MMQB: Backlog Updates from the Heartland

130812 Heartland

Hi and thanks for checking in for this week’s Monday Morning Quarterback. Actually, it’s more like Monday Afternoon today.

I’m just returning to the office after studying for the bar and have been fuming pissed at all the headlines I’ve been reading while studying contracts law.

I plan to touch on some of these here today. My investigation into these matters will unfold over the next six months. Here’s my shitlist:

  • Progress made on disability claims backlog?
  • Air Force caught shipping cocaine?
  • Lockheed now owns disability compensation evaluation company?

 

Statistics on the Backlog

There was a ton of hype before I crawled into my whole regarding the backlog.

Everyone reading this knows there is a problem in VA regarding processing disability claims. The process is slow. The adjudicators make wrongful denials. Veterans die while waiting for their claims. Veterans are unable to get health care as a result.

You know the drill.

Last week I read the following predictable claim by Secretary Eric:

Perhaps Shinseki’s biggest challenge is overseeing VA’s massive transition to digital record keeping to end the controversial backlog of disability claims. In March of this year, Shinseki says the backlog was 611,000.

“In the last 145 days, 100,000 claims have been processed and the backlog has been reduced,” said Shinseki.

To emphasize the commitment to update record-keeping and end the backlog, Shinseki cited the current federal budget.

“President Obama’s 2014 budget request, the one that’s before Congress today, includes a record-breaking $3.68 billion for IT requirements, reflecting the vital role that IT plays in our daily work,” he said.

KSDK News: St. Louis

This quote states everything that is wrong with VA and its mental manipulation of the problem. Without careful reading, perhaps the nation would all assume VA is winning in the backlog battle. We know this is not true.

Take a look at his statement. He points to the high backlog number and follows that with a carefully crafted and confusing follow up. “… 100,000 claims have been processed and the backlog has been reduced.”

He fails to state how many backlogged claims were processed. Don’t forget that 1.2 million disability claims are filed every year. Processing 100,000 claims in 45 days is pathetic because it means the backlog is actually growing.

Also notice he fails to state the number of “backlog” claims that were actually processed. Smooth one Rick (Shinseki’s actual name). His PR team is clearly working its magic.

Secretary Shinseki goes on to point out that all will be fixed if Obama approves another $3 billion in IT… What a crock of shit. That money will go right to government contractors. VA will not actually get IT fixes that work. This is an old hat trick they used back in 2010 when they had $3 billion in IT funding that got pissed away by DoD.

Making matters worse, VA also changed how it reports its workload. The workload is what fellow journalists used to KNOW how bad the backlog was. Instead of fixing it, VA just pulled out some of the calculations to make the backlog look smaller to unsuspecting reporters.

Sad.

 

Air Force got a Snow Job

The Costa Rica News reported recently that USAF recently flew 24 tones of cocaine into the US.

According to the article, the USAF loaded a C-17 in Costa Rica and flew it into Miami in July. I believe this photograph speaks volumes: C-17 Cocaine.

However, to those who don’t believe the US is engaged in trafficking drugs, perhaps the white baggies contain baking soda? For you, maybe the USAF was shipping baking soda to Miami because a bunch of students were building homemade volcanoes…

I do not feel the need to say much more than this following the headlines of our US Marines permitting opium fields in Afghanistan. In fact, we helped them grow opium.

Our country is in a sad state of duplicity against the people. On the one hand our military is fighting for democracy. On the other hand, we use our war machines to actually further the War For Drugs, not against drugs.

Taxpayers are paying for that. I wonder how long God will allow our country to lead given the number of innocents who are harmed by our furtherance of drugs?

 

Lockheed Makes Disabled Soldiers, Now Fixes Them?

This was the most shocking topic I read while away.

Lockheed Martin purchased a company called QTC Management. QTC is the largest provider of disability evaluations for the government, including VA disability compensation evaluations.

Lockheed, of course, is one of the largest creators of deadly weapons in the world. For me, this purchase has created a conflict. Check out some of their new announcements this year:

Most striking is that its purchase of QTC will allow Lockheed to have direct access to disability data, which includes data on how our weapons cause harm and the long-term impact of that harm.

