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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Plus the following:

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

Don’t forget this one:

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

More is coming on this one:

Ten Texas doctors and a healthcare executive have agreed to pay more than $1.68 million to resolve False Claims Act allegations involving illegal remuneration in violation of the Anti-Kickback Statute and Stark Law.  According to a multiagency investigation, from 2015 to 2018, the doctors allegedly received thousands of dollars in illegal remuneration from eight management service organizations (MSOs) in exchange for ordering laboratory tests from Rockdale Hospital doing business as Little River Healthcare, True Health Diagnostics LLC, and Boston Heart Diagnostics Corporation.  Little River funded the illegal remuneration to the doctors in the form of volume-based commissions paid to independent contractor recruiters, who used the MSOs to pay numerous doctors for their referrals.  The MSO payments to the doctors were disguised as investment returns but were based on and offered in exchange for the doctors’ referrals.  As part of their settlements, the defendants have agreed to cooperate with the Department of Justice’s investigations of other parties involved in the alleged law violations.  To date, 17 doctors and two healthcare executives involved in this scheme have agreed on settlements totaling more than $2.7 million.  The civil settlements resulted from a coordinated effort between the VA OIG, Department of Health and Human Services OIG, Defense Criminal Investigative Service, and the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Texas [emphasis mine].”

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

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

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

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

VA-OIG finding:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“That’s Crazy!!!” – More Chronicles from the VA Chapter 5

I-CareI had originally planned on writing something else today, but my mental train was derailed, caught on fire, and I had to change my plans.  18 March 2022, I received an email signed from Sonja Brown of the Albuquerque VAMCS, who discussed how it takes 10-20 years for the VA to make a decision about which clinics to close, how to build new clinics, and the possibility of change (not) occurring in the New Mexico VA Medical System.  Doesn’t that warm your heart; two decades is a maximum timeframe for ending unprofitable clinics to save the taxpayer money.  Now multiply this problem by every government agency, and we find the reason for reducing the government bloat!VA 3

Luckily, I still have VA-OIG reports to discuss, not that I got behind, but February and March have been especially prolific.  In January, the pace set appears to be sustained, at least for the first quarter of 2022.  Some have commented that I do not write very often about the National Cemetery side of the VA’s voluminous bureaucracy.  Your wish is granted; a whistleblower reported that the Houston National Cemetery was not being operated properly.  The VA-OIG substantiated “some of the claims made by the whistleblower.”  However, the leadership at the Houston National Cemetery had, for the most part, already begun making changes before the VA-OIG arrived.

Thus, I congratulate the Houston National Cemetery leadership for being almost proactive and 100% more responsible than any leadership in the VHA and VBA.  My heartiest gratitude to you and your staff.  May you continue to show initiative, forward-thinking, and attention to detail, and may the rest of the VA’s hegemonically impotent leaders learn from your example.VA 3

A Comprehensive Healthcare Inspection (CHIP) was conducted at the James J. Peters VAMC in the Bronx, NY.  While a lot of the report is cookie-cutter, similar to all the other CHIPs that cross my inbox, I remain fascinated with a frequently used term from the report, “Servant Leadership.”  From the website linked, we find the following to define “servant leadership” at the VA:

We are all leaders, all of the time.
Servant Leadership is an approach for optimizing the delivery of client-centered services by strengthening employees to be an engaged and empowered workforce.  The philosophy and practice of Servant Leadership is one that emphasizes caring, authenticity, and putting clients and employees first, and ahead of personal goals or leadership aspirations.  Servant Leaders strive to meet both organizational objectives and the growth / development of their workforce.”

Please note ALL the grammar and punctuation errors are included in that quote.  Far be it for me to pass along any advice on grammar, spelling, punctuation, and proper communication techniques.  But, even this quoted material reflects the fact that there is a Grand Canyon-like chasm between DC leadership and the worm’s eye-view in a VA Hospital, VBA operations center, or the National Cemetery.  Be a leader at the VA, and you will NOT last your probationary period after hire; I have experienced this personally!VA 3

Worse, try and help the VA from the worm’s eye to see the problems and fix the issues, and the VA Leadership will chop you into little tiny pieces and feed your carcass to the fishes.  Yet, every single CHIP report mentions problems with “servant leadership” as opportunities for growth and development.  More bureaucratese for designed incompetence as an excuse, the VA-OIG will believe.  How sick to death I am of these shenanigans!  Don’t believe me; check out the full CHIP report, it’s linked above, read a few of the other CHIP reports from the VA-OIG, and discuss the actual problems you think the VA is experiencing.

Servant Leadership is officially defined, by Purdue University, quoting Robert Greenleaf from 1970, as:

The servant-leader is servant first.  It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve first … a philosophy and set of practices that [enrich] the lives of individuals, builds better organizations and ultimately creates a more just and caring world.”

Notice a problem between the two definitions of servant leadership?  Recognize an issue yet with the entire concept of servant-leadership?  Let me give you a hint through a question, What does a “just and caring world” really define?  The whole concept of servant leadership is easily twisted, plasticized, and framed in a way that removes liberty, destroys justice, and wrecks havoc on a free society, all because the philosophy sounds good, but the practice leaves chaos and destruction in the name of creating a more just and caring world.Servant Leadership and Health Care: Critical Partners in Changing Times

I am not condemning anyone who wants to try and improve their leadership skills through learning servant leadership or applying some of the servant leadership philosophies in their leadership toolbox.  I am merely stating that care and caution should be used when trying to reshape the world on such ambiguous and amorphous terms as “just and caring.”  The VA is trying to force a leadership template for all leaders to follow.  This type of leadership philosophy warps the world and makes leaders into managers with excuses for failure, e.g., designed incompetence.

