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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“That’s Crazy!!!” – More Chronicles from the VA Chapter 4

Last week, my primary care provider informed me that the VA is no longer responsible for providing my prescriptions as an outside provider that the VA Community Services team sent me to has increased my dosage.  My primary care provider pulled a Pontius Pilot and washed her hands, and I am swinging in the wind with more bureaucracy and less service.  The best part of the news delivered this last week, the fallacious, seditious, and felonious attack on my character, the behavior problem flag, is controlled by the primary care provider.  Boy, I am sick of the bureaucracy of the VA; if only this were the worst of the bureaucratic baloney, the VA is pushing out.

From many VA-OIG reports during COVID, the following, or something close, was a regular statement:

During COVID-19, VHA’s Office of Community Care (OCC) took steps to ensure veterans continued to have expanded access to health care in the community, as required by the VA MISSION Act of 2018.  OCC issued policies to VA facilities to postpone non-urgent appointments and offer alternatives to in-person care, such as telehealth.”

The VA-OIG inspected to see how closely this statement was adhered to during the height of the COVID pandemic.  What surprises no one is how badly the VA managed community care during the pandemic.

Findings:

    • The VA-OIG found that routine community care consults were unscheduled, averaging 42 days, not meeting VHA’s timeliness goal of 30 days.
    • Community care staff faced significant challenges beyond their control that contributed to the scheduling delays, such as the lack of availability of appointments in the community.
    • Some patients were hesitant to schedule appointments during the pandemic, failed to return phone calls, or declined care once it was offered. – While some of this is definitely patient-driven, what is not discussed is the abrupt shift, the lack of trust, and the confusion about the need to pay the community providers, among other things, faced by veterans forced into community care. As a reference point, it has been 24-months, and I am still facing requests to pay several community providers due to the VA not paying the bill due to a technicality.  The VA claims the provider has to “eat the costs,” but I keep getting statements and calls from collection agencies.  Guess the direction of my credit score, the direction of my insurance costs, and how happy I am with community care providers.
    • The VA-OIG found community care providers and staff did not consistently comply with requirements to manage routine consults, and leaders lacked tools to sufficiently monitor program operations that could have identified the problems.
    • Deficiencies emerged in documenting when patients were contacted about scheduling appointments, designating patients eligible for alternative care, and ensuring staff was trained in ways that would address those weaknesses. – Not to mention that pertinent medical records still haven’t been transmitted, received, and alerted the primary care provider. I had gallbladder removal surgery; no records ever made it to the VA.  I have MRIs, CT scans, and ER notes that, even after being hand-delivered, have not been added to my VA electronic health record and presented to the primary care provider to discuss, dating back to 2010.

How’s that community service program working for you?  In any other industry, this performance would represent an abysmal failure; but community care represents a healthy opportunity for improvement at the VA.  The findings listed are a mere drop in the conclusions discussed in the report.  I have a suggestion for the VA, stop overpromising and underdelivering.  How about you under-promise and then over-deliver?

The following VA-OIG inspection report focused on the Veteran Health Administration facility’s adherence to guidelines for medication management, and the following explanation is quoted from the report:

This report describes medication management findings from healthcare inspections initiated at 36 VHA medical facilities from November 4, 2019, through September 21, 2020.  Each inspection involved interviews with facility leaders and staff and clinical and administrative processes reviews.  The results in this report are a snapshot of VHA performance at the time of the fiscal year 2020 OIG reviews.”

Before we get into the findings, let me elaborate on that statement.  The VA-OIG cherry-picked/hand-selected call it what you will, the facilities to inspect.  No criteria discuss how these facilities were selected.  More, the processes chosen for review were also cherry-picked/hand-selected.  Appearing to represent that, the VA-OIG stacked the deck to obtain success, and the VHA still failed, or rather showed weaknesses.

Generally, the VA-OIG rated the VHA facilities as “compliant.”  But “weaknesses” were identified; read that as the VHA cannot follow established guidelines, protocols, and processes, even though they wrote and established these guidelines and medication protocols.  I call this designed incompetence of a criminal nature, but I am not half as lenient and politically astute as the VA-OIG!

Findings:

    • Aberrant behavior risk assessments
    • Concurrent benzodiazepine therapy
    • Urine drug testing
    • Informed consent
    • Patient follow-up
    • Quality measure oversight.

