If Everyone Cared – More Detestable VA Stories (Chapter 2)

?u=http3.bp.blogspot.com-CIl2VSm-mmgTZ0wMvH5UGIAAAAAAAAB20QA9_IiyVhYss1600showme_board3.jpg&f=1&nofb=1For the last two weeks, I have been a little remiss in writing.  My cousin passed from diabetes, two of my grandkids got sick with COVID (they are recovering), and I was diagnosed with asthma.  The last two weeks have been a roller-coaster of ups and downs, so imagine my surprise as I went to catalog more of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) – Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) reports, Nickelback’s song, “If Everyone Cared,” was playing.  Pandora certainly appears to have a sense of humor and an innate sense of déjà vu.  I cannot think of a better title to proclaim the need for raising awareness and what is needed to fix the VA.  Until everyone is aware and the scab hiding the infection of the VA are ripped away to be exposed to the sunlight disinfectant, nothing will change, and taxpayers will continue to pay for the abuse of veterans who deserve so much more.  Thus, as we celebrate US Constitution Day, let us remember the veterans who have helped protect and defend the US Constitution and improve the government response!

The VA-OIG reports begin in Kansas City, Missouri, with a $335 Million Fraud Conspiracy, which included $615,000 in tax violations.

By pleading guilty today, Patrick Michael Dingle, 50, admitted that he conspired with Matthew C. McPherson, 45, of Olathe, Kansas, to fraudulently obtain contracts set aside by the federal government for award to small businesses owned and controlled by veterans, service-disabled veterans, and certified minorities.”VA 3

A sentencing hearing will determine if any prison time and what if any, restitution is required in this plea deal.  Frankly, the fact that the fraud existed from 2009-2018 is nothing short of a blatant and utter slap in the face for the taxpayer.  How many federal employees had to have seen the documents, failed to perform due diligence, refused to do their jobs, and were not named as co-conspirators or, at a minimum, facilitators of the crimes?  Is aiding and abetting a criminal operation not a charge that can be brought against the federal employees who empowered this fraud?  Thus, I demand all these people explain why and how an investigation can occur and not include the facilitators, those federal employees, who did not do their jobs!

Assistant US Attorney Paul S. Becker is prosecuting the case. The following agencies assisted in the investigation: the Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General; the Department of Defense Criminal Investigative Service; the US General Services Administration, Office of Inspector General; the U.S. Small Business Administration, Office of Inspector General; the Army Criminal Investigation Command, Major Procurement Fraud Unit; the Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General; IRS-Criminal Investigation; the US Secret Service; the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, Procurement Fraud; the Naval Criminal Investigative Service; the Defense Contract Audit Agency – Operations Investigative Support (OIS); the US Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General; and the Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA).VA 3

File the following under false imprisonment, and will someone please tell me why those employees involved are not in prison now!  A patient in the inpatient mental health unit and community living center at the Tuscaloosa VAMC in Alabama was falsely imprisoned and kept against their will for more than 2-years.  Was denied access to a patient advocate, which should be a red flag that something is disastrously wrong right there.  Plus, official mail to an elected official was improperly handled by staff to prevent elected officials from knowing about the veteran’s plight.

Here is what the VA-OIG investigation substantiated in their investigation:

    • Staff did not adequately assess the patient’s admission status as voluntary or involuntary and did not follow commitment requirements during the first two of the patient’s three Inpatient Mental Health Unit admissions.
    • Staff did not properly manage a letter from the patient that was intended for a public official.
    • Staff did not correctly identify a surrogate decision-maker and did not address ethical concerns regarding the appropriateness of the patient’s surrogate decision-maker.
    • Staff did not comply with requirements when the patient requested an against medical advice discharge.
    • staff at the facility denied a patient’s discharge requests and did not ensure the patient’s access to a patient advocate.
    • Staff failed to follow informed consent procedures.
    • Staff denied the patient’s discharge requests.
    • Staff did not conduct a sufficient or timely decision-making capacity evaluation and documented unsupported, conflicting decision-making capacity information in the patient’s electronic health record.VA 3

These are serious crimes, not bad administrative practices, felonious crimes.  Yet, the employees skate, the patient was held against their will, and nobody will be responsible for this disaster.  Where are the elected officials?  Where are those hired to scrutinize the government?  In this situation, any other medical organization would be facing lawyers armed with righteous indignation and seeing dollars signs in their dreams.  Yet, because this is the VA, the patient can be harmed, and no one will ever care, and that is a crime the elected officials are guilty of and need to be held to task for!

