Let’s take a quick look at some other VA stuff. In this category, we have an audit of the VA’s “wait lists” of neglected and abandoned vets, a guy who’s Not Dead Yet, a key insight into why the Department does so much better by the payroll patriots in its ranks than the vets it ostensibly helps, the curious fact that all VA managers are from Lake Wobegon, and a bitter contrast of the health care provided to criminal aliens to that not provided to honorably discharged vets.
The Wait List Audit
The DVA has posted the results of the VA’s Wait List Audit. And it’s ugly. Many news sources have excerpted or paraphrased it, and we’ll do those for you in a moment, but if you’re interested in this, Read The Whole Thing™.
The audit was supposed to be a multiphase evolution, but the findings of Phase I were so egregious that Phase II data collection was aborted. In Phase I data collection, almost 4,000 employees were interviewed. Union representatives were allowed to sit in; the worker or the union rep could pull the plug at any time (indeed, they could opt out of being interviewed at all, and they were not interviewed under oath or recorded). The questionnaires that were completed contained no identifying information; this interview design suggests that the real, if unstated, primary goal of the audit was to protect the agency and the employees and forestall an external, prosecutorial investigation.
The report implies that employee punch-out occurred often enough for the 1-hour interviews to average only 45 minutes.
Data manipulation was systematic and near-universal; in just the sample from Phase I, they found wait-list fraud in 76% of facilities, and it was something that came from the top.
Negative practices identified in site reports included:
- Staff being instructed by supervisors to alter desired date;
- Staff keeping manual logs of appointment requests outside of electronic systems (VistA or the EWL);
- Staff lacking familiarity with scheduling policies;
- Other practices inconsistent with policy:
o Non-count clinics ;
o Cancelling consults;
o Cancelling appointments; and
- Employees indicating reluctance to participate in the survey due to fear they would be subject to disciplinary action due to deviation from national policy.
The audit claims that, “VA will establish follow-up accountability actions based on the results of the audit,” but that claim has already been mooted by the Acting Administrator who has vowed that not one of the VA’s 90,000 employees will lose a job, a pay grade, or a bonus, no matter what they did.
The audit reaches a conclusion that, “the overarching environment and culture which allowed this state of practice to take root must be confronted… in order to regain the trust of the Veterans that VA serves.”
But the Administration has already announced that this will not be done.
I’m Not Dead Yet!
Joe Morris, like the plague victim in the Monty Python skit, is Not Dead Yet. But the VA decided the two-tour Iraq vet was dead. And so they stopped his disability checks. But that was the least of his problems. They also told Social Security he was dead, locking his Social Security number into the Social Security Death Index. And they sent his mother a condolence letter, which is how he found out he was supposed to be pushing up daisies.
Two months ago came the bizarre phone call that changed everything.
“My mom called me up and said, ‘Hey, you’re dead.’ I said, ‘No, I’m not,'” Morris said.
The VA admitted that he was, indeed, not dead, and didn’t fight him on the subject. (Or worse, whack him to make reality come into line with their ate-up computers). And they apologized and fixed everything, right? Come on. This is the VA we’re talking about here. They made excuses, blamed their computers, ducked responsibility. Hey, the computer did it of its own volition! That happens all the time.
All the credit agencies now have him as deceased, and his wife is getting more condolence letters.
One of the commenters at the original story nailed a more likely cause of his bureaucratic “death”:
Whenever he called the VA about his missing check and wanted to set up direct deposit he put a bureaucrat employee to extra trouble and so they “fixed his wagon”….
Sounds about right. Another commenter had this chilling corroboration:
Good luck. This happened to my husband and it took 2 years to bring him back to life. Thank goodness my credit rating was good and we already owned our home.
Will those responsible for this be held accountable? Hey, this is the VA we’re talking about here. Acting Secretary Sloan Gibson, as we will see in a minute, has already announced that nobody at VA need fear loss of a job or a bonus, no matter what. Accountability is not a VA value.
