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.

If Everyone Cared – More Detestable VA Stories

I-CareAs 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.  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 inside the walls 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.

We begin with an indictment and a reminder.  An indictment does not indicate guilt or innocence, and the parties mentioned are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law by a jury of their peers.

Scott Mitchell Brown, John Henry Swiencki, and David Jeffery Hughes, Jr., were all charged with one count of conspiring to distribute hydrocodone, oxycodone, and amphetamines. Brown was also indicted for stealing prescription medications, possessing stolen mail, and obtaining unauthorized health information from the Kerrville VA Medical Center in Texas.”VA 3

I am a big fan of punishing liars and thieves of all stripes and support justice served in this case.

David Naylor, 59, of Spring Hill, Florida, was sentenced to two years and three months in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for theft of government funds. Naylor made false representations regarding his physical limitations in connection with his application for VA disability compensation.”VA 3

While the following perpetrator has been caught and sentenced, she represents but the tip of the iceberg.

Rita Copeland, 59, of Portsmouth, Virginia, was sentenced today to nine and half years in prison for wire fraud and aggravated identity theft in connection with schemes to defraud veterans. She operated Veteran Services of the Commonwealth, which claimed to provide veterans with caregiving, contracting, and rental assistance services. In total, from at least 2017 through 2020, Copeland’s schemes impacted at least 29 victims and resulted in a combined loss of approximately $430,000.”VA 3

Again and again, the following questions are asked and never answered; yet, the questions remain pertinent.   Who at the VA had to have known this abuse of veterans was occurring and did nothing to stop the abuse?  There are too many checks and balances, too many hands, and too many inspectors for fraud of any magnitude to exist for very long without raising flags needing investigating.  Where were the VA employees?  Who knew?  What did they not do?  Are they still Federal Employees?

Another veteran died, needlessly at the hands of VA providers, due to ineptitude, failed management, poor training, and a series of unfortunate events that cascaded.  I weep for the family of this veteran and mourn for their loss.  I am sorry you have had to experience this tragedy and wish there was something more I could do than simply spread the story of this deleterious behavior and hope for sunshine disinfectant.  The patient died from “presumed anoxic brain injury (his brain failed to receive enough oxygen).”

The VA-OIG found that physicians’ failure to provide adequate benzodiazepine dosing to address the patient’s delirium tremens, review the patient’s abnormal electrocardiogram before haloperidol administration, and transfer the patient earlier likely contributed to the patient’s deterioration and ultimate death.  The VA-OIG substantiated that a non-VA paramedic documented that the oxygen flow was not active.  Facility leaders and staff reported a lack of knowledge about the failed oxygen delivery. The nursing staff did not complete all required alcohol withdrawal assessments.  A physician improperly ordered restraints, nurses failed to obtain full vital signs while the patient was in restraints, and nurses did not receive restraint training as expected.  The VA-OIG substantiated that facility leaders and staff did not communicate initiation of emergency detention with the patient’s family; however, notification is not required.  Leaders did not conduct an institutional disclosure with the patient’s family timely or in person and did not provide a relevant update.”VA 3

Did you catch that last sentence; while the patient was dying, the facility leaders and providers, including the nursing staff, were more concerned with CYA (covering their own acts) than notifying the family they had screwed up, and their family member had died.  If the nursing and staff did not have the training, why and how could they use restraints on a patient? This is blatantly illegal!VA Seal

Let’s cover one more egregious item from this summary of unfortunate events; I visited a doctor who is transitioning out of medicine who made the following comment, “Medicine has changed, practicing medicine has changed, and the practice of medicine is no longer about treating people, but checking boxes, the patient be damned!”  The patient was a “walking chemistry experiment, and no single nurse or provider took a minute to stop providing care, assess the patient, and stop administering drugs!  Instead, they just kept pumping more drugs in until the patient died and then covered their tracks with designed incompetence to protect their failed inadequacies.  This is not “practicing medicine,” you would not treat an animal in this manner; at least not and keep your license!

A death row convict is not allowed to die from anoxic brain death, as it is considered incredibly painful and a cruel and unusual method of death, which is why the gas chamber has been banned as a legal means of causing death for death row inmates.  Yet, under a medical team’s care, a patient in a VA hospital is allowed to die in this horrific manner, and nobody is held accountable.  Is it any wonder why this article is suitably titled “If Everyone Cared?”LinkedIn VA Image

Not many outside of the veterans affected and their families know that the VA has been pushing opioids for decades down the throats of veterans.  At the height of the opioid crisis, the VA shut off all opioid drugs and told the veterans to seek help for addictions to pain medications.  The VHA did not evaluate the individual patients for need, did not seek alternatives, did not try to reduce dependency over time, simply cut off all opioids, and told the veterans to deal with the problems.  Unfortunately, opioids were not the only drug series that the VHA cut off suddenly on veterans without notice, cause, or individual patient consideration, and deficiencies in coordination for the care of patients and drug mandates from VHA has lead to suicides, murders, and other violent problems as addictions cause social problems.VA 3

When discussing failures to coordinate care for patients, abuse of patients, and the need for patients to be housed in the proper treatment centers for their needs to receive the right care, the following should boil your blood and comes from Fayetteville VAMC in North Carolina.

