“That’s Crazy!!!” – More Chronicles from the VA Chapter 8

I-CareI fully admit I got behind in April.  Dear reader, my apology.  I have been whipsawed between emergency room visits, depression, extreme pain, and other issues.  Not offering an excuse but a tiny peek into my world as a disabled veteran.  Luckily, I have maintained employment because my employer allows me to work from home.  My driving privileges are threatened again with removal due to the neurological issues I suffer, and this will dynamically change my life, but this article is not about me, but the continued catastrophe called the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Inspector General (VA-OIG) reports published.

We begin with a financial efficiency review reported from the inspection of the Durham VAHCS of North Carolina.  I know the jokes write themselves when we discuss any government agency and financial efficiency, but I digress.  This is a head exploding report of leadership failure in the observation and governance of employees who did not perform the functions they were hired to perform.  The VA-OIG found the following from October 1, 2020, through March 31, 2021:

    • The healthcare system had 309 inactive obligations totaling $81.7 million.
    • Of these 309 obligations, 200 (totaling over $74 million) had no activity for 181 days or more.
    • In a subsample of 20 obligations, VA staff had not reviewed 17, as required.
    • Contrary to VA policy, healthcare system staff used purchase cards instead of contracts for 21 of 40 sampled transactions (53 percent), totaling approximately $328,000. These 21 transactions were missing required supporting documentation to verify that the transactions were approved and payments were accurate, resulting in $308,000 in questioned costs.
    • 105 more administrative full-time equivalent staff than the expected number, all not doing their jobs as required under Federal Law!

While not all of the findings, those mentioned are the most egregious and in need of corrective action.  Would the citizens of Durham, North Carolina, please tell me, has this been reported in the local news?  Has anyone lost their jobs as the VAHCS right-sizes the financial department?  I can find no additional information that this problem has been corrected, and I am really curious!VA 3

Oh, the irony is thick; consider the following:

The Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General Training Act of 2021 would help ensure that VA employees continue to be empowered to assist the OIG in improving VA’s operations and using taxpayer dollars to the greatest effect; helping protect patients and improving their care; and ensuring veterans and others receive services and benefits for which they are eligible.”

The above-quoted material originates from Chris Wilber, who testified to Congress’s HVAC Subcommittee on oversight and investigations.  What is the number one failure on every comprehensive healthcare inspection (CHIP); the lack of staff training, the inadequacy of staff training, or adequately trained staff.  Yet, the statement by the VA-OIG indicates that training has met a threshold for providing adequate training.  Let’s talk about a specific action, “the VA secretary signed a directive in September 2021 mandating that all employees complete a one-time training within one year—an important step in improving VA’s culture of accountability.”  It is now May 2022; the VA-OIG is pushing for training directives to be legislated, not dependent upon any single VA Secretary.  Are you freaking kidding me?  Where is the congressional oversight and scrutiny that allows VA training to continue to be subpar and threaten the lives of veterans?

Long have I wondered how the VA could frustrate VA-OIG actions, investigations, inspections, etc.  Guess what; the answer has become available:

“… there have been instances in which the OIG has been informed that staff have been told that they cannot share information with OIG investigators without first clearing it through supervisors or leaders—contrary to the Inspector General Act of 1978 (the IG Act), as amended.  Under that authority, VA employees at all levels have a duty to cooperate with OIG personnel, including providing information and assistance in a timely manner.”

Employees have been caught lying to the VA-OIG regularly, and what action is taken to remove those employees promptly and efficiently from government service?  From direct observation and employee conversations, it is clear that plans are carefully laid before a scheduled VA-OIG visit to present what the VA-OIG wants, but to gloss over the problems, and nothing ever happened to the managers, supervisors, and employees who lied and misdirected the VA-OIG.  All contrary to established Federal Law!VA 3

Want a specific example of employees intentionally misrepresenting information to the VA-OIG?  Look no further than the statement by Chris Wilber, and this incident was covered as a failure of leadership in a previous article.

Hospital staff at a VA facility in Fayetteville, Arkansas, had concerns about potential substance abuse by the chief of pathology that were not heard and promptly acted on by local management, which allowed him to work while impaired for years.  He misdiagnosed about 3,000 patients with errors resulting in death or serious harm and is currently imprisoned.  The OIG found a culture in which staff did not report serious concerns about the chief pathologist, in part because they assumed that others had reported him, or they were concerned about reprisal.”

From personal experience, I reported problems to the VA-OIG concerning patient abuse, fraud, waste, and other issues.  Never were my concerns acted upon promptly, and I was removed from employment for being a whistleblower.  The culture of corruption at the VA is incredible.  The examples mentioned by the VA-OIG only further sustain the problem with leadership and how sick the VA truly is as an organization!VA 3

We next turn our attention to the VA-OIG report on the inspection of information technology security at the VA Financial Services Center, another head exploding example of leadership failure bordering on criminal!  The findings include:

    • component inventory
    • vulnerability management
    • flaw remediation
    • Identifying 252 vulnerabilities, of which 228 the local IT team could not identify.
    • the VA-OIG team identified access control deficiencies, as 107 of the 278 FSC systems failed to generate or forward audit logs for analysis.
    • the video surveillance system was not fully functional. Ineffective monitoring and recording facility activities supporting information systems minimize the FSC’s incident response capabilities.

How do you spell failure; these findings spell failure to me rather pointedly and dramatically!  Want to laugh; staff training remains a concern, but not a finding, of the VA-OIG inspection team.  Frankly, with this level of incompetence, staff training should have been a finding.VA 3

To be concise and illustrate further the poor leadership, convoluted processes, and brazen noncompliance of VA officials, the following discussion is about two different VA-OIG reports that reached similar conclusions.  First, we have the VA-OIG report on “Noncompliant and Deficient Processes and Oversight of State Licensing Board and National Practitioner Data Bank Reporting Policies by VA Medical Facilities.”  Second is the VA-OIG report on “Concerns with Consistency and Transparency in the Calculation and Disclosure of Patient Wait Time Data.”  Nothing says convoluted processes more than having two written policies, both originating from Washington DC.  The superseded policy does not have an expiration date.  This means that employees have a designed incompetence excuse ready for not adhering to the most current and applicable policy.  Don’t believe me; one of the key findings was, “VHA has presented wait times to the public without clearly and consistently disclosing the basis for their calculations.”  Designed incompetence does not come more blatant than this, and who suffers, the veteran.  Worse, wait time correction and policy clarification has been stalled by COVID-19, the neverending excuse paying dividends to bureaucrats everywhere!Timelines for Wait Time Calculations

However, both reports are substantially summated by the VA-OIG; thus, “The lack of programmatic oversight contributed to the failure of VHA leaders to detect and intervene upon facility noncompliance.”  Meaning that due to COVID-19, the VHA has refused to do their jobs in deference to the pandemic, and since this is a good enough excuse, the VA-OIG has bought the designed incompetence, lock, stock, and barrel.  The VHA leadership is failing; doctors or dentists let go for poor performance were not reported to state and federal boards, so these providers lacking can continue to harm patients.  It is a federal law (42 US Code § 11151, US Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration Bureau of Health Workforce, NPDB Guidebook, October 2018, chap. A., 8 USC ⸹ 7462(a), 38 USC ⸹ 7401(1), among others) that providers let go for cause must be reported within 7-days to the regulatory boards at the state and federal levels.  Wait times are hidden because they are so bad; the VHA is embarrassed, so the leaders fall back on designed incompetence to shield themselves while looking for another excuse for poor performance!  In both reports, the ramifications of noncompliance are putting people at risk for sentinel events (death, injury, disability, etc.), and the leadership is at best lackadaisical in the performance of their duties.  VA 3

Where are the congressional overseers in ending the abuse?  When will this insanity and bureaucratic inertia end?  How many “sentinel events,” including deaths and permanent injuries, will it take until those tasked with scrutinizing the executive branch finally take committed action and hold people accountable?  When will the elected representatives stop throwing good taxpayer money at problems that money cannot fix?  If these questions are too difficult to answer, please stop running for elected office, for the citizenry is not happy!

