alerts
(5) Controlled substance tracking
(6) Prescription drug monitoring program documentation
(7) Medication reconciliation
(8) Medication list accuracy.”VA 3

As previously stated, I am not as nice and never politically correct.  VA-OIG, please allow me to correct your assertion, “Deficiencies in medication data migration and management resulted in patients having inaccurate or incomplete medications in their records or made filling prescriptions accurately more difficultall of which DO negatively affect patient care and safety.”  Trust is the first casualty in war and in dealing with the VA in ANY form, manner, or method.  When you cannot trust your data to remain confidential, the entire electronic medical record system can only be rated as UNACCEPTABLE!  The upgrading of the electronic medical records system at the VA is a 10-year, multi-billion-dollar fiasco, and as a taxpayer, I am done paying for this system!

Not to be outdone by the medication side of veteran care experiencing failures, the following VA-OIG report was issued:

Care Coordination Deficiencies after the New Electronic Health Record Go-Live at the Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center in Spokane, Washington.”

The EHR rollout caused problems in coordinating veterans’ care, ranging from the flags for patients at high risk for suicide not transferring to veterans and their care providers having trouble accessing video appointments and patient portal messaging.  Tracking outcomes were sometimes lost, and disappearing laboratory orders also resulted.  Although the OIG did not identify associated patient deaths, future deployment of the new EHR without resolving identified deficiencies could increase risks to patient safety.”VA 3

Again, the VA-OIG is practicing political correctness instead of being specific, and upfront, the entire EHR is a disaster, the cost is prohibitive, and any fool should see it is time to pull the plug, cut the losses, and hold the leadership accountable!  Yet, what do we see; the EHR is progressing into infinity and beyond at a snail’s pace!

The final nail in the VA’s EHR coffin should be that nobody involved can communicate with the IT helpdesk for the EHR as the IT ticketing system is unreliable!  Form the VA-OIG, we find the following:

Ticket Process Concerns and Underlying Factors after the New Electronic Health Record Go-Live at the Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center in Spokane, Washington.”

The failure to process and respond to VHA staff ticketing requests for help or report concerns resulted in reporting, tracking, and resolving problems.  These deficiencies made it difficult for clinicians and administrative staff to serve patients and impeded EHR fixes that can affect future sites.  The inspection team also identified five factors contributing to the deficiencies identified in the two companion reports above: usability, training, interoperability, needed fixes, and problem resolution.”VA 3

Imagine for a moment, you are responsible for a multi-billion-dollar IT project, and one of the first issues discovered by the users is the inability to reach out for IT help; how long would you remain employed?  Would you ever expect to ever work again if any of these problems were your legacy for leading the IT improvement on a multi-billion-dollar project?  As a consultant, I know how fast you would be fired and taken to court for business losses.  Why are these leaders exempt?  Where are the blue-ribbon panels and committees demanding people be held accountable for this fiasco?EHR-VA-OIG

When the VA-OIG casually mentions that PCPs are untrustworthy and not using the current tools correctly, should the providers be issued new tools; NO!  Yet, this is the opposite of what common sense declares.  Are you, dear reader, as a taxpayer, fed UP yet?  My wife reminds me, “These problems happen in civilian hospitals.”  No, in fact, they do not.  If data migrated from one patient’s EHR to another patient’s HER, that hospital would be sued and shut down so fast by congress at the federal and state level, all before the media firestorm would have barely begun.  If a patient were jeopardized because their provider could not track medications, that patient would sue for malpractice and possibly a class-action lawsuit.  If an IT project was occurring in the civilian world, and the users could not contact the IT helpdesk, the project would be overhauled so fast, and people fired, new records would have been set.

Knowledge Check!It is time we end this charade and money pit call the Department of Veterans Affairs, and every other agency of the Federal government bloat!  The government should be leading, not lagging, where operational efficiency and fiscal sanity are concerned.  I repeat, only for emphasis, are you fed UP yet?

© 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.

New Year – Same Ol’ Disaster at the VA! – Are You Disgusted yet?

Angry Wet ChickenWords fail to describe how much I detest seeing the same abuses week-after-week, month-after-month, and year-over-year.  To witness the disaster known colloquially as The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), as told from the Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG).  Not merely witnessing but also being abused by the VA leaves such a bitter taste in my mouth.

Matthew C. McPherson of Olathe, Kansas, was sentenced to two years and four months in federal prison without parole for defrauding the government.  From September 2009 to March 2018, McPherson participated in a conspiracy to obtain contracts set aside by the federal government for award to small businesses owned and controlled by veterans, service-disabled veterans, and certified minorities.  McPherson, who is neither a certified minority nor a veteran, owned and operated construction companies that used the veteran or minority status of coconspirators to obtain federal contracts to which the companies would otherwise not be entitled.  The companies received approximately $346 million in federal contracts.  On June 3, 2019, McPherson pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and major program fraud.  In addition to his prison sentence, McPherson has forfeited to the government more than $5.5 million, which represents his share of the fraud proceeds.”

Honest question, how is this fraud any different from an elected official using insider trading to profit off the stock market?  On another note, does this sound like a plea deal?  If so, what was the deal, and who is being targeted?  Plea deals used to be rare; now, they are cropping up anytime the government has a shaky case.  Could Mr. McPherson have beaten the entire crime by using a better lawyer or connecting with a more powerful politician; of course, and that is disgusting!