The VA-OIG identified that the psychiatrist used the involuntary commitment process in a manner that was inconsistent with the state’s established parameters and failed to adequately assess and document the patient’s capacity to make informed decisions and determine whether the patient had a healthcare agent. In addition, the patient’s primary care providers and psychiatrist missed an opportunity to coordinate specialty care needs for the patient.”VA 3

Essentially, a bureaucrat incarcerated a veteran against their wishes, without a trial, an appeal process, and proper medical care.  Now, imagine you are the family of this veteran or a friend, and you see this occur and feel powerless to help, impotent to intercede.  Every avenue you approach is blocked because of the authorities, the bureaucrat in charge who wields their power illegally.  How do you feel?  What do you do?  Where do you turn?  Is it any wonder why this article is suitably titled “If Everyone Cared?”

I-CareAmerica, we need to care about what is happening in our representative government, in our name, with our tax dollars, and to our neighbors, family, and friends.  There are no excuses for the abuses witnessed!  There are no excuses for medical providers to get away with this outrageous behavior in private hospitals or government-paid-for-care.  Let us all heed Nickelback’s song and the intent; let us be the “everyone” who cares!

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

Chronicling the VA – May We Remember the “Pobrecito!”

I-CareA Spanish-speaking Mexican colleague taught me this term, “pobrecito,” meaning “poor little one.”  As I chronicle the VA ineptitudes, failures, criminal behaviors, and abusive actions, I am always conscious of the pobrecito, the poor little one, the poor victim who got harmed.  Too often, the victims never receive any compensation, acknowledgment, or retribution, nothing for having become a victim of the VA.  Too often, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) – Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) investigates long after the abuse has occurred, and the victims are not covered in the scope of the investigation, or worse, the victim was killed, and the family is left to mourn, and nobody can help.

Angry Grizzly BearWhy chronicle the VA abuses; because the needs to be held accountable, speak the language, and have tougher skin and broader shoulders than the VA’s normal victims.  The VA is slowly learning they can harm me, but they cannot shut me up!  I will not stop fighting the VA for humane treatment, honorable service, and dedicated systems.  The VA is sick because apathy and inertia were allowed to replace common sense and decency, leadership was replaced with cost accounting and bureaucratic red tape, and human kindness was eradicated and replaced with drones and robots.  I know how to make the VA better; I do not have all the answers, but I know how to launch the revolution and begin cleaning the VA, and I will not stop calling upon those responsible for fixing the mess they created!

Starting this week’s VA-OIG headlines of crimes and inspections, we find a couple in South Florida who used the system to bilk more than $20 Million in purchase order scams.

Earron Starks was sentenced to 30 months’ imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay over $2.4 million in restitution. Carlicha Starks was sentenced to three years of supervised release, including one year of home confinement, and ordered to pay $501,000 in restitution. They paid kickbacks to VA employees as part of a large-scale bribery scheme, which enabled the Starks couple and other corrupt vendors to receive over $20 million in purchase orders from VA medical centers in West Palm Beach and Miami. Fourteen additional defendants were charged for their roles in this scheme.”VA 3

Who’s the pobrecito in this case; the taxpayers, the veterans, and the United States.  Federal Employees had to not only know the crimes occurring but be complicit in the crimes.  Will they lose their retirement benefits, have to repay their wages, and face criminal charges and jail time for their culpability?  Fourteen additional defendants, how many were supervisors in the know and on the payroll who were promoted during this scheme whose supervisors failed to do their jobs and scrutinize the work of their underlings?  The shadiest part of this entire scheme is encapsulated in the following sentence:

All VA Employees were either terminated or resigned.”

Name me one private-sector employer who could get away with a massive scheme and enjoy similar benefits!Survived the VA

We find another VA employee embroiled in theft of equipment which sold the stolen goods in Ohio.

Kevin Rumph, Jr., of Fairburn, Georgia, pleaded guilty to stealing more than $1.9 million in medical products while employed at a VA community-based outpatient clinic in Atlanta. Between 2013 and 2021, Rumph made hundreds of unauthorized purchases of equipment used to treat obstructive sleep apnea. He then stole and sold the equipment to a vendor in Ohio. Sentencing is scheduled for November 17, 2021.”

I have worked in purchasing in both the US Military and in the private sector.  If I went to my bosses with “hundreds of purchase orders for supplies,” they would naturally be curious.  Repetition of hundreds of similar requests would raise red flags and demand audits of my records and proof of need.  Why did this not occur at the VA?VA 3

In the US Navy, I was in charge of ordering stock and saw requests for certain o-rings spike, as I knew the Chief Engineer would spot this and ask why, I asked why, went to the equipment records, dug up the maintenance reports, and asked questions of the mechanics and technicians.  In doing so, we discovered an unreported problem with machinery.  This is called due diligence; why was it not being practiced by the supervisor of Mr. Rumph?  You cannot tell me a seven-year trend line is something that was an anomaly and easily missed in budget reporting year-over-year!

Exclamation MarkLet’s admit a truth for certain; COVID has been a farrago of gargantuan size from day 1.  In acknowledging this, no blame is being proportioned to the front-line workers in any way, shape, or form.  But, the administrators, policymakers, politicians, and government bureaucrats have certainly proved they could unscrew the inscrutable!  Worse, the bureaucrats proved that their idiocy was highly contagious, infecting more people than COVID, spreading faster than COVID, and killing more people than COVID.  Our proof of this concept arrives from Houston and the Michael DeBakey VAMC.

