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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VA statement on GPO printing and mailing delay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or the following:

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

How about this:

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

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

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

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

© Copyright 2021 – M. Dave Salisbury
The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the images.  Quoted materials remain the property of the original author.

That’s Crazy!!! – More Chronicles from the VA (CH 4)

Angry Wet ChickenHave you ever been so embarrassed by something that any mention seems to depress you?  I am in this position right now; the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) – Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) has released more investigation reports and analyses of the VA.  Analyses that should be cause for the most profound concern by congressional representatives, and instead, they act like nothing is wrong, nothing to see here, go away.  Well, I am too embarrassed to “go away,” and I demand action to clean house and curb this atrocious behavior!

Courage involves pain and is justly praised, for it is harder to face what is painful than to abstain from what is pleasant.” – Aristotle

Too often, I am left asking where the Federal Government Employees are and what their responsibility is in fraudulent schemes.  For example, we begin with a $50 Million scheme that had to have been suspicious to employees at Medicare, TRICARE, CHAMPVA, and many other health benefit programs.

  • Nicholas Defonte and Christopher Cirri, both of Toms River, New Jersey, and Pat Truglia of Parkland, Florida, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud. Each defendant played a role in defrauding healthcare benefits by offering, paying, soliciting, and receiving kickbacks and bribes in exchange for completed doctors’ orders for durable medical equipment, specifically orthotic braces. The defendants then fraudulently billed Medicare, TRICARE, the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA), and other healthcare benefit programs. Cirri, Defonte, and their conspirators owned and operated multiple call centers where they obtained prescriptions for compound medications and other medical products reimbursable by federal and private healthcare benefit programs. The defendants caused losses to Medicare, TRICARE, and CHAMPVA of approximately $50 million.VA 3

Next, we see another case where Federal employees should have been aware, vocal, and the problems fixed before the scheme turned three years old.

  • Matthew Camera of Erie, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty to violating federal drug laws. From January 2017 to June 2020, while employed as the pharmacy chief at the VA medical center in Erie, he unlawfully obtained multiple dosage units of hydrocodone and oxycodone from pill bottles awaiting delivery to VA patients. Sentencing is scheduled for March 22, 2022.
  • Michael Nolan of Tampa, Florida, and Richard Epstein, of Aurora, Colorado, were sentenced in a conspiracy to defraud two federal health benefit programs, Medicare and the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA). From October 2016 through April 2019, Epstein and Nolan ran a telemarketing company in Tampa called REMN Management LLC that targeted the elderly to generate thousands of medically unnecessary physicians’ orders for durable medical equipment and cancer genetic testing. Epstein and Nolan also created and operated Comprehensive Telcare LLC, a telemedicine company through which they illegally bribed physicians to sign the orders regardless of medical necessity. They then illegally sold the signed physicians’ orders to client-conspirators to support false and fraudulent claims submitted to Medicare and CHAMPVA. The conspiracy resulted in the submission of at least $134 million in fraudulent claims and approximately $29 million in payments. Nolan was sentenced to six years and six months in federal prison, followed by three years supervised release and was ordered to pay $2.1 million. Epstein was sentenced to five years and three months in federal prison, followed by three years supervised release and was ordered to pay $3 million. The court ordered Nolan, Epstein, and other conspirators to pay over $29 million in restitution.
  • Twenty people, including the two founders of Hertel & Brown Physical & Aquatic Therapy and 18 of its employees, were indicted in Erie County, Pennsylvania, of conspiracy to commit wire and healthcare fraud and healthcare fraud. According to the indictment, the defendants engaged in a multifaceted conspiracy from January 2007 to October 2021 that involved a range of fraudulent activities. These included allegedly using unlicensed technicians to provide therapy and then billing for the treatment as though licensed therapists had performed it, regularly billing for treatment using the name and credentials of physical therapists who were on vacation, recording, and billing for time that exceeded the actual treatment time, among several other allegations.
  • Robin Calef of Brockton, Massachusetts, pleaded guilty to one count of theft of public funds. Calef shared a bank account with her sister, a veteran receiving monthly benefits from the VA. Her sister passed away in 2006, and Calef failed to report her death to the VA. Through September 2017, Calef stole approximately $102,289 in VA funds from the shared bank account. Sentencing is scheduled for March 1, 2022.
  • Lisa Hoffman, a former pharmacy procurement technician at the East Orange VA Medical Center in New Jersey, pleaded guilty to theft of government property. From October 2015 to November 2019, Hoffman was responsible for ordering medication, including large quantities of HIV medication, for the center’s outpatient pharmacy. She stole approximately $10 million worth of HIV medication and sold it to Wagner Checonolasco of Lyndhurst, New Jersey. Hoffman is scheduled to be sentenced on March 9, 2022. Checonolasco previously pleaded guilty and is expected to be sentenced on December 15, 2021.
  • Thirteen defendants, including three compounding pharmacy owners, three physicians, two pharmacists, and three patient recruiters, pleaded guilty to a years-long, multistate scheme to defraud the Department of Labor’s Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP) and TRICARE. The defendants submitted false and fraudulent claims to the OWCP and TRICARE for prescriptions for compounded and other drugs prescribed to injured federal workers and armed forces members. The defendants paid kickbacks to patient recruiters and physicians to persuade them to prescribe the drugs. Medications were selected based on the reimbursement amount and not on the patients’ needs. The drugs were then mailed to patients, even though they often never requested, wanted, or needed them. The defendants were indicted in June 2018 and are scheduled to be sentenced in February 2022.
  • Andrew Ziacik of New Kensington, Pennsylvania, was sentenced to one day of imprisonment followed by three years of supervised release and was ordered to pay $4,000. Between 2013 and 2017, Ziacik was an appointed federal fiduciary for his older brother, a service-disabled veteran. Ziacik was responsible for receiving his brother’s VA income and paying his brother’s debts. However, Ziacik admitted that he violated the terms of his fiduciary agreement by using the VA funds to purchase a Harley Davidson motorcycle, a diamond ring, and a GMC Sierra truck. As part of his sentence, Ziacik will pay restitution to his brother of $75,000.I-Care

When it comes to incompetence, neglect of duties, and abuse of veterans, the final entry in today’s chronicles of shame reflects blatant criminality, and repercussions and remunerations are only a small part of serving justice.  Never forget the following fact, “overpayments should have been considered an administrative error and the debt waived since veterans are not responsible for repaying overpayments that are found to be the result of administrative errors” [emphasis mine].  The VA-OIG investigation reflects the following:

        • April 2021, the VA Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) discovered the VBA had incorrectly created a debt of about $210,000 for a veteran.
        • Because of the size of the debt and VA’s plan to withhold the veteran’s entire monthly compensation benefits (over $1,100), and given the veteran’s history of treatment for mental illness, a prior suicide attempt, and suicidal ideation, the VA-OIG review team promptly contacted VBA for corrective action.
        • When contacted by the veteran at four different VA offices, staff assured the veteran all was good, the overpayment was not his to pay, and it would be worked out administratively.

