We always read horror stories about the VA and government in general. Tip of the Spear in Georgia (Bruce) who brought us the initial reports of “irregularities” in a Veterans charity’s wage structure, sends us this equally revolting report on VA’s proclivity to “Fire the Best and Hire the Rest (if they’re related to you).
It completely defies logic to have an agency tasked with such an important task take such a lackadaisical approach to our plight. I don’t like to whine. I like to strike, to take action- in a word-to improve the status quo at lightspeed. Unfortunately, VA doesn’t have a lightspeed setting. VA hierarchy has no qualms about allowing this system to rot on the vine just as they have no plan to fix their backlog. Some have contacted me and tell me I’m wet and don’t get out much. They probably haven’t spent a year as a guest in a VAMC and witnessed ODing on Heparin, a MRSA infection via their PICC line or a septal infarct that went undetected for six months. I forgot to check but I’m sure the VISN director for the Seattle VAMC received a large bonus while on my watch. According to this article, that’s par for the course and not some aberration.
To really get a feel for this, read the plethora of follow-on comments from actual VA employees (present and former) who do not seem particularly perturbed by this turn of events. We are handed a rotten deal from the get go. We are pawned off on an overwhelmed system staffed by incompetents who have no loyalty to Vets. We are assured we’ll get quality care “soon”. We are lied to, delayed and ignored by a medical system that insists it is cutting edge. To add insult to injury, they find “satisfied customers” to spout their propaganda on their blogspot Vantage Point. I have railed on and on here about their shortcomings and been told by some of you that I must be one of the most unlucky souls to ever darken the door of a VAMC. One gentleman implied that my complaining would make life worse for other Vets and I should shut up and sit down. This article in no small measure vindicates what I’ve been trying to get across for years.
VA has proven time and time again that they will only jump when they find themselves between a judicial rock and a hard place. One brief glimpse of the Extraordinary Writs filings at the CAVC would reinforce this thinking. Many are the filings of Vets who simply want some closure to an ages-old claim that is stuck in limbo somewhere. When the Court queries the VA secretary and his minions, suddenly it is resolved. The logjam miraculously dissolves and what was sought is found to have been accomplished while the thirty-day-old complaint was still in the Court’s in-basket. A coincidence you say? I think not.
VA is intransigent. Mark my words now. They have no plans for the “what if” moment on January 01, 2015 when the backlog will still be firmly entrenched and alive and well. I see a plethora of excuses queueing up waiting to be employed though. VA medical procedures and indeed, even their personnel problems, will never subside without a sharp prod from Congress. I don’t see that happening any time soon-if ever. Of course, complaining mightily about it will do no good either.
Unless, and until Congress elects to actually punish individuals who perpetuate this system, there is no force on Earth that can overcome the impasse. The VA is far too busy creating new acronyms and programs to deal with every imaginary threat to their viability at our expense. Each new program takes us further and further away from the core function-the Veteran. As an example, look at gun laws. Every new atrocity spawns a new batch of laws designed to prevent such an event from reoccurring. No one looks back over the laws already promulgated and on the books to notice that many of these eventualities have all been provided for. In what many have touted as a perfectly controlled setting, the impossibility of having an “adverse gun event” on a military installation has been examined in detail and every eventuality accounted for. Yet somehow it still occurs in a designated gun-free zone. VA takes this to the logical end and provides for every contingincy. When something like a mass outbreak of Hepatitis C occurs at the Dayton VAMC due to unsanitary procedures, VA’s Office of the Inspector General descends in force and examines it in minute detail. Their findings often include the phrases ” We wee unable to substantiate that the_____ were incompetent” or “It was not conclusively proven that the individuals in charge were criminally negligent.” The mea culpas are not far behind in the Recommendations section.
VA has an enormous, magnificent excuse machine built into the system. Were you to read the whitewash about the multimillion dollar HR getaways in Orlando in years past, you would come away with glad heart and the conviction that this egregious behaviour will never, ever happen again.
