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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Plus the following:

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

Don’t forget this one:

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

More is coming on this one:

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

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

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

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

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

VA-OIG finding:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fed UP! – More Detestable Bureaucratism from the VA.

I-CareI hate being lied to!  More than I hate being lied to, I detest, with every fiber in my being bureaucrats and the inanity they promulgate to excuse their stupidity and throw a wrench into the works.  Today I suffered through yet another call with my VA-appointed primary care provider (PCP).  Not an online conference, but a phone call.  Who was in the office with the provider and why?  How can I guarantee my HIPAA information during a phone call on an unsecured line?  How do I know who I am talking to?  These concerns and more arise when you receive a phone call to discuss important medical information, and my PCP does not care!  My PCP refuses to use the VA’s tools to conduct patient appointments and instead creates workarounds; what an ingenious method for telling lies and spreading falsehoods as bureaucratic inertia; I’m so thrilled!

The PCP continuously claimed all my imaging is “normal” and “unremarkable.”  The pain experienced cannot be related, and the sources are questionable.  In polite speak, the PCP is trying to tell me it’s all in my head; a previous provider from the VA already used this as an excuse for not performing their job.  For more than 10-years, I have been fighting the VAHCS for help in reducing pain and in getting to root causes for the problems experienced.  Yet, today’s call was just more of the same BS wrapped in feel-good words, platitudes, and bureaucratic non-answers.  Honestly, after the third time the doctor related, the imaging was normal and unremarkable; I lost my cherub-like demeanor!  I did not swear until I got off the phone, but I am not anywhere close to a happy patient.

Honest question, does the VAHCS troll medical school for the bottom of the barrel, those people who can barely pass a class, let alone qualify for medical privileges?  I need competence, and I get useless lumps.  I ask questions, and the snowflakes pop out of the woodwork like ticks on a deer or fleas on a dog.  I am thoroughly sick of being treated like a know-nothing inconvenience.  The most important person in the VA marketed PACT Team is the patient who will be active, engaged, and informed.  The second most important member of the VA Marketed PACT team is the Primary Care Provider.VA 3

Since 2002 I have had a problem in my gastro-intestinal system; since 2010, the pain has been debilitating, and four years ago, I was diagnosed with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.  Today, 22 March 2022, the PCP reviewed the problems area on my electronic health record (EHR), which coincidentally resides at the top of the electronic health record and was mentioned four different times by myself, and noted that non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is not listed.  Tell me, how would that make you feel?  The PCP ordered today’s call before the recent imaging appointment on my abdomen and pelvis, but the provider, who called me almost 30-minutes late, did not even look up my record before calling.  Had not studied the imaging results and formulated a plan of action to move forward, yet as the second most important member of the PACT team, I am supposed to trust this bureaucrat; I think NOT!

Through the miracle of modern technology, I had read and researched the imaging results more than 24 hours before the scheduled appointment to discuss the results.  I came prepared, but the provider could not be bothered to prepare for a call they demanded, then had the sheer effrontery to keep repeating that the imaging is “normal” and “unremarkable.”  Then the provider has the gall to tell me, repeatedly, that I was yelling, when in fact, she only did not like being spoken to with emphasis and insistence that she do her job!  Yes, I called her a bureaucrat and a snowflake, whereupon she threatened to hang up the call, but I disconnected first.  I miss those old rotary phones you leased from AT&T, they had heft, and when slammed, they made you feel better about disconnecting a call.PACT_model

From research, it is abundantly clear that pain from hernias can show up or be felt in areas far removed from the hernia site.  Constipation is both an indicator and a symptom of hernias.  Muscle weakness in the legs, burning sensations, and much more are all indicators of a hernia.  Yet, when I asked about all the other pains and problems experienced in my abdomen, I was told the hernia could not be the root cause, and the imaging is “normal and unremarkable,” but the PCP could not answer why these other symptoms are unrelated when asked.  Where is the research, seeing as “Dr. Google,” is discouraged; Johns Hopkins and the Mayo Clinic, plus I have access to the medical libraries at the University of Phoenix and Grand Canyon University.  With less than five minutes of research, I can locate and read data from reputable sources to form the basis of questions to ask a PCP, which is encouraged of patients by the VA.  Yet, the doctor cannot be trusted to provide any intelligent data, do any preparation, or knowledgeably speak to a symptom list; when will the VA answer why their PCP cannot do their job?PACT 1

If only I were the only person experiencing these problems and issues with the VA.

Former VA cardiologist John Giacomini of Atherton, California, pleaded guilty to one count of felony abusive sexual contact.  In the fall of 2017, Giacomini repeatedly subjected a subordinate electrophysiologist to unwanted and unwelcome sexual contact, including hugging, kissing, and intimate touching while on VA premises.  On 10 November 2017, the victim explicitly told Giacomini she was not interested in a romantic or sexual relationship with him.  Nevertheless, Giacomini continued to subject his subordinate to unwanted sexual advances and touching, culminating on 20 December 2017, when Giacomini turned out the lights in an office, pulled the victim out of her chair, and fondled her until a janitor opened the office door and interrupted the encounter.  The victim later resigned from her position at the VA, citing Giacomini’s behavior as her principal reason for leaving.  Sentencing is scheduled for 12 July 2022.VA 3

Will the VA-OIG troll through this former provider’s employment history seek out the other victims, or will this be swept under the rug not to tarnish the VA?  Having been an employee of the VA, will anyone, EVER, look at how employment law is abused by the leaders in the VA and correct the problems?  This incident should never have occurred, nor should it have taken years of abuse to end this despicable behavior.  Yet, what does the VA do, shut both eyes and pretend it does not occur in consequence of the designed culture at the VA.

Why did the victim have to tell another adult that their behavior was unwanted, and quit their job, before the VA took action?  Will there be an inquiry from congress?  Will any lawyers stand up and demand the VA correct this detestable hole that allows this behavior to promulgate?  I am not holding my breath!

Speaking of electronic medical health records, the VA-OIG has issued three separate reports on this topic, and none of them paint the VA with anything that shows competence.  In the report titled:

Medication Management Deficiencies after the New Electronic Health Record Go-Live at the Mann-Grandstaff VAMC in Spokane, Washington.”  The following findings were related:

Deficiencies in medication data migration and management resulted in patients having inaccurate or incomplete medications in their records or made filling prescriptions accurately more difficult—all of which can affect patient care and safety.  Areas of concern included:

(1) Data migration
(2) Medication formulary availability
(3) Medication order processing
(4) Provider notification and alerts
(5) Controlled substance tracking
(6) Prescription drug monitoring program documentation
(7) Medication reconciliation
(8) Medication list accuracy.”VA 3

As previously stated, I am not as nice and never politically correct.  VA-OIG, please allow me to correct your assertion, “Deficiencies in medication data migration and management resulted in patients having inaccurate or incomplete medications in their records or made filling prescriptions accurately more difficultall of which DO negatively affect patient care and safety.”  Trust is the first casualty in war and in dealing with the VA in ANY form, manner, or method.  When you cannot trust your data to remain confidential, the entire electronic medical record system can only be rated as UNACCEPTABLE!  The upgrading of the electronic medical records system at the VA is a 10-year, multi-billion-dollar fiasco, and as a taxpayer, I am done paying for this system!

Not to be outdone by the medication side of veteran care experiencing failures, the following VA-OIG report was issued:

Care Coordination Deficiencies after the New Electronic Health Record Go-Live at the Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center in Spokane, Washington.”

The EHR rollout caused problems in coordinating veterans’ care, ranging from the flags for patients at high risk for suicide not transferring to veterans and their care providers having trouble accessing video appointments and patient portal messaging.  Tracking outcomes were sometimes lost, and disappearing laboratory orders also resulted.  Although the OIG did not identify associated patient deaths, future deployment of the new EHR without resolving identified deficiencies could increase risks to patient safety.”VA 3

Again, the VA-OIG is practicing political correctness instead of being specific, and upfront, the entire EHR is a disaster, the cost is prohibitive, and any fool should see it is time to pull the plug, cut the losses, and hold the leadership accountable!  Yet, what do we see; the EHR is progressing into infinity and beyond at a snail’s pace!