These are the investigation facts; to get this administrative error corrected, the problem had to percolate to the VA-OIG instead of any number of the checks and balances, quality assurance measures, and other in-house processes to catch the VBA from damaging a veteran.  The VBA failed!  How many hundreds of employees were responsible for this disaster and leadership failure?  When will those employees be held accountable?  The case presented is but one of thousands of cases every year where the VBA makes a mistake.  The veteran, their family, and the taxpayer are abused, robbed, cheated, and responsibility shirked and avoided by the employees.VA 3

Imagine for a moment, you wake up, got to the mailbox.  You find the VBA will take your monthly benefit, the money you need to live on because they made an error, but you have to pay for their mistakes unless a power greater than the local agency exerts sufficient force to correct the problem.  Assurances from the VBA are pie-crust promises, easily made, easily broken, and crumby!  The final statement in this charade from the VA-OIG is priceless.

VBA should consider steps to avoid this type of error in the future.”

Angry Grizzly BearSeriously, the VBA’s internal processes failed and would have continued failing if the VA-OIG had not stepped in and demanded immediate action on the veteran’s behalf!  How many other veterans are not so lucky; too many!  America, the shame of the VA is beyond the pale, and a complete reckoning and corrective action should be the action of Congress as the President refuses to clean house in the Executive Branch, the Legislative Branch MUST step up and do their constitutional duties!  The legislative and the executive branches must answer to us, the taxpayers and citizens, for the continual debacles displayed by recalcitrant and intransigent federal employees.  In front of real judges, real people must answer and be held accountable for the crimes of neglect of duty demonstrated!

© Copyright 2021 – M. Dave Salisbury
The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the images.  Quoted materials remain the property of the original author.

What do we DO? – I have an Answer – Several, in fact!

Dont Tread On MeRegularly, after I write an article, I am asked, “What is a person to do?”  The question is generally followed by the following, “The enemies are vast, the criminals are legion, the forces entrenched, and the allies are too few in number to matter.”  As Rogers and Hammerstein would relate, I am not a “Cockeyed Optimist;” however, please allow me to relate and offer some suggestions.

Earlier this past week, I was in Walmart after an ER visit, never pleasant.  What was worse about this visit was that some toddler was being teased mercilessly by an older child to scream hysterically.  At this point in my day, my cherub-like demeanor is on life-support, and I am crying, “For the love of mud and money, make it stop.  Parents end the torture, stop this child screaming!”  The parents were immune to the screams, the public refused to intervene, the store refused to manage the parents, and I was left to suffer, along with every other person, to the sounds of this child screaming.

Foghorn Leghorn - MedicationI wandered from the pharmacy to other parts of the store, looking for anywhere I could hide to escape the onslaught of this child’s screams and could find no place safe from the sounds and attacks on my nerves.  I went looking for this child to offer gold, silver, food, anything to silence this detestable decibel desecration and end the onslaught.  That is when I discovered how uncaring and useless the parents were in controlling their children and realized the minority could not be bribed into obedience.

In the agony of this experience, but worse after several days of recollection, I have learned some valuable lessons.

      1. The child screaming is not the majority of children. Worse, the children are not the majority of people in the population.  The ones screaming are such a small percentage that with minimal adults banding together, caring, and taking action, the child and the weak-kneed adults could easily be overpowered and sanity restored.
      2. While some suffering is good for the soul, other suffering requires action, commitment, and dedication to principles of freedom to overcome.
      3. How do you tell the difference – There is NO difference! There is no distinction between one type of suffering or another.  All suffering can be fought against and won if the individual has strong enough intestinal fortitude and can gather enough like-minded people willing to care and act!

Sharing is CaringHow do I know this is correct?  I talked to people; I observed people suffering under the hellacious onslaught of this toddler screaming, these parents’ indifference, and understood a common principle for Republican Societies, gather enough like-minded people dedicated to a common cause, and blessed change can occur.  I kept asking, why didn’t the parents demand the older child stop teasing, the younger, and can only surmise they desired this public spectacle for personal gain, attention, and because they like sharing the power they have over society when their children misbehave.

Character List

Angry Wet ChickenIt is common knowledge George Soros has invested a LOT of money into the criminal justice system, especially into city district attorneys, to win criminal justice and abuse victims.  If George Soros is akin to the parents, and his ilk are those paying for the toddlers and older children to tease for personal gain when the toddler screams.  We have a pattern and reasoning for the toddlers raising rhubarbs in the Walmart societies called “America.”

Having identified the parents, who are the toddlers screaming and throwing a fit?  May I suggest we look to the evening news for characters screaming.  Paid actors who raise their cackles at the drop of dimes annoy the populace every time they open their mouths.  ANTIFA, BLM, LGBTQ+ communities, Communists, Leftists, Extremists on both sides of the political spectrum, Labor Unions, AOC and her band of merry idiots in the US House of Representatives, Pelosi, Biden and his bucolic band of bumblers, other politicians, and those who consider themselves of the “political class,” “peaceful protestors” which are nothing but terrorists burning cities and towns across America, and so many more.  Never forget, some of the worst people screaming are those reporting the screamers themselves, the corporate media!

Angry Grizzly BearWho is the older child relentlessly teasing, on the urging and the silent approval of the parents, the toddler?  Would it surprise anyone if the first and most potent teaser are the bureaucrats who refuse to be governed and scrutinized?  How can we know this is a fact; how did “peaceful protestors” burn down a police station?  How did police officer defunding grow into such a cohesive movement in such a short time?  How did funding move so quickly from city to city across America, and delivery of bricks and other riot supplies mysteriously appear in riot zones, without anyone noticing?  The bureaucrats across this nation are up to their collective eyeballs in protecting their power from the citizens from catching wise of their crimes.  Why do you think so much money was pumped into the races of those who count ballots!

Who else is teasing the toddlers?  Big tech is playing a supporting role.  Big pharmaceutical is playing a supporting role.  Both receive considerable windfalls in investment support, and the evidence can be found when you play simple games of “Follow the money.”  Corporate media in 2020 was caught on camera teasing the toddler and participating as a toddler in the screaming, and nothing was done to punish the press.  Hollywood, many of the most lurid and detestable of Hollywood, are paying considerable sums to practice low-intensity conflict (LIC) from the comfort of their living room for personal gain and private glee.