On a different topic, please read the following carefully:

The VA Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) reviews nonpharmaceutical proposals submitted to the VA National Acquisition Center (NAC) for Federal Supply Schedule (FSS) contracts valued annually at $10 million or more for high tech medical equipment, $3 million or more for all other FSS contracts, $100,000 or more based on manufacturer sales under dealers or resellers, or as requested by the NAC.”

Here is why the above is critical:

The VA-OIG determined commercial disclosures were accurate, complete, and current for only 24 of the 103 proposals reviewed.  This means 24 proposals were reliable for determining negotiation objectives and fair and reasonable pricing.  The remaining 79 could not reliably be used for negotiations until the noted deficiencies were corrected.  The OIG recommended lower prices than offered for 76 proposals.

If you, in your employment, had a 23% accuracy rate, and someone else had to come behind you, redoing all of your work, how long would you last in your job?  Note there are still 3 proposals that do not meet regulations and requirements out of 103 contract reviews.  Read the rest of this incredible report for yourself and know what your elected representatives are failing to curtail and control.  Then answer the following question: “Why should we re-elect ANY of the current elected officials?”VA 3

On the topic of designed incompetence of an almost criminal nature, we find the VBA still making headlines and breaking rules of ethics, morals, and logic with aplomb!  Before getting into the VA-OIG report, it is crucial to note that the VBA has exclusively gone to a third-party model for Compensation and Pension exams.  The most important part of the VBA’s operations, the comp and pen exam, is now conducted solely by third-party contracts companies.  A VA doctor sees a person trying to get their benefits from the VBA no longer but a third-party physician’s assistant at best, who is (supposedly) overseen by a medical doctor.  The lack of transparency and the complicated processes of the VBA are gordian, and transparency is hidden; read that as missing entirely.You know it's true - Imgflip

Here comes the VA-OIG, not to the rescue, but to rub salt into the wounds of veterans whose claims continue to be denied for lack of evidence.

“[The] VBA complied with the requirements of the law by reinstating 69 questionnaires on its public-facing website.  However, disability benefits questionnaires that were incomplete, inaccurate, or of questionable authenticity from non-VA medical providers were not always processed correctly when determining benefits entitlement—causing underpayments of about $13,900 and overpayments of $74,800 over the nine months studied.

Improper processing occurred because VBA lacked sufficient controls to ensure disability benefits questionnaires from non-VA medical providers were properly relied on when determining entitlement to benefits.”

Let’s let this sink in for a moment.  The VBA moved to a third-party model, then denied access to the VBA’s questionnaires to determine benefits, then had to be forced to reinstate the questionnaires.  Improper VBA processes and procedures led to over and underpayments of benefits, and claims processors still do not have the tools to make informed and logical decisions reliably.  Best of all, veracity (questionable authenticity) remains questioned in the process when the third-party contractor submits the forms for benefits.VA 3

You cannot make this stuff up; fiction writers can come nowhere close to creating a story this inane!  Is designed incompetence as a concept clear now?  The VBA developed a process using a more expensive model and then questioned the inputs for veracity from the contracted party, and the veteran suffered more!  Do you think the VBA intentionally designs its processes to help and create a more just and caring world (servant leadership)?  I think the VBA intentionally designed their processes to screw veterans in the hope they die before the government ever pays money on their claims.  Let me know what you think in the comment section, for this is a travesty of justice anyway I slice the data.

As a veteran who has been trying to get a compensation and pension decision corrected since leaving the service in 2004, having suffered both overpayments, which I had to repay, underpayments, and erroneous overpayments where the funds paid were (eventually) refunded, the news from the VBA designed incompetence is a particular form of hell for me to read and discuss.  I have had the third-party comp and pen exam doctors refuse to see me three times in the last two years.  Delaying a VBA decision repeatedly.  I have had the VBA reject the third-party data and a new comp and pen exam scheduled, rescheduled because I cannot wear a mask, and then conducted by a hostile and infuriating provider who refused to listen to the patient.Are you an Incompetent Developer? - Web Development & Web Design Blog

When veterans talk about fighting the VBA for a fair and honest decision, they mean a literal fight!  Don’t take my word for it; ask veterans how their comp and pen exam has gone; when you find those struggling with the VBA, listen carefully to their stories, and you will hear very similar stories.  The VBA represents government inefficiency, designed incompetence, and bureaucratic inertia to the Nth degree!

The following link might, or might not, work as intended; the link directs you to all testimony recorded from congressional hearings.  If it works, you will be able to read the statement of David Case, Deputy IG, who was testifying before the HVAC subcommittee on drafted legislation “Quality Education for Veterans Act of 2022”.  A brief synopsis from his testimony is included below:

This bill would significantly strengthen the OIG’s efforts to prevent fraud in VA’s education and training programs.  Given that more than $10 billion in taxpayer funds is expended on education and training programs each year and hundreds of thousands of veterans, service members, and family members receive these benefits, the OIG supports efforts to strengthen programmatic and beneficiary protections.  The statutory changes in the draft bill do not appear to be burdensome or costly to educational institutions or VA, and yet they have the potential to make a significant impact on the amount of education fraud that occurs.  The OIG agrees that these changes would work to lessen the harm suffered by veterans and beneficiaries and reduce losses to the government.”

