CMB (Call me Bob)McDonald blogged to us today to let us know VA is once again dancing on their collective neckties and doing another faceplant-this right on top of their inability to find any fault with the way VAMC Director Sharon Helman & Co. were disposing of problem Vets down in Phoenix. At
40 243 deaths, any idea that they might have been predisposed to dying anyway, regardless of VA inaction, is now coming under closer scrutiny.
We had high hopes for CMB. Really, we did. I assumed he would grab the bull by the horns and wrassle the intractible VA sucker to the ground. Given the strong mandate from his boss down at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW, his record at Proctor and Gamble and a resounding new law from Congress, it was a given we were going to have a Saturday Night Massacre reminiscent of the Nixon Casa Blanca shakeup after Watergate. Ah, how soon we discover that words, rather than actions, are hollow and merely echo desires rather than resolve.
My recent communiques with him and his subordinates looked like they would bear fruit but as LawBob Squarepants is fond of saying- “be careful what you ask for.” I got exactly what I asked for, too. I told them to fix it. They did-but with a Statement of the Case asking me what part of “No” I was unacquainted with. That was the easy way out and probably not what CMB envisioned. Nevertheless, the plaque on his desk should bear the same mantra as Truman’s did in 1952- The Buck Stops Here. Many other Vets I have talked with met with guarded success so that avenue is not entirely a dry hole and I certainly do not wish to imply it.
VA choice cards will eventually arrive in our mailboxes but how many, how soon and how timely to avoid any more senseless deaths? Likewise, will we still be reading next year about disgraced VA officials quickly strapping on golden parachutes just minutes ahead of being frog-marched down to the Justice Department for a photo op and fingerprinting?
In order to make a dent in the Veterans’ conscience, it will require stronger actions and steely resolve. Namby pamby wrist slaps and ten minutes in the corner followed by a promotion to VACO are not going to fly well now that Pandora is airborne. Congressman Jeff Miller has a mandate (as do many on the right side of the aisle) to investigate the VA’s storied history of delaying and denying us until we reach room temperature. Come January, the VA is not going to have their Vermont apologist (Col. Sanders) to run interference for them any more. Further Senatorial inaction on this is now a fig newton of the imagination. In the immortal words of our President yesterday after his press conference:
I’m not much for politics. When asked, I subscribe to the Crosby, Stills and Nash political philosophy- “When you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.” It makes no difference who’s boat we use to get across the river of denial, the important thing to do is make the transit. Accolades can be ascribed to whoever wants or desires them. I’m not one for the limelight. Mr. McDonald might want to take a page from that book if he is serious about turning this around.
I would strongly suggest that CMB take a page from the Real Rules of Construction rather than the Building Code. Rule number one is inviolate. At some point, you have to shoot the engineers and begin production. Failing that, you have a piece of paper in your hand- a virtual blueprint- telling you what to do, how to do it, where to do it and a production schedule that keeps getting pushed back due to “contingencies”. Pardon my French but it’s time to piss on the fire and call in the dogs. The VAMC kerfluffle began as early as 2005 in documented cases of VA scheduling “irregularities”. It was assiduously annotated for all the intervening years by our VA Office of Inspector Gadget until a medical doctor spilled the beans and used the word “death by inaction”. Apparently the untermenschen VA employees were not credible in their whistleblower attempts all these years and it required the bona fides of someone with a college degree and Medical Doctorate to focus attention on it. This speaks volumes to what VA hierarchy thinks of us (and the OIG) but that is a subject for another day.
Our new Secretary has a glorious mandate that he risks destroying by delaying his reforms. Caution is all well and fine, as is an orderly legal path to ridding us of the self-serving SES’s infesting 810 Vermin Ave. NW. But caution couched in inaction and recalcitrance to show a backbone merely emboldens the miscreants to assume the status quo will go on unabated. LawBob says a new day is dawning. I prefer to get up each morning and take a measurement. To date, all I see is pages turning on a calendar with a remarkable similarity to the months before. Remember our glee when this all broke in the news? That was April. Seasons change. VA doesn’t, apparently. Yet. Say it ain’t so, Bob.
Please do not read a political diatribe into this epistle. It is merely one more post to effect change in what is decidedly a lopsided judicial and medical enigma in the Veterans Administration. Far too much time has been invested in proving everything is hunky dory and time will cure all ills. Were that the case, we’d all be happy and the term “backlog” would not inhabit every other sentence at VA press conferences. UnderSecretary for Benefits Allison “Accenture” Hickey had better be sharpening up the Kaizen and Six Sigma protocols. 2015 and those promised whirlwind 125-day adjudications with 98% accuracy are right around the proverbial corner. I await them with parted lips, bated breath and a sixth sense of “Well, not exactly”.
P.S. Forgot to add this from Maple State Frank: