“That’s Crazy!!!” – More Chronicles from the VA Chapter 7

Oh, how I wish and long for, and am working for, the day when the VA is cleaned up, cleaned out, and corrected completely!  The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) – Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) has been busy reporting more on the failures of the VA to act.  Yet, where is Congressional action in scrutinizing the executive branch’s actions?  Honest question, repeated only for emphasis; we elected you to do two jobs, write fair and equal legislation for all citizens, and scrutinize the executive branch; when are you going to do your jobs?

Let’s begin with some softball issues repeated from previous VA-OIG comprehensive healthcare inspections (CHIPs), specifically how employees report feeling morally distressed while working at the VA.  Moral distress is a leadership failure and is widespread enough to reflect the problem is not limited to a single VAMC/VAHCS.  From Virginia to California, Maine to Florida, and Montana to Arizona, too many VA facilities are poorly led, poorly administered, and poorly executed.  The VA is actively abusing the veterans for political gain; some have asked why I consider the VA is actively abusing veterans; let me see if additional disclosure can explain the problem.

VHA Directive 1004.08.  VHA defines an institutional disclosure as “a formal process by which VA medical facility leader(s), together with clinicians and others as appropriate, inform the patient or personal representative that an adverse event has occurred during the patient’s care that resulted in, or is reasonably expected to result in, death or serious injury, and provide specific information about the patient’s rights and recourse.”

The above quote is from the regulations governing VA care.  The VA-OIG quotes this directive, which has been published and is openly available, yet repeatedly the VA-OIG finds directors.  Hospital administrators who are informed and able to repeat this directive.  Who repeatedly refuse to follow this directive or train their staff to follow this directive.  When sentinel events occur (death, permanent injury, non-permanent injury, disability, etc.), the families report having no idea what to do because the disclosures were never provided to the veteran or designated caregiver.  Is this not abuse of the patient?  Is this abuse not driven by ideologues who gain from the harm they cause others?  Should this abuse not be scrutinized until it is eliminated?  Please feel free to read some of these comprehensive healthcare inspection reports from the VA-OIG, see the resulting injuries and problems caused by the failures of government medical providers, and then tell me whether these atrocious actions need more or less scrutiny and qualify for the title abuse.

North Carolinian veterans, VISN 6 is all yours, and would you be shocked to learn that even with newer leadership, moral distress remains a persistent problem in the VA employees throughout VISN 6, which just happens to include Durham, Asheville, Fayetteville, Hampton, Richmond, Salem, and Salisbury North Carolina?  Probably this is not unfamiliar as the patient experience survey scores remain persistently below VA averages, reflecting that new leadership is akin to putting lipstick on a pig.  Interestingly, medical staff credentialing remains a significant concern in North Carolina.

Western New York veterans, especially those receiving patient services in the Buffalo VAHCS, do you agree with the VA-OIG report?  The Buffalo VAHCS includes Buffalo, Batavia, Jamestown, Dunkirk, Niagra Falls, Lockport, West Seneca, and Olean, and the comprehensive report is mystifying to me.  For example, the VA-OIG reports that “Patients generally appeared satisfied with their care.”   At the same time, “Employee survey data revealed opportunities for leaders to improve workplace satisfaction and reduce feelings of moral distress.”  This is a combination not generally found in these CHIP inspection reports.  Something is definitely off, and I would love to know what, especially since the leadership needs significant improvement in identifying and reporting sentinel events.  Do you agree with the VA-OIG findings?  Please let me know your firsthand experiences, for the double-talk in this CHIP report is above what I usually observe.

With almost identical findings and recommendations in the Syracuse NY VAMC’s comprehensive healthcare inspection, covering communities of Syracuse, Auburn, Freeville, Potsdam, Rome, Binghampton, Watertown, and Oswego, NY., I am concerned that the veterans in New York are in as bad or worse shape than Phoenix’s veteran community.  Hence, I have to ask the VA-OIG, has something changed in your measurement and analysis tools to report such disparate findings as “Employee survey data revealed opportunities for leaders to improve servant leadership and decrease employees’ feelings of moral distress.  Patients generally appeared satisfied with the care provided?”  The double-talk level is higher in these CHIPs from NY, which is rarely observed outside of Phoenix and VISN 22.  Two final thoughts on the CHIPs, staff training, continues to be a high-risk finding, and this continues to be a leadership failure for every VAMC/VAHCS/VISN in the VA; why has progress not occurred?  Training is a system, and leadership and organizational risk, system redesign, and improvement is a quality, safety, and value problem of the highest importance; why is action never taken by leadership or the congressional representatives who are expected to scrutinize the executive branch?

28 March 2022, the VA-OIG released their long-awaited annual “Comprehensive Healthcare Inspection Summary Report: Evaluation of Medical Staff Privileging in Veterans Health Administration Facilities, Fiscal Year 2020.”  I have been interested to see what, if anything, the VA had accomplished in improving their medical staff privileging.  If I were a congressional representative, knowing that medical staff continues to harm and kill veterans, I would have been anxiously awaiting to see if the repeated hits from past years had finally been rectified.  Unfortunately, the VA continues to live down to expectations (digging the hole ever deeper), suffers from failed leadership, and the veterans continue to die or suffer abuse.