Oddly, the headline resurfaced in January 2013. However, Lockheed purchased QTC in September 2011. Maybe it’s just me, but I found the delayed timing of the formal press release to be striking.

Nonetheless, the cozy relationship between Lockheed, the DoD and now VA should certainly be raising eyebrows. Lockheed will be able to singlehandedly reduce the long-term cost of war by using restrictive techniques to disability assessments.

Over time, veterans can count on poorer quality evaluations resulting in lower disability ratings. This greater trend toward civilian ownership of VA and government wide processes will always result in the taxpayer being double billed and receiving poorer services for the money.

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Comments

  1. My Year working for the Federal Government:

    May 2010: I start working for Social Security Administration. This is when the crap really starts to hit the fan.

    Here was where I got a real eye-opening experience by working “behind the curtain” at a major federal agency. I was hired by a manager named RV. He was a good person and an Air Force Veteran who hired 2 Veterans, including me. When he left for the Fremont office, he was replaced by LF in October.

    Almost immediately after her arrival, most of my coworkers hated life. This wasn’t something I picked up from just observation. This was something that was verbally expressed on an almost daily basis by those that have been there for 10 years or more. They all had one conclusion, this was by far the worst management crew they have ever had to work for.

    This episode of my saga is not just about me. In fact, it’s mostly about the people I worked with side-by-side. If you ask any of them about me, they would tell you I was the first to help and last to leave. I really want this part of my story to be about them because if you take my story away, you will still see that there are very bad actors who are misbehaving very badly at the San Francisco Social Security Administration. There are many people in that office who want to talk, but know that they will only hurt themselves and their families if they do. My heart truly goes out to them. Especially the Blacks and the Asians. They’re getting the shaft.

    The first victim I witnessed firsthand was Helen, who is Black. She was the supervisor of my training class who just transferred from Georgia and had been in for 16 years. She was replaced by a very arrogant person named P.P. She was replaced because she wouldn’t let a trainee use the restroom during one of the exams. As a result, one person complained and the rest was history.

    That’s when my quality of life got very messy. P.P. didn’t hide his contempt for me. One example was when he said, “Veterans don’t deserve benefits because they signed up for it.” I had to leave the room because I almost lost my temper. I complained to the management, but nothing was done. Among other types of harassment, which I complained about, was when he stole my chair and replaced it with a broken one. Then he acted as if he knew nothing. I could tell by the look on my coworkers’ faces that something was awry. So during my smoke break I found out because people who saw it happen told me about it. He ended up getting promoted.

    Furthermore, certain people in the training class were given preferential treatment over everybody else by being allowed to arrive to class whenever they wanted onceP.P. was in charge. I still have documented proof and complained about this to the management because when I was late one day (3-5 minutes), I was immediately docked my pay for 15 minutes. LF did nothing until the last day of my probation period, which was the same day she “terminated” me. Only then did she acknowledge her error and compensated me. In my opinion, she did this to cover any tracks that might lead to a discrimination complaint.

    Around the same time that Helen was “demoted,” there was another Black victim who was actually terminated. He was the other Veteran that RV hired, and we started around the same time. I’ll admit, he did struggle a little bit with the learning, but they never gave him a chance to learn. He tried, and was very gregarious. They just never gave him a chance to pick himself up after failing a couple tests. And to be fair to him, some of the stuff was complicated for me, and I’m a smart man.

    One of my favorite episodes was when I got “counseled” by the operations manager, PG, because I did too much of one workload. She explained that they needed to justify a budget for the next fiscal quarter so they wanted to have a backlog of workload as long as the backlog was not too egregious. When there was a huge backlog, they called me out of the bullpen to clean it up. And that’s what I did. That’s what I always do. You want |X| done, I’ll give you |X|. Another Mission Accomplished.

    In fact, I was the only person in the office who knew how to do certain caseloads because I volunteered to do more work and the person who trained me just retired 6 months prior. She was the only person who knew how to do these special cases and I was lucky enough to inherit her knowledge. Thanks, Tendy!