Realization

How big is the population of toddlers?  Tiny, all but insignificant.  Want to know a secret; like all terrorist organizations and toddlers around the world, they know how small they are, how insignificant they are, and they know their only weapon is NOISE!  Why are the terrible two’s and three’s called “Terrible,” because the child has learned how small they are and have realized they can affect the world through obnoxious NOISES!  Gaining attention through NOISE.  Being discovered, having fun, getting rewards, all this and more through NOISE!  What do responsible parents do to correct behavior in toddlers to make the “terrible” two’s and three’s less terrible, behavior modification!The Duty of Americans

What is the first step?  The responsible parent stops the older child from teasing the toddler!  Usually through behavior modification of the older child!  If the older child persists, the behavior modification increases until that child learns teasing will NOT be tolerated!  At the same time, the responsible parent is also correcting the noise the toddler is making and correcting the child to use words or signs until communication skills catch up with mental abilities, making clear that abject NOISE is NOT tolerated – also increasing behavior modification until the lesson is learned and NOISE is stopped!

Suggestions

      1. Band together. I cannot emphasize this enough!  Like-minded people built America, and until like-minded people reband to rebuild, nothing is going to change!
      2. See something, say something!
      3. Ridicule is a powerful tool! Laugh at the stupidity and the inanity of those who would abuse our tolerance.
      4. Record the toddlers acting the fool. Post those recordings.  Share the recordings with others.  Mock, ridicule, and publicly shame!  Public shame is not harmful, nor is it discriminatory.  Until the toddlers learn to use logic and words, they deserve to be mocked, scorned, and humiliated!
      5. Every time the toddler’s teasers are discovered, post, share, like, and ridicule!
      6. Take decisive ACTION! – The toddlers gain power when action is not taken. Simple lesson parents learn.  Retake the power from the toddlers, and this also is not discriminatory.  Society belongs to those willing to sacrifice for it, and the toddler will not sacrifice; thus, the toddler has no place in society.
      7. The toddler’s good behavior cannot be purchased with gifts, bribes, shiny baubles, and other transitory items. The toddler is appetite incarnate; the only thing that works to curb a toddler’s appetite is to teach behavior modification!  Behavior modification is NOT discrimination!
      8. Understand LIC. Know LIC.  Fight using the principles of LIC.  It cannot be understated; this is war, LIC is WAR!  The toddlers have waged war, and right now, they think they are winning because they are not finding any opposition.  If you need a refresher on LIC, check out the links, read up, and learn!

Final Comments and Thoughts

LinkedIn ImageIt does not matter if the entire house is full of toddlers and mischievous boys hell-bent on teasing the toddlers into an army of NOISE bombs!  The adults are always in charge, always outnumbering the toddlers, and always in command!  Use this knowledge to strategize, organize, think, layout tactics, and begin today to out-think, outsmart, and outmaneuver the teasing older children to reduce the toddler noise!  You and I, we outnumber these pestilential reprobates, and the rule of law IS sufficient to the task of curbing this obnoxious behavior.  We need to begin to show up in strength, marshaled for war, and ready to curb the toddlers!  Join me!

© Copyright 2021 – M. Dave Salisbury
The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the images.

“That’s Crazy!!!” – More Chronicles from the VA – Chapter 2

I-CareAs bad as the last several months have been, I hate adding more bad news; but the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) – Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) keeps reporting, and I keep summating.  Due to the absolute overabundance of incredible bureaucratic insanity, today’s article format will necessarily shift to report more and comment less.  Don’t worry, I will still comment on the more egregious examples, for some of these VA-OIG reports are scarier than Joe Biden dressed as a mall Santa at a Fourth of July celebration feeling up little children!

  • 2020 Pre-award reviews of contracts totaled $81 million; guess what:
      • 24 of the 31 contracts awarded contained conflicts of interest.
      • 25 of the 31 contracts had problems with overcharges for hourly rates of services rendered.
      • 6 of the 31 price gouged Medicare.
      • 25 of the 31 contracts, if they had adequately followed the contract process, would have saved taxpayers $16 Million. – Would it shock anyone to hear this is just the “tip of the VA-OIG” report iceberg?

VA 3

  • Financial Efficiency Review of the Southeast Louisiana VAHCS in New Orleans; guess what:
      • The VAHCS in New Orleans scored 75% out of 90%. The VA does not try to get a 100% because they regularly fail financial audits as a fact.
      • Actual costs are difficult to relate in dollars and cents because the leaders intentionally hid costs from the VA-OIG, then blamed the new medical center director.
      • Avoidance costs, Purchase card abuse, prime vendor program abuse, and more were employed to avoid proper fiscal practices.
      • Audit, FAILED! No accountability, no person held responsible, and the taxpayer is left holding the bill!

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  • Followup to VAHCS Ozarks Pathology Failures From Dr. Levy Scandal; guess what:
        • Levy Scandal for those who do not remember. – Intentional misdiagnosing, VA coverup, refusal to discuss with patients affected. The report is ghastly!
        • 5% of the patients have now been contacted, and the VA-OIG considers this a “success.” I sure hope you are not part of the 24.5% patient population.
        • Here’s the rub in the 76.5% notification, “an absence of a clearly defined process for clinical providers to alert the Clinical Review Team if later changes in a patient’s health required reconsideration of institutional disclosure.” Does the VA-OIG still want to cheer about that notification rate?
        • Less than 5% of the severely sick patients have been notified of the scandal and the problems created by Dr. Levy. Is this how the VA admits culpability, waiting for the patient to pass?
        • Now, here’s the real kick to the balls; “The VA-OIG determined facility processes related to disclosure of the pathology errors and amending patients electronic health records generally met Veterans Health Administration policy requirements, but opportunities for improvement existed.” – Are you KIDDING ME?

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  • Speaking of fiscal inefficiency and audit failures. The VA continues to overspend and under-deliver on prosthetic devices, especially for shoe inserts.
        • In the fiscal year 2019, such items—artificial limbs, shoes, shoe inserts, and compression garments—accounted for about $318.8 million, or about 9 percent of prosthetic spending.
        • Oversight of prosthetic spending was ineffective, resulting in medical facilities sometimes reimbursing vendors at unreasonable rates.
        • Medical facilities spent about $10 million more than reasonable rates in the six months from October 2019 through March 2020.
        • Rates and data in databases remain unreliable, no oversight, and those in charge of oversight are missing in action. Yet, the VA continues to spend pell-mell.  Does this sound like fiscal responsibility to you?