What did the VA-OIG discover?  Understand, “The OIG conducted detailed inspections at 36 VHA medical facilities to ensure leaders implemented medical staff privileging processes in compliance with requirements.  The OIG subsequently issued six recommendations for improvement to the Under Secretary for Health, in conjunction with Veterans Integrated Service Network directors and facility senior leaders.  The intent is for VHA leaders to use these recommendations to help guide improvements in operations and clinical care at the facility level.  The recommendations address findings that may eventually interfere with the delivery of quality health care.”  The OIG identified deficiencies with focused and ongoing professional practice evaluation, provider exit review, and state licensing board reporting processes.  Specifically:

    • use of minimum criteria for selected specialty licensed independent practitioners’ focused professional practice evaluations
    • inclusion of service-specific criteria in ongoing professional practice evaluations
    • completion of ongoing professional practice evaluations by other providers with similar training and privileges
    • recommendation by executive committees to continue licensed independent practitioners’ privileges based on professional practice evaluation results
    • completion of provider exit review forms within seven business days of licensed independent practitioners’ departure from a medical facility
    • the signing of exit review forms by service chiefs, chiefs of staff, and medical facility directors if licensed healthcare professionals failed to meet generally accepted standards of care
    • initiation of state licensing board reporting within seven business days of supervisors’ signatures on exit review forms to indicate licensed healthcare professionals failed to meet generally accepted standards of care.

The OIG found ongoing issues from the fiscal year 2019 CHIP summary report that warranted repeat recommendations for improvement.  The OIG issued three repeat recommendations related to the following:

    • inclusion of minimum specialty criteria for focused professional practice
      evaluations
    • inclusion of service-specific criteria in ongoing professional practice evaluations
    • recommendation by executive committees of the medical staff in continuing licensed independent practitioners’ privileges based on professional practice evaluation results.

Boiling the findings of the VA-OIG down, essentially, the administrators and leadership are not weeding out poor and horrible practitioners, reporting these underperforming practitioners, and not acting in the best interests of the veterans seeking care at VAMCs and VAHCSs across the country.  I repeat, only for emphasis: Is this not abuse of the patient?  Is this abuse not driven by ideologues who gain from the harm they cause others?  Should this abuse not be scrutinized until it is eliminated?  Please feel free to read some of these comprehensive healthcare inspection reports from the VA-OIG, see the resulting injuries and problems caused by the failures of government medical providers, and then tell me whether these atrocious actions need more or less scrutiny and qualify for the title abuse.  The link to the full report is available; please feel free to make your conclusions and post your thoughts in the comments section.

On a final note for today, consider with me the problems of the Atlanta VAHCS with pallets of unopened mail containing patient health information, community care provider claims needing payment, and a plethora of other unopened mail.  Understand that when community care providers cannot obtain compensation from the VA, they go to the veterans, who then send in correspondence, which is unopened, thus causing more problems, concerns, and issues for an already abused veteran community!  Want your head to explode?  Look at the pictures the VA-OIG helpfully sent along with this VA-OIG report, and ask yourself if any other business or organization could get away with this type of abuse of the customer.

What did the VA-OIG find?  Well, prepare for your head to explode, again:

    • VA Leadership should have established a formal agreement explicitly detailing each office’s responsibilities.
    • VA HCS leaders did not include responsible managers in decision-making discussions and lacked a clear understanding of the volume of mail processing work they were accepting.
    • Atlanta VA HCS did not ensure mailroom staff was adequately prepared or trained to handle or sort the influx of mail. POM (Payment Operations Management) officials were later reluctant to help, citing the verbal agreement.

Buried in the report is this tidbit, “POM is implementing similar transitions at sites across the country; POM and medical facilities need to ensure adequate staff with sufficient training to handle the mail processing workload.  VA concurred with the OIG’s five recommendations.”  Meaning that in a VAMC/VAHCS near you, unopened mail due to verbal agreements will soon add more distress and disgust to the veteran experience.

I have documented in these articles how verbal agreements, verbal standards of work performance, and verbal processes and procedures are the problem and way of life in too many CHIPs and observed practices at the VA.  Yet, these verbal shenanigans are more apparent than in the dilemma Atlanta faces due to unopened mail.  Payment operations to community care providers are on a controlled and fixed timeline.  Failure to process these payments according to the required timeline leaves providers unpaid, which diminishes the community care provider pool of providers.  Talk to a community care provider, and they will discuss the risks of doing business with the VA and the real possibility of not being paid timely enough or being caught in sufficient red tape never to receive payment.

I know of a provider who called me three years after receiving care and was still trying to appeal and correct the paperwork to receive payment.  A provider recently contacted me who wanted to ruin my credit for failing to pay the balance due from care received, and they are charging interest.  Correcting this problem cost me 48 business hours, 20 calls, and frustrations galore.  By the way, the problem still has not been rectified, an appeal is in process, and we have to wait for the VA to make a decision; this incident was caused by the VA changing the process and the paperwork.  The provider told me they are not accepting any more veterans seeking care, the risk is too significant, the timeline to receive payment is too long, and the VA never pays what is charged.  For example, I recently received a declaration declaring payment to a community care provider.  The VA sent me to this provider, which means they knew the prices beforehand and agreed to the fees.  The declaration declared the VA was charged $2,000 and paid $120, not actual amounts, but close enough to communicate the problem.  With inflation, or without inflation, if you were paid less than 1/10th of what you billed (invoiced), would you continue to conduct business with that company or organization?  Now add the unopened mail problem to the mix.  Would you continue to conduct business with this entity?

