The VA has long been entangled in controversy, and they seem to constantly be going from scandal to another. There are many good-willed and honest officials, but corruption has certainly taken hold on a significant number of ranking VA employees. Of course there are the problems with slow and/or poor service, pitfalls with the transplant system, and other practical problems. However, one common thread that continuously presents itself is the VA’s use of outside contractors. It seems to be an easy window for corrupt VA executives to make obscene amounts of money on the side.
SOFREP contacted a current VA employee who has come forward to shine a light on wrongdoings within his own VA facility, for which he was retaliated against. His lawyers have advised him to remain anonymous as the legal proceedings continue.
In light of all these controversies surrounding the outsourcing of work, SOFREP asked him a few questions:
What is the easiest way for a corrupt VA official to make money?
Only a very stupid or a very accomplished VA official will take cash. Usually the ‘pay to play’ relationship takes the form of expensive gifts and meals.
In my experience, there are two kinds of corrupt VA employees: first are the ones that are ignorant that the federal code of ethics prevents them accepting a gift or meal over $20, and the other are arrogant and don’t care. They believe themselves above any code or law. It’s the latter that permeate senior management levels in VA medical centers or regional offices. While Most VA employees are honest and never put themselves in a situation like that in first place, it’s this layer, this culture of senior VA leadership that made it possible for VA to waste billions of taxpayer dollars on software systems that would never work or signing off on awarding construction contracts for hospitals with incomplete designs.
What is the most common?
Like I said you either have to be very stupid or very accomplished take money as a federal employee in exchange for awarding contracts. Most common are the expensive lunches, dinners, gifts, trips, tickets, etc. in exchange for a pay to play relationship.
Why do you think so many of these illicit activities happen through contracting/contractors?
Much like how drug dealers and drug addicts have a symbiotic relationship, so do opportunistic contractors and ethically corrupt senior VA officials. The former is trying to make money pushing their product. They’ll do whatever they need to get someone hooked. The latter wants or needs the attention. Most feel they’re underpaid and believe they deserve whatever is given to them because they’ve “sacrificed” themselves and their “true potential” to be VA employee. A majority of these senior VA officials have never served or were marginal at best if they did serve. Honestly, in my opinion, they resent the amount of energy they have to spend giving the appearance that they care about veteran patients. I have witnessed more times than I care to count crocodile tears from these same senior VA leaders when a Veteran stands up and tells their story of sacrifice.
Are these cases more prevalent than what is reported in the media? If so, by how much?
Absolutely. In the billions.
Do you think the VA somehow attracts shady contractors?
Absolutely. Most VA employees in senior positions have never worked in private industry. They have no clue what things should cost, best practices, or basic cost accounting. They’re easily intimidated by new employees that do have private industry experience. Shady contractors allow them to mask these shortfalls and they get a little something in return.
Anything else you can think of? Or would like to add?
Yes, as a disabled veteran and a VA employee, I believe most veterans would want to use the VA if they trusted it. In a VA, veterans are surrounded by their brothers and sisters, whether in a waiting room, walking through the hall, or having a bite in the canteen. All of us share common experiences. We all have separate lives but all made the same oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. The VA has the potential to make us feel safe and it gives us a little piece of what we used to have when we wore the uniform. I believe that the President and Congress have an opportunity to really solve a lot of problems with veteran employment and the Veterans Administration by putting veterans or truly veteran-centric people in senior level positions. I think there may be an effort to do this, but the recent wave of putting recently retired former military officers, who were marginal at best in their career, into director positions at VA medical centers is making things worse. The VA needs to fill its leadership ranks with honest and honorable veterans with private industry experience in order to purge decades of corruption.
I would also like to add that, under the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR), Veterans Affairs Acquisition Regulations (VAAR), agency directives, and Presidential Executive Order, there are plenty of laws and regulations to prevent this type of corrupt behavior. Like I alluded to before, the more junior corrupt VA officials are usually ignorant of the laws or under the wing of senior corrupt VA officials. The senior level VA officials know the laws and have influence to get around them with the help of cagey contractors.
I also want to clarify that corrupt VA officials includes the Office of General Counsel (OGC). The only way leadership can stay entrenched is because the VA attorneys are representing the corrupt VA leadership not the VA, and certainly not American taxpayers.
Thank you for your time.
Featured image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.