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  • VA-OIG double-speak lives, and is blatantly observable in the following report, the “Contracting Officer Warranting Program.”
        • For those unfamiliar, a simple explanation: “A warrant gives federal contracting officers the authority to obligate taxpayer dollars. VA’s contracting officers help serve our nation’s veterans by procuring the goods and services required for their care and support.”
        • Never forget – There have been long-standing concerns (Never Resolved) with VA’s contracting officer warrant program. Since 2015, the VA Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) has issued multiple reports [describing how] warranted contracting officers exceeded their authority and made decisions that put veterans and VA facilities, resources, and information systems at risk.
        • Never forget – The VA-OIG has documented multiple times, and the VA has never resolved, that the VA’s acquisition management has been included on the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO’s) high-risk list for fiscal impropriety and poor contractual adherence.

BUT…

        • The VA-OIG found that while VA’s contracting officer warrant program complied with Federal Acquisition Regulation requirements, opportunities exist to strengthen the program and that the VA lacked assurance that all contracting officer warrants were justified and necessary. – Essentially, this is bureaucrat double-speak for, continue to lie, cheat, steal. We like our job and want to continue, and since Congress doesn’t care, neither do we!

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  • The VHA continues to suffer from employee shortages. I have written about this shortage until I am blue in the face and my fingers ache.  I am fed up telling the VHA how to fix this problem.  If they want answers, call me!

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  • Nurse Bethann Kierczak of Southgate, Michigan, was charged with theft of government property and theft or embezzlement related to a healthcare benefit program. She allegedly stole authentic COVID-19 vaccination record cards from a VA hospital—along with vaccine lot numbers necessary to make the cards appear legitimate—and then resold those cards and information to individuals within the metro Detroit community. – Frankly, with the way the Federal Government is acting, this theft is almost understandable and acceptable.
          • No! I am not condoning an illegal action!  I am simply stating that Pelosi and her ilk do 10-times worse hourly by Congressional standards and get away with those crimes!

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  • Donald Peter Auzine of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud. Bonnie Jean Lawless Diaz of Slidell, Louisiana, pleaded guilty to misprision (or knowing concealment) of the commission of a felony. From March 2014 through October 2016, Auzine, the marketing manager at Prime Pharmacy Solutions, defrauded TRICARE and other benefit programs. Diaz concealed the fraud by knowingly submitting compounded medications for which there was no medical necessity. Both will be sentenced on January 4, 2022.

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  • Amanda Dawn Rains of Fayetteville, Arkansas, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail, wire, and healthcare fraud, obtaining federal employees’ compensation fraudulently, and paying kickbacks. Rains, a former executive with a Rogers medical supply and billing company, participated in 2013 to 2017, defrauding the US government and private insurance companies.

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  • Robert Seifert of Utica, New York, was sentenced to two years in prison for making telephonic threats to Albany Stratton VA Medical Center employees. He admitted that on January 14, 2021, he made successive calls to three separate employees and left each of them threatening voicemails in which he used demeaning and offensive language. Seifert’s threats caused the employees to fear for their safety and property. He will also serve one year of post-imprisonment supervised release.

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  • Patsy Truglia of Parkland, Florida, pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud and one count of making a false statement in a matter involving a healthcare benefit program. From January 2018 through April 2019, Truglia and other conspirators generated medically unnecessary physicians’ orders via their telemarketing operation for orthotic devices like knee, back, and wrist braces. Truglia, co-defendant Ruth Bianca Fernandez, and other conspirators caused approximately $25 million in fraudulent durable medical equipment claims to be submitted to Medicare, resulting in approximately $12 million in payments.

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  • Larry Ray Bon, 62, was sentenced to over 16 years in prison for shooting a firearm inside the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center in Florida. Bon brought the firearm to the emergency room, and after becoming frustrated with medical staff, he retrieved it from his wheelchair and fired several shots. In March 2020, he pleaded guilty to three counts of assaulting, resisting, or impeding federal employees and one count of possession of a firearm in a federal facility with the intent to commit a crime. At that time, Bon was committed to the custody of the US Attorney General for 25 years of mental health care and treatment at a suitable medical facility. However, Bon was determined to no longer need psychiatric hospitalization and was recently sentenced accordingly.

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Finally, if you want a really good reading, you can visit the VA-OIG page and see the lowlights of the VA-OIG’s reports for yourself by visiting the page here.  Excluded from this list are the usual reports of malfeasance and misfeasance captured in the comprehensive healthcare inspection (CHIp) reports, where we find the exact carbon-copied hits from report to report.  We find moral distress, problems in staffing, continued refusals by leadership to train staff, and the ever-present refusal to attend disruptive committee meetings.  Also omitted from this summation were the inspection of veteran centers and the myriad of failures, bureaucratic ineptitudes, and abysmal behaviors.  Frankly, I could not stand being depressed more by writing and analyzing another moment’s detestable and criminal behavior.Angry Grizzly Bear

What curdles the food in my stomach, this is just the VA.  What about all the other official and unofficial government agencies in the alphabet of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of what we collectively call “the government.”  To all the freedom-loving people in America, please awake and arise; we need you!

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

 

Chronicling the VA, One Ignominious Story at a Time!

I-CareAs we catalog the VA, occasionally, local services providers must be recognized for their service or their deficiencies.  In the spirit of fairness and transparency, it is time to discuss one of those community providers, Advanced Neurology Epilepsy & Sleep Center (ANESC), Dr. Aamr A. Herekar M.D.  Also, in the spirit of fairness and complete transparency, I have tried to settle my problems through the VA Community Services Offices and an appeal to the management and doctor of ANESC, all to no avail!  Regular readers know I have been in a multi-year battle with the VA over arresting me for not wearing a mask because when I wear a mask, I become a medical emergency.

I possess a note from my doctor, a VA Primary Care Provider, written to my employer on VA Letterhead with a wet signature, declaring my inability to wear a mask.  The VA did not accept this letter and arrested me three times.  Well, Dr. Herekar’s office was presented the same letter, and hassled me before both appointments for not wearing a mask, became hostile, argumentative, and a nuisance over the mask issue, even after I complied with putting on a face shield.  Today (23 September 2021), over Facebook messenger, I was informed that I would be invited to find a different provider due to my refusal to wear a mask.VA 3

Imagine that; Facebook Messenger has become the medium of choice for ending a patient relationship with a medical provider.  How very inappropriate!  How very unprofessional!  How very typical of some of the providers I have been sent to in the community by the VA.  Apparently, the abuse of veterans is spreading from the VA providers to the community providers.  If you are in the El Paso area and receive a referral to Dr. Herekar, please be cautious of his staff.  I have no idea of the efficacy and quality of the doctor, but his staff is absolutely third-rate or less!  The shame of the entire episode, the taxpayer is on the hook for my being abused by the staff.  How deplorable!Foghorn Leghorn - Medication

In reviewing different results reported from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) – Office of Inspector General (OIG) comprehensive healthcare inspection (CHIp) of VAMC’s, I am finding some interesting trends.