The VA Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) conducted a healthcare inspection regarding allegations of incompletely screening for COVID-19 and treatment of a patient with serious mental illness who presented for same-day care at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center (facility).”

Findings:

      • The VA-OIG substantiated that facility staff did not complete the patient’s COVID-19 temperature screening.
      • The VA-OIG substantiated that facility staff failed to manage the patient with COVID-19 symptoms medically.
      • Sent the patient to the drive-through testing area without medical evaluation, did not isolate the patient, complete a care plan, or follow the policy for transporting patients suspected to have COVID-19.
      • The vulnerable patient disappeared while in the facility’s care, was found off-site four days later experiencing a medical emergency, taken back to the facility, and died the following day [emphasis mine]!
      • The VA-OIG determined that the Mental Health Intensive Case Management team failed to address documentation discrepancies related to the patient’s surrogate and educate the family on COVID-19 visitor policy and screening processes.
      • The VA-OIG identified the facility’s noncompliance with the missing patient policy.
      • Facility leaders’ failure to report an adverse event and ensure a timely review of the patient’s episode of care.
      • The VA-OIG identified facility leaders did not timely or accurately disclose to the patient’s family the medical mismanagement that led to the patient’s adverse clinical outcome, e.g., death!
      • The VA-OIG concluded the failure to screen, isolate, and evaluate the patient resulted in potential COVID-19 exposure to staff, patients, and the public when the patient moved through facility grounds.VA 3

What was not covered in the scope of the VA-OIG investigation was whether the staff had proper training on the written policies or if training had been suspended due to the “pandemic health emergency.”  Failure of training has been a running and recurring theme for the VA before the pandemic, and the failures of training have led to thousands of “adverse clinical outcomes” at the VA, up to and even including death.  Yet, as evidenced in this example, small decisions lead to catastrophic events.  The infected patient was mentally unstable and missing for four days; how many people interacted with the patient as a superspreader event?  Who is at blame at this VAMC for this event, the leaders!  They failed their people, failed this patient, and failed this family!

Detective 4Before continuing, we must pause and take a moment to send heartfelt congratulations to two VA Health Care Systems (VAHCS) who passed their comprehensive healthcare inspections (CHIp), if not with flying colors with significant improvement, and are deserving of the highest praise.  Would the leaders of the Fort Harrison VAHCS in Montana and the Western Colorado VAHCS in Grand Junction please stand and take a bow.  Your improvements, conduct, and capacity to achieve reflect that success is possible with good leadership.  Keep up the good work; find ways to improve daily, and may continual success be ever yours!

Finally, we come to a regular topic, the failure of the VA as a whole entity to manage to pass a simple audit on financial matters and the continuing debacle where hiring is concerned during the pandemic.  Let me refresh your memories on the hiring debacle; first, the VA-OIG found that VISN leaders “were generally pleased with the “flexibility” provided during the pandemic for speedier hiring.”  What did the American people get for reduced hiring practices at the VA?  More criminal employees, more employees with shady pasts, more employees with sticky fingers, and more employees who could not find employment in public schools, now working for the federal government.VA 3

How did that relaxing of hiring practices work out for the American people and the veterans receiving care; not very well!  But, let’s all relax; the VISN leaders are “generally pleased.”  Frankly, I would be shocked if anything ruffled the VISN leaders’ feathers long enough for them to care; they are mostly at the top of their career ladders and failing a presidential appointment to Washington, know they are set for life.  So, why rock the boat?!?!

As for financial audits, the VISN leaders know that money continuously is appropriated to carry them and their poor decisions forward.  Just ask the Denver VAMC where the construction cost overruns are still costing the taxpayers, and no one was ever held liable for that boondoggle or any other crime and scheme for that matter.

Question 3Why?  Why are victims left to rot, the assaulters and victimizers promoted, and the VA as an organization left in the hands of disreputable, dishonest, unethical, and immoral people?  Why is the VA a culture of corruption, greed, envy, sloth, and disinterest when the US military is the exact opposite?  America is not what is found in the halls of the VA, why has the VA been allowed to become something anathema to the American people?

Knowledge Check!Great Britain, you find similar in your halls of government.  Your people are amazing; your government workers are just as despicable and deleterious as the American VA, IRS, and DMV.  Australia, great people, absurdly detestable government workers.  France, interesting people, but the government employee seems to have been drug from the bottom of the scum sucked from the Seine.  I have met incredible people in Italy, Greece, Germany, South Korea, etc., but the story rings true everywhere; the government does not represent you.  Pobrecito; what has happened?

© 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.

Paul Harvey – Detestable VA Chronicles for Week Ending 07 Aug 2021

Bobblehead DollPaul Harvey is a hero of mine.  I miss his voice on the radio.  He exuded a calm demeanor, regardless of the terror, the trials, and the terribleness of the news reported and discussed.  I do not have Paul Harvey’s sense of calm.  When I heard about the beheading of a woman in America, in broad daylight, by an illegal immigrant who has been on a one-man crime spree from El Paso to Minneapolis since 2007, my cherub-like demeanor took a tremendous hit.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) – Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) reports on a couple from Kansas who are flat out despicable, faking blindness to increase disability payments from the VA and Social Security.  Frankly, I hate liars and thieves and agree to the restitution ordered, but I do not agree that the couple deserved probation.  Stealing benefits should come with more than simple probation and restitution.  Where is the community service in distinctive clothing and sandwich boards declaring they are thieves?VA 3

However, this couple represents a symptom, not the disease of the VA and Social Security specifically, and the Federal Government generally.  When leaders act reprehensibly, criminals will test the system to find weaknesses and attempt to benefit from leadership failures.  The disease of poor leadership has far-reaching consequences, and criminal activity is not unexpected.  Who is addressing the disease?  When will the citizens of America receive justice to see the healing of the illness that has captured the government?