    During the last month leading up to my termination, I was assigned to train a coworker how to handle special cases. These cases were very convoluted and thus difficult to explain because there was a lot analysing involved, and the system per se was very antiquated given the complexity of the programs we were trying reconcile. Basically, we were trying to see if we were double-counting claimants. Not even my supervisor could explain it. As far as I know, I was the only person who knew how to do these correctly.

    Anyway, the coworker I had to train had a great spirit and I was very happy to work with her, but it was awkward for both of us because I was a trainee training somebody who worked for the agency for over 8 years. Despite this, she was eager to learn and had a great attitude so it was a joy helping her. Moreover, it wasn’t her fault that management didn’t have her trained. Nevertheless, my worst fear ended up becoming a reality, which was that I was training myself out of a job, and in the civilian world; that’s a bad thing.

    In that vein, the military taught me “to train yourself out of a job.” Why would the military promote somebody if there’s nobody to replace you? In other words, if you are the best at your position, then you’re going to stay at your position. Train yourself out of a job. Maybe another way to say it is, “train somebody to replace you so you can be promoted.” If you can train somebody to do your job at your current position, then maybe you can do the same at the position above. Unless you work for the federal government.

    Tangentially, now I know why the V.A. is backed up so much. Such is the culture of the federal government and I got a big dose of it jammed down my throat.

    Anyway, by April, on the eve of my termination, the management must have decided to start a paper trail on me. The first incident was when PG wrote me up for sexual harassment against a coworker, Lily. This was a complete fabrication. AskLily. I did nothing to her, and we were friends before and after. She asked me if she should complain, but I told her not to risk her own career.

    During the same week, I got accused of deleting things from the computer and tickling another coworker, Melanie. Two fabrications in one. By the end of the week, I knew the writing was on my tombstone.

    When I complained to the Union, again, nothing got done. No surprise there since I didn’t pay my dues. The Union cares about the Union, nothing more. Another lesson learned.

    On the last day of my probation period, Friday, May 20, 2011, I was terminated. Not for my performance because my numbers were too good to justify that. I was terminated for “conduct” reasons fabricated by the management during the final weeks of my probationary period. Go figure.

    In other words, my conduct was so bad that they had to wait until the last day of my probationary period to let me go. On Monday, I was set to receive my pay raise and it would have been practically impossible to terminate me. So they squeezed all the juice they could out of me and then they shoved me (literally) out on the street.

    By July I was homeless, couch-surfing, or sleeping in Golden Gate Park. I did spend some time sleeping on park benches in the Embarcadero until the Occupy Movement kicked me out. Seriously though, if you need to take a dump, the blue trash cans on Embarcadero provide the best emergency relief along with an unbeatable stunning nighttime view that the billionares can’t compete with. This is kind of gross, but I remember taking a #2 in a blue trash can, smoking a cigarette while looking at the Bay Bridge, Berkeley, Alcatraz, and the Golden Gate Bridge. I’m sorry but not many billionares can claim such a strategically placed toilet!

    In the meantime, when I wasn’t defecating inside tax-funded seagull feeding bins, I filed a whistle-blowing complaint with the Office of Special Counsel because one of the reasons cited for my termination was that I pointed out to the management several paper claims that were being handled by the San Francisco Department of Human Services, but were not filed or attended to for over 90 days. In other words, “hey boss, look what I found under the bed. This is the problem, and here’s how we fix it and prevent it from getting worse or happening again. No big deal. I’ve literally put out bigger fires on the ship.”

    My conclusion was that the excel spreadsheet used to log incoming claims was inadequate and made it difficult to organize incoming claims. What I didn’t know was that L.F. was the person who created the original spreadsheet, which was probably why she took it so personal. Either way, I wasn’t trying to “stick it to the (wo)man.” I just saw a problem and tried to demonstrate the initiative by providing a solution.

    In the military we were taught to solve problems by creating solutions on our own without asking mommy or daddy to hold our hand. The operative words are creating solutions. When the OSC wrote back, they basically wrote:mismanagement was not gross enough.

    Whatever. Isn’t comforting to know we have a threshold for tolerable mismanagement in our federal government? I didn’t think so either.

  2. Well….This is going to get fun fast. I have a comp and pen exam with them on August 22nd. I have this feeling that I’m going to be hit with denials across the board…because life works that way.

So what do you think?