The Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) recent response to allegations of its back door dealings to avoid hiring veterans was nothing short of embarrassing. It was like watching the bully who used to beat you up in kindergarten gets bounced out of the spelling bee during the first round.

What started as a point and counterpoint battle between a union and the government uncovered much more with a little patience and an internet connection.

Here, we have the union representing public employees calling the VA on the carpet for outsourcing government jobs. In their press release, the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) claimed, “VA Violates Federal Law by Illegally Outsourcing Government Jobs.” The release correctly pointed out that the VA did award ACS Government Solutions a contract worth over $45 million dollars.

AFGE alleges the contract will allow the VA to avoid hiring new workers to manage the enormous 1.3 million claims backlog. Instead, ACS will manage the backlog with its call centers.

Under Secretary Allison Hickey

In response, VA Under Secretary Allison A. Hickey chose a DC rhetorical favorite – speak out of both sides of your mouth.

In her interview with Federal Computer Week, Hickey stated that the VA failed to perform a cost-benefit analysis, as required by law. But, she insisted that doing so was OK in this instance. She went on to claim ACS workers are not replacing federal workers; ACS is merely going to perform the same tasks the VA is supposed to perform by hiring its own workers.

Specifically, ACS will be “supporting the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) by providing cases ready for decision by VBA employees.” This means ACS will take over evidence gathering from disabled veterans, a job previously the sole responsibility of the VA.

Patrick Bellon: Center

The VA’s explanation proved inadequate to some. Patrick Bellon, Executive Director of Veterans for Common Sense had this to say, “This situation must be addressed immediately and the appropriate actions taken without delay. The VA’s cavalier and tone-deaf explanation up until this point only adds insult to injury.”

Immediately after reading the headlines I began to do my own research. The point and counter point discussion, after all, affects me directly as a disabled veteran with a pending claim at the VA.

A quick Google search revealed that the contractor mentioned is actually Affiliated Computer Services, a Xerox Company, as of 2010. Prior to the merger, ACS was led by CEO Lynn Blodgett, a 2009 inductee into the International Association of Outsourcing Professionals’ Hall of Fame. On Xerox’s website, it touts ACS as the “world’s largest diversified business process outsourcing (BPO)” company.

This struck me as curious. The largest outsourcing company with the Hall of Fame of BPO was hired to not “outsource” VA jobs, according to the VA? Maybe they were just hired to clean the bathrooms. No one wants those jobs anyway.

To get the inside scoop, I called Marilyn Park, legislative representative for AFGE. To Park, Hickey’s statements were delusional, “To me, its as if the VA is saying, ‘We are above the law.’ They just do what they want, when they want to.” To Park, the VA is doing exactly what the contract says it is doing, outsourcing VA tasks that VA employees are supposed to do. My research suggested the same conclusion:

“The VA contracted with the largest outsourcing company in the world, Affiliated Computer Services, a Xerox company, to manage the disability claims backlog instead of hiring new workers. Period.”

This is where the rabbit hole begins. The contract itself is publically available, but logs in at over 200 pages in multiple attachments, addendums, and changes. It is virtually unreadable in its current format. ACS refused to comment, referring us to the VBA. Meanwhile, the VA did not provide any insight beyond Hickey’s comments.

Despite these setbacks, what I learned shocked even Park and her team. AFGE knew ACS did some kind of outsourcing, but they did not know that it’s a company mired in scandals ranging from enormous golden parachutes to class action lawsuits from welfare recipients.

Research Into Affiliated Computer Services

Here is what I found, where our tax dollars are going, and why you should care.

Straight off, we know this far that ACS is owned by Xerox. Xerox paid $6 billion for the company in 2009. The company is the largest outsourcing firm in the world.

ACS was based in Dallas and originally founded by insurance man Jack Murphy, around 1968. At that time, Murphy founded numerous other companies, which later would serve as the bedrock for converting medical paper documents into electronic files.

Darwin Deason: 397 in "The Forbes 400 Richest People In America"

By 1988, now billionaire Darwin Deason controlled ACS and changed its name from Affiliated Computer Systems. While the acronym was the same, he changed the “S” in ACS from Systems to Services. ACS was then incorporated under the new name Affiliated Computer Services. The reason for the change is unknown.