      1. Why the sudden, as of July 2021, focus on attendance and staffing in behavioral committees? More to the point, why are the behavioral committee’s processes and procedures so draconian?  More specifically, the following is a unique passage too often see in CHIps.
          • High-Risk Processes
            • Disruptive behavior reporting and tracking
            • Disruptive Behavior Reporting System
            • Order of Behavioral Restriction and patient notification documentation
            • Staff training – Isn’t this interesting, staff training is a “High-Risk Process?”
      1. When reporting that patient experience scores are similar to “VHA Averages,” isn’t this like saying a VAMC is as good as another pig in a pile of slop? Why accept averages that are comparable to other VAMC’s?  The leadership at the VAMC’s across the country is failing the veterans, yet the VA-OIG is accepting average performance compared with other VAMC’s.  It sounds like pathetic designed incompetence, wrapped in weak excuses, and deep-fried in a pity party!
      2. Training continues to be a fundamental excuse for failing, and even the VA-OIG seems to have given up and thrown in the towel.VA 3

An example of how training continues to be a fundamental excuse for failing and designed incompetence lies in another CHIp, specifically reporting reusable medical equipment (RME) and sterile processing services (SPS).  The VA-OIG reported the following weaknesses:

      • Standard operating procedures not aligning with manufacturers’ guidelines.
      • Annual risk analysis reporting to the VISN SPS Management Board.
      • SPS chiefs developing, implementing, and enforcing a daily cleaning schedule for all SPS areas
      • Equipment storage, cleaning, and usability.
      • Completion of Level 1 training within 90 days of hire, competency assessments for RME, and monthly continuing education for SPS staff.

All this after the VHA has already been caught with poor cleaning of reusable medical equipment on multiple occasions, where the training of cleaning staff was the primary reason for failing the CHIp from the VA-OIG.  The cycle continues unabated, and training is central to correcting and ending the process.  Yet, even the VA-OIG refuses to address the leadership failures and be part of the training corrective action behaviors.VA 3

In other CHIp reports, we find that completion of training is a high-risk process.  Leading to interesting questions about why and what is involved in staff training to make training high-risk.  What boggles my mind, much of last year, the CHIp reports found moral distress from leadership, this year, nothing; why?  Did the VA-OIG stop asking about this issue?  Certainly, the VA has not corrected this problem.  Am I merely suspicious, or is there a correlation between less focus on employees feeling morally distressed at work and increased focus on patient disruptive behavioral committees?

From other CHIp reports, we find more questions and logic that make no sense.  For example, how can patients be receiving care that meets VHA averages in acceptable care, but the employees reflect severe moral distress?  Does this not indicate that the averages for patient care are set too low?  Would not this be an indicator that leadership is not held to a sufficiently high enough standard of performance?  Worse, on these CHIp reports, we find greater mention of disruptive behavior committee actions, paperwork, training, and actions taken.  Thus, there appears to be a correlational data relationship between disruptive patients, moral distress in employees, failing leadership, and the abuse of the disruptive behavior committee process.  Where are the elected officials asking questions and drawing substantive conclusions regarding the data presented by the VA-OIG?  Heck, where are the VA-OIG data analysts raising alarms and red flags over correlational data points for investigators to act upon?VA 3

As a person who has been fallaciously labeled and erroneously called “disruptive,” this particular topic strikes home.  The system is ripe for abuse by egotistical leaders hell-bent on power-tripping!  When I asked how do you appeal the decisions, I was told lies, given wrong information, and forced to pay fines that I should not have had to pay.  Worse, the Federal Marshals at the courthouse remarked that there had been a significant uptick in veterans in the same situation as mine being fined erroneously by the VA.  Thus, the abuse of the veterans is both widespread and decidedly egregious!

Another recurring issue from the CHIp reports is remarkable from recent VA-OIG investigations, especially since multiple veterans have recently died over the issue, care coordination.  Care coordination includes completing paperwork, filling out the electronic health record, and signing the electronic health record, so the notes are available for other providers to use for follow-on patient treatment, nurse-to-nurse communication, and medication transmission, but most importantly, monitoring and tracking patient whereabouts on the facility’s grounds.  Yet, even with dead veterans with these issues as root causes, the VHA continues to fail in care coordination.  How do you define appalling, detestable, and disgraceful?  Where are the elected officials?  Where are the veteran service organizations in raising rhubarbs about the abuse of veterans at the hands of the VHA?VA 3

Finally, the most astounding and absurd continuous hit point from CHIp to CHIp report is found under the heading of “Quality, Safety, and Value.”  Under this heading falls a lot of topics, but imperative to improvement is the leadership failure to hold meetings attended by the primary audience.  Tell me, in the private sector; your boss calls a meeting of all department heads and their number two person.  If these people are no-shows, how long will they keep their jobs?  Yet, the VA-OIG finds repetitive missed meetings, no follow-up, no remediation, no punitive measures, no corrective actions, and these people are still employed!

Knowledge Check!One of the most bothersome things about reading three weeks’ worth of CHIp reports has been the consistency of the reports.  Too often, the reports read like they were copied.  Maybe this is due to the consistency of failed leadership; perhaps this is due to the lack of originality in thinking in the VHA, VBA, and the VA in general.  Regardless, the CHIp reports raise some concerning issues, specifically around the potential for abuses found in the disruptive behavior committee process and what disruptive behavior is at the VHA and VBA.  For example, if a patient is throwing furniture, this is obviously disruptive.  But, if a patient disagrees with a policy and is politely asking to speak to administration, this is not disruptive, but the patient is treated as disruptive, and that is abusive of the disruptive patient policies.

© 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.

Compliance Problems and Dead Veterans – More Shameful VA Misconduct Chronicles

Angry Grizzly BearThe Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) – Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) is filling my inbox by mid-week again, and the volume never ceases to amaze and mystify.  Over the last 10+ years of reporting on the VA-OIG reports, I have learned that when the volume is exceedingly high by mid-week, there are reports the VA-OIG is hoping to get overlooked in the crush.  Luckily for them, I am here to ensure nothing gets overlooked; you’re welcome!

