When is Enough… ENOUGH? – More Chronicles from the VA

QuestionHonest question.  I surpassed my ultimate threshold in waiting for the VA to improve in 2010 and stopped accepting the excuses, the platitudes, and the whiny discourse from the VA.  Elected officials charged with scrutinizing the US Government, when has patience been surpassed, and you will cease allowing this nefarious Kabuki?  The veterans are waiting, the taxpayers are fed up, and you need to make a decision and act.

Consider the following investigation by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) – Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG).  The scenario:

The VA Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) conducted an audit to determine how effectively the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) billed private insurers. [Billing private insurance is a piece of legislation that the VA has haphazardly followed.  The VA remains the first party payer and is authorized under 38 USC 1729 to bill and collect reasonable charges for nonservice-connected care where such veterans have other private health insurance.]  Prior OIG investigations have shown that VHA has missed opportunities to recover funds that could be used to help finance care for other veterans.  VHA’s Office of Community Care (OCC) manages community care programs and bills private insurers when needed.  OCC must submit reimbursement claims before insurers’ deadlines are reached, or they may be denied.”

The legislature passed laws demanding action, and the result was:

      • OCC did not establish an effective process to ensure staff billed veterans’ private health insurers as required
      • OCC did not collect an estimated $217.5 million that should have been recovered, a figure that could grow to $805.2 million by September 30, 2022
      • OCC’s billing and revenue collection process also was not synchronized with insurers’ filing deadlines, and claims information was not always available for billing
      • Pending workload volume and staff shortages hindered effective billing
      • OCC was broadly aware of challenges to its process to bill and collect revenue from private insurers; its responses were insufficient to correct these issues.

Hundreds of millions of dollars are sitting on the table, and the VHA – OCC still cannot properly follow the law.  Worse, they are slower than molasses running uphill in Michigan in January to pay community providers, inventing hoops and red tape nonstop for providers, which increases the cost of healthcare.  This is not the first VA-OIG investigation on this issue in 2022, let alone since 2000; with the same findings, the same recommendations are issued, and nothing improves.  Thus, I have two questions:

  1. When is enough ENOUGH?
  2. How does this reflect the VA Administration’s commitment to the vision of the VA?VA 3

Consider the following; the VA-OIG regularly conducts comprehensive healthcare inspections of VHA facilities.  The findings of these investigations are supposed to spur institutional improvement.  Regularly the VA-OIG places the following comments into the reports of these investigations, hoping nobody will ever read the report and find these facts.

The VA-OIG found deficiencies in identifying sentinel events and conducting institutional disclosures.  Additionally, there were repeat findings from the June 2017 comprehensive healthcare inspection related to inter-facility transfers.”

Imagine a private company being inspected by the government for a moment where previous investigation findings were not improved; what would happen?  An army of lawyers would descend on the customers looking for those harmed/injured, legions of lawyers would pour through employee records looking for injuries and other potential claims, the government would seize assets and halt production, all this and more.  The media would be covering 24/7 news cycles on the slightest allegations of wrongdoing.  Elected officials would be hurrying to write legislation and find a media talking head to bloviate to.

What do we hear where the VA is concerned; not even crickets!  The VA has played complicit roles in veteran deaths, and still not a peep, word, or even crickets.  Remember, these findings occur frequently enough that not finding these remarks is a cause for celebration and is exceedingly rare.  Thus, I have two questions:

  1. When is enough ENOUGH?
  2. How does this reflect the VA Administration’s commitment to the vision of the VA?VA 3

Other oft findings from comprehensive healthcare inspections include the following:

      • Medical center leaders were generally knowledgeable about selected data used in Strategic Analytics for Improvement and Learning models (SAIL Metrics). – What does “generally knowledgeable” indicate? Why have we accepted general knowledge from those who should have specialized, detailed, and comprehensive knowledge and use this knowledge in daily practice?
      • Outpatient satisfaction survey results were generally higher than VHA averages but revealed opportunities to improve specialty care experiences for female veterans. – Please note beating the VHA average is good but nothing to brag about. Beating the VHA averages is akin to claiming to be the biggest pig in a pig wallow.  Sure, you’re big, but you are still covered in mud!
      • Employee satisfaction survey scores for the medical center were lower than VHA averages. – Not a surprising finding in any way, shape, or form. Employee morale is scathingly low, and it shows in every customer interaction!  More comparing pigs by size in a pig wallow, and it’s not like the VA would punish whistleblowers, fire productive people, castigate, denigrate, deride, and treat employees like chattel… Oh, wait, yes, it is!

Interestingly, I receive 3-10 of these monthly investigation reports from the VA-OIG, and too often, they read like someone is cutting/pasting the findings from one report to the next.  Thus the conclusions of these findings occur frequently enough that not finding these remarks is a cause for celebration and is exceedingly rare.  Therefore, I have two questions:

  1. When is enough ENOUGH?
  2. How does this reflect the VA Administration’s commitment to the vision of the VA?VA 3

Let us consider another VA-OIG investigation, which, unfortunately, recurs too frequently where inappropriate conduct is a norm, not an exception.  VA facility leaders’ response to inappropriate relationships.  Regular readers will know how common it is to find inappropriate relationships and sexual misconduct by VA Employees to other employees, underlings, and veterans.  The scenario:

The VA Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) conducted a healthcare inspection to evaluate leaders’ response to the knowledge of inappropriate provider-patient relationships.  The VA-OIG determined that while facility leaders initially addressed three inappropriate relationships between mental health providers (Providers A, B, and C) and mental health patients (Patients A, B, and C), multiple factors affected the effectiveness of those actions.”

Finding the following:

      • The OIG found that effective facility leader actions to investigate and address the inappropriate relationships of Provider A and Provider B occurred only after an Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection complaint.
      • Facility leaders ineffectively addressed Provider C’s inappropriate relationship before Patient C died by overdose.
      • Facility leaders failed to report Providers B and C to their state licensing boards promptly.
      • Failed to report Provider A to the appropriate professional certification board.
      • Facility leaders did not take actions to address the circumstances that contributed to the death of Patient C, who was involved in an inappropriate romantic relationship with Provider C.