America, the Department of Veterans Affairs is sick.  All of the other alphabet agencies in the Federal Government are sick.  We continue to elect people who actively refuse to care enough to act according to their mandated duties.  We cannot afford the government we currently have, which is part and parcel of the problem with inflation in America right now!  Debt is entered into to pay for this bloated feckbeast called government; from the city to the federal government, the bloat is too great to be sustained!  Why is the VA able to skirt responsibility, accountability, and improvement?  They can hide behind the size of their convoluted and twisted organizational shield.  Why can the Post Office and the IRS get away with deplorable, at best, customer service?  They are protected by the congress refusing to scrutinize and hold people accountable.  When your head is done exploding, please remember and act in the ballot box to hire better representatives!

© 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.

Code Enforcement Response Letter – 29 October 2021

The Honorable
Mayor Ken Miyagishima
City of Las Cruces
700 N Main
Las Cruces, NM
88001

29 October 2021

Dr. Dave Salisbury Ph.D.
1805 E Idaho Ave
Las Cruces, NM
88001

Subject: Unequal Treatment Before the Law, Code Enforcement, and Staff Incompetence and Unreliability

Dear Mayor,

On 19 October 2021, Officer S. Chavez (#C438) drafted a letter to me complaining that my property was somehow in violation of Las Cruces Municipal Code Section 18-2(1).  Which according to the website linked, states the following:

Noxious weeds and other rank vegetation.”

Item 1:  What is a “noxious weed,” how does one identify “rank vegetation?”  The municipal code is vague and unclear.  This means that the code enforcement officer is left to use their own opinion, opening the doors to authoritarian interpretation and the abuse of the taxpayer in the application of the municipal code.  I have some deep and abiding concerns.

Item 2:  The letter was dated 19 October 2021, but the postmark from the stamp machine is dated 25 October 2021, and the US Postal Service delivered this notification to me on 28 October 2021.  These dates are important for several reasons.  Please note, I was mandated to comply with the authoritarian and opinionated code enforcement officer’s interpretation of the municipal code by 31 October 2021.

  1. Why did Officer Chavez (#C438) sit on the letter for six days before stamping it and dropping it in the mail?
  2. I asked this exact question of Officer Chavez (#C438) and received three separate and distinct excuses, and then was “offered” an extension of the deadline without asking for it. Alerting me to the fact that Officer Chavez (#C438) knew he had done wrong, knew he had been busted, and knew he needed a plausible excuse.  This is a clear indication of Officer Chavez (#C438) being incompetent and unreliable.
  3. When I called his supervisor on 28 October 2021, I left a message; I identified myself, left my number, and left an expectation for a callback. Officer Chavez (#C438) identified the supervisor as simply “Roach, like the bug.”  Alerting me to another problem, a lack of respect for authority in the code enforcement offices.  I have some concerns; if the officers do not respect each other and their supervisors, how can they respect the law, the municipal codes they are expected to enforce, the taxpayers, and themselves?
  4. 0815 – 29 October 2021, I called dispatch and asked for Roach’s supervisor, as I refuse to play phone tag. If “Roach” will not meet a taxpayer’s expectation or make it a priority to call that taxpayer the following day, then it is time to speak to a higher power.  More than an hour later, “Roach” calls me.  By the way, I am still expecting a callback from “Roach’s” supervisor.  Who is that, and when is that call going to transpire?  The dispatcher did not know and could not tell me.
  5. For the record, who is “Roach?” What is his title?  What is his full name?  None of which were provided when “Roach” called me.  By “Roach’s” call, I have now introduced myself three times to the Code Enforcement Officers, and still, “Roach” proceeds to call me not by my name.  Indicating disrespect is endemic in the City of Las Cruces Code Enforcement Department, and there is a severe lack of leadership on top of the problems with unreliability and incompetence.  Where is the training of these officers coming from, and who is modeling this execrable behavior?
  6. When I asked “Roach” the question, “Why did Officer Chavez (#C438) sit on the notification letter for 6-days?” he proclaimed he did not understand what I was saying, chose to become offended that I was trying to explain, and claimed I was berating and belittling him. “Roach” actively refused to listen, preferring to listen to the voices in his head instead of the taxpayer voicing legitimate concerns about being abused by his staff.  Are we sure “Roach” is a supervisor?

Let me pause here and clarify a few points.  I possess more than 20 years of experience as an industrial and organizational psychologist.  I have worked in many different roles across the United States, including government, the private sector, and non-profits.  I have been in crisis management, led teams in emergency response, enforced legislation, and much more.  My jobs often see me needing to evaluate and observe, quickly make conclusions, and then develop action plans to generate positive results in a timely and efficient manner.  I am very good at my job!  I am a data analyst, a project manager, and hold an MBA in global management specializing in human resources, a master’s in adult education and training, with deep experience in eLearning design and delivery, and am writing my dissertation to complete my Ph.D. in industrial and organizational psychology.

