Maple syrup Frank sent me the good news that VA had “refired” Diana Reubens and her Tupperware® sidekick Kimberly Graves. Imagine the woes of having to suddenly play second fiddle in Houston with everyone laughing behind your back. That’s Diana’s cross to bear. Kimberly got similar treatment and was sent down to the minors (Phoenix’d). What really pulled their string was no moving allowance this time. At the previous rate of $288 K from DC to Philly, this should have been enough to put a kid through Harvard Law school. Oh what tangled webs we weave…
Considering the VA can find a discrepancy of $327. 22 overpaid for SMC while hospitalized (and thus pyramiding), and deducting it from your next VA Compensation check just like that, they were unable to calculate that a) there were no “moving expenses” due and payable for this shenanigan, b) unable to “completely” share the evidence of the crime with counsel for the thieves, and c) claim they have no authority to recoup funds awarded based on fraud or misfeasance. This makes The Gang Who Couldn’t Shoot Straight look like Pinkerton Detectives.
I think what is uppermost on the minds of Veterans this week is the gradual uptick in excuses emanating from 810 Varmint Ave. NW at the corner of Delay and Deny. No more do we hear the bravado of the Special Forces school graduate (“Dude, I wore the hat! I was SF.) when he comes to Capitol Hill. Instead, we hear a litany of ” There are rules and procedures for these situations. I’m sure you wouldn’t want to be tarred and feathered prematurely on only the flimsiest of evidence. If, and when, the evidence supports it, only then will we demote them one pay grade and hide them out west for a year or two. When the coast is clear, they can come back to DC.”
Considering he is a Ringknocker, he should have attended all the schools on tactics and warfare. Personnel hiring and firing goes hat in hand with an efficient command. It has to operate like a well-oiled, 12 cylinder Merlin. What then, can we make of his awkward responses to the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee’s queries? Loud words and bluster on Capitol Hill are a dime a dozen. That dog won’t hunt.
Firing your Way to Success versus Excellence
Contrary to Call me Bob’s plaints about “not being able to fire your way to excellence”, once again VA, through the VASEC’s speechwriter, employs its penchant for obfuscation. The argument is not for excellence-it never was. Hell, be serious for once. VA gave up on any aspirations of excellence about ten minutes after they got their charter from Congress. We’re talking ground floor here as in “Get that wo/man in to see a Doc pronto. Nobody should have to wait 3 months.” Call me Bob is rightfully trying to draw your attention away from the total failure of the VA on all fronts and to focus on a metric that is unattainable. Maybe he can convince them they can buy excellence for just ten billion more. What he needs to do is remember his Army roots and first focus on rebuilding the engine and getting it running as advertised. There will be time enough in the future to polish the brass newel post and Windex® the trophy case in the lobby at 810 Yellow Brick Rd. NW. I think I speak for all Veterans when I ask, beg or plead for mere success before we begin a Nantucket Sleigh Ride in pursuit of the chimera of excellence. Right now, Sec’ Bob is the founding member of his own fan club. A rumor in your own room is still just a rumor.
Face It Secretary Bob, you have a bunch of losers working for you and they all call themselves your friends. It’s a bitch to fire your friends. We get that. Your best asset, Allison Hickey bailed because, as much as things changed, they stayed the same at the 810 Saloon. Your next Diana Reubens or Lucy Filipova fustercluck is just around the proverbial corner these days. Ric Shinseki punched out when he realized what his friends were up to. You and Sloan are living in the same uptown world on the upstairs floors. You can no more sneak out and drop in to the Fort Harrison VARO LZ unannounced than the VAOIG can. All you need for confirmation of your problem is the inordinate number of Extraordinary Writs being filed at the CAVC complaining of Sec Bob’s finest being about three years behind on DROs and 5 years out to a BVA decision. Ron Nessler ought to put up one of his signature billboards near Vermont and Eye Street.
Groundhog Day HR Training
Call me Bob would be advised to rent, and require all GS employees to watch at least ten times, the movie Groundhog Day. By the end of the HR training, they should be able to recall and recite verbatim, any of the really choice lines the movie is famous for. The ultimate teaching moment is not how many times you perform a function but how well you perform it. If it’s truly excellence you aspire to, you have to have begin with excellence in personnel. Therein lies the insurmountable problem.
In the military, when it was obvious to a commander he had an S2 Officer who couldn’t find his ass with a Methane Detector, the accepted habit was to assign him somewhere he could do no harm. This might mean a new posting as Base Supply Officer or a new assignment in Thule, Greenland if you had really screwed up. The Commander was then free to find a real Intel weenie or borrow one from one of his ringknocker friends. That’s how they used to do it. Apparently that’s verboten at the VA. If you’re stuck with mediocracy, it’s hard to reach for the stars.
Rather than firing his way to excellence, Sec’ Bob might want to start out initially by firing his way to a modicum of success in baby steps. A concerted effort to find a suitable scapegoat should be mounted immediately. Research shows a figurehead villain makes for good PR. If none can be found (just kidding) then a tarbaby must be manufactured. At this point the HR folks should make the Wag the Dog movie required viewing for all Vermin Ave. SES personnel regardless of name, rank, airspeed or last known heading. Rooting out cronyism, 20-and-out mentality and a “It’s not my job” mentality will take decades but every journey begins with the first step. If you insist on writing a voluminous manual on the procedure to follow and grant a pardon retroactively to anyone who stepped on his necktie, you create the perception that there will never be any consequences. Your dynamic Duo of Diana and Kimbo will go west and teach generations of new VA SES folks the ins and outs of gaming the system. No, the time to double down has come. I say you throw Sloan Gibson to the wolves. Everything went haywire when he took over after Ric.
VA rewards its Senior Executive Service (SES) personnel very handsomely. In return, the code of honor should be unimpeachable. When breached, there can be no half measures. You don’t send VHA Administrator Sharon Helman home on administrative leave with full pay and perks until it’s determined she was blowing bubbles. You throw down and begin doing it the same way the VA does to its millions of disabled Veterans. You cut them off until they can prove themselves not guilty. At such time a retro check is issued(without interest) for the delayed funds. We summarized that once as Kill them all and let the Good Lord sort them out. Like the military, the way is simple. Guilty until proved innocent-just like us trailer trash Veterans.
That’s the news. VA 2 Vets 0 (again).