The final nail in the VA’s EHR coffin should be that nobody involved can communicate with the IT helpdesk for the EHR as the IT ticketing system is unreliable!  Form the VA-OIG, we find the following:

Ticket Process Concerns and Underlying Factors after the New Electronic Health Record Go-Live at the Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center in Spokane, Washington.”

The failure to process and respond to VHA staff ticketing requests for help or report concerns resulted in reporting, tracking, and resolving problems.  These deficiencies made it difficult for clinicians and administrative staff to serve patients and impeded EHR fixes that can affect future sites.  The inspection team also identified five factors contributing to the deficiencies identified in the two companion reports above: usability, training, interoperability, needed fixes, and problem resolution.”VA 3

Imagine for a moment, you are responsible for a multi-billion-dollar IT project, and one of the first issues discovered by the users is the inability to reach out for IT help; how long would you remain employed?  Would you ever expect to ever work again if any of these problems were your legacy for leading the IT improvement on a multi-billion-dollar project?  As a consultant, I know how fast you would be fired and taken to court for business losses.  Why are these leaders exempt?  Where are the blue-ribbon panels and committees demanding people be held accountable for this fiasco?EHR-VA-OIG

When the VA-OIG casually mentions that PCPs are untrustworthy and not using the current tools correctly, should the providers be issued new tools; NO!  Yet, this is the opposite of what common sense declares.  Are you, dear reader, as a taxpayer, fed UP yet?  My wife reminds me, “These problems happen in civilian hospitals.”  No, in fact, they do not.  If data migrated from one patient’s EHR to another patient’s HER, that hospital would be sued and shut down so fast by congress at the federal and state level, all before the media firestorm would have barely begun.  If a patient were jeopardized because their provider could not track medications, that patient would sue for malpractice and possibly a class-action lawsuit.  If an IT project was occurring in the civilian world, and the users could not contact the IT helpdesk, the project would be overhauled so fast, and people fired, new records would have been set.

Knowledge Check!It is time we end this charade and money pit call the Department of Veterans Affairs, and every other agency of the Federal government bloat!  The government should be leading, not lagging, where operational efficiency and fiscal sanity are concerned.  I repeat, only for emphasis, are you fed UP yet?

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

Response From the Texas Medical Board (TMB) – Insanity From Bureaucrats

?u=http3.bp.blogspot.com-CIl2VSm-mmgTZ0wMvH5UGIAAAAAAAAB20QA9_IiyVhYss1600showme_board3.jpg&f=1&nofb=127 October 2021, I complained to the Texas Medical Board (TMB) about an incident with a Texas Medical Doctor and his unethical treatment of me, the patient.  The full complaint can be reviewed here.  The file number for this action: #22-1620, and the response I received is a textbook case of bureaucratism from beginning to end, in a letter dated 02 November 2021.

  1. The author of the letter, writing on behalf of the TMB, cannot even use my appropriate title, name, and the letter dismissing my concerns is a form letter of the worst design, surpassed only by the VA whose form letters cut off almost an extra inch in the right-hand margin.
  2. An investigation into the issues with the Dr. AAMR Arif Herekar MD was not launched as the actions by the provider “do not fall below the acceptable standard of care.” The letter references “Sec. 154.058” as the legal standard.

Texas Occupations Code – OCC § 154.058. Determination of Medical Competency is a truly interesting document, designed, I can only surmise, to protect the asininity of the bureaucrats.  A point-by-point breakdown is discussed.

  • Each complaint against a physician that requires a determination of medical competency shall be reviewed initially by a board member, consultant, or employee with a medical background considered sufficient by the board.”

Nowhere in the letter does it reference an individual who reviewed my complaint.  If I read this section of the code correctly, all that has to happen is a living person check to ensure Dr. Herekar has a license to practice medicine in Texas.  Essentially, Dr. Herekar has met the basic competency for this section.  Dr. Herekar is living, paying his dues, and a living bureaucrat has assured us he is licensed properly by the State of Texas.  As a side note, do you feel better that a bureaucrat assures the general population a doctor is appropriately licensed and dues-paying; I do not!

  • If the initial review under Subsection (a) indicates that an act by a physician falls below an acceptable standard of care, the complaint shall be reviewed by an expert physician panel authorized under Section 154.056(e) consisting of physicians who practice in the same specialty as the physician who is the subject of the complaint or in another specialty that is similar to the physician’s specialty.”
  • The expert physician panel shall report in writing the panel’s determinations based on the review of the complaint under Subsection (b).  The report must specify the standard of care that applies to the facts that are the basis of the complaint and the clinical basis for the panel’s determinations, including any reliance on peer-reviewed journals, studies, or reports.”

Yet, my complaint was somehow satisfied under section (a), so sections (b) and (c) do not apply.  Leading me to wonder, but not to question enough to “file an appeal.”  What I wonder about is the professional and ethical standards allowing for a provider to lie about a patient’s actions and then dismiss that patient from receiving further care, based upon the lies generated, and dismiss the patient using Facebook instant messenger.  As the bureaucrat cannot, and will not, respect me sufficiently to explain, expound, and address me correctly, one must wonder about the rest of the State of Texas and the bureaucrats who call their actions competent.

  1. Consider with me the problems of a medical provider lying about a patient’s actions, and ask yourself, would you trust that medical provider?

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the American Taxpayer is paying for me to visit a non-VA or “Community Based” provider.  That provider does not want me as a patient and makes this clear from the moment he introduces himself.  Why; possibly because I cannot wear a mask. Perhaps because the VA chooses how much that provider will be paid. Maybe because the provider simply does not want more military veterans as patients.  Fundamental core reason never provided, but the provider is at best passively hostile and willing to invest the barest of minimums in care to receive the maximum amount from the VA possible.

Because the provider must provide the VA with patient notes, the easiest way to rid himself of a military patient is to lie about that person’s conduct.  Thus, the doctor can play the victim, receive payment, and continue the veteran abuse perpetuated by the VA.  The lies of this provider are reported to the VA, and providers at the VA consider the veteran a “behavioral problem,” further reducing the quality of care.

Yet, the TMB considers the actions of this provider above the “acceptable standard of care.”  It must be a good gig to be a liar and thief in medical practice in Texas, for the bureaucrats at the TMB will protect you and assure the community that care was above the “acceptable standard.”  Tell me, TMB, what is below the acceptable standard of care?  If a medical provider can lie, cheat, and dismiss patients using unsecured methods of communication, and this is above “the acceptable standard of care,” what are actions below the “acceptable standard of care?”

Explain to the community, dear bureaucrat, how HIPAA was protected and the patient’s rights protected as part of “acceptable standards of care.”  Relate how trust in medical providers is enhanced when a medical provider can lie about a patient’s behavior, slander and ridicule that patient, causing more issues in receiving healthcare for that patient.  The Texas Medical Board is supposed to be the arbitrator and settler of problems; yet, this problem is not resolved, simply pushed on to other bureaucrats.  That is the epitome of job security for bureaucrats, not properly fulfilling your duties.cropped-bird-of-prey.jpg

I repeat, only for emphasis, “Houston, we have a problem!”  That problem is internal malfeasance and misfeasance on the part of bureaucrats.  To the Governor of Texas, to the Texas State Legislator, what are you willing to do to fix these despicable actions of useless bureaucrats?

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

When the Media Becomes Fixated – Smoke and Mirrors

Angry Grizzly BearAfghanistan has fallen, history has repeated itself, making the images of Saigon look like a trip to Disneyland on gossamer wings.  Haiti is in shambles, again, from the triple whammy of an earthquake, a hurricane, and political instability; at least this time, we do not have the Clinton’s siphoning money from the relief efforts for their personal gain.  The US/Mexico border National Security/Humanitarian/Health crisis continues unabated, unreported, and the deception of the American Government to its citizens is unceasing.

Stories are leaking out. President Biden refused to place American citizens ahead of Afghanistanis and other nationalities on American military planes during the Afghanistan farrago, again betraying the American people’s trust.  After a minimal review of President Biden’s time in office, I should not be surprised that he places other nationalities ahead of American’s, but I am amazed every time.  Yet, with all the “news,” it is interesting to note that the dogs not barking should be getting the attention.