I have seen incompetence and unreliability in people many times and in many places.  The experience witnessed over the last two days at the hands of the “Code Enforcement Officers” for the City of Las Cruces leaves me mentally breathless, and my blood is boiling.  There is no excuse for this unprofessionalism, lack of respect, and the refusal to apply the law equally and appropriately answer simple questions from taxpayers!

Item 3:  When I drive through my neighborhood, my yard is desert and is in no way, shape, or form less or better than my neighbors.  How many of my neighbors received code enforcement letters for their yards?  If the answer is none, then the law was not equally applied, and the officers involved need discipline for being selective in their application of the law and enforcement of the municipal code.  Suppose the answer is all of my neighbors. In that case, the code enforcement officers need to visit the neighborhood and explain precisely to everyone what specifically the code means by “Noxious weeds and other rank vegetation.”  The same vegetation growing in my yard is found in the desert surrounding Las Cruces.

Item 4:  The vegetation in my yard was left alone intentionally because the birds had been eating the seeds.  I prefer to see the birds as I am allergic to cats and dogs.  Since I cannot have a pet, and the vegetation had pretty flowers and had a valuable purpose of feeding butterflies and birds, I am still at a loss as to which of the vegetation is considered, “Noxious weeds and other rank vegetation.”

Item 5:  The time delay of Officer Chavez (#C438) cost me more than $1500 and worsened my injuries that were sustained in US Military service.  I am a 90% disabled veteran, and the stress of having to comply due to the refusal to notify taxpayers timely meant I could not hire anyone to help, nor could I obtain assistance from friends.  Thus, I had to perform the work myself, causing me significant injury over the 5-hours I was performing the yard work.  I take serious umbrage at the time-lapse in the notification from Officer Chavez (#C438) and his unreliability, and incompetence which need immediately rectified and resolved to my satisfaction.  Officer Chavez’s (#C438) actions were unconstitutional and potentially criminal.

I expect a prompt and timely response as a taxpayer.  Please note that a copy of this letter is posted to my blog and found at this link to promote governmental transparency.  Thank you for your time in this affair.

Sincerely,

Dr. M. Dave Salisbury Ph.D.
I/O Psychologist
US Army/US Navy Veteran

MDS/mds

CC: City Councilor Gabriel Vasquez

Making the USPS Irrelevant One Disastrous Decision at a Time!

The viral post office | Viral post, Post office, Postal policeBy now, it is apparent that the USPS has utterly failed in its primary job of delivering the mail.  That the US PS has been failing for my entire life is a topic the politicians do not want to discuss.  That the business model the USPS is based upon has never been a profitable one, the overhead is disastrously expensive, and the labor costs beyond exorbitant are also not topics the politicians ever want to discuss.  They prefer smoke and mirrors, purple squirrels, and Hollywood celebrity scandals to actually doing their jobs.  But, I digress; last week, the USPS announced that postal service would revert to the slowest it has been since the 1970s, and the cost for that dismal service is going to increase dramatically.

All weekend the reasons for the USPS being in this fix have been stewing in my mind, and I would like your insight as I discuss the main reasons why the USPS is in such bad shape.  Feel free to disagree.  Feel free to comment.  Feel free to ask questions and research further.  To my mind, the most damning problems to the USPS come from the following areas, too much overhead, labor union expenses, business model, and no clear political place in government.Save the US Postal Service! By a zillion dollars comics | Politics Cartoon | TOONPOOL

Labor Union Expenses

Let’s get something clear, the labor unions in government are living high on the hog of taxpayer forced taxation and mandated union dues.  Consider the following comment from Representative Dennis Ross.

“UPS (Union) – about 66% of their total operating costs are labor. FedEx (non-union) – about 45% of their total operating costs are labor. USPS – 80-82%.”

Here’s the rub in comparing UPS, FedEx, and USPS; they are not apples and apples; it’s more like apples to rocks.  Why?  Because UPS and FedEx must show a profit to shareholders at the end of the year; thus, anytime USPS runs into an unprofitable situation, they rely upon USPS to fill the gap.  FedEx operates slightly differently based on its business model. From observation from living in extreme rural areas, it does not appear to rely upon USPS as often to cover the gaps in service.

However, the labor costs at USPS continue to run extremely high, and the excuses for these labor costs continue to run thinner and thinner every year.  Looking at six specific USPS explicit labor union-negotiated labor costs:

      1. Compensation levels – What each employee under the collective bargaining agreement is paid.
      2. Work rules – How often an employee works, who they report to, uniforms, and a host of other processes and procedures, which can and do increase business operating costs.
      3. Contracting – Includes independent contractors, contracts for retail locations, pickup locations, and much more.
      4. Network differences – Differences in the network affect the labor involved in delivery, sortation, transportation, and retail portions of an end-to-end movement.
      5. Capital intensity – Differences in capital requirements affecting the amount of non-labor costs needed to provide services offered.
      6. Congressional requirements – Congressional requirements focus on the aspects of the Postal Service that add more labor costs influencing capital spending.