By then, ACS started what looks like the starting point for privatization of public welfare programs by putting food stamp and child support payments onto credit cards.

Fast-forward 20 years and a couple Enron level scandals later. ACS became a multi-billion dollar company with 40 percent of its business coming from government contracts, and ultimately your tax dollars.

With numerous key players on its Board of Directors and high-level executives from Booz Allen Hamilton, International Business Machines (IBM) and Citigroup, ACS was poised to privatize the entire US social assistance and welfare. This included Medicaid, Social Security, Welfare, and now Veteran Disability Benefits.

Indiana & the IBM – ACS Coalition

In 2007, Indiana’s management of the claims process was underfunded and backlogged, causing politicians to look elsewhere for solutions. In response, ACS formed a coalition with IBM to improve Indiana’s Social Security and Welfare programs, a contract worth $1.1 billion.

Accenture previously failed to successfully privatize similar systems in Texas, but Indiana hoped ACS and IBM would have learned from those mistakes. This was despite reports that ACS had numerous problems in other states fulfilling smaller contracts.

Unfortunately for Indiana, their gamble did not result in greater efficiencies and cost savings as promised by the ACS – IBM Coalition.  News headlines indicate that history repeated itself: “Indiana’s bumpy road to privatization;” “Failed IBM deal could cost millions;” “Former ACS workers highlight call center problems.”

From 2007 to 2011, ACS, IBM and a few other contractors made the situation go from bad to worse. Problems ranged from allegations of inappropriate use of private citizen information to completely disrupting Indiana’s social systems.

First, ACS’ human resources division intended to use private information of welfare recipients to enhance its hiring process, an act that was prohibited. While ACS denied using the information, Fred Cate, privacy expert and law professor from Indian University, pointed out that once the company has the information, there is little to prevent it from sharing data with a customer or partner at a later date.

But by 2011, the ACS – IBM Coalition was in complete disarray. The firms, including ACS, were subject to a class action lawsuit in Indiana for failure to perform as promised. IBM’s role in was terminated by the state in 2009, at which point the state contracted directly with ACS. ACS was to provide Welfare and Medicaid recipients with timely payments and file management. IBM went on to sue Indiana for breach of contract and ACS failed to satisfy the expectations of Indiana residents.

The victims in the ACS class action suit stated that “defendants have “routinely ‘lost’ client documents, including appeal requests, “failed to return clients’ phone calls, then denied coverage without adequate information.” Members of the class went on to state that the appeals became “so back-logged that fair hearings have been delayed for months beyond the 90-day time limits.”

Keep in mind that this is the same company that is now charged with outsourcing VA jobs to solve the backlog of veterans’ claims.

Back in Indiana, cost savings were in part the result of eliminating interaction with claimants. “They tried to eliminate face-to-face contact, or minimize it, and it didn’t’ work,” stated Josephine Hughes, Executive Director of the Indiana Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers.

ACS Employee Difficulties

ACS workers also highlighted problems in the call centers. “Your job is to get the people off the phone,” said Angie Kennaugh, former ACS Employee. Call center managers were inept and inexperienced. “The people running the call center came from Sprint and Taco Bell,” complained Kennaugh.

Another former employee pointed a possible truth, “It’s just about ACS making money. And that’s what they do, they make money.”

These comments are not just isolated to former employees. After some digging, I uncovered a treasure trove of comments from over 70 frustrated ACS employees on Indeed.com. Comments included claims of managerial discrimination against veterans and the disabled.

Given these allegations, I began to question Under Secretary Hickey’s decision to outsource the VA disability backlog to ACS. After all, the complaints coming from Indiana and elsewhere appear to be the same as the current complaints from veterans about the VA. This should surprise no one. As the old saying goes, bureaucracies always rise to their level of incompetence.

Despite this track record, Utah has also considered a contract with the IBM – ACS Coalition for part of the $1.7 billion that the state planned to spend. ACS officials sited savings of $20 million per year over the course of the 10-year contract while they managed Utah’s Medicaid system.

