The Year-End Maelstrom! – More VA Shenanigans! (Where is the accountability?)

2021 has finally ended, but before it ended, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) – Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) increased the pace, and the following is but a taste of the year-end insanity foisted into my inbox.  With more than 45 emails to sift thru, some of the topics had to be culled, and I regret that I had to cull the emails.  Each and every VA-OIG report deserves to be scrutinized, evaluated, and the actors punished, many times with criminal court.  I don’t know what’s worse, summating these stories or getting hit with a truck; seeing as I have been hit by a truck, I think the truck is easier.

We begin the recount of VA-OIG stories with another veteran, deceased because the VA Medical Center refused to do their job and provide continuity of care after a 33-day hospital stay.  Leaving me wondering if this was intentional malpractice due to the cost of the veteran to the VA.  Listen to the findings of the VA-OIG, then make your own decision.

The Malcom Randall VAMC’s interdisciplinary team (IDT) failed to develop a discharge plan that adequately ensured patient safety and continuity of care.  The Malcom Randall VAMC did not have a discharge planning policy that outlined IDT membership, communication expectations, or roles in discharge planning.  The OIG found that the occupational therapy provider did not verbally communicate a new recommendation for a home safety assessment or take action to stop the discharge until the safety concerns were addressed.  Additionally, an attending physician failed to review written recommendations for home healthcare services from consultative and ancillary providers before composing the discharge plan for the patient.  The social worker, who had significant responsibility for ensuring the adequacy and safety of the patient’s discharge plan, also failed to incorporate recommendations by the occupational therapy provider and failed to discuss and offer home health services to manage the patient’s venous leg ulcer and monitor infection of the right leg.  The OIG also found that social workers did not consistently complete thorough and detailed psychosocial assessments that would be pertinent to discharge planning.

Remember when the media became hysterical when then VP Candidate Gov. Sarah Palin suggested ObamaCare would institute “Death Panels?”  Bureaucrats decided that the government had invested sufficient money into a patient and was going to stop providing medical care.  When this media hissy-fit was going on, I claimed that the VA had been exercising this right to discontinue care for a long time.  Several people took umbrage at this commentary; yet, what do we find from the VA-OIG, a dead veteran, five recommendations by the VA-OIG to do the job these “providers” were already hired to perform, and I am left thinking, “Death Panel in action.”

What else should I conclude with no accountability, responsibility, and consequences?

On the topic of holding a job with responsibility and not being held accountable, we find another hit to the VA and their lack of IT/IS security.  Desiring brevity but passing along factual information, the following summary has been condensed:

The Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) standardizes security and risk assessments for cloud technologies for federal agencies, including VA.  In April 2019, the VA Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) received allegations that VA’s Office of Information and Technology’s (OIT’s) Project Special Forces (PSF) was not following FedRAMP policies or VA policy for deploying software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications.

      • The VA-OIG found that OIT granted security authorizations for applications FedRAMP did not authorize.
          • Eight of the nine applications cited by the complainant were used on the VA network—some without FedRAMP or VA authorization.
          • Another three applications were approved to operate on VA’s network without FedRAMP authorization.
      • The OIG did not substantiate that PSF-developed applications were improperly managed outside the VA Enterprise Cloud group.
      • PSF did not follow VA security requirements in developing interfaces that allow third parties to “plug into” the VA to send and retrieve data.
          • OIT personnel stated, “no formal OIT authorization process until April 2019.” After that date, the review team did not find instances of VA-authorized applications without FedRAMP authorization.
      • OIT staff “apparently” misunderstood the FedRAMP authorization requirements for SaaS applications containing data classified as less sensitive.

Please note if you think the VA IT/IS performance has improved since April 2019.  You are sadly mistaken, as in 2021, there have been three major VA-OIG reports declaring how IT/IS systems at the VA remain insecure, failing legislative mandates for basic security, and are hopelessly too expensive and useless.  I have two VA-Apps on my phone, both of which work “sometimes,” and never sufficiently support the end user.  Worse, these apps do not interface with the old software the VA is helplessly tied to while the new software continues to prove its uselessness and security problems in real-world beta testing.

Tell me, would you trust the government, any of the alphabet agencies, with your child to babysit?  If not, why do we trust the government to secure our identity?  If so, please elaborate, for I would love to know of a government/NGO operating with trust and efficiency.

Continuing under the heading of failure to perform the job hired for, we find the VA-OIG issuing a total of 20 recommendations to Vet Centers.  The Vet Centers included record keeping of suicidal veterans seeking mental health support as a point of reference.  Not for the first time, but I keep hoping it’s the last.  The VA continues to fail veterans, abuse veterans actively, and take advantage of veterans, and I remain unconvinced this torture of their customers is not intentional.  Maybe not all employees, for I have met some great employees, but the leadership appears hellbent on killing as many veterans as possible.