I have applied for these government contracts, and the paperwork burden is immense, the bureaucrats authoritative and disreputable.  When will the bureaucrats face criminal charges for abuse of power in allowing for the defrauding of government?  Simple question, yet one to which no elected official will address.VA 3

Speaking of fraud and the need for bureaucrats needing to be held accountable:

“Dr. David Bellamah, a vascular surgeon who operates vein and surgery centers in Missoula and Kalispell, Montana, has agreed to pay the federal government $3.7 million to settle alleged False Claims Act violations.  According to the civil complaint, from January 1, 2015, to March 31, 2017, Bellamah performed medically unnecessary surgeries based on improper techniques and submitted fraudulent bills for payment to four federal healthcare programs, including Medicare, Medicaid, TRICARE, and CHAMPVA.  The settlement agreement between Bellamah and the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Montana, Department of Health and Human Services OIG, Defense Health Agency, VA, and a third party directs Bellamah to pay approximately $1.9 million in restitution and $1.8 million in additional damages.”

The article link is missing from the VA.gov website, reason unknown as of this writing.  I received an email about this story, which is why I know of it, but cannot link someone else to it.  Still, the questions remain, someone in the VA legion of bureaucrats had to have known and contributed to facilitating this fraud, and they are not being held accountable.  Why?

  • Patsy Truglia of Parkland, Florida, was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison for his role in two consecutive conspiracies to commit healthcare fraud.  According to a multiagency investigation, from January 2018 to April 2019, Truglia and his coconspirators generated medically unnecessary physicians’ orders via a telemarketing operation for durable medical equipment (DME).”
  • Ramón Julbe-Rosa pleaded guilty to 12 counts including theft of government property and introducing unapproved new drugs into the United States.  His multiple fraud schemes included defrauding the Social Security Administration and Medicare by receiving Social Security Disability Insurance benefit payments while working; fraudulently receiving unemployability benefits from VA; and falsely stating that his primary residence—purported to be in Morovis, Puerto Rico—was damaged by Hurricane Maria, leading to the fraudulent approval of a Small Business Administration Disaster loan.”
  • Wayne Bowen of Jacksonville, Florida, has pleaded guilty to aggravated identity theft for using his estranged identical twin brother’s name, Social Security card, and military discharge papers to apply for federally subsidized housing benefits.  Due to his fraudulent use of his twin’s identity.”
  • Matthew Smith of Palm Beach, Florida, has pleaded guilty to his role in a compounding pharmacy scheme that defrauded the Department of Defense’s Tricare and VA’s CHAMPVA benefit programs of approximately $88 million.  Smith admitted to his role in fraudulently billing the two insurance providers for expensive, medically unnecessary compound drugs.  To further the scheme, Smith and his coconspirators paid approximately $40 million in kickbacks to patients, patient recruiters, and doctors in exchange for them ordering expensive pain creams, scar creams, and vitamins without regard to the patients’ medical needs.”
  • Seven Texas doctors have agreed to pay more than $1.1 million to resolve False Claims Act allegations involving illegal remuneration in violation of the Anti-Kickback Statute and Stark Law.  According to a multiagency investigation, from 2015 to 2018, the doctors allegedly received thousands of dollars in illegal remuneration from eight management service organizations (MSOs) in exchange for ordering laboratory tests from Rockdale Hospital doing business as Little River Healthcare, True Health Diagnostics LLC, and Boston Heart Diagnostics Corporation.  Little River funded the illegal remuneration to the doctors in the form of volume-based commissions paid to independent contractor recruiters, who used the MSOs to pay numerous doctors for their referrals.”

?u=http3.bp.blogspot.com-CIl2VSm-mmgTZ0wMvH5UGIAAAAAAAAB20QA9_IiyVhYss1600showme_board3.jpg&f=1&nofb=1Take a moment, read the full articles reporting these crimes, and ask yourself, have ALL the guilty parties been held accountable before the law, or are some parties noticeably missing?  If you reach different conclusions, please note this in the comments, and let’s discuss.  Show me your thinking, I want to learn!

Fraud, to succeed, requires willing people in positions of authority not to do their jobs properly.  Yet, for all the rules, mandates, political attention, and legislation, the fraud continues.  Why; because if you are the approving authority and have a plausible excuse, you are never held accountable!  The situation is untenable; the maze of red tape regulations preclude honest people from participating and opens the doors for nefarious actors to swindle, cheat, steal, and profit.  Simple question, when will those legally responsible for not allowing fraudulent activities be held accountable?VA 3

The VA-OIG conducted a Comprehensive Healthcare Inspection (CHIPs) of the Charles George VAMC in Asheville, North Carolina.  Want to understand more about the quagmire of the VA personally?  Read one of these CHIP reports.  Long have I wondered how leadership could be fully measured when the leader of the hospital leadership team has been in their position for two (2) days.  The VA-OIG couches this by claiming the associate director had been in the role for 18-years.  Do you see a problem?VA 3

Where and how are veterans being abused, staff training, and the “Disruptive behavior committee.”  Some might ask, how is staff training an abuse to veterans?  What do you consider “disruptive behavior?”  Did you know if you ask a doctor questions, that doctor can report you as presenting disruptive behavior to the Federal VA Police and get the veteran charged and fined?  If you request to speak to the administrators and they refuse, you can also be charged with presenting disruptive behavior, hindering hospital operations, disturbing patients, being arrested, and fined?  The bureaucrats have designed a self-fulfilling system in the VA that protects wrong-doing and punishes anyone who dares question the status quo, and this is trained into the employees.  Worse, this is about the only training they receive that is competently delivered!

A CHIP was completed at VISN 8, the Sunshine Healthcare Network in St. Petersburg, Florida.  Congratulations are for passing the CHIP with only two recommendations for improvement.  Honestly issued praise.  My concern is the low bar for success that was surpassed, but this is not the fault of VISN 8’s leadership, but the VA leadership in Washington, DC.VA 3

Long have these articles mentioned and decried the designed incompetence found in every single process, procedure, and action taken by the VA.  It is not surprising then that design incompetence is still seen and cost resources.  Nothing new, but you, the taxpayer, need to be aware of this, for the excuses have run so thin you can read contractual mouse print through the excuses!