Regrettably, the VA-OIG could not determine if an adverse patient event occurred when finding that the inappropriate relationship played a role in a veteran’s suicide by overdose.  I understand investigative scope creep, but this is ridiculous.  You have a dead veteran in an inappropriate relationship with a provider, and you cannot investigate if this was an adverse event.  What type of bureaucratic inertia sponsored this madness?

Some items in this investigative report stand out, beginning with the fact that the facility leaders who refused to take action remain employed by the VA!  Knowing about problems and not taking prompt and decisive action is negligence in performing one’s duties.  Possessing authority and refusing to implement policies and procedures, ensuring compliance by professionals, defies description and should result in VISN leaders losing their jobs!  Unfortunately, these inappropriate relationships are not rare; even if the VA-OIG has not gotten around to investigating the problems, ask the VA employees, and you will find the proof of concept and incredibly high frequencies.  Hence, I have two questions:

  1. When is enough ENOUGH?
  2. How does this reflect the VA Administration’s commitment to the vision of the VA?VA 3

In the annals of government fraud, waste, and abuse, the following VA-OIG investigation must rank in the top 20 somewhere.

The VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) initiated this review to evaluate whether purchases of iPads and iPhones for veterans met mission needs while minimizing waste during fiscal year (FY) 2020 and through the first two quarters of FY 2021.  In July 2020, Connect Care officials purchased 10,000 iPhones with unlimited prepaid data plans for the homeless veterans enrolled in the HUD-VASH program.  However, 8,544 of the 10,000 iPhones remained in storage as of July 2021, as demand for the iPhones was much lower than anticipated.  The OIG found that this resulted in an estimated $1.8 million wasted data plan costs.  The OIG also identified opportunities for improvement regarding data plans for nearly 81,000 iPads purchased.  Because Connected Care did not have strong enough oversight procedures for reducing or eliminating data plan waste, it incurred approximately $571,000 in additional wasted data plan costs.”

When I was offered telehealth, I was responsible for providing the equipment and maintaining an Internet connection.  This was made clear by the VHA Administrators before they signed off on allowing me telehealth and reiterated by my providers when they renewed permission.  How can the VHA and VA leadership and contracting officials imagine this is acceptable?  How many of these devices are still in the hands of veterans?  How many have broken, been pawned, or otherwise not survived?

Again, not casting aspersions, merely asking questions, namely the following:

  1. When is enough ENOUGH?
  2. How does this reflect the VA Administration’s commitment to the vision of the VA?VA 3

I could weep from the frustration felt in reporting another veteran’s death by suicide, receiving care from mental health providers with the VA, and being investigated by the VA-OIG, where the providers are complicit.  The scenario:

The VA Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) conducted a healthcare inspection to evaluate VA-OIG-identified concerns related to the assessment and documentation practices of a behavioral health certified registered nurse practitioner (BHNP) and leaders’ completion of BHNPs’ ongoing professional practice evaluations (OPPEs).

The findings:

      • The BHNP did not perform thorough suicide risk assessments for a patient who died by suicide.
      • Identified multiple deficiencies in a BHNP’s assessment and documentation practices, including the absence of comprehensive suicide risk assessments, failure to complete abnormal involuntary movement and metabolic assessments for patients prescribed particular antipsychotic medication, missing informed consent or a risk-benefit discussion when prescribing off-label medications, failure to resolve rule-out diagnoses, and substantial copy and paste use.
      • Finding adverse clinical outcomes for one of eight patients for whom the BHNP did not document a comprehensive suicide risk assessment, as required by The Joint Commission.
      • Finding the Nurse Manager evaluated BHNPs as satisfactory in the OPPE elements of copy and paste use for the fiscal year 2018 through the first half of the fiscal year 2021 and safety plan completion for high-risk suicide patients for February 2020 through the first half of the fiscal year 2021, without these elements being evaluated.

Is it clear why I am asking about where the limitations of patience are?  The supervisor was directly responsible for leading the BHNPs and failed, and while it is not mentioned, we can presume this person remains employed.  Failed to train staff, failed to supervise staff, refused to do your job.  Yet, you remain employed (probably) and (potentially) were promoted, as this is the regular pattern for VA employees caught but who are politically acceptable or connected.  The supervisor is directly connected to a dead veteran, a family is weeping this holiday season, friends are missing, and all I can do is keep asking the politicians:

  1. When is enough ENOUGH?
  2. How does this reflect the VA Administration’s commitment to the vision of the VA?VA 3

Do you also feel the weight of responsibility; your tax dollars fund this abuse.  Representatives of your government are complicit in adverse patient events, including death, and they refuse to engage, holding government employees accountable and fixing the mess.  Veterans signed a check, telling the government we will perform duties and obligations.  Why aren’t the veterans honored for their sacrifice and respected by elected officials and government employees, especially at the VA?

America WeepsThe VA’s mission statement is “to fulfill President Lincoln’s promise “To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan” by serving and honoring the men and women who are America’s veterans.”  The statement is meant to echo the reverence given to the men and women who serve in the American military with honor.  Reflecting that this body (the Department of Veterans Affairs) is tasked with serving them respectfully, similar to how they served their nation.  One final question is, “Does killing, abusing, and harming veterans equate to honoring the VA mission statement?”

© 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.

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The Culture of Government – More Chronicles of the VA

Bobblehead DollIn the book “Common Sense” Thomas Paine stated:

“Some writers have so confounded society with government as to leave little or no distinction between them, whereas they are not only different but have different origins.  Society is produced by our WANTS, government by our WICKEDNESS; [society] promotes our POSITIVITY by uniting our affections, government promotes NEGATIVITY by restraining our vices.  [Society] encourages intercourse, [government] creates distinctions.  [Society] is a patron; whereas [government] is a punisher.”

Why is this distinction important; only a government could create a punishing culture in the name of providing support.  Only in this role as punisher does a culture of abuse survive, thrive, and plasticize words and actions of hate into support and charity.  Society breeds working together and simplicity and are the natural state of all people.  According to Thomas Paine, the government “Is a necessary EVIL,” breeding contempt, envy, greed, and malice.