The following, also from the medication’s adherence inspection, remains significant:

“The OIG examined the following indicators of program
oversight and evaluation:

      • Performance of pain management committee activities
      • Monitoring of quality measures
      • Following the quality improvement process”

For the weaknesses represented in the findings to be prevalent, the “Pain Management Committee activities” represent a general failure of the committee to function!  For quality processes to be a finding, monitoring quality signifies that the bureaucrats are NOT doing the jobs they were hired to perform!  A quality process fails when the humans tasked with oversight refuse to engage, and the VA-OIG findings testify to the truth of humans actively refusing to do their jobs individually and collectively!

Having read and written about the VA-OIG reports for almost ten years, I swear sentences containing the following represent a majority stake in why the VA-OIG cannot be trusted.

VA-OIG inspections… underscored the value of independent oversight of care received in these settings to help VA make continuous improvements.”

Really?  Are you sure the VA-OIG inspections provide “independent oversight” and spur “continuous improvement” at the inspected VA facilities?  I have significant doubts the inspections do anything more than highlight the problems as the VA-OIG inspectors have no teeth, and lying has zero repercussions for the humans defrauding the taxpayer!  How do I know this; the VA-OIG reports generally go on to make a claim similar to the following:

The OIG’s findings show that immediate attention is needed in several critical areas….”

Do you, the dear reader, understand better the frustration of veterans and their families?  When the Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) covering the National Cemeteries, Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), and Veterans Health Administration (VHA), can be deluded, distracted, and duped by conniving and conspiring people, what else can the veterans and their families do BUT become frustrated?  This is behavior unacceptable in every industry.  In fact, legislation overseeing non-government healthcare is strict in outlawing the conduct observed in government-provided healthcare, but somehow the VA is exempt.  Yet, the VA continues to make claims such as the following:

This is how the VA is delivering on its promise to care for the veteran who has borne the battle, his widow, and his children.”

But don’t take my word for it; the VA-OIG conducted several more Comprehensive Healthcare Inspections (CHIPs), resembling cookie-cutter inspections.  Staff training continues to be a major delinquency labeled as “High-Risk.”  Behavior Committee continues to be a central sticking point and inspection problem.  Cleanliness, tagged under “Quality, Safety, and Value,” continues to represent an area for growth and development.  Nurse-to-Nurse communications remain constant as a problem, and electronic medical records are not helping to improve on this problem.  Inter-facility transferring of patients, policy, and documentation also resemble a constant issue.  I feel like I could summarize a CHIPs report with my eyes closed; tell me, when does the “independent oversight” spur “continuous improvement?”

On the topic of “independent oversight” spurring “continuous improvement,” the VA-OIG conducted a VHA inspection of mental health activities for FY 2020.  Declaring:

This report describes mental health-related findings from healthcare inspections initiated at 36 Veterans Health Administration medical facilities from November 4, 2019, through September 21, 2020, and electronic health record review at five additional facilities.  Each inspection involved interviews with facility leaders and staff and clinical and administrative processes.”

Again, how the facilities were selected and the items reviewed appears to have stacked the deck in the VHA’s favor.  The VHA is still failing, showing weakness while generally being compliant.

Findings:

    • Completion of four follow-up visits within the required time frame
    • Appropriate follow-up of veterans with high-risk patient record flags who do not attend mental health appointments
    • Suicide prevention training
    • Completion of five monthly outreach activities.

Under these four categories, recommendations for improvement included:

    • Registered Nurse Credentialling – Source verification of licenses.
    • Staff training on Suicide Prevention
    • Care Coordination – Especially in transferring the patient, form completion, and evaluating transferred patients
    • Medication list transmission during transfers
    • Staff Training
    • Patient notification
    • Attending the Disruptive Behavior Committee

For anyone else keeping record, most of the list above is a repeat from the last several years the mental health inspection has occurred.  Color me shocked that the VA would still have issues remaining year-over-year, and if you cannot hear the sarcasm in that statement, I have some suggestions for you!

I am thoroughly sick to death of the VA failing in its mission, then bragging they are providing “Excellence in Healthcare.”  If the staff is not trained, they cannot perform their jobs, representing a leadership failure.  This is a truth for all industries, occupations, businesses, organizations, etc.  Nobody is exempt from this statement of fact, yet the VA-OIG keeps on swallowing this excuse year-over-year, and NO PROGRESS is EVER made!