Hence, if we take Rep. Ross’s statement as accurate, Congress is to blame for some of the added expenses the USPS incurs and the hidden taxes the taxpayer pays to interact with the USPS.  This is why the place in government is such an influential portion of this discussion.  Congress has been pushing the costs of regulating the USPS onto the taxpayer as a hidden tax since the USPS was started. This is unacceptable, especially since the taxpayers did not have a voice in allowing the USPS to become unionized, tripling labor costs year-over-year.P.S.E Context of PA: SWOT Analysis of the United States Postal Service

Please note, when discussing labor costs tripling, we are not just discussing wage earners’ take-home pay.  Labor costs, as shown above, include those six items, plus a host of labor union contracted benefits, plus retirement benefits, plus administrative staff to handle these benefit packages, the regulatory burdens, the reporting burdens, and much more.  Thus, while comparing UPS, FedEx, and USPS is unfair and illogical, the labor costs are pretty close to accurate even though they cannot be compared due to business model, Congressional reporting, and quasi-governmental meddling by politicians.  Any company with 80-82% labor costs will be struggling with labor problems and turning a profit.  Labor costs, fed by a labor union, are a reality that needs rectification and addressing.USPS 2011

Outdated Business Model

2009 the USPS paid a lot of money to have their business model reviewed, and the result was an excellently written document that outlined two potential steps for the USPS to take.  Where is the USPS in adopting either of these actions in 2021; nowhere!  Why has the USPS not taken any action on this document since 2009; Congress!  Item number six in labor costs continues to rear its ugly and monstrous head, and the problem is not so much on USPS; although they indeed share the blame, Congress continues to drag its feet and refuses to scrutinize the government appropriately.Several logos, mottos have represented USPS through the years | PostalReporter.com

When discussing the USPS business model, the industry is discussing “optimizing the last mile” in the supply chain.  That last mile is where the USPS has traditionally filled in the gap and made the final customer delivery.  However, USPS is inefficient, costly, and labor-intensive.  Yet, until science fiction realizes a Star Trek-like replicator in every home, optimizing the last mile is the discussion we need to be having, and solutions are available!

The 2009 business model review offered franchisee options as a business model — what a novel idea.  Imagine getting your mail on your commute route, no more having it delivered to an apartment box, packages waiting on a doorstep for thieves, stop by a convenient place on your regular commute route, and get all your mail.  Why not have your mail delivered to your office?  Then your office mailroom becomes an arm of the post office; it can sell stamps, handling packages, and then you do not have an extra stop at all.  Talk about an employer-based incentive!  Better still, for a fee turning over retail establishments to non-profit groups for work programs.  Guess what; that has the benefit of increasing public outreach and building communities.  Yet, the USPS languishes because Congress refuses to take up serious topics, and our tax dollars are squandered!

Place in Government

Engineering Professor Calculates How Fast The Eagle In The USPS Logo is GoingRead the US Constitution, the US Bill of Rights, other founding documents, wherein is a postal service discussed?  Find me the article claiming we need a Federal Postal Service.  Name me the reason why the Postal Service is required.  Selling stamps, that can be done using a myriad of different methods.  Sending packages, mailing letters, again, many other options are available.  Passports, hundreds of other options are available; why not put that into DMV’s across the US?  Why not simplify the Passport process entirely?

What is the reason for the USPS?  Give me the why and justify the existence for the next 20-years for the USPS.  My entire life, I have been asking why the USPS is needed, and I have been asking this since before email, fax machines, and other technological leaps.

Overhead

USPS TESSWhen was the last time the USPS had personnel layoffs to balance their accounts?  1970, under President Richard Nixon, USPS had a strike, got a unionized workforce, and, as they call it, “a living wage.”  From 1970 to 2021, there has been nothing but problems in the USPS; from retirement benefits costing too much, to labor expenses, to Congressional expenses increasing year-over-year, the overhead does nothing but balloon.  I was recently in a flagship USPS for Phoenix, AZ.  The building is a disgrace, the parking lot is neglected, the lobby is dark and missing half the materials, no forms, no boxes, everything is behind the barred and locked counter, and the retail associates are criminally negligent in their duties.  What’s worse, this was a good USPS office to visit in Phoenix, AZ.

Take an honest appraisal of your local USPS and ask yourself, are your taxpayer dollars represented in your USPS in a manner acceptable to you?  I visited a USPS in Las Cruces, NM.  The design of the building lends a bright feeling to the building atmosphere; the retail area is small and naturally illuminated.  Same problem with retail associates, but not as noticeable.  However, this was also before the latest changes from Washington, where the employees were told it was okay to work slower and charge more.More is Less at the USPS | Freeport Press

It is my personal opinion that the USPS has outlived its usefulness, and it is time for the USPS to be eliminated from quasi-government offices of the United States.  Nothing fruitful can be gained from continuing the charade of the USPS.  Congress needs to return to the states the ability to issue addresses and organize their communities and end the USPS debacle!

© 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: Revisiting Designed Incompetence

Dont Tread On MePlato has a point, “The price of apathy towards public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.”  When writing about the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Internal Revenue Service, or the United States Postal Service, one must remember, these organizations have been intentionally designed to be as bad as they are.  The government worker refuses accountability, shuns responsibility, and simply wants to exist doing as little as possible for as much as possible.

