Veterans: Building, Renovating Facilities Warranted, But Corruption? Sloth?

Since Barack Obama entered the Oval Office, the Veteran’s Affairs budget has increased nearly 68 percent. No doubt the need is great, and I wouldn’t think of objecting to funds spent for healing our military, but the question looms: are the shiny new buildings competently staffed, and are appointments timely–far more timely than what we’ve seen in the past? Caring for our veterans is our most important monetary obligation, right after keeping the nation safe and secure. The $3.3 BILLION spent in the fiscal years 2010-2015, will either give our vets beautiful new structures, and more efficient and timely care, or just beautiful new structures, more bureaucracy and continued sloth and corruption.

Veterans_Affairs_OIG_1

November 2014: 600,000 vets wait a month or longer for care (1 in 10 veterans). Twenty three thousand of the “most severely affected veterans” were waiting more than four months for an appointment, as of October 2014. This map shows a majority of veterans wait 30-60 days for an appointment, and when you’re ill, 30 days is bad enough. Sixty days is atrocious.

Sloth.

Former Senator (Dr.) Tom Coburn, June 2014:

Other parts of Coburn’s report highlight failures to hold individual employees accountable for criminal conduct, billing personal expenses to the government, chronically failing to show up for work or retaliating against whistleblowers.

More money is not the solution, Coburn said, noting that VA is expected to end the 2014 fiscal year with $5.9 billion in unspent funds…

Four VA construction projects have combined cost overruns of $1.5 billion, and construction delays run between 14 and 74 months. The VA medical facilities are, on average, 35 months behind schedule and $360 million over budget.

VA spent almost $500 million in less than five years on “office makeovers,” including $6.8 million to build one conference room in Illinois, $1.8 million for office furniture in Puerto Rico and $10.7 million for curtains and draperies nationwide.

In July 2011, VA established two employment call centers to recruit veteran employees. An IG investigation found that while the center cost $2.2 million to operate in 2012, call center employees each handled an average of only 2.4 calls per day…

Doctors at the VA have it easy compared to their private-sector counterparts, according to Coburn.

The 10 highest-paid federal employees work at the VA, with more than 1,000 physicians making more than $300,000 per year.

In Phoenix, for example, 13 VA employees made more than $300,000 annually, including one orthopedic surgeon drawing more than $357,000. That is almost double the average income for doctors in Arizona, according to Coburn’s report.

VA employs almost 19,000 full-time physicians nationwide.

Yet VA doctors see far fewer patients than their counterparts in the private sector, Coburn said. An average primary care physician in private practice has a caseload of about 2,300 patients. For VA doctors, it’s about 1,200.

 

Sloth.

The Veteran Administration maintains a culture of corruption that allows managers to grievously violate rules and laws with little or no punishment. Source: Daily Caller, September 29, 2014

When there is fraud in procurement, you can bet it’s costing veterans, dearly. VA whistleblowers are assaulted with “extensive retaliation.” And how about “fraud” in the “Procurement and Logistics Office?” Consider the case of Susan Taylor:

Susan Taylor, Former Veterans Affairs Procurement Officer

Susan Taylor, Former Veterans Affairs Procurement Officer

The 82-page [Inspector General] report shows that Taylor used her office for private gain in awarding a contract to FedBid, a reverse auction service, whose executives also interfered in the process by preventing the VA from operating in an honest and impartial manner.

Here’s how they went after a whistleblower:

According to a shocking revelation from the inspector general, FedBid, in its own words, planned to “‘storm the castle,’ use a ‘heavy-handed- puncher,’ to ‘rally the troops up on the Hill,’ have ‘enough top cover to overwhelm,’ to ‘unleash the hounds,’ to ‘assassinate [Mr. Frye’s] character and discredit him,’ and to keep ‘close hold’ of nonpublic information.’”

This came after Jan Frye, VA deputy assistant secretary in the Office of Acquisition and Logistics, pushed back against the use of reverse auctions twice.

She also lied under oath, and she lied to the Inspector General’s office.

The VA referred the case to the DOJ. The DOJ refused to prosecute. In October 2014, I find news articles reporting that the process of firing Taylor had begun (not an easy process, by-the-way), but in the end, she retired, or was “allowed” to retire, which likely means she can be rehired by the government.

Corruption.

Sharon Helman, Phoenix VA, Over the holidays, revelations came forward that the Sharon Helman scandal had a lot to do with classic VA corruption and secret gifts like fully paid vacations to Disneyland. For example, Helman was given a week’s vacation to Disneyland, tickets to a Beyonce concert, and a tour around Sedona wine country. Click the photo for more.

Sharon Helman, Phoenix VA, Over the holidays, revelations came forward that the Sharon Helman scandal had a lot to do with classic VA corruption and secret gifts like fully paid vacations to Disneyland. For example, Helman was given a week’s vacation to Disneyland, tickets to a Beyonce concert, and a tour around Sedona wine country. Click the photo for more.

Corruption.

Is there any chance taxpayers ARE NOT getting gouged for construction, and in turn, veterans gouged, both as taxpayers, and patients needing care and comfort, NOW?

And how many high-priced paper-pushers, like Robin Paul, are employed at the VA? Robin Paul was a “social worker,” or “manager.”It took public outrage for Paul to lose her job after she allegedly sent a photo of a Christmas “elf” begging for Xanax, and another committing suicide by hanging–with a string of Christmas light. Robin Paul managed the Seamless Transition Integration Care Clinic for veterans at Roudebush Medical Center in Indianapolis. Would you want Paul in charge of your loved one’s “transition” and “integration” into treatment? Wait and watch. We have no vaccines to keep these parasites out of the system–they find ways to get back behind a desk. We need accountability, and I’m guessing we need far few administrators, managers, and lackeys.

Photo Courtesy of America's Freedom Fighters. Click the photo to visit

Photo Courtesy of America’s Freedom Fighters. Click the photo to visit

In 2011, large bonuses were still going to VA facilities that routinely lied about scheduling

Two-thirds of employees at the Department of Veteran Affairs, which has been the subject of widespread criticism for its excessive delays in providing veterans their benefits, received bonuses at the end of 2011 for “excellent” or “outstanding” performance. Additionally, employees at some of the department’s most ineffective offices were more likely to receive bonuses than workers at some of its most productive offices. The VA’s regional office in Oakland, Calif., gave about 90 percent of its employees bonuses despite having to temporarily shut down operations to retrain its underperforming workers and, in a Baltimore office, about 40 percent of workers receive a bonus despite the office’s having the longest wait time nationally, according to a News21 investigation. Yet, at the Sioux Falls, S.D., office, which processes claims up to four times more efficiently than Oakland, less than a tenth of its employees saw a bonus, the same investigation found. Source: National Review

Blame it on the sequester budgetary cuts? No. Remember that Republicans objected to “across the board” cuts, and wanted to prioritize where funding dollars were spent. Sensible, wouldn’t you think? But Democrats wouldn’t have it.

I remember the horror stories coming out of Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC)? Dirt, rats, toxic mold on the walls of patient’s rooms at our nation’s then-premier military installation. How could the budget be so inadequate that a hospital once famous, now infamous, drops to the low point of mouse droppings and toxic mold, in what should be a sterile environment? It defies explanation, other than sloth and corruption.

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