VA OIG confirms $5,000,000 in waste by VA Public Affairs

 

Department of

Veterans Affairs

Review of

Alleged Mismanagement of

the Office of Public and

Intergovernmental Affairs

Outreach Contracts

We substantiated the allegations regarding

OPIA mismanagement of its outreach

contracts. We confirmed that in July 2010,

OPIA awarded a contract to Woodpile to

provide support for outreach campaigns at

an initial cost of $5.2 million. However,

OPIA could not demonstrate that contract

activities resulted in increased awareness of

and access to VA healthcare, benefits, and

services for veterans. We also confirmed

that OPIA solicited significant new outreach

service contracts without evaluating the

effectiveness of the previous contract.

OPIA management stated that leadership

turnover contributed to ineffective oversight

of the outreach contract management and

solicitations. Consequently, Woodpile

contractors performed functions that were

inherently Governmental. Questionable use

of a labor-hour order instead of a

performance-based contract contributed to

invoices for activities that did not clearly

link to accomplishment of VA outreach

goals. By awarding new contracts without

first evaluating the performance of the prior

Woodpile contract, OPIA continued to

expend funds on questionable outreach

activities. OPIA also lacked performance

metrics to fully assess improvements in

access to VA benefits and services for

veterans.

Congress to put Philadelphia VA’s management problems under further scrutiny – Washington Times

Oscar the Grouch will have lots of company in his garbage can on Friday.

Despite President Obama ordering a new “culture of accountability” at the Department of Veterans Affairs, a congressional hearing Friday will focus on persistent management problems at the agency’s Philadelphia office, where complaints range from phony record keeping to managers comparing veterans to the Sesame Street character Oscar to allegations that a VA manager encouraged employees to pay his wife to read their fortunes.

The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs will hold the hearing at a community college in Burlington County, New Jersey, which is part of the Philadelphia regional office’s three-state coverage area. A committee spokesman said the probe will focus on “mismanagement, cooking the books in order to make the backlog of claims appear smaller and low employee morale.”

via Congress to put Philadelphia VA’s management problems under further scrutiny – Washington Times.

VA employees accused of misconduct still not fired

Several Central Alabama Veterans Healthcare System employees who engaged in unethical — and in some cases criminal — behavior were still employed as of Nov. 12.

Over the course of several months, the Montgomery Advertiser obtained documents that showed five employees had taken advantage of VA patients, destroyed government property and lied to officials about misconduct.

And now, months later, VA records show several of those individuals are still receiving paychecks. Although information on an employee’s disciplinary action isn’t available to the public, employment status is.

The vocational rehabilitation specialist who brought a recovering veteran in the drug treatment program to a crack house is no longer employed, nor is Andre Hall, the prosthetics health technician who was charged with sexually abusing a veteran patient in December 2013.

But three others still are.

A CAVHCS employee who crashed a government vehicle, failed to report the accident, fabricated evidence and lied to police is still employed more than a year-and-a-half after the incident, records show.

The employee caused more than $5,600 in damages while driving in Barbour County in April 2013. VA police later discovered that the employee wasn’t there on business, and that the employee asked a witness to write a false statement about observing a deer running in front of the car to show he wasn’t at fault, according to the police report.

A VA Police investigation said the employee violated state law by not reporting the accident, violated multiple policies by not properly reporting the accident to the VA, made false statements to investigators, misused government resources and property for personal gain and damaged government property.

The police report also shows that an “enormous” amount of trash, food containers and VA retail store receipts on the floor of the vehicle showed that it wasn’t being properly inspected by the employee, his supervisors or VA employees responsible for maintaining the vehicles.

Court records and VA documents leaked to the Advertiser show that the employee also has a long history of felony arrests and driving violations, even though driving is required for his job.

His job as a vocational rehabilitation specialist in the mental health department requires him to work with a team that helps veterans with disabilities to overcome psychological, developmental and cognitive health barriers so they can get jobs. The position often requires driving veterans to jobs and appointments.

Between 2009 and 2013, the employee was twice charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, possession of marijuana, public lewdness and several moving violations, including speeding and failing to stop at a stop sign.

His salary is $49,520 and he works on the Tuskegee campus.

Another employee, Jason Garrette, who pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide after his involvement with a fatal car crash last December, is still employed. He was also charged with driving under the influence of alcohol in connection with the accident, court records show.

A Macon County grand jury indicted him for the homicide Sept. 12, and he pleaded guilty Sept. 25.

Garrette is also a vocational rehabilitation specialist, which requires driving veterans around in government vehicles. His salary is $49,520.

A third employee who police said misused, accepted and assumed control of a Tuskegee VA nursing home patient’s personal funds is also still employed.

The employee was assigned to be the patient’s “guardian angel,” which is part of a VA treatment program. The employee allegedly convinced the 49-year-old patient with dementia to trust her with conducting the patient’s financial activities.

A VA police investigation found that nearly $6,000 of the veteran’s money was withdrawn during a 15-month period and is still unaccounted for. There wasn’t enough evidence to press criminal charges, but police said the employee’s actions were considered patient abuse, and were described as reckless, uncaring and unapologetic toward the veteran.

The report said the employee became the patient’s guardian angel after finding out that the veteran was receiving compensation for her service-related disability. The employee also knew the veteran had been recently divorced and had limited access to family and friend.

The reports didn’t say whether any administrative action was taken, although the case was referred for administrative review.

via VA employees accused of misconduct still not fired.

