Toxic Phoenix VAMC Told Task Force To Hit The Road

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Phoenix VAMC

Internal records exposed by The Republic show Phoenix VAMC took the waitlist fraud so seriously that it kicked out the VA Central Office task force sent to reform the facility and save veterans. When will lawmakers get serious across the aisle to ensure real VA accountability for dysfunctional employees?

SOURCE: VA team blasts Phoenix personnel office

The task force was called The Human Resources Restoration and Revitalization task force, called HR3. Its mission was to repair the broken personnel system that encouraged lying, cheating, and letting sick veterans die early.

[easy-tweet tweet=”@deptvetaffairs America is ready for VA Accountability because #VAisLying”]

According to The Republic, the report shows Phoenix administrators balked at the changes proposed by the task force and eventually told them to leave. “Instead of our expectation to work with a leadership team that genuinely desired positive change, we were met with a leadership team that displayed obstructionist attitudes, and clearly lacked integrity.”

After arriving on site, HR3 found that the Phoenix VAMC human resources department was “severely under-resourced.” One-third of the HR employees had recently quit and those that remained used antiquated data systems.

National VHA said the HR3 recommendations were a “blueprint for facilities around the country”, but since the task force had no authority, entrenched VA bureaucrats were able to blow them off. “At no time did we have the authority necessary to make the changes that were necessary.”

HR3 ultimately was kicked out of Phoenix VAMC and concluded the facility was more concerned with looking pretty for President Barack Obama that resolving its personally and cultural problems.

Problems exposed by The Republic and through VHA are endemic of VA’s problem of self-interest being put before the best-interest of veterans.

Veterans’ rights scholar Rory Riley discussed this problem at The Hill as it relates to the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), which truly applies to entrenched bureaucratic problems across the agency:

“Further demonstrating their preference for self-interest over the best-interest of veterans, both Rubens and Graves opted not to show up to a Congressional oversight hearing, prompting the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs to issue subpoenas for only the third time in its history.  Both women have been referred to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for possible criminal prosecution and Allison Hickey, the under secretary for Benefits, resigned amidst the scandal.  Congress will hold a follow up hearing on November 2nd.  Should they choose to comply with the subpoena, both Rubens and Graves would greatly benefit from behaving more like “honest Abe” than the self-interested bureaucrats they have shown themselves to be thus far in the investigation.

“Administrative agencies like the VA often begin with a policy-oriented mission, such as, to paraphrase Lincoln, caring for veterans and their dependents.  However, due to the nature of burgeoning bureaucracies, missions often fade over time or disappear altogether.  This is clearly true of the current VA, and the culture of the organization desperately needs to change to reinvigorate the Department’s service to this mission.  Because conservative measures such as more staffing, more funding, and incremental fixes to outmoded systems have, to date, only compounded the VA’s problems rather than fix them, the only answer is more substantive reform.  Action on legislative proposals such as the VA Accountability Act, which would allow VA to remove or demote employees based on performance or misconduct is a step in the right direction.  Similarly, more substantive transformations to VA processes and procedures that emphasize public-private partnerships, rather than complete reliance on internal VA systems, would also go a long way toward much-needed cultural change at the agency.”

READ IT ALL: Restoring VA’s mission by Rory Riley

In light of the waitlist scandal, backlist scandal, shredder-gate, PCS moving fraud, and all kinds of other fraud, what is holding Congressional lawmakers back from passing VA Accountability Act?

Clearly executives like Diana Rubens have no problems thumbing their nose at Congress. Phoenix VAMC staff ignored clear improvement policies that would ensure veterans were properly cared for.

If VA really wants to regain the trust of the American taxpayer and veterans, is it not time for heads to roll? Is it time to modify union agreements such that bad employees get fired? What about executive SES employees? Why did it take almost one year to fire Dr. David Houlihan?

RELATED: Tomah VAMC ‘Candy Man’ Dr. David Houlihan Fired, Finally

Why do we allow a VA system to exist where the rights of workers trump the rights of veterans to receive timely benefits and competent health care services?

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30 Comments

  1. It doesn’t appear to look like the VA is ever going to take any steps to clean up its act, and it’s also a sham when those two executives can evoke their 5th amendment rights over and over again at that hearing. But what about us veterans? Do we as veterans have rights also when it comes to dealing with the VA? Evidently we don’t. We have to take whatever the VA dishes out to us and then deal with it! As veterans, we cannot go outside to any other institution and seek a remedy for injustice. That places us between a rock and a hard place. While these two VA executives enjoy the luxury of their protections under our Constitution, why is it that I,as a veteran don’t get to enjoy protections under the Constitution when it comes to dealing with the VA? It was the same Constitution I fought for and saw many men die for.