We conclude with two related reports so astoundingly obtuse they defy logic and sanity.  The first is the annual CliftonLarsonAllen LLP (CLA) audit of the VA’s information security for 2021.  The second is the continuing failure of the new electronic health record modernization (EHRM) program.  The VA has failed the CLA audit for more than a decade, with many of the hits repeated year-over-year.  In fact, the CLA audit is so bad this year; it has taken my mental breath away and stunned me into a gibbering idiot!  Reading this report was infuriating; describing it as my head exploding is akin to comparing an M-80 to a nuclear bomb.  How in Dante’s Inferno can this level of incompetence be allowed to remain employed?  But, as bad as the CLA audit is, the continued failure of the new electronic health record system pales in comparison.  The new EHRM continues to suffer from reliability weaknesses, which is polite speak from the VA-OIG for the new system fails to do the job.  We are three years from the new extended deadline, we are already past the original deadline, and the system is worthless today than it was a year ago.  With this success rate, the new EHRM will be utterly bereft of value and need replacement before the year’s end.  How many millions (billions, or trillions) of good dollars must chase this ineptitude before the plug is pulled and those involved held accountable?VA 3

Join me in having your head explode:

Additional deficiencies included known tasks not being reflected on schedules, no risk analysis, lack of longer-term actions scheduled, and no complete baseline schedule or overall schedule that fully integrated individual project schedules. VA also did not comply with federal regulations when it paid its contractor for deliverables before accepting them (reviewing compliance with contract requirements).”

Consider this other gem from the VA-OIG report, “$1.95 billion in cost overruns per year” are estimated, meaning the final tab will be significantly higher and compounded year-over-year.  In plain speak, the contractor is being paid for products delivered that fail, the products offered are not usable, there is no schedule of completion, there is no schedule for deliverables, many of the products paid for have never been delivered, and costs are overrunning like a plugged toilet. Worse, no one is being held personally liable for these problems, which were apparent in the last EHRM update from the VA-OIG a year ago!  Like the CLA Audit, I am thrilled the VA agrees with the VA-OIG findings, but what are they DOING to fix the problems?

FYI: the image below is a year old, and comes from the last major update to the EHRM.EHR-VA-OIG

?u=https1.bp.blogspot.com-aqaqk18MHoEWRHHsCi_TyIAAAAAAAAAXc7hY4JQuyylIQHYudoR8sbezGZntic4SSwCLcBs640Betrayal2BSayings2Band2BQuotes2Bwww.mostphrases.blogspot.be.jpg&f=1&nofb=1There is no excuse for behaving like the VA’s bureaucratic legions behave.  Bureaucrats, from the city government (including the school board) to the Federal Government, you hold a sacred trust to act better than you are currently performing.  I refuse you any leeway for acting like pompous overlords when you are paid through forced taxation!  You have trespassed upon my patience and kindness long enough, and the day of reckoning has arrived.  You work for me; you work for every taxpayer and citizen in this country, and you have violated our trust, charged us too much and too often, and if you do not begin to show yourself worthy of the sacred trust, we will force you from your cushy jobs and hold you liable for the monies you have squandered!  The law is on our side; you need to begin showing you honor our trust and investment forthwith!

© 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.

“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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Plus the following:

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

Don’t forget this one:

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

More is coming on this one:

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

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

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

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

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

VA-OIG finding:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“That’s Crazy!!!” – More Chronicles from the VA Chapter 5

I-CareI had originally planned on writing something else today, but my mental train was derailed, caught on fire, and I had to change my plans.  18 March 2022, I received an email signed from Sonja Brown of the Albuquerque VAMCS, who discussed how it takes 10-20 years for the VA to make a decision about which clinics to close, how to build new clinics, and the possibility of change (not) occurring in the New Mexico VA Medical System.  Doesn’t that warm your heart; two decades is a maximum timeframe for ending unprofitable clinics to save the taxpayer money.  Now multiply this problem by every government agency, and we find the reason for reducing the government bloat!VA 3

Luckily, I still have VA-OIG reports to discuss, not that I got behind, but February and March have been especially prolific.  In January, the pace set appears to be sustained, at least for the first quarter of 2022.  Some have commented that I do not write very often about the National Cemetery side of the VA’s voluminous bureaucracy.  Your wish is granted; a whistleblower reported that the Houston National Cemetery was not being operated properly.  The VA-OIG substantiated “some of the claims made by the whistleblower.”  However, the leadership at the Houston National Cemetery had, for the most part, already begun making changes before the VA-OIG arrived.

Thus, I congratulate the Houston National Cemetery leadership for being almost proactive and 100% more responsible than any leadership in the VHA and VBA.  My heartiest gratitude to you and your staff.  May you continue to show initiative, forward-thinking, and attention to detail, and may the rest of the VA’s hegemonically impotent leaders learn from your example.VA 3

A Comprehensive Healthcare Inspection (CHIP) was conducted at the James J. Peters VAMC in the Bronx, NY.  While a lot of the report is cookie-cutter, similar to all the other CHIPs that cross my inbox, I remain fascinated with a frequently used term from the report, “Servant Leadership.”  From the website linked, we find the following to define “servant leadership” at the VA:

We are all leaders, all of the time.
Servant Leadership is an approach for optimizing the delivery of client-centered services by strengthening employees to be an engaged and empowered workforce.  The philosophy and practice of Servant Leadership is one that emphasizes caring, authenticity, and putting clients and employees first, and ahead of personal goals or leadership aspirations.  Servant Leaders strive to meet both organizational objectives and the growth / development of their workforce.”

Please note ALL the grammar and punctuation errors are included in that quote.  Far be it for me to pass along any advice on grammar, spelling, punctuation, and proper communication techniques.  But, even this quoted material reflects the fact that there is a Grand Canyon-like chasm between DC leadership and the worm’s eye-view in a VA Hospital, VBA operations center, or the National Cemetery.  Be a leader at the VA, and you will NOT last your probationary period after hire; I have experienced this personally!VA 3

Worse, try and help the VA from the worm’s eye to see the problems and fix the issues, and the VA Leadership will chop you into little tiny pieces and feed your carcass to the fishes.  Yet, every single CHIP report mentions problems with “servant leadership” as opportunities for growth and development.  More bureaucratese for designed incompetence as an excuse, the VA-OIG will believe.  How sick to death I am of these shenanigans!  Don’t believe me; check out the full CHIP report, it’s linked above, read a few of the other CHIP reports from the VA-OIG, and discuss the actual problems you think the VA is experiencing.

Servant Leadership is officially defined, by Purdue University, quoting Robert Greenleaf from 1970, as:

The servant-leader is servant first.  It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve first … a philosophy and set of practices that [enrich] the lives of individuals, builds better organizations and ultimately creates a more just and caring world.”

Notice a problem between the two definitions of servant leadership?  Recognize an issue yet with the entire concept of servant-leadership?  Let me give you a hint through a question, What does a “just and caring world” really define?  The whole concept of servant leadership is easily twisted, plasticized, and framed in a way that removes liberty, destroys justice, and wrecks havoc on a free society, all because the philosophy sounds good, but the practice leaves chaos and destruction in the name of creating a more just and caring world.Servant Leadership and Health Care: Critical Partners in Changing Times

I am not condemning anyone who wants to try and improve their leadership skills through learning servant leadership or applying some of the servant leadership philosophies in their leadership toolbox.  I am merely stating that care and caution should be used when trying to reshape the world on such ambiguous and amorphous terms as “just and caring.”  The VA is trying to force a leadership template for all leaders to follow.  This type of leadership philosophy warps the world and makes leaders into managers with excuses for failure, e.g., designed incompetence.

