House votes ease rules for firing VA employees

The House today voted 310-116 to make it easier to fire or punish employees of the Veterans Administration.

Rep. Mark Takano (Calif.), the VA committee’s ranking Democrat, led an unsuccessful floor fight to soften the misconduct provisions, as the Republican majority defeated every substantive amendment. In the end, with Miller citing support from 18 prominent veteran groups, 69 Democrats joined the united Republican front to pass the bill convincingly.

It would shorten the process to fire, demote or hear the appeal of rank-and-file VA employees, from an average of more than a year to no more than 77 days. It also would end involvement of the Merit Systems Protection Board in such actions for VA senior executives; give the VA secretary authority to recoup bonuses and relocation expenses from employees who misbehave, or to reduce pensions of senior executives convicted of felonies that influenced their performance reports. Additionally whistleblowers would get new protections from reprisals and the bill would mandate strict accountability to supervisors or colleagues who would reprise against them, the VA committee explained.

This bill should become the model for changing the rules for all federal employees. Right now it is so difficult to clean house of corrupt or incompetent federal employees that there are even circumstances where they actually commit crimes and steal federal money and still hold onto their jobs.

VA performance worsens with more money

Government in action! A new report has found that the billions in increased funding given to the Veterans Administration to fix its problems apparently only made things worse.

The report, obtained by CNN but slated for public release Wednesday, highlights a variety of “deficiencies” that contribute to health care issues within the agency, including flawed governance, insufficient staffing, inadequate facilities, antiquated IT systems and inefficient use of employees. The commission also criticized changes that have been implemented since the scandal became known, including the VA’s Choice Program. The system was set up in 2014 to alleviate wait times by enabling veterans experiencing month-long delays or more to seek private care. The report states the program has only “aggravated wait times and frustrated veterans” due to confusing eligibility requirements and conflicting processes for coordinating with private health care providers.

As a solution, the commission recommends establishing a “VHA Care System,” which would function as a network of VA, Department of Defense and VA-approved private healthcare providers available to all enrolled veterans.

First, notice that the solution of this government report is a new layer of bureaucracy. That should fix things, eh? Second, note that the VA is really nothing more than what the left likes to call a “single-payer” system, whereby healthcare is entirely run by the federal government, which is the system the left still sees as the only solution to the failures of Obamacare. That should fix things too, eh?

Finally, the report demonstrates again that giving more money to a failed federal program will not fix it. The real solution is to kill the program entirely and start fresh.

VA reinstates worker who committed armed robbery

Our government at work: A VA worker has been reinstated with back pay after being fired for participating in an armed robbery.

It is worse than you think. The reason her union won her case was because the VA hadn’t fired other workers who had broken the law, so thus it was unfair to fire her as well.

A Department of Veterans Affairs employee in Puerto Rico was fired after being arrested for armed robbery, but her union quickly got her reinstated — despite a guilty plea — by pointing out that management’s labor relations negotiator is a registered sex offender, and the hospital’s director was once arrested and found with painkiller drugs…

Employees said the union demanded her job back and pointed out that Tito Santiago Martinez, the management-side labor relations specialist in Puerto Rico, who is in charge of dealing with the union and employee discipline, is a convicted sex offender. Martinez reportedly disclosed his conviction to the hospital and VA hired him anyway, reasoning that “there’s no children in [the hospital], so they figure I could not harm anyone here.”

The union’s position — that another employee committed a crime and got away with it, so this one should, too — has been upheld by the highest civil service rules arbiters, and has created a vicious Catch-22 where the department’s prior indefensible inaction against bad employees has handcuffed it from taking action now against other scofflaws.

And the intellectual elites in Washington wonder why people are angry and want to throw the bums out. In fact, that they remain clueless about this anger and continue to do nothing about this kind of obscene corruption in the government departments that they control is only more reason to throw them out. Maybe we should even consider bringing back that old American custom: to tar and feather them and ride them out of town on a rail.

The bigotry in the Democratic Party

The bigotry in the Democratic Party is not racial or ethnic. It is political. They hate Republicans so intensely that they are willing to let veterans die rather than work with Republicans to fix the problems at the Veterans Administration.