Why isn’t this big news, huge headlines, and a major story to the corporate media?  Where is the coverage?  You cannot convince me that 1)You are not aware of this story and 2) That you are unfamiliar with its implications.

VA statement on GPO printing and mailing delay

WASHINGTONDue to supply chain and staffing shortages, the vendor contracted by the Government Publishing Office to provide printing services for the Department of Veterans Affairs is experiencing delays in printing and mailing notification letters to Veterans and claimants.  The disruption may impact the ability of some claimants to meet required deadlines via written correspondence with the VA.

In response to the mailing delays and to protect the best interest of claimants, the Veterans Benefits Administration is extending its response period by 90-calendar days for claimants with letters dated between July 13, 2021, and Dec. 31, 2021.

For those not aware, everything in the bureaucracy abbreviated as the VA is time-sensitive.  Miss a deadline, and you have no opportunity to recoup lost time without investing significant amounts of resources.  Since I continue to be in an embroiled battle with the VA over not receiving a proper decision in 2004, time delays represent problems untold due to budget cuts and bureaucracy, and the VBA and VHA bureaucracies will do everything they can not to help you.  Then we add the time delays, and the consequences can be disastrous.  Think veterans dying with an active application for benefits, and you come close to how big this story is, and not covering it with wall-to-wall coverage is the epitome of lackluster asininity!

It took dead veterans on waiting lists to get bad press through the Media fawning over President Obama; what will it take to penetrate the media quilt for Biden?  Continuing under the heading of failing to do the job you were hired to perform, we find another VA-OIG comprehensive healthcare inspection (CHIp).  Guess what; this one is beyond utterly dismal and flagrantly reprehensible!

The administration and delivery of care to female veterans continues at its expected and atrocious, slovenly pace, being outstripped by one-winged butterflies.  How can the VA Leadership continue to keep their jobs when they allow such incorrigible behavior from lower staff members?  Would the elected Representatives and Senators address this question?  You were hired to scrutinize the government; that is the only other job you have after writing fair and equitable legislation to all citizens.  Why should you be re-elected when this behavior abounds, and you refuse to scrutinize the executive branch officers?

Consider the following,  “The VA-OIG audit team estimated that improper payments for acupuncture and chiropractic care amounted to about $136.7 million during fiscal years 2018 and 2019.”  Continuing, “The audit team also found that VHA did not always follow guidance when reauthorizing acupuncture and chiropractic care.  Not documenting assessments of prior treatments before authorizing additional care may interfere with veterans’ treatment.”  Failure to ensure your underlings have established proper processes and procedures that are effective and followed is a prerequisite to holding a leadership position.  Where is the leadership at the VA?  Where is elected representative scrutiny?  What are the consequences for doing a poor job of cleaning the house and protecting the taxpayer?

How big is this problem?  Try upwards of $341 Million, on top of the $136 Million already discussed, and before the full force and cost are known on delays in properly notifying veterans in a timely and efficient manner.

The VA-OIG audit team found that some providers are billing VA at a significantly higher rate for high-level evaluation and management services than their peers in the same specialty.  The team determined that in fiscal year (FY) 2020, more than 37,900 non-VA providers billed and were paid for significantly more high-level evaluation and management codes than were all providers in that specialty on average.  These non-VA providers received about $39.1 million (13 percent) of the approximately $303.6 million paid for all non-VA evaluation and management services.

Additionally, some providers billed separately for evaluation and management services when the global surgery package was in effect.  This package is supposed to cover all surgery-related services for a set period.  The review team identified more than 45,600 providers were compensated about $37.8 million in FY 2020 for these evaluation and management services.

Improper payments were not easy to detect because VHA staff did not retrospectively audit medical documentation as required.  Additionally, the OIG found no evidence that VHA or contractors trained non-VA providers on documenting evaluation and management services, similar to how VA providers are qualified.  The OIG determined VHA risked overpaying for evaluation and management services by about $19.9 million in FY 2020.”

While discussing audits, failed processes, and the lack of consequences for senior leadership, we must break and wish a “Happy Birthday” to the audit hits turning 10, 12, 15, 21, and older.  It never ceases to amaze me how these financial failures can continue to age, and nobody is held accountable!  May you age out and finally be corrected!  Would the elected leaders of America like to know why the VA is consistently failing financial audits?

VA continued to be challenged in consistently enforcing established policies and procedures throughout its geographically dispersed portfolio of outdated applications and systems.”

Now, explain why we should re-elect any elected official to office?