On a different topic, please read the following carefully:

The VA Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) reviews nonpharmaceutical proposals submitted to the VA National Acquisition Center (NAC) for Federal Supply Schedule (FSS) contracts valued annually at $10 million or more for high tech medical equipment, $3 million or more for all other FSS contracts, $100,000 or more based on manufacturer sales under dealers or resellers, or as requested by the NAC.”

Here is why the above is critical:

The VA-OIG determined commercial disclosures were accurate, complete, and current for only 24 of the 103 proposals reviewed.  This means 24 proposals were reliable for determining negotiation objectives and fair and reasonable pricing.  The remaining 79 could not reliably be used for negotiations until the noted deficiencies were corrected.  The OIG recommended lower prices than offered for 76 proposals.

If you, in your employment, had a 23% accuracy rate, and someone else had to come behind you, redoing all of your work, how long would you last in your job?  Note there are still 3 proposals that do not meet regulations and requirements out of 103 contract reviews.  Read the rest of this incredible report for yourself and know what your elected representatives are failing to curtail and control.  Then answer the following question: “Why should we re-elect ANY of the current elected officials?”VA 3

On the topic of designed incompetence of an almost criminal nature, we find the VBA still making headlines and breaking rules of ethics, morals, and logic with aplomb!  Before getting into the VA-OIG report, it is crucial to note that the VBA has exclusively gone to a third-party model for Compensation and Pension exams.  The most important part of the VBA’s operations, the comp and pen exam, is now conducted solely by third-party contracts companies.  A VA doctor sees a person trying to get their benefits from the VBA no longer but a third-party physician’s assistant at best, who is (supposedly) overseen by a medical doctor.  The lack of transparency and the complicated processes of the VBA are gordian, and transparency is hidden; read that as missing entirely.You know it's true - Imgflip

Here comes the VA-OIG, not to the rescue, but to rub salt into the wounds of veterans whose claims continue to be denied for lack of evidence.

“[The] VBA complied with the requirements of the law by reinstating 69 questionnaires on its public-facing website.  However, disability benefits questionnaires that were incomplete, inaccurate, or of questionable authenticity from non-VA medical providers were not always processed correctly when determining benefits entitlement—causing underpayments of about $13,900 and overpayments of $74,800 over the nine months studied.

Improper processing occurred because VBA lacked sufficient controls to ensure disability benefits questionnaires from non-VA medical providers were properly relied on when determining entitlement to benefits.”

Let’s let this sink in for a moment.  The VBA moved to a third-party model, then denied access to the VBA’s questionnaires to determine benefits, then had to be forced to reinstate the questionnaires.  Improper VBA processes and procedures led to over and underpayments of benefits, and claims processors still do not have the tools to make informed and logical decisions reliably.  Best of all, veracity (questionable authenticity) remains questioned in the process when the third-party contractor submits the forms for benefits.VA 3

You cannot make this stuff up; fiction writers can come nowhere close to creating a story this inane!  Is designed incompetence as a concept clear now?  The VBA developed a process using a more expensive model and then questioned the inputs for veracity from the contracted party, and the veteran suffered more!  Do you think the VBA intentionally designs its processes to help and create a more just and caring world (servant leadership)?  I think the VBA intentionally designed their processes to screw veterans in the hope they die before the government ever pays money on their claims.  Let me know what you think in the comment section, for this is a travesty of justice anyway I slice the data.

As a veteran who has been trying to get a compensation and pension decision corrected since leaving the service in 2004, having suffered both overpayments, which I had to repay, underpayments, and erroneous overpayments where the funds paid were (eventually) refunded, the news from the VBA designed incompetence is a particular form of hell for me to read and discuss.  I have had the third-party comp and pen exam doctors refuse to see me three times in the last two years.  Delaying a VBA decision repeatedly.  I have had the VBA reject the third-party data and a new comp and pen exam scheduled, rescheduled because I cannot wear a mask, and then conducted by a hostile and infuriating provider who refused to listen to the patient.Are you an Incompetent Developer? - Web Development & Web Design Blog

When veterans talk about fighting the VBA for a fair and honest decision, they mean a literal fight!  Don’t take my word for it; ask veterans how their comp and pen exam has gone; when you find those struggling with the VBA, listen carefully to their stories, and you will hear very similar stories.  The VBA represents government inefficiency, designed incompetence, and bureaucratic inertia to the Nth degree!

The following link might, or might not, work as intended; the link directs you to all testimony recorded from congressional hearings.  If it works, you will be able to read the statement of David Case, Deputy IG, who was testifying before the HVAC subcommittee on drafted legislation “Quality Education for Veterans Act of 2022”.  A brief synopsis from his testimony is included below:

This bill would significantly strengthen the OIG’s efforts to prevent fraud in VA’s education and training programs.  Given that more than $10 billion in taxpayer funds is expended on education and training programs each year and hundreds of thousands of veterans, service members, and family members receive these benefits, the OIG supports efforts to strengthen programmatic and beneficiary protections.  The statutory changes in the draft bill do not appear to be burdensome or costly to educational institutions or VA, and yet they have the potential to make a significant impact on the amount of education fraud that occurs.  The OIG agrees that these changes would work to lessen the harm suffered by veterans and beneficiaries and reduce losses to the government.”

Ever wonder how much a VA-OIG inspection costs or where and how the VA-OIG is funded; here is the answer and the problem.  Tell me, why is the VA-OIG not financed from the VA budget?  Simple question, not hard, and requires an explanation!  The explanation should be detailed, transparent, and I guarantee that the answer will reflect the designed incompetence and failure to scrutinize the executive branch adequately.  The VA is one of the few, if not the only, Federal Government Agency with a specialized inspectorate general, dedicated solely to independent oversight and continuous improvement of the VA.  I think the VA-OIG might be failing in its mission.VA 3

Fraud is rampant in the VA because the VA refuses to act, work, change, and improve.  How will throwing more money at VA programs alleviate the hurt, stop the fraud, and spur continuous improvement?  Almost every week, my inbox fills with accounts of fraud occurring, but the roots of the problems are never addressed, and people are not held accountable for failing to perform the work they were hired to complete.  Failing to hold people responsible promotes fraud, waste, and abuse.  Allowing whistleblowers to be fired promotes a discouraged whistleblowing culture, and the perpetrators are allowed to continue their nefarious misdeeds!  How is the VA-OIG going to tackle these systemic issues in the culture at the VA?  When will continuous improvement begin; I do not want to miss growth and development!

Knowledge Check!America, the VA is sick.  A symptom not a disease; the larger disease is a refusal to act morally upright.  The majority of those employed in the behemoth of government service have little to no moral compunction, are not servants of the taxpayer, and consider themselves “Too BIG to fail.”  We need a smaller government, and I hope this message helps enlighten and support shrinking the government!

© 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.

Session Title:  Able, Not Disabled, Not Differently-Abled

Introduction:  The following are my notes delivered at a global conference for disability inclusion held 27 October 2021 regarding how to improve disability inclusion in the workplace.

Description:  Increasing abilities by removing boundaries, discussing paths forward in ability inclusion, and building upon the great work Amazon and several other companies have done in pioneering disability inclusion in the workplace.

Welcome to a discussion on abled, not disabled, not differently-abled!  I am glad you’re here!  I am Dr. Dave Salisbury; I look to complete my Ph.D. in industrial and organizational psychology by November 2022; if you would like to participate in my dissertation, don’t hesitate to contact me outside this forum for more information.  I possess an MBA in global management specializing in human resource management, a master’s in adult education design and training, and have been a business consultant since 2004.  I am a dual-service US Army/US Navy disabled veteran.