Of course, ACS also pointed out to reporters that claimants would likely not interact with ACS claims workers, at least that much. Despite the fact that interacting with claimants can be integral to any public system, not doing so perhaps begs one question. Will part of the forecasted cost savings be the result of claimants giving up, because they cannot talk with a claims representative? That was the case in Indiana given the facts and allegations.

Apparently, veterans do not deserve a choice in the matter. We will have to find out for ourselves if ACS has learned its lessons after mucking up social benefit systems all over the U.S.

ACS Corporate Fiduciary Issues

Outsourcing aside, I then turned my focus to trust. Can we trust leaders within the ACS culture (now Xerox) to be honest with the money they are paid? Or, am I paying into a golden parachute fund for someone like former ACS Chairman Darwin Deason?

These are reasonable questions since private corporations have an incentive to squeeze costs for their shareholders and board member. While the VA is not perfect, at least I know the majority of our nation’s tax dollars are not paying for some billionaire’s yacht.

In 2006, the SEC began to investigate ACS. The claim was that ACS, through its then CEO and CFO, improperly backdated stock options from 1996 to 2006. If true, this meant that for 10 years, ACS executives were essentially skimming profits and handing those profits back to themselves and other insiders.

The SEC claimed, “ACS engaged in a fraudulent and deceptive scheme to provide executives and other employees with undisclosed compensation.” The SEC further alleged that ACS “falsely denied that officers at the company had engaged in intentional backdating.”

Darwin Deason's 205 ft yacht Apogee- ranks 15 among The Forbes 400 yacht owners

By 2010, ACS cooperated with the SEC during the investigation. Without admitting fault, ACS consented to a permanent injunction after restating its historical financial statements in 2007. We may never know what happened, but I would certainly think twice before handing ACS a blank check.

In 2009, during Xerox’s acquisition of ACS, then Chairman Deason received a healthy golden parachute worth over $300 million and additional millions for his separation, totaling $800 million. Shareholders were not happy and cried foul, threatening to break up the merger. Xerox successfully threw shareholders a bone by increasing their payouts to avoid problems.

Now, despite shareholder problems, SEC investigations and looming class action lawsuits, Xerox wanted ACS at a premium.

It is at this point that my research came to a halt.

In the end, there is no clear answer to why the VA chose outsourcing to solve the backlog problem. The VA has been understaffed and underfunded for decades. Our country has absolutely failed to care for its veterans. This is shameful. To address the shortcomings, leaders in the VA took a bold move to effectively change the system for the better down the road by implementing numerous solutions including outsourcing to ACS.

Politics aside, maybe outsourcing and privatization could work, in a perfect world with honest corporations. In this new century, we have yet to see either.

The case of ACS is no exception based on the facts. ACS has a horrible track record. That track record is failure at a high cost. Let’s hope that the $45 million check taxpayers are handing over the ACS doesn’t turn into a blank check like so many other government contracts for privatization.

Over the next weeks, I plan to examine the ACS contract and its amendments along with other sources of data. For those of you with ACS experiences and insight, please contact me.

I will report back our findings, including comments from readers.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Benjamin Krause,
Founder, DisabledVeterans.Org

Benjamin Krause enlisted with the US Air Force in 1996 and served in the Air Mobility Command for operations in the Middle East, and later with the USAF Special Operation Command, where he participated in operations in Eastern Europe until 2001.

Since 2001, Benjamin has lent his voice as an advocate for veterans after his own disability compensation struggles with the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA). During his struggles with the DVA, Ben represented himself and used Veterans Service Officers to successfully appeal both informal and formal denials more than ten times. As a result of his experiences, Ben has published countless articles and guides that have helped other disabled veterans and family members effectively navigate the current disability system.

Benjamin holds an undergraduate degree from Northwestern University, where he studied Economics while using Chapter 31 Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment (VR&E). He is currently attending the University of Minnesota Law School using VR&E for the second time and will graduate in 2013.

Benjamin is also Assistant Director for Policy Advocacy at Veterans For Common Sense and he serves on the Board of Directors for THRIVE Veterans’ Employment Program, based in Minnesota. He is actively involved in social media and can be reached both on Twitter (@benjaminkrause) and on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/benjaminlkrause).

