Kellie Lunney at Government Executive writes, in a report on yesterday’s hearings into mismanagement at the Veterans Affairs Department, that:
VA’s inspector general substantiated several allegations during its investigation of the Philadelphia and Oakland facilities. Among the problems in Philadelphia: mail mismanagement, data manipulation, $2.2 million in duplicate payments to veterans, and alleged bullying and retaliation against employees. The facility did not provide responses to more than 31,000 inquiries from vets; the requests had been pending for an average of 312 days. VBA’s policy is that 90 percent of inquiries should receive a response within five business days. In Oakland, the IG found that the staff had not processed thousands of informal requests for benefits dating back years, and had improperly stored formal claims.
One whistleblowing employee at the Oakland VA office testified that
… veterans’ claims were left to collect dust for decades, many of them deemed “no action necessary.”
... told the story of a vet’s widow writing to the department about her deceased husband’s benefits: “She was dead six years by the time we got to that letter.”
Also on the agenda, further questions regarding the senior VA executive who received:
... more than $300,000 in relocation expenses from the federal government … to move ... from Washington to Philadelphia last year, including $211,750 to a contractor through the Appraised Value Offer program, and $84,643.70 ... for expenses including storage of her household goods, subsistence, and shipment of personal items.
Wednesday was not a good day for the VA. In another Government Executive story, Lunney writes that the hearings also dealt with allegations that:
Lucy Filipov, assistant director of VA’s Philadelphia Regional Office ... threw a party at her house that included Gary Hodge, head of the pension management center, his wife, and several employees. So far, okay. Except Hodge’s wife professed to be a medium who could help the living commune with the dead. And the invited guests (employees) allegedly were encouraged to pay her $30 each for that experience. Soliciting money from subordinates in the federal government is a no-no.
Filipov was at the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing…
And when asked:
… directly about the supernatural soiree. She said she was told by an employee of the inspector general’s office that she could not discuss the matter as it is “part of an ongoing investigation.”
The hearings go on, the corruption continues, and the embedded bureaucrats stonewall in the conviction – probably correct – that they can outlast congress and the general sense of outrage over how the VA has treated the people for whom it was designed to care … as opposed to the way it has treated itself … with bonuses and 300k relocation payments.
And, one suspects that they can, indeed, outlast the outrage.
Leaving one to ponder the wisdom of Charles Lane’s proposal for dealing with the VA, which he describes as:
… a Soviet-style structure, minus the coherence of the one-party state.
So, Lane writes:
… maybe it’s time to consider more radical surgery — if not abolishing VA, then at least abolishing VA as we know it.
Freeing both veterans and low level VA employees from the clutches of the bureaucrats.