America, are you aware of what the various government agencies are doing with your money, on your time, and with your consent?  If your neighbor took your checkbook and wrote checks you are legally responsible for paying, would you want better services rendered?  Elected officials (yes, I am including those at the city, county, state levels of government), why are you NOT scrutinizing the government more effectively and rigorously?  You, the elected officials, are the neighbor writing checks; why are YOU NOT doing the job we hired you to perform?

Elected officials, did you know that VA is not required to maintain records of returned bills, as a matter of policy, but those returned bills mailed to veterans are causing hardship for veterans.  I cannot recount how many times I have changed my address and my spouse’s address with the VA, on the VA-approved websites, and in-person with VA representatives, and still have had mail not delivered for months due to a wrong address in a legacy system.  Yet, the VA is not policy mandated to check returned mail, track that mail to a veteran, and check the different legacy and non-legacy systems for address veracity.

Elected officials, do you read the VA-OIG reports?  Honest question, as the following is directly from a VA-OIG report.

“[VHA primary care] providers did not consistently

        • Identify a surrogate should the patient lose decision-making capacity
        • Address previous advance directives, state-authorized portable orders, and/or life-sustaining treatment plans
        • Address the patient or surrogate’s understanding of the patient’s condition.”

The VA designed the PACT Team to improve care and deliver on the VA’s mission, yet the primary care provider has the following failures weaknesses showing.  The VA-OIG can do nothing to improve this glaring oversight, but you were elected to force change and spur “continuous improvement” in the executive branch officers and employees.  Well, where are you?  The VA-OIG substantiated that a failure in the PACT team led to a delay in a cancer diagnosis, causing increased pain, problems, and resource loss for a veteran; where are the elected officials, and the media for that matter, in raising a holy rhubarb on the PACT Team failing this veteran?

Elected officials, did you catch that statement in the VA-OIG report on the cancer diagnosis?

Facility leaders have an unwritten expectation that primary care providers conduct a thorough historical review of the patient’s electronic health record starting with the most recent annual note; however, the OIG found that not all of the patient’s providers conducted historical reviews, but instead focused on current issues and problems identified by the patient.”

Having transferred between PACT teams inside the VHA and state-to-state, I can affirm this is exactly what is transpiring in the PACT team; the second most important player, behind the patient, is the primary care provider.  When the primary care doctor fails in their job, like dominoes falling, the care of the patients rapidly cascades into a dynamic failure of healthcare in a VHA facility.  What are YOU doing to stop this madness and demand accountability?

The electronic health record has a section near the top of the record for “Problem List.”  Guess what; when providers fail to keep this section updated, current, and accurate, the healthcare of the patient borders on malpractice requiring only a slight push to arrive with a dead veteran.  The VA-OIG found providers and nursing staff failures to update the problems list accurately, keep the problems list current, and regularly discuss the problems list with the most critical member of the PACT team, the patient!  Providers failed to comply with sound science, good business practices, and act appropriately for the patient’s health; do you think this might be a slight problem in the PACT team?

I have offered the VA several suggestions for plotting a path forward.  Yet, the VA cannot and will not take advice without stern and reproachful measures taken by Congress.  Elected officials, it is time for you to act and groundswell the changes needed in every government agency, even if it means reducing the size of government!

© 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.

Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot – The VA Edition: More Shameful VA Chronicles

Angry Grizzly BearThe Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) – Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) has released the details of an investigation into a veteran’s death.  The scope of the investigation included several key items, but the main point was that a nurse failed to contact the patient, the patient went without medication for four days, and on day five, died.

The facility conducted an internal review of the patient’s care. The OIG found that the review was incomplete and included inaccurate information, and leaders were unable to determine if an institutional disclosure was warranted.”

Failing to coordinate care is a leadership issue, and the leader’s failures caused a veteran’s death.  With more veterans using community-based care options, VA leaders must coordinate care more specifically, that medical records are shared timely, and communication occurs.  We are several years into expanded community-based care options for veterans; why has the VA not made progress on this issue to date?

Personal storytime, no VA-OIG investigation.  I was forcibly moved from the Las Cruces community-based outpatient clinic (CBOC) to the El Paso VAMC due to the felonious and fallacious charges of being a behavioral problem in Phoenix VAMC because I cannot physically and safely wear a mask.  My new primary care provider, a nurse practitioner, sent me a letter dated 23 July 2021, almost a month after I submitted documents for completion, informing me they do not feel capable of making a medical determination on my ability to drive.  I had submitted some documents from the NM DMV to get a handicap placard and medical clearance for diabetes and my neurological condition.  A medical professional is not capable of making a medical determination.  Oh, the irony is thick with this one!