Military Sexual Trauma

I-CareImperative to understanding, Military sexual trauma (MST) experienced while serving in the military affects both women and men with potentially severe and long-term consequences. Psychological trauma, such as MST, also increases the risk of physical health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, stroke, and diabetes.  The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) requires that each facility has a designated MST Coordinator with at least 20 percent of their time dedicated to protected administrative time.  For the record, “protected administrative time” is the time required to be spent on administrative duties, writing clinical notes, ordering supplies, scheduling appointments, administrative responsibilities, and so forth.

In 2018, the VA-OIG discovered just how detestable and deplorable the VBA’s processes and procedures were for military sexual trauma (MST).  Having been a victim of MST, this issue is of particular interest to me, and I continue to follow this issue closely.  I wish I had some encouraging news on this issue, but the VA-OIG found:

“… Processors did not always follow the updated policies and procedures. VBA leaders did not effectively implement the VA-OIG’s recommendations and did not ensure adequate governance over military sexual trauma claims processing. The VA-OIG concluded that VBA was not properly implementing the recommended changes.”VA 3

In 2016, when claims were being improperly and prematurely denied, the problems were considered a lack of training, a lack of policy, a lack of procedures, and comprehensive guidance was needed.  In 2018, additional training and guidance were needed, time, and leadership were recommended, even though claims were still improperly and prematurely denied.  In 2021, it is now blatantly obvious we have a systemic failure of leadership at the VBA to process claims in a manner that is conducive to good order and discipline!

On the same day, this investigation was released, the VHA investigation results for MST coordinators were released to the public.  I bet you can guess what was found, but let’s allow the VA-OIG the opportunity to detail the failures:

The VA-OIG conducted a national survey and interviews to evaluate MST Coordinators’ duties and perceived challenges.

            • 80% of the respondents reported having been assigned at least 20 percent or more of protected time.
            • 39% reported inadequate resources to fulfill MST Coordinator administrative responsibilities.
            • The VA-OIG found that insufficient protected administrative time, role demands, insufficient support staff, and inadequate funding and outreach materials challenged MST Coordinators’ ability to fulfill role responsibilities.
            • The VA-OIG found that MST Coordinators who reported more dedicated time than other MST Coordinators did not necessarily serve at facilities with higher numbers of patients in MST related care.”VA 3

Did you catch that final point?  Resources are not being adequately provided based upon patient load to locations where veterans need care.  Another symptom of leadership failure, being designed into the organization as a policy and working procedure, meaning this is designed incompetence!

Knowledge Check!Here’s the biggest rub, a veteran can be receiving care from the VA for MST at the VHA and still be denied MST on a VBA claim.  I have not heard it working in reverse where a claim is being paid, but the VHA refuses care, but given the failures of the VA as an organization, I would not be surprised to learn this was occurring.  How do I know that care can be provided for MST and not be allowed on a claim?  I am among a number of MST victims, all-male, who have been regularly denied VBA claims but are receiving care for the psychological harm.  Veterans talk to each other.  I have heard the stories of fellow veterans being attacked, assaulted, molested, drugged, raped by male and female attackers, and heard how the VBA had revictimized them.

What’s worse, MST leads to PTSD, and people are suffering PTSD from a number of traumatic events not receiving care or benefits because the VA refuses to acknowledge these problems.  Admitting a problem is the first step in addiction programs; well, it is also the first step in healing leadership failure, and the VA is suffering from dynamic leadership failure at every level!  Know a veteran whose story needs to be told, refer them to me; let’s get this information out.  I am sick to death of the VA getting away with murder.

Programs and Inspections

VA SealThis week, the final three emails from the VA-OIG reflected a VISN wide comprehensive healthcare inspection (CHIp) conducted virtually, a VAMC/VAHCS CHIp conducted in Spokane, Washington, and a program report on the failures in the Veteran-Directed Care Program.  The most interesting finding in the CHIps was how short the leadership teams had worked together, a month, and how many open positions for leaders there were, more than half.  Talk about glaring symptoms of leadership failure, were the leadership teams broken up from employee turnover?  If so, did the employees retire, or were they retired to avoid criminal convictions?  With all the investigations for fraud, as discussed on these pages frequently, I can only guess how leaders churn in a VAMC/VAHCS/VISN.

Believe it or not, the Veteran-Directed Care Program is full of faults, problems and is suffering from a lack of leadership as the program balloons.  Color me shocked!  Surely, somewhere in the VA, if only to screw with the gods of perversity and Murphy their prophet, there must be a functioning and well-led program, department, office, etc.Angry Wet Chicken

It is so absurdly depressing to catalog these failures of leadership week after week and never see any improvement.  We see increasing failures, we observe heightened criminal activity, there is undoubtedly raised awareness of needs and moral distress in abusing veterans, but where is the improvement towards achieving excellence?  Where is Congress in scrutinizing the legislative branches, officers, and leaders?