Moving to Biloxi, Mississippi, we found another VA employee who had sticky fingers and a long time to steal from the government (2009-2020).

Chad Paul Jacob of Saucier, Mississippi, pleaded guilty to stealing personal protective equipment, electronics, and medical equipment while working as the assistant chief of supply chain management for the Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System in Biloxi. From 2009 through December 2020, Jacob stole and resold VA property at local pawn stores and on his personal eBay account.”VA 3

For eleven years, they were working as the assistant chief of supply.  The employee had how many reporting employees and superiors have had to sit through how many records audits.  In all these eleven years, I cannot believe that nobody ever suspected problems.  Who did the thief learn how to steal from the government from?  How many employees churned, and did any of these employees churn because they tried to report irregularities, and the boss ensured they were disposed of to silence them?  The VA has been taken to several congressional hearings to eliminate the whistle-blower rather than fixing the problems at the VA.  Thus, it is not in any way, shape or form, out of line to be suspicious about employee churn and fraudulent actions taken by a supervisor to eradicate and protect their schemes!  Why are these questions never asked in the VA-OIG investigations where schemes are uncovered by ranking and supervisory personnel?

Remaining in the south and moving next door to Slidell, Lousiana, a doctor, has been indicted for illegally dispensing opioids in a health care fraud scheme.

Adrian Dexter Talbot of Slidell, Louisiana, was charged for his role in distributing Schedule II controlled substances, including oxycodone and morphine, outside the scope of professional practice and for maintaining his clinic to distribute controlled substances illegally. He was also charged with defrauding health care benefit programs of more than $5.1 million, given that the opioid prescriptions were filled using health insurance benefits.”VA 3

Remember, an indictment is not a finding of guilt, and the defendant remains innocent until proven guilty in a court of law by a jury of his peers.  There is a very compelling point made by our founding fathers that need to be repeated here and declared more often in American Society.

“… Should the People of America, once become capable of that deep simulation towards one another and towards foreign nations, which assumes the language of justice and moderation while practicing iniquity and extravagance, and displays the charming pictures in the most captivating manner of candour, frankness, and sincerity.  At the same time, it is rioting in rapine and insolence; this country will be the most miserable habitation in the world.  Because we have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passion unbridled by morality and religionOur Constitution (the US Constitution) was made only for a moral and religious people.  It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” – President John Adams

The drug war and the opioid crisis stem from the same problem, a lack of morality and religion.  The duplicity of showing candor, frankness, and sincerity, while at heart there is nothing but ravening appetites and the minds of wolves, is the problem.  Sure, drugs create a social and medical issue out of the unbridled appetites and passions.  The core is the lack of self-restraint from being disconnected to religion and morality and from social duty, responsibility, and accountability.  Thus, making people miserable and looking for a cure.Knowledge Check!

The case above expresses this point clearly; the doctors involved were filling an appetite.  As long as there is an appetite, there will be people willing to risk everything to fill the appetites of others; moral and social disconnection, and the US Constitution cannot govern these people except to their destruction!

Moving to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, we find another series of indictments for more fraud, reflecting the same social disconnection.

Kingsley R. Chin of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the chief executive officer of SpineFrontier Inc., and Aditya Humad of Cambridge, Massachusetts, the company’s chief financial officer, was indicted on one count of conspiracy to violate the Anti-Kickback Statute, six counts of violations of the Anti-Kickback Statute, and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Chin and Humad allegedly bribed surgeons to use SpineFrontier’s products, and in turn, the company received millions of dollars in revenue from surgeries the surgeons performed.”VA 3

Traveling north to Bedford, Massachusetts, we find another dead veteran and culpability so thick it should be used as a board to apply corrective discipline for all parties involved!  From the report, we see the scope of the investigation for the VA-OIG:

Mr. Timothy White was a resident of the Bedford Veterans Quarters (BVQ), an independent living facility operated by Caritas Communities, Inc. (Caritas), in space leased to it through VA’s enhanced-use lease program. A month after Mr. White was reported missing, his body was found in the emergency exit stairwell of the building that houses the BVQ. This stairwell down the hall from his room was VA property and not leased to Caritas.”VA 3

The VA-OIG found the following as facts in the investigation:

    1. The VA police department’s failure to locate Mr. White resulted in part from the police and others at VA not considering the veteran an at-risk missing patient, which would have required a stairwell search.
    2. The Veterans Health Administration and the Office of Security and Law Enforcement lacked clear guidance regarding the obligations of VA police to search for nonpatients reported missing on VA property.
    3. VA police also did not discover Mr. White in the stairwell because of an improper order by the then-police chief to cease patrols of the building in which Mr. White was found.
    4. The OIG found that the VA police chief exceeded his authority as VA policy, and the lease required VA police to patrol VA property.
    5. Medical center staff mistakenly believed the emergency exit stairwells were not VA space; they did not clean them.
    6. The confusion among medical center leaders and staff regarding the lease scope and VA’s obligations stemmed from a lack of clear guidance from the Office of Asset and Enterprise Management.
    7. Routine police patrols and stairwell cleanings likely would have led to Mr. White being found earlier.

Angry Grizzly BearNow, as logical thinking adults, do you buy the load of excuses being sold here to pass off the blame for a dead veteran?  I know I am certainly NOT buying this load of bull!  Having worked and spoken in-depth to leaders of VA Police Departments, the excuses to not do stairwell checks and camera checks for missing patients are beyond inexcusable!  I know of a situation where a patient was lost on VA property.  Every police officer and staff member, even those on off-shifts, were called in, issued out in teams, and every square inch of the property was investigated until the patient was found.  Yet, somehow this patient was able to DIE unnoticed in a stairwell!  Are you kidding me?!?!?!

Regardless of whether this veteran died of malnourishment, dehydration, exposure, or lack of medication, he died horribly!  The veteran died at the hands of responsible parties, and those parties need to be held accountable for his untimely and atrocious death!  There is NO EXCUSE for this veteran to have died.  SHAME on the administration!  SHAME on the VA Police!  SHAME on the third-party contractor.  SHAME on the leaders of government who have allowed this abuse and refused to act!

Moving west to Chalfont, Pennsylvania, we find more stolen valor and theft of government benefits.

Richard Meleski of Chalfont, Pennsylvania, was sentenced to three years and four months in prison, three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay $302,121 in restitution for stealing VA benefits by pretending to be a veteran who the enemy had captured during combat. In July 2020, Meleski pleaded guilty to one count of healthcare fraud, two counts of mail fraud, one count of stolen valor, two counts of fraudulent military papers, as well as two counts of aiding and abetting straw purchases, and one count of making false statements in connection with receiving Social Security Administration disability benefits.”VA 3

While there are many more VA-OIG reports needing sunshine disinfectant, let us remember Mr. White, who has passed, and the feloniously falsely imprisoned unnamed veteran from today’s VA-OIG recap.  These two veterans especially deserve respect, dignity, and remembrance.  Their families and friends deserve praise and prayers.  America deserves answers, and federal employees need to be held accountable for failing to do the job they are paid tax dollars to perform!

I-Care© 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.

Abominable Enabling – More VA Chronicles of Shame!

Knowledge Check!Before I begin, please allow me to emphasize a key idea, “This is your government!”  Your tax dollars are paying for these shenanigans, and the bureaucrats do not fear you.  I have written some odious critiques in my time about the VA and other government agencies.  My cataloging these incidents does no good unless everyone in America becomes full of righteous indignation and DEMANDS Action through their elected officials!

The Department of Veterans Affairs – Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) has been super busy this week, and my email box has been chock full of reports.  The VA-OIG reports begin in New Mexico, Albuquerque, where finally the VA-OIG has investigated some of the many complaints and is finally stating what the veterans and active-duty military have been saying for a long time, the NMVAMC leadership stinks!Raymmond G. Murphy

As a patient in Albuquerque VAMC, during the June 2018 window of investigation, I can affirm the integrity of the problem but seriously doubt the VA-OIG conclusions.  I was an employee of the Albuquerque VAMC in June 2018, so I know the leadership involved personally, and I guarantee the problem goes deeper than a lack of training.  The Albuquerque VAMC is fraught with leadership dysfunction, misfeasance, malfeasance, and intentional systemic problems.  Yes, the VISN 22 leaders were advised, and no, the VISN 22 leaders did nothing! There’s no surprise there; VISN 22 is one dead veteran from a major scandal that will make the death list scandals look like a minor nuisance.