Ever wonder how much a VA-OIG inspection costs or where and how the VA-OIG is funded; here is the answer and the problem.  Tell me, why is the VA-OIG not financed from the VA budget?  Simple question, not hard, and requires an explanation!  The explanation should be detailed, transparent, and I guarantee that the answer will reflect the designed incompetence and failure to scrutinize the executive branch adequately.  The VA is one of the few, if not the only, Federal Government Agency with a specialized inspectorate general, dedicated solely to independent oversight and continuous improvement of the VA.  I think the VA-OIG might be failing in its mission.VA 3

Fraud is rampant in the VA because the VA refuses to act, work, change, and improve.  How will throwing more money at VA programs alleviate the hurt, stop the fraud, and spur continuous improvement?  Almost every week, my inbox fills with accounts of fraud occurring, but the roots of the problems are never addressed, and people are not held accountable for failing to perform the work they were hired to complete.  Failing to hold people responsible promotes fraud, waste, and abuse.  Allowing whistleblowers to be fired promotes a discouraged whistleblowing culture, and the perpetrators are allowed to continue their nefarious misdeeds!  How is the VA-OIG going to tackle these systemic issues in the culture at the VA?  When will continuous improvement begin; I do not want to miss growth and development!

Knowledge Check!America, the VA is sick.  A symptom not a disease; the larger disease is a refusal to act morally upright.  The majority of those employed in the behemoth of government service have little to no moral compunction, are not servants of the taxpayer, and consider themselves “Too BIG to fail.”  We need a smaller government, and I hope this message helps enlighten and support shrinking the 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.

“That’s Crazy!!!” – More Chronicles From the VA Chapter 3

Bobblehead DollIt is no secret I am on several prescription medications.  I take these under strict medical advice, and three of these prescriptions regard mental health improvements.  However, my prescription reasons were subtly shifted because Phoenix’s last two primary care providers did not listen to the patient.  Since the El Paso primary care physicians appear to be utterly incapable of even attempting to listen, I have now been without a mental health prescription for an entire week.  This is called bureaucratic cold-turkey prescription stoppage!

Not the first time this has happened, especially for this particular medication, a serotonin blocker.  Here’s the rub, the physical and mental withdrawal symptoms of cold turkeying the drug; includes, but is not limited to, the following symptoms, of which I have ALL of the problems!

      • Nightmares
      • Suicidal Ideation/Thoughts/Visions
      • Headaches
      • Heart Palpitations, radiating chest pain
      • Anxiety
      • Depressions
      • Mood Swings
      • Irritability
      • Tinglings and Prickling sensations of the skin
      • “Brain Saps”/”Brain Shivers”/Spaced-Out Zombie Spells
      • Fatigue
      • Dry Mouth
      • Insomnia and Sleepiness – Which is a major whiplash feeling!
      • Pain and neurological events in every part of my body!
      • … and more… Much…  Much… More!

I have been without this medication due to bureaucratic stupidity for several days in the past due to pharmacy issues.  But, this is now the longest I have been without this medication since getting prescribed this medication.  I wish, like anything, I had known some of these withdrawal symptoms before I went to the ER earlier this week for pain and neurological problems; I would have raised the refill issues as part of the ER visit.  I went online looking for other people’s experiences; I want some medical advice before continuing this medication!!!

PACT_modelI am a root cause kind of person; why do I bring this up?  I have had three primary care providers since arriving in the El Paso VAHCS in May 2021.  None of them have gotten any of the medications correct due to a blatant refusal to LISTEN to the patient with the INTENT to understand!  Nurses with VA-provided primary care providers are expected to communicate with patients between 24 and 72 hours post any ER visit.  Since moving to Las Cruces, I have visited the ER twice and have not spoken to the nurse yet!

I have initiated the conversation with the nurse through phone and secure messaging, and the nurse has refused to engage.  Through secure messaging, I am advised, “Secure messaging is not the place to triage a patient, and no question can be answered as this requires triage of a patient.”  No direct phone contact is possible with the clinic.  One must call, get routed to a call center, leave a message, and then hope the clinic calls you back sometime before you die!  Don’t forget; I am the same patient told, “The clinic will not see you in person because you “WILL NOT” wear a mask.”  Completely refusing to understand, accept, and believe that I cannot wear a mask due to medically documented (by the VA medical providers, which medical records they possess) reasons.  Best of all, the veteran is then sent letters and marketing materials urging the veteran to use secure messaging through “MyHealtheVet as a safe and secure way to access your medical team and get your questions and concerns addressed by your PACT team!”  If the VA were a mental health patient, they would have schizophrenia and at least a dual-personality.

PACT 1Snide, rude, and disrespectful staff, all made possible by, supported through, and legally accepted under federal government fiat.  Do you realize that the nurse not doing their job will have any number of valid and acceptable excuses, and these excuses are accepted because of designed intentional incompetence allowed under federal employment laws, regulations, and directives, established by and supported through Congressional oversight?  In Disney’s “Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement,” Viscount Mayberry has a line,

Your staff is incompetent and unreliable!”

The VA is incompetent and unreliable, and the victims are the veterans and their families.  We are talking about dangerous drugs, forced addictions, and then the ineptitude of incompetent and irresponsible bureaucrats who refuse to do their jobs in a timely and responsible manner.  But do not take my word for it.  Let’s review what a watchdog organization, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) – Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG), has to say on this matter.

VA 3

  • Tracy McNeil, of Raeford, North Carolina, was sentenced to one year and one day in prison and ordered to pay $90,003 in restitution for committing wire fraud involving an elderly veteran in her care. From February 2015 to February 2017, McNeil fraudulently obtained benefits from the VA and the Office of Personnel Management by executing a power of attorney over a disabled veteran who served in the Army and worked for the US Postal Service. The investigation revealed that McNeill arranged for the victim, who had dementia, to move into her home in February 2015 and then directed the VA and OPM to deposit the veteran’s benefits into her bank account. Between April 2015 and December 2016, the VA deposited $11,151, and OPM deposited $61,318 into McNeil’s account. Further, OPM disbursed the veteran’s life insurance for $17,533 to McNeil. Financial analysis showed that most of the funds were spent on McNeill’s expenses, including rent, utilities, credit card payments, and personal purchases.