If a congressional representative can order the VA-OIG to investigate the MST Coordinators, which they did, where is Congressional action on the results?  Surely this is not too difficult a question to ask.  Better still, where is Congress?  I have now reached out to all the elected Federal officials in Arizona, Texas, and New Mexico.  Texas, because that is where I have been forced to receive care from.  New Mexico because I now live here.  Arizona because I was physically injured by VA employees there.  The amount of interest received has been less than zero!Angry Grizzly Bear

How can interest be less than zero, you ask.  Well, while I have not received any response to my original complaints, I have received a TON of marketing materials about how those congressional representatives “Care about veterans, the community, pets, animals, and America.”  Maybe, not always in that order, but absolutely with less sentiment than I have for the weeds growing on my sidewalk!  Thus, I ask again, with all sincerity, where is Congress in scrutinizing the government?  I demand to know the “Rest of the Story!”

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

Compliance Problems and Dead Veterans – More Shameful VA Misconduct Chronicles

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

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

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

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

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

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

The VA-OIG claimed the following:

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

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

Meaning, I do not believe your lies!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s talk about some realities of mental health.

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

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

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

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

References

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

 

Gasoline Taxes – The Epitome of Forced Taxation and Government’s Broken Promises

Exclamation MarkI do not care that Alaska has not increased its gasoline taxes in 50-years.  Frankly, the fact that the Federal Government has gone 27.4 years without increasing the Federal Fuel Taxes is not a problem.  Nor that the Federal Government has to either get the current taxes renewed, or the Federal Gas Tax goes to $0.042 a gallon is not a tragedy, but a good thing.  Gas taxes are not the problem; the problem is that the fuel taxes, excise taxes, surcharges, and fees built into a gallon of gas that equals more than $1.00 per gallon, are never prioritized to the infrastructure projects the tax was collected initially to pay for!

IronyI find the following ironic; the Federal Gasoline Excise Tax is actually two taxes combined.  $0.01 per gallon is paid as the Leaking Underground Storage Tank (LUST) fee.  Why is this ironic; because the government LUSTs after all types of money to misappropriate.  Before creating acronyms, one would think that the government would consider how much of a joke those acronyms will make.  One of the seven deadly sins that are constantly causing scandals for politicians, LUST!  Yes, I find this tax acronym very ironic and applicable to the discussion on why the roads and other infrastructure is rated as a C- and falling.  I find LUST very appropriate to the discussion on the misappropriation of funds and how the government wants to increase taxes to pay for something already well funded but where the money is consistently diverted.

QuestionPlease note that each state will have additional taxes, fees, surcharges, and tax projects built into the cost of a gallon of gas or diesel, aviation, or propane.  Fuel taxes are a tax scheme that seems to always pay for anything but roads, bridges, and infrastructure.  Some basic facts regarding gas taxes:

      1. The average state gas tax is $0.3006 per gallon of gas.
      2. The Federal Government gets $0.184 per gallon of gas.
      3. States have added other fees to a gallon of gas, including:
          • Environmental
          • Underground storage (payable even if the tanks are above ground)
          • Inspection fees
          • Certification and other weights and measurement fees
      4. If your state taxes Ethanol, your gas taxes include the Ethanol tax, as well as a fuel tax.
      5. All fuels are hit with taxes, and some of those taxes are disproportionately assigned to heavier vehicles. For example, diesel has a different formula for taxes due to the trucking industry using roads and bridges more; at least, this is the excuse used to tax diesel differently.

Gas Tax Revenue – Poor Roads and Infrastructure

Since I was a kid in Maine, who closely observed the gas tax debate, I have wondered the same question.  “Why are the roads so poor if the government is collecting all these taxes on gasoline?”  Now, keep in mind the words of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. “Taxes are the price of civilization.”  Meaning that to “enjoy” the pleasure of a free society, the government will levy taxes.  But, the money collected does not have to go for what the tax was intended to pay.  Hence the broken promises of gasoline taxes.

Plato 2Fuel taxes are used for a myriad of uses, and the priority is all confused about how to spend fuel taxes:

        1. Schools
        2. Pay down the National Debt
        3. Mass Transit
        4. Cleaning up underground fuel leaks
        5. Law Enforcement
        6. Environmental Protection
        7. Pension Shortfalls
        8. State Debts
        9. Federal Highway Trust Fund Deficits of all types
        10. Enforcement Costs, including weights and measurement certification
        11. Roads
        12. Bridges

Now, do not forget the other obstacle in fixing roads and bridges, the labor costs, especially if the workers are unionized.  The government bidding processes for projects, especially in all forms of construction, are obscenely complicated, which increases costs long before a shovel hits the dirt.  If unions are involved, the time for the project and expenses will, at a minimum, double before the project completes, creating deficit spending.  I am not cynical here; I have witnessed this occur too often not to admit the truth.

Working DollarChris LeDoux sings a song, “Working Man’s Dollar,” which tells the story and details the difference between a working man’s dollar and the dollar in other places.  The fuel tax was first adopted in Oregon, and the proceeds were earmarked only for fixing, maintaining, and building roads, bridges, and other travel infrastructures, like tunnels.  Except, the money never is prioritized to the failing roads, bridges, and infrastructure costs.  The working man’s dollar, collected through forced taxation, is not respected by the government authorized through the ballot box to allocate spending.