My intent today is to help break down barriers so we can be comfortable around each other.  So comfortable that we can share jokes about my disability, we can look past the twitches, the spasms, and the stutters and find common interests.  Disability inclusion is precisely this, the inclusion into a society of those with disabilities to the point that we do not see the disability, we do not recognize the handicaps, and we can then work in an atmosphere of ability.

I have several disabilities, most stemming from injuries sustained in military service; some include my voice, some include neurological issues, and others are physical and mental.  Regardless, as these injuries have increased in severity, my professional intent began to be recognized for my abilities, talents, skills, knowledge, and potential, not for my disabilities.  Yet, I am often seen only as a disabled person or worse, a “token” disabled person filling a slot that another person could be occupying.  I ran into this thinking in the Federal government, New Mexico State, Bernalillo County, and Albuquerque City government hiring practices as recently as 2019.

Earlier in my professional life as a disabled person, I was told not to be thinking of myself as disabled but as “differently-abled.”  I am not differently abled!  Differently abled draws lines and limitations; it separates people and places boxes on potential.  Worse, it allows for the continued breeding of an “us against them” mentality, which breeds hostility and counterproductive beliefs.  Thus, I refuse to be differently abled.  I do not particularly appreciate being classified as disabled either.

Please allow me to digress for a moment.  The transitive verb “dis” means to show disrespect, insult, or criticize.  As a prefix, “dis” is defined as the opposite of something, depriving someone of something, excluding someone, or expelling someone.  Thus, a disabled person is either being disrespected, insulted, criticized, deprived, excluded, expelled, or is the opposite of able.  Frankly, I believe that when we are made aware of the etymology of words, we are then more aware of why people choose to adopt or not adopt certain words and labels.  I repeat, only for emphasis, I do NOT particularly appreciate being classified as disabled, for I AM able!

Words and labels should not be the focus of our attention and efforts.  I prefer handicapped to disabled based on the etymology, even though I don’t particularly appreciate being considered handicapped.  A handicap can refer to a disadvantage in task completion, physical or mental disabilities, and can intentionally place a person at a disadvantage; there’s that “dis” again rearing it’s disrespect, insults, criticism, deprivation, exclusion, and expulsion.  Please, let’s stop focusing on word games and plastic phrases; instead, let’s invest efforts in finding solutions to existing problems.

How big is the problem of word focus; in the past few weeks, there have been several email chains based solely on a person’s word choice preferences.  I would venture to presume that not a single person intended to cause insult or denigrate a community member by using or not using a specific word, phrase, title, verb, adjective, etc. in describing a person or population in the community.  Yet, people chose to take offense, and others rushed in to ameliorate the feelings of the one choosing to be offended at a word.  Bringing up a fundamental aspect of disability inclusion, individual responsibility, accountability, or self-rule.

I am able!  I take a little more time, need a couple of extra breaks, and use additional technology and equipment to complete tasks.  I possess skills, talents, experiences, and knowledge valuable to situations, teams, and companies.  I bring to the table unique perceptions, insights, and benchmarkable skills worthy of consideration.  I bring formal and informal education and experience that is invaluable and immeasurably useful as an asset to the organization.  I am all this long before we ever discuss my physical and mental concerns or disabilities.

My first priority is my personal safety and security; my first job is to look out for myself.  Monitor what I am carrying, how far I must take it, doors, elevators, paths for egression in emergencies, methods for being warned, and what I can and cannot do.  For example, as COVID-19 began, I knew I could not wear a mask and asked about those of us who could not wear a mask.  I saw the confusion on faces. I witnessed the policy shifts, the harassment, the legal segregation, and suffered legal abuse and discrimination for not wearing a mask.  I realize that eventually, my injuries will require my independence to be curtailed, and I will become more dependent.  As such, I have to monitor what I can and cannot do constantly and clearly describe this to those I work with.  The same should be true and expected of all people regardless of handicap or level of ability.  Individual responsibility for safety, security, and health does not end just because they enter a building and should be stressed as a regular aspect of workplace safety.

Amazon has performed incredible work and is one of the few companies that has done pioneering work leading to real success in disability inclusion on a global scale.  The question before us is where and how we build upon this work to improve the culture and potential of all employees, regardless of ability, in all industries and businesses, based upon the pioneering work of Amazon.  I believe the following action items can be the building blocks to successfully enhance the inclusion of people of all abilities, talents, skills, and knowledge.  I will revisit these questions when we get to the discussion portion; please consider these points.

  1. Conflict is good, beneficial, and a tool that is useful for building people, teams, and businesses. Douglas Malloch wrote a timeless poem, “Good Timber,” which is the quintessential discussion on why and how conflict is good.  Let us embrace conflict as the tool it is for improving people.  A handout is available for further consideration on these topics, and all bullets discussed, with reference materials for additional research if you desire.  Please send me an email if you would like these materials.
  2. Leadership begins with followership; followership begins with being lifelong learners, learning requires opportunities to teach, teaching is a prerequisite to learning, and learning requires the ability to lead and apply. – These are merely starting points to understanding. They are facts.
        • Do we encourage delegation and learning through experience?
        • Do we embrace failure as a tool for lifelong learning?
        • Leadership is not a title; leadership is first an attitude, then an action, and finally a method of learning and teaching. How do we apply these truths in daily activities?
        • Leadership as an attitude is witnessed in good followership, even when our followers practice loyal opposition; are we embracing the loyal opposition? Do we know how to recognize the loyal opposition?
  3. Flexibility and agility require open minds. Open minds need varieties in opinions, politics, beliefs, religions, and so much more.  Open minds begin with lifelong learning!  Lifelong learning requires self-reflection. – Again, we find fundamental truths, simply explained and expounded.  How are we embracing these truths in daily practice?  What actions are we supporting in the workplace to showcase support to and openness to variety in thinking and commitment to lifelong learning?
        • What book did you just read?
        • Did you share that book, recommending it to whom?
        • Were you excited about the book?
        • When was the last time you self-reflected?
  4. Do you believe?
  5. How will you act tomorrow?

Are there activities I cannot engage in?  Yes.  To my disappointment and chagrin, there are many activities I can no longer engage in.  Stairs are a tremendous activity I have to avoid; yes, this includes sidewalk curbs.  Standing and sitting for long periods have to be monitored and curtailed.  Walking is another activity I have to be conscious of and monitor closely.  I regularly mistake how long I have sat or walked and wind up in trouble breathing, or my legs give out from exhaustion.  But, I should not have to get into some vast dramatic affair just because my abilities are curtailed physically or mentally.  COVID-19 hit, I cannot wear a mask due to breathing issues; the mask mandates have been so embarrassing and challenging while also being segregationist, separatist, and legally expensive.  Why are disabled people still challenged on their disabilities when we are already disrespected, insulted, criticized, deprived, excluded, and expelled for merely being less physically and mentally able?

Ask yourself this question, “When I see a maskless person, do I condemn them first or think maybe they have a reason?”  That single decision is the key to the choice between building people and building disability thinking!  I do not need your answer voiced; please consider your response now and think about when you will witness a maskless person the next time.

Has anyone taken a look at the processes for obtaining work accommodations?  A work adjustment for a disability?  A mask exemption?  With all the differences in abilities, one would think the process would be straightforward to understand.  Yet, the opposite is often the truth because we refuse to embrace that we are all able and are programmed to first separate into able and dis-(disrespected, insulted, criticized, deprived, excluded, expelled)- abled.

The last two questions are not included for any reason other than to spark a conversation inside you.  Do you believe in a difference existing between disabled people and non-disabled people?  What will you do differently today and tomorrow to reflect your belief structure?