Elected officials, your job is to scrutinize and write legislation; that is what we, the electorate hired you to do.  Do you realize the far-reaching consequences of your failure to perform your job?  Let me introduce you to an example:

Anthony Medrano, a veteran of the US Marine Corps and former employee of VA, admitted that between approximately November 2015 and May 2020, he submitted claims to VA in which he purported to be disabled to obtain caregiver benefits for his wife, when he was actually able-bodied and even participated in fitness challenges and coached youth sports.  Medrano was sentenced in federal court to eight months in custody for defrauding VA out of more than $183,000.  He executed this scheme while employed by VBA as a veterans service representative, a position in which he explained benefit programs and entitlement criteria to veterans applying for VA benefits.”

Or the following:

Barry Wayne Hoover of Tampa, Florida, a veteran of the United States Navy, exaggerated the extent of his visual impairment to receive VA disability benefits to which he was not entitled.  Specifically, Hoover manipulated the results of subjective tests of his peripheral vision to reflect that he had only a five-degree visual field and was legally blind.  VA found that Hoover was 100 percent disabled based on those manipulated tests.  Hoover was found guilty of theft of government funds and making a false statement to a federal agency.  He faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison.  His sentencing hearing is scheduled for March 2022.”

How about this:

Professional Family Care Services, Inc. (PFCS), a home health services company based in Fayetteville, North Carolina, has agreed to pay more than $45,000 to settle civil False Claims Act allegations related to fraudulent billings for work by a recently convicted felon under their employ.  During 2015 and 2016, PFCS billed VA for home health services provided to W.R., an Army veteran, even though, at that time, W. R. was residing with the company’s employee, Certified Nurse Aide Tracey McNeill.  PFCS based its billing for those services on falsified timesheets provided by McNeill, who failed to provide both the time and quality of care required under the VA program.  After several months living with McNeill, purportedly receiving home health services provided by McNeill through PFCS, W. R. had to be admitted to the hospital.  He was extremely malnourished and ultimately died within a few days of admission.  Earlier in 2021, McNeill was convicted of wire fraud for her misconduct related to W. R., sentenced to 12 months and one day in federal prison, and ordered to pay over $90,000 in restitution.”

Morality is exemplified by leadership and then exercised under scrutiny.  Because you, the elected officials, refuse to be morally upright and scrutinize the government, the executive branch officers and employees have become careless, irresponsible, and taken the American Taxpayer for a ride!

Each time the VA-OIG reports an investigation beginning with the death of a veteran, the root cause is always a failure of people to do the job they were hired or contracted to perform, and the casualty is a dead or severely injured veteran.  The culling of the email included a urologist who performed procedures, puncturing internal organs, and not notifying the patient.  Several other CHIp summaries reflected the egregious and despicable leadership hidden at VHAs and VAMCs across the country.  Other Vet Centers possess failing bureaucrats just trying to hide until they reach retirement and escape.

America, you deserve better from the alphabet agencies representing the executive branch!  Fellow veterans, please do not give up hope; we can still help protect this country from those enemies domestically located who make your lives a living hell.  Please pass the word, these VA-OIG investigations deserve to be read, and questions asked!  Elections are coming; join the fight as a citizen and run for office.

© Copyright 2021 – 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.

Do You Feel Represented? – Your Government In Action!

Detective 4I have received feedback that I write about the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) too much.  Please allow me to explain why.  As a veteran, I am duty-bound to help my fellow brothers and sisters in arms.  As the son of veterans, mother (USN), and father (USN, USARNG), I know the hardships of being dependents of active duty, reserve, and National Guard members of the military.  The enlistment contract doesn’t end when the contract says so for the military member; the families and spouses contract is forever.

The final two reasons I write about the VA are most critical; NO body should be treated like the VA treats the veterans; the actions of the bureaucrats in the VA are not representing me and what I stand for in a representative government.  As I can easily have the Department of Veterans Affairs – Office of Inspector General Reports (VA-OIG) delivered to my inbox, it makes writing about the VA much easier, benchmarking how the government has insulated themselves and forgotten who holds the reigns of power in a representative government.  While not a reason to write about the VA, this final explanation should help you judge whether your representative government appropriately represents you and what you stand for.Why

The VA-OIG reports today begin with behavior that is intolerable and worthy of public shaming.  While the defendant remains innocent until proven guilty, the criminal complaint represents behavior inexcusable!  “Daniel Devaty of Elyria, Ohio, was charged with influencing a federal official by threatening a family member. Devaty allegedly sent a text message to the cell phone of a VA social worker threatening to kill his daughters.”

