Chronicling the VA, One Ignominious Story at a Time!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.