VA Employees are the Agency’s Most Important Constituency
In a piece at National Review Online that covered the self-interested corruption of other government workers, too, Jonah Goldberg singled out the VA for special mention, and absolutely nails why the VA sucks so badly at its putative job, “to care for him who has borne the battle”: that’s not their real constituency. Goldberg:
The Veterans Affairs scandal can be boiled down to the fact that VA employees are the agency’s most important constituency. The Phoenix VA health-care system created secret waiting lists where patients languished and even died, while the administrator paid out almost $10 million in bonuses to VA employees over the last three years.
That attitude is personified by the empty suit that replaced the empty suit that was Rick Shinseki as VA figurehead. A Jacksonville, NC reporter asked Acting Secretary Sloan Gibson, during a visit to a Fayetteville, NC VA facility, whether “VA executive bonus money would be better used by placing a human-being on the other side of a suicide-prevention line.” Gibson lost control. ABC 11, Raleigh:
“This idea that ‘let’s fire everybody, let’s pull everybody’s bonus away” that’s a bunch of crap,” Gibson said angrily. “The fact of the matter is we’ve got 341,000 people and the vast majority of them work really hard to do the right thing, and that’s why we’ve got veterans that are well-served the vast majority of the time.”
“… I’m not going to see people sit there and say that we go[t] 350,000 people that aren’t worth a crap. It’s wrong. So no-the money’s not better spent by pulling it and putting it someplace else.”
It hasn’t been widely reported, but ABC 11 did note, that the reporter in question is a former Marine, who was accompanied by a service dog. After the press conference, Gibson tried to patch things up, offering a handshake and a glib, “Thanks for your service.” The reporter/Marine, now angry in return, refused. “Thank you for what? Allowing you to dodge my question?” (We do note, that Gibson did answer the question, albeit dismissively. The reporter might have missed it because the answer came at the end of paragraphs of vituperation aimed at him).
Gibson also made excuses for a Durham mental health clinic that is still issuing Baghdad Bob press releases denying any long waits, when questioned on the subject. The facility is one of the worst of the VA’s bad lot, with an average wait time of 143 days, according to the VA’s own figures, but Gibson wouldn’t say — or hear — a word of criticism of the staff.
The visit was best summed up by Marine vet Christopher Hubbard, who was told to expect it to take about 60 days for a primary care physician to see him and prescribe the medication he needs for an injured knee now.
In all honestly, I think it’s nothing more than a dog and pony show. Whether the VA actually takes the concerns of the veterans and our complaints and actually deals with them is another story.
Nothing Gibson said hints at accountability becoming a VA value any time this century. Gibson apparently didn’t speak to or see a crowd of veterans, including Hubbard, who wanted someone to hear their complaints about wait times and care at the Fayetteville VA.
“All VA Managers are Above Average”
The heartless, incompetent, and greedy VA managers are one more thing, too: well-paid. Official records used to determine bonus awards ruled that all 470 senior managers would just totally awesome, even as 120,000 veterans languished on phantom waiting lists, and in unknown number died. (The media has documented over 100 deaths, but the VA insists that there were only 23. And they deserve a bonus for that). CNN:
A top VA official confirmed to a congressional committee on Friday that 78% of VA senior managers qualified for extra pay or other compensation in fiscal year 2013 by receiving ratings of “outstanding” or “exceeds fully successful,” and that all 470 of them got ratings of “fully successful” or better.
Such widespread laudatory performance appraisals occurred shortly before CNN started reporting in November how veterans waited excessive periods for VA health care, with some dying in the process. The VA has acknowledged 23 deaths nationwide due to delayed care.
According to the New York Times, there are five levels of ratings a VA manager can be given. None received the lowest two levels, about 20% received the middle level, and the other 80% or so got the top two.
The Times notes:
Many administrators’ bonuses were tied partly to whether their facilities met patient wait-time goals, including being able to see a doctor within 14 days. When a shortage of doctors and other factors made it impossible for many facilities to come anywhere close to those standards, many administrators and patient schedulers manipulated data and used other tactics to make the numbers look better than they were.
We leave determining whether VA management actually is a human population composed only of the right tail of the quality bell curve, something that would be unique and unprecedented in 5,000 years of human organizational history, as an exercise to the reader.
Veterans Left to Die
The Center for Immigration Studies has their own angle on it: “Illegal Aliens Receive Immediate Medical Care; Veterans Left to Die.” That pretty much sums up the preferences of Official Washington.
In response to an influx of young illegal aliens, the Obama administration has moved rapidly to provide them with a full range of medical and other services. In response to the needs of American veterans, the president has failed to keep campaign promises made seven years ago.
In response to the need for medical care for young illegal aliens, the Obama administration had Arizona immediately ship federal emergency medical supplies to a holding center in Nogales. In response to veterans’ medical needs, the administration ignored campaign promises made in 2007 and stood by while the VA created secret waiting lists that resulted in the deaths of Americans who had honorably served their county.
In response to illnesses afflicting illegal aliens such as scabies, chickenpox, MRSA staph infections, and different viruses, Coast Guard medics have been called in by Homeland Security to treat those who are sick. In response to veterans’ health needs, no military medics were mobilized and veterans went untreated.
In response to a need for housing and related services for illegal aliens, the Obama administration moved at warp speed to house them on military bases at a cost of $252 per person per day. However, in spite of saying “We’ll have a simple policy when it comes to homeless veterans: zero tolerance,” while campaigning in 2007, President Obama has never opened up military bases to homeless veterans or granted veterans on waiting lists access to base medical clinics and hospitals.
In response to a need for increased financing to meet the needs of illegal aliens, the Obama administration immediately requested an emergency appropriation from Congress of $1.4 billion. In response to the critical needs of millions of veterans, the administration has requested no emergency funding and continues to exclude millions of veterans from promised services through means-testing.
In response to the legal needs of illegal aliens, the Obama administration will issue $2 million in grants to enroll about 100 lawyers and paralegals to represent immigrant children. In response to the legal needs of veterans who are denied medical services and other benefits promised them by elected officials over many decades, the administration does nothing.
The CIS, which has many other issues with the Obama Administration, makes it the villain of the piece, but the established opposition isn’t much better. The lame-duck House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor, lost his seat in part because the Republican leadership he’s a part of has prioritized amnesty over veterans (and almost everything else).
But … it isn’t just the VA.
Matt and Kaylie Hindes. A judge wants him to lose custody because he’s in the Navy.
This closer isn’t a VA story, but it’s another story about the Establishment that rides in its palanquin upon the backs of veterans screwing over a serving serviceman:
Navy submariner Matthew Hindes was given permanent custody of his daughter Kaylee in 2010, after she was reportedly removed from the home of his ex-wife, Angela, by child protective services. But now a judge has ordered him to appear in court Monday, or risk losing his daughter to his ex-wife in addition to a bench warrant being issued for his arrest, ABC News reports.
Hindes’ lawyers argue he should be protected by the Service Members Civil Relief Act, which states courts in custody cases may “grant a stay of proceedings for a minimum period of 90 days to defendants serving their country.”
But the Michigan judge hearing the case, circuit court judge Margaret Noe, disagrees….
Noe, who has made her distaste for Hindes’s choice of career clear, was threatening to issue a warrant for his arrest. And that would be a neat trick, as he’s in a classified grid location, at a classified depth, on a US Navy nuclear submarine. The daughter who’s the subject of this attempted custody coup is in Washington state (where the US has one of its major sub bases) with her stepmom, waiting for Dad to surface. As it stands, she has delayed her threat until the 23rd — today.
It would be unbelievable, if we didn’t see this kind of thing over and over and over again.