Angry Grizzly BearAnytime anyone threatens the family members, their behavior is beyond the pale and deserves public shaming and the harshest of criminal penalties.  I do not care if the perpetrator is a politician, a judge, the media, or a private citizen.  Leave the families out of any business dealings!  Hollywood, take note, I am sick to death of you threatening family members in movies, TV shows, or simply as private citizens/influencers.  For too long, you have shirked your public responsibility, and families are OFF LIMITS!  Learn this lesson well!

On the topic of conduct reprehensible, the following VA-OIG report leaves me running out of adjectives to describe the behavior of this VA Employee.  “Robert Sampson of Gulf Breeze, Florida, pleaded guilty to charges of video voyeurism and disorderly conduct. Sampson secretly recorded eight fellow VA employees using a hidden camera, disguised to look like a cell phone charger power adapter, that he placed in a restroom at the VA Joint Ambulatory Care Center in Pensacola on multiple occasions from August 2019 to June 2020.”  May the judge throw the book at him and his punishment be creative and sentence well earned!

VA 3In another VA-OIG report, we have more leadership missing problems, where a fraud scheme existed for 11 years without discovery.  “Erik Santos of Georgia was sentenced to over 11 years in federal prison for defrauding Tricare of approximately $12 million through a compounding pharmacy fraud scheme. In January 2021, Santos pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to commit healthcare fraud and wire fraud.”  While the US Attorney beats his chest and proclaims they will catch everyone involved in the fraud, how many managers and supervisors inside Federal Government employ will lose their jobs, pensions, and freedom over allowing this fraud to occur?  What processes and procedures will be changed to protect against another fraud scheme?  Who is personally accountable for contracting that permitted this scheme to bloom for more than a decade?

VA 3The following VA-OIG report details how clowns and asylum patients run the IT program for the VA and not professionals!  The VA was tasked explicitly by legislation to meet several IT deadlines on a program for family caregivers as part of the VA MISSION Act of 2018. Unfortunately, not only did the VA fail to get the IT program up and running on time, missed mandatory reporting deadlines, and delivered a software solution 2-years past due, but the “VA did not establish the appropriate security risk category and fully assessed the system’s privacy vulnerabilities.”  Amazing, with all the IT problems the VA suffers from, with all the IS problems the VA suffers from, one would think that, where new technology was concerned, the VA would be practicing better security and using the lessons learned previously.

VA 3Would someone please tell me why private industries would be sued to the Nth degree criminally and civilly for these IT failures, but the government can evade accountability and responsibility; why?  In a representative government, the citizens can, and should, hold the elected representatives and their minions accountable for failing to uphold basic security protocols. So how did the government vote themselves a “Get out of Jail Free” card?

While writing this article, three additional VA-OIG reports have been delivered to my inbox.  The newest VA-OIG report discusses a topic that the VA continues to struggle with, namely transparency.  Apparently, the goblins in Goblin Town still cannot stomach sunlight and prefer to keep their nefarious deeds hidden.  Unfortunately, the lack of transparency in hiring practices leads to more VA-OIG investigations into employee wrongdoing, cost the taxpayers phenomenal fees to rid the government of poor hiring decisions, and all this before the union becomes involved.  From the report, we find the following:

“… VHA delegated much of its data reconciliation to its local facilities, which introduced variability in the process and did not allow for consistent creation, maintenance, and verification of information. VHA also had inadequate business processes to ensure quality data were available to support effective medical facility staffing oversight. Without consistent methods and reliable source documents for managing information, VHA cannot be sure HR Smart data accurately reflect VA’s budget and workload requirements.”VA 3

Did you catch that local facilities were given authority, which increased risks in hiring, all while management cannot perform their functions properly?  I remain convinced that the VA built designed incompetence into every action to protect themselves from ever being forced to take action. But, unfortunately, like always, the news only gets worse!Plato 2

A little background is needed to appreciate the problem in the following VA-OIG report fully.  Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act required the VA to report to the OMB how they spent money appropriated for America’s Veterans and the VA during the pandemic.  The following is what the VA-OIG found:

VA met monthly reporting requirements to OMB and Congress on supplemental fund obligations and expenditures. VA also submitted required weekly obligations and expenditures from supplemental funding to OMB by program activity. Of approximately $17.3 billion in medical care supplemental funds, VA reported it had obligated about $7.11 billion and had spent about $5.67 billion by December 29, 2020. The VA-OIG team noted three concerns where VA’s reporting was not complete and accurate: • Obligations were at risk of not being included in VA’s reports. • VA initially delayed the reporting of reimbursable obligated amounts for two months. • VA’s reports contained negative dollar amounts in data fields that should have only positive amounts, which misstated VA’s overall reported obligations. Those concerns indicate weaknesses in how VA and VHA internal controls are structured to meet reporting requirements. Despite the risks identified, VA performed only a limited review at the summary fund level of its COVID-19 obligations and expenditures before reporting. A review of summary funds is not detailed enough to identify potential anomalies and ensure the reliability of externally reported information” [emphasis mine].VA 3

