Even when they hire veterans, the VA screws up. Illinois politician Tammy Duckworth is definitely a vet, but all she did at VA was squander money.
Item: $5.2 Million to Crony Firm for PR
The Senate confirmed Duckworth as assistant secretary of the Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs (OPIA) at the VA April 22, 2009. She served from April to June, 2011, when she resigned to run for a House seat.
After Duckworth left, the inspector general produced a report in 2014 that found OPIA blew $5.2 million on a contract for “services that lacked a specific connection to VA’s strategic outreach objectives,” and despite OPIA’s best efforts, the office could not prove that Woodpile’s outreach campaigns “yielded any increases in the use of VA healthcare, benefits, or services by veterans.”
During Duckworth’s tenure, a memo from Jan. 11, 2010, stated that OPIA needed a contractor to take on the task of a rebranding campaign, as no one on staff had the ability or expertise. In July of that same year, OPIA handed Woodpile a $5.2 million contract for “outreach campaigns,” but the inspector general report found numerous invoices that did not “clearly link to accomplishment of VA outreach goals.”
OPIA did not implement any performance metrics to assess the effectiveness of Woodpile’s work.
Ever seen a contract without any specific deliverables? The “connected” firm that connected themselves with this opportunity did.
Nice work if you can get it, as the old song says.
ITEM: Whistleblower Retaliation, Take I
That wasn’t all. She’s been credibly accused of joining VA officials in retaliating against whistleblowers:
Veterans Affairs whistleblowers Germaine Clarno and Dr. Lisa Nee claimed that Rep. Tammy Duckworth did little to respond to their claims of mistreatment of veterans and corruption within the Hines VA.
According to their allegations, Duckworth was largely unresponsive to evidence related to veteran mistreatment and inadequate investigations conducted by the VA’s inspector general.
Clarno claimed that, although she approached Duckworth “many” times, the congresswoman did little to respond to her claims.
“I never felt that [Duckworth] wanted to hear exactly what was going on,” Clarno said. “I really thought going to Tammy Duckworth, that she would be the one who would stand up and say this has got to stop.”
But hey, anybody who works for VA gets one accusation of wrongdoing these days… it’s not like there’s a pattern of ab– oh, wait:
ITEM: Whistleblower Retaliation, Take II
Duckworth also faces charges of retaliation against two employees at the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs. The employees filed complaints alleging mistreatment and abuse of veterans at IDVA facilities during Duckworth’s tenure. Trial is set to begin on April 4.
The trial was rescheduled, and would have run just before this fall’s election, in which Duckworth, currently in the House, is hoping to unseat liberal Republican Mark Kirk from a Senate seat. For gun voters, it’s a nearly meaningless election because Kirk and Duckworth are identically hostile to gun owners and identically committed to sweeping gun bans. Indeed, Kirk, a nominal Republican, more usually votes with Democrats, but the Republicans want to re-elect him for the sake of retaining their Senate majority.
But there isn’t going to be a trial, because Duckworth and her lawyers folded on Friday — after blowing some $2 million of the State of Illinois’s money covering her legal flanks — dumping money on the plaintiffs to buy a gag order in the settlement paperwork, and to avoid having to testify under oath:
Embattled Democratic Rep. Tammy Duckworth (Ill.) settled on Friday a years-long legal dispute surrounding allegations the lawmaker wrongly retaliated against employees during her tenure as the head of Illinois’ Department of Veterans Affairs.
Duckworth, who is battling to unseat Sen. Mark Kirk (R., Ill.) this November, was accused of silencing state whistleblowers by humiliating them, giving them poor performance reviews, and eventually terminating the employees.
Duckworth’s legal fees may have cost taxpayers nearly $2 million, according to a FOIA response from Illinois’ attorney general.
Kirk’s camp accused Duckworth of settling the case to avoid incriminating herself at trial.
Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office, representing Duckworth in the case, said in a statement that during a pre-trial settlement conference in Downstate Union County “it became clear that we could resolve this matter… for nuisance value — saving the state the costs of lawyers preparing for and trying the case.”
Lisa Madigan is the career pol daughter of career pol and uber-fixer Mike Madigan. She’s a close ally of Duckworth, as is BOP Inmate Number 40892-424 at the Federal Correctional Institute, Englewood Colorado. From the same Trib story:
Duckworth had been appointed to head the state’s veteran’s agency by now-imprisoned former Gov. Rod Blagojevich following an unsuccessful run for Congress against U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam of Wheaton in 2006.
The Blagojevich connection, and allegations raised in the lawsuit, had prompted Kirk to accuse her of hiring “goombahs” at the former governor’s direction, and he questioned whether she wanted to avoid testifying. Duckworth has said she wanted to get all the facts out but was prevented from speaking about the case while it was being litigated.
She wanted to get all the facts out, until she had everyone else muzzled by court order. Well played, we must admit.
The Trib also dances around the root of the problem in Illinois: the pervasive, bipartisan culture of corruption, the so-called Chicago Way. (Remember how Inmate Number 40892-424 got to Englewood? He more or less held an auction for the Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama on his ascension to the
Supreme Personality of Godhead Presidency).
Duckworth [tried] to fire 22-year state employee Christine Butler from her administrative job …. Duckworth later reversed that decision after being told that she first had to follow written disciplinary procedures and instead issued a reprimand with a paid suspension against Butler.
Human resources secretary Denise Goins alleged complaints about her boss were ignored and led to an unfavorable performance review that prevented her from receiving a raise. Goins had said Duckworth urged her to “do your job and keep your mouth shut.”
Goins and Butler, who both continue to work at a veterans home, also say they were punished for speaking out after Patricia Simms, the acting administrator, allowed unauthorized people to care for a resident. The two state workers had originally sought compensation of at least $50,000, as well as other financial penalties.
Simms was and is a Duckworth/Blagojevich/Madigan ally. Note that this is a whole other case from her retaliation against Clarno and Nee.
It looks as if Madigan paid 100% of Goins’ and Butler’s legal fees, no questions asked, cutting the deal with the attorneys behind their nominal clients’ backs. Hey, it’s the Chicago Way.
If you’re a vet, or one of the VA docs who treats ’em, what do you think matters more to Duckworth: veterans’ health and lives, or her own career?
Who knows what heights she’ll ascend to by the time her old sponsor gets sprung from Englewood (currently scheduled for 2024)?