I learned a long time ago everyone has a disability, a blind spot, or an issue they keep hidden from the world.  Sometimes it is a missing eye, an arm, a leg, an embarrassing laugh, depression, anxiety, trauma, childhood abuse, adult abuse, the list is endless.  Yet, some of those “blind spots” are more severe and become listed as “disabilities.”  The government stepped in to classify people, and draw lines of segregation and separation, which did a lot of harm to people of all abilities.  I met a man recently who lost several fingers and partially lost several other fingers.  His lost and partial fingers never came up in conversation.  His abilities as a typist were terrific, and his talents on several musical instruments were extraordinary, but his missing and partial fingers were non-topics!  As a point of fact, I did not notice the fingers until I shook his hand in congratulations for his accomplishments.

Drawing lines, classifications, separations, and segregation, it never works.  Until we can look past, work past, and choose to live past the disability, we will never be equally able, and everyone suffers.  What keeps disabled people from being able; our choices.  What keeps able people from working together; our choices.  See the connection; how we choose is the single greatest determining factor in moving forward as an individual, a team, a group, and a company.  We choose to either be abled or disabled.  We choose to allow our comfort zone to define us or not to define us.  We choose to work together first or separate each other first.

Often a person lacking an ability due to misfortune of some kind will develop and magnify other abilities, an often-overlooked advantage to their value because seeing past their loss has become a lost art of possibility and consideration.  In other words, our humanity needs restoration.  Those who do not have a fulness of ability know the realities of unreasonable and unfair judgment rather than the realities of potential and are thus prevented from entering the world of abilities and possibilities by the much too often impenetrable establishment of discrimination.  We can lift people from where we are and change the paradigm of ability and advancement to a higher level of accomplishment and respect.  We can do this!  Do you believe?

How will we act tomorrow?  A similar question was posed by Brian “The Brain” Johnson in the movie “The Breakfast Club,” and new attitudes, new thinking, and new potential were born.  Are we willing to see past the outside wrapping, shun society’s labels, and choose a different path forward through action, learning, leadership, and healthy conflict?

Let’s discuss!

    • Conflict is good, beneficial, and a tool that is useful for building people, teams, and businesses. Douglas Malloch wrote a timeless poem, “Good Timber,” which is the quintessential discussion on why and how conflict is good.  Let us embrace conflict as the tool it is for improving people.  A handout is available for further consideration on this topic and all bullets discussed, with reference materials for additional research on these topics if you desire.
    • Leadership begins with followership; followership begins with being lifelong learners, learning requires opportunities to teach, teaching is a prerequisite to learning, and learning requires the ability to lead and apply. – These are merely starting points to understanding. They are facts.
            1. Do we encourage delegation and learning through experience?
            2. Do we embrace failure as a tool for lifelong learning?
            3. Leadership is not a title; leadership is first an attitude, then an action, and finally a method of learning and teaching. How do we apply these truths in daily activities?
            4. Leadership as an attitude is witnessed in good followership, even when our followers practice loyal opposition; are we embracing the loyal opposition? Do we know how to recognize the loyal opposition?
      • Flexibility and agility require open minds. Open minds need varieties in opinions, politics, beliefs, religions, and so much more.  Open minds begin with lifelong learning!  Lifelong learning requires self-reflection. – Again, we find fundamental truths, simply explained and expounded.  How are we embracing these truths in daily practice?  What actions are we supporting in the workplace to showcase support to and openness to variety in thinking and commitment to lifelong learning?
            1. What book did you just read?
            2. Did you share that book, recommending it to whom?
            3. Were you excited about the book?
            4. When was the last time you self-reflected?
      • Do you believe?
      • How will you act tomorrow?

Additional Questions, Comments, or Concerns, feel free to reach out to me via email or IM through LinkedIn.  Thank you!

© 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.

“That’s Crazy!!!” – More Chronicles From The VA

Bobblehead DollThe week of 27 September 2021 started funkily and has gone downhill rapidly!  I reported Monday being refused medical service for not wearing a mask.  On Tuesday, I visibly struggled for breath, standing in the VA pulmonologist’s office in front of the pulmonologist who was holding my pulmonology function test results.  I am holding a letter showing I cannot wear a mask, wearing a face shield, and being told by the doctor, “I do NOT care, he needs to WEAR A MASK, or I AM NOT SEEING HIM” [emphasis his].  Eventually, the doctor agrees to see me, provided I remain more than 6 feet from him, and he does not have to touch me.  The doctor then proceeds to lecture me about getting the vaccine, wearing a mask, and of course, breathing through my breathing difficulties.

As they say on the Home Shopping Network, “But wait, there’s more!”  Crazy has only just begun, unfortunately!

A patient with iron-deficiency anemia died at the hands of VA Doctors at the San Juan Puerto Rico VAHCS (2017), and the VA-OIG is just completing and reporting on their death in 2021.  The patient who came in for a colonoscopy developed rectal bleeding, which required an anticoagulant, and the patient subsequently died.  A tragic set of dominoes was set up and knocked down in this patient’s case, and the VA is entirely at fault for the patient’s death.  How badly the patient’s family must feel with this report in hand and knowing they can do absolutely nothing!VA 3

100% crazy indeed; but wait, there’s more!

Justice was served cold and raw, and while I was hoping for a harsher sentence by far, I am still hoping his victims can recoup some of their losses and obtain retraining.  “Jonathan Dean Davis, the owner of Retail Ready Career Center in Texas, was sentenced for deceiving the VA of $72 million. Beginning in 2014, he offered six-week heating, ventilation, and air conditioning course, promising to prepare veterans for careers in the HVAC industry. However, upon entering the workforce, many of these veterans discovered that the course had failed to teach them many of the basic skills necessary for entry-level technician jobs. Davis was also ordered to pay $65.2 million in restitution and forfeit $72.5 million to the federal government.”

It is very hard to describe what goes into the GI Bill besides money and time in service.  It is even tougher to explain how cheated you feel when the benefit is cut by the government, stolen by school administrators, and reduced by petty rules and regulations.  To see your benefits stolen through shoddy training and see your hopes and dreams dashed, as well as your benefit, turned into useless paper, the heartbreak is incredible!  The punishment for all involved should have been greater, and some federal employees should have shared the blame for failing to do their jobs!I-Care

Hold onto your seat, folks; the insanity has not even reached its peak yet; there’s more!

The VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) inspected the VA Illiana Health Care System in Danville, Illinois, to determine the validity of allegations, specific to COVID-19 and the Community Living Center (CLC), of failure to observe infection control practices, failure to minimize the risk of exposure to COVID-19, inconsistent ongoing testing, and failure to notify residents, families, and staff of positive test results. During the inspection, the OIG identified concerns related to leaders’ post-outbreak actions.  The VA-OIG substantiated a failure to observe general infection control practices, including in the following areas:

    • Leaders failed to minimize the risk of exposure to COVID-19.
    • Leaders did not respond adequately to staff exposure.
    • Leaders did not have a plan for the transfer and isolation of residents.
    • Leaders did not implement recommended infection control measures when performing aerosol-generating procedures and continued to hold group therapies.

The VA-OIG substantiated the lack of a post-baseline testing plan and a failure to test CLC staff after potential exposure.  The OIG identified actions taken by leaders following the CLC outbreak that lacked input from frontline staff to identify corrective actions and opportunities for improvement.”  This is the politically correct way of saying that the community living center leaders are thoroughly incompetent and should not be trusted in their current positions.

Leadership failure in spades, employees, patients, families all placed at risk because of incompetence and politics of the facility leaders, and the VA-OIG does not have the teeth needed to FIRE and REPLACE the leaders who are clearly out of their depth and ability!  For months the media and political leaders have been harping and preaching how dangerous COVID as a viral infection is.  Yet, the leaders in the Illiana VAHCS seem to be operating to a different set of rules and policies.  Will any elected leader be asking why?  Insanity runs deep in Illinois!VA 3

On the topic of COVID-19, and the failures of VA providers to do their jobs, we find another dead veteran due to what in the private sector would be a classic case of malpractice!  Yet, care at the VA is protected from malpractice, and the providers are safe from responsibility and accountability for their failures.  While the following is specific to North Carolina, similar examples are found across the United States.  Insanity thy name is represented in spades at the VA!Angry Wet Chicken

The VA OIG conducted a healthcare inspection at the Fayetteville VA Coastal Health Care System in North Carolina to assess concerns related to the quality, coordination, and timeliness of care, and the impact of COVID-19 on a patient with unintentional weight loss who was later diagnosed with oral cancer and died at another VA medical center.”