For more information about DisabledVeterans.org and Benjamin Krause, contact Cheryl Price at [email protected] or visit our website at http://www.disabledveterans.org.

16 COMMENTS

  1. In my current experience with the VA’s 1-800-827-1000 customer service line, in following my VA’s (secondary) claim for my tinitus, depression and for VA’s permanent decission on my squamous cell carsonoma claim… now all I would hear is the repeatitious, male, recording voice suggesting to enroll into the VA.ebenifit.gov website instead. I followed exactly just that, but after 3 mos after my registration – my claim status still same. The first the time I submitted my claim for my cancer was in Dec 21, 2009. After seven months, in June 30, 2010 I received the approval of 100% (interim for one year) rating. On Jan 2011, I had my pension & (?) interveiw. So far, I’ve received a 30% permanent rating (secondary) for my depression. Lastly, for my tinitus (secondary) and the squamous cell carcinoma (100% interim rating) is on a waiting game status and the most depressing is not being able to talk to a human being from the VA – who for without as (disabled Vets) they would probably be lining up at one of the unemployment offices.

    I deeply appreciate in what your doing, in behalf of “US”.

    Abe

  2. May I aslo add that ACS currently “services” MANY Federal Student Loan Consolidations and handle payments thereof. In MY case, I finally was awarded 100% VA Service Connected Disability with Individual Unemployability. Long story short–As of a year ago, it was supposedly made “easier” for we Veterans whom have outstanding student loans DISCHARGED/FORGIVEN without having to go through the three years of “Dr. Monitoring” as it was before; now having one simple form from ACS and copies of official letters from the VA stating veteran is 100% SERVICE CONNECTED and INDIVIDUAL UNEMPLOYABILITY. I did just that the first time this time period LAST year (2011), then it was sent from ACS to the Gaurantor and Dept. of Education. After almost 6 months, all I got was a non-explainatory letter from gauarantor via ACS that “Veteran Was NOT FOUND DISABLED”–nothing more nor less, then immediately was to start making payments. I inquired later in 2011 again with ACS and THEY told me that the letters from the VA were too old (yep, a runaround), so I talked to the VA Regional Office in my State of OHIO and they said I WAS OWED THAT BENEFIT and sent me QUICKLY two seperate letters with each specifically stating fact of 100% Service Connected Disability in one letter ON VA LETTERHEAD, and other stating I INDEED was awarded 100% Individual Unemployability. I sent that in December of 2011 as per policy TO ACS and currently my claim is at the Gaurantor and Dept of Education. This process that was supposedly make it easier for veterans with the Disability and IU as aforementioned and will not even go down the road of struggles to obtain that diability rating let alone SSDI–(FYI–if a Veteran is Disabled via SERVICE CONNECTION and Individual Unemployability–if the Veteran ALSO is awarded SSDI, there’s absolutely no offset in the amounts, Veteran rec’vs both…this is NOT the case with SSI, only SSDI). So, in the event my Veteran Benefit of having my student loans discharged is denied AGAIN, even though I FULLY meet requirements, ACS will be under spotlight as well as the Dept of Education by my :Contacting Senator Sherrod Brown in Ohio, whom was instrumental in helping with both my SSDI and VA Claim and WINNING, and The Racael Maddow Show and The Ed Show on MSNBC will all be hearing about this to place even more light on ACS guarding the perverb. henhouse! Thought you would find this interesting considering your excellent article and reporting. I too was USAF, by the way! I WILL be writing a book about my experiences within military to present. I do NOT use the VA Health System and use Medicare, even though it does cost me more as far as RX’d drugs however, I will just state that other than my PTSD and other medical issues, the VA gave me Hepatitus B tainted blood in an unsterile medical procedure…and am sure you know all about that debacle as well, not to mention through unsterile procedures, ALOT of veterans were exposed to all the HEP and HIV…with the VA passing the blame on the manufacturers of equipment that did not give specified instructions on sterilizing said equipment!!! What part of “sterilize” is nebulous??? Keep up the great work, Ben!