As the Department of Veteran Affairs – Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) continues to record and report, I continue to summate these reports.  Calling for all free-thinking people everywhere to understand the core problems and aid in cutting this millstone from the necks of Americans.  Until we can understand the principles which have allowed the government to infiltrate and supplant society, abuses, fraud, and waste will continue.VA 3

Consider the case of Dustin James Ortiz of Des Moines, Iowa, sentenced to 27 months in prison after pleading guilty to wrongfully obtaining and disclosing individually identifiable health information.  Ortiz conspired with a then-employee of the Des Moines VA Medical Center to obtain individually identifiable health information of an individual without authorization required by law and then disclosed the records to a third party, as investigated by the VA-OIG.  To commit fraud, a VA Employee had to cheat and steal data for personal profit.  Has anyone of the government agencies considered the victims; no, because the government breeds a society of liars, cheats, and thieves to empower job security to those who officiate the government.

Had the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) been a societal construct, the victim would not only be compensated, but revelations of fraud and theft would be treated as they are, crimes against all members of society, not merely a criminal complaint against those who choose to take advantage of others for personal gain.  Yet, how often can we express this sentiment and have naysayers claim this is not possible or euphemistic; too often, because populations have been carefully taught and molded into a belief that government is everything but what it is, wickedness, or a necessary evil.VA 3

Consider a VA-OIG investigation into Veterans Benefits Administration education programs where personal data is not secure, not legally protected, and this is designed as a standard business practice.  Imagine being placed by legislators in charge of safeguarding taxpayers/veterans/customers’ private data and shirking this primary duty for personal gain and political profit.  Is this not the ultimate definition of wickedness and evil?  From the VA-OIG investigation, we find the following:

The lack of standard procedures and oversight has resulted in personally identifiable information not being consistently safeguarded as required.  The OIG did not assess whether any information had been inappropriately disclosed but requested that VBA provide follow-up information.  VBA agreed to review, research, and evaluate the OIG findings and take corrective action as needed.”

How long will the leaders of the VBA and the VA provide cover and refuse “to review, research, and evaluate the OIG findings and take corrective action as needed.”  History has proved that the VBA and the VA are masters of evading discovery, reporting problems, and fixing issues they are legally bound to follow.  Why have they become masters at obfuscation; because the legislature (the US House and Senate) refuses to hold people accountable for their wickedness and evil.  Lacking accountability and having people responsible allows for more examples of dastardly behavior in the name of the government.VA 3

For example, clear contractual guidelines govern how, when, and what can be purchased or contracted.  An entire industry revolves solely around procuring items for government agencies, auditing those transactions and products, tracking the products and services, and more.  Yet, what is regularly found in this labyrinth of legislated procurement processes?  More fraud, waste, abuse, and nefarious creatures bent on breaking the rules.  One of the more egregious examples was the VA-OIG inspection of the VA Boston Healthcare System.  What was found:

      • From the healthcare system’s 421 open obligations, the team selected 20 totaling $20.6 million and found half were at least 90 days past their end date, most without being reviewed to see if they were still valid and necessary. Two had residual funds totaling approximately $4,439 that should have been released from obligation and used elsewhere to support veterans.
      • Of 36 purchase card transactions totaling $441,000, the team found 28 lacked evidence to show they were properly approved and that payments were accurate, and 25 were processed by cardholders and approving officials whose duties were not segregated as required. The team also identified ten purchases that should have been procured through contracting but were intentionally split into multiple transactions to stay below the cardholder’s single purchase limit.
      • The team found inaccurate entries in the inventory system that caused it to show insufficient amounts of stock on hand in more than 70 percent of tested cases. The inaccuracies result in inefficient purchasing and receiving and could adversely affect patient care.

In a society, we would not need the VA-OIG to investigate wrongdoing, a simple audit would be conducted, assistance in correcting errors made, and the victims recompensed properly.  More to the point, the expensive regulatory bureaus would also not be needed to validate proper action was taken by officials charged with conducting business in the taxpayer’s name.VA 3

It is not a secret that the VA cannot follow its aborted processes where fiscal sanity and fiduciary responsibility are concerned.  Imagine being investigated for failures and telling the investigating authorities the following:

      • Unclear policies and systems
      • Ineffective oversight of the closeout process
      • Contracting officers also informed the team that a heavy workload and the prioritization of awarding contracts affected their ability to comply with contract administration requirements.

What never ceases to blow my mind is that only government workers can use these lame excuses and remain employed.  Employed on taxpayer funds, supported by governing authorities, paid on taxpayer funds, and never overseen by any political party or the constitutionally bound House or Senate.  Honest question if you raised these points with your boss, would you keep your job?

I don’t like it, but I understand the need for the VA-OIG to raise recommendations for improvement in VA Hospitals, Clinics, and other offices.  Continuous improvement is a process, and the process requires a long view and steady effort.  However, if the same points arise inspection after inspection and the inspectors cannot see change occurring, then continuous improvement is not the term to describe what is transpiring at these facilities.VA 3

The investigative reports come in month after month, the same issues are raised year-over-year, glaring deficiencies are mentioned, recommendations are put forward, and the local site agrees to review, fix, and improve.  Nothing ever improves—the exact opposite of continuous improvement.  The question is, why does nothing ever improve?  The answer, unfortunately, comes back to the difference between society and government, specifically how a government is wickedness personified.

Is calling a government agency wickedness personified harsh or cruel; no!  Allow me to explain using a VA-OIG investigation:

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

In the full report, the victim claims she testified because she did not want this to happen again.  Meaning that this VA Employee had been accused previously, or as hospitals always do, gossipmongers had related previous episodes.  Regardless, for this Chief of Cardiology to feel comfortable abusing another person while at work, there is an issue with sexual harassment and abuse of employees at the VA.  This incident with the cardiologist is not the only incident of VA employee sexual harassment in 2022, and the failure of the VA to clean house and correct behaviors anathema to good social order has reached a tipping point.  No society or government can long survive with these inhumane actions, so why is the VA allowing these issues to culminate until it can no longer pretend not to see or know about them?VA 3

Society focuses on the victims of crimes; government justifies the abuse of the victim under the name of criminal rights.  What happens when the offense is so enormous that statistics represent the victims?  The VA-OIG investigated two VA leaders from the Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center in Spokane, Washington, where a previous investigation had discovered wrongdoing.  These leaders had promised swift review and corrective actions.  What did the second investigation find:

The investigation revealed the leaders’ lack of diligence resulted in delays and misinformation being submitted, which impeded oversight efforts.  Failures included:

(1) Submitting a training evaluation plan without disclosing to the OIG that it was in its “infancy” and had not been fully implemented or even approved.