I was in Maricopa County when a stadium was pitched to the residents to be located in Scottsdale.  A gas tax hike was proposed as part of an overall tax plan to pay for the stadium.  I asked, “If the stadium was worth the investment, why not just sell bonds?”  I never got an answer.  Not every citizen was interested in the stadium, not all citizens were going to benefit from the stadium, but every citizen was being asked to help pay for a stadium.  The stadium in that election failed, but the ideas did not die; a new location was proposed, and the voters there accepted the stadium’s tax hikes.  Want a surprising non-surprise, the stadium is built, but the taxes have never gone away, including property, sales, and fuel taxes!  Where is that money going?

Bait & SwitchNow, the Federal Government has a bunch of fuel taxes and surcharges (taxes called a fee) about to expire.  The question every voter in America needs to ask themselves is this, “Did the government properly use the funds dedicated to infrastructure?”  If so, then the fuel taxes should continue at the Federal level.  If not, then the fuel taxes should cease, for the government refuses to spend money according to the purpose it was collected.  Every single state in the union should be asking the same question and answering accordingly.

I lived in Albuquerque, NM., for several years.  To get potholes fixed, you had to ruin your car in an accident involving the street, then sue the city, county, state, whatever for the insurance costs.  Only then was that particular patch of road deemed important enough to repair.  There are bone-jarring, teeth-rattling, car-destroying potholes all over Albuquerque.  These never get fixed because the city has been too busy dumping tax money into a rapid transit project that is barely used, overly expensive, and desperately not desired by the taxpaying citizens.  They had “ART” (Albuquerque Rapid Transit) crammed down their throats by a judge.  ART has been a disgrace from Day 1.  Yet, money keeps pouring into ART instead of the many roads, bridges, overpasses, and other infrastructure that desperately needs repair.  A friend of mine hit a pothole, doing 35mph, dented his rim almost 2”, ruined his front alignment, and cost him a considerable sum.  That pothole is still there, still causing dents, still eating tires, and the city cannot fix it, the state will not fix it, the county was supposed to fix it, the Indian reservation owns it, and the federal government makes the pothole worse every day by traffic of federal employees going to work.

Tax BurdenHence the reason why fuel taxes are considered a tax scheme!  If you pass the buck enough, nothing gets done, and the money collected can be used in other projects while responsibility is determined.  Except, there is no money to fix the problem when the responsibility is determined, and the wheel just keeps spinning around.  Are you sick and tired of the games politicians play, yet?  Now, imagine your electric bill going up to pay for the fuel taxes not paid for by electric car owners, and tell me about proper government action and accountability.  My friend could not sue because responsibility cannot be determined; his insurance would not pay for the damages because the road damaged his vehicle; guess who was out almost $10,000.

Tax Scheme 2Some states are changing how the gasoline and other fuel taxes, including electricity due to the rise in electric vehicles on the road, are being priced and collected.  However, the problem is not the tax; it’s the fact that the tax never pays for what it was intended to when collected.  Some states got an increase in fuel taxes through their state legislatures this year.  Other states and the Federal Government are taking fuel taxes up in the coming months or the next legislating session.  But, not a single politician, anywhere in America, has stepped up to state the obvious, the current taxes collected are sufficient to pay for roads and bridges; we have to allocate more of the current money collected to roads and bridges.

Broken Promises – Broken Roads and Bridges

Question 3Is the problem apparent?  How many of your state taxes, lotteries, and other fees are supposed to pay for education?  Yet, education always seems never to have enough money.  How many taxes and fees go into the Department of Motor Vehicles and Department of Transportation, all of which are supposed to pay for infrastructure, e.g., roads, tunnels, bridges, overpasses, highways, etc.?  How much is the pension crisis costing your state, driving taxes and fees upwards, but the money never is delivered to pay down and lessen the pension crisis?

I repeat, only for emphasis, “America does NOT have a cash collection problem; it has a spending problem.”  At all levels of government, the elected officials are acting worse than drunken sailors on a seven-day binge, and this behavior needs to cease!  We cannot spend our way out of the hole dug through deficit spending!  The answer is not allowing the government to steal more money from our pockets, but to demand the money taken is used for the purposes intended!

Tax SchemeWe must tie political decisions to misappropriate funds to the legislators and executives making the decisions.  Thus, holding accountable the people who are being poor managers of the people’s money.  More importantly, when re-election decisions are made, the media, the influencers, and the political parties need to report this information.  Being able to hide funding shenanigans and criminal activities should never occur; businesses cannot do this, the government should not be able to do this.  Audits, investigations, and transparency are critical to putting the right people out of office and into prison, and keeping the honest and faithful stewards in office and working.

Knowledge Check!The size of government must shrink to an affordable level, from the city to the Federal; every government body in America, including those non-Government agencies acting like government agencies (USPS), need to be forced onto a diet of less money!  There is no excuse for the government to be the size it has become.  There is no excuse why we, the owners of the government, cannot demand government shrink, become efficient, and keep the promises made regarding money collected, used appropriately, and ended at the time promised.

Angry Wet ChickenAs sure as carts to horses and ducks to water, a Federal tax, fee, or surcharge, will be found shortly on your electric bill to cover the costs of electric vehicles on the roads.  When the Federal government does this, the state, county, and city will jump in with both feet, claiming “fairness” and “equality” so everyone is “paying their fair share” of the costs for infrastructure.  It doesn’t matter that you do not own an electric vehicle; the government will help you finance one through increased taxes and misappropriated fees collected.  Just like the “Obama Phone” scheme being abused by many people and paid for by a small minority.  Broken promises indeed!