    • Let me respectfully disagree with just one of your points. We as veterans can go outside of the VA for remedy. I have filed yesterday, with just a few minutes two separate Privacy/HIPPA act complaints on hhs.com websites complaint portal. After a newspaper story about vha abuse appeared about me, the COS at the facility wrote me two certified mail letters. In one, he rebutted a statement reported on in the newspaper, by typing “…from your medical records, dated ####, Dr. #### wrote, “This patient should be ….”

      He then went on to try to justify their behavior that was reported on. The second one, same thing but slightly different topic, so a different letter quoting my stay there as a patient and the outcomes.

      A “criminal” violation under HIPPA is a “knowing and willful release of personally identifiable information without prior authorization.” He had no authorization to release those portions to me. I never would have authorized my info be released to rebut a newspaper article.

      So, I used the OCR complaint portal, scanned each document, and essentially copied them what I just typed above. The documents speak for themselves;” I am the Chief Of Staff, and I am showing you your medical records to call the reporter a liar…” is my take on it. It is a knowing and willful violation.

      My point is, respectfully, know your rights completely, and you can know who to go to outside VHA for help. Google HIPPA year 2013. HIPPA grew fangs I never knew about two years ago.

      Semper Fi

      • @Redturtle,
        Maybe your state will do something about a clear cut case of a HIPPA violation. But down here in Florida, not so much.
        How do you combat something when no one will help?
        A “HIPPA violation” took place against my wife. Every attorney we talked to said, “They (physicians) won’t even receive a slap on the hand!”

      • I would be VERY interested to hear the outcome of this. Have you read what Title 38 says about VA employees and violations of confidentiality?

        I believe there is language in there that mentions just who at the VA is the type of employee authorized to access confidential information. Will the VA try ignore any HIPPA violation and claim he had authorization to view your record?

        Would HHS care about going after a “federal” medical provider differently as opposed to a private provider?

      • 91,
        Does a Release of Information form have an expiration date? If a veteran has one of these in their file and it does not have “someone” filled out that is to be receiving the information, the VA could use that and fill in the person, business, ETC… and claim that the veteran DID give approval for this. If the form does not have an expiration date and these are in your, my, or any other vets file, this could give the VA a free for all in giving out our info.
        Just a thought.
        f8f

      • I haven’t filled out an ROI in a long time, but I believe they are specific as to what records are to be released and to whom.
        I cannot imagine the VA trying to get away with claiming a veteran signed an ROI when they had not.

        Then again, I could see the VA claiming a veteran complained about something, and they looked at medical records so as to provide an accurate answer to the veteran.

      • 91,
        I know they are specific to whom gets the information but if the VA was to get a veteran to sign one and tell the veteran they would “fill in” the information later, that is a magic piece of paper because the VA can copy that form for anything they want and claim the veteran gave them permission. That could be kinda scary. It takes away any responsibility by the VA to be held accountable and we know how the VA loves to weasel out of responsibility.
        f8f

      • AUTHORIZATION TO DISCLOSE PERSONAL INFORMATION TO A THIRD PARTY form number 21-0845 dated MAY 2015 has the option of having an indefinite date. This one could come back to get you.
        f8f

  2. WOW!
    When you read that article in that Arizona Paper in it’s entirety you see the huge problem with the VA in a nutshell. The individual VAMC’s ALL seem to think they can run things the way THEY see fit…in no way as a “Standardized System” where it would not matter what VAMC in any different State you went to it should be exactly the same as far as Policies.
    But it’s not that way because that article even depicts Directors were using their OWN PURCHASED SOFTWARE PROGRAMS, not using ANY standardization in their systems that would seamlessly translate from one VAMC to another.

    The Train wreck that’s the Phoenix VAMC is a snapshot of al the train wreck VAMC’s across the USA.

    Absolutely no standardization nor accountability is a huge contributor to the VA’s mismanagement of ca$h.

    President Reagan would have already have fired ALL these folk, regardless of Union and probably would have dismantled the entanglement of the AFGE and VA. (Remember or read about how Pres. Reagan dealt with the Air Traffic Controller’s Strike if someone does not know what am referring to)

    If the Phoenix VAMC were solely in the Private Sector and such a liability, everyone would have been fired and without golden parachutes.

    The VA is indeed STILL Lying and Veterans Are Dying and Pleading The 5th.

