As most have heard, Doctor Robert Petzel, Under Secretary for Veterans Health, stepped on his necktie and suffered extensive injuries including loss of face. He will retire prematurely but still retain his Golden Parachute Pension. The Government promises no blame will accrue to him. No harm. No foul. Thank you for your service. Later, dude.
Late-breaking Veterans news, always heard here first, reveals Petzel has been invited to join the Board of Directors for QTC Services who do all the compensation exams out west here. It’s owned in part by Dr. James Peake-a former VA Secretary himself. Funny how all these guys just seem to run into each other over and over. Pure coincidence, I’m sure. Maybe the same Italian tailor Tony Principi uses or something along that line. Perfectly innocent.
A VA Secretary’s underling who wished to remain anonymous chimed in to say that when Shinseki was apprised of Petzel’s new job offers, the rejoinder was a deadpan-faced “And……?” followed by a waving dismissal involving a single, raised digit.
I must say I sympathize with Ric on this one. I know what it is from a command posture to trust your junior officers and suddenly find out the Field Grade officers in the command post are cooking the books. Ric has his hands full with Allison’s mad 2015 vision of the Mach 2 VA claim that will be decided in under an hour on-line with 98 percent accuracy. This fascination with Kaizen / Six Sigma training and her prior corporation experience at Accenture is a poor fit to the VA claims process. Endless tampering and innovation have now tangled the process up so badly, it takes years to accomplish what one rater could accomplish in a week or two in 1990 unfettered by endless computerese. Remember KISS (Keep it simple, stupid)? The current process makes analog, paper files adjudications look like the speed of light. One wonders how GEIKO and Nationwide would stay solvent if their express-lane claims process for a fender bender took six years.
General Shinseki is like a driver in a sled dog race. If the dogs see a rabbit and careen off in that direction, he’s merely along for the ride. A true leader has to whip them puppies back on the trail and be on top of them 24/7. With his hands full of what is unarguably the pressing issue of the shortcomings of the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) with Congress, he has entrusted the Veterans Health System (VHA) run by Petzel, to take care of itself. Baaaaad idea. Always supervise them. Never assume anything. If you have to order an investigation, it’s too late. About ten phone calls should do the trick. If you’re incisive, you can have it cleared up in time for the six o’clock news.
General Shinseki isn’t a momma’s boy. The guy has two Purple Hearts and several Bronze Stars. Granted when you’re an officer, they hand the BStars’s out like Mardi Gras beads but you can’t fake getting your foot blown off by a mine. That, ladies and Gentlemen Vets, is leading. That is being out in front. That is the definition of “I would not ask anyone else to walk point if I wasn’t willing to do so myself”‘ leadership. Shinseki was instrumental in finally getting Parkinson’s/B cell hairy leukemia/IHD et cetera approved for us Vietnam AO Vets. I don’t recall any VA Secretaries in the past who made that effort.
My friends all say he’s the best thing since former VA Secretary Jesse Brown‘s day. I tend to adopt the stance of “The enemy of my enemy is my friend”. I served in Southeast Asia and am more inclined to work with what we have rather than hire a gomer with no clue of what’s going on. It would simply mean another four year delay bringing him/her up to speed until s/he, too, discovered they’d been sandbagged. Lather, rinse and repeat.
I feel General Shinseki finds himself off track due to a misplaced trust in Doc Petzel. In their insane VHA world of trying to justify handing out endless bonuses to all their friends, regardless of how many Veterans died needlessly on their watch, they have finally resorted to the trickery of “Objects in mirror appear closer than they are.” First, Phoenix, then Houston. Then Fort Collins Colorado. But wait. Columbia SC VAMC two months before Phoenix? All in all, seven different VAMCs or medical facilities run by the VA in different geographical areas of the United States have been implicated… so far. This is actually snowballing as more are willing to come forward. We Veterans have been saying as much for decades. And like Ray’s brother-in-law Mark in Field of Dreams, the media, VA Secretary Shinseki, Congress et al have finally woken up to the fact that there may be a whole shit ton of malfeasance afoot. But only at the VHA, mind you.
Hey, I’m no conspiracy theorist but am I, correction, are WE to believe these fellows all just up one day and said, “Thing’s are getting too far behind. Let’s have a secret list written down and put in this file cabinet over here. When we get caught up, we’ll call them and plug them back in to the system just like they were there all along. If we get caught, short straw falls on his sword and accepts responsibility.” I could believe it in one lone VISN, but seven different ones? I’d like to see Jay Carney try to trot that one out up at the White House with a straight face without using the phrase “We were unable to substantiate that…” No, this brainstorm originated at the top and was handed out on somebody’s signature. Whose is the burning question. Making Petzel walk the plank isn’t going to squelch this investigation.
Time will tell, Ladies and gentlemen Vets, who’s been naughty and who’s been nice. I think the daily revelations by new whistleblowers are turning into a virtual Mormon Tabernacle Choir of warblers- too numerous to count. They’re talking bringing in the FBI and seizing evidence like jack-booted thugs. How uncouth. Call in the VAOIG. That’s what they’re there for. Just make sure none of them is related to Dr. Petzel, hear?