(2) Delaying production of requested proficiency check datasets that should have been available under the submitted evaluation plan.

(3) Providing three summary statistics with errors that doubled the training proficiency test pass rate from initial findings of 44 to 89 percent without the requested methodology.

(4) Overlooking red flags indicating that all failing scores had been removed from reported rates (with the total number of proficiency tests dropping by more than 3,000 in submitted recalculations).

(5) Failing to disclose concerns regarding data reliability and that data were excluded.”

Summing these findings in more straightforward language.  The leaders lied and misled investigators, but since the bar for “intentionality” is so high, they were allowed not to have personal responsibility and retained their jobs.  How is this an extreme example of wickedness; could you mislead the police or other investigative bodies and avoid jail?  Could you lie, get your employer’s reputation tarnished, keep your job and pension, and stay out of jail?VA 3

Maybe the following is a better example of how coordinated and detestable wicked government is:

The VA-OIG announced “criminal charges against 36 defendants in 13 federal districts across the United States for more than $1.2 billion in alleged fraudulent telemedicine, cardiovascular and cancer genetic testing, and durable medical equipment (DME) schemes.  The alleged schemes involved the payment of illegal kickbacks and bribes by laboratory owners and operators in exchange for the referral of patients by medical professionals working with fraudulent telemedicine and digital medical technology companies.  The charges include some of the first prosecutions in the nation related to fraudulent cardiovascular genetic testing, a burgeoning scheme.  One case involved the operator of several clinical laboratories, who was charged with a scheme to pay over $16 million in kickbacks to marketers who, in turn, paid kickbacks to telemedicine companies and call centers in exchange for doctors’ orders.  As alleged in court documents, the defendant and others used orders for cardiovascular and cancer genetic testing to submit over $174 million in false and fraudulent claims to Medicare—but the testing results were not used in treating patients” [Emphasis mine].

Dont Tread On MeDo you want to see how corrupt the government is, specifically how abusive the VA is?  Feel free to check out the following link, sign up for the email delivery, and become informed; then, you can make your own decision.  Thomas Paine discusses how the citizenry builds the government by which they suffer.  Have we suffered the slings and arrows from this government sufficiently to throw off the security blanket of government and hold the people punishing us accountable for their crimes against society?  The laws of America are sufficient to correct course, provided the citizens are willing to reduce the size, and therefore the abuse, of government and return to a more societal and civilized method of living.

© 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.

Scrutinize the Executive Branch – The Charge for the Legislative Branch: Part 1

In what has become typical and usual, the following stories arrive:

From 2019 to 2021, Ira Westbrook of Bozeman, Montana, served as the fiduciary of an elderly relative who had suffered a stroke and became disabled.  A multi-agency investigation found that, during these 16 months, Westbrook stole more than $57,000 in Social Security and VA benefits and used the stolen funds to purchase personal items, including a Jeep Wrangler, a travel trailer, and other day-to-day expenses.”

From 2016 until 2018, Sloane Signal-Debose of Slidell, Louisiana, served as the fiduciary of a veteran who needed assistance managing his finances.  During that time, she took more than $100,000 from the veteran’s accounts, used it as the down payment on a home in her name, and used additional funds from the veteran to pay contractors working on the home.  Signal-Debose then submitted false records to VA to hide her misuse of the veteran’s funds.  The former fiduciary pleaded guilty to misappropriating funds and faces up to five years in federal prison.  The VA OIG conducted this investigation.

In 2013, Brandi Goldman of Jonesboro, Arkansas, was married to a US Army reservist who suffered a severe traumatic brain injury in a service-connected accident.  As a result of this injury, her husband had many serious physical challenges, and Goldman was appointed as his guardian and fiduciary.  Between April 2015 and November 2017, Goldman received more than $258,600 in VA disability payments and $36,000 in Social Security payments.  During that timeframe, she withdrew close to $200,000 in cash and accrued about $900 in ATM and overdraft fees.  Goldman admitted to spending much cash to fund her methamphetamine habit, spending $150 on methamphetamine two to three times per week.  She also admitted that five other people moved into the residence with her and her husband, none of whom paid rent or contributed to expenses, some of whom she regularly gave cash to.  She also admitted to paying $68,000 in cash for another home, furnishings for the home, multiple vehicles, and a motor home.  Goldman was sentenced to 20 months in prison, three years of supervised release, and $143,000 in restitution after previously pleading guilty to misappropriation by a fiduciary.  The VA OIG and Social Security Administration OIG conducted the investigation.”

Why are these stories of particular interest to the supreme legislative body in the United States of America?  The executive branch has refused to police its branch of government, and crimes like this have become all too familiar.  You, the Congressional bodies of these the United States, are duty-bound and sworn to perform two jobs, scrutinize the executive branch (harshly when necessary), and write laws.  You have recently failed too often in monitoring the executive branch, and this story perfectly represents what happens when the executive branch is not examined minutely!  Tell the US Public who put you in elected office, how these crimes continue and what programs and processes they MUST change to prevent them in the future.

By pleading for the legislative branch to scrutinize and audit the executive branch minutely, I am in no way condoning or diminishing the personal accountability of those who committed crimes.  These three examples are from the October and November press releases of 2022.  The widespread ability to commit fraud is a symptom of a more significant problem at the VA.  Their leaders have consistently been able to boondoggle, evade, and profit from abusing veterans through designed incompetence, criminal neglect, and obtuse actions.  When will Congressional leaders take action to clean up the Federal Government in general and the VA specifically?