© 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.

Weep America! – The VA Leadership is Becoming Worse! – Part 3

I-CareIn the less than 10-days since I last wrote on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the Department of Veterans Affairs – Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) has dumped more than ten inspection results over the last three days into my inbox.  Not a record, but the recorded actions are certainly hitting record lows.  Worse, the culture of the VA remains unchanged, even through all the recorded crimes and indignities the veterans suffer under.  Recording and summating the crimes of the VA is so depressing, mainly because of the failure to reform.  But, a little depression will not slow or halt the reporting of these detestable actions of the VA!

The first VA-OIG investigation is more of a report on criminal proceedings concluding with sentencing.  A total of five people, including one VA Employee, have been stung in this investigation.  How thrilling to see accountability and justice served cold!

Francis Engles of Bowie, Maryland, was sentenced to 30 months in prison and ordered to pay $150,000 in restitution for defrauding a VA program dedicated to rehabilitating military veterans with disabilities. As the owner of Engles Security Training School, Engles falsely represented to the VA that his company was providing veterans with months-long courses when, in fact, the school offered veterans far less.”

February 2019, four other individuals were sentenced in related cases following their guilty pleas. First, James King, a former VA employee, was sentenced to 11 years in prison for committing bribery, defrauding the VA, and obstructing justice. Second, Albert Poawui, the owner of Atius Technology Institute, was sentenced to 70 months in prison for committing bribery. Third, Sombo Kanneh, Poawui’s employee, was sentenced to 20 months in prison for conspiracy to commit bribery. Finally, Michelle Stevens, the owner of Eelon Training School, was sentenced to 30 months in prison for committing bribery.”VA 3

Apparently, bilking the GI Bill is a regular fraud opportunity, and the VA employees need to be held more accountable for the loss of these funds!  The GI Bill is a precious commodity and sometimes the only lifeline for a soldier for retraining while awaiting the VBA’s decisions. Therefore, stealing these funds should come with more substantial sentences, more accountability for the employees in the know of fraud, and scrutiny from elected officials!

For the next story, we have several crimes co-occurring; the most egregious is reporting to have been a veteran, fraudulently obtaining benefits, and then trying to use veteran status for preferential contract awarding.  The VA-OIG reports:

Robert S. Stewart, the former owner of Federal Government Experts LLC in Arlington, Virginia, was sentenced to 21 months in prison with three years of supervised release for making false statements to multiple federal agencies in order to fraudulently obtain multimillion-dollar government contracts, COVID-19 emergency relief loans, and undeserved military service benefits.”VA 3

I know the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has declared that lying about military service is a freedom of speech issue and not a crime.  However, stolen valor continues to make me sick, and the liars should lose all US Constitutional Rights, as well as be sentenced to punishment most vile!  Having served twice (US Army and US Navy), having been deployed to S. Korea (US Army) and the Persian Gulf (US Navy Multiple Times), stealing valor infuriates me into a raging juggernaut!  I hate liars and thieves, but to steal valor from those deserving goes above and beyond being just a liar and thief, and the conduct deserves punishment most vile!  No, I am not apologetic in taking this stance either!  Burn the American Flag; I disagree with SCOTUS again and becoming a raging juggernaut!  There are lines you do not cross with impunity, and if you cannot scream fire in a crowded theater as “Free Speech,” then acts of stealing valor or burning the American Flag are reasonable restrictions!

I do agree with Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’ statement:

The ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas — that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market, and that truth is the only ground upon which their wishes safely can be carried out.”Angry Grizzly Bear

But stealing valor and burning the American Flag is not “free trade in ideas,” and I support social shaming as part of the punishment most vile for these lepers of society!  Before you burn the Flag or steal valor, serve in uniform, watch a military funeral as a dependent, and then let’s talk about reasonable and valid restrictions upon “free speech!”

Another case, another criminal act, only this time, I am left asking, “How long has this individual been doing business with the VA?”  Regardless, as this is an ongoing case, the following firstly applies: “The charges in the indictment are merely accusations. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.”  From the VA-OIG report:

Muhammad Z. Aabdin of Bronx, New York, was indicted for offering bribes to a VA contracting officer in exchange for the award of VA contracts for personal protective equipment.”VA 3

It will be interesting to watch this case and future (potential) investigations occur.  However, I have several questions needing to be answered, and the report does nothing to aid in answering the questions raised in the defendant’s arrest and the grand jury indictment.  More to come as the VA-OIG and the US Attorney produce information.  May the US Attorney NOT allow a plea deal!

The VA-OIG has often investigated improper fiscal practices at several VA sites for the VBA, the VHA, and the National Cemeteries.  I could almost quote the following investigation results, only differing on how much money is involved.