VA 3

  • Strock Contracting, Inc., of Cheektowaga, New York, has agreed to enter into a consent judgment with the United States for $4.7 million to resolve claims that Strock violated the False Claims Act. The United States filed an action in federal court alleging that Strock Contracting profited financially after fraudulently obtaining federal contracts intended to benefit service-disabled veterans. The United States alleged the company, which was not owned or controlled by a veteran, recruited a service-disabled veteran to create a pass-through company, known as Veterans Enterprises Company, Inc. (VECO), which the Strock Contracting its owner, Lee Strock, controlled. The company allegedly directed VECO to submit false eligibility certifications to the government, obtaining substantial profits on numerous federal contracts.
        • Where are the VA Employees who should know what “fake eligibility certificates” look like?
        • Where are the supervisors who should have been providing training?
        • Where are the Congressional oversight teams in holding the VA accountable?

VA 3

    • William Rich, of Windsor Mill, Maryland, was arrested for allegedly obtaining more than $1 million in veterans and Social Security Administration disability benefits by falsely claiming that he had paraplegia. Allegedly, Rich misrepresented his physical condition in VA disability compensation claims, in communications with the VA, and during medical examinations in pursuit of VA disability benefits. While serving in Iraq in 2005, Rich sustained injuries that resulted in the loss of use of both lower extremities. However, approximately six weeks after his injuries, he made substantial progress toward recovery and was no longer paralyzed. Later records show the VA rated him one hundred percent disabled following an examination in 2007. The examining physician noted that he did not have access to Rich’s complete claims file, so he did not review Rich’s medical history or observe the earlier report. In 2018, the VA OIG conducted an audit of specific claims and learned of conduct by Rich inconsistent with his purported condition. Over the next two years, VA OIG special agents conducted surveillance. They observed Rich walking, going up and downstairs, entering and exiting vehicles, lifting, bending, and carrying items—all without visible limitation or assistance of a medical device, including a wheelchair [emphasis mine].
        • OK, let me be clear, I am glad this veteran got better; I do not in any way condone theft. But, where is the VA in being culpable for FAILURE to do their job correctly?
        • Will the doctor who failed to do their job be held liable for the malpractice performed?

VA 3

    • William H. Precht, of Kent, Ohio, was sentenced to 37 months imprisonment and ordered to pay $1.25 million in restitution after pleading guilty to theft of government property and participating in a bribery and kickback scheme. In October 2010, Precht registered a purported vendor, a company he controlled, as a small disadvantaged business and veteran-owned small business in the VA vendor system. He then used his VA purchase card and other employee cards to purchase over $1 million in alleged medical supplies from the vendor. In addition, from May 2015 through January 2019, he conspired with Robert A. Vitale, a medical sales representative for multiple companies that conducted business with the medical center, to devise a scheme in which Precht would receive kickbacks and other items of value in exchange for steering VA business and other monetary awards to Vitale.VA 3

Speaking of staff being “incompetent and unreliable,” did you know that the VBA is using “COVID-19” as an excuse for being backlogged in cases, AGAIN?  Did you know that COVID-19 was so powerful that it caused the VA to fall 200,000+ cases behind, in an inventory of 600,000+ cases requiring decisioning, with 70,000+ needing additional review for entitlement, and needs to hire 2,000+ new employees to help correct the problem?  Since the VBA continues to fail in staff training, exactly how will hiring new employees help?  Honest question!  With the current staff rated as incompetent and unreliable, not by me only, but by the VA-OIG who has regularly taken these issues and more to Congress asking for additional scrutiny and assistance in improving the VBA, VHA, and National Cemetery specifically and the VA collectively; what exactly can new employees do?VA 3

The VHA cannot plan construction projects and put planned maintenance into proper categories to execute maintenance tasks correctly.  Congress refuses to scrutinize budgets and fiscal compliance for just maintenance of facilities.  How in the world can anyone expect more when the VA cannot even hit the basics of planned maintenance tasks?  I can; I do!

I-CareWhen the VA publishes marketing materials claiming they set standards for excellence and lead the industry, I want them to prove their competence and abilities!  Right now, their failures scream louder than the voices in their own ears, and they refuse to listen to anyone, and I am not happy!  You, the taxpayer, should not accept the performance of ANY government agency, including the entire legislative, judicial, and executive branches of government at the local, county, state, and federal levels, until they correct their behaviors!  It is time to end the charade and put paid to this contemptible behavior and abuse!

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

Ineffective Governance – Chronicling the VA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Liars, Thieves, and Fraud Artists Beware

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

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

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

Highlights, Audits, and Inspections

July 2021 – Highlights:

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

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

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

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

It IS ALL About Leadership – More Shameful VA Chronicles

I-CareRecently, guardianships have been in the news, and I doubt this story will make the lawyers very happy.  The department of Veterans Affairs – Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) reports that an Albuquerque couple has been sentenced for defrauding guardians, which included veterans.  The criminal report claims:

Susan Harris acted as president and was the 95-percent owner of Ayudando, while Moore acted as chief financial officer and was a five-percent owner. They engaged in a pattern of criminal conduct from November 2006 to July 2017 that included unlawfully transferring money from client accounts to a comingled account without any client-based justification.  They wrote and endorsed numerous checks, often of more than $10,000, from these comingled accounts to themselves, family members, cash, and other parties where payment would benefit their families.”