The US House of Representatives holds the purse strings for the executive branch; use this leverage to claw back your powers and authority to balance the Federal Government and demand accountability from those empowered to lead their designated branches of the executive branch of government.  Let’s talk about patterns; in less than 45 days, three cases of fiduciary fraud were closed, and the speed of closing these cases has escalated throughout 2022.  The American people will see more, not less, of these fraudsters being underreported by the US Media before the year ends.

Shifting slightly, let’s talk about government employees and the need for more scrutiny of the executive branch.

Bruce Minor, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was sentenced to two years in prison, three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay $462,256 in restitution for his scheme to embezzle money from the Philadelphia VA Medical Center.  Between December 2015 and September 2019, Minor, a former travel clerk, created fraudulent travel reimbursement claims in the names of at least three other VA medical center employees.  He then diverted the funds into bank accounts he controlled.  The VA OIG investigated this case.”

Kyhati Undavia, of Houston, Texas, was sentenced to 27 months in federal prison after previously pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud.  From December 2012 to December 2018, Undavia hired employees to market Memorial Pharmacy, which she controlled and operated, to physicians as a place to submit compounded drug prescriptions.  Instead of providing prescriptions directly to the patients who could select a pharmacy of their choice, physicians sent the prescriptions directly to Memorial Pharmacy.  Then, Undavia paid the physicians illegal kickbacks for the prescriptions.  Beneficiaries often received medicated creams that they did not need or want.  Undavia received approximately $22 million from TRICARE, Department of Labor Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs, and CHAMPVA for the prescriptions.”

These stories also fall into the same timeframe mentioned above.  But, they are not the only stories from 2022 where VA employees conducted long-term fraud for personal profit.  Here’s the rub: hundreds of additional employees knew of these schemes, were probably running their schemes, and haven’t been caught, and nothing is being done by VA leadership to cease the fraud and abuse of veterans by VA employees.  There is a culture of corruption at the VA, long hidden by scheming and abusive leaders and condoned by previous Congresses, that must be stopped!  What will you, the congressional leaders of the United States, do to halt this insanity, demand personal accountability, and clean house of the designed incompetence that allows these criminal activities to flourish?  The American People are waiting!

The following site holds press releases for the VA specifically, but investigations often cross into Social Security, the Department of Defense, state investigatory bodies, the FBI, and more.  Suppose nothing else is learned from only perusing this site, that more scrutiny needs to be done to every single department of the executive branch.  In that case, we, the American People, might count ourselves lucky.  However, this is not the case.  The rot from poor leadership, criminal mismanagement, and supreme dereliction of duty is etched deeply into the workings of the executive branch operations, and more needs additional discussion.

03 November 2022, the VA-OIG released a report titled, “VHA Progressed in the Follow-Up of Canceled Appointments during the Pandemic but Could Use Additional Oversight Metrics.”  The report only covers the time from 2020 to the present, and regular readers know that the VA has been failing on every measurable metric for over a decade.  To couch in politically correct non-threatening jargon, how designed incompetence continues to hamper and hinder is not surprising.  That the current Congress has bought the excuses hook, line, and sinker, from the inept VA leadership, was not surprising either.  This article is about the future, and the next Congress MUST take immediate and direct action to root cause and improve VA performance!

31 October 2022, the VA-OIG released the following: “Review of VA’s Staffing and Vacancy Reporting under the MISSION Act of 2018.”  This is a report about how the VA continues failing to report improvements in hiring practices to the legislative branch.  The report details VA leadership’s continued failures through designed incompetence.  Tell me, if you were in charge of a report for your business that is essential to receiving funding, would you keep your job if, from 2018 to the present, you still cannot report what is happening and why and be held personally accountable for a report to a legislative body?  Don’t take my word for it; read the report, and be careful of the temperature of your blood boiling!

Unfortunately, this behavior is the normal operating procedure for the VA.  The same can be easily and quickly witnessed in every other Federal Department of the US Government under the executive branch.  As the legislative branch, you are duty-bound to investigate and demand compliance in a timely manner.  Where have you been; more importantly, will you allow these problems to continue or kill them?

Do you doubt designed incompetence is a standard operating procedure?  Let’s discuss another part of the MISSION Act of 2018 that the VA-OIG recently reported on, “Additional Actions Needed to Fully Implement and Assess Impact of the Patient Referral Coordination Initiative,” dated 27 October 2022.  The Referral Coordination Initiative (RCI) is a program to improve timely access to care using community providers.  RCI sounds good in theory, but as usual, in the practical application, the program is full of self-serving charlatans, unsupervised or poorly supervised people, weak policies and procedures, and zero accountability!  Plus, when the veteran runs into problems with local providers, reporting these problems is so time-consuming as to be ineffectual at best!

A personal example that was reported to the VA when it happened, and nothing was done but to issue the provider a check.  Dr. Herekar, Neurologist, clinic: Advanced Neurology Epilepsy & Sleep Center, El Paso, Texas.  A VA Primary Care Provider wrote to my employer on VA Letterhead with a wet signature, declaring my inability to wear a mask.  Dr. Herekar’s office was presented with this letter and hassled me before both appointments for not wearing a mask, becoming hostile, argumentative, and a nuisance over the mask issue, even after I complied with putting on a face shield.  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.  Imagine that; Facebook Messenger became the medium of choice for ending a patient’s relationship with a medical provider.  What did the VA tell me to do; file endless paperwork with TRICARE and then disregard the problem’s urgency.  Worse, the medical care for the neurological issues decreased, and I have had to wait, sit, and hope for future consideration and possible treatment.  Does this sound like an aberration; it is, unfortunately not!

The VA Leadership realized if community care succeeds, they lose power to control the destiny of veterans.  Thus, they implemented the MISSION Act of 2018 with such feet dragging, designing incompetence into every facet of the program, to promote more complaints to Congress, and hopefully to squash the MISSION Act of 2018 and end community care.  07 November 2022, while waiting to speak to representatives of Community Care Services at the VA Out Patient Clinic in EL Paso, the veteran being served ahead of me was told, “The provider does not fax documents, so you will need to go to the provider, and then walk the paperwork back to us.”

The normalcy of reporting providers not submitting paperwork was beyond the pale.  Not having secure document transfer processes between the VA and local providers is technically abysmal and unacceptable.  Are we in the 1990s, where the cream of technology is sending and receiving a fax?  The designed incompetence includes Luddite-like technical disciplines, and the VA_OIG and the Congress should be furious; I know I am!