A federal employee union president is wracked with regret because veterans likely died at a time when she knew about gross misconduct within her Department of Veterans Affairs facility but didn’t tell congressional leaders because they were Republicans.

“If I would’ve gone to him two years ago, who knows what kind of lives could’ve been saved,” Germaine Clarno told a radio interviewer Monday, referring to the Republican leader of a VA subcommittee. Clarno, a lifelong Democrat and social worker at the Hines Veterans Affairs Hospital in Hines, Ill., has been president of the union representing doctors at the hospital since before the deadly wait-time scandal unfolded.

Several things about this story. First, my close reading of it does not indicate that this union official “is wracked with regret.” I think she is bothered, but not much more than that.

Second, as a union official she clearly works hand-in-glove with Democrats, who reciprocate that relationship. And in the case of the corruption at the Veterans Administration, that close working relationship between elected Democrats and unions was so strong that none of the Democrats this union official spoke to were willing to do anything to help sick vets, because to do so might do damage to the government unions and workers who were running the VA as their private little playground.

Third, the hatred of Republicans runs so deep in the Democratic Party and leftwing unions that not only were they unwilling to work with Republicans to help sick vets, they were willing to use the corruption at the VA to attack the very Republicans who had been the only politicians willing to deal with the problem. Consider for example this quote from the article:
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VA fiddled while sick veterans died

Obamacare will soon make this kind of medical care standard for everyone! A new audit of the Veterans Administration estimates that 307K patients died while waiting for requested treatment.

Read the entire article. The malfeasance and corruption at the VA is far worse than this, and goes back decades to the agency’s very beginnings. Also, giving the VA more money won’t fix it.

[T]he VA has seen its budget grow from $87.6B in 2009 to $152.7B in 2014. The 2016 budget request is $165.5B. This includes $70.2B in discretionary spending, with $63B going to medical care. So the department is asking for plenty of money to “help” veterans, but isn’t spending the money wisely.

Most of the issues mentioned in this audit were first identified in report issued in 2010. So why didn’t the VA act then to attack these problems?

Things move slowly in government, but if the work process system was this bad, why wasn’t it fixed? A part of it might be the VA wasn’t interested in fixing the system because it didn’t want to lose any money. This is a horrible theory, but it isn’t like the VA hasn’t had issues for years.

The time has come to shut these failed government agencies down.

Wait times at the VA remain months long, not 4 days as claimed

The federal government marches on! The wait times to get medical appointments at the VA continue to be months long, not 4 days as the claimed by agency officials in congressional hearings.

Records show on January 15, more than 1,600 veterans who were new patients were waiting 60 to 90 days for appointments. Another 400 veterans have waited up to six months, and 64 veterans had been waiting six months to a year for their appointments. The documents provided to CNN show the lengthy wait times are still happening, within the last several months, and sources say the backlog is happening even now.

And yet last month, the VA’s acting director for the Western region overseeing the Los Angeles VA told Congress that veterans who are new patients there only have to wait a few days for appointments. “The average wait time for a new patient right now is about four days,” Dr. Skye McDougall, the acting director of the Desert Pacific Healthcare Network, Veterans Health Administration, testified before the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

Who ya gonna believe, the actual facts or what an important government official claims? Obviously, the official is right and any skepticism by anyone makes them a denier who should just shut up. It makes people uncomfortable!

The VA pattern of lies

Let me count the ways: VA officials have lied to Congress repeatedly in connection with multiple different investigations in a variety of different states and administrations.

The most egregious example for was the last item of the story above, where VA officials repeatedly told Congress that the employees who had falsified records to cover up long patient wait times had been fired, when in truth no one had been fired at all.

As I like to say, the VA is a perfect example of what government healthcare will be like. And it is coming soon to a hospital and doctor near you!

Congress restores most VA bonuses

After the House voted 421-0 in June to eliminate all bonuses at the Veterans Administration in response to the scandals there, a compromise bill with the Senate has restored most of those bonuses.

The compromise bill announced Monday by the chairmen of the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees says VA bonuses will be capped at $360 million annually for the next ten years. But that cap is just 10 percent below the $400 million in bonuses the VA has distributed in recent fiscal years, and will allow up to $3.6 billion in bonuses to be awarded over the next decade.

