IG Report and HVAC hearing in one word: Brutal

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IG Report and HVAC hearing in one word: Brutal

It was an early morning after staying up past midnight last night listening and watching the House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing on why they aren't getting documentation they had requested YEARS ago.  Unfortunately for the VA personnel who had to testify, it couldn't have been worse timing.  The IG report came out yesterday at noon, and the hearing started at 7:30.

I am not kidding when I say it was the most brutal hearing of all time.  I've been to literally thousands of hearings, and even testified before congress on about 15 different occassions.  Nothing I have seen came close to this.  For just one 6 minute example of how bad it was, watch this:

Here is the chairman getting into it too.  I met him at convention last year, and he's a super nice guy, so you can just feel how unbelievably frustrated he is:

It literally went on and on.  Dr Lynch talked about taking his wife with him on the trip to Arizona, which really angered a lot of the panel.  During the 5 minute intermission he forgot to turn his microphone off and he was talking about how he shouldn't have said it.  Well, no, actually you shouldn't have DONE it. 

Dr. Lynch went to Phoenix to get a handle on the "system", he said that over and over and over.  He spoke with no patients, no doctors, no whistleblowers.  They only talked to the schedulers.  The same people who were maintaining the secret waiting lists.  How on Earth he expected to get answers from the people he was ostensibly there to check on is beyond me, and seemed to be beyond the Congressmen and women as well.

Congressman Huelskamp in particular wasn't buying ANYTHING that VA was selling last night, as he made clear in a series of Tweets that Twitchy noted:

And the dam is starting to break on demands for Secretary Shinseki's resignation.  While some Republicans and a few Georgia Democrats had called for it already, others had called for everyone to wait on the IG report.  Well, that came in, and things turned south QUICKLY (from Politico):

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki’s support on Capitol Hill crumbled on Wednesday as members of his own party deserted him in the aftermath of a highly critical inspector general report that found “systemic” problems at VA medical facilities.

Within just hours of the report’s release, the number of Democrats calling for Shinseki’s resignation more than doubled. By Wednesday evening, more than a dozen congressional Democrats publicly called for his ouster, joining a growing number of influential Republicans....

Among those pushing for his dismissal are the Senate’s most vulnerable Democrats, whose reelection bids are critical to the party maintaining control of the chamber next year. Democratic Sens. Mark Udall of Colorado, John Walsh of Montana and Kay Hagan of North Carolina released separate statements saying the secretary must go, reflecting pressure to break ranks with the Obama administration during an election year. Late Wednesday night, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) added their voices to the chorus of Democrats asking for a shake-up in leadership at the VA.

At this point it seems like it is only a matter of when the resignation will occur.  It seems exceedingly unlikely that further reviews will go any better for the VA.

For those that want to look at the IG report, you can READ IT BY CLICKING HERE.  It is fairly short if you don't read the addendums.  One thing that stood out to me in reading it though, and which the hearing last night focused on was the number of reports done previously that apparently no one at VA really decided to take seriously.

But the take-away was this:


To review the new patient wait times for primary care in FY 2013, we reviewed a statistical sample of 226 Phoenix HCS appointments.  VA national data, which was reported by Phoenix  HCS, showed these 226 veterans waited on average 24 days for their first primary care  appointment and only 43 percent waited more than 14 days. However, our review showed these 226 veterans waited on average 115 days for their first primary care appointment with approximately 84 percent waiting more than 14 days. At this time, we believe that most of the waiting time discrepancies occurred because of delays between the veteran’s requested appointment date and the date the appointment was created. However, we found that in at least 25 percent of the 226 appointments reviewed, evidence, in veterans’ medical records, indicates that these veterans received some level of care in the Phoenix HCS, such as treatment in the emergency room, walk in clinics, or mental health clinics.




while conducting our work at the Phoenix HCS our on-site OIG staff and OIG Hotline received numerous allegations daily of mismanagement, inappropriate hiring decisions, sexual harassment, and bullying behavior by mid- and senior-level managers at this facility. We are assessing the validity of these complaints and if true, the impact to the facility’s senior leadership’s ability to make effective improvements to patients’ access to care.