The history:

“In October 2017, VA entered into an interagency agreement with the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) to use its Electronic Catalog (ECAT) to order VA medical supplies and equipment not available through existing contracts.  VA created the ECAT Ordering Guide to describe VA policies and procedures for placing orders and outline the ordering officials’ responsibilities.  As of April 1, 2021, VA had spent approximately $592 million on purchases through ECAT.”

The findings:

“The VA-OIG found that the Procurement and Logistics Office (P&LO) did not govern the ECAT program adequately.

    • The ECAT Ordering Guide excludes the requirement for VA ordering officials to consider the Federal Supply Schedule (FSS) contracts for sales orders; purchasing through FSS could have saved VA up to $4.4 million.
    • The guide also incorrectly describes how to apply the Rule of Two, potentially excluding veteran-owned businesses from contracting opportunities.
    • Ordering officials did not follow documentation requirements in the ECAT Ordering Guide, and P&LO did not conduct required annual reviews of the interagency agreement.”

Do you see the designed incompetence?  The VA gets green-lighted to consolidate ordering to save time and money, then develops the processes and procedures to open the door for fraud, theft, and abuse, providing excuses for the VA-OIG to accept when responsibility and auditing occurs.  Hence, roadblocks are launched instead of saving money and reducing the government’s costs.  Instead of bringing order out of chaos, more logs of chaos are added to the fire.VA 3

Worst of all, the VA-OIG has to invest money to tell the VA common-sense solutions, couched as recommendations, to fix the problems the VA purposefully designed into the process.  That is your tax dollars at work, your neighbors losing opportunities, and your employers getting the shaft intentionally by the VA.  Again, only for emphasis, I ask, “When will the bureaucrats be held accountable for their malfeasance and culpability in abusing people, committing fraud and theft, and refusing to do their jobs properly?”

When discussing malfeasance and designed incompetence, the following inspection at the Carl T. Hayden VAMC in Phoenix, Arizona, is applicable as an example.  The VA-OIG conducted an inspection to assess allegations concerning sterile processing services.  The list of findings reveals a lot of bureaucratic shenanigans, and with my knowledge of the leadership, I deduce the shenanigans were driven by leadership at the hospital.

  • The VA-OIG found Sterile Processing Services (SPS) staff failed to don personal protective equipment in decontamination areas.
  • The VA-OIG did not substantiate that SPS staff falsified Resi-Tests by documenting the same lot number for endoscopes.
  • The VA-OIG identified missing documentation of Resi-Test results from October through December 2020 but found that the policy was followed. Leading to a question about the effectiveness of the policies and the designed incompetence in those policies and procedures, which the VA-OIG never addressed as this would have been outside the investigatory scope; more designed incompetence?
  • The VA-OIG found no infection concerns associated with inadequate reprocessing of equipment.
  • The VA-OIG did not substantiate that SPS staff failed to follow validation testing requirements for biological indicators and Bowie-Dick tests for sterilizers.
  • The VA-OIG found that SPS staff followed reprocessing steps according to standard operating procedures and instructions for use.
  • The VA-OIG did not substantiate that SPS staff did not have adequate reprocessing supplies.
  • The VA-OIG found that floor-grade instruments received in decontamination areas were discarded and not reprocessed.
  • The VA-OIG found that SPS staff reviewed instructions for loaner trays upon receipt at the facility.
  • The VA-OIG did not substantiate that SPS staff failed to receive documentation for instruments sterilized at another VA facility.
  • The VA-OIG concluded that SPS leaders were knowledgeable of the practice standards.VA 3

Again, a mixed bag of findings.  After a tumultuous year of sterile scandals, it is refreshing (almost) to observe a sterile facility operating at standard.  Draw your own conclusions about the role of the leadership in this inspection.  To me, the most critical part of sterilization of reusable equipment is the proper use of personal protective equipment, but the VA-OIG did not appear to see this as crucial as I do.  From the inspections I have experienced, failing to use personal protective equipment properly is an automatic failing grade, but the VA-OIG only made a single recommendation for improvement.

quote-mans-inhumanity-2While the above are not all the reports from the VA-OIG launching 2022, they present the bulk of the criticisms and reflect the need for greater scrutiny and improved leadership at the VA.  More to the point, these represent the danger the American public is in from a runaway government that keeps biggering (with a nod to The Lorax and Dr. Seuss)!  The VA is abusing your veteran neighbors, and you are paying for it.  Doesn’t this stir in you feelings motivating to action?  If not, please ask yourself why.  Do veterans deserve to be abused relentlessly?  Do you like being complicit in a crime perpetrated by bureaucrats, cheered on by elected officials, and paid for by your tax dollars and the future of your children through forced taxation and out-of-control debt?  The choice is yours, I know my choice, and I WILL continue to resist the government atrocities every step of the way!

© Copyright 2022 – M. Dave Salisbury
The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the images.  Quoted materials remain the property of the original author.

Weep America! – The VA Leadership is Becoming Worse! – Part 2

Angry Wet ChickenOne of the first rules in overseeing junior people working is to make available someone to answer questions, immediately, and render support if needed.  I have had the pleasure of training junior people in a myriad of tasks over the years.  When I read this Department of Veterans Affairs – Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) report, a plethora of questions arise, and I deeply question the professionalism and competence of the doctor overseeing the work of residents in a VA Hospital who are performing procedures.

  • Ophthalmology Resident Supervision – Important to note, the patient did not experience any long-term loss of sight over this issue. Congratulations to the resident and the other ophthalmology doctors present!  From the VA-OIG report we find the following:

“… The subject ophthalmologist failed to provide adequate resident supervision and entered inaccurate documentation related to supervision for a single patient case.”  Essentially, the doctor charged with overseeing residents was AWOL, and then compounded his error by falsifying patient records.  The VA-OIG report continues by claiming this falsification was the result of an oversight when using pre-recorded notes for patient files.