  3. namnibor,
    I’ve downloaded the “letter” Reagan sent to the Union “before” he was elected. I believe Ben had it on one of his blogs before. He promised alot of things to them. Newer equipment, better hours and lots more.
    But, when he was elected, on the other hand, he broke every promise. Whether it was good (I think it was good) or bad, during that period, the Union felt the “Power of a President!”

    Problem is now, we have a President who is weak, indecisive, cowardly, anti Constitution & Bill of Rights, anti military, anti Christian, anti American, anti veterans, anti guns, anti immigration laws, anti— well you get the point.
    The only “PRO” crap he’s for is, pro Muslim, pro spending taxpayers monies, pro giving taxpayers monies to our enemies, pro giving taxpayers monies to “Third World Countries” for no reason at all, pro not defunding planned parenthood (I think P/P should be defunded), pro Obamacare (which is ripping off taxpayers), pro “Executive Orders” (with his “Royal Pen and Phone”), pro —- well again y’all get the point.

    What needs to happen, is someone with “balls” to take the reigns and fire everyone. Close everything down. Then go back an sort things out. In the meantime, all veterans can use outside medical care until this mess is cleaned up (I also believe, less taxpayers monies will be spent during this transition). Just exactly what President Reagan did about 35-36 years ago…..I remember what he did. I can be done! It needs to be done!

  4. I’lll say it again, and again…Tucson VA is a bust too. Tucson operates under Phoenix, as do other hospitals, and I have to ask why it is if Phoenix was a mess that it wasn’t concluded that those UNDER them would be a mess as well.

    I can speak personally to the fact that Mr. Gardner, head of Tucson VA hospital, could give rip less what we think, or our representatives. I have been through three congresspeople, and have yet to receive an actual response specific to what’s being asked…it’s always been lies and/or; we provide superior health care.

    I like Trump’ idea, let us take our ID cards and seek care where available…the VA is NOT superior health care even IF you’re seen.

  5. Google this;
    “Col. North, ‘Entire Generation’ Wiped Out in Middle East”

    This has to do with the Christians and others Obama won’t talk about. Or do anything about!

    • That is funny you bring this up is because if the State of Indiana or any other state wants to succeed from the United States, and that this administration wants to get involved in Ukraine policy making to succeed from Russia, we sure hell won’t let Russia get involved in Indiana’s or any other States decision to succeed from the US. So why is this douchebag getting into other countries business?

      • Here’s other articles,
        #1 about Obama, where a microphone was accidentally left on, and some Russian diplomat were talking about “relaxing the nukies in Eastern Europe”! Remember that?

        #2. Also, right now there are a number of Russian troops in Alaska and around the Ft. Carson, Col. area.
        It’s also been reported Russian Subs are patrolling off the coast of Alaska. Where we have basically stopped all military (Navy & Air Force) patrols.

        #3. I also read something this morning about how “almost all of our (“seasoned”) combat troops are stationed outside the United States! Basically leaving us defenceless!”

        I don’t know what’s in our “elected” (Obama and the rest of the deadbeats) and appointed officials “heart(s) and head(s)”, like Col. North said yesterday, but it should make people wonder – “What the fΩck is going on?”

        #4. I also read an article (today), where a former Army officer said, 90% of the population don’t give a rats ass about what’s happening here (paraphrasing of course)! But you know what, He’s fucking right!!!

        There is something going on here, and I truly don’t like what I’m seeing.

        #5. Think about this, a “perverted high school boy who thinks he’s a girl” now gets to “dress and shower with the young women”. Because the Obama Administration ordered it! The school, and state, was ordered to allow it, or lose federal funding. This is just ONE of Obama’s little bullcrap “orders to Americans”!
        It’s as though he’s telling America he can do anything and everything he wants, without consequence!
        To my way of thinking – that’s “Dictatorship” to the max!

    • I don’t disagree that the VA is doing what the White Hut is telling them to do, or not telling them which is just as likely since veterans and the VA are just not a priority at all in Washington.
      I will never forget a meeting I had at VA HQ in the late 1990’s when Gober was acting Secretary. He was in the meeting along with the 2 VA Doctors/Administrators in charge of Gulf War Illnesses, and a liaison from the White House. I don’t know if he was an active Admiral at the time or if he was retired.
      The VA did not answer any questions I had at any point without them looking at this liaison to get a nod of approval to answer the question.
      If you think about it, veterans do not have massive amounts of money to launder back to Congressmen like defense contractors or provide campaign “volunteers” from tax exempt non profit social justice groups getting government grants.
      If you look at the Iran nuke deal, both sides wanted it. Iran would suddenly get $150 billion from frozen assets they could spend on goods from a lot of Congressional districts.