For the better part of 11 years, this couple has spent money not their own, abused their charges, and defrauded vulnerable clientele.  While the federal attorneys and investigators crow about catching this couple and ending this situation; what about all the rest of the guardianships where abuse is occurring?  I have read horrific stories about victims of guardianship abuse and hope more will be done on this topic very shortly!VA 3

For 11 years, where were the VA and the Social Security Administration?  Where were the local hospital leadership, social workers, and other federal employees who had to have known something fishy was going on?  Where are these Federal Employees now?  Where are the politicians scrutinizing this incident to ensure that protection for vulnerable citizens never happens again through legal guardianships?

Now traveling to Eastern Oklahoma VAHCS in Muskogee where an audiologist provided poor care and billed for unrendered services.  Pay close attention to the VA-OIG report; the leadership failures on this report alone are voluminous and unforgivable!

A facility fact-finding review revealed the audiologist provided poor care to eight of 43 patients reviewed, including misinforming patients who needed hearing aids that hearing aids were not needed. Although the audiology leaders reported the fact-finding results to the OIG, they failed to evaluate whether patients needed clinical follow-up; determine whether additional patients were affected by the audiologist’s poor care; evaluate whether clinical disclosures were required for the affected patients; and communicate the fact-finding results to the Facility Director, who was, therefore, unable to initiate the process to determine the necessity of a large scale disclosure. The instances of poor care were also not reported to the Patient Safety Manager, who was, as a result, unable to assess the adverse events to determine if patient safety interventions were indicated. The VA-OIG also found that performance monitoring of facility audiologists was not conducted as required. Annual competency assessments and annual performance appraisals were not consistently completed and did not contain adequate performance standards. Audiology leaders failed to consider whether the audiologist’s actions warranted a report to the state licensing board due to a lack of understanding of the requirements for reporting and, therefore, the Facility Director was not informed of the need to initiate a state licensing board review” [emphasis mine].

Will, someone please tell me, were the audiology leaders who failed to perform their jobs removed from Federal Employment?  What about the audiologists causing the problems?  Are they removed from Federal Employment?  Were their licensing practices curbed to protect other populations of patients?  The leadership failures here read like a Steven King horror story but do not have the satisfaction of finishing the story.VA 3

Yet, the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) will continue to market that they are “defining quality in healthcare.”  The jokes write themselves but cannot be fired from Federal Employment!  Politicians, why can these jokers not be fired from Federal employment for such egregious abuse of their positions and failures to do their jobs?

I-CareTraveling further to North Carolina, we find that the perpetrator of this fraud has pled guilty, but again responsibility, accountability, and correction of the VA is being skirted.

John Paul Cook, 57, of Alexander, North Carolina, pleaded guilty to defrauding the VA. After enlisting in the Army in 1985, Cook sustained an accidental injury and complained the injury worsened a preexisting eye condition. In 1987, Cook was discharged, and he began receiving benefits that would increase over the next 30 years due to Cook’s repeated false claims of increased visual impairment and unemployability. In 2005, the VA declared Cook legally blind, and he began receiving disability-based compensation at the maximum rate despite repeatedly passing vision screening tests to obtain or renew his driver’s license and purchasing vehicles that he routinely drove.”

1987 to 2020, we will be generous in counting the years here; regardless, we are looking at 30+ years this fraud continued.  Where were the verification protocols?  I have had to produce a valid driver’s license at the VA to obtain and keep current my VA identification card.  How did this fraud go on for so long?  What is the VA doing to stop, or at least hinder, those who would defraud the government before the problem becomes 10 years old, let alone 30?!?!  I cannot fathom how this fraud went on for so long without a routine checkup, a routine exam, a follow-up exam, etc.VA 3

Going north from South Carolina, we find more fraud, this time in New Jersey, where a man did not report his mother had deceased and continued to claim her benefits for a total of over $200K.

Melvin Greenspan, 72, of Perrineville, New Jersey, pleaded guilty to defrauding VA of over $200,000 in survivor’s pension benefits. After the death of his mother in 2006, who had received survivor’s pension due to his father’s prior military service, Greenspan failed to notify the VA about his mother’s death and made withdrawals of the benefits through 2018.”

Where was the leadership?  Where are the leaders now?  Another fraud case, older than a decade, and still the VA cannot be held accountable for facilitating the fraud.  I am stunned!  How did this one continue for so long?  Doesn’t the VA check local newspapers, the Social Security Administration, other Federal Agencies?  Since the culprit was not held on defrauding SSA, one can only presume the mother’s death was reported there.  Why did the VA not get notified to ask the family questions?VA 3

On the topic of guardians and leadership, the following story makes me angry!  However, I will withhold further elaboration since those accused remain innocent until proven guilty by a trial of their peers.

Johnny Ray Gasca, 51, was arrested for allegedly abducting a 68-year-old woman with dementia from the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center in California. A witness recognized Gasca and reported he might have previously taken money from the woman’s bank and retirement accounts. Following his arrest, Gasca described the victim as his girlfriend and told agents that they stopped at a bank where the victim made a $15,000 withdrawal after leaving the medical center.”

In the first report from the VA-OIG discussed, we found guardianship rules being violated to the Nth degree.  In this story, we have no information of an assigned guardian, and we have a dementia patient being abused.  The dementia patient was traveling with a friend; who is the legal guardian for a dementia patient?  Where are the family or friends legally bonded to render aid for this patient and monitor finances to protect them from abuse?  How can the VA operate one way in one locale and 180-degrees differently in another locale and the leadership not held accountable?VA 3

Speaking of missing leadership, the following VA-OIG report is a beauty!  The Department of Veterans Affairs – Veterans Health Administration (VHA) has a program to help homeless veterans, where contractors are used, and the VHA uses case management documentation to verify the veteran is receiving the assistance being paid for, the program is called the contracted residential services (CRS) program.