  3. Thanks for a very interesting and disturbing article. I too have a claim pending with the VA and found your timely article alarming. Like many I am a student of history but will forgo the cliches and simply state the obvious. IT IS ALL ABOUT THE MONEY!!! The powers that be could care less for us veterans and in large part for many of the employees of the VA. Your optimistic hope for success with the “illegal contract” is admirable but a skunk cannot and will not change its stripes, especially where large amounts money are involved. I do not share your optimism and have the same feelings as I did when I returned from Viet Nam to an uncaring America. Just more of the same. In all sincerity, I thank you for your efforts.

  4. Outsource and then claim no responsibility for the f***up. I think a great American soldier could do the job better, faster, and with competence for the VA. But what do I know I am 80% disabled and have been turned down over and over again by the VA for the most menial of jobs. Thanks Ben great job.

  5. I just terminated service with Mid-Cities a va contractor and started to pay for my own oxygen service. Not saying the In house va employeed could do any better than the contractor.. just saying the va gets the garbage they pay for. I am also retired from civil service, and while the union protects the employee in dicipline matters, it also is the reason that many government workers are overpaid and under qualified…AFGE is no different than any other union,……

  6. As a spouse of OIF/OEF Veteran who has had a pending claim over a year now for numerous claims including PTSD and has been hospitalized for in a hospital for 8 weeks for PTSD. Squamous cell carcinoma, multiple found crushed vertebrae in neck and thoracic areas that has now turned into severe arthritis. His migraines has worsened, has slurred speech, cognitive thoughts and process issues (which we have not filed for yet, having him tested for possible TBI). Then there are muscle pains and other issues.

    Now on the standpoint of call centers and outsourcing. I have the background knowledge there as well as working for a major global company (I am not going to say the company name.) I can say outsourcing does not work unless the company who hired them does actual audits on them on a continual basis to ensure they are meeting the need of the customers. To ensure they have a Quality Management System set up and they are following the guidelines and contractual agreements set forth in the contracts between both parties. Also, they must audits actual cases of they processed to ensure such as the veterans in these cases they were following 38 CFR PART 4 Schedule For Ratings for Disabilities. If not, then issue corrective actions and fix the problems and resolutions just as you would within your own company. Nothing should change in the way it is done or sought in the manner when following the guidelines they are clear cut.

    If the VA was watching this company as they should have been errors would not have occurred. Shame on the VA for not auditing the outsourcing company. That is a great example of what we quality people call “waste in quality”.

    As a Six Sigma perspective there is many many things I see when walk into the VA myself that is total waste and could use improvements. That is on a bird’s eye view. If you ask me and hang a sign to not to speak on my personal cell phone at window, I expect the employee to not have their cell phones out in public view. As being a Lead Auditor in a global company and reporting this is one thing I quickly nibbed in the butt. It slows the process of an employees work when they have their personal cell phones out on the desk. They should be in a locker, purse, but not out in public. Employees should not be visiting other people’s desk chatting and talking, there are too many empty desks when you are looking for someone, because employees are not where they are supposed to be. Unless they are on break they need to be at their desk. Who are watching these employees.

    Does the VA actually audit their own processes, do corrective actions and do they close the corrective to ensure that it will never ever happen again. That is what a corrective action. Preventive action something that you can prevent from happening in the future; create a project team from different aspect and troubleshoot it and come up with a resolution to prevent the future preventive occurrence of the event.

    A good maintained quality management system can save companies money and headaches, a great one can save heartaches. But, one with a poor one can leave trails of tears this is the VA system. Now I can tell you something, I worked for a global company that had one call center that covered all the US for their products and had one repair center used ACS repair centers. I took my team of auditors and we learned every aspect of the business from buying an eraser to repairing a cell phone to repairing large screen tv, dvd players, dishwashers, etc. Then we learned the manufacturing side of the business.

    Now, if you read the J.D. Power and Associates reviews of customer satisfaction there are two companies that consistently rank 1 and 2 for the five years they are Samsung and LG Electronics so I will let you figure out what company I worked for when it comes to a mind set of a quality management system.