We begin with more fiscal insanity and the failure to comply with regular auditing and business financial practices that would see a private company’s owners in prison.  Let’s be clear; Congress passed specific legislation to single out government agencies to demand they comply.  One of these unique pieces of legislation is called the Payment Integrity Information Act (PIIA), which audits the VA regularly fails.

Please note, last year, the VA failed two programs on the PIIA; for the fiscal year 2020, the VA failed two of the programs, consistent failure is a leadership problem.  Yet, the VA-OIG claimed the following:

To VA’s credit, it noted a decrease in improper payment estimates two years in a row and a decrease in its improper payment rates for nine programs and activities.”VA 3

Consistent with the previous fiscal year’s PIIA reports, yes; still a leadership problem, yes.  But I am not so generous as the VA-OIG, for I know many a non-profit and for-profit organization that has been fined heavily, bankrupted, and put into conservatorship over the same actions.  Nothing ever happens to the leaders at the VA failing to do their jobs!  12 programs and activities totaling $11.37 Billion, and never are the leaders held accountable for failure; let that sink in for a minute or two.  Read the report, you tell me, should real people be held responsible for failing to follow the law?

Gravy Train 3The VA-OIG conducted a comprehensive healthcare inspection (CHIp) of the Roseburg VAHCS in Oregon; for the regular readers, I bet you can guess what was found.  Yup, the employees feel morally distressed in how they are being pressured to treat the veterans.  Are you surprised; I am not, but there still might be some people, somewhere in America, surprised that the VA abuses the veterans they are honor-bound to serve.  The most tenured leaders have been in place since 2016.  I wonder if the moral distress and the leadership hiring are correlational data points, for I know that from 2012 to 2017, there was a lot of shuffling of VA leaders at the local VAMC/VAHCS level due to dead veterans in Phoenix from death list scandals.

The VA-OIG claimed the following:

The VA-OIG identified concerns with root cause analysis action implementation and outcomes measurement. Leaders were knowledgeable about employee satisfaction and patient experiences. However, they had opportunities to improve their knowledge of VHA data or system-level factors contributing to specific poorly performing Strategic Analytics for Improvement and Learning measures.”VA 3

Tell me something, how can you have a job for more than four years, be rated as knowledgeable about the measurement analytical methods, but not be knowledgeable about root cause analysis, action implementation, and systems-level factors contributing to poor performance?  To gain your position, you had to grow professionally through the bureaucracy and the various sub-levels of VA leadership to lead a VA Hospital.  Yet, somehow, after all this time and experience, you have inadequate knowledge about the essential functions of your job.  Quoting Colonel Potter here: “HORSE HOCKEY!”  Does this sound remarkably akin to designed incompetence to anyone else?cropped-bird-of-prey.jpg

Meaning, I do not believe your lies!

Traveling to Fayetteville, Arkansas, and the case of Dr. Robert Dale Bernauer Sr. (74), who has pled guilty to workers comp fraud and four other charges of fraud, where the total amount of fraud existed from 2011 to 2017 and more than $1 Million.  Co-Conspirators and the insurance company are not named but should be.  Worse, this scheme involved workman’s compensation insurance for Federal and State employees, Federal agencies, State agencies, and private employers.  While the lawyers and attorneys all crow about catching a doctor who committed fraud, and I am glad he was caught, where are all the state and federal employees who had to know this was going on and did not do their jobs?

Through the insurance company, the doctor was charging 1500-2000% higher for medication marked up. Indeed, this should have raised some eyebrows and questions somewhere in the six years this fraud lasted.  Who is asking why this did not raise red flags at the state and federal levels?VA Seal

Weep America, another veteran, has died by suicide, and the VA is culpable due to bureaucrat inertia and outright failure to follow the guidelines and rules as established.

The VA-OIG found that staff did not adequately evaluate the patient’s condition when reviewing the patient’s high-risk status.  Facility staff did not assign a Mental Health Treatment Coordinator (MHTC) prior to discharge or establish a facility MHTC policy, as required.  The Recovery Engagement and Coordination for Health – Veterans Enhanced Treatment (REACH VET) provider did not outreach the patient as required.  Facility staff did not comply with Veterans Health Administration suicide risk assessment procedures and did not notify facility leaders or suicide prevention staff of the patient’s death by suicide” [emphasis mine].VA 3

Why was the staff allowed to fail so severely here; they were not appropriately trained.  Staff failures and training failures are symptoms of leadership failures, and a veteran is dead!  Which staff has been fired for their failures?  Which leaders have been fired without retirement or potential for rehiring for a deceased veteran as the final act in a chain of events that began with failing to perform their job?  How many times will this story have to repeat before Congress acts to reflect the interest and the responsibility invested in their office by the electorate?  How many times is this story repeating without the benefit of the VA-OIG doing a full-blown investigation?Angry Wet Chicken

Unfortunately, the following report involves the abuse of an intimate partner and bureaucratic inertia.  While the complete record is not revealed (thankfully), what is revealed is detestable to the Nth degree and includes 214 days of spousal abuse, bureaucratic inertia, and mental health failures to protect the spouse and help the veteran, ending with the veteran’s suicide.  The saddest part of this story, it took almost three years for this suicide to be investigated by the VA-OIG (2019).

“The VA-OIG found that despite the patient’s and spouse’s intimate partner violence (IPV) reports, inpatient mental health unit staff did not consult with the IPVAP point of contact or ensure the spouse felt safe with the patient returning home upon discharge. The inpatient psychiatry resident did not timely complete a progress note addendum, which resulted in other clinicians not having access to critical IPV-related information for 34 days. Facility staff failed to consider a consultation with the Office of Chief Counsel, although the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) advises employees to “work with your Office of Chief Counsel” regarding state reporting requirements for victims of IPV. Outpatient mental health staff did not consult with the IPVAP point of contact or document discussion of IPV resources or treatment options, as the OIG would have expected. The Facility Director did not ensure the development of an IPVAP protocol, as required. Although a licensed independent provider was appointed as the IPVAP coordinator, facility staff and leaders did not identify the assigned IPVAP coordinator as a resource at the time of the patient’s care in 2019. The VA-OIG also found that VHA guidance about IPV training responsibilities was unclear.”VA 3

Let’s talk about some realities of mental health.

      • 50% of the patients seeking mental health see no improvement.
      • 10% of the patients seeking mental health support will be injured by the mental health provider.
      • 33% of the mental health patients choosing a pharmacological solution experience harm or no relief.

