The words waste and oversight have become synonymous with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), particularly in recent years. In spite of the irrefutable evidence that pins the reported ownership and reckless mismanagement of billions of American taxpayer dollars on senior leaders within the VA, the organization shows no sign of changing course. Each ousted departmental leader seems to be replaced with one just as incompetent.
A current VA employee, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of backlash by the VA, contacted SOFREP with evidence of a new way the department is wasting resources in various medical centers across the country. Eyewitness accounts at the medical center locations where the employee has worked shows that unopened, uncontaminated, and unexpired food and beverage containers are being thrown out in bulk. At one VA location, employees are required to actually open the unopened containers and dump them out into trash cans, while another site only requires that the containers be thrown away without being opened first.
The source told SOFREP, “If a carton of milk or packaged meal is placed on a patient tray but isn’t touched, we are mandated to throw it in the trash. It may not seem like much, but if you multiply it by how many patients are at each medical center, how many medical centers there are, and three meals per day – it certainly adds up.” The source also added that this has been going on for at least the six years that they have been employed at the VA.
When asked where the employee thinks the directive to throw the mandate is coming from the reply was, “I am not sure if it is coming from the VA or the Department of Health, but when I ask why, I am simply told that the food is considered to be contaminated and I have to throw it away.” The employee began to voice concerns when it was learned from friends who work at nearby hospitals that admit they are able to donate uncontaminated food and beverages to local homeless shelters or charities.
“If contact germs (on the beverage packaging) are a concern then straws could be used. The food isn’t exposed to air, let alone germs” the source said. “The VA doesn’t seem to mind that the vital signs monitor goes from room to room and is used on other patients (albeit it gets wiped down), so why can’t untouched food be dealt with similarly?”
SOFREP contacted the VA’s national hotline by phone but never got through, and an email only produced an automated response that promised a response within 5 business days. No response ever came. However, when contacting a few regional medical centers, some useful information was obtained. One regional medical center stated that they do in fact work with local homeless shelters to donate unused food “in some cases,” while a few others said that they did not know what their protocol was.
The varying standards and procedures from location to location illustrates a lack of oversight from the highest levels of the Veterans Affairs leadership, and in an organization where oversight has a serious impact on the lives of veterans as well as taxpayer dollars, this is one area that should be relatively easy to fix.
There has to be a way to save money by fixing this issue, and it should start by creating a standard for dealing with an expense as costly as unopened food, and then enforcing it. If the VA can’t fix this, what can they fix?