In life and leadership, accountability means consequences for bad behavior.
In Washington, accountability means yet another congressional meeting about another government scandal perpetrated by tax-subsidized corruptocrats who get away with murder.
This week, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs will hold the 999,999th oversight hearing (give or take a few) on the VA’s homicidal, no-fault culture. “In the wake of the biggest scandal in VA history, in which 110 VA medical facilities maintained secret lists to hide long waits for care,” the panel notes, “the department has successfully fired just three low-level employees for manipulating wait times. Not a single VA senior executive has been successfully fired for doing the same.”
Have you forgotten? President Obama, who proclaimed himself “madder than hell” when the scandal first broke, apparently can no longer be bothered to care as he gallivants around the planet fretting about climate change.
How about some climate change at the toxic VA?
The department in charge of providing care to those who served our country in uniform stuck hundreds of thousands of vets on waiting lists to nowhere. The exact VA scandal death toll remains unknown because of the perpetually crappy state of data entry and management that long predated the latest bureaucratic abominations under the Obama administration.
We do know that in Phoenix alone, an estimated 40 veterans died waiting for care as VA officials cooked the books and cashed in. Former Phoenix VA hospital Director Sharon Helman was one of the few officials finally dismissed for misconduct. But like countless other VA crooks, she was awarded (and allowed to keep) more than $8,000 in publicly funded bonus pay plus a 2 percent pay raise after submitting a self-assessment in which she bragged: “I drove tremendous improvement in primary-care access.”
The VA bonus bonanza — which fueled the records-doctoring scandal — showered $142 million on executives, managers and employees in 2014 alone, according to a devastating USA Today analysis last week. The year before, the VA doled out nearly $400,000 in bonuses to hospital officials as veterans fought to be seen and treated.
“Among the recipients were claims processors in a Philadelphia benefits office that investigators dubbed the worst in the country last year. They received $300 to $900 each,” investigators found. “Managers in Tomah, Wis., got $1,000 to $4,000, even though they oversaw the over-prescription of opiates to veterans — one of whom died.”
In St. Paul, Minn., VA benefits office director Kimberly Graves raked in nearly $9,000 in 2014 bonus pay. The VA inspector general determined that she abused her power to transfer to a new position and collected nearly $130,000 to move. Graves refused to testify at a House hearing earlier this month about job-manipulation charges, as did accountability-evading VA exec Diana Rubens of Philadelphia.
The tight-lipped fish rots from the head down, of course. Former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, who resigned last spring, refused to turn over records related to bonus decisions to a judge.
No consequences for evading judicial orders. But he’s still collecting his six-figure, gold-plated government pension.
About the only thing the VA has proved efficient and effective at these days is retaliating against the brave watchdogs who exposed their craven supervisors. It’s been two months since Office of Special Counsel head Carolyn Lerner blasted the systemic witch hunts against whistleblowers to President Obama in an open letter. After highlighting a “pattern of deficient patient care at VA facilities nationwide,” she discovered a flood of chilling cases in which the agency “attempted to fire or suspend whistleblowers for minor indiscretions and, often, for activity directly related to the employee’s whistleblowing.”
In 2015 alone, the OSC has received over 2,000 cases from VA employees seeking protection from retaliation for whistleblowing.
Where’s the White House? Too preoccupied with restricting the powers of federal inspectors general to investigate wrongdoing within the Obama administration’s agencies from A to VA to Z.
These feckless, reckless officials in the top echelons of power will continue to jeopardize and sacrifice innocent lives as long as they suffer no risks to their own privileged, protected livelihoods. They deserve a change of climate all right — from the rarefied air of the Beltway to an enclosed habitat behind bars.