Colonial Pipeline Hack

Remember the Colonial Pipeline Hack, which shut down the pipeline that fed oil products down the Eastern Seaboard.  Apparently, some 6,000 people’s private information was also lost in the hack.  Social security and health insurance information was stolen; consider how much personal data is on an insurance form, now ask yourself, why is all that private data needed?  Why was it stored with pipeline controls?  Who is responsible for allowing HIPAA information to be accessible?Colonial Pipeline Russian hacker: Darcy cartoon - cleveland.com

Since Colonial Pipeline paid the ransom, how can we, the consumers, be assured that the ransomware (software used to shut down the pipeline in the first place) was removed and the IT/IS threat risks fixed?  Since private data was stolen in the attack, how can employees (past and present) and their families get their identities back?  Worse, what about future attacks using private data as leverage to regain access and control?  Medical data has been used as leverage to blackmail historically as this is intimate and private data; this is a security breach with significant potential future risk but is being downplayed.  Why?

China

China Takes Over the World - TV TropesAlmost like clockwork, when there is trouble, China goes silent.  Every parent in the world knows when their toddler goes silent, that is when it is time to go find out what the child is doing.  Usually, it will mean the child is about to get their bottom smacked for doing something against the rules.  Or, you could compare China to Peeves, the poltergeist from Harry Potter, “When there’s trouble, call on Peeves, he’ll make it double.”  What is China doing right now, as they take advantage of the Afghanistan and Haiti double crisis?

Why are China’s rights and sovereignty always respected by America when China refuses to respect our sovereignty and rights?  When China refuses to honor border integrity and the sovereignty, rights, and privileges of its neighbors?  Want some interesting reading?  The Heritage Foundation has published the “China Transparency Report.”  Essentially, since 2005, China has been investing in third-world countries, often with illicit or illegal money, washed through its own banks, and returned to the global markets as investments in construction projects for “nation-building.”  Open secrets, many economists already know and have been asking political leaders to put a halt to, and have been rebuffed by those same political leaders, who then take “investments” from China.China's Emerging Middle Eastern Kingdom - Association of Geo-Strategic Analysis

China wants a hegemony, the political, economic, and military dominance of the globe, and they are investing in building nation-states that are loyal to them.  Not China-bashing, trying to raise awareness of what is happening right now in the world!  China’s leadership suffers from the “Middle Kingdom Inadequacy Syndrome” where they want to rule, but they entered the 18th and 19th centuries too late.  Now they want to play like it is still the 17th and 18th centuries, where empires can be built, lands stolen, maps redrawn, vast empires where the sun never sets are their reward for their patience and careful investments.

COVID-Hysterical Reactions

New Zealand re-entered national lockdown over COVID as of this morning (17 Aug 2021).  They have a single confirmed case of COVID.  Israel has 7,000+ daily cases; they are expecting to enhance their COVID measures.  New Mexico’s Governor (Supreme Grand Vizier and Head Chump) is still vacillating on her next mandate on COVID.  Other governors, heads of state, and many citizens wait with bated breath for the next shoe to drop on COVID-hysterical nonsense.  While everyone’s focus is on Afghanistan and Haiti, look for some weasel to stick the population with more COVID-Mania, that other politicians will follow if the first can “get away with the madness.”Covid-19 Def Leppard Hysteria - Covid 19 - T-Shirt | TeePublic

COVID has taught every citizen worldwide to be very cautious where government and “health mandates for public good” are concerned.  How many freedoms, treasure, and lives lost unnecessarily occurred because the government acted instead of logical thinking people?  Too much!  The greatest crime in all of recorded history is relying upon or allowing the government to act when the people can, and should, be doing the work.The Bright Side Of Coronavirus - 9ThirtyFour

CNN fired employees for not honoring the company policy to get vaccinated.  Did you know your employer can mandate you to be vaccinated?  Did you know your employer can charge you a different health insurance rate for not being vaccinated?  Are you aware that to your employer, you are property, have no US Constitutional Rights, and can be fired for not toeing every single line they spout?

Why is the Corporate Media Crowing About the US Senate “Acting” to Spend Money The US Does Not Possess?

blue-money-burning-2The US Senate is still being cheered for passing a budget full of leftist stupidity and wish list items that do nothing but bloat the American Government, raise the costs of products, and increase the ire of the electorate and the National Deficit.  Yet, the media cheers!  The US Senate passed an “infrastructure bill” that focuses on everything but infrastructure.  Yet, the media cheers!  The legislation passed provides free Internet to Cubans living on the Island of Cuba but is paid for by every other American utilizing Internet services and paying taxes.  Still, the media cheers!  Inflation is headed for double-digits by year’s end (2021), and if action is not taken swiftly will remain at double-digit highs for at least three years.  Yet, the media cheers, and the politicians are silent or making excuses.

Smoke and Mirrors

Smoke and mirrors are methods of distracting the audience while a magician does the trick, or the smoke and mirrors are the tricks.  Skilled magicians use these tools to create illusions meant to mystify and delight.  Politicians and media talking heads use them to distract until they can fashion a proper excuse, find a different party to blame, or waste sufficient time that the public has moved on to a different story.  Only magicians know that audiences become sophisticated over time, and all old tricks need revisiting to keep the mystery and magic alive.  Politicians refuse to learn this lesson, and their antics have grown stale, tired, and what was merely detestable 40 years ago has become treasonous and contemptible today!Ecig cancer death is smoke and mirrors | Planet of the Vapes

How do we, the citizens of representative governments, end the games, stop the charades, and demand accountability?  We stop buying tickets to the show!  We turn off the TV, Radio, and Talking Heads, turn on our minds, and use our critical thinking skills to deduce what is happening from the facts.  Then we act, in concert, unified with our neighbors, to end the silliness and demand that those responsible pay for their misdeeds and felonious actions!  We use the laws they have shunned to force accountability.  Believe it or not, the answer really is this simple!Bird of Prey

Beware the smoke and mirrors the media is casting and the politicians are hiding in; they are trying to get away with criminal misdeeds while attention is focused elsewhere!

© 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.

NO MORE – An Open Letter to the People of Arizona

To The Citizens of Arizona:

ArizonaIt has been my pleasure to have lived in Arizona four separate times since 1996.  Employment and pleasure have brought me relocation opportunities, and I have enjoyed my time in Arizona. However, since my return in 2005 to the present, I have feared for the soul of Arizona.  I have watched as despicable and detestable politicians have won political races that never should have been won.  I have witnessed governors act in cowardly and craven methods to thwart the people’s will.  I have witnessed those elected to Federal Offices from Arizona stop being held accountable to the electorate until the politicians have set up a hegemony and no longer fear the ballot box.  Most egregious of all, I have witnessed the veteran community become increasingly abused as every day ticks past.Patriotism

In April 2021, I wrote about my interactions with Rep. Greg Stanton (D) and his staff, where the VA is concerned.  For almost an entire year, I have been injured, cited, and arrested, denied care, had untold HIPAA violations, and other disgraceful conduct taken against me by the administration and leadership of the Carl T. Hayden VAMC.  In December 2020, I reached out again to the federally elected representatives, asking for help to clear my name and remove the atrocious behavior of the VA, all to no avail.The Duty of Americans

All four Senators rejected my pleas and never bothered to respond.  All of the members of the House of Representatives from Arizona refused to reply, save the staff of Rep. Greg Stanton (D).  Except, Rep. Greg Stanton (D) and his staff, did nothing!  Had no priority, refused to communicate, could not maintain pressure, and bought the lies and excuses of the Carl T. Hayden VAMC administrators.  These are the same administrators who create a crisis for veterans through inaction, duplicitous action, poor behavior, and refusal to perform the jobs they were hired to perform.  I have made it clear that the Administrators of the Carl T. Hayden VAMC and VISN 22 are but one dead veteran from another scandal to dwarf the death list scandal that originated with the VA administrators in 2012 and repeated in 2016.