From the VA-OIG report, we find the following:

The VA Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) conducted a healthcare inspection to evaluate allegations that Community Care consults were completed in June 2018 without scanning and attaching available clinical results to patients’ Veterans Health Administration (VHA) electronic health records (EHR).”  “The VA-OIG substantiated that in June 2018, Community Care nurses were completing consults without scanning and attaching clinical documentation to patients’ EHRs.”  “The VA-OIG determined that Community Care nurses lacked a comprehensive orientation and training program. The Chief of Community Care did not verify adherence to consult-related VHA requirements or conduct regular reviews and improvements for departmental performance deficiencies. Additionally, Community Care performance monitoring addressed consult processes before patients receiving care but did not address the consult completion process or identify non-compliance with VHA policy before 2019.”VA 3

Let me break this down; primary care providers sent orders for community care, community care would be delayed, then to clear the backlog, the nurses doing the ordering would pencil-whip the documents claiming that care had been received, canceling the orders of the primary care provider.  Then the patient and the primary care provider would have to start the process for community care all over again.  Wasting time, money, and other resources, the facility leaders and VISN leaders refused to address the deficiencies and correct the problem.  The problems with community care existed before I arrived in Albuquerque in 2016 and continue without stop after this VA-OIG inspection.  I met with providers who had not been paid for years because the community care program was poorly managed and led.  Thus, the leadership enables people to break the trust, break the law, commit fraud, waste, and abuse, then collectively blame the problem on a lack of training, which is designed into the processes as incompetence.

QuestionI keep asking for the politicians and Washington VA Leaders to rip the scab off VISN 22, expose the wound to sunshine disinfectant, and drain the pus for the good of the VA body.  Yet, nothing ever happens, and the leadership continues to get away with abusing veterans, killing veterans, and destroying veterans.  Shame on you, political and administrative leaders!

Speaking of wounds needing sunshine disinfectant, the VA-OIG reports that “Mende Leone, 37, pleaded guilty to misappropriation of a federal benefit by a fiduciary.  As her uncle’s appointed fiduciary, Leone stole at least $151,000 of VA benefits intended for him.”  Continuing to prove that after the VA, families are the second most dangerous entity to the health and support of veterans.  Despicable crime indeed!Plato 2

Unfortunately, the third most dangerous entity to a veteran is the state government where they reside.  California moved very quickly to scoop up money after a veteran died.  At the same time, the Department of Veterans Affairs – Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) was foot-dragging on deciding on awarding fiduciary control for the veteran in a long-term care facility.  Proving once again, if you want to see government in action, waive money in their faces, and watch them kill each other to obtain someone else’s funds.

The clowns at any circus in the world would make better administrators of the VA than those currently in power positions!  For the second time in as many months, the VA-OIG reports that unreliable information (the politically correct way to say they lied) was blamed for billions in cost overruns on IT infrastructure costs to the VA.  “… the Office of Electronic Health Record Modernization (OEHRM) estimated information technology (IT) infrastructure upgrade costs [but was not] in accordance with established VA standards and Government Accountability Office guidance.  The two $4.3 billion infrastructure upgrade estimates reported to Congress were not reliable and, because of incomplete documentation, determining the accuracy of the estimates was not possible. The VA-OIG also found VA did not report to Congress other IT upgrade costs of about $2.5 billion because OEHRM did not include costs other VA agencies would bear. OEHRM also did not update the cost estimates it provided to Congress.”VA 3

Yet, the US President continues to push to throw more trillions of dollars at the VA when they cannot correctly handle the billions already appropriated to upgrade their IT infrastructure.  The VA-OIG report, just for this farrago, is estimated at $11.1 Billion.  Einstein is famous for claiming that doing something over and over again and expecting different results is the epitome of insanity.  Maybe, it might be time to scrutinize the VA, fire some people, and get actual private-sector employees to fix the bureaucracy and obscene malfeasance in government!Apathy

The following investigation remains ongoing, and those indicted remain innocent until proven guilty in a court of law by a jury of their peers.  However, the investigation needs to be reported for the criminal activity and the lack of leadership that enabled the crimes accused.

Lisa M. Hoffman, 48, of Orange, New Jersey, is charged by indictment with one count each of conspiracy, theft of government property, and theft of medical products.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

From October 2015 through November 2019, Hoffman was a procurement officer at the VAMC. She used her authority to order large quantities of HIV prescription medications to steal the excess. After the medications arrived, Hoffman waited until co-workers were out of sight and removed them from the VAMC.