VA’s firing of Pittsburgh Veterans Affairs director raises new allegations | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The families of the veterans who died at the Pittsburgh VA were upset to learn at the HVAC hearing just how big the bonus checks were that Pittsburgh VA executives received despite ignoring the outbreak of legionella

Terry G. Wolf former director of the VAPHS seen here in a happier time.

Not so happy now, former VA Pittsburgh director follow in the footsteps of her mentor Michael Moreland

Terri Wolf former VAPHS Director doesn’t seem so happy now.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs fired the Pittsburgh VA director because of the 2011 and 2012 Legionnaires’ disease outbreak, and it also raised new allegations Thursday of “wasteful spending” against her that it refused to explain.

The VA said it had formally fired Terry Gerigk Wolf, the Pittsburgh VA director for the past seven years, nearly six weeks after it first said it had substantiated charges of “allegations of conduct unbecoming a senior executive” during an investigation.

The Legionnaires’ outbreak led to 22 veterans becoming ill and at least six of them dying. Families of four of them said they were happy to see someone had been held accountable, but they believed Ms. Wolf was being made into a “sacrificial lamb,” as one of them said.

“This is a step in the right direction, but we all know there are others who were responsible, and nothing has been done to them, and we all know who they are,” said Judy Nicklas, daughter-in-law of William E. Nicklas, 87, of Hampton, who died Nov. 23, 2012.

U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair, raised that issue during questioning Thursday morning at a House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing when he asked Sloan Gibson, the VA’s deputy director, about accountability at the VA for the outbreak.

Mr. Gibson said he looked into the Pittsburgh matter during the summer to see whether anyone who should have been disciplined actually was. He said in every case in which there was culpability found, action was taken, but “in all likelihood I would not have agreed with the nature of those actions.”

“But I had no leeway to go back and address those because those actions had been closed out completely,” he said, “except in one instance.”

That one instance was the case of Ms. Wolf, who was put on paid leave in June pending an investigation.

Mr. Murphy said it was frustrating to learn recently that David Cord, one of the Pittsburgh VA officials who was involved in the outbreak and who advocated to keep information from the public, was recently promoted to be director of the Erie VA.

“I think that’s indefensible and incomprehensible,” Mr. Murphy told Mr. Gibson, adding that Mr. Cord at one point also “misled” him about whether the Pittsburgh VA had a waiting list.

Mr. Gibson said he would look into Mr. Murphy’s allegation about being misled by Mr. Cord. Mr. Cord could not be reached for comment.

The action to fire Ms. Wolf came almost two years to the day that the Pittsburgh VA first announced in a news release, on Nov. 16, 2012, that four patients had contracted Legionnaires’.

On Thursday, as was the case since that first mention of the outbreak in 2012, the VA failed to explain much and actually raised more questions.

For the first time, the VA said in its news release Thursday, not only did investigators substantiate “allegations of conduct unbecoming a senior executive,” but it also had substantiated allegations of “wasteful spending” against Ms. Wolf.

The VA would not explain why it took six weeks to fire Ms. Wolf, even though a new federal law is supposed to shorten the firing period of senior executives to just 33 days.

“I have no additional information beyond the statement,” VA spokeswoman Ramona Joyce said in an emailed response to questions.

via VA’s firing of Pittsburgh Veterans Affairs director raises new allegations | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Veterans Affairs Department fires Phoenix hospital director | Fox News

The head of the troubled Phoenix veterans’ hospital was fired Monday as the Veterans Affairs Department continued its crackdown on wrongdoing in the wake of a nationwide scandal over long wait times for veterans seeking medical care and falsified records covering up the delays.Sharon Helman, director of the Phoenix VA Health Care System, was ousted nearly seven months after she and two high-ranking officials were placed on administrative leave amid an investigation into allegations that 40 veterans died while awaiting treatment at the hospital. Helman had led the giant Phoenix facility, which treats more than 80,000 veterans a year, since February 2012.The Phoenix hospital was at the center of the wait-time scandal, which led to the ouster of former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and a new, $16 billion law overhauling the labyrinthine veterans’ health care system.VA Secretary Robert McDonald said Helman’s dismissal underscores the agency’s commitment to hold leaders accountable and ensure that veterans have access to high-quality, timely care.An investigation by the VA’s office of inspector general found that workers at the Phoenix VA hospital falsified waiting lists while their supervisors looked the other way or even directed it, resulting in chronic delays for veterans seeking care. At least 40 patients died while awaiting appointments in Phoenix, the report said, but officials could not “conclusively assert” that delays in care caused the deaths.About 1,700 veterans in need of care were “at risk of being lost or forgotten” after being kept off the official waiting list at the troubled Phoenix hospital, the IG’s office said.”Lack of oversight and misconduct by VA leaders runs counter to our mission of serving veterans, and VA will not tolerate it,” McDonald said in a statement late Monday. “We depend on VA employees and leaders to put the needs of veterans first.”Helman is the fifth senior executive fired or forced to resign in recent weeks in response to the wait-time scandal.

via Veterans Affairs Department fires Phoenix hospital director | Fox News.

Firing of Central Alabama VA director upheld | Military | The Sun Herald

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — A federal appeals board upheld the firing of the director of the Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System for neglect of duty, including not taking action against an employee who investigators said drove a substance abuse patient to a crack house to get drugs.The Department of Veterans Affairs terminated James Talton in late October. He was the first VA officialfired under a law approved by Congress and the president this summer. The law expedites the dismissal process for VA senior executives in response to the agency’s staff falsifying patient scheduling data to cover up extremely long waits for appointments.

via Firing of Central Alabama VA director upheld | Military | The Sun Herald.