VA 3No VA Administrator has addressed the root causes of those scandals, and without proper persuasion from Washington, D.C., they never will!  Worse, without continuous scrutinization, the bureaucrats will continue to exemplify the duplicity and failures, hiding behind designed incompetence and tissue paper-thin excuses for poor behavior.  Yet, what do we find from those enjoying elected office?  Zero interest, half-truths, straight lies, misinformation, smoke and mirrors, and plain laziness!  We, the electorate, find the politicians sitting on their hands, engaging in hopeless and stupid legislation that will go nowhere, and we find lackadaisical meandering in the House and Senate leadership.  I have witnessed amoebic life with more robust spines than the current political leadership in Arizona!Image - Quote Poltics is Dirty

It is true, Arizona is not the only state suffering from political abuse of the basest sort and blackest hue, but Arizona is where I have personally seen the destruction hit the hardest.  During Senator McCain’s tenure, my requests for help were rebuffed, but I could still obtain assistance from the House of Representatives members.  Now, the political party doesn’t matter, the politicians have plastic ears, and plastic lips, and their hearts are full of desire for political gain and not the electorate’s support.  Who loses, the electorate!  Who wins, nobody!

America, I ask you, in the year and change between today and the next election cycle, what will you do to change America’s government?  Arizona, you have been duped, lied to, and dishonored by those elected to power.  What will you do to reclaim the honor, integrity, and political government you deserve and pay so much for?Apathy

Personally, I have been betrayed, and I am sick to death of pleading for reprieve only to have lackluster performance, at best, provided so I would just go away.  I know of no honorable politician representing Arizona, and their respective staff is worse than the politician!  From the Mayor of Phoenix to the Governor, including the school boards, judges, and so many others, the fear of the ballot box is shrinking, and the bureaucrat is winning.   In contrast, the scrutinization of bureaucrats and other duties are dodged to win another term, always with a complicit media running interference.LinkedIn Image

I did not elect the media to their position, and since the media is not elected, they can be removed. However, while the politicians are elected, the fear of the ballot box needs to be retaught to the politicians.  How does a citizen get a politician to fear the ballot box; you first buck the trends and stand like a rock in a stream. Then, as additional rocks begin to stand, a dam is built, forcing change to that stream.Plato 3

If we are to change the government and retain our freedoms and liberties under the Rule of Law, we, the electorate, must first get the politicians to fear the ballot box!  We, the electorate, need to also teach accountability and responsibility to those who claim power but who only obtain power from those choosing to be governed!  We, the electorate, hold power over these politicians and the bureaucrats spawned in the legislative branch of government. So claim the power that is yours, and join your friends, neighbors, and communities in demanding better from those elected.

Knowledge Check!I heard the mayor’s office in Phoenix complain that they have no power over the Federal Government.  To think this is treason of the vilest kind.  Let me reiterate something discussed in several previous articles.  The local government stands as a bulwark against the county government overstepping its legal boundaries.  The city and county stand against the state encroaching against the freedoms and liberties of the state government.  The state government defends its citizens from the Federal Government’s encroachment, and the individual citizen is the most potent force in our Republican form of government.

Plato 2Cease the sophistry of plastic language and do your job!  End the tyranny of plastic words and work to aid the citizen in protecting their rights and freedoms from the ever-encroaching thieves of government and the bureaucrats spawned in the darkest pits of legislative fiat! So stand, every American citizen needs to stand and refuse to be governed until those elected are replaced with people willing to take action and honor the Rule of Law, holding previous politicians accountable and responsible for the mess America is currently suffering under.  Enough is enough, and I have reached the end of my tolerance, and my cherubic demeanor has been replaced with a hunger for justice!

© 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.

How Do I Know? – An Update on the VA Mandatory Mask Policies and VA Leadership Failures

Question24 May 2021 – 1200-1500 I visited the Las Cruces Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC) in Las Cruces, New Mexico.  Upon entry, I was asked to wear a mask.  I described I could not wear a mask, and the employee said I might be required to wear one but left the decision to those working more closely with me.  I waited in line and was called to the Team 2 window, where a gentleman was more than happy to assist me in getting the paperwork started to change VA hospitals after relocating.  About 45-minutes into my time in this CBOC, the gentleman asked me to wear a mask.  I told him I could not and had brought my VA Doctor’s note as proof.  The gentleman read the letter, confirmed I was good to receive care without the mask, and provided exceptional customer support.

After the past year at the Phoenix VAMC, where my every movement on the property was shadowed by VA Police officers looking for a reason to injure, arrest, cite, and force me from the property, the employees here in Las Cruces was a breath of fresh air.  However, the experiences in Las Cruces provide further evidence of the following facts:

      1. The Hospital Director has statutory authority for adapting and creating policies and procedures that benefit the safety of the employees and the patients. A point I stressed to the leaders of VISN 22 and the Phoenix VAMC to no avail.
      2. The Federal Mask Mandates can be situationally applied for the circumstances of the individual. Yet, another point I have repeatedly stressed since July 2020, and the first time I was injured, arrested, cited, and forced from Federal Property. At the same time, I was being denied emergency care under EMTALA and having my HIPAA information repeatedly violated by the VA Police Officers.
      3. The bombastic and unprofessional behavior of the Federal Police employed at the Carl T. Hayden VAMC is a problem of the leadership, and the failures of leadership to instill professionalism, proper attitudes and behaviors, training, and tactics in approaching and handling situations in the Phoenix VAHCS. At the behavior of the Federal Police Officers in the Phoenix VAHCS, Che Guevara, Mao, Stalin, and Fidel Castro would be proud!VA 3

How can a person be sure the problems caused are a direct result of leadership failures?

ApathyBy tracing behaviors, attitudes, and influence to their source, the police chief acts as he considers appropriate, but the underofficers generationally multiply and mirror his behaviors.  The same is true for the chief who takes his example from the assistant director, director, and hospital leadership.  Chains of command always have this consequence; the example of those above are mirrored, replicated, and multiplied to impress the higher officers to gain attention and promotion opportunities.  Want to take a measure of a leader; look to the most junior person in the chain of command and watch them for behaviors, attitudes, and actions that originate in the leadership.

GavelCase in point, long have I detailed and described the failures of leadership at the VA.  The latest is a wire fraud scheme in Jackson, Mississippi.  From the Department of Veterans Affairs – Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG), we find the following:

Anthony Kelley, the owner of Trendsetters Barber College in Jackson, Mississippi, pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud in a scheme to steal federal funds. From October 2016 through March 2019, the college offered a master barber course that was not accredited by the state’s board of barber examiners. Kelley fraudulently represented that this course was approved and, as a result, was allowed to collect GI Bill money from veterans enrolled in the program.”VA 3

As the lowest person in the chain of command, Mr. Kelly was allowed to attempt to commit fraud by the VA.  Never in these reports is the VA employee, their supervisor, and their manager, who were complicit in allowing fraud to occur, mentioned and held accountable.  Somehow, we, the taxpayer, must presume that those committing frauds could hoodwink the Department of Veterans Affairs without any inside help.  Help coming directly or indirectly from government employees charged with investigating, ensuring, and following proper protocols and procedures to protect against theft and fraud.

Angry Grizzly BearLet the US Attorney and VA-OIG special investigators crow about catching the person perpetrating fraud.  Before they break open the champagne, they need to be looking into the leadership that either overtly or covertly allowed this fraud to occur.  The elected officials need to be demanding why fraud opportunities are so rampant at the Department of Veterans Affairs that criminal proceedings are being reported almost every week and asking about the culture of corruption and leadership failures allowing these behaviors to thrive.

Is it a “Culture of Corruption?”

Absolutely; the VA is sick with a culture of corruption!  It is my sad duty to report on another employee who was able to steal from the VA, stealing hydrocodone and oxycodone prescriptions from the VAMC mailroom and mailboxes at some 40 locations in Kerrville, Ingram, and Center Point.

Scott M. Brown, a pharmacy technician at the Kerrville VA Medical Center in Texas, was charged with one count of theft of US mail for stealing hydrocodone and oxycodone prescriptions from the medical center’s mailroom as well as from residential mailboxes between March and April 2021.”VA 3

Currently, Mr. Brown is being held in custody and remains innocent until proven guilty in a court of law by a jury of his peers.  However, the fact that Mr. Brown has been charged and is in custody speaks volumes to the lax leadership that allowed these prescription thefts to occur.  Where is the VA-OIG in asking how the robbery was possible?  Where are the special investigators demanding answers from the leadership on policies and procedures that an employee could easily violate to obtain these drugs?  Who else was involved, or had to know, what was happening and said nothing?Plato 3

The Department of Veterans Affairs has been overtaken by those without skill, knowledge, and ability to understand cause and effect and properly interrupt the cycles of corruption.  Worse, these same people will bleat about how they need more money for technology solutions when their personal example, leadership failures, and human-to-human relationships are the actual problems.  The leaders will bleat like sheep in a corral about engagement, customer service, and industry buzzwords because they have no substance and even less desire to see things change.Plato 2

Recently I detailed the failures at the Department of Veterans Affairs on information technology.  The fallout from the deplorable designed incompetence in the IT/IS infrastructure at the VHA continues to represent just how incompetent the current leaders genuinely are.