Once Hoffman stole the medications, she met her associate, Wagner Checonolasco, aka “Wanny,” generally at Hoffman’s residence so that Hoffman could provide the stolen HIV medications to Checonolasco in exchange for cash. Hoffman and Checonolasco used an encrypted messaging application to plan and execute their thefts and sales of the stolen HIV medications, including arranging for the medications-for-cash exchanges. After obtaining the stolen HIV medications from Hoffman, Checonolasco sold them. During the conspiracy, Hoffman and Checonolasco stole approximately $10 million worth of HIV medications belonging to the VAMC” [emphasis mine].

Where were the other employees and the hospital leadership during this crime?  When I received US Government property, I had to account for every penny, show the receipts, and held to general inspections verifying my veracity.  The supply officer lost $20.00, claimed I had spent the money, and I had to prove my innocence using documentation and a full property audit before I was cleared of the missing money.  You cannot tell me that the leadership and other employees magically are not culpable for their complicity and failure to perform their jobs.VA 3

For example, upon receipt of property, there is an inspection to verify everything purchased arrived.  Then when delivered to different stations, another audit is conducted to ensure nothing disappeared enroute.  If something comes up missing, there is another audit and inspection, as well as a host of paperwork involved in correcting deficiencies and proving where the property went.  Prescription drugs are held to a higher standard with greater penalties for those involved in missing drugs.  Thus, I ask again, where was the leadership who enabled this criminal behavior?  Where were the nurses who noticed missing drugs on inventory lists?  Where were the fellow employees in this scheme?

Multiple reports are circulating that the head of the viral, fungal meningitis outbreak from 2012, Barry Cadden, is being resentenced with stiffer penalties.  As a reminder, “In 2012, 753 patients in 20 states were diagnosed with a fungal infection after receiving injections of MPA manufactured by NECC, and more than 100 patients died as a result.”  Cadden was resentenced to 174 months in prison, forfeiture of $1.4 million, and restitution of $82 million.  Frankly, I still think the sentence is too light; but nobody asked my opinion on sentencing!Gavel

Finally, in our discussion on obscene enabling by VA Leadership, the following VA-OIG reports on COVID preparedness, lessons learned, and the preparation for a pandemic.  Under the heading, “Identified Trends Among VISN 19 Respondents’ Comments on Facility Readiness and Response,” we find “All need to practice infection control protocols (wearing masks and washing hands).”  Are you kidding me?!?!  You are a hospital; hand washing should be second nature and the first line of defense, not the patient wearing a mask.  The VA-OIG gathered this data from VISN 19, which includes the following VAMC’s:

        • Aurora, CO
        • Cheyenne, WY
        • Fort Harrison, MT
        • Grand Junction, CO
        • Muskogee, OK
        • Oklahoma City, OK
        • Salt Lake City, UT
        • Sheridan WY

Having been a patient in three of these VAMC’s I find it highly distressing that hand washing and wearing masks in a hospital setting is a “trend” of “readiness and response to a pandemic.”  How were you delivering care previously?  Why is handwashing suddenly a new activity?  How many patients were endangered by a lack of handwashing?VA 3

I have been a patient in two different VA Hospitals where the nurse routinely pulled off the finger of their glove or did not glove at all, to remove blood, use sharps to give shots, and a host of other activities.  I reported these behaviors as “concerns for patient safety,” and my concerns fell on deaf ears of the leadership.  Now, I see a VA-OIG inspection relating that hand washing is suddenly vital to delivering care, and I have to ask these questions.  Of the eight collated responses from local hospitals, proper hygiene protocols are mentioned in 6.  So, how were you delivering care before the pandemic?

Pigeon RevengeStill, the VA-OIG refuses to investigate the lack of written operational procedures, policies, and mandates for enforced mask-wearing, especially when the mask prohibits or makes unsafe the patient’s breathing.  Why was there no acceptable workaround to see patients with shortness of breath without a forced mask?  Why were patients refused care under EMTALA?  Why are VA Police Officers allowed access to private patient HIPAA-protected information? Fundamental questions about the rights and protections of patients who continue to be violated by the VA Leaders enabling harassment and harming patients, and the VA-OIG remains MIA.  I find this very glaring!

© 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.