    • The VA-OIG substantiated that the primary care provider and dietitians did not provide quality care to the patient.
    • The VA-OIG substantiated that dietitians conducted incomplete nutritional assessments.
    • The VA-OIG substantiated that the patient’s PACT nurse and dietitians failed to coordinate care by not communicating the family’s request for a face-to-face appointment and the patient’s declining nutritional status to the primary care provider.
    • The VA-OIG found that incorrect scheduling resulted in the patient not being seen by a dietitian for a follow-up appointment and a delay in scheduling a non-VA dental appointment.

The VA-OIG concluded that COVID-19 impacted the care provided by dietitians because of the use of telephone visits, which did not allow dietitians to visually assess the patient’s physical characteristics caused by a declining nutritional status.”

Blaming a viral disease for the failure of people to do their jobs is the height of skullduggery, showing pusillanimous disregard for the patient and a timid weak-kneed, and yellow-bellied timorous approach to medicine.  None of you deserve to be in the medical field if you cannot properly take personal protection and see patients who need to be physically seen!  Now, let’s call a spade a spade and call out your wimpy, limp-wristed, lily-livered weakling leaders who refuse to act like leaders in a hospital and prefer to act like scared amoebas in a petri dish!  There is NO EXCUSE for your paltry excuses, your shady practices, and your hiding in offices and behind the disruptive behavioral committees when your policies and procedures FAIL when YOUR training plans fall apart, and when reality bites hard enough to disrupt hospital operations and your policies are the problem endangering patients!VA 3

Crazy…  Thy name is abused in the VA, and the leaders are failing to understand sanity!  But … wait, there’s more!

There are times when I describe the insanity at the VHA, VBA, National Cemeteries, and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) as designed incompetence.  The following is the purest example of designed incompetence witnessed to date.  Consider with me the following:

?u=http3.bp.blogspot.com-CIl2VSm-mmgTZ0wMvH5UGIAAAAAAAAB20QA9_IiyVhYss1600showme_board3.jpg&f=1&nofb=1Blue Water Navy Outreach requirements were met, but processing and procedures remain lacking and need improvement.  The VBA was legislatively mandated to extend veteran benefits to a classification of sailors who operated in blue water conditions off Vietnam or within 12 Nautical Miles of Vietnam.  The VBA went forward and established the computers, the records, the systems, etc., to handle these claims.  The results, a complete farrago!

The VA-OIG substantiated that the VBA has not established procedures for its employees to follow when the computer search tool they use to determine ship locations during claimant service dates returns unlikely results (for example, providing an inland location in a search for an aircraft carrier). In addition, VBA employees inaccurately decided approximately 46 percent of veterans’ claims (2,100 of 4,600) from April through June 2020, which led to about $37.2 million in improper payments to veterans ($25.2 million in overpayments and $12 million in underpayments) during that period. About 95 percent of these errors resulted from VBA employees deviating from policies governing disability-rating decisions.”

Did you catch that the VBA intentionally designed a system that failed to perform the task because humans and computers were lenient to deviate?  Nobody is held accountable for the continued loss of benefits, treatment, and wasted resources of the government and the veterans involved!  Here’s the rub, this is NOT the first time this has happened!  The VBA is notorious for failures like this and never held accountable by the elected officials hired to scrutinize the government!  Name a military excursion where benefits had to be carved out by legislative order, and you will find foot-dragging, designed incompetence, inconsistencies in decision making, and piss-poor performance at every level of the VBA.  Why?LinkedIn VA Image

Let’s imagine you hold a job that has a reporting requirement to an authorizing body that can shut you down.  You arbitrarily change language in metrics and reporting, do not tell the authority but still expect the authority to license you and your efforts.  How likely do you think the governing body will look favorably upon your changes?  The VA is legislatively mandated to report to Congress on its capacity in five areas, spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, blind rehabilitation, prosthetics and sensory aids, and mental health.  But, by changing the language, metrics, and methods of talking about injuries, the VA can hide, misreport, underreport, overreport, and play reporting games with the report to Congress and the VA-OIG second look get away with the deception.  Never forget, the maskirovka comes with veteran patient abuse!Angry Grizzly Bear

The VA-OIG has reported continuously to Congress, to deaf ears and plastic lips, the following, “… VA cannot compare its current mental health capacity with its 1996 capacity because of changes in diagnosis and treatment, service provision, and data collection. For example, VA must report on the number of veterans with “serious mental illness,” but VA no longer uses that term. And non-VA care, which veterans increasingly seek, must be excluded from reports on VA’s capacity to provide care. The OIG believes that by modernizing the reporting metrics, Congress would be better positioned to assess VA’s capacity to provide care for today’s disabled veterans.”

Congress continues NOT to push the VA to adopt 1996 language and metrics for reporting, or change the law to update the language and metrics to capture the data more accurately, thus allowing the lies and deceptions to continue.  Will anyone in the media EVER ask Congress WHY?VA 3

What kills me, the insanity discussed in this summation of VA-OIG reports does not even scrape the iceberg.  In my email inbox, I have to select between continued financial failures by leaders, veteran suicide during an inpatient residency, and the continued moral distress of employees by facility leaders.  I have twenty more VA-OIG reports sitting awaiting summation because the insanity has blossomed, and the VA-OIG is working hard to clear their reports for the end of the calendar year.  Each and every one of these reports deserve analysis, discussion, and mega-doses of sunshine disinfectant.  The sheer enormity of the insanity means that timely discussion physically cannot occur.  By overloading the system, the perpetrators of veteran abuse can escape sunshine disinfectant, and that is a sore injustice!Satire? Obama ISIS Speech Depresses Nation | Hooper's War - Peter Van Buren

Pray for the families of those who have died at the hands of the VA providers and for those currently dying under the hands of VA providers.  Congress needs to act, and we, the electorate, must hold their feet to the fire until they are consumed, or they stand and do their jobs!  There are no excuses for the insanity contained in these VA-OIG reports!

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

Chronicling the VA, 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.

More Repugnant VA Chronicles! – When will this Insanity END?

I-CareMonday and Tuesday this week, 28 and 29 June 2021, the Department of Veterans Affairs – Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) returned three more investigations, inspections, or criminal reports.  While no veteran is dead in this batch of reports (Thankfully!), the behavior exhibited remains egregious and blatantly criminal, and the bureaucrats and bureaucracy remain intact to continue to commit malfeasance, misfeasance, and malpractice!

Before getting into the VA-OIG reports, I want to hand out some praise.  The El Paso VAHCS was the focus of a major problem just a couple of years ago when the VA Police attacked a veteran and ended up pulling his arm out of his shoulder socket.  I am now a patient at the El Paso VAHCS, being seen at the VA Out-Patient Clinics instead of the Las Cruces Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC).  While the fallacious claims of the Phoenix VAMC continue to dog me, I am very happy to report that the VA Police in El Paso were professional, polite, and the customer service displayed was top-notch.  Growth has occurred since the veteran incident mentioned, and I, for one, am grateful!VA 3

The VA-OIG has announced that Dr. Kenneth C. Ramdat has received one year of probation after being allowed to “plead guilty” to touching two women’s breasts without permission.  When the VA is compared to a criminal syndicate, where the administrators are actively against the employees and the patients, I can see the connection!  What else happened at the Louis A. Johnson VA Hospital in Clarksburg, West Virginia, while this doctor was on staff and is not included in the criminal trial?  West Virginia keeps coming up as another morally distressed VA Health Care System; what is the VISN doing to improve the environment for illegal activity?  If Phoenix and VISN 22 are an example, nothing, which is negligence worthy of criminal investigations!VA 3

How can employees trust each other when plea deals are allowed, and behavior worthy of criminal punishment exists?  I was physically attacked, as an employee, by another employee, and the administration swept the incident under the rug.  After being discharged during probation, I learned that the employee who attacked me had done this previously with no punishment and the revelation that the administration was gunning for my removal for reporting the attack.  How many VA Employees lost their jobs before Dr. Ramdat was finally forced to be held accountable for sexual assault?  Why the plea deal?  Doesn’t this plea deal re-injure the victims, the perpetrator got off, essentially?