Draw your own conclusions.  Personally, I think this doctor needs to be released of all duties where overseeing residents is concerned.  I would also question his ethics and morals for falsifying patient records.  You hold a double position of trust, first as a doctor, second as a teacher and leader of residents, and the behavior witnessed should come with steep repercussions professionally!VA 3

Knowledge Check!On the topic of professional duties, and steep repercussions, drug interactions killed a veteran at the Marion VAMC in Illinois.  Before launching into the VA-OIG’s report, please allow me a moment of your attention.  Drug interactions can arise due to vitamin usage, over-the-counter medications, and from illegal and legal but illicit drug use.  Often, I have claimed that people are walking chemistry experiments, and even vaccines need to be carefully evaluated for drug interaction potential.  Foods can cause drug interactions due to the chemicals in the food.  Drug interactions are a growing problem and every medical professional I have spoken to admits drug interactions are becoming worse by the day.  I do not say this lightly, but I do not hold the medical professionals as fully competent in fighting the drug interaction problem due to the amount of chemicals the average person interacts with daily.  The problem is Big-Parma and the continual push towards more specialized medicines, we are going to see more drug interaction issues.  Unfortunately, drug interaction issues come with the risk of death!

From the VA-OIG report we find the following:

The VA-OIG substantiated that high cholesterol contributed to the patient’s death; however, the death certificate indicated that the primary cause of death was accidental acute multi-drug intoxication. The psychiatrist and staff failed to document providing the patient with education during a telephone encounter regarding potential side effects or adverse drug-drug interactions of medication changes. Contrary to clinical guidance, the psychiatrist prescribed long-term benzodiazepine use for a patient diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder. The psychiatrist also failed to address the patient’s two negative urine drug screens for a prescribed medication and failed to address a positive urine drug screen for cannabis. Due to COVID-19, the facility failed to launch the Psychotropic Drug Safety Initiative Phase Four Plan. The primary care provider did not comply with facility policy by failing to enter a return-to-clinic order following an appointment but could not determine if this affected the patient. Primary care and behavioral health staff did not comply with facility policy to telephone the patient or send a letter after the patient missed appointments” [emphasis mine].

The lack of staff to follow procedures and do their job, I will certainly hold them accountable for, especially since Cannabis is involved!  Please do not believe that Cannabis is a non-toxic drug, especially when mixed with other drugs, it can be the fatal trigger in a multi-drug intoxication!VA 3

At 18, low those many years ago, I took the EMT-Basic class, but left for US Army Basic Training before I could certify.  Since then, I have received certification as a combat medic and a Journeyman Firefighter (Any industry) which required a lot of hours studying emergency medicine.  I am experienced in drawing blood, starting IVs in difficult circumstances, and handling a myriad of injuries.  I am not a medical professional by any stretch of the imagination, I simply have a healthy desire to learn, and emergency medicine is a fascinating topic I regularly pursue.  I am not a chemist; I rely upon peer reviewed resources and legal and medical websites to stay current on a host of topics.  With this as my qualifier I am going to make several statements and you can judge their merit.  Feel free to comment.

      1. The first rule of medicine is document everything! My first lesson, first day of EMT training, this point was driven home.  If you do not write it down, it never happened!  Yet, what does the VA-OIG find time after time in reviewing cases at the VHA, lack of documentation of steps taken!  Can you say, “Asinine and abysmal behavior by credentialed professionals?” I know I can!
      2. Aspirin and Alcohol can cause a drug interaction that can be deadly. Both chemicals are readily available in the home and over the counter.  Why is spray paint now requiring proper ID, because people are huffing the stuff and getting a multi-drug intoxication.  Oven cleaner and spray pain can cause serious breathing issues and when mixed together can cause a cheap high, as well as a multi-chemical intoxication leading to breathing paralysis and death!
      3. Cannabis continues to be modified, changed, enhanced, and designed to trigger different chemical reactions in the body. Continuing work that began in earnest in the 1960s for the pot-smokers who wanted a more serious high.  Guess what, cannabis and aspirin along with vitamins can cause multi-drug intoxication problems leading to death!
      4. Vitamin D and Vitamin C have both caused serious drug intoxications during COVID-19. People became frightened and took too many of both or just one and wound up in the ER with life-threatening health problems from toxicity of these vitamins.  India has reported a spike in black mould that has caused serious long-term health problems for diabetics after recovering from COVID.  It is currently presumed that the chemicals used to fight COVID allowed for a natural mould to grow in the body, and that became life-threatening.

The VA-OIG conducted another virtual comprehensive healthcare inspection, and found the same problems continue at another VAMC.  Do you know how tired I am of reading these “comprehensive inspection” results and finding the same problems time after time?  When will the VA actually start enforcing some of these VA-OIG recommendations to effect change?  Better, when will the politicians who are charged with scrutinizing the government tire of seeing the same recommendations and not seeing any change?  Bloody frustrating reading these reports and not seeing improvement!VA 3

Broken RobotFinally, we come to what I was hoping to be a great report, where the politician’s heads were going to explode at the inefficiencies, the detestable behavior, and the horrendous responses to legally mandated IT infrastructure changes, and why those changes are not happening at the VA.  I was not disappointed; I was thoroughly disgusted that his report fell on plastic ears speaking plastic words from wax lips!  Statement of Michael Bowman, Office of Inspector General, Department of Veterans Affairs, Director of IT and Security Audits Division, Before the Subcommittee on Technology Modernization, Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, U.S. House of Representatives, Hearing on Cybersecurity and Risk Management at VA: Addressing Ongoing Challenges and Moving Forward May 20, 2021.  Notice something, the failures at the VA in the IT Department are being called “ongoing challenges.”

