Chronicling the VA, One Ignominious Story at a Time!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If Everyone Cared – More Detestable VA Stories

I-CareAs I went to catalog more of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) – Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) reports, Nickelback’s song, “If Everyone Cared,” was playing.  I cannot think of a better title to proclaim the need for raising awareness and what is needed to fix the VA.  Until everyone is aware and the scab hiding the infection inside the walls of the VA are ripped away to be exposed to the sunlight disinfectant, nothing will change, and taxpayers will continue to pay for the abuse of veterans who deserve so much more.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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