The VA-OIG found facility staff did not consistently document case management and monitor the progress of veterans in the program.  Further, four of the 14 CRS contracts reviewed had performance deficiencies, with one resulting in improper payments of $592,000. These deficiencies may affect the health and safety of veterans living in transitional settings. Moreover, VA lacks assurance that veterans received required services. There were also contract administration problems in 13 of 14 reviewed contracts. Contracting officers did not always properly delegate responsibilities to staff functioning as contracting officer’s representatives. Further, one facility’s representative did not ensure contractors provided meals or the means to purchase them, as required, and another lacked invoice supporting documentation for approval. The VA-OIG audit team estimated that 107 of 119 contracts had monitoring and administration deficiencies. Furthermore, the team estimated that VHA made $35.3 million in improper payments, of which approximately $21.6 million was technically improper because the individuals authorizing payment were not delegated authority to serve as contracting officer’s representatives.”

If your accomplishment rate in your employment was 48%, would you retain your job for very long?  If 90% of your documentation claiming how well you do your job was missing or fabricated, how long would you maintain employment?  If you delegated people to complete your work who were unauthorized and you were contractually culpable, how long do you think you would stay out of prison?  How long would your boss stay out of jail?  How long would your company exist?  Now, answer me this riddler, why does the government get a pass on these questions?VA 3

Finally, we have Deputy Inspector General David Case’s testimony regarding the failure of VA leadership where the implementation of a new electronic health record (EHR) is being stalled.  If you care, the VA leadership and the VHA leadership are failing the EHR initiative.  Not that this was not expected, and not that this is not surprising, the IT and IS departments of the VA and VHA are so hopelessly lost it amazes me the VA is even using computers and not written records!  But, do not take my word for it, Case himself claims,

“Detailed in this statement, we have repeatedly found unreliable and incomplete estimates for upgrades and costs, inadequate reporting affecting transparency to Congress, and stove-piped governance with decision making that does not appropriately engage Veterans Health Administration (VHA) personnel who are the end-users of the new EHR system.”VA 3

Knowledge Check!Get that; the leadership failures are obstructing Congress and hindering the EHR progress!  What can we conclude from this batch of VA-OIG reports:

        1. The VA, VHA, VBA, and National Cemetery leadership are actively missing, like the Democrats from the Texas Legislature.
        2. If the leaders are present, the leaders are the problems in progressing.
        3. The leaders have created a system where fraud and abuse of the veterans and taxpayers can be achieved with ease.
        4. Nobody in the US House of Representatives or US Senate scrutinizes the legislative branch sufficiently to effect changes.
        5. When in doubt about where your leaders fall, check to see if they are in their offices. Oh, wait, that won’t help, their offices have locks on the doors!

If this is how the VA defines quality healthcare. In that case, the veterans are screwed, the taxpayer is sunk, and the leaders will enjoy their magnanimous federally approved retirement packages, ad nauseam ad infinitum!

© 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.

 

Moral Distress IS a Leadership Problem – More Shameful VA Chronicles!

Survived the VAA surprise occurred in this week’s Department of Veterans Affairs – Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) reports; the Boise VAMC in Idaho performed well in their comprehensive healthcare inspection (CHIp).  Even though 10 recommendations were left, the VAMC as a whole is performing above average, with no significant complaints found by the VA-OIG.  Congratulations to the Boise VAMC!

VA 3Let me stress something; leadership is the reason why a VA Healthcare System (VAHCS) or VA Medical Center (VAMC) performs well or poorly!  Yet, too often, the leadership IS the root cause of the problems in a VAHCS or VAMC.  The Boise VAMC just proved this point precisely; are any Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) leaders in Washington DC paying any attention?

The VA-OIG performed a CHIp in Portland VAHCS and found moral distress in the employees, again!  This means that the Eastern end of the state is receiving better care than the western end of Oregon State!  Yet another VAHCS or VAMC with employees feeling morally distressed by the commands and directives of their leadership in how they treat veteran patients!  The VA-OIG report makes everything sound like rainbows and lollipops at the Portland VAHCS, but if employees feel “morally distressed,” there are problems, just not those included in the CHIp scope!VA 3

Where problems outside the scope of an investigation are concerned, the following is GREAT NEWS!

Robert Seifert, 63, of Utica, New York, pleaded guilty to making telephonic threats to Albany Stratton VA Medical Center employees. Seifert, who has been convicted twice before of threatening VA employees, admitted that on 14 January 2021, he made three calls to employees for no reason other than to harass and threaten them.”

I am going to repeat it, only for emphasis, “Leave the families out of your anger!”  Never, EVER, attack, threaten, or speak against the families.  They are OFF LIMITS!  I become very frustrated with the VA Leadership, but violence is not the answer, and threatening families is repulsive and counterproductive!  Seifert is scheduled for sentencing on 06 October 2021; may the judge throw the book at him, for this is his third conviction for threatening families of VA Employees.VA 3

On the topic of frustrating leadership who need to lose their jobs and reimburse the government for all wages, the following VA-OIG report is the epitome of failed leadership in action!