Millstone of Designed IncompetenceLet me remind you, FISMA was released on 29 April 2021, and I wrote about the abysmal findings of the VA-OIG.  This report is the accountability statement to the Congressional representatives who should have skewered this bureaucrat and roasted him on a spit with onions and peppers, then served him up for public ridicule after firing him!  For the Director of IT and Security Audits Division to make the following statement is flat out beyond comprehension, “The OIG’s conclusions in the FY 2020 FISMA audit are not new or revelatory—rather, they repeat many of the same concerns with VA’s IT security that the OIG has found for many years.”  What incredible chutzpah to make this comment after that scathing report showed just how deplorable the leadership of the IT and Security Audits Division revealed!  Director Bowman then goes on to downplay the band-aid solutions implemented while decrying the time for improvement is too short and there is not enough money.  Do not forget, “Of the 26 recommendations, 21 have been included in every FISMA audit dating back to at least 2017.”  With at least 15 of these recommendations dating back even further.  Want a full list, as well as how old these recommendations are; you will not find it in the Director’s report to Congress!  Is anybody incensed enough to demand a full accounting of just how old these IT recommendations are?

Detective 4The gall of this director to continue to blame legacy systems that were legislated to have been scrapped between 2000 and 2010 continues to highlight the incompetence of the director in conducting business and holding people accountable for failed projects and overspending of taxpayer monies!  The director went further and stated the following, at which time, every single Congressional Representative should have stood and demanded his head.  The “VA does not properly manage and secure their IT investments.”  Tell me director, why should you remain employed if the VA does not properly manage and secure their IT investments?  Is the failure to manage and secure IT investments the root cause for veterans to continue to suffer identity theft from the VA losing their identity?

The director’s next statement puts his other outrageous comments to sleep.  “Security failures also undermine the trust veterans put in VA to protect their sensitive information and can affect their engagement with programs and services” [emphasis mine].  Talk about such an obvious statement, it’s like the sun coming up on a cloudy day, you just cannot miss that sun rise; you also cannot miss the absurdity of making this statement!  Did some intern write his speech?  You are the director of IT Security and you make this type of comment, did you make this comment with a straight face?  I cannot find the video-record of this Congressional hearing so I can only guess he delivered his lines with a straight face!  Most detestable of all, he continued to make outrageous comments, his plan to move the IT security program at the VA forward is weak, lacking firm deadlines, and continues to allow him and his staff to escape accountability and responsibility.VA 3

Angry Grizzly BearAmerica, with these bureaucrats in charge, why shouldn’t we be weeping and wailing, and gnashing our teeth in frustration?  When will we, the owners of this atrocious government, finally scream ENOUGH and demand a full change of heads at the ballot box?  For until the elected representatives are forced out, the bureaucrats abusing us, will only continue!  The VA is sick, but the problem lies in the bureaucrats, administrators, and directors leading the VA at the Federal and VISN levels.  So many other government agencies are just as sick, or worse, and the same problem arises, the leadership refuses to act, but still expects a big titanium parachute when they leave office!  I say it is time to tell them NO!

© 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.

NO MORE BS: Revisiting Designed Incompetence

Dont Tread On MePlato has a point, “The price of apathy towards public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.”  When writing about the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Internal Revenue Service, or the United States Postal Service, one must remember, these organizations have been intentionally designed to be as bad as they are.  The government worker refuses accountability, shuns responsibility, and simply wants to exist doing as little as possible for as much as possible.

In the private sector, the employee is expected to shoulder responsibilities, share in the companies struggles, trials, and the eventual victories.  Yet, the government employee is the exact opposite.  I have heard it said that government workers are a necessary evil, a scourge, and a disgrace.  Except, often times the government employee is just a rule follower and the really pernicious and dastardly government employee are those seeking power in their government employment.  The directors, the supervisors, the managers, and the undersecretaries.  The staff that never goes anywhere.  Political appointees come and go, but the staff is a scourge for life.

Never Give Up!While Plato has a point about apathy in public affairs leading to being ruled by evil men, what is lost in the discussion are the staff members.  Tom Clancy wrote about how a jet airliner took out both houses of the Congress, SCOTUS, and Vice President Jack Ryan suddenly found himself as President Ryan, rebuilding the entire US Government.  This Tom Clancy novel takes a person into the inner workings of the US Constitutional Government like no other book I have ever seen.  Best of all, he explains the intoxicating power the staff members, the executive assistants, and undersecretaries hold over the political appointees to hinder progress, stymie change, and control their fiefdoms against all forces of influence.  This is the root of designed incompetence.

What is an excuse?

An excuse is a method to reduce blame attached to an action, defend, or justify one’s actions, an attempt to release one from accountability, or a poor or inadequate example of something.  As children, we are taught excuses are like noses; everyone has one and picking it in public is disgusting.  Yet, when something happens, two types of people emerge, those who make excuses and those who take responsibility and work to fix the problem.

What is designed incompetence?

Designed incompetence is a ready-made excuse for inadequacies created in business operations, a method to avoid responsibility and accountability. Due to the cost of designed incompetence, it is generally only found in government operations.  Designed incompetence can also be intentional actions designed into business operations, so the expected functions are designed to fail purposefully.  Designed incompetence is always harmful and destructive in nature, generally will make no logical sense, and will always be the preplanned leadership fallback position.Apathy

Example of an excuse:

    • The USPS is running slow, so the delivery of mail is taking longer to deliver than usual.
    • COVID has a lot of employees out sick, so operations are slower.
    • The person who wrote the order requesting the work to be completed did not do their jobs properly, and the original order must be rewritten.

Examples of designed incompetence:

    • The VBA communicates using terminology not universal in medicine to intentionally confuse and hinder making appropriate decisions on veterans’ claims.
    • The VHA refuses to write policies and procedures due to a fear of risk; thus, when the VA-OIG investigates, the same recommendation can be made multiple times to write down procedures.  The leadership team can escape accountability for failure.
    • The USPS has mail carriers dumping mail in dumpsters, these employees are protected by the labor union, so the employee can keep their job, move them to a non-letter carrier position.