    If we can instill this type of quality management system in our VA system we would have claims processed in shorter amount of time with a higher customer satisfaction.

    If you are thinking I am comparing apples to oranges here between products and people. You are wrong I am comparing quality management systems here. Because QMS is based on the the product or service you provide to the customer. Samsung and LG provide both the product and the service of repair of their products just think about how many claims of people have to have their products repaired or replaced that are defected and the time limit they can get it done and in the manner they get it done it. When you call into their call centers have you experienced a “rude” person? Maybe someone you may not understand somewhat but, that can be dealt just by asking them to speak with someone who speaks English better and they are more than gladly to assist you in that matter. Trust me, I was born here in the States, I have traveled almost all the states doing audits for this company, and I have taken calls and I have had people ask me if I am from Bangledesh and I say no I have been there, but I was born in Indiana, moved to KY when I was younger, then transplanted to Alabaman to teach at the University and worked for the “company” and then transplanted to TX. They laugh and say I could have sworn you were foreign. I responded to them as I thought the name “Jesus” was the name of God’s son and that he was calling me from heaven this has to be the first, because of all people who couldn’t pay his phone bill, and has phone suspended because of it.” I wasn’t familiar with the Spanish culture using it that way. He laughed but I got the whole six months of bills he owed. At that time I worked for Sprint Finance Call Center. See. the way a person speaks doesn’t mean they are from another county at all, I speak fast because I am always in hurry.

    I started in Nursing I worked in Emergency then I changed it Mental Health and stayed in Mental Health for 13 years working with celebral palsey and mental retardation and neuro patients most of the seizures of the children could kill them I didnt have time to waste on slow talking folks. Lives were on the line. Then, I moved on to Alzheimer’s and Dementia patient’s I quick witted person and trust me, the Lord knows I learned to lie with them too..if they said it was snowing but it was actually 90 degrees outside I saw the most beautiful snowflakes at those given moments. If aunt Ginny was yelling for the buckboard….she was wanting the wheelchair to her mind that is what the long wheel chairs looked liked to her and that is what she called it.

    These stories I tell you, is what they are. The VA Quality Management System is that it is, a poor system that is in need major improvements and not band-aid fixes. it is still running on old mind sets with old people that don’t like changes. Well the world don’t work like that anymore. Economics of the everyday person, can’t survive on old mindsets of people who collects checks on payday more than they should get paid that at the end of the day they have money to pay for food, gas , entertainment. They don’t think of those who CAN NOT because of their non caring people, non caring outsourcing, non caring quality system.

    Shame on the VA for not auditing their process and not auditing the outsource centers. How would they know they made mistakes unless they audited?

  7. I’ve worked in the federal workforce for a little over 21 years. I am a Gulf War Veteran and on currently on FMLA. I accepted a job with the VA and on the higher end of the GS scale.

    By no means I’m I any different from any other person but I can say I’ve had the best, almost perfect CAREER until I moved to the VA. I have never seen waste, abuse of power, lack of using human capital, unqualified persons for the job they posses, etc….

    Hesitant about writing this. EEO has charged my entire chain on seven charges-two of which may be criminal, OSC is about to start an investigation, DOJ is showing some interest and I have one Congressman that seems to be supporting me–unlike the usual congressionals.

    My personal story is a nightmare and I think is why I’ve developed some PTSD issues along with a neurological disorder that the docs can’t figure out. I’m not blaming this on the VA, except the efforts made in retaliation after I did the right thing and spoke up about the waste of tax dollars.

    I’m scared. Going back to the VA medical side for care is an embarrassment as a VA employee. I’ve learned the VA is a different and unique animal to work for. Example, I’ve had to possible diagnosis, both equal an unpleasant end-of-life. We still don’t know what is causing the issues, nonetheless, not one person in my chin has said “get well”. They’ve spent more energy on how to get rid of me. My prior agencies cared, were civil and worked in an effort to get good things done.

    The VA spends millions on contracts that do what VA systems already do and when errors are made they spend money figuring out how to look like they didn’t drop-the-ball.

    I wish I could give details. I hope I don’t seem disgruntled. I love my CAREER; I have a JOB.