  6. Why do we allow a VA system to exist where the rights of workers trump the rights of veterans to receive timely benefits and competent health care services? It is orders from the companies, financial institutions, super super wealthy, etc. who own the government and tells them what to do. World Order trickling down to all the departments, congress and DOJ to keep control of us all. The VA is only one small facet of their clout. This exists in all countries, not just the U.S. Law? Don’t make me laugh. Everybody is bought out. It is all a show … A very bad show that we are all in.

  7. Here’s something I thought would never happen in America.

    “This Man Loves Jesus And That Prevented Him From Getting A Gun”

    From multiple news sources;
    “The Right to Bear . com”
    “The Daily Caler” and
    “The Post”

    Seems this Amish gentleman wanted “to purchase a weapon to hunt and supply food for his family”.
    So, as any respectable United States citizen would do. He went to his local gun dealer and using his Pennsylvania (non-picture) ID card. Applied to purchase a gun.
    Well, he was turned down. Why might you ask? Seems this gun dealer would only except a “pictured ID”!
    You see, “it’s against the Amish Religion to have their picture taken and stored!”

    So now there’s a lawsuit.

    Because, not only was there a violation against him on the “2nd Amendment”. There was also a “violation” against him on a “1993 Court Ruling” of the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” (RFRA)”.
    This “act” was made to circumvent this kind of violation. Seems the gun dealer AND the “Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms” (ATF) government entity were unfamiliar (and I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt, y’all understand) with the “Law(s) of the Land” in this case…..

  8. Here’s another article from “Military . com” “Daily News”, today.

    “Pentagon Paid Up To $6.8 Million of Taxpayer Money To Pro Sports Teams For Military Tribute”

    “Honors shouldn’t be “taxpayer-funded marketing gimmicks”, senators say in new report!”

    When y’all read this, be advised the amount is actually a lot more. Also, the DOD isn’t being very cooperative at this time.

    Think about it, the DOD and the VA are linked. Like Siamese twins. I wonder what kind of “pork” was in the “fiscal allocations” VA received just last month? Is there something in theirs like this? I’ll let y’all be the judge….

    • elf,
      according to Sports Illustrated, it was $9 million. Either way, this is just wrong. I am sure there are more things like this going on. This also states that Goodell is returning the money. It does not say he is returning all of it. I am sure some of it was “used” and therefore can not be returned.

      91
      I am putting together a reply to what you asked me in the other post. I will put it on that blog and you can see what I have tried to do. Thanks for helping, it gave me a push to send another round of e-mails and calls to all those involved.

      ww.msn.com/en-us/sports/nfl/roger-goodell-nfl-will-refund-money-received-for-%e2%80%98paid-patriotism%e2%80%99/ar-BBmPY74?li=BBmQ4tl

      add a “w”
      f8f

  9. Heads never roll at VA because VA knows current circumstances are just what the Military-Industrial-Congressional (MIC) cartel desires.

    Anyone who believes MIC is not giving VA its marching orders is not sufficiently informed.

    Here are remarks typical of an MIC member:

    Leslie Stahl asked Madeleine Albright, “We have heard half a million children have died [from economic sanctions in Iraq]. That’s more children than died in Hiroshima. Is the price worth it?”

    Albright replied, “I think this is a very hard choice. But the price, we think, is worth it.”

    Now, ask yourself: Would a person so indifferent about the deaths of a half a million children give a damn about you as a military veteran?

    My thoughts, anyway.

  10. Phoenix medical center Director Glen Grippen who overruled reform strategies recommended by offered by a team from VHA national headquarters –FAILURE

    Human Resources department was crippled by an exodus of bosses and employees. The HR office was so dysfunctional that, while team members were told that 500 Phoenix jobs remained unfilled, they determined the actual shortage of doctors, nurses and other employees was more like 1,700. Phoenix Human Resources Officer Maria Schloendorn and her lieutenants stonewalled decisions, shuffled employees and waged a disinformation campaign: “One of the major challenges we encountered was the lack of buy-in and support from HR leadership… There appeared to be obstruction and defiance of processes and changes that were implemented.” The HR office operated mostly on paper, rather than computer systems, so hiring efforts were bottle-necked and there was no tracking system. When new programs were introduced, the team reported, that “certain employees would refuse to learn with the misguided thinking that, if they did know how to complete a particular task, then they would be held responsible for it.” – FAILURE

    Technology impediments were compounded by a “lack of integrity, conduct and professional attitude” as well as chronic absenteeism that caused “mass confusion as employees were unaware how to conduct business.” – FAILURE

    VA Dept. OIG found that service to veterans at ALL veterans’ hospitals and clinics nationwide investigated was hampered by chronic personnel issues involving sexual harassment, bullying, inappropriate hiring and other misconduct. – FAILURE

    The guy who nominated and endorsed Bob McDonothing, Mr. PresBO – FAILURE

    “Never before had VHA been faced with a crisis of this magnitude, and no contingency plan existed for this particular scenario.” When you have any kind of organization that is a miserable FAILURE such as the VA, you get rid of it. You don’t keep it going in any form. It was ill-conceived from the start and CANNOT be fixed. Business 101 – Ask any B-school. The government DOES NOT act with any kind of Business ethics, however. Because those that OWN the government are disparate for CONTROL of YOU using ANY slip-slop means at all.