Designed Incompetence Feeds Inert and Toxic Cultures

Knowledge Check!Designed incompetence is the root cause for the toxic government employee workplace cultures.  When responsibility is shirked, the human psyche feels moral distress, and as the moral distress grows, so to does the self-loathing, self-hate, and feelings of hopelessness.  Worse, some people, who have constantly been ethically challenged or morally bankrupt, will use these feelings of self-loathing to capture power.  Once captured, the power becomes a drug, and that drug is highly addictive.  Thus, a self-fulfilling prophecy from Plato becomes true, “Apathy towards public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.”  The more the morally bankrupt and ethically challenged win power, the bigger an example to others of how to obtain power in government they become.  But the remaining people who do not receive power are left with a toxic workplace, full of inert people.  Motivating inert people in a toxic culture, who are already feeling the stress of acting morally indifferent will leave multi-generational scars on the workforce.

An important point that requires mentioning, “it is not for the lack of money or technology to pinpoint abuses and problems with employees; it is all the inertia of the leadership towards action and the toxic culture which allows and encourages pushing the boundaries that are killing veterans in the VA.”  The same is true for any of the alphabet agencies created by the Federal Government, state government, and local government.  Walk into a DMV and tell me if you cannot sense a toxic and inert culture is driving down customer service levels.  Walk into a welfare office and tell me the people working one side of the counter are not inert.  Worse, walk into any IRS field office and tell me how you feel being around the morally bankrupt and ethically challenged.Plato 2

I met some school board officials in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and was appalled at the lack of ethics and morals they displayed.  Judges and lawyers are driving drink and skating accountability because of their positions and so much more.  All because the designed incompetence in government promotes those who have the least reason and ability to be promoted.  Plato is absolutely correct, “The punishment which the wise suffer, who refuse to take part in the government, is to live under the government of worse men.”  For too long, government employees have been allowed to run the asylum while the best and brightest pursue goals in the private sector.  If America is to win back her government, the citizen must stand and boldly proclaim “NO!” and then get into government service to change the toxic and inert cultures.

Plato might have been mentioning the following about elected officials, but I find it apt and applicable to the designed incompetence by the staff members, “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up governed by your inferiors.”  The first time I met my director as a VA employee, I knew two things, she hated me, and I was doomed to suffer under her inadequacies.  Both of which came true over the following 360-days.  The intransigency of the leadership in administrative positions at the VA is frightening.  Ending these abuses of power is the preeminent position of every citizen in every democratically elected society.

Plato 3The scourge of designed incompetence must end.  If this means eating soup with a knife, then we must eat the bowl of soup to the dregs.  But, we must act if we are to save our countries from the politicians and the staff that have infested our governments!

© 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.

VISN 22 – The Bureaucrats Operationally Living as Petty Tyrants

Survived the VA23 February 2021:  UPS delivered a letter package containing a single sheet of paper from Dr. Karen MacKichan MD, auto signed, and dated 09 February 2021.  Declaring that the Phoenix VA is absolutely correct in behaving as petty tyrants and denying me medical care, illegally sharing and knowing my HIPAA information with VA Police Officers, breaking EMTALA, and treating me to injuries, all because I cannot safely wear a mask.  My only infraction at the Phoenix VA is not to wear a mask.  Yet, this is considered a “behavioral problem,” and I am wrong for behaving in a manner that insists that my safety comes first!

From June 2020 to date, the charge has been, “Wear a mask or a face shield to receive service in the VA.”  Then, I got arrested while wearing a face shield and told my failure to wear a mask is “disruptive behavior.”  Seriously, not wearing a mask somehow disrupts the entire hospital and keeps it from running efficiently.  Refusing to believe the letter my VA provided Primary Care Provider wrote (August 2020) for my employer regarding my inability to breathe while wearing a mask.  The VA Police have continued to escalate situations to reflect “disruptive behavior patterns.”  Yet, I am the one punished, and I am the one injured; I am the one being denied care.

Literary FiendWhat are petty tyrants?

James Abyad quoted the Urban Dictionary for the definition of petty, which exactly expresses the sentiment of petty.  Urban Dictionary defines petty as “making things, events, or actions normal people dismiss as trivial or insignificant into excuses to be upset, uncooperative, childish, or stubborn.”  It further defines it as “a person who is purposefully childish with the intent of eliciting a reaction,” or “someone who does something in an attempt to hurt another person but makes themselves look stupid.”  Tyrant is a cruel and oppressive ruler, per Webster.  Hence, a Petty Tyrant is a childish, insignificant, oppressive ruler.

Well, Dr. MacKichan, Deputy Chief Medical Officer VISN 22, 300 Oceangate, Suite 700, Long Beach, California, 90802, you are incorrect!  I have followed all written VA directives. Do not assume that it is my fault the Phoenix VAMC leadership cannot write down a COVID Mask Directive and operational policy that supports all veteran health contingencies.  Then train the staff coherently upon written guidelines and directives, and engage in an honest and forthright manner with veterans seeking care.  Where are the written directives governing COVID Mask Wearing?  You claimed to have reviewed all the information; I have asked for these documents and been pointed to a sign.

VA SealOn the topic of written directives, written operational policies, written patient guidelines, and written job descriptions and duties, let’s talk about how the VA Police can injure people and not be held accountable!  The VA Police attacked me on 07 December 2020, violently pushed, then spun into a wall.  My C-and L-Spines did not move, and my T-Spine turned; I dropped like a rock sustaining spinal injuries, knee injuries, and got cut on my right hand and arm.  Worse, being handcuffed with my arms behind my back caused bruised wrists that were jerked by more VA Police officers on 10 December when I sought medical attention.  I am an 80% disabled person with mobility issues, yet your letter claims all the action of the Phoenix VAMC was in accordance with written policies, guidelines, and directives.  Well, I possess a Missouri mindset, “Show ME!”  Show me the written and published policies, guidelines, and procedures that allow VA Police Officers to physically assault patients!  Show me the written and published policies, guidelines, and procedures that allow me to be refused treatment.  Prove through written and accessible documents how the decision for this hodgepodge of ineptitude can label me a “behavioral issue” when my only discretion is not physically and safely wearing a mask!