    The silver lining in my story, minus the illegal activity that I’ve been made aware and reported—I got an LOR for talking to someone not in my department. Yes, that’s all I did.

    Anyway, the silver lining, hopefully, is awareness. I’m not going away and I’m not going to shut-up. I don’t want to be a martyr–I have a young son, mortgage, car, etc… But when I learn of Veterans filing for bankruptcy…losing their home, land, farms, basically their livelihood, when they should be enjoying retirement and all the great things I hope the “Golden Years” are suppose to be. When I see this, and I have knowledge there is activity that did not ensure a possible third party insurance company didn’t pay the contracted amount, it makes me want to scream.

    There are some remarkable people working at the VA. There are many people that know the same things I do and probably more about illegal practices. Since, somehow, it got out I had followed through with an EEO complaint and was not backing down, people would approach me almost daily asking for help on their personal issue’s and knowledge of mostly unethical and a few illegal activities .

    They wanted my help but they wouldn’t agree to telling their chain of command, IG, Union, MSPB, OSC, etc. They said they couldn’t lose their job, well, neither can I but I cannot sit back and just watch all of this continue as normal business practices. Unfortunately the VA fosters an environment that has these people scared to report the smallest of discrepancies. You all know the VA will not move forward and get to the fundamental reasons it is failing with a hostile environment that encourages managers to censor their employees.

    At the end of the day, the Veterans are being treated worse than you would conceive. The observations I’ve witnessed and been involved at times-with good intentions, would make your eyes water, than the anger comes. When I do come out with everything (after my health concern is addressed and I can find an attorney passionate about Veterans and find the resources for at least a retainer) I plan on finishing law school and represent Veterans wrongly charged and need pro bono representation.

    I can’t make the changes within the VA; I’ve been labeled, and that’s okay. I’m proud of my career at the other agencies and my accomplishments, which if I shared you would find out who I am. I am very good at what I do–I wish the VA would let me do it as intended when hired.

    Got a bit long there. Thanks to all of you that have served and those of you who may not have worn the uniform but in some way help the military members and our Veterans.

    I’m sorry I can’t do more. I’m sorry for any Veteran going through a difficult time with the medical side. Again, I’m going through it and the status quo of my experience is unacceptable. I know the pain, both physically and mentally. I know the appointment 3 months away may be to far and the damage is done. I know we are not alone. I don’t know how to fix something this big, this broken.

    Just my take on my last 5 months. Combat was less stressful than dealing with the VA. We knew who the bad guy was. Maybe strange, but some of you might understand.

    If you are a Veteran and have third party insurance. Check everything if billed depending on SCD or non-SCD. Educate yourself.

    All the best

    • Mark,

      Stay strong and encouraged!

      Hopefully, your example at the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) will inspire others to act in some way and change can begin.

      I sincerely thank you for your courage and positive attitude in the face of so much with your health and the internal struggles concerning your complaint. This was posted some time ago, so I hope things are much brighter!

      Again, thank you and all the best in your endeavors…!

      As far as the ACS story, this is outrageous! I am plainly, simply outraged!

      Thank you, Benjamin for your consistent and necessary education of this story!

      Samuel

  8. I also am a VA employee and a disabled Veteran and cannot possibly imagine a worse combination.

    VBA is the same as the mafia, they hire their friends and family to do jobs that they are not qualified for, they create as many hurdles that they can in order to hinder employees in the performance of their duties, they refuse to even attempt to accept technology that would be helpful, and then place the blame for all of the failures squarely on the shoulders of the dedicated employees who they screw on a daily basis.

    As a VA employee I am ashamed to go to work every single day, after 20 years of service I hate going to work. As a Veteran I only deal with the VA absolutely when necessary, nothing moves within the VA and if it does move then the odds are it will get lost causing you to receive the same letters over and over again asking for the same information.

    I can control my dealings with the VA as a Veteran, I just choose not to deal with them at all; however, I really regret starting my career with this agency and continuing for this long. Over the course of my career VA has been a pretty good agency; however, these last 4 years have been the worst that I have ever seen.