Before the MISSION Act of 2018, I was making 5 and 6 trips to local providers to retrieve hard copies of medical records, going to the VA Records office, submitting the documents, and then following up 7-14 days later to find out I had to repeat this process as my VA Providers still had not received the records of my interactions with community providers.  Interestingly, in 2020 I discovered the treatment records still had not been submitted from community providers into my VA eHealth Record, from treatment received from 2012-2016.  Is the pattern of designed incompetence clearer?  Is the VA Leadeship’s intransigence more apparent?  How about the fraud, waste, and abuse of VA resources?

You, the congressional leaders, must take immediate action, not wait, not hold hearings, concrete action to demand compliance from the executive branch leaders to the congressional leaders who are held accountable to the citizens.  America is a representative republic, and it is time the bureaucrats learned the citizens are awake and interested.  You, the congressional leaders, are the people’s tool for correcting government abuses; you have two years to show you are dedicated to that principle, or you will be replaced!

© 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 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 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.

Ineffective Governance – Chronicling the VA

I-CareIn a scheme fit to fully infuriate patients and pad wallets, the VA providers prescribe medications; generally, the medication provided is a cheap knock-off, a generic mixture, or drugs with rebate incentives where the hospital providers are “encouraged” to use one drug more than another and the “higher cost” is rebated back the hospital in a profit-sharing scheme.  All these schemes and more play out at your local hospital and VA facilities, so please do not think this is industry-specific to the government.  However, as proved by the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) – Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) reports, t improper controls and governance wastes the rebates, harms patients, and still cannot get the programs correct.

Angry Wet ChickenI have three prescriptions hindered by the pharmacy practices of the VA, where the knock-off drug is useless, the mixture of the medication does not do as well as the original medicines prescribed, and where the cost of an ingredient has changed one medication to another and made the prescription less effective to the point where more medication is required for less overall effectiveness.  If the patient has to take more medication, does that mean that the cost savings never happened or that the cost savings were pushed down to the customer?  Does the patient even have a voice in the pharmaceutical decisions?  Why?

We begin the VA-OIG reports with a New Jersey man, who from 2017 thru 2020 stole more than $8.2 million in HIV medication from the VA.  Where were the supervisors when procurement officers for the VA over-ordered medication, stole the excess, sold the stolen goods, and pocketed the profits?  Where were the oversight accountants?  Where were the hospital directors?  People had to know, yet somehow the scheme could exist and thrive; this is as much a failure of leadership as it is ineffective governance, poor inventory control, and useless organizational controls.  Truly a pathetic example of VA leadership!VA 3

On the topic of ineffective governance of pharmaceutical contracts, and diversions of drugs, the VA-OIG report the following:

The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) spent about $6.6 billion on prescription drugs in fiscal year (FY) 2019. Most were dispensed to veterans by medical facility pharmacies. VHA pharmacies can return drugs that become damaged or expire before use through a reverse distributor for credit or destruction. In FY 2019, VHA expected to receive about $52 million from drug returns.  The VA-OIG found VHA pharmacy chiefs did not effectively implement the program and did not follow requirements in VA’s contract with the reverse distributor, Pharma Logistics. These issues increased the risk of drug diversion and ultimately put about $18.1 million at risk. Pharmacy chiefs did not always secure, and track drugs held for return or complete required analyses to maximize returns. They also failed to meet contract requirements to return for credit-only drugs due to expire within 120 days. VA’s National Contract Service and network contracting officers needed to do more to ensure contract terms were met. The Office of the Deputy Under Secretary for Health for Policy and Services and the Office of the Deputy Under Secretary for Health for Operations and Management did not effectively govern the program or communicate requirements to medical facilities” [emphasis mine].

VA 3Someone help me out, for I cannot understand how incompetence can be designed into these systems, policies, procedures, and responsible parties retain their positions of power.  What happened in 2018, 2017, 2016, and earlier?  We have a single fiscal year (FY) snapshot at a program that is an absolute failure.  By any measurable standard, that should have ignited a full audit of previous years until finding a successful year when the program worked.  Will there be a follow-up to this investigation to see if the VA-OIG’s recommendations are followed and implemented?  The VA-OIG has the leadership caught dead to rights on ineffective governance of a program worth $6.6 Billion to the American Taxpayer, and no accountability or responsibility of personnel is to be found anywhere.  Why?

Plato 2In a separate investigation, the VA-OIG found:

In October 2020, VA ended its contract with Pharma Logistics.  The vendor continues to process and issue final invoices to facilities as the returned drugs become eligible for and receive manufacturer credit. The final invoice process will continue until at least April 2022.  VHA medical facility pharmacies lost at least an estimated $2.1 million worth of drug return credits because pharmacy chiefs did not always effectively monitor or review job settlement statements before Pharma Logistics issued final invoices.  In addition, although the vendor established a dashboard that provided information on the status of drug return credits at the facility level, it cannot provide a national report on all outstanding credits.  This hurt VHA’s ability to maximize potential drug return credits and minimize the risk of lost credits.  VHA will continue to be unable to ensure it is receiving all credits for drugs returned by medical facilities if pharmacy chiefs do not routinely monitor preliminary invoices, reconcile job settlement statements to identify outstanding credits, and request extensions to final invoices to allow additional time for credit processing. This risk will persist for any future drug return contract(s)—whether awarded nationally or locally—if the reimbursement structure remains the same” [emphasis mine].VA 3

Did you catch that; the vendor created software to help track medications, making it easier to return medicines, and the VA pharmacy chiefs could not follow the dashboard and increased the risk of losing money for the VHA.  You were hired to perform a job; a collateral duty of your job is inventory management, tools are provided and supported to aid you in making decisions, and you refuse to use these tools.  How is this the vendor’s fault?  Why do you still retain your position?  Ineffective governance is barely the tip of the VA’s problematic iceberg created the good ship America has hit!