Sexual assault pled down to simple assault with probation – criminal syndicate indeed!Plato 2

Kristopher M. Voyles’s trial ended with a sentence of 27-months in prison, 3-years supervised release, and restitution of $20,502.  While this is a good sentence for theft of medical treatment, Mr. Voyles was never charged and investigated for the actual crime, identity theft of a veteran!  Mr. Voyles stole the name, date of birth, and social security number of a veteran fraudulently created documents, and then obtained care.  Thus, theft of medical care was criminal activity.  Until we read, “Subsequent investigation revealed that Voyles had previously been prosecuted by Atlanta, Georgia authorities for using the same veteran’s identity to obtain prescription drugs from the VA Medical Center in Atlanta.”VA 3

Do the veterans targeted know that Mr. Voyles stole their ID and used it fraudulently?  How did Mr. Voyles repeatedly target and steal the identities of veterans?  Is the ID Theft related to any VA data breaches, losses of veteran identities, or IT problems consistently occurring at the VA?  Were any of these questions asked during the “subsequent investigations?”  If so, where are those VA-OIG reports?  This criminal intentionally targeted veterans, stole identities, used those identities; how many other veterans’ identities does he have or have access to?  The Department of Veterans created the problem of ID Theft; when will they be held accountable for the loss of ID?  Better still, when will the data theft from the VA end?

Knowledge Check!Our final example (today) for the repugnant and criminal behavior of VA Employees needs a little background to be fully understood for those outside the military and government employment.  In government, contracting officers liaison between the facility receiving goods and services, the government paying for goods and services, and the third-party hired to provide goods or services.  Some third-party contractors receive government-issued identification cards similar to an employee identification card, both of which are called a “Personal Identity Verification” (PIV) card.  These cards act as keys to the facility, prove identification and authorize the contractor to be doing what they are doing.  The contracting officers are the end-all in the responsible party for that third-party contracted vendor.

VA SealContracting officers and third-party contractors act under Federal Regulation called “Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR).  FAR is like the Bible; it has everything in it outlining duties, responsibilities, and authorities.  Contracting officers are supposed to know the regulations before contracting goods and services, and they teach the contractor their responsibilities.  Especially where a PIV has been issued, the contracting officer, as the liaison, IS THE Responsible Party, not the contractor.

Now, gauge the following VA-OIG report with these facts in mind.

The VA-OIG “… examined a random sample of 46 professional service and healthcare resource contracts. None of the reviewed contracts had adequate evidence to demonstrate FAR requirements were met. VHA contracting officers’ noncompliance with PIV card requirements occurred because they were unaware of their responsibilities and the requirements. In addition, VHA did not have policies or procedures detailing supervisory oversight of contracting officers’ duties regarding PIV cards, the internal audit office did not review compliance, and there was no automated tool for continuous tracking and monitoring of PIV cards issued; to contractors’ personnel.”VA 3

Did you catch that; a 100% failure in a random sample of contracts, contracting officers, and oversight supervisors were unaware of their roles and responsibilities.  How long has this failure been occurring?  How many government PIVs are available granting access to facilities where the contract has concluded?  This is not the first time the government contracting officers and offices have utterly failed to perform their roles and responsibilities; yet, this is one of the most dangerous to the PIV system’s security, safety, and reliability.  This is just an investigation from the VA, how bad is this problem across the entire government contracting establishment?

QuestionI cannot understand how a contracting officer, with all the training, re-training, and refresher training that is mandated, could use the excuse, “I didn’t know that was part of my job!”  As a person who has worked around contracting officers, I knew this was their job, and I am not a contracting officer.  It is simply common sense; if you facilitate obtaining identification, keys, and access codes, you are responsible for getting these things back!

While the behavior of the contracting officers is part of the problem, the culture of passing the buck and dodging responsibility is readily apparent in the following statement from the VA-OIG list of recommendations.  “The OIG also recommended VHA assess whether the existing and planned information systems could have the functionality to allow effective and routine monitoring of contractors’ PIV cards or a new system is needed.”  Designed incompetence will allow the IT failure to be the problem, to finagle more money from Congress for IT infrastructure upgrades and new systems, as the legacy systems were purposefully designed not to accommodate regular, daily, routine activities!VA 3

I refuse to believe the VA has ever designed a system that works, is cost-effective, does its job, and can be useful.  Why; because, having worked at the VA, been a patient at VAMC’s across the country, and reading the VA-OIG reports, the VA has proven their utter incompetence!  If a local hospital allowed this type of failure in their contracting department, heads would roll, and Congress would be demanding investigations to ensure HIPAA was not breached.  Yet, the VA can get away with murder, and Congress cannot even care, let alone issue a mild rebuke or increase scrutinization.

Angry Wet ChickenThus, I call upon every American to share my disgust and demand action!  Stop allowing this detestable behavior, paid for by taxpayers, to thrive.  End the abuse!  Not just for veterans harmed by the VA bureaucracy, but for your hard-earned tax dollars and the disrespect the elected officials display towards you, the boss!  Tell me, if your employees displayed the same behavior witnessed by elected officials and bureaucrats of all stripes, how long would they keep their jobs?  If your boss showed you the same disrespect, how fast would you be looking for new employment and telling everyone not to apply there?  Now, answer this question, “Why do we accept this abuse by government officials and elected representatives?”

© 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.

Weep America! – The VA Leadership is Becoming Worse! – Part 2

Angry Wet ChickenOne of the first rules in overseeing junior people working is to make available someone to answer questions, immediately, and render support if needed.  I have had the pleasure of training junior people in a myriad of tasks over the years.  When I read this Department of Veterans Affairs – Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) report, a plethora of questions arise, and I deeply question the professionalism and competence of the doctor overseeing the work of residents in a VA Hospital who are performing procedures.

  • Ophthalmology Resident Supervision – Important to note, the patient did not experience any long-term loss of sight over this issue. Congratulations to the resident and the other ophthalmology doctors present!  From the VA-OIG report we find the following:

“… The subject ophthalmologist failed to provide adequate resident supervision and entered inaccurate documentation related to supervision for a single patient case.”  Essentially, the doctor charged with overseeing residents was AWOL, and then compounded his error by falsifying patient records.  The VA-OIG report continues by claiming this falsification was the result of an oversight when using pre-recorded notes for patient files.

Draw your own conclusions.  Personally, I think this doctor needs to be released of all duties where overseeing residents is concerned.  I would also question his ethics and morals for falsifying patient records.  You hold a double position of trust, first as a doctor, second as a teacher and leader of residents, and the behavior witnessed should come with steep repercussions professionally!VA 3

Knowledge Check!On the topic of professional duties, and steep repercussions, drug interactions killed a veteran at the Marion VAMC in Illinois.  Before launching into the VA-OIG’s report, please allow me a moment of your attention.  Drug interactions can arise due to vitamin usage, over-the-counter medications, and from illegal and legal but illicit drug use.  Often, I have claimed that people are walking chemistry experiments, and even vaccines need to be carefully evaluated for drug interaction potential.  Foods can cause drug interactions due to the chemicals in the food.  Drug interactions are a growing problem and every medical professional I have spoken to admits drug interactions are becoming worse by the day.  I do not say this lightly, but I do not hold the medical professionals as fully competent in fighting the drug interaction problem due to the amount of chemicals the average person interacts with daily.  The problem is Big-Parma and the continual push towards more specialized medicines, we are going to see more drug interaction issues.  Unfortunately, drug interaction issues come with the risk of death!