The VA’s Office of National Veterans Sports Programs and Special Events (NVSPSE) granted $47 million to organizations with experience in managing adaptive sports programs from fiscal year (FY) 2017 to FY 2020. … The VA-OIG found that the NVSPSE was not effectively managing the program.  The NVSPSE’s director had not established adequate internal controls, including developing standard operating procedures for managing adaptive sports grants.  As a result, the NVSPSE could not effectively evaluate risks from grant recipients, did not reimburse some recipients’ expenses on time, did not always close out grants on time, and did not appropriately authorize extensions for using funds.  By not closing out grants on time, the NVSPSE failed to free up about $346,000 that could have been used for other purposes.  It also improperly allowed recipients to spend $328,000 in FY 2017 appropriations outside the approved period and improperly reimbursed 19 recipients a total of about $247,000.”

The VA-OIG recognizes that these failures to audit and control the adaptive sports program properly potentially violate both the Purpose Statute and the Antideficiency Act, federal laws with direct consequences for Federal Employees.  I am taking bets.  Will anything come out of the director being referred to the lawyers; I doubt any action will ever be taken!  That’s not just my cynicism speaking; that is the experience in watching directors at the VA skate accountability and responsibility better than gold-winning Olympic figure skaters.VA 3

In reporting the following VA-OIG report, do not rationalize that every suicidal person will eventually find a way or means to commit suicide.  I ask you do not think this for two reasons: one, it is a lie lazy people tell themselves to disregard the act; two, helping people with suicide ideation is not cut and dried textbook medicine. Assisting people with suicide ideation takes time, effort, getting to know the person, and a lot of interlocking care from professionals.

“The patient, who was over 70 years old at the time of death, had diagnoses that included post-traumatic stress disorder and major depression. After approximately 15 years of care at a California VA facility, the patient transferred care to the Las Vegas facility in summer 2019. The VA-OIG substantiated that the patient died by suicide from a VA resident mental health clinic on the day of dischargeThe emergency department social worker documented an incomplete comprehensive evaluation. The suicide prevention team did not assign the patient a high risk for suicide patient record flag despite the patient’s stressors and history of suicide behaviors. Staff did not adequately assess the patient’s substance use, incorporate relevant history into the treatment plan, or address the patient’s change in demeanor and concerning statements. The discharge safety plan had not been modified for approximately eight months despite significant life changes. Leaders had not established a mental health treatment coordinator (MHTC) policy. Staff assigned the patient an MHTC at the patient’s tenth visit and four MHTCs over nine months. Staff did not coordinate care with a geropsychologist, with whom the patient had nine appointments. Leaders did not effectively address the patient’s expressed complaints. The VA-OIG substantiated that leaders did not conduct an institutional disclosure” [emphasis mine].

The last sentence is the dead giveaway that the leadership knew there were problems and designed processes intentionally to have an excuse when a patient died!  This veteran was suffering to a great degree, and I hope that with his passing, his family and friends can find peace in the knowledge that the veteran is now pain-free.  But, the VA leadership should be held legally responsible for this death, they failed this patient, and the world is worse for the veteran’s passing.VA 3

Suicides are hard on family, friends, communities; suicides at any age are the ultimate declaration that failure occurred, the pain was missed, and the medical community and support systems failed.  Survivors often feel a great degree of guilt and carry that guilt to their graves.  But, when medical providers go out of their way to hide the problems, refusing to document, and declare, it means that the medical community had written the patient off as too costly to save.  Who speaks for the loss of intelligence and potential of the failed patient; I do!I-Care

I will continue to speak to the failures of the VA to provide the care they promised, and demand leaders are held accountable and responsible.  This was preventable, and the leadership must be held accountable if the system is to be changed!  This veteran did not have to die by his own hand, and the medical community at the VA in Southern Nevada HCS, located in Las Vegas, should be ashamed!

Follow this link if you would like to see a recap, with links, to the shenanigans reported by the VA-OIG in June.  June 2021 has been a month of incredible and horrendous behavior documented by the VA-OIG of the leadership failures at the VA.  The elected leaders of America either need to begin scrutinizing the VA more closely or vacate office.  There is no excuse for the continued irrational and detestable behavior at the VA.VA 3

The last two items are testimony recorded before a Senate and a House of Representatives Committee.  Statement of deputy inspector general David Case Office of Inspector General, Department of Veterans Affairs before the US Senate Committee on veterans’ affairs hearing on VA electronic health records: modernization and the path ahead 14 July 2021Statement of Leigh Ann Searight deputy assistant inspector general for audits and evaluations Department of Veterans Affairs – Office of Inspector General before the subcommittee on oversight and investigations committee on Veterans’ Affairs US House of Representatives hearing on modernizing the VA police force: Ensuring accountability 13 July 2021.  Frankly, both statements are pure vanilla because the subcommittees refused to act, which was known before making the statement and the hearings.  Hence, why should the VA-OIG prepare action plans if the Senate and House will not take action?

Knowledge Check!Repeating, only for emphasis, “Until the US Legislative Branch will do their jobs, and scrutinize the Executive Branch with the intent to demand accountability, no single government agency will ever change.”  Want to help veterans?  Contact your elected representatives and send them these articles, demanding they take action in support of legislation and scrutinization, demanding accountability and responsibility of government employees who are currently active in refusing to change!  Want to help veterans?  Share these stories far and wide.  Everyone should know what the VA is doing and realize that every government agency from the city to the President is employing tactics to steal liberty, rob freedom, and murder veterans!

© 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.

Sometimes, You Have to – More Repugnant VA Chronicles

Angry Wet ChickenIn looking back, it has been a long time since I wrote two scathing chronicles about the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in a single week.  But, I could not allow these Department of Veterans Affairs – Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) reports to age any longer in my inbox.  With the Fourth of July fast approaching, as you celebrate, please keep in mind what the VA is purposefully doing to the Veterans, Dependents, and Spouses under their care.  America would not be here without her military, and military service produces veterans.  But, the VA is producing bodies and bureaucracy instead of helping veterans as they are paid and legally charged to do!