If you add these numbers up, that’s 93% of the population seeking mental health support not being helped or being harmed by mental health providers.  This does not mean that mental health providers need to give up, but they need to work harder to find solutions and meet their patient’s needs.  It means timely provider notes are mandatory!  It requires providers to have a plethora of options for treatments, obtain patient buy-in, and follow up with the patient.  It involves treatment facilities to write procedures and operating policies that allow for rapport between a patient and a provider that is not disturbed as long as that relationship is healthy and progress occurs.

Knowledge Check!America, it is time, and past time, for the Department of Veterans Affairs to be overhauled from stem to stern.  To be held up to scrutiny, transparent audits and the leaders held accountable and responsible for the failures and abuse of veterans, their spouses, and dependents.  These last two stories, especially, have left me spiritually sick and mentally angry!  There is no excuse for the inertia evidenced, no excuse for the designed incompetence, and no excuse for the abuse to continue!  Where is Congress?  Where is the US President?  Where are the House and Senate speakers (Major and Minor) raising a rhubarb and demanding hearings, opening Department of Justice inquiries into misconduct and malfeasance when these egregious VA-OIG reports are brought before them?  Where is the media in demanding the politicians pay attention?

Satire? Obama ISIS Speech Depresses Nation | Hooper's War - Peter Van BurenWeep America!  Those who have defended you and me are being fed into the machine of bureaucratic inertia and spat out as broken or dead constructs — bereft of hope, lost in red tape, and denied solutions and care.  Pets and farm animals are treated better than veterans, and I cannot help but wonder if this was designed purposefully to satisfy the whims and fancies of the politicians currently in office.  Treat an animal like a veteran is treated, and you will be publicly shamed on national TV faster than a snake can shed its skin.  You will receive more media attention, more lawyers and politicians will hound you, and consequences galore will fall all over you.  Shameful!  Utterly shameful!

References

American Psychological Association. (2012, August). Recognition of psychotherapy effectiveness. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/about/policy/resolution-psychotherapy.aspx

Corbett, L. (2013, December 17). Psychotherapy based on depth psychology is a superior approach [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/e4JQamcq24c

Lilienfeld, S. (2007). Psychological Treatments That Cause Harm. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 2(1), 53-70. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/40212335

Smith, B. L. (2012). Inappropriate prescribing. Monitor on Psychology, 43(6), 36. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/06/prescribing.aspx

© 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.

An Open Missive to our Federal Elected Officials: Who Polices the Federal Government in Following Hiring Practices?

As a dual-service, disabled veteran, possessing two master-level degrees from accredited colleges and engaged in the pursuit of a Ph.D., I am finding, from personal experience and in speaking to others pursuing employment with disabilities, discrimination is alive and well.  I can understand the discrimination in private sector hiring; I do not like it but understand it.  Risk, costs of health insurance, and costs of doing business increase when hiring those with disabilities.  I do not see government as a “jobs program” in any way; however, the government has taken it upon themselves to enact rules specifically to hire those with disabilities.  Thus, the government should be more open to hiring those of us with disabilities.

People ProcessesFederal Government hiring procedures provide two hiring paths, competitive and non-competitive.  Under competitive, there are several ways of being placed ahead of others and points are awarded for certain hiring preferences, of which being a veteran is but one.  In non-competitive hiring, Schedule A provides for disabled people to sidestep the traditional, or competitive, practices of hiring to have an opportunity of obtaining employment without having to compete with candidates not experiencing the special conditions caused by disability

Disabled people are supposed to be able to employ Schedule A hiring practices for Federal Hiring because disabled people know how difficult it is to be hired for the private sector, city, county, and state government hiring.  Here is where those in hiring positions for the Federal Government are able to bypass the system and not hire disabled people:  no one is policing hiring.  I was informed, very politely, by the Inspector General’s Office that they do not inquire or investigate compliance with regulations for hiring.  The question to you, elected Federal Officials: who polices and ensures compliance with written protocols established by OPM for hiring?

As a disabled veteran, hiring in the private sector has become more difficult as my injuries have become more noticeable, from fall 2010 to present.  Having a disability that is nerve based, causing tics/twitches/spasms, hiring officials acknowledge directly or indirectly that since my cost to employer-based health care will come with a pre-existing condition and higher overall costs in ADA compliance and loss of potential (blue) money, I become the “candidate to beat,” and finally will be told, “you are overqualified,” “you are over-educated,” or my personal favorite “you are not a good fit.”  Thus, after four consecutive years of seeing my ability to be hired in the private sector diminish, I began more heavily pursuing employment with the Federal Government.

In June 2016, I was, finally, awarded a Schedule A letter to add to my documents in Federal Hiring.  With the Schedule A letter, I was provided OPM training on how to be “Direct Hired” and walked through the OPM website governing the policies that govern Schedule A hiring and disability hiring for the Federal Government.  Since the award of the Schedule A letter, I have had a VA hiring official refuse to use the letter claiming VRA and VEOA are both more efficient, and then not hire me for being “overqualified.”  I have experienced hiring managers tell me that “Direct Hire” authority lies with managers, and you need to know those managers to employ Schedule A preference, but the hiring managers cannot tell you who else to speak with to receive Schedule A hiring.  The absolute best excuse has been a hiring manager’s claim that there is no such thing as non-competitive hiring, that all applicants must be hired under competitive hiring standards, and then proceeded to tell me I am not qualified for the position because my degrees were not specifically those desired in the advertisement, even though the advertisement did not specify a specific degree, other than master-level.  Most recently I have been offered positions so far below minimum pay levels only because the government knows that desperation often breeds compliance, even if compliance creates actual harm, all in the name of some future date of possibly being hired for the wages qualified for at the time of hire.

Hence, I emailed the Inspector General’s office regarding these circumstances and received the following reply, “The Inspector General’s Office does not monitor compliance with hiring in the Federal Government.”  Thus, Elected Officials, I ask you, “Who regulates and ensures compliance in hiring for Federal Government positions?”  “Who is accountable for OPM regulations being adhered to by local hiring decision-makers?”  “Where can those who are disabled and trying to work turn for a reconciliation of just grievances?”  You, the elected officials, created this hiring system with preferences for disabled people to find work with the Federal Government, so who is policing the hiring for you?