In the private sector, the employee is expected to shoulder responsibilities, share in the companies struggles, trials, and the eventual victories.  Yet, the government employee is the exact opposite.  I have heard it said that government workers are a necessary evil, a scourge, and a disgrace.  Except, often times the government employee is just a rule follower and the really pernicious and dastardly government employee are those seeking power in their government employment.  The directors, the supervisors, the managers, and the undersecretaries.  The staff that never goes anywhere.  Political appointees come and go, but the staff is a scourge for life.

Never Give Up!While Plato has a point about apathy in public affairs leading to being ruled by evil men, what is lost in the discussion are the staff members.  Tom Clancy wrote about how a jet airliner took out both houses of the Congress, SCOTUS, and Vice President Jack Ryan suddenly found himself as President Ryan, rebuilding the entire US Government.  This Tom Clancy novel takes a person into the inner workings of the US Constitutional Government like no other book I have ever seen.  Best of all, he explains the intoxicating power the staff members, the executive assistants, and undersecretaries hold over the political appointees to hinder progress, stymie change, and control their fiefdoms against all forces of influence.  This is the root of designed incompetence.

What is an excuse?

An excuse is a method to reduce blame attached to an action, defend, or justify one’s actions, an attempt to release one from accountability, or a poor or inadequate example of something.  As children, we are taught excuses are like noses; everyone has one and picking it in public is disgusting.  Yet, when something happens, two types of people emerge, those who make excuses and those who take responsibility and work to fix the problem.

What is designed incompetence?

Designed incompetence is a ready-made excuse for inadequacies created in business operations, a method to avoid responsibility and accountability. Due to the cost of designed incompetence, it is generally only found in government operations.  Designed incompetence can also be intentional actions designed into business operations, so the expected functions are designed to fail purposefully.  Designed incompetence is always harmful and destructive in nature, generally will make no logical sense, and will always be the preplanned leadership fallback position.Apathy

Example of an excuse:

    • The USPS is running slow, so the delivery of mail is taking longer to deliver than usual.
    • COVID has a lot of employees out sick, so operations are slower.
    • The person who wrote the order requesting the work to be completed did not do their jobs properly, and the original order must be rewritten.

Examples of designed incompetence:

    • The VBA communicates using terminology not universal in medicine to intentionally confuse and hinder making appropriate decisions on veterans’ claims.
    • The VHA refuses to write policies and procedures due to a fear of risk; thus, when the VA-OIG investigates, the same recommendation can be made multiple times to write down procedures.  The leadership team can escape accountability for failure.
    • The USPS has mail carriers dumping mail in dumpsters, these employees are protected by the labor union, so the employee can keep their job, move them to a non-letter carrier position.

Designed Incompetence Feeds Inert and Toxic Cultures

Knowledge Check!Designed incompetence is the root cause for the toxic government employee workplace cultures.  When responsibility is shirked, the human psyche feels moral distress, and as the moral distress grows, so to does the self-loathing, self-hate, and feelings of hopelessness.  Worse, some people, who have constantly been ethically challenged or morally bankrupt, will use these feelings of self-loathing to capture power.  Once captured, the power becomes a drug, and that drug is highly addictive.  Thus, a self-fulfilling prophecy from Plato becomes true, “Apathy towards public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.”  The more the morally bankrupt and ethically challenged win power, the bigger an example to others of how to obtain power in government they become.  But the remaining people who do not receive power are left with a toxic workplace, full of inert people.  Motivating inert people in a toxic culture, who are already feeling the stress of acting morally indifferent will leave multi-generational scars on the workforce.

An important point that requires mentioning, “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 veterans in the VA.”  The same is true for any of the alphabet agencies created by the Federal Government, state government, and local government.  Walk into a DMV and tell me if you cannot sense a toxic and inert culture is driving down customer service levels.  Walk into a welfare office and tell me the people working one side of the counter are not inert.  Worse, walk into any IRS field office and tell me how you feel being around the morally bankrupt and ethically challenged.Plato 2

I met some school board officials in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and was appalled at the lack of ethics and morals they displayed.  Judges and lawyers are driving drink and skating accountability because of their positions and so much more.  All because the designed incompetence in government promotes those who have the least reason and ability to be promoted.  Plato is absolutely correct, “The punishment which the wise suffer, who refuse to take part in the government, is to live under the government of worse men.”  For too long, government employees have been allowed to run the asylum while the best and brightest pursue goals in the private sector.  If America is to win back her government, the citizen must stand and boldly proclaim “NO!” and then get into government service to change the toxic and inert cultures.

Plato might have been mentioning the following about elected officials, but I find it apt and applicable to the designed incompetence by the staff members, “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up governed by your inferiors.”  The first time I met my director as a VA employee, I knew two things, she hated me, and I was doomed to suffer under her inadequacies.  Both of which came true over the following 360-days.  The intransigency of the leadership in administrative positions at the VA is frightening.  Ending these abuses of power is the preeminent position of every citizen in every democratically elected society.

Plato 3The scourge of designed incompetence must end.  If this means eating soup with a knife, then we must eat the bowl of soup to the dregs.  But, we must act if we are to save our countries from the politicians and the staff that have infested our governments!

© 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: Excuses or Designed Incompetence

ApathyConsider the following situation, you receive a letter dated 26 February 2021, postmarked 11 March 2021, and received on 16 March 2021.  The letter demands you respond within 14-days of the date of the letter, or you will be held accountable for failing to respond in a timely manner.  When you call to complain about the delay in receiving the letter, you are told, the US Post Office (USPS) is to blame, and all complaints should be directed to the USPS.

What is an excuse?

An excuse is a method to reduce blame attached to an action, defend or justify one’s actions, an attempt to release one from accountability or a poor or inadequate example of something.  As children, we are taught excuses are like noses; everyone has one, and picking it in public is disgusting.  Yet, when something happens, two types of people emerge, those who make excuses and those who take responsibility and work to fix the problem.

Calvin & Hobbes - TypicalWhat is designed incompetence?

Designed incompetence is a ready-made excuse for inadequacies created in business operations, a method to avoid responsibility and accountability. Due to the cost of designed incompetence, it is generally only found in government operations.  Designed incompetence can also be intentional actions designed into business operations, so the expected functions are designed to fail purposefully.  Designed incompetence is always harmful and destructive in nature, generally will make no logical sense, and will always be the preplanned leadership fallback position.

Example of an excuse:

The USPS is running slow, so the delivery of mail is taking longer to deliver than usual.

COVID has a lot of employees out sick, so operations are slower.

The person who wrote the order requesting the work to be completed did not do their jobs properly, and the original order must be rewritten.

Examples of designed incompetence:

Detective 4How mail is handled is that one person prints the letter and stuffs it into an envelope.  Another employee picks up the mail for delivery to the mailroom.  A third employee operates the postage machine.  Once posted, a fourth employee takes all the mail to the postal dropoff/pickup point.

The “system” is designed so that the person writing the orders is the only one who can designate where the work can be completed.

The regular employee handling this process is out, and nobody else knows that position sufficiently to perform the employee’s functions with COVID.  So everything had to stop while we waited for the original employee to return.

We “forgot” to reset the postage paid from $0.46 to $0.51, which caused delays in mail being correctly posted and sent out.  Since four of the six-letter received on 16 March had a second $.10 postage on the back, I can presume safely there was a delay.

What do you think?

Today, I spent four different calls to the same government agency, and received more than 12 different excuses, and identified 6 processes designed incompetently with the sole purpose of providing a method to shift blame, remove accountability, deny responsibility.  I was talking to the Department Heads of three different sections of the same organization.  People in charge of fixing the problems to eliminate excuses and redesign operations to remove designed incompetence are not doing their jobs.  Maybe, my analysis is a little hasty; however, after 17 years of dealing with this organization, I feel confident in my conclusions.

Duty 3I know my response; I am very disgusted with the organization and these designed incompetent operations and lackadaisical managers posing as leaders.  As a professional who works with companies and organizations, I work tirelessly to remove excuses and eliminate designed incompetence.  Yet, I do not understand how the government can continue to escape responsibility, accountability, and behavior correction.  I am not confused but very disheartened that Congress refuses to scrutinize the government to correct and improve behavior and performance.

What would you suggest for corrective behavior for the government?  I am genuinely interested in your thoughts and comments, for, from the disparity of the comments, we can design improvements and demand those improvements are accepted.  Feel free to dream big in the comments, and let’s design our government to improve for all.

© 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: Government Customer Service

Duty 3As a subject matter expert on customer service, as a professional customer service provider, and as a concerned American, I have to state for the record, the government’s abuse of the taxpaying customer is beyond atrocious, ridiculous, and craven!  I am sick to death of being treated like cat vomit; when I seek customer support from the government, I pay such incredible sums to fund.  Worse, I am fed up with the bureaucratic mindset that places the customer in the wrong, the customer as a pain, and the customer as a nuisance to be endured instead of assisted professionally.

ProblemsMy local Post Office here in Phoenix was visited yesterday (03 March 2021).  The Post Office does not deliver packages to the apartment complex we live in, so the standard procedure is for the USPS delivery person (mailman) to place a card notifying the customer of a package on a 10-day hold in the customer’s mailbox.  Since we moved in, we have not gotten these indicators, and Monday, my wife was notified a package she needs was returned by USPS.  It was delivered Monday to the Post Office and returned to sender as “customer refused delivery” the same day.

I went to the Post Office seeking answers.  The counter-working postal representative was the epitome of rude, obnoxious, and downright unfriendly.  It took more than an hour for a supervisor to arrive, and upon discussing the problem, I was told, “Lots of your neighbors have been complaining about this issue.”  Are you kidding me?!?!?!  You have two 500+ Apartment complexes across the street from each other, multiple people from both complexes are complaining about package delivery failures, and with a smile, you can tell me this is a known issue.

Theres moreAsk yourself the following question, if you had upwards of 100 customers complaining about your work, how long would you remain employed?  Frankly, I am still stunned 24+ hours after the interaction with this supervisor.  My visit was the sixth time I had been to the Post Office complaining about not getting package notifications and having trouble with packages sitting around the post office taking up space.  One of these visits included speaking to the Post Office’s head, general, whatever, the top person in charge of a local post office is titled.  Still, the employee has maintained their job, kept the same route, and the customers continue to be abused.