Irony Examples in Literature That are Just Perfect for a Lazy Day - PenlightenThe El Paso VAMC spearheaded a program for the VA to begin using nurse practitioners and clinical pharmacists as primary care providers to “reduce the burden” on actual medical doctors.  If the nurse practitioner felt medically incapable of making a decision, where was his supervisor?  Where was his leadership support team?  Is the problem with using no medical doctors clear?  Leadership issues abound, and nobody in Congress is taking any action.  Nobody in the VA’s highest echelons of leadership is taking any steps to correct the local and VISN level leadership problems.  Who suffers; the veterans and their dependents!

Back to recent VA-OIG investigations, we find a doctor from Florida sentenced to six years in the federal prison system, plus restitution and asset forfeiture.  From the record, we find the following:

To attain such high volumes of claims, the conspirators used bribes and kickbacks. Specifically, Davidson and his conspirators illegally purchased thousands of DME claims from so-called “marketers.” The marketers, for their part, had generated the claims under the guise of “telemedicine,” but no telemedicine had occurred. Instead, the “marketers” had bribed doctors to sign the DME brace orders that supported the claims. Davidson and his conspirators paid millions to secure the illegal DME claims for submission to Medicare and CHAMPVA.”

GavelHow many conspirators are Federal Employees?  How many are leaders of Federal Employees?  Who else knew and profited, and when will they be held culpable for the crimes committed?  Dr. Richard Davidson (42) had a lot of help to build a $20 Million healthcare fraud scheme; a lot of that help had to come from Federal Employees.  When will government employees finally start being held responsible for the problems they perpetuate?  Where is Congress in scrutinizing this case and demanding the legislative branch take action to stop the fraud?

Traveling to Puget Sound Healthcare System in Seattle, Washington, we find the VA-OIG neck-deep in conducting a comprehensive healthcare inspection (CHIp).  “The Director and the Chief of Staff had served since 2017, the Deputy Director for Patient Care Services and Associate Director had been in their positions since 2018, and the Deputy Director had served since 2019. Survey data indicated opportunities to improve employee satisfaction and reduce feelings of moral distress. Patient survey results showed that individuals were generally less satisfied with their care compared to VHA averages” [emphasis mine].  More thick irony is being dished out here.  Never will the VA-OIG find employees feeling morally distressed and patients being highly satisfied with their care.  There is a causal relationship between the level of moral distress in employees and lack of satisfaction from patients, and the problem is found in the leadership at the local VAMC/VAHCS level!

Knowledge Check!Never forget, the Puget Sound VAHCS is where the wait-list death scandal began before that hospital director was moved to Phoenix.  Thus, to hear of employees still feeling morally distressed in this VAHCS is not surprising, alarming, but not surprising!  To hear that patients still feel cheated is expected, as the VA leaders who took over after the wait-list scandal had been raised in a culture of corruption, where the honest left and the dishonest and disrespectful remained.  Some of the VA-OIG’s recommendations include patient follow-up and exit reviews, care coordination, medication management, and patient safety.  All of which are symptoms of poor leadership!

My wife just asked me a pertinent question, “Can you trust the VA to provide you honest care?”  No, I cannot.  Yet, due to ObamaCare, the cost of seeking outside medical service is so astronomical I cannot afford to participate in my company’s medical insurance plans.  The VA has a dearth of leadership, coupled with too many managers, lawyers, and labor unions.  Yet, who does a veteran complain to?  Congress is deaf to our pleas.  The VA in Washington is missing in action 100% of the time.  The veteran service organizations are all geared to helping get veterans enrolled into VA benefits.  Lawyers cost too much.  The VA-OIG is limited to making recommendations, and the government protects its own against litigation.

ElectionIn a representative government, the highest authority is the people electing officers to government.  Well, I continue to appeal to my fellow veterans, their dependents, and ordinary citizens.  Please, help change the VA!  Vote new blood into a public office dedicated to correcting and scrutinizing, not writing endless legislation that costs too much and increases debt.  Vote new judges into office who will see the problems and not employ judicial overreach to handle issues.  Demand accountability from elected officials.

© 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.