Are we sick of VA failures? What a silly question. Of course we are! We bet you are, too. Almost everybody is sick of VA failures… especially those poor bastards, VA patients.
The problem is, apparently, that the Department of Veterans Affairs and its legions of mismanagers are not, yet.
ITEM: Procurement + Corruption = Procurer
This is one where it takes time and patience to Read The Whole Thing™, but it rewards the effort. Basically, a VA senior executive, Susan Taylor, engaged in a decases-long conspiracy to defraud the government, in part by directing contracts to a company called FedBid, whose representative shared her bed during this period.
Then she lied about it. Under oath. A lot.
The story is a mulligatawny of sex, lies and boatloads of taxpayer money, so it makes for interesting reading, as IG reports go.
Of course, Susan Taylor was
promptly fired – wait! No, she wasn’t. Well, at least she was suspended for a period. No, not exactly. But surely she lost her bonus? Received a written reprimand? Well, no. None of these things. After all, this is the VA! She, and her contractor pals, have faced… absolutely nothing, nothing at all. That’s how they roll in the VA. She’s still collecting her $200,000-plus in pay and benefits. And FedBid is still raking in the tax dollars, too. The VA is one hell of a good deal – for non-veteran DC insiders. For veterans, not so much.
There is a cameo appearance in the scandal by one veteran who diserves dishonorable mention: General George Casey. Casey’s former rank was used, apparently, to secure contracts for the shifty outfit, FedBid. If you can’t quite place Casey, he’s the former Army Chief of Staff who famously categorized the Fort Hood jihad attacks as “workplace violence,” condemned witnesses who reported Hasan’s allah akbars and shouts for jihad for “jumping to conclusions,” and spoke dismissively of the dead even as they lay unshriven in the morgue. The thing really at risk was his program of minority outreach: “As great a tragedy as this was, it would be a shame if our diversity became a casualty….”
Is it any surprise to see a man with such an abscessed moral center turn up, sticky-fingered, in a corruption probe?
ITEM: It’s Lousy in Louisana
At least it is, if you’re a poor vet incarcerated in the 111-bed Overton Brooks VAMC in Shreveport. If you are, you might be lying naked on a bare mattress. Because they did a dope deal with another VA hospital that’s over two highway hours away, they run out of linens all the time.
And the laundry knows they’re doing government work: the threadbare sheets and pajamas come back suspiciously smelly, and still containing the EKG electrodes from the last guy.
There’s no money for better laundry, officials say; there’s no money for stuff like toothpaste, either. It seems like they blew the money: TVs for a propaganda-message network, imported furniture, and, naturally, something between $3 million and $9 million worth of solar cells. The solar cells are meant to partly offset the environmental damage caused by driving across the state for the badly laundered bedclothes, and shipping desks thousands of miles from a foreign factory.
The VA’s individual contracts are wasteful, if not corrupt, also. The agency paid about $3k each for the 42-inch TVs. They deliver — we are not making this up — “the weather… and uplifting sayings from Michelle Obama.” The TVs came from an earmark for an “emergency information system.”
Tori Richards at Watchdog.org has been covering Overton Brooks. She broke the first story. She also covered an American Legion donation of $5,000 in emergency supplies to provide the linens and amenities (like toothpaste) the managers won’t.
But those responsible in Shreveport? Hey, nothing has happened to them. Except bonuses. Doing fine on bonuses, while the vets lie naked… that’s the VA in a nutshell.
ITEM: When is an ER not an ER?
It’s isn’t a trick question, there really is an answer: when is an ER not an ER? When it doesn’t have a doctor. That’s why the Fayetteville, NC lost its certification as an emergency department last month, as a contractor took the money but didn’t bother to, er, staff the depertment fully.
So they had to relabel the ED an “Urgent Care Center,” of which one word, “center,” might have a bit of truth. No one “cares” and there’s no “urgency.” The Fayetteville Observer:
Veterans who have received care from the Fayetteville VA emergency department in recent weeks have reported that there was no medical officer on duty and that the hospital has been short staffed.
Others reported long waits at the emergency department, caused in part by waits elsewhere in the medical center.
Veterans said they had been told to go to the emergency department while waiting for a primary care physician. Waits for such a doctor can take months, the longest of any VA in the nation, and veterans said there have been times where more than 50 patients have waited for care.
One veteran, Joseph Edwards, said he spent several hours in the emergency department earlier this month waiting for a doctor’s shift to start.
Nancy Edwards said nurses were turning many veterans away and telling many to return at 8 p.m., when a doctor would be on duty.
Blogger “Dr Whitecoat” has a comment or two:
If true, the Fayetteville VA Medical Center is violating federal EMTALA requirements. If a patient comes to an emergency department seeking medical care, the patient must receive a medical screening examination to determine whether an emergency medical condition exists.
I won’t hold my breath waiting for news of the investigation of these incidents.
No, not holding his breath is a good idea, or he’d be “Dr Blueface.”
So that’s progress: send ‘em to the ER, and when they get there, it’s not an ER and there’s no doctor.
You might ask, if you were sleeping up to this point in this blog post, who has been held accountable for this failure. Consider us to have made a short, sharp snort in lieu of a laugh.
No VA employee in Fayetteville has needed to fear any loss of bonus, threat to job, or even tongue-lashing from a boss, of course, but there was something like consequences (mirabile dictu!) in that the contractor was replaced, effective 1 Oct 2014.
The ED’s still down.
One wonders what the discussion was like, but we’ve reconstructed it:
VA Manager Ian Faith: One more thing. The Fayetteville ED’s downgraded.
Dr. David St. Hubbins: What!
Ian Faith: I wouldn’t worry about it. Fayetteville’s not a big Army town.
Lord love a duck.
Exit question: what percentage of DVA employees are “employed” (if that’s the word) in HQ or otherwise in offices in the National Capital Area, or in other administrative offices such as regional or functional administrations, and not involved in direct patient care?