After I wrote a formal complaint, I was assured that action would be taken, and the employee talked to about this oversight in their duties.  Seriously, that was exactly what the supervisor said, “the employee will be talked to.”  I understand the human resources processes, understand and have designed human resource processes, and possess a Doctor of Psychology title specializing in industrial and organizational psychology.  But, I do not know how 100+ complaints can arrive at the post office weekly, and the same mailman is only on their verbal reprimand for failure to perform their duties.  We have been complaining about this issue for a year now, and in speaking with several neighbors, they have been complaining for longer than a year about this failure.  I have some doubts that this issue will be resolved, ever!

Detective 4But hey, the Post Office is only one of the government agencies exhibiting a race to the bottom where customer abuse and customer disservice are concerned.  The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), a state-run agency, is always in this race, and they take hostile customer service to new heights, or depths, depending upon how you look at their performance.  The last visit to the DMV ended with screaming for several minutes in my car before possessing the proper mindset to drive away safely.  The DMV is comparable to a dentist drilling before anesthesia starts and doing a poor job on an infected tooth; you just know you will have a bad day when a visit to the DMV is scheduled!

Yet, in discussing the race to the bottom, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is also a constant competitor in asinine customer service practices, customer abuse, and inept inertia.  I do not think the VA could even get bureaucratic inertia correct if someone had not taught them how.  The Department of Veterans Affairs – Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) investigated a surgical supply program for abuses and found:

VA controls were not sufficient to ensure VA medical facility staff accurately reviewed, verified, or certified distribution fee invoices for the program. VA also did not ensure staff at medical facilities accurately established and applied the on-site representative rates and paid fees based on annual facility purchases. The pricing schedule establishes fee rates for on-site representatives based on annual facility purchase amounts.”

The amount of money involved is staggering ($4.6 Billion). The fact that the VA cannot correctly oversee a supply program, check invoices, monitor stock levels, and pay invoices properly does not bode well for integrity in customer service.

LinkedIn VA ImageThe VA is to be congratulated, the colonoscope, which is used on multiple patients for a colonoscopy, is being cleaned properly and to standard, which means that infections from one patient are less likely to occur in another patient transferred from the colonoscope.  However, the training program, certification program, and training documentation remain under considerable scrutiny for continual failure, as discovered by a VA-OIG investigation of 10 different clinics!  Training, certification of training, and documenting and tracking training are internal customer service actions that the entire VA continues to fail.  Whoever is in charge of adult education and training at the VA is not performing their jobs, and this is witnessed every couple of weeks in the VA-OIG investigation results across the entire VA.  Designed incompetence leading to customer service failures, absolutely ridiculous!

I-CareThe VA-OIG conducted a lengthy investigation at the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) Chicago VA Regional Benefits office in Illinois.

The OIG found claims processors did not properly correct administrative errors in 88 percent of cases reviewed. Errors resulted in improper underpayments of about $59,100 to six veterans, improper overpayments of $18,900 to two veterans, and $5,900 in debts VA had inappropriately collected from eight veterans through January 2020.”

Revisiting the Post Office example above, if you had an 88% error rate in your job, how long would you expect to keep your job?  Training and certification of claims processing personnel remains a failure of internal customer service and is mentioned in every VBA investigation by the VA-OIG.  As a point of fact, the failures of training and training certification were recently cited as a significant deficiency, where in 2018, no certification and training occurred due to internal technical problems with the intranet.  Yet, even with all this evidence that training is failing, certification is not occurring, and claims processors continue to abuse veterans through clerical, system, procedural, and process errors on claims, they maintain their positions.  Cited in this latest VBA investigation was the claims processors’ continual failure to communicate with the veteran.

Boris & NatashaConsider the following analogy.  A 100% disabled veteran gets paid once a month and budgets those monies very carefully to last the entire month.  A claims decision is made, and without any communication for why, the amount the veteran is expecting to live is cut in half.  The veteran is then responsible for wading through the various call centers to find why, how the decisions were made, and what to do, which takes time, lots, and lots of time on the phone.  While bills go unpaid, food goes unpurchased, financial difficulties mount, and correcting the situation takes more time.  Sure, the VA will pay back pay, but that is never sufficient to cover all the accruing costs and losses experienced.

Hostile customer service by the government is the most inexcusable example of customer disservice imaginable.  Why; because there is no competitor to move your business.  There are no pathways for holding customer service representatives accountable when even talking to a supervisor is not worth the time and effort.  I spent four hours on the phone chasing a claims processing error; at one point, I finally got so mad I demanded a supervisor.  I waited on hold for just under 120-minutes for the supervisor, who said had I worked better with the agent, I would not have had to wait, and the problem could have been resolved, as their opening statement!

Survived the VABy this time, I had worked with four separate agents who were confused or refused the call by hanging up.  I had been sworn at, I had been told I was a liar, and I was told my office could not handle your request.  Each call required anywhere between 30 and 50 minutes of hold time waiting for an agent.  As the supervisor reviewed the problem, they discovered that their agents could not have handled the situation, and a specialist was required.  But, I never got an apology from the supervisor for the waste of my time, the issues experienced with previous agents, nor the loss of my time and resources it took to handle the problem.

Gadsden FlagGovernment employees beware; how you treat customers is a problem, and you need to be held to task for your insolence, depravity, ineptitude, inertia, and uncaring attitudes!  When discussing the BS of government, the customer service issue is the most egregious.  I will call you out publicly every time you abuse a customer.  I am done being abused!

© 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.