Every month I get the VA news feed from the OIG. Each and every one reads like its predecessor. The recommendations section is mimeographed from prior ones. Every few months a new set of recommendations surfaces based on a large number of complaints of new, previously undiscovered travesties. The years and recommendations tend to blur together because they all boil down to recommendations and not change orders. You can recommend to an alcoholic that he should cut back on his consumption if he wishes to improve his lot in life but absent any intervention it is merely good advice with no teeth.
Notice the similarity of “findings” in each of these. Pressure ulcer prevention (bedsores) seems to be the bugaboo this year so far. Well, that and “community living center resident independence and dignity”. I suppose that means the staff can no longer tell the inpatients to piss off.
The term “lather, rinse and repeat” rolls of the VA OIG’s tongue with alacrity and great frequency. How they can just reprint the same litany of excuses and expect our eyes to glaze over with boredom is amazing. I expect they think no one reads these epistles.
Reform at the VA is similarly stymied by lots of recommendations and four-letter programs that seek to focus on the problem-du-jour. Unfortunately, the calamities at the VA are so continual and so grievous, no amount of triage can keep up with the ineptness. As an example, did you know the VBMS system set up to electronically revamp our records is still not operational system -wide in all VAROs? After two or three years the excuses wear thin. Not enough servers. Too many RVSRs online simultaneously. Pick any excuse and then parse it for legitimacy. Someone once opined that excuses are most definitely like assholes. Everyone has one, but for some inexplicable reason. VA medically defies logic and has numerous assholes whose primary job is none other than to obfuscate and apologize. If half the energy expended to manufacture excuses were devoted to claims adjudication, it is highly unlikely we’d be in the predicament we’re in now.
Here’s a sampling of some Extreme Writs I’ve parsed recently from the Court. Each one exhibits the same hubris that the VA was always in the loop and the Vet is simply expecting far too much too soon from the system (which, incidentally, is working just fine).
In his petition, he asks the Court to order the regional office (RO) to produce a copy of his claims file. The petitioner states that he mailed his first request on March 18, 2013, and that the RO has only responded that it received his Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request…
The petitioner contends that a prior remand of his claim by this Court in May 2012 for compliance with VA’s duty to assist has resulted in inaction by VA and “interminable delay” notwithstanding this Court’s directive to act within six months.
Followed by the revelation from the VA’s OGC excuse squad…
On January 22, 2014, counsel for the Secretary responded that she contacted the Indianapolis, Indiana, VA regional office (RO) and was informed that all documents from the service department were received, including the charge sheet pertaining to the petitioner, and that a Supplemental Statement of the Case (SSOC) was issued on January 15, 2014.
On December 3, 2013, the petitioner, Claude V. D’Unger, submitted through counsel a petition for extraordinary relief in the nature of a writ of mandamus ordering VA to forward his file
to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (Board) for action on his claim…In April 2009 his rating was increased to 100% with an effective date of March 2009…
According to VA, the petitioner’s claim remains before the regional office (RO) pending adjudication by the RO. The Secretary asserts that the RO cannot adjudicate the claim without
additional development, consisting of a new medical examination. In his response, the Secretary informed the Court that an examination had been requested through the VA medical system on January 23, 2014…
The delay here in completing the Board’s remand does not satisfy these conditions. The Court recognizes that this claim is unresolved at four years and counting, but a writ is not justified
at the present time because VA is taking action to adjudicate the claim. The RO has just now requested an examination. With VA alert to the delays in Mr. D’Unger’s case and taking steps to comply with the Board’s remand, a writ ordering VA action would be unjustified and, hopefully, redundant…
I could go on but the reader can ascertain the essence of the problem. Running from one brush fire to another with a hand-held fire extinguisher is no substitute for a system-wide revamp of the process. VA is disinclined to purchase a bonafide fire truck and prefers to myopically address each calamity on a case-by-case basis.
Until this myopic, neanderthal thinking process is upgraded to the twenty first century, we will be condemned to more of the same. It’s not getting better in spite of what the talking heads tell Congress. Apparently Speaker of the House Boehner has now been apprised of the disconnect and it will be repaired soon. We expect to see pigs suitably outfitted with wings down at 810 Yellow Brick Rd. NW any day now.