I did not find this in the VA-OIG report. Did anyone ask why the VA failed to meet the reporting for the first two months?  After the FISMA Congressional hearings, everyone knows the VA sucks at information technology and information security (IT/IS). So why was the VA given more money and told to budget it using existing failed software, processes, and procedures?  My work in the finance field is limited; however, when a company cannot handle its finances properly and meet legal obligations, a third-party accounting firm can be hired to handle this for the organization.  OMB, why are we not using this solution at the VA?  OMB, why is a third-party auditing company not conducting in-depth analysis and audits of the VA?  With all the missing taxpayer dollars at the VA and Department of Defense, it seems that you are just as negligent as the agencies you are supposed to monitor.

Theres moreAs they say on the Home Shopping Network, “But wait!  There’s more!”  Unfortunately, the same holds of the VA, just without the enthusiasm!  Each VA Medical Center in the Department of Veterans Affairs – Veterans Health Administration (VHA) is expected to have supplies, also referred to as caches, on hand at all times to handle local emergencies and national health care incidents.  For example, a pandemic!  The VA-OIG investigated these prepared caches and found that only 9 of 144 supply stockpiles were ever mobilized.  The excuses, oh these excuses, are like butt holes, everyone has one, and they stink!

      1. “Medical facility directors reporting supplies were not needed or caches lacked sufficient quantity for meeting pandemic demands.”
      2. “The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) changed the process for mobilizing caches during the pandemic, but without clearly communicating it to medical facility directors” [emphasis mine]. – We have the blind leading the blind, in a darkened room, in a London fog!
      3. The VA-OIG, not the VHA, not the local VAMC, but the inspectors “identified problems with cache maintenance and monitoring.” – Never forget, this is a job of several people, overseen by a director, who reports to facility leaders, and inspectors had to find the maintenance and monitoring problems. Just let that sink in for a minute!
      4. Most caches contained some expired or missing personal protective equipment, diminishing their ability to support pandemic preparedness.” – This is an example of how the VHA is “Defining Excellence in Healthcare!”
      5. The “VHA had incomplete documentation on cache activations, making it difficult to know which caches would need to be restocked.” – See item number 3 above.
      6. Medical facility leaders were not always able to accurately report if their facility’s cache was activated during the pandemic.” – Is the proof sufficient that the VA leadership IS the problem with the VA; yet?VA 3

In the US Navy, a significant part of my job was to maintain and monitor emergency supplies. Additionally, to use and cycle through reserves during drills and replenish those supplies quickly and efficiently not to impair the ship’s ability to protect itself 24/7.  I did my job well enough to earn three people Navy Accommodation Medals.  I took over the emergency stores, and all consumable supplies were expired or consumed.  Within 3-months, I was winning accolades and awards.  Yet, 144 caches of emergency supplies for the VHA need more procedures, more documentation, and more oversight to fulfill the mission correctly.

Knowledge Check!I beg to differ!!!  We need leadership, active, engaged, enthused, leadership!  We need the medical facility leader to stop designing incompetence and do the job they have been hired to perform.  We, the taxpayers, need the oversight instruments of the Federal Government to become a lot more effective at demanding results.  We desperately need the elected officials we have hired to scrutinize the government!  Just imagine if you hired someone to perform a mission-critical job, and in the middle of needing emergency support, the person hired reveals, “Oops, I might not have done my job properly.”  How fast would that person be fired?  Now, why can we not do the same to the government employees?

So, ask yourself, do you feel represented by your government?

© 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: Memorial Day 2021 – Are you sure this is “proper” remembering?

Knowledge Check!It is no secret that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is a sick and twisted organization.  It is no secret that the Department of Veterans Affairs – Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) tries to recommend how the VA should be operating in accordance with currently established procedures, methods, and policies for the benefit of the veteran community.  It is no secret that I continue to write about the VA in the hopes of sparking interest in communities and obtaining more fair, honest, transparent, and humane treatment for veterans by the Government agency tasked with caring for veterans.

On this Memorial Day, as you sit down to barbecue, family, friends, sports, I would ask that you take a moment and consider if this were how you would like to be remembered?  Are the actions described proper for remembering those who sacrificed and came home?  Are these actions, which are adding to veteran funerals, an appropriate way for veterans to be leaving this world?  If the answer is no, I ask for your help changing the Federal Government by electing people who will scrutinize the government more stringently and demand change in all government agencies.  If you deem this behavior acceptable, please leave a comment detailing why you think so.  I want to hear your thoughts.Image - Eagle & Flag

From a VA-OIG report published on Wednesday 26 May 2021, we find the following announcement:

Phillip Hill, a former VA program analyst, was sentenced to 46 months in prison for stealing personal information from veterans and VA employees while employed at the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System. The investigation revealed that Hill contacted another individual and attempted to sell personal identifying information to a buyer for approximately $100,000.”