To promote compatibility with the Department of Defense’s electronic health record system, VA is replacing its aging record system. This requires VA medical facilities to upgrade their physical infrastructure, including electrical and cabling. The OIG determined from its audit that the Veterans Health Administration’s (VHA) cost estimates for these upgrades were not reliable. VHA’s estimates did not fully meet VA standards for being comprehensive, well-documented, accurate, and credible. The audit team projected that VHA’s June and November 2019 cost estimates were potentially underestimated by as much as $1 billion and $2.6 billion, respectively. This was due in part to facility needs not being well-defined early on. The estimates also omitted escalation and cabling upgrade costs and were based on low estimates at the initial operating sites. Because cost estimates support funding requests, there is a risk that funds intended for other medical facility improvements would need to be diverted to cover program shortfalls. The Office of Electronic Health Record Modernization (OEHRM) also did not meet its obligation to report all program costs to Congress in accordance with statutory requirements. Specifically, OEHRM did not include cost estimates for upgrading physical infrastructure in the program’s life cycle cost estimates in congressionally mandated reports. Although VHA provided OEHRM with an approximately $2.7 billion estimate for physical infrastructure upgrade costs in June 2019, OEHRM did not, in turn, include them in life cycle cost estimate reports to Congress as of January 2021. OEHRM stated it did not disclose these estimates because the upgrades were outside OEHRM’s funding responsibility and that they represented costs assumed by VHA facilities for maintenance—including long-standing needs” [emphasis mine].VA 3

Angry Wet Chicken 2Did you catch that; the office specifically tasked with handling estimates intentionally low-balled estimates, did not include all necessary contractual requirements, and then lied to Congress to cover their hides, and fell back upon designed incompetence to skirt blame, responsibility, and accountability when the VA-OIG came investigating.  Lying to Congress is a CRIME!  Yet, these federal employees can break the law with impunity, and all the VA-OIG can do is make recommendations for improvement!  If you want to read the full report of shame, you can find it here.

Leadership is change; management is stagnation and corruption.  When will the VA start hiring leaders to enforce, demand, and execute change to benefit the taxpayer and the veteran community?  Where are the elected officials willing to work with newly hired VA leadership in establishing legal frameworks for evicting employees who refuse to change from the federal workforce?  When can the veteran community and the taxpayer expect to see real and tangible change at the VA?

Knowledge Check!I am not asking these questions and not expecting an answer!  I am asking these questions looking for and expecting real results to begin immediately, if not sooner!  This is a national embarrassment with a global impact, and it is time for the United States to lead in correcting their detestable government workforce!

© 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.

NO MORE BS: Calling Out Politicians – The Rep. Greg Stanton (D) AZ09 Edition

Foghorn Leghorn - MedicationWhile Rep. Greg Stanton (D)’s staff did respond, and this is a good thing, neither senator from Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D) or Sen. Mark Kelly (D) cared enough about my concerns to respond.  Frankly, this speaks volumes about how little the senators representing Arizona care about their constituents or veterans.  Hence when re-election arrives, remember well the treatment and vote for anyone else!

Now, getting back to Rep. Greg Stanton (D).  I contacted his office initially in December 2020; by early January 2021, I received a response from the director of constituent services and was told to allow the VA 45-days to respond to my complaint.  Remember, this is my seventh attempt at contacting any of the federal elected representatives to no avail.  I was 6-months into being discriminated against by the Carl T. Hayden VAMC for my medically approved breathing problems that preclude wearing a mask.  I have sent letters to the hospital director, the VISN Director, and Secretary Wilkie to no avail.  I have sent emails to the patient advocate and gotten misleading information, at best.  My Primary Care Provider (PCP), at the Carl T. Hayden VAMC, refuses to diagnose over the phone or through distant means and has invited me to find another PCP.  I have been arrested, injured, and cited three times by VA Police, who have no say in writing policy.  The policy they are enforcing is causing me both injuries at their hands and refusal of emergency care illegal under EMTALA.  Not to mention the continuous HIPAA violations as they joke about my medications, mental diagnoses, and physical diagnoses.

PatriotismI explain this by phone at least three times to the director of constituent services for Rep. Greg Stanton (D), who called me multiple times while responding to my numerous requests for assistance since the election occurred in Nov 2020.  Not having heard anything from Jan 2021 to 25 April 2021, I sent the following message via email to the director of constituent services:

“Good Morning XXXX,

Has it been sufficient time for the VA to address my concerns and return a response to your office? The governor of AZ has made mask mandates unenforceable since 25 March, and the VA continues to push masks as mandatory and deny me access.  This includes refusing to schedule blood work through the community while insisting that I needed blood work to be conducted before I could get a prescription refilled.  I went more than 2-weeks without diabetes medication because my primary care provider refused to alert me in early February that a refill of Metformin would need blood work.  I did not discover the need for blood work was required to refill until after I had been without Metformin for a week!

Mask discrimination at the VA is real and dangerous to veterans’ health and safety, and I, for one, am sick and tired of the BS the VA keeps serving as excuses to deny service.  I am not a behavioral problem, as the Carl T. Hayden VAMC continues to claim.  I do stand up for my rights against all enemies, foreign and domestic!  I have paid my fines.  If the US Marshals at the Federal Courthouse can have situational empowerment to not press the mask issue for those of us with qualifying medical conditions, the same should occur inside the VA with the VA Police.

The mask mandate is a policy issue threatening my health, safety, and well-being, as well as thousands of other veterans with breathing problems.  Just what, if anything, has been done since January on this issue?

Sincerely,
Dave Salisbury”

I realize that the AZ State Governor does not have anything to do with the Federal Policies; I mentioned the governor’s action solely as an indicator that change in the state of AZ has come (finally), where mask mandates are concerned!  The VA claims their mask policy is “constantly changing,” but the only changes I have witnessed are moving from draconian to oppressive, then to ruthless and punitive!  The mask policy is wrong, has never been printed as a work standard, and has never been published for veterans to abide by.  The best a person has is a sign claiming masks are mandatory and a bunch of emotionally charged employees acting like snowflake Nazi Storm Troopers on a 6-day pass from hell!

The Duty of AmericansToday, 28 April 2021, I reached out to the director of constituent services as I had not received any additional information.  Sending the following email:

“I blog, I have a pretty good following, here is my latest: https://dnc-consulting.com/2021/04/28/no-more-bs-speaking-of-administration-bureaucrats-in-government/

Please note, I have not mentioned Rep. Stanton (D) by name, yet, as a politician, I am begging to perform his job of scrutinizing the government, but the temptation is real!  I have to be able to access the VA Healthcare system ASAP safely!  Where is this issue in being resolved?  Feel free to explore the other VA Articles I write on my blog.  You will find every single one of the letters to the VA, you will find other veterans having similar problems, and you will find I do not hesitate to name names and point fingers.

I am still waiting patiently, but patience does wear thin when information is lacking!

Sincerely,
Dave Salisbury”

Anton EgoWithin 3 hours of this email, I received the following:

“Dr. Salisbury,

Thanks so much for sharing! Apologies for the delayed response. I am following up with the Phoenix VA Medical Center and determine the status of the inquiry.”

Why am I writing this article?

Angry Grizzly BearFrankly, I am through!  I am done with the foot-dragging administration at the Carl T. Hayden VAMC, and Alyshia Smith, the director who has dodged, balked, and refused to engage.  I am through with the VISN 22 Director Michael Fisher being able to remain silent and unresponsive in this farrago.  I am sick to death of being ignored by the VA Secretary, Secretary’s Wilkie and McDonough and their respective staff, while many other veterans across this country and I are physically harmed by a mask policy that doesn’t have enough sense to include “except for medically acceptable conditions,” and was never a policy, just some bloody marketing signs.  I am beyond insane about having to go to court for being arrested at the VA three times, kicked off property two additional times, and harassed more than 15 times, for being short of breath, denied emergency care, and then had jokes made by the VA Police about my HIPAA controlled data!