“In each of fiscal years 2015 through 2024, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall ensure that the aggregate amount of awards and bonuses paid by the Secretary in a fiscal year… does not exceed $360,000,000,” the bill says. A description of the bill adds that members expect the VA to implement this cap in a way that does not “disproportionately impact lower-wage employees,” although the legislation itself does not include any restriction on how to award the money.

More evidence that our elected officials don’t represent us, but the employees of the government instead.

Blacklisting “disruptive” vets from medical care.

We’re here to help you! The Veterans administration keeps a database administrated by secret committees that lists vets as “disruptive” and “disgruntled,” which it then uses to restrict their treatment.

Among examples of patients’ behavior referred to the VA’s “Disruptive Behavior Committees” (yes, that’s what they’re called): venting “frustration about VA services and/or wait times, threatening lawsuits or to have people fired, and frequent unwarranted visits to the emergency department or telephone calls to facility staff.”

As Krause explains, the Disruptive Behavior Committees are secret panels “that decide whether or not to flag veterans without providing due process first. The veteran then has his or her right of access to care restricted without prior notice.”

Obviously, the VA demonstrates once again why we must put the entire healthcare industry under government control. If they can do it to vets, why shouldn’t the rest of the government not have the power to do it to us all!

The VA scandal expands with new report

Coming to a hospital near you! A new report indicates that as many as 1,000 veterans might have died because of corruption and incompetence at the VA.

The report also alleges that the VA routinely performs unnecessary preventative care, cannot process claims in a timely fashion, employs health care providers who have lost their medical licenses, and – as has been widely reported – maintains secret waiting lists in order to create the impression that the department is meeting performance goals set in Washington.

The report further alleges that some VA staff have been implicated in criminal activities, including drug dealing, sexual abuse, attempted kidnapping, theft, and conspiracy. “Earlier this year, one former staffer at the Tampa, Florida, VA was sentenced to six years in federal prison for trading veterans’ personal information for crack cocaine,” CNN reported on Tuesday.

In spite of these failures, VA senior managers are still receiving bonuses.

I want to emphasize again that this is exactly the kind of mess we can expect to occur with our private healthcare system as Obamacare forces the government to interfere with it more and more.

Two VA patients committed suicide after their treatments were delayed against the wishes of their psychiatrist.

Finding out what’s in it: Two VA patients committed suicide after their treatments were delayed against the wishes of their psychiatrist.

Dr. Margaret Moxness, who says she was employed at the Huntington VA Medical Center in Charleston, W.Va., from 2008 to 2010, told “Fox & Friends” on Monday that she was told to delay treatment even after she told supervisors they needed immediate care. She said at least two patients committed suicide while waiting for treatment between appointments.

Though the story is specifically about the widening scandal involving the Veterans Administration, it also tells us exactly what to expect from Obamacare in the coming years: bureaucracy, bad patient care, long wait times, and corruption by management. This is what one should expect from any monopolistic government-run program that doesn’t have to deal with competition on the open market.

Two Baptist chaplains are suing the Veterans Administration for demanding they stop naming “Jesus” in their prayers.

Freedom in Modern America: Two Baptist chaplains are suing the Veterans Administration for demanding they stop naming “Jesus” in their prayers.

Two Baptist chaplains said they were forced out of a Veterans Affairs chaplain training program after they refused orders to stop quoting the Bible and to stop praying in the name of Jesus. When the men objected to those demands they were subjected to ridicule and harassment that led to one of the chaplains leaving the program and the other being ejected, according to a federal lawsuit filed Friday.

Veterans Administration Settles with Veteran’s Groups at Houston National Cemetery

A victory for freedom: The Veterans Administration has settled the lawsuit filed against it by veteran’s groups at Houston National Cemetery over the VA’s attempt to stifle prayer at funerals. The key terms of the settlement:

  • The VA will not interfere with prayers during burial services.
  • The VA will not edit or control the speeches of speakers at ceremonies or events at the cemetery containing religious messages or viewpoints and cannot ban religious words in verbal communications between the volunteers and veteran’s families.
  • The VA will not ban religious speech or words like “God” or “Jesus” in condolence cards or gifts.
  • Payment by the VA of the veterans groups’ $215,000 in legal fees.

That it took a court suit to make the First Amendment clear to the VA is beyond sad.