    Barack Obama, General Shinseki, and General Hicki have done a complete disservice to the men and women who have served this country and to the men and women who currently serve this country in service to the brave men and women of the U.S. Military as employees of this organization.

    You have to look no further than the fact that the VA, which is the second largest agency in the government only has a 25% rate of veteran-employees, and only about 8% of that amount are disabled veterans. The same agency that says it is for veterans does everything within its power to avoid hiring veterans.

    Shame on all of our elected officials and the individuals who they appointed. Veterans, Employees, and Taxpayers deserve much better than this.

    If I could find out how to get a job with ACS I would, because anything beats working for the VA.

  9. Over 23 years of service, placed on PDRL in 2006 with 0% from USN. I appealed to BCNR and was shot down. I tried getting a job with VA with my occupation from the military. Found qualifed, but never called in for an interview. I filed an appeal, and VA denied it. Instead they hired a minority to fill the job, straight out of high school. I repeatedly filed with VA for a rating for 4.5 years and it yielded nothing. ZERO percent. First DAV assisted, then VFW assisted, and IAVA dropped me off their membership. LOL … they just want your money, and they get funding money from the US government as well every year. Life membership with VFW and DAV gave me no preference or priority with regards to assistance.

    Would you bite the hand that feeds you ? hmm ???

    As a veterans counselor I have learned the hard way that you NEED an attorney to get anywhere on your disability rating. The system is corrupt, and the only ones who get anything are ones who have representation. I’m not talking about VFW, DAV, or IAVA. All of those veterans organizations did nothing for me. Do yourself a favor and visit this website: AlphaDisability.com ……. These attorneys will get what is rightfully yours!
    My rating went up dramatically, and now my attorney is after the back pay!

    The war is not over when you return home. In fact your mission is to get what is RIGHTFULLY yours for all the sacrifice, and hard ache you have received at the hands of this misguided and corrupt government. GOD Bless!

  10. This is our VA, not theirs.
    We earned the right to quality.
    We know how to fight.
    We know how to win.
    And we will all go down together.
    We all need to get involved to fix this thing.
    We own it, we pay for it, it’s ours.
    We need to find the beginning and start there.
    I challenge each and every one of you to offer a suggestion.
    I’ll start.
    FORCE THE VA TO HIRE MORE DISABLED VETS,
    WE GO TO THE HEAD OF THE LINE,
    ESPECIALLY AT THE VA!
    ght before we need to fight ag

  11. This is a great post! Before my own dealing with my current VA Disability Compensation claim and how I was treated, along with my current appeal process for a low-balled rating, I actually had a shred of hope that the VA really wanted to help me. Now that I found this site and have read articles and posts from other Vets, I now know the truth! Its ironic too! About 6 months ago I actually got called for an interview at the VA Regional office in Maine where I had applied to be a Veteran’s Service Rep. Now I know that when I answered the question I was asked about why I wanted to work there, I said “I wanted to help my fellow brother and sister veterans get the help and support they need because I know how it is to be in their shoes. I served with them and now I want to help give something back to them for their sacrifices.” I wasn’t selected for the position. Now I know why and its very disheartening!

  12. Right at this very moment, I have in my possession a VA medical file that belongs to another veteran. We were looking for a file from the Freedom of Information with over 1000 pages of treatment records for my husband. However, what we received was someone else’s “complete Claims file.”

    I am wondering, how much this will happen with ACS at the helm? This is so unfair for a company that has had as many issues as ACS, to even be considered for this contract.

    Ben, if you could find so much information, why didn’t Ms. Hickey, do the same? We need people, who will look at all past performances of companies. As a small business, that was what kept us from getting contracts. What is worst, no past performance or past performance with a track record like ACS?

    What are the powers that be thinking? It is almost as the military is used to go to wars in order to further the economics of the rich. Once you become a veteran, you are used as a piece of meet. Everyone can benefit, but the veterans, themselves. If they were to vet ACS, like we are when we submit claims, I don’t think they would have this contract.

    Now, can someone tell me who to report this issue with getting someone’s entire VA Medical Claim’s File? Also, where are my husband’s records we requested?

    Thanks.

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