From the VA-OIG report we find the following:

The VA-OIG substantiated that high cholesterol contributed to the patient’s death; however, the death certificate indicated that the primary cause of death was accidental acute multi-drug intoxication. The psychiatrist and staff failed to document providing the patient with education during a telephone encounter regarding potential side effects or adverse drug-drug interactions of medication changes. Contrary to clinical guidance, the psychiatrist prescribed long-term benzodiazepine use for a patient diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder. The psychiatrist also failed to address the patient’s two negative urine drug screens for a prescribed medication and failed to address a positive urine drug screen for cannabis. Due to COVID-19, the facility failed to launch the Psychotropic Drug Safety Initiative Phase Four Plan. The primary care provider did not comply with facility policy by failing to enter a return-to-clinic order following an appointment but could not determine if this affected the patient. Primary care and behavioral health staff did not comply with facility policy to telephone the patient or send a letter after the patient missed appointments” [emphasis mine].

The lack of staff to follow procedures and do their job, I will certainly hold them accountable for, especially since Cannabis is involved!  Please do not believe that Cannabis is a non-toxic drug, especially when mixed with other drugs, it can be the fatal trigger in a multi-drug intoxication!VA 3

At 18, low those many years ago, I took the EMT-Basic class, but left for US Army Basic Training before I could certify.  Since then, I have received certification as a combat medic and a Journeyman Firefighter (Any industry) which required a lot of hours studying emergency medicine.  I am experienced in drawing blood, starting IVs in difficult circumstances, and handling a myriad of injuries.  I am not a medical professional by any stretch of the imagination, I simply have a healthy desire to learn, and emergency medicine is a fascinating topic I regularly pursue.  I am not a chemist; I rely upon peer reviewed resources and legal and medical websites to stay current on a host of topics.  With this as my qualifier I am going to make several statements and you can judge their merit.  Feel free to comment.

      1. The first rule of medicine is document everything! My first lesson, first day of EMT training, this point was driven home.  If you do not write it down, it never happened!  Yet, what does the VA-OIG find time after time in reviewing cases at the VHA, lack of documentation of steps taken!  Can you say, “Asinine and abysmal behavior by credentialed professionals?” I know I can!
      2. Aspirin and Alcohol can cause a drug interaction that can be deadly. Both chemicals are readily available in the home and over the counter.  Why is spray paint now requiring proper ID, because people are huffing the stuff and getting a multi-drug intoxication.  Oven cleaner and spray pain can cause serious breathing issues and when mixed together can cause a cheap high, as well as a multi-chemical intoxication leading to breathing paralysis and death!
      3. Cannabis continues to be modified, changed, enhanced, and designed to trigger different chemical reactions in the body. Continuing work that began in earnest in the 1960s for the pot-smokers who wanted a more serious high.  Guess what, cannabis and aspirin along with vitamins can cause multi-drug intoxication problems leading to death!
      4. Vitamin D and Vitamin C have both caused serious drug intoxications during COVID-19. People became frightened and took too many of both or just one and wound up in the ER with life-threatening health problems from toxicity of these vitamins.  India has reported a spike in black mould that has caused serious long-term health problems for diabetics after recovering from COVID.  It is currently presumed that the chemicals used to fight COVID allowed for a natural mould to grow in the body, and that became life-threatening.

The VA-OIG conducted another virtual comprehensive healthcare inspection, and found the same problems continue at another VAMC.  Do you know how tired I am of reading these “comprehensive inspection” results and finding the same problems time after time?  When will the VA actually start enforcing some of these VA-OIG recommendations to effect change?  Better, when will the politicians who are charged with scrutinizing the government tire of seeing the same recommendations and not seeing any change?  Bloody frustrating reading these reports and not seeing improvement!VA 3

Broken RobotFinally, we come to what I was hoping to be a great report, where the politician’s heads were going to explode at the inefficiencies, the detestable behavior, and the horrendous responses to legally mandated IT infrastructure changes, and why those changes are not happening at the VA.  I was not disappointed; I was thoroughly disgusted that his report fell on plastic ears speaking plastic words from wax lips!  Statement of Michael Bowman, Office of Inspector General, Department of Veterans Affairs, Director of IT and Security Audits Division, Before the Subcommittee on Technology Modernization, Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, U.S. House of Representatives, Hearing on Cybersecurity and Risk Management at VA: Addressing Ongoing Challenges and Moving Forward May 20, 2021.  Notice something, the failures at the VA in the IT Department are being called “ongoing challenges.”

Millstone of Designed IncompetenceLet me remind you, FISMA was released on 29 April 2021, and I wrote about the abysmal findings of the VA-OIG.  This report is the accountability statement to the Congressional representatives who should have skewered this bureaucrat and roasted him on a spit with onions and peppers, then served him up for public ridicule after firing him!  For the Director of IT and Security Audits Division to make the following statement is flat out beyond comprehension, “The OIG’s conclusions in the FY 2020 FISMA audit are not new or revelatory—rather, they repeat many of the same concerns with VA’s IT security that the OIG has found for many years.”  What incredible chutzpah to make this comment after that scathing report showed just how deplorable the leadership of the IT and Security Audits Division revealed!  Director Bowman then goes on to downplay the band-aid solutions implemented while decrying the time for improvement is too short and there is not enough money.  Do not forget, “Of the 26 recommendations, 21 have been included in every FISMA audit dating back to at least 2017.”  With at least 15 of these recommendations dating back even further.  Want a full list, as well as how old these recommendations are; you will not find it in the Director’s report to Congress!  Is anybody incensed enough to demand a full accounting of just how old these IT recommendations are?

Detective 4The gall of this director to continue to blame legacy systems that were legislated to have been scrapped between 2000 and 2010 continues to highlight the incompetence of the director in conducting business and holding people accountable for failed projects and overspending of taxpayer monies!  The director went further and stated the following, at which time, every single Congressional Representative should have stood and demanded his head.  The “VA does not properly manage and secure their IT investments.”  Tell me director, why should you remain employed if the VA does not properly manage and secure their IT investments?  Is the failure to manage and secure IT investments the root cause for veterans to continue to suffer identity theft from the VA losing their identity?

The director’s next statement puts his other outrageous comments to sleep.  “Security failures also undermine the trust veterans put in VA to protect their sensitive information and can affect their engagement with programs and services” [emphasis mine].  Talk about such an obvious statement, it’s like the sun coming up on a cloudy day, you just cannot miss that sun rise; you also cannot miss the absurdity of making this statement!  Did some intern write his speech?  You are the director of IT Security and you make this type of comment, did you make this comment with a straight face?  I cannot find the video-record of this Congressional hearing so I can only guess he delivered his lines with a straight face!  Most detestable of all, he continued to make outrageous comments, his plan to move the IT security program at the VA forward is weak, lacking firm deadlines, and continues to allow him and his staff to escape accountability and responsibility.VA 3

Angry Grizzly BearAmerica, with these bureaucrats in charge, why shouldn’t we be weeping and wailing, and gnashing our teeth in frustration?  When will we, the owners of this atrocious government, finally scream ENOUGH and demand a full change of heads at the ballot box?  For until the elected representatives are forced out, the bureaucrats abusing us, will only continue!  The VA is sick, but the problem lies in the bureaucrats, administrators, and directors leading the VA at the Federal and VISN levels.  So many other government agencies are just as sick, or worse, and the same problem arises, the leadership refuses to act, but still expects a big titanium parachute when they leave office!  I say it is time to tell them NO!

© 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.