Now, I am thrilled this guy was caught.  I am glad he will do time behind bars.  Yet, why did Assistant US Attorney Jana Harris allow a plea deal?  Where are the VA supervisors who should have been monitoring this employee’s work and behavior?  What are the details of the deal?  The VA continues to have nothing but IT/IS security, and these problems are decades old.  Still, the elected representatives allow the criminal behavior to exist until the criminal is caught, and then the elected representative’s crow about cleaning the swamp.  Is this how you correctly remember veterans, their sacrifice, and their memories?VA 3

I suppose the following VA-OIG report, released 27 May 2021, should begin with congratulations.  The Department of Veteran Affairs – Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) mostly processed monetary proceeds records accurately.  However, the following continues to astound and amaze me:

Service and pension center staff do not have timeliness measures for proceeds incorporated in their performance standards. Setting a timeliness standard would help encourage the closing of these proceeds. The OIG also found that ineffective monitoring contributed to delays in handling proceeds. The Debt Management Center had only limited internal monitoring but instituted new practices for monitoring proceeds in February 2020, shortly after this audit began” [emphasis mine].VA 3

Why are government employees not held to a productivity and quality standard?  Being a veteran with regular concerns involving the VBA, I cannot help but wonder why quality and productivity are not required?  As an industrial and organizational psychologist, the first step in improving responsiveness to customers is to increase productivity and implement quality measures.  I know the Federal Government’s legislative branch, e.g., Congress, has insisted on developing quality measures.  Yet, the same tired excuses built upon designed incompetence are allowed to survive, and all the VA-OIG can do is issue more recommendations.  Consider something; proceeds include payments to dead veterans.  How much financial hardship occurs at the passing of a loved one?  How much more difficult can that death become when months down the road, money spent is suddenly being demanded back because some incompetent bureaucrat failed to do their job in a timely manner?

QuestionIs this properly honoring and remembering the veterans and their sacrifice?  Is this behavior acceptable in your workplace?  Why do we allow this behavior from government workers?

While never having been a patient at the Chillicothe VAMC in Ohio, I have friends who are patients.  The stories they tell about care there would shock and amaze many.  What infuriates me, the VA-OIG just published their report of a comprehensive inspection of this VAMC, and the results are as tragic as a veteran’s death!  The information was released to the public on 27 May 2021.  Never forget, the Chillicothe VAMC in Ohio was recently investigated for improper cleaning and sterilization procedures, as well as employee monitoring for compliance for medically reusable equipment, which for this case refers to endoscopes.  With this fact in mind, let us review the comprehensive inspection report.

Limitations on findings:

      • The VA-OIG held interviews and reviewed clinical and administrative processes related to specific areas of focus that affect patient outcomes. Although the VA-OIG reviewed a broad spectrum of processes, the sheer complexity of VA medical facilities limits inspectors’ ability to assess all areas of clinical risk” [emphasis mine].

VA 3The statement provided here is pretty standard and represents the first limitation to the scope of the investigation; complexity limits inspector ability.  Yet, who made the VAMC so complex, the VA.  Who has allowed the complexity to grow as designed incompetence, the VA? Why is the VA allowed to cheat their inspector general through complex operations which limit inspector ability and increase patient risk?

The Focus of Inspection (Investigation Scope):

      • The VA-OIG team looks at leadership and organizational risks, and at the time of the inspection, focused on the following additional areas:

WhyLong have I wondered why the second item in the comprehensive inspection is “Quality, Safety, and Value.”  When the VA continues to present the bare minimum of quality, disregards patient safety, and due to complexity, offers less value than a broken wrench to a mechanic, but I digress.

Finding One:  The VA-OIG issues 12 recommendations to the leadership team, and “selected results showed respondents were generally favorable the national VHA results.”  I have been accused of being cynical, which generally is wrong.  However, when I see words like “selected results” in an investigation into patient care and concerns, I have to ask, “How hard did the VA-OIG have to dig to find favorable results?”VA 3

Finding Two:  Strategic Analytics for Improvement and Learning (SAIL) represents a value model to help define performance expectations within VA.  This is the standard language for comprehensive inspections.  “In individual interviews, the executive leadership team members were able to speak in-depth about actions taken during the previous 12 months to maintain or improve organizational performance, employee satisfaction, or patient experiences.”  If we accept this as a true statement.  How was an employee able to fake documents, fail to clean reusable equipment properly, and repeatedly get away with this abysmal behavior at this VA?