I have now contacted elected officials in four separate states while living and voting in those areas, Ohio, Arizona, Utah, and Michigan, asking the representatives of elected officials directly the same questions posed in this missive.  Senator McCain’s office was the most oblique and obtuse claiming that if hiring practices are not being followed it is due to a lack of training somewhere, but the issue is not important enough for the senator’s time.  Upon arrival in New Mexico, I asked about hiring at the VA Hospital in Albuquerque and was told by several officials at the VA Hospital that the HR Department was under extra scrutiny due to a significant lack of following the hiring guidelines for Federal Government hiring; but, none of those people could tell me who polices the hiring practices and ensures compliance.

Why is this important; because disabled people are not receiving the kind of hiring support they need.  With the current costs to business operation in the private sector, I can understand, I do not like it, but I can understand, that hiring those with disabilities is going to be a major cash outlay upfront with increased risk.  As a business professional, I understand the risk/cost structure, and I understand that the speed of business dictates finding the lowest cost/risk, candidate.  For the city, county, state, and Federal Government positions, I cannot fathom why disabled people are dragged through such egregious hiring practices.  I did an unofficial survey of 25 Federal Government, NM State, Bernalillo County, and City of Albuquerque employees asking them one simple question, how long did it take for you to be hired initially.  The answers ranged from multiple months to 5 years of constant applying.  If the employee had been promoted, I asked how long did the employee wait for the promotion, and the answers ranged from 3-months in the initial position to 15-years.  As a business professional, I can confidently say this is where enormous amounts of blue (potential) money are being wasted, and as the axiom goes, burn enough blue money and green money, in this case, taxpayer funds, evaporate!

Ways to fix the hiring issue:

  • USAJobs.govEach Federal Government office needs to have a single person solely responsible for Schedule A and all other direct hire authority programs that non-employees can communicate with to apply directly to that organization. All open positions would run through this office first providing the option to request Schedule A preference, and upon that selection, USAJobs.gov would automatically drive the applications to the single person responsible for direct hiring and provide this person’s name and contact information to the applicant.
  • Stop the redundant efforts. Once a background and reference check has completed for one office, make this information available to all offices for 365-days.  With applicants making multiple applications to several different offices, this alleviates contacting those references multiple times, duplicating work, and wasting resources.  The technology to share is already available, and this is a low-cost, high-return option to invoke.
  • Every worker in government expects everything to take an inordinate amount of time to complete work. The longer the waiting game takes, the more potential (Blue) money is wasted exponentially.  Start shaving unproductive hiring practices, processes, and procedures.  Streamlining the hiring process overall is needed!

Blue Money BurningConsider the following as a general guide.  For every five dollars of blue money wasted, fifteen to fifty green taxpayer dollars evaporate.  Thus, when a position is open, the lost potential is the annual salary of the new hire for every month the position remains open and unfilled, and the green money loss is the annual salary of the position open every two months.  Between others having to work harder to cover the open position (Blue), the added strain and stress of working shorthanded (Blue), and the lost productivity of the entire team including the costs of long-term planning (Blue), along with other factors, are “hidden costs” of conducting business.  In the blue money loss, the green money evaporation is found in less time for maintenance, tools, and people are used harder and longer, overtime for important deadlines, and commitments lost are all, but not a complete list, of green money evaporation pits.

  • While not directly a hiring practice, reducing employee churn, training, and promoting more quickly is a best business practice. The people in government make the government, and I am not the only customer service professional pointing to government offices as the epitome of incompetent people wasting resources and destroying morale and customer relationships.

Case in point, at the Regional VA Office in Phoenix, AZ, three people regularly man the front desk and are the face of this VA facility.  Of these three, one person is incompetent and intentionally mean, remarking in demeaning and insulting tones to questions and speaking ill of the veteran they just “helped.”  One is trying and means well.  The third could not be hired to clean road kill off streets and is completely and utterly a drone, for example saying they are working on a task but never accomplishing anything productive.  Several times while being harassed assisted by these individuals, I witnessed the third person asking for help from another employee to staple forms together, asking “where does the staple go in the form again?”  Hence, I was not surprised when Phoenix became the face of incompetent and heartless government workers literally killing veterans.  Clean house of the deadwood, replace with hard-working people and streamline the process of work to reduce the opportunity for drones and hacks to manipulate the system.  Of the 10-15 people that regularly float through the Phoenix VA Regional Office Front-Desk/Waiting Area, I think two might actually be working.  The rest seem to have an amorphous purpose doing ambiguous work in a cloud of confusion taking taxpayer wages for no productivity.

  • Customer service improvement begins internally, employee to employee. Want to slow churn, improve how employees serve each other.  Want to reduce churn significantly, get the supervisors, team leaders, and other organizational leaders out of the office, onto the production floor, and actively exemplifying customer service and professionalism.  Improve employee to employee customer service and departments like the VA and DMV will immediately begin to change their horrendous reputations.

I am not the only person in this country paying taxes and angry about the drones and dregs hired to conduct government business.  It is past time to demand accountability for the taxpayer money waste at all levels of government.  Decreasing waste begins with improved hiring, respect for the government they work for by being honest in their employment, and increased regard for the people they serve.

When an employee commits a crime, they should be able to be fired and never re-hired by the government, then held accountable in a court of law for their crimes.  When an employee does not pay their taxes while working for the government, they should be fired and never re-hired, then held accountable like every other citizen not paying their taxes.  To hear about government computers full of porn, child porn, and online gambling, tells me there are workers that are not being supervised properly, work is not being done, and the supervisor and the offending employee need to be fired and never re-hired, then held accountable in a court of law for their crimes.  Being paid to work and not working is theft!  Child porn is a crime!  Watching porn on a computer while being paid is both sexual harassment and theft, both of which are crimes!

The taxpayer receives a slap to the face when federal, state and county government employees are caught gaming the system for personal profit, are not required to remit the monies ill-gotten, and are not fired, or worse are fired and an obscure union regulation returns them to work at the same salary and position of authority, or worse are promoted after being returned to work.  These are failures in treating people properly, honoring the tax dollars invested, and reflecting a failure of elected officials to supervise government workers needed to run the government.  When will our elected officials become the leaders we are paying them to be, holding those malfeasant characters legally and morally accountable and removing them from employment in government?

Your'e HiredWe hired you, the elected officials, to run the government for us, not to enrich yourselves at our expense, and not to allow nefarious and untrustworthy people to lie, cheat, and steal our tax monies and keep being paid with our tax money!  More egregious still is allowing those who have abused the power of government to cause harm, then allow those abusers to quietly leave the government with their pensions, and no criminal charges are ever pursued, e.g., Lois Lerner among many others.  When you want to know why the approval rating for elected officials is so low, look no further than the issues raised in this missive.  Fix the problems!