When I first left the US Army, I found myself employed in a telemarketing call center and was never paid the correct amount.  18-months later, I was employed with an Internet Service Provider, who bounced multiple paychecks before going bankrupt underneath the employees.  When the VA-OIG reports part-time physicians not being appropriately paid, I can understand the issues this causes.

I-CareThe VA-OIG randomly selected 134 salary agreements for part-time physicians on adjustable work schedules and found 44% of the physicians were either over or underpaid.  One might ask how and why these pay errors occurred.  The answer is extreme designed incompetence, not that the physicians will feel any better that they were either overpaid and owe back monies or underpaid and are now owed a considerable check.

From the VA-OIG report, we find the following as causes for the discrepancies:

This occurred because key management controls were missing or not working. Officials did not make certain that medical facilities complied with policies and procedures. Consequently, the OIG estimated VHA medical facilities had about $8.3 million in questioned costs that year (2019) and an additional $8.3 million in 2020. VHA medical facilities also may have violated the prohibition against voluntary services, and potentially the Antideficiency Act, by not correcting underpayments or by having physicians working above the 1,820-hour cap because their agreements were not properly reconciled” [emphasis mine].VA 3

The government officials’ neglect, malfeasance, and misfeasance might be illegal, as they failed to do their jobs properly.  Yet, the VA-OIG only issued recommendations.  There is potentially $16.6 Million in over or underpayments at stake, plus illegal actions, and people have not been fired or perp-walked into custody.  How can government employees get away with behavior that would have seen class-action lawsuits, criminal investigations, media reporting feeding frenzies if similar had occurred anywhere in the private sector?

IronyYet, the marketing materials produced by the Department of Veterans Affairs – Veterans Health Administration, a division of the VA, claims this is “Defining Excellence in Healthcare in the 21st Century.”  If you believe that, then you must believe that buffalo wings come from flying buffaloes.  Unfortunately, the problems only continue to worsen.

The VA-OIG reports that a doctor had accumulated more than 4000 alerts from the electronic health record (EHR) system.  This means that the computer system notified the doctor that patients needed care, appointments, were seen in the ER, required treatment, pharmacy prescription renewals, and much more.  The alerts, called views, are a built-in measure to help patients not get lost or have “adverse clinical outcomes” while receiving care at the VHA.  The VA-OIG found that the entire medical facility at the Charlie Norwood VAMC in Agusta, Georgia had similar issues.  The doctors were not viewing the patient EHR views as indicated.VA 3

What’s worse, the VA-OIG could not tell if “adverse clinical outcomes” had occurred because once the EHR views are settled, there is no record of the patient or why the view was required.  Talk about accountability, responsibility, and transparency in the patient-aligned care team (PACT).  In reading this VA-OIG report, it looks like when the facility leadership was alerted the VA-OIG was coming, the leadership team did a massive clean-up of the records, knowing they would never get caught and held responsible for any “adverse clinical outcomes.”  As a side note, the VA-OIG report claims the doctor with 4000 views is no longer providing care at this VA facility.  Heaven help his patients wherever this doctor is now!PACT 1

So far in 2020, I have had two different primary care providers assigned, and since moving out of Arizona, I will shortly have a third assigned to me.  My first primary care provider retired, but before doing so, he set up many EHR problems for his replacement to handle.  Including refusing to renew prescriptions, some of which were mine, which caused weeks of not receiving the proper medications.  Upon learning of my impending move, my second primary care provider essentially wiped her hands of my care, leaving me without medications and a clinic to contact for help.  Great job if you can get it; get hired to treat patients, and then not treat patients.  Before you ask, no, knowing I am not alone in this ordeal does not help!

PACT 3Finally, the VA-OIG has completed a full VISN wide comprehensive healthcare inspection (CHIp) for VISN 10.  VISN 10 covering Ohio, Indiana, Michigan and is located in Cincinnati, Ohio.  For all intents and purposes, the CHIp went well; the leaders are competent and knowledgeable.  Thus, I issue my sincerest congratulations to VISN 10 for their success.  The VA-OIG inspected the VISN’s ability to respond to the COVID pandemic appropriately, and the VISN performed well.

VA 3Except, this opens a few questions needing address.  At two VISN 22 and two VISN 17 facilities, I have experienced four utterly different responses to the COVID policy and masking mandates.  None of the facilities have written guidelines that are geographically specific to the patients and weather patterns in those areas.  None of the facilities have documented processes for veterans who cannot wear masks, with an approved policy supported, written statement for accommodating these veterans.  One facility insists that the veterans who cannot wear masks be arrested, cited, and fined.  One facility insists that if you have a letter from your doctor, you are okay.  One facility vacillates wildly from day-to-day and person-to-person, and the fourth facility doesn’t have a clue but is still very helpful, with supervisor approval.Question

Yet, somehow, VISN 10 has all their VAMC’s and VAHCS’ operating to the same sheet of music and behaving similarly.  How is this possible VA-OIG?  Better still, how does this spread out to other VISN’s and facilities?  May I hazard a guess, based solely upon the perceptions of veterans in VISN 10, the masking policy from COVID remains haphazard and improperly applied because Washington, DC, never issued proper guidance in the first place, the VISN leaders never issued written guidance.  The policy process on the local level is a quagmire of egos, bureaucracy, unions, all set into a cesspit of inaction and designed incompetence!  If COVID has taught any lessons, the number one lesson has to be that the leadership at the VISN and local levels remains inadequate to the task they were hired to perform!

© 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.