The Duty of AmericansYou claim to have reviewed the actions of the police officers who routinely have medically protected HIPAA information about people being arrested, joke about this information, act in a manner that brings shame to all Federal Police Officers.  What happens to these unprofessional officers and their despicable commander?  When do my rights to have my HIPAA-protected information withheld from parties who do not need this information?  When do all the other veterans being served and not being served by the Phoenix VAMC become protected under HIPAA?  I am not the only veteran being refused service, denied care, and abused and injured by the VA Police for not wearing a mask, while also not being a “behavioral issue.”

Since your letter proclaims loudly that your review was thorough, independent, and comprehensive, and as the VISN 22 Chief Medical Officer, surely you cannot condone illegal activities being masked by calling a patient a “behavioral issue.”  The Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA; 1986), a federal law, requires anyone coming to an emergency department to be stabilized and treated, regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay.  EMTALA was regularly abused at the Albuquerque VAMC, and I reported this issue multiple times. EMTALA’s abuse and illegal activity at the Phoenix, VA Medical Center are worse, and I have reported this issue multiple times.  Twice I have followed my primary care provider’s instructions to report to the VA ER for treatment, and twice I have been refused service.  Thus, what is to be done to correct this obvious deficiency in VISN 22 treatment of veterans, service members, and dependents by VISN 22 emergency medical care providers and the staff, including the VA Police, who should have no influence upon care being received or who should receive care?

Theres moreYour letter discusses “the most effective manner to have the behavioral flag lifted” as “checking-in with the VA Phoenix Police.”  Do you know what that entails?  Did your “thorough, comprehensive, and independent” investigation uncover what happens at this “check-in?”  I was told clearly what happens; I will be evaluated for wearing a mask, found not wearing a mask, arrested, cited, and denied service for not wearing a mask.  Then, I will have a black mark on my behavioral flag record for disorderly conduct!  I am not disorderly in my behavior because I cannot safely wear a mask!  What part of this do you, as a medical doctor, fail to comprehend?

I had my gallbladder removed in a Phoenix hospital (Sept 2020), never had a problem not wearing a mask.  I have had MRIs completed (Aug 2020), never had to wear a mask.  I have been seen three times in an emergency room and never had to wear a mask (Jun 2020, Sept 2020, Jan 2021).  The only medical service provider demanding through compulsion and fear that I wear a mask, which would place my health at risk, is the Phoenix VAMC.  Yet, you as a medical doctor cannot understand this issue, the problems with unwritten policies and directives, leadership failures to train staff properly, and you allow petty authoritarians wearing VA Police Badges to enforce a reign of terror at the VAMC in Phoenix.  Hence, you are part of the problem in failed leadership, poor management, and detestable petty authoritarianism!

InertiaI always interact with the staff at VAMC’s, even when they are wrong, in a respectful manner, knowing that the problems of dumb policies, time-wasting procedures, and bureaucratic inertia are the fault of the leaders hiding in their offices and cubicles.  I have been interacting with the VAMC’s across America, and the inept staff, since I left the service in 2004!  Never having a problem, never having an issue, and never getting injured by or even interacting with VA Police.  This all changed in June 2020.  The VAMC refused to write down a comprehensive directive for COVID Patient Mask Wearing.  I get blamed for following the unwritten policy and directives, then falsely accused of being “disorderly” in my behavior, then falsely accused, again, for being a “behavioral issue!”  I am not in the wrong here!  I am not a “behavior issue!”  I am not disrupting hospital operations, placing other patients at risk, or being violent!  Where are my rights in this farrago and railroading scheme?

Image - Eagle & FlagYour boilerplate response indicates this issue has reached the final point.  I beg to differ!  I will have my name cleared of these false charges.  I will not be blamed for the ineptitude of the leadership at the Phoenix VAMC and VISN 22!  I will not be silent and meek in the corner because you cannot tell the difference between standing for one’s rights against tyranny and compulsion and oppression through bureaucratic fiat!  I have done nothing worthy of these fallacious claims, false accusations, and the Phoenix VAMC and VISN 22 will admit this publicly when I am done cleaning my name of the scum you have thrown upon it!  Make no mistake; I am not angry, but I will have my rights restored, my name clear, and satisfaction from the injuries and treatment I have been made to suffer!

© 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.

Symptoms Not Cause – Shifting the Paradigm at the Department of Veterans Affairs

I-CareFor Memorial Day (2020), the National Cemetery, through the directive of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), restricted the placing of flags at several national cemeteries, upsetting the plans of Boy Scouts, and angering countless veterans, survivors, dependents, and extended families.  However, the intransigence of the VA on this matter is but a symptom of a larger problem.

ProblemsThe Department of Veterans Affairs – Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) recently released two additional reports on behavior unbecoming at the VA.  The first report concerns the delays in diagnosis and treatment in dialysis patients, as well as patient transport at the Fayetteville VA Medical Center in North Carolina.  The second is another death of a patient, as well as deficiencies in domiciliary safety and security at the Northeast Ohio Healthcare System in Cleveland.

The VA report from North Carolina includes significant patient issues, especially since two veterans died while in the care of the VA.  Significant issues are generally code words for incredibly lax processes, and procedures that are easily avoided, provided people care enough to do their jobs correctly, succinctly, and thoroughly.  Where patients are concerned a dead patient is pretty significant.  Two dead patients are beyond the comprehension of a reasonable person to not ask, “Who lost their jobs over these incidents?”

