The VA (Dept. of Veterans Affairs) is abandoning its veterans that need help the most. Their 2014 Budget request is $152.7 billion. In 2011, the Department was investigated for fraud, waste, and abuse. The outcome of this investigation was damning.

Eric K. Shinseki heads up the Department and, surprisingly, still remains in charge. If the VA was a private company, he would have been sacked in 2012 when the Inspector General (IG) report was released. The report lays out the incredible fraud, waste and abuse that seems to have become inherent to the organization’s DNA under Shinseki’s leadership.  In 2011, the VA’s Human Resources department spent over $6 million dollars on conferences alone, and is the main focus of the IG report.  I encourage you to read the full investigation and make up your own mind.

The 2012 report calls out failed leadership, lack of oversight, helicopter tours, limousine rides, and outright bribery. The findings are shameful. Add this to the complexity associated with applying for medical/dental benefits or the disability system, and it’s an epic fail under the leadership of Shinseki. After reading the report, the fact that Shinseki hasn’t stepped down on his own accord speaks volumes to his true character.

I recently spoke with friends about an Iraq war veteran who voiced concerns over a possible misdiagnosis and treatment program that ultimately resulted in the amputation of his leg.

In an article written about American sniper Chris Kyle by Nicholas Schmidle of the New Yorker, the write-up pointed out that Chris’s killer, Eddie Routh, was refused hospitalization by the VA after his parents begged them to re-consider. At that point in time, Routh had a history of violent outbreaks, and his parents seemed concerned for the safety of him and others.

In 2004, the V.A. Inspector General called the Dallas facility the worst in the nation; last year, a Dallas TV station interviewed veterans who alleged that the facility was so poor that it put “lives at risk.”From the New Yorker article titled “In the Cross Hairs”

After reading Schmidle’s piece, I can’t help thinking that the Dallas VA has some blood on their hands in the death of my friend Kyle.

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I wonder if the 2011 HR conference attendees spoke about these important issues when watching a “Happy Video” that the VA paid $16,500 of tax payer dollars to produce, featuring “happy” employees during the previous day of their six million dollar conference?

Excerpts from the IG Report

“VA purchase cardholders bought inappropriate items. In some cases, the items purchased were not in the best interest of VA. In at least three instances identified below totaling about $120,028, purchases were made for the conference that we considered questionable, wasteful, and not in VA’s best interest.

All of the VA employees who participated in the pre-selection conference site visits to Dallas, TX; Nashville, TN; and Orlando, FL, accepted gifts in violation of laws and regulations. Also, the gifts were offered because of the employees’ official positions as VA representatives and potential hotel clients in booking conferences. Moreover, we found that (REDACTED Name) solicited a particular gift of lodging from Marriott in connection with the contract award.

-From the 2012 Inspector General’s Report

I cannot help but think the VA’s Internal IG report is similar to the internal “Independent” report the State Department conducted on themselves after the Benghazi debacle. Even though State’s report suspiciously steered clear of naming the Undersecretary of Management  (“M”) Patrick Kennedy, it was clear to everyone at the State Department we spoke to that Kennedy was ultimately to blame for the denied security requests. And what good are findings and recommendations if they are never heeded, and the people in charge are not held accountable? Shinseki of the VA and Patrick Kennedy of the Department of State have more in common then you’d think.

I personally called the VA help line two weeks ago to make an adjustment to my account. After holding for twenty minutes, the system said it was too busy to take my call. “Please call back later,” the dull computer voice said to me. I haven’t called back since, I don’t want to waste my time on hold with the computer-generated voice anymore.

Time for Shinseki to step down.

 

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