Liars, Thieves, and Fraud Artists Beware

GavelA Norwood, Massachusetts woman has been indicted, remains presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, by a jury of her peers, for stealing social security and workman’s compensation benefits.  The Norwood woman’s actions are continuing to support the claim that complexity breeds criminal abuse.  Unfortunately, also proving that the government is not doing their jobs in checking tax records before providing benefits.

A man from Georgia has pled guilty to running a Ponzi scheme and defraud the American government during the COVID pandemic.  Frankly, I am thrilled to see another fraudster being stopped before his crimes become astronomical in scale.  I remain convinced that the government procurement system is wide open to abuse, and the complexity of the procurement system is too costly, cumbersome, and risk inviting.  The criminals see too much opportunity in the government procurement system, and the complexity breeds the ability to lie, steal, cheat the American taxpayer.

QuestionThe following remains a case where there are too many lawyers and not enough truth to ascertain what in the world is going on.  If you have further insight, please weigh in.  “Sunrhys LLC, a landlord and property management company, headquartered in Tacoma, Washington, agreed to pay $16,618 to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act by overcharging a tenant and by fraudulently obtaining federal funds from a federal program designed to provide housing to homeless Veterans. The United States alleged that Sunrhys violated the agreement and the HUD-VA Support Housing program requirements by fraudulently overcharging a veteran for monthly rent between July 2019 and April 2020.”

Highlights, Audits, and Inspections

July 2021 – Highlights:

Each month, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) publishes highlights of our investigative work, congressional testimony, and oversight reports. Each month’s highlights are meant to provide a brief overview of the most significant OIG work conducted in that period.”

blue-money-burningThe VA-OIG conducted a financial efficiency review of the Miami VAHCS.  From the findings, the VHA, VBA, National Cemeteries, specifically, and the VA generally, could learn much about fiscal responsibility.  But this was already well documented!  The VA has never successfully passed an audit with transparency, accountability, and responsibility; why am I the only person demanding to know why?  Want to laugh; the VA-OIG recommends “more scrutiny” for financial transactions to the VA as a recommendation.  Like the current system for scrutiny is working, and just a bit more effort will help.  Go ahead and read the report for more specifics; my stomach cannot handle writing about the gross inefficiencies, the actual harm, and out-of-control governance failures.  Fiscal insanity is one thing; what is occurring at the Miami VAHCS is beyond insane and bordering on the unbelievable!  Almost the beginning of the Twilight Zone.

Survived the VAThe Sheridan VAMC in Wyoming continues to be performing well and deserves hearty congratulations for the results of their latest comprehensive healthcare inspection.  I prefer to issue congratulations than butt-kickings, and the congratulations are well deserved.  Keep up the good work moving forward.

© 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.

Gasoline Taxes – The Epitome of Forced Taxation and Government’s Broken Promises

Exclamation MarkI do not care that Alaska has not increased its gasoline taxes in 50-years.  Frankly, the fact that the Federal Government has gone 27.4 years without increasing the Federal Fuel Taxes is not a problem.  Nor that the Federal Government has to either get the current taxes renewed, or the Federal Gas Tax goes to $0.042 a gallon is not a tragedy, but a good thing.  Gas taxes are not the problem; the problem is that the fuel taxes, excise taxes, surcharges, and fees built into a gallon of gas that equals more than $1.00 per gallon, are never prioritized to the infrastructure projects the tax was collected initially to pay for!

IronyI find the following ironic; the Federal Gasoline Excise Tax is actually two taxes combined.  $0.01 per gallon is paid as the Leaking Underground Storage Tank (LUST) fee.  Why is this ironic; because the government LUSTs after all types of money to misappropriate.  Before creating acronyms, one would think that the government would consider how much of a joke those acronyms will make.  One of the seven deadly sins that are constantly causing scandals for politicians, LUST!  Yes, I find this tax acronym very ironic and applicable to the discussion on why the roads and other infrastructure is rated as a C- and falling.  I find LUST very appropriate to the discussion on the misappropriation of funds and how the government wants to increase taxes to pay for something already well funded but where the money is consistently diverted.

QuestionPlease note that each state will have additional taxes, fees, surcharges, and tax projects built into the cost of a gallon of gas or diesel, aviation, or propane.  Fuel taxes are a tax scheme that seems to always pay for anything but roads, bridges, and infrastructure.  Some basic facts regarding gas taxes:

      1. The average state gas tax is $0.3006 per gallon of gas.
      2. The Federal Government gets $0.184 per gallon of gas.
      3. States have added other fees to a gallon of gas, including:
          • Environmental
          • Underground storage (payable even if the tanks are above ground)
          • Inspection fees
          • Certification and other weights and measurement fees
      4. If your state taxes Ethanol, your gas taxes include the Ethanol tax, as well as a fuel tax.
      5. All fuels are hit with taxes, and some of those taxes are disproportionately assigned to heavier vehicles. For example, diesel has a different formula for taxes due to the trucking industry using roads and bridges more; at least, this is the excuse used to tax diesel differently.

Gas Tax Revenue – Poor Roads and Infrastructure

Since I was a kid in Maine, who closely observed the gas tax debate, I have wondered the same question.  “Why are the roads so poor if the government is collecting all these taxes on gasoline?”  Now, keep in mind the words of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. “Taxes are the price of civilization.”  Meaning that to “enjoy” the pleasure of a free society, the government will levy taxes.  But, the money collected does not have to go for what the tax was intended to pay.  Hence the broken promises of gasoline taxes.

Plato 2Fuel taxes are used for a myriad of uses, and the priority is all confused about how to spend fuel taxes:

        1. Schools
        2. Pay down the National Debt
        3. Mass Transit
        4. Cleaning up underground fuel leaks
        5. Law Enforcement
        6. Environmental Protection
        7. Pension Shortfalls
        8. State Debts
        9. Federal Highway Trust Fund Deficits of all types
        10. Enforcement Costs, including weights and measurement certification
        11. Roads
        12. Bridges

Now, do not forget the other obstacle in fixing roads and bridges, the labor costs, especially if the workers are unionized.  The government bidding processes for projects, especially in all forms of construction, are obscenely complicated, which increases costs long before a shovel hits the dirt.  If unions are involved, the time for the project and expenses will, at a minimum, double before the project completes, creating deficit spending.  I am not cynical here; I have witnessed this occur too often not to admit the truth.