VA 3Finding Three:  Under Quality, Safety, and Value, we find the following tidbit:

The VA-OIG noted concerns with protected peer reviews, utilization management, and root cause analyses.”

Essentially meaning there are problems with whistleblowers, privacy protection, retaliation against whistleblowers, proper utilization of policies and procedures, and the leadership could not find a problem using root cause analysis if their lives depended upon it.  The source for my interpretation of the VA-OIG results arrives from the following:

VHA Directive 1117, Utilization Management Program, 8 October 2020. Utilization management involves the assessment of the “appropriateness, medical necessity, and the efficiency of health care services, according to evidence-based criteria” [emphasis in the original report].

I have to ask the VA-OIG whether these findings were before or after the employee who endangered patient lives through improper cleaning and sterilization of reusable medical equipment were discovered?

VA 3Finding Four:  Under medication management, we find the following:

The VA-OIG team observed compliance with many elements of expected performance, including pain screening, aberrant behavior risk assessment, and documented justification for concurrent therapy with benzodiazepines. However, the VA-OIG identified opportunities for improvement with urine drug testing, informed consent, patient follow-up after therapy initiation, and quality measure monitoring” [emphasis mine].

VaccineIf you read any of the comprehensive inspection reports, you will see this is a common and recurring theme at the VA.  Some of the medication policies are being followed, but the same problem with drug testing, informed consent, patient follow-up, and quality measuring monitoring always remain a problem.  It is almost as if the SAIL learning matrices do not even exist as a quality improvement tool.

Finding Five:  Under High-Risk Processes, the VA-OIG report claims the following:

The medical center met the requirements for quality assurance monitoring and monthly continuing education. However, the VA-OIG identified deficiencies with standard operating procedures, an airflow directional device, and staff training and competency” [emphasis mine].

Are the SAIL metrics even accurate?  Where is the value in the “monthly training and monitoring if there are issues in following standard operating procedures, problems in staff training, as well as staff competency?  Do you get it?  The training sucks at the VA, and the SAIL metrics do nothing to fix the problem, address the deficiencies, or even improve competency?  The same question arises here, from quality, safety, and value; how was an employee able to successfully pencil-whip the paperwork while not doing their job in properly cleaning and sterilizing reusable medical equipment?  Where are the SAIL documents that should have identified a problem?  Where are the SAIL metrics in aiding in finding root causes for derelict employees?VA 3

Honestly, do you, the taxpayer, consider the Department of Veterans Affairs, which covers the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), and the National Cemeteries adequate to remember the veteran correctly?  Do you, the taxpayer find value in the leadership and investigative arms of the VA to correct and improve performance?  Do you, the taxpayer find that the VA employees are doing their level best to honor, remember, and pass on the legacy of veterans?

Image - Eagle & FlagOn this Memorial Day weekend, please consider the data in this and the other VA-OIG reports regularly relayed on this blog, and ask yourself, are you doing enough to help veterans?  I love Memorial Day, and I love my country, but America has some serious problems, and only when the electorate awakens to the issues can real change begin to be implemented.  We, the veteran community, need you!  We need your voice as we struggle against the incessant attacks from the VA.  We need your votes for the elected representative’s intent on scrutinizing the government and demanding action.  We need you!  Please help us!

© 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.

As the Department of Veterans Affairs Goes, So Does America – A Warning!

I-CareWould the honorable elected representatives please answer the following question: “Are the veterans of America’s armed services the next ‘Tuskegee Syphilis Study?’”

While we await this answer, here is why the question is raised.  The Department of Veterans Affairs – Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) just posted their investigation results of the Critical Care Unit Staffing and Quality of Care Deficiencies at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center in Augusta, Georgia, and the results remind me of the game musical chairs and the disaster caused by the Tuskegee Syphilis StudyTuskegee Syphilis StudyMusical chairs because the VA-OIG was unable to ascertain direct harm because of record screw-ups, gross mismanagement, and a detestable and despicable perception of the patient.  The Tuskegee Syphilis Study because real harm to real people was caused, and the leadership did not care enough to fix the problems without an official investigation.

More on the Tuskegee Syphilis Study – History can be viewed in the link.

The VA-OIG report begins with the following:

“Critical Care Unit Staffing and Quality of Care Deficiencies at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center (VAMC) in Augusta, Georgia discusses significant patient safety issues including events related to noncompliance with pressure injury policy, intensive care unit cardiac monitoring, and sitter availability for high-risk patients.”

Pressure Injuries
Bedsores/Pressure Injury Progression

But concludes with the following:

“Publication is warranted so that other facility leaders and healthcare practitioners can be made aware of OIG-identified problems applicable to their own facility.”