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Part of the problem at the VHA is the leaderships' incompetence as far as having the tools to be able to maximize resources for appointment wait times. Some VHA employees are promoted into management in the Healthcare Administration Service (HAS) with only experience in the next lower grade level -- without any applicable formal education. My feeling is that only those individuals who have earned a masters degree in health care administration (HCA) should hold positions in HAS at a GS-9 level or above. Those who have earned a masters degree in HCA have studied wait time issues, other related issues, and how to maximize resouces to resolve these issues; and others have not.

Why doesn't the government just give us insurance and allow us to go to a doctor of our choice? We could do away with the cost of operating these centers, the cost of the staff, and the cost of the medical crew. We Veterans could then decide if the doctor was treating us OK and if not, go to a different medical center!

Administrators who care more about their bonuses than the veterans who so bravely served our nation. I believe that the administrators at the VA hospital replaced with veterans, preferably men and women who served in the enlisted ranks and then went on to higher education, Why in heck would we have a 4 star running the VA. Why would they care about the men and women they sent into unplanned military action. Lets be reasonable, former enlisted personnel with higher education need to move into all the top slots and bonuses need to be sectioned 8

OK then Shinseki is finally beat into resigning (something Rumsfield couldn't do), then what? We are faced with a new guy who knows nothing and here we go again flopping around in never, neverland wondering what went wrong. The current staff who is working hard to get on top of this is toally demoeralized and experienced good people start leaving feeling unapprecaited for all the tremendoues gains they have made over the past five years. That's what the myoptic Legion is calling for and it will come back to bite all of us very severely. Those who have identified the problem should be allowed to fix it. New faces have a long learning curve on a masive system that has grown increasing complicated. Be careful what you wish for because you are likely to get it and it won't be pretty.

I have nothing but praise for the VA Hospitals, have been in 4 of them. They are caring people who
do their job well through the years.

Removing Shinseki now will mirror GM's changing of CEO's. The new one knows nothing about past recalls, but "looks forward" to working together. Keep Shinseki for now, and let him root out the career cancers that has infiltrated the organs of the VA. If he refuses, the pull the pin on him and get someone who will.

I have had nothing but the best treatment at SF and RENO VAs. Two brain surgeries and much fine care. Here I am alive and kicking 45 years after AO contamination. GOD BLESS THE VA, and all the fine people there. The administrators, not so much. Bill millholen USMC 69-71

Now what? Someone said just get someone who will fix the problem. That's a big duh....Who is that person? There is a very small pool of people who know what we have gone through and has the expereince required to run a 475,000 person organizaton that spans the globe when you consider the Natonal Cemeteries to include the one in Normandy and Luxembourg that belong the VA. Out of that very small pool of people who pray tell would want the thankless massive job even if they could get confirmed by the Senate. Plus that it doesn't pay very well compartively speaking. Commander Dellenger, in our name, got what he wanted. We have now broken the rudder off the ship and cut down the main sail. Lets see if we can now navigate to the destination or just founder at sea.

If the veterans who work at our vamc regard our veterans as brothers and sisters, this is the time to redeem yourselves and stop participating and start preventing these criminal acts of involantary man slauter.

OK, so Shinseki has resigned, now what? Have the 225 Veterans that are on this “Secret Waiting List” now receiving or have their appointment? Have their issues been resolved? Are they now getting the care they need? I’m not advocating that he should not have resigned, nor am I against the investigation, however, have we as the American Legion served those that have not been served by the VA? What has happened is unacceptable to any veteran, and as a Nation, this should never have happened to those that gave to defend this Nation.
Top management regardless if it is a private or public industry must be responsible for what happens in their organization. This is basic for anyone who has taken management/supervisory courses. We have seen this in the past, remember Enron? As advocates for veterans, we need to further push for accountability of not just the VA but the government as a whole. Mr. Shinseki’s resignation does not release Congress or the President of their responsibility to us veterans. There must be answers to those that are still waiting and need the medical help they earned. The committee was asking for answers, and the representatives danced around the questions. While the committee is asking questions, we can only hope and pray that those veterans directly affected by this are getting the help that need.

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News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.