Working DollarChris LeDoux sings a song, “Working Man’s Dollar,” which tells the story and details the difference between a working man’s dollar and the dollar in other places.  The fuel tax was first adopted in Oregon, and the proceeds were earmarked only for fixing, maintaining, and building roads, bridges, and other travel infrastructures, like tunnels.  Except, the money never is prioritized to the failing roads, bridges, and infrastructure costs.  The working man’s dollar, collected through forced taxation, is not respected by the government authorized through the ballot box to allocate spending.

I was in Maricopa County when a stadium was pitched to the residents to be located in Scottsdale.  A gas tax hike was proposed as part of an overall tax plan to pay for the stadium.  I asked, “If the stadium was worth the investment, why not just sell bonds?”  I never got an answer.  Not every citizen was interested in the stadium, not all citizens were going to benefit from the stadium, but every citizen was being asked to help pay for a stadium.  The stadium in that election failed, but the ideas did not die; a new location was proposed, and the voters there accepted the stadium’s tax hikes.  Want a surprising non-surprise, the stadium is built, but the taxes have never gone away, including property, sales, and fuel taxes!  Where is that money going?

Bait & SwitchNow, the Federal Government has a bunch of fuel taxes and surcharges (taxes called a fee) about to expire.  The question every voter in America needs to ask themselves is this, “Did the government properly use the funds dedicated to infrastructure?”  If so, then the fuel taxes should continue at the Federal level.  If not, then the fuel taxes should cease, for the government refuses to spend money according to the purpose it was collected.  Every single state in the union should be asking the same question and answering accordingly.

I lived in Albuquerque, NM., for several years.  To get potholes fixed, you had to ruin your car in an accident involving the street, then sue the city, county, state, whatever for the insurance costs.  Only then was that particular patch of road deemed important enough to repair.  There are bone-jarring, teeth-rattling, car-destroying potholes all over Albuquerque.  These never get fixed because the city has been too busy dumping tax money into a rapid transit project that is barely used, overly expensive, and desperately not desired by the taxpaying citizens.  They had “ART” (Albuquerque Rapid Transit) crammed down their throats by a judge.  ART has been a disgrace from Day 1.  Yet, money keeps pouring into ART instead of the many roads, bridges, overpasses, and other infrastructure that desperately needs repair.  A friend of mine hit a pothole, doing 35mph, dented his rim almost 2”, ruined his front alignment, and cost him a considerable sum.  That pothole is still there, still causing dents, still eating tires, and the city cannot fix it, the state will not fix it, the county was supposed to fix it, the Indian reservation owns it, and the federal government makes the pothole worse every day by traffic of federal employees going to work.

Tax BurdenHence the reason why fuel taxes are considered a tax scheme!  If you pass the buck enough, nothing gets done, and the money collected can be used in other projects while responsibility is determined.  Except, there is no money to fix the problem when the responsibility is determined, and the wheel just keeps spinning around.  Are you sick and tired of the games politicians play, yet?  Now, imagine your electric bill going up to pay for the fuel taxes not paid for by electric car owners, and tell me about proper government action and accountability.  My friend could not sue because responsibility cannot be determined; his insurance would not pay for the damages because the road damaged his vehicle; guess who was out almost $10,000.

Tax Scheme 2Some states are changing how the gasoline and other fuel taxes, including electricity due to the rise in electric vehicles on the road, are being priced and collected.  However, the problem is not the tax; it’s the fact that the tax never pays for what it was intended to when collected.  Some states got an increase in fuel taxes through their state legislatures this year.  Other states and the Federal Government are taking fuel taxes up in the coming months or the next legislating session.  But, not a single politician, anywhere in America, has stepped up to state the obvious, the current taxes collected are sufficient to pay for roads and bridges; we have to allocate more of the current money collected to roads and bridges.

Broken Promises – Broken Roads and Bridges

Question 3Is the problem apparent?  How many of your state taxes, lotteries, and other fees are supposed to pay for education?  Yet, education always seems never to have enough money.  How many taxes and fees go into the Department of Motor Vehicles and Department of Transportation, all of which are supposed to pay for infrastructure, e.g., roads, tunnels, bridges, overpasses, highways, etc.?  How much is the pension crisis costing your state, driving taxes and fees upwards, but the money never is delivered to pay down and lessen the pension crisis?

I repeat, only for emphasis, “America does NOT have a cash collection problem; it has a spending problem.”  At all levels of government, the elected officials are acting worse than drunken sailors on a seven-day binge, and this behavior needs to cease!  We cannot spend our way out of the hole dug through deficit spending!  The answer is not allowing the government to steal more money from our pockets, but to demand the money taken is used for the purposes intended!

Tax SchemeWe must tie political decisions to misappropriate funds to the legislators and executives making the decisions.  Thus, holding accountable the people who are being poor managers of the people’s money.  More importantly, when re-election decisions are made, the media, the influencers, and the political parties need to report this information.  Being able to hide funding shenanigans and criminal activities should never occur; businesses cannot do this, the government should not be able to do this.  Audits, investigations, and transparency are critical to putting the right people out of office and into prison, and keeping the honest and faithful stewards in office and working.

Knowledge Check!The size of government must shrink to an affordable level, from the city to the Federal; every government body in America, including those non-Government agencies acting like government agencies (USPS), need to be forced onto a diet of less money!  There is no excuse for the government to be the size it has become.  There is no excuse why we, the owners of the government, cannot demand government shrink, become efficient, and keep the promises made regarding money collected, used appropriately, and ended at the time promised.

Angry Wet ChickenAs sure as carts to horses and ducks to water, a Federal tax, fee, or surcharge, will be found shortly on your electric bill to cover the costs of electric vehicles on the roads.  When the Federal government does this, the state, county, and city will jump in with both feet, claiming “fairness” and “equality” so everyone is “paying their fair share” of the costs for infrastructure.  It doesn’t matter that you do not own an electric vehicle; the government will help you finance one through increased taxes and misappropriated fees collected.  Just like the “Obama Phone” scheme being abused by many people and paid for by a small minority.  Broken promises indeed!

© 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.