The US Marshals have situational authority to assess and bend the mask policy; why does the VA Police not have this ability?  Simple, easy, direct policy question that everyone in the VA refuses to address as having received, let alone answer.  Why are the elected officials SILENT about this problem that is harming the safety and well-being of their constituents?  Why can a congressional inquiry not DEMAND a prompt and timely response from bureaucrats hiding from the public in their offices?

DutyRep. Greg Stanton (D), why are you not more involved personally in DEMANDING the VA to correct their errors?  Do you not realize how many veterans are in your district?  Do you think you can abuse us and through us our families and hope to be re-elected?  You, sir, are in desperate need of correcting your attitude and behavior before your re-election chances are forever harmed.  I promise this article will survive to your utter shame if a prompt and immediate response is not taken!

Dont Tread On MeI have reached the point where I no longer possess anything “cherubic” in my demeanor on this issue!  You cost me time, money, and physical health.  You cost other veterans in the AZ09 Congressional  District the same.  I will find more veterans suffering as I have, as the US Marshals reported that they had seen a massive uptick in veterans being arrested and cited for mask policy violations at the Carl T. Hayden VAMC.  The VAMC, coincidentally located in your Congressional District, is harming veterans. You cannot appear to care, let alone act in a manner befitting your office as a Congressional Representative!  Immediately come out in support and show yourself a true representative worthy of the title of your office, or leave office immediately, there is no third option!

Your need to change; its mandatory!

© 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.

NO MORE BS: What Would The Founders Do – Privacy of Individuals

Angry Wet ChickenPrivacy is the paramount right of individuals.  To be free inside their own homes, their papers (business), and their actions.  Except, from every front, an individuals’ privacy is being stolen through technology, government edict, and the courts’ power.  Do you even realize how much of your privacy is being subverted for the gain of others?  The more I research privacy, the madder I get!

Here is the foundational statement by the Founding Fathers of America on an individuals privacy from the US Bill of Rights and US Constitution as amended:

      • Amendment I
        (Privacy of Beliefs)
        Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for a redress of grievances.
      • Amendment III
        (Privacy of the Home)
        No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
      • Amendment IV
        (Privacy of the Person and Possessions)
        The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
      • Amendment IX
        (More General Protection for Privacy?)
        The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
      • Liberty Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment
        No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Apathy1961, Griswold v. Connecticut Justice William O. Douglas declared there are “zones of privacy” that allowed Griswold to purchase contraceptives against the State of Connecticut’s desires.  Except, in ruling this way, the “zones of privacy” became the black hole sucking in all the abuses of privacy by technology companies, by the government, and by the courts.  Under the “zones of privacy,” abortion has been made legal along with gay sex, both of which fall into the founder’s old legal phrase, “The privacy of families.”

Millstone of Designed IncompetenceThe statute of “The Privacy of Families” stretches back into history and means exactly as it states, the government, the lawyers, and society have no business sticking their noses into “The Privacy of Families.”  Only to violate individuals’ privacy and intrude into an individual or family’s business, “Privacy of Families” has been used as a legal excuse for violating privacy and destroying individuals.  Consider the sale of educational research data from K-12 students, the sale of HIPAA data for research purposes.  If you live in a socialized medicine country, you have even less protection for your private medical data.  The business of buying and selling data for research purposes is vast, and anyone who can create an excuse can meet the legal standards of violating your privacy for “science.”

Is the problem a little more explicit; what started as a good thing, “zones of privacy” and “The Privacy of Families,” has morphed into the legal nooses of red tape hanging an individual and family over an ethical morass while some bureaucrat is chopping on the rope.  In a legal twist of irony, Alexander Hamilton had to admit he committed adultery and was bribed, over a honey trap created by a married couple, to beat a charge of worse behavior to his social reputation.  Hence, the citizenry needs to understand how far the government will stretch to breach an individual’s privacy.

Broken RobotDoesn’t America have laws like FERPA and HIPAA and other privacy legal requirements; absolutely, but are you going to trust the government to protect your records?  Were you affected by the OPM Federal Government data breach (2015), the multiple VA data breaches since the loss of 26.5 million unencrypted veterans records (2006), or been a victim of the DMV selling your personal data?  I guarantee you have been affected either as a primary, secondary, or tertiary victim of a data hack.  Yet, the FISA courts and the “Patriot Act” were explicitly invented to destroy individual and family privacy as unconstitutional actions by a legally elected government.

Reality check, what does the government hold as records?

The stolen VA data has included the names, Social Security numbers, dates of births, and disability ratings for 26.5 million veterans and spouses, on an unencrypted laptop hard drive.  Since this first data breach in 2006, the VA has regularly lost additional private medical records, emergency contact information, children records, and other data.  I have regularly received a letter from the VA that my data was included in a data breach.  I have written about how the VA brags that the flow of data from the VA into nefarious hands slowed a tenth of a percentage point and is to be applauded.  Not ended, not stopped, slowed a tenth of a percentage point, as if that was progress.

Angry Grizzly BearIf you believe the hype, the VA congratulates themselves for not losing any financial data, like account numbers, credit card numbers, and bank information.  Except if you lose someone’s full legal name, date of birth, Social Security number, that person WILL take a financial hit!  My identity has been stolen, cost me almost $5k in bank fees, overdraft fees, and other charges.  The day after I closed my bank account in Phoenix, AZ., a person with my identity walked into the bank branch in Janesville, WI., presenting a check for cash for $500.00.  I had spent from January to July complaining that my data had been hacked; the Janesville bank branch did not even bother to call the police.

The Office of Personnel Management data breach, June 2015 (you want to click that link) is as egregious a loss as humanly possible for several reasons:

      1. Nobody knows how long the tap was leaking data. If you believe the media, the tap was only open for a few short months.  If you believe the industry investigators, the tap had been in place for years.
      2. The data lost included everything on an SF-86 form for background checks and security clearances. My first SF-86 was completed over five days with a military recruiter.  It included all my brothers and sister private data, the names and addresses of friends and close associates, and extended family members.  My Navy SF-86 was longer as I had previously held security clearances, and a deeper check was ordered.
      3. Have you ever applied for a security clearance or applied for employment with the Federal Government? Do you have relatives or friends who work for the Federal Government?  Guess what; you are either a secondary or tertiary victim of the OPM Data Hack, and nobody has been held accountable, nor has a full accounting of the problem ever been made known to the public.

Dont Tread On MeHence, the next time you hear about the government “working hard to protect your privacy,” ask them about those data centers in Utah’s desert that hold private data for the government alphabet agencies.  Ask about the OPM and VA data hacks.  Better still, ask about the IRS data hack in the spring of 2015.  While the IRS claims “only 104,000 taxpayers were involved, the reality is much higher, and politicians play games with the truth.  Eventually, the game of political hot-potato will end, and that will indeed be a great and dreadful day!

© 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.

The Perils of a Toxic and Inert Workplace Culture

DutyDandira (2012), in an epic discussion on the origins of organizational cancer, discussed how communication, among other things, breeds organizational cancer.  The author stated what should be obvious, but the government remains oblivious to government agencies and the body’s organizational cancer.  “Responsibility and authority: (the CEO/Executive Chief) he should have the power to hire and fire, especially those who continue to follow the old system of playing political games at the expense of the organization” (Dandira, 2012, p. 191).  Again, while the following is using the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the examples spread like thick peanut butter, or bathtub scum, across all government agencies and NGOs.

Wasting TimeFrom the Department of Veterans Affairs – Office of Inspector of General (VA-OIG) reports, we find:

Michael Wibracht of San Antonio, Texas, the former owner of several construction companies, defrauded the United States by obtaining government contracts under programs administered by the Small Business Administration for which neither his nor his co-conspirators’ companies were eligible. One co-conspirator, Ruben Villarreal, also of San Antonio, pleaded guilty on Nov. 20, 2020, to participating in the same conspiracy. “The defendants conspired to fraudulently obtain multi-million dollar government contracts under a program designed to benefit service-disabled veterans,” said VA Inspector General Michael J. Missal. “These guilty pleas send a clear message that individuals and companies who defraud the government contracting process for service-disabled veterans will be held accountable.”