Leading me to ask, of the VA-OIG, is this warning to proactively fix, or retroactively hide the nefariousness of poor management and dead patients?

Pressure injuries are exceedingly painful, can become deadly very quickly, and leave scarring and pain.  Pressure injuries are the nice term for bed sores, which are caused by critically ill patients who are already unable to move and circulate blood properly to the skin.  Thus, the tissue dies, a sore develops, then the skin breaks, and by this time that patient who is already in trouble, is now in danger of death.

Pressure Injuries - Example
Bedsore

Bedsores, pressure injuries, are serious conditions; yet, the Charlie Norwood VAMC has record-keeping problems, staffing issues, and without outside impetus refrained from fixing the problems.  All reminiscent of the “Tuskegee Syphilis Study.”

Hence the articles originating question, “Are the US Military Veterans the next ‘Tuskegee Syphilis Study?’”

If so, I refuse, and those leaders who think this conduct is allowable need to be held personally responsible for the harm they are causing.  If the answer is no, why are so many VA-OIG reports of leadership and management’s nefarious deeds being allowed until the VA-OIG comes knocking?  Even after the VA-OIG investigates, is anything being done?  Are people being held accountable?  The leadership issues are repeated, and while those repeats might not be an exact match from VAMC to VAMC, the leadership problems are real, glaring, and real people are dying!

America was shocked and angry when the whistle and plug were finally pulled on the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, and rightfully so.

Tuskegee-Patient
Syphilis wounds

Yet, it appears that the VA learned nothing from the history of Tuskegee except to keep playing musical chairs on responsibility, paperwork, and hiding the evidence from accountability.

America, your medical system, which before President Obama was the best in the world, is now on the same train of failure the VA Medical System is on.  Are you paying attention to the harm caused to veterans?  Do you want the same?  I do not!

America, to correct the problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs, and to reduce the costs to the taxpayers, as well as beginning to correct the damage done to your health care, the following is needed immediately.

  1. Legislation needs to be written and passed repealing ObamaCare.  Every single mandate, every single costly item, and sunder forever this socialism experiment.  The answers to the rising costs of medical care, including dental and vision, are not to be found in increasing the size of an already bloated government.
  2. Legislation needs urgent action to provide Secretary Wilkie the powers of any other CEO to clean the Department of Veterans Affairs. The leadership between the veteran facing employee and the Secretary’s office needs to be culled, and the only way to do this is through legislation.
  3. Demand accountability. The VA-OIG reports these issues constantly, the findings need to be on the news and be topics of conversation.  No longer should a bureaucrat be able to shift responsibility, harm patients, and keep their comfortable jobs and benefits.  Real harm to real people is being caused by the medical system paid for by your tax dollars, demand more!

Understand the following principle, know it well, and let us begin processing the reversal of this trend.  Charles Reich (1964) wrote a Yale Law Journal article describing “New Property.”  The new property Reich discusses is you and me, and how we are used by bureaucrats like property to be abused, harmed, and mistreated, all through the largess of the government we pay for.  Like a wheelbarrow or a hammer, we are the fodder upon which the bureaucrat steals money from one person to pay another person through government benefits, all to the enrichment and personal satisfaction of the bureaucrat.

Government Largess 2The actions of the nameless and faceless bureaucrat are unconstitutional, but allowed in the name of “government action.”  Every time you hear the government is acting on your behalf, it means that the power of the people has been stolen, and will be doled back to the taxpayer in infinitesimal amounts, while the bureaucrat keeps getting fatter.  Think Reich (1964) is wrong, here are some examples.

  • The government went to war against poverty, the poor have become poorer, poverty’s blight has spread, but the government offices “fighting” poverty are fat with people and taxpayer dollars.
  • The government went to war against drugs, the only winner so far has been the government.  The drug infestation has only gotten worse, and now states have begun selling harmful and illicit drugs for the tax money.
  • The government got into student loans, to “make the lending field fairer.” Students were harmed, colleges and universities tripled, or more, their tuitions, and students are saddled with increasing levels of debt.  But, the government officers in charge are living high on the debt and interest.
  • The government allowed labor unions to represent government workers, now the taxpayer is abused, treated like scum, taxes went up, but responsibility and accountability under the “Rule of law,” that all citizens are expected to live by, have all but disappeared for government workers.  Ever tried getting adjudication or remediation from a government worker?Government Largess 4
  • The government and some private citizens decided black health needed improvement. Planned Parenthood and the Tuskegee Syphilis Study are but two of the disasters that hit the black communities and have destroyed their community’s legacy, honor, and power, all for government largess, and the lining of private pockets.

Choose to stop being the property of the government; the US Constitution declares the government works for us, and we control them, not the other way around!

© Copyright 2020 – 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 pictures.

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