Patient A, has leukemia, and from the VA-OIG’s report we find the following responsible parties:

“… A primary care provider failed to act on Patient A’s abnormal laboratory results and pathologists’ recommendations for follow-up testing and hematology consultation. Community Care staff did not process a consult and schedule Patient A’s appointment.

Patient A died from a gastrointestinal bleed while waiting for transport to a hospital from a (VA Contracted) [long-term] care facility.  Patient A’s delays in care led to death in hospital, and the failure of a hospitalist to initiate emergency procedures contributed to the veteran’s passing.  Patient A’s death is a tragical farce of bureaucratic inaction, compounded by the same symptoms as that allowed for Memorial Day (2020) to come and go without the honored dead of America being remembered.  Symptoms not cause.

Patient B, was also in a (VA Contracted) [long-term] care facility, in need of transport back to the hospital, and the administrative staff’s delays had Patient B arrive at the hospital in cardiac failure, where the patient subsequently died.  In the case of both patient’s facility leaders did not initiate comprehensive analyses of events surrounding the patients’ deaths or related processes. But, this is excusable behavior at the VA due to frequent executive leadership changes impeding the resolution of systemic issues.  I have been covering the VA-OIG reports for the better part of a decade and this excuse is always an acceptable excuse for bureaucratic inaction.  Hence, the first question in this madness is to the VA-OIG and it needs to answer, “Why is this an allowable excuse?”  Don’t the people remaining know their positions sufficiently to carry on when the executive team is in flux?  Again, symptoms not cause.

The patient death in Northeast Ohio, started with the domiciliary, on a VA Contract care facility.  Essentially, the patient died because of methadone being provided without first gaining an electrocardiogram.  Oversight of the contracted domiciliary did not include accuracy checks on paperwork, but the VA-OIG found that for the most part, the contracted domiciliary was following VA Contracting guidelines.  From the report, no gross negligence led to the veterans passing, and for the most part risk analysis and other post mortem analysis were conducted properly.  Why is this case mentioned; symptoms not cause.

When I worked at the New Mexico VA Medical Center (NMVAMC) I diagnosed a problem and was told, repeatedly, to not mention the problem as the director would be furious.  The problem is bureaucratic inertia.  Bureaucratic inertia is commonly defined as, “the supposed inevitable tendency of bureaucratic organizations to perpetuate the established procedures and modes, even if they are counterproductive and/or diametrically opposed to established organizational goals.”  Except, the bureaucratic inertia I witnessed daily was not “supposedly inevitable,” it was a real and cogent variable in every single action from most of the employees.

I spent 12 months without proper access to systems, but the process to gain access was convoluted, unknown, ever-changing, and so twisted that unraveling the proper methods to complete the process and gain access was never corrected, and this was a major issue for patient care in an Emergency Department.  Why was the process so bad; bureaucratic inertia.  Obtaining information about the problem took two different assistant directors, two different directors, a senior leader, and the problem was identified that licensing requirements were the sticking point in the problem.

InertiaBureaucratic inertia is the cause of too many issues, problems, and dead veterans, at the Department of Veterans Affairs.  The symptoms include delays in administrative tasks that lead to patients dying for lack of transport to a hospital.  The symptoms include cost overrun on every construction project the VA commences.  The symptoms include abuse of employees, creating a revolving door in human resources where good people come in with enthusiasm, and leave with anger and contempt, generally at the insistence of a leader who refuses to change.  The symptoms include a bureaucrat making a decision that has no logical sense, costs too much and is never held accountable for the harm because the decision-maker can prove they met the byzantine labyrinth of rules, regulations, and policies of the VA.

Veterans are dying at the VA regularly because of bureaucratic inertia.  Hence, as bureaucratic inertia is the problem, and the symptoms are prevalent, it must needs be that a solution is found to eradicate bureaucratic inertia.  While not a full solution, the following will help curb most of the problem, and begin the process for the eradication of bureaucratic inertia.

  1. Give the VA-OIG power to enact change when cause and effect analysis shows a person is “the” problem in that chain of events. Right now, the office of inspector general has the power to make recommendations, that are generally, sometimes, potentially, considered, and possible remediations adopted, provided a different course of action is discovered.
  2. Give the executive committee, of which the head is Secretary Wilkie, legislative power to fire and hold people accountable for not doing the jobs they were hired, and vetted at $110,000+ per employee, to perform. Background checks on new employees cost the taxpayer $110,000+, and the revolving door in human resources is unacceptable.  But worse is when the leaders refuse to perform their jobs and remain employed.
  3. Implement ISO as a quality control system where processes, procedures, and policies are written down. The ability for management to change the rules on a whim costs money, time, patient confidence, trust in leadership and organization, and is a nuisance that permeates the VA absolutely.  The lack of written policies and procedures is the second most common excuse for bureaucratic inertia.  The first being, the ability to blame changing leadership for dead patients!
  4. Eliminate labor union protection. Government employees have negotiated plentiful benefits, conditions, and pay without union representation and the ability for the union to get criminal complaints dropped, and worthless people their jobs back is an ultimate disgrace upon the Magna Charta of the United States of America generally, and upon the seal of the Department of Veterans Affairs specifically.

Leadership CartoonSecretary Wilkie, until you can overcome the bureaucratic inertia prevalent in the ranks of the leadership between the front-line veteran facing employee and your office, lasting change remains improbable.  Real people are dying from bureaucratic inertia.  Real veterans are spending their entire lives in the appeal process for benefits and dying without proper treatment.  Real families are being torn asunder from the stress of untreated veterans because the bureaucratic inertia cannot be overcome from the outside.  I know you need legislative assistance to enact real change and improve the VA.  By way of petition, I write this missive to the American citizen asking for your help in providing Sec. Wilkie the tools he needs to fix the VA.

The VA can be fixed, but the solution will require fundamental change.

Change is possible with proper legislative support!

© Copyright 2020 – 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 pictures.

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