VA Inspector General Michael J. Missal, you are 100% incorrect!  Holding third-party contractors responsible for defrauding the VA does not “send a clear message,” nor will any of the actual problems be addressed; hence the fraud will continue, and the taxpayer and veterans will continue to suffer.  A little research into this story reflects that no VA Employees, who had to have been aware of the schemes and aided and abetted the schemes, have been held accountable for dereliction of duty.  Thus, the fraud will continue, and frankly, I wish you would learn this particular lesson!

VA SealDandira’s (2012) point is the hinge upon which fraud will or will not continue, does the executive heads at the hospital, VISN, and D.C. levels have the power and authority to act?  No; they do not, because Congress refuses to grant this power, while also refusing to scrutinize the government properly!  A convoluted mess that should have already been resolved, but the bureaucrats prefer designed incompetence and inertia to perform any work to improve the culture and accountability to the American Citizen and veterans.

Speaking of a culture needing work, the VA-OIG reports:

Matthew Pizarro, 32, of Stoughton, Massachusetts, was sentenced to 10 years in prison and eight years of supervised release for distribution of fentanyl, one count of distribution of 40 grams or more of fentanyl, and one count of possession with intent to distribute 28 grams or more of crack cocaine. Pizarro was indicted in October 2018 and has been in custody since his arrest in August 2018.”

LookSpeaking to the cultural problems allowing for criminal behavior to be accepted as part of the VA’s normal daily operations, consider visiting the following link.  That link will take you to incidents of failure to correct the criminal and toxic culture at the VA starting from 2013.  Not that the culture began in 2013, but that is as far back as the VA is willing to admit the culture extends from.  For example:

Lisa M. Hoffman, 48, a former pharmacy technician at East Orange VA Medical Center in New Jersey, was charged with stealing more than $8.2 million worth of HIV medication. Hoffman used her position to order, then steal, large amounts of HIV medication, which she later sold to an associate for cash.”

Detective 3While the last two examples of toxic culture include individuals, I am always impressed with the lack of integrity and the language games to spin a VA-OIG investigation report to more favorably report a Charlie-Foxtrot!  The VA-OIG investigated the use of virtual appointments for primary care during the COVID Pandemic.  Here’s the issue, before the pandemic, the only people regularly using virtual appointments were the psychologists treating individual patients who had the technology.  My Primary Care Provider (PCP) refused to use virtual appointments until last March.  Even then, my current PCP refuses to diagnose, treat, or even answer general health questions using virtual appointments.  The last three appointments using virtual technology have been technological disasters where the sound cut off and on, the picture cut off and on, random noise was broadcast, and nobody can explain how secure the technology is and how it meets HIPAA requirements.  The VA-OIG is crowing and magnanimous about the growth of virtual care appointments using VA Video Connect (VVC) in the VA.

Worse, the virtual appointments using the VVC technology do not come with technical support, so the veteran is left trying to fix connection issues without guidance and assistance.  Training for the VVC technology is either missing or obsolete, and frustration is the only regular VVC technology product.  Go ahead and crow VA-OIG; the veterans stuck using this garbage should have been part of your survey, and the fact that you refused to obtain the veterans’ input tells much about how respectful the VA is about their patients!

InertiaHere is a real-life example of a toxic culture with inert actors in action. It is reminding me of those “Priceless” MasterCard commercials from a few years back!

This management advisory memo identifies potential risks associated with the Veterans Health Administration’s (VHA) efforts to expedite adding new staff to meet increased demand caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) recognizes the tremendous pressure to hire staff to meet unprecedented needs quickly. To achieve VHA’s goal of bringing all new employees on duty within three days of making a tentative offer, VHA has modified or deferred tasks such as fingerprinting, background investigations, drug testing, credentialing, and preplacement physicals. The potential risks identified by the OIG may threaten VHA’s ability to safeguard veterans’ sensitive information and ensure its workforce is suitable for serving patients at VA medical facilities. The OIG organized these potential risks into three categories: (1) employees who do not have a completed fingerprint-based criminal history check may gain access to sensitive information and controlled substances; (2) delays in processing fingerprints add to a backlog of investigations; (3) onboarding tasks are deferred—such as drug testing and credentialing—that is not being centrally monitored to ensure completion. If realized, these risks could damage the trust veterans have in VA, keeping their information secure and meeting employee suitability standards; this memorandum raises issues for VHA to consider in determining whether vulnerabilities and related processes warrant further review. These include possible changes to centralize governance of deferred actions to improve oversight.”

Scared Eyes!Who says the veterans trust the VA to keep their data secure?  I am amongst thousands of veterans who annually have to track our identity because the VA continues to lose data through the most elementary methods.  Worse, the government is a sieve of escaping personal data from the VA to the OPM; the government keeps losing data.  These VA articles keep mentioning designed incompetence, want to see designed incompetence in action, “VHA has modified or deferred tasks such as fingerprinting, background investigations, drug testing, credentialing, and preplacement physicals… which is not being centrally monitored to ensure completion.”  Change processes, probably never even wrote down the procedures, and then refuse to monitor for completion.  Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot on that Charlie Foxtrot, over!  Please excuse the military axiom; I am mentally blown away that this was approved, put into operation, and then left alone to fester!  When it is discovered that more criminals and nefarious people were hired, who gets the blame; nobody!  It will be COVID-19’s fault, not a mindless and spineless drone!

Detective 4I am personally aware and have reported both on this blog and to the proper authorities (not that they ever cared or did anything), the HIPAA, EMTALA, and other legal abuses of veterans in several VA Hospitals.  Without improvements in operations and providing authority to clean house for those in leadership positions, the VA’s problems will only worsen.  Please be aware; it is not for the lack of money or technology to pinpoint abuses and problems with employees; it is all the inertia of the leadership towards action and the toxic culture which allows and encourages pushing the boundaries that are killing the VA.  The VA requires a cancer operation, where the potential killing growths are removed and the body allowed to heal—healing through better leaders, better-written procedures and policies, and improved communication chains that promote catching the problems before the VA-OIG!

Reference

Dandira, M. (2012). Dysfunctional leadership: Organizational cancer. Business Strategy Series, 13(4), 187-192. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/17515631211246267

© 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.

More VA Insanity – COVID Mask Policy – Denial of Service

I-Care02 March 2021 – Today, I got a secure message from the pulmonologist at the VAMC in Phoenix; he needs me to go to the hospital for a series of tests to understand why I cannot breathe.  Except, when he tried to get me into the hospital, he was told the VA Mask Policy would not be allowed to be “adjusted,” and the administration is the problem.  Worse, the local administration refuses to engage in discussion, refuses to write a cohesive and legal policy, and absolutely continues to deny service to veterans illegally.

I desperately need answers as to why the VA Hospital is allowed to act in this manner.  The denials of service are more than just a mask policy issue where COVID is concerned.  The actions of the Phoenix VAMC since June 2020 extend beyond simple bureaucratese where COVID masking is concerned.  Where are the elected representatives in scrutinizing the Phoenix VAMC?  Where is the media in demanding answers to the abuses being witnessed?  Where are the police in protecting the innocent?

InertiaTo actively work to refuse service, shut down dissenters, and muzzle those who honestly want to help and change the Phoenix VAMC into something worthy of respect and improve the care of the patients who try and obtain healthcare at the facility is atrocious behavior worthy of the harshest condemnation.  My medical chart clearly states I cannot wear a mask, the pulmonologist needing me to receive tests to understand why, is unable to obtain community care due to administrative fiat, and unable to get the VA to stop needlessly harassing, injuring, and arresting me because I cannot safely wear a mask.  All because the administrators would prefer to refuse service, deny care, and then complain that nobody is making their appointments.

2004, I started this journey with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA); I had spinal problems, I was short of breath, I had neurological issues, and a host of other issues.  Yet, for more than 10-years, the VA refused care after I left the service with injuries because of the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) treatment.  As soon as I finally get the VBA to act, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) begins to act like I am scum that was drug in off the streets.