The VA Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) conducted a review to examine whether VA’s Maryland Health Care System appropriately managed purchases and payments for medical equipment and supplies. Fiscal oversight of purchase cards and internal controls governing the use of overtime were also reviewed. The VA-OIG found ineffective processes, internal control weaknesses, and inadequate oversight in five areas: 1. The healthcare system and the Enterprise Equipment Request (EER) portal need improved controls for approving equipment purchases. 2. Healthcare system staff and the prime vendor should prepare timely and accurate planning information to ensure adequate supplies are on hand to fill orders. 3. Even though no inaccurate inventory payments were identified, VA’s inventory system needs controls to ensure correct recording of supply units and costs. 4. The healthcare system purchase card program requires closer monitoring to ensure purchases are authorized and supported by documentation. 5. The healthcare system should strengthen its overtime payment controls to ensure supervisors verify overtime hours were completed before approving timecards for payment.  The VA-OIG team also identified more than $5 million in questioned costs related to identified issues such as undocumented or unapproved purchases” [emphasis mine].VA 3

I have heard the term “Criminal Stupidity” and often wonder when “Criminally Designed Incompetence” will become adopted into common vernacular.  I am so fed up with the excuses, the missing money, and the abuse of taxpayer forbearance by bureaucrats; I could rip my hair out and scream until my voice gives out! But, unfortunately, both actions do absolutely nothing to correct the problem and would make me miserable.  The VA has problems with criminals without and stupidity masked as “designed incompetence” within, and the solution continues to be leadership!

Gravy Train 2What adds fire to my mental processes on criminally designed incompetence, the VA-OIG has two other investigations in my inbox on the need to strengthen fiscal controls, , and more correctly track accounting practices.  Under current legislation, if a private business accounted for their money like the VA, they would be shuttered, and criminal charges levied!  Yet, somehow, the elected representatives cannot apply the same accounting behavior standard to a government agency, as they mandate for private companies!  Anyone else thinks we need stronger demands for scrutiny of government agencies?

Plato 2Adding more fuel to the fire for the IT/IS Departments of the VA, the VA-OIG discovered that the VA still cannot regularly and appropriately log records into its own electronic health record systems!  Are you surprised; as a patient, I know I am not surprised at all.  Worse, the lack of medical records being properly handled influences (negatively, of course) how the VBA makes decisions on claims!

The Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) evaluated whether VA’s community care staff accurately uploaded records for non-VA medical care to veterans’ electronic health records. Veterans receive non-VA care based on certain criteria, such as the distance from the veteran to the nearest VA facility or the wait time for a VA facility appointment. Records for non-VA care enable Veterans Health Administration (VHA) providers continuity of care and inform treatment decisions. The audit team found that staff at six of the seven VA medical facilities reviewed did not always index, or categorize, these records accurately. Inaccurate indexing of medical records poses a risk to veteran care. It increases the burden on the VHA staff who locate and correct the errors, reducing their time for other tasks. The team reviewed 209 veterans’ mental health medical records that VHA community care staff indexed between April 1, 2019, and September 30, 2019, and found 108 indexing errors for 92 veterans. (Some veterans’ records had more than one error.) Errors included using ambiguous or incorrect document titles, indexing records for non-VA care to the wrong referral or veteran, and entering duplicate records. These errors occurred, in part, due to inadequate procedures, training, quality checks, and quality assurance monitoring and a lack of local facility-level policies.”VA 3

Of course, training and local policies were blamed for the failure to log records properly!  These are automatic designed incompetence excuses that appear every single time the VHA fails, the VBA fails, or they both make significant life-altering decisions for veterans, and the VA-OIG investigates!  The VBA claims it is my duty to ensure outside providers send records to the VA in a timely manner.  The VHA claims they have the documents the VBA wants, and they should read the file.  Who is inconvenienced, not the VHA and the VBA, the veteran?  The person who cannot even look at his digital file without a “Freedom of Information Act” (FOIA) request and 30-45 days of waiting, and even then, the document is heavily redacted for privacy!  Whose privacy, I wonder, the providers, the employees, or the veterans?  Because I guarantee the VA is conducting serious CYA on the records produced!  Let alone IT’s continued failure to protect the veteran from identity theft or IS to protect the files from being accessed without reason by employees.Apathy

May 2021 was a tumultuous month for the VA and the VA-OIG.  If you would like to review how tumultuous or think you might have missed an article or two reporting the VA’s designed incompetence, feel free to review using the following link.  Frankly, I want to see action taken based upon the investigations to clean house, more fully scrutinize the VA, and improve the veteran experience at the VA.  But, I do not tell you how to think or feel about an issue. Instead, I report and summate and leave the rest to you!VA 3

As always, I report and summate upon the good and bad.  If you are a citizen of Indiana or receive your care from either Fort Wayne, Marion, or through the Northern Indiana Health Care System, please count yourself lucky, and pass on the praise to the VAHCS employees.  The VA-OIG conducted a comprehensive Healthcare Inspection and found, “The VA-OIG’s review of the system’s accreditation findings, sentinel events, and disclosures did not identify any substantial organizational risk factors” [emphasis mine].  While improvements can still be made, this is HUGE news, and the Northern Indiana VAHCS leadership team needs to be back-slapping and congratulating their employees.

Knowledge Check!Thus, my sincerest congratulations go to the Northern Indiana VAHCS, and heaps of shame and scorn remain served cold to the ineffective leadership and useless employees of the VA in general!  America, we should weep, for the VA is not alone in the government agencies in providing world-class detestable service, abuse of the customer (taxpayer), and skirting accountability and responsibility through designed incompetence!  But, when we are done weeping, it is time for action!  Changing the elected representatives, demanding higher scrutinization with actual penalties for failure, and insisting upon fiscal restraint equivalent to the private sector!

© 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.