LookWhat drives me crazy, I have been across the United States and seen the inhumanity of the VA Administration up close and personal too many times to think the problems are limited to only one VISN or another.  I have witnessed veteran patients and dependents worthy of the highest care denied service and then further abused by the VAMC refusing these people’s future care.  I have witnessed VA employees create rules to inconvenience a veteran patient, slow care, and deny service to a patient who had to travel 4-6 hours to the VA.  The VA-Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) relates more and more abuses by VBA and VHA staff monthly, where accountability is lost, responsibility rarely accepted, and the cycles of abuse continue because nobody in VA leadership will act!

Does anyone understand what this entails?  A patient, not me, with chronic pain and incredible service-connected injuries, is denied the ability to drop off a letter for his primary care provider, and the VA employee who would handle the letter anyway refused to accept the letter unless the letter was mailed.  The veteran drives four-hours to the VA Hospital every time he needs care and he works to maximize his time while at the VA taking care of as much business as possible.  The employee claimed that if the patient left the letter on that employee’s desk, the employee would throw it away.  The VA employee refusing to help a veteran was shortly promoted, moved to a less visible clinic, and the veteran who needed the help still has not received the support he needs.  Even after writing to the hospital administrator, the VISN administrator, and his congressional representative.  Why do I know so much about this case, I witnessed the scene and have been kept abreast of the trouble this veteran is having.

Survived the VAI met a veteran on social media who is in my same boat and cannot physically and safely wear a mask.  He has been actively denied service, even while bleeding, at the ER.  If President Trump had not signed the Community Care Act, which forces the VA to allow patients the VA refuses to see to access community-provided care, both of us would have been much worse than we are today.  Monday (01 March 2021), a nurse from my primary care provider called to relay information. The nurse refused to provide service, refused to answer questions, and then chose to become offended and disconnected the call.  Worse, I still have no idea why the nurse called, the purpose for the call, or what outcome will be derived from the call.  Why; because you cannot directly call your clinic and receive answers.  The phone chain games mean I call the clinic and get routed to a call center, they leave a message for the provider, and possibly within a week, I might obtain an answer from the provider.

Want to reach your clinic directly; send a secure message through the MyHealtheVet portal.  Then wait for an answer that can take as little as 24-hours, or as long as 3-months, if you get a response at all.  I have asked simple questions through both phone and secure messages and received atrocious answers, answers not fit to print, and answers that are a logical pretzel-making no sense but are regarded as “the policy of this hospital.”  A non-veteran I was casually talking to asked, “Why do you use the VA at all?”  The short answer is because if you do not use the VA, the billing nightmare to get the VA to pay for healthcare from military-connected injuries is a bloody nightmare!

VA SealCase in point, 30 June 2020, I checked into an ER for care.  January 2021, I receive a collections notice for the visit.  I called and asked why; apparently, the hospital submitted the statement to TriCare instead of TriWest, causing confusion and denial of service.  But, the VA “due to HIPAA” policies could not speak directly to the hospital, only to me.  I had to call the hospital and inform them of what the VA said.  The hospital’s billing department, the collections agency, and I are stuck between two bureaucracies at the VA, and I have an active collections problem hammering my credit.  These shenanigans are, but a small part of the regular issues all veterans are handed because the VA refuses to do their jobs creates rules and policies at whim to inconvenience, and flat out refuses to do their jobs!

Patients seeking care at the majority of VA Hospitals face no customer care, worse customer service, refusal to honor the job, disrespect of the patients, dependents, and veterans, and worse service for active personnel.  I have seen the VA’s actions, and I refuse to stay quiet about the illegal behavior, unethical actions, and the immoral treatment of veterans, active service members, and the qualified dependents seeking care and finding crass bureaucratic red tape.  There is no reason for this abuse of the patient, except as previously mentioned, the VA Hospitals can “get away” with bad behavior where non-government hospitals cannot.

Where do we go from here?

DetectiveWith the government being less than enthused with ending the COVID-Farce, with the media refusing to recognize a problem and assist in advocating for a reprieve, and with the elected officials failing to scrutinize the workings of the executive branch’s operations properly, I am not sure of the proper answer to this question.  Insanity, according to Einstein, is doing the same things over and over, expecting different results.  The paradigm of government-provided healthcare is a pernicious fraud and desperately needs to be corrected.  But the answer is more than simple bureaucratic inertia found in many other government agencies.  The VA has built a special case for itself, and the solution will necessarily require new approaches and new thinking.

The belief that government is good for anything but injuring others remains an idea that needs to spread far and wide in an effort to reduce the harm caused by the government.  The American people require a higher return on their investment in the government through forced taxation.  Yet, the administers of government and the elected representatives hired to scrutinize the government fail to act, believe the bureaucrats over the citizen, and are part of the problem.

Fishbone DiagramRoot cause analysis points to inertia as being a prime candidate in the failures experienced and witnessed.  Inertia is a comfortable blanket to wrap yourself in when change is supposed to occur, but change scares you.  The hospital administrators refused to act because that would require a spine and written records scare the hospital administrators; especially those in Phoenix after two dead veterans’ scandals where responsibility pointed to people who possessed written records.  Hence, besides inertia is the fear of being held accountable because the written records exist.  Yet, because policies, directives, and processes are not being written down, behavior can worsen where the veteran patient is abused, and there is nothing that can be pointed to claiming the actions taken were inappropriate.

Detective 3Logic claims that if the VA denies service to a class of veteran patients, then another option for receiving care should automatically open.  However, the lack of written policies and the inertia of the employees causes the veteran patient a nightmarish cycle of needing care but not being able to access care.  Because the employees are following spineless leaders and inertia is better than sticking one’s neck out and acting differently from the pack.  Thus, plotting a path forward requires leadership and a willingness to document, change, and adapt, all of which appear anathema to the VA generally and the Phoenix VAMC particularly.

The VA-OIG just recently finished an audit of community care claims being handled by 3rd party contractors.  The results are fairly typical of the VHA and VBA using designed incompetence.

The OIG audit found that inadequate contract terms and VA’s lack of effective oversight contributed to claims processing inconsistencies and errors. The VA’s contract did not include standardized criteria for contractor employees to use when distributing and processing claims. Furthermore, the contract did not require contractor employees to follow VA’s Office of Community Care (OCC) claims-processing guidance. Although the contractor cannot be faulted for acting inconsistently with OCC guidance not required in its contract, the resulting inconsistencies mean VA lacks assurances that proper processes were used. VA also did not have an official quality reporting mechanism in place before February 2019.”

The VA-OIG report quoted above discussed how 13% of the claims were handled inappropriately, causing veterans’ problems and delays in processing for providers.  In Albuquerque, NM., I saw this firsthand.  The VA sent me to a community provider; the community provider filed all the proper paperwork and kept gathering more paperwork for the next three years.  Finally, when all the red tape was satisfied, ¾’s of the bills were too old to receive payment.  That provider went bankrupt trying to provide services to veterans because he could not get paid in a timely manner.  I was there for the full and abysmal treatment of this provider by the VA.

Detective 4The designed incompetence is galling and getting worse.  The VBA is the portion of the VA that makes claims decisions.  Recently the VA-OIG investigated the VBA specifically to check consistency to comply with skills certification for compensation and pension claims processors.  The results are a horror story of designed incompetence, failure to do the job, and trainers’ failure to train properly.  Of the 10,800 claims processors required to certify their jobs, 4700 were never tested from 2016-2019.  Of the 2,500 who failed the certification test, 1,900 did not have any repercussions, training plans, identified corrective action, or employer counseling.  Worse, the VBA failed to take any personnel actions on 98% of the population surveyed (10,800).  2018, as in the entire fiscal year of 2018, the certification tests were unavailable due to technical issues on the VBA’s intranet.  Meaning that effectiveness in 2019 to measure and certify was virtually useless!  Does anyone wonder why veterans are refusing to trust the VBA and the VHA?  Is the problem clearer that congressionally elected officials’ failures to scrutinize the government influence the employees’ behaviors for the worst?  How many claims have been improperly decided, wasting taxpayer time and money and the veteran’s time and money since 2016 by failing to certify to fill the roles and duties the American Taxpayer is paying them to fulfill?

Wasting TimeIt is imperative for profound and fundamental organizational change at the Department of Veterans Affairs to begin as soon as practical.  Worse, scratch the surface of any other government agency on the Federal or State level, and the same problems arise.  The same abuse of taxpayers, the same refusal to do the jobs hired to perform, and extensive cultures of inert slugs just punching time and wasting money until they can retire!

© 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.