  11. This is one of the more outrageous things I have ever seen by bureaucrats in a federal agency. McDonald clearly knew of this. Gibson clearly knew of this. Both have done NOTHING to fix it. This certainly shows any limp-wristed action by Congress passing some accountability act is toothless and worthless.
    To recap, the Phoenix VA dump has a wait scandal exposed in which at least 40 vets died. This task force is sent out, and not only are they pushed back against, but outright defied by local VA management. Why the hell have we not heard that every one of those managers have been fired? What kind of nitwit at VA HQ creates some task force without the authority to mandate changes rather than giving local managers a choice? Are you eFing kidding me? Your policies resulted in fraudulent bonuses being paid while veterans died, your HR department is a disaster, then you refuse to accept recommendations for change, and that jackass is not fired yet? What the hell is wrong with McDonald? With Congress?
    As for firing, why is the VA so much different than other federal agencies? I cannot understand why when these incompetent, power mad managers cannot do their job that they are given a Directed Reassignment, without moving expenses allowed, to VA HQ where their lives can be made a living hell by having their every move supervised and managed for them. Don’t want the reassignment? Fine, your other choice is to resign. They clearly don’t want to do their damn job.
    Given the list of things happening at that VA, retaliation, nepotism, discrimination, sexual harassment, illegal hiring practices, etc., why the hell is there not some task force from a federal agency like OPM, GAO or DOJ digging in to every one of those problems and prosecuting these hacks for breaking the law? Why is that worthless AFGE union not screaming for this to be fixed because obviously their members are being retaliated against, passed over because of nepotism, being discriminated against or harassed. Every level of administration and management of that dump is worthless.

    The two clear obstacles to the VA ever getting fixed given how bad this corruption is is a nutless VA secretary and a lazy Congress.

    The VA needs a CSM Plumley as Secretary with a platoon of clones of himself to get this fixed, with the authority to relieve any manager down to the GS-13 level immediately. Relieve about 30 managers in a VA hospital, bring medical personnel from the Reserves on to Active Duty for 2 weeks to as long as they want to remain on active duty to fill the holes, and I bet this would get fixed within a year.

      • If I read the article correctly, that task force sent from VAHQ spent several weeks there, which means thousands in transportation, TDY for several which means over $100 per day minimum for hotels and food. It suggests that task force was sent back there a second time.
        Such a massive waste of money for zero change.
        If I were a journalist, I would send a FOIA for the authorization creating the task force, when it was created, what their charter was, who was on it, how long they spent in Phoenix, whether they were sent elsewhere, and how much was spent for any of their activities pertaining to Phoenix.

  12. You have to wonder why Rubens or Graves are given the right to plead the 5th under the Constitution at the same time it is common practice throughout the VA to deny veterans rights under the Constitution regarding the ability to face their accuser, or to provide evidence in their own defense if their benefits are being taken away by declaring them disruptive.

    • @91Veteran, so very TRUE!! glad you pointed this out.

      surely, there will be some legal types that read this blog that will bring this to the public and Congress attention. we can only hope.

      when the next debates go live would one of the hosts ask this question, please?!

      you pundits and political types sure enjoy photo ops and air time with mil/veterans on some subjects, why not this? why hasn’t any of the current candidates that have held office or currently hold office held ANYONE at VA accountable?

      that’s right, why then would any US citizen want to serve this country KNOWING what some of these folks with so-called power over VA and mil/veterans have done and will do when it comes to (not)watching their back? other ways to serve without getting so screwed over.

      and i love this country but i can’t stand this continuance of such rampant in-your-face political fraud.

      what, none of the candidates ever use the VA? none of their sons & daughters ever use the VA? not surprising in the least.

  13. 11/04/2015

    Dear Benjamin Krause,

    On November 2nd there was a schedule meeting in the Basement of the Phoenix VA according to a Cancer Patient who received word from a Doctor over at Banner days before. I walked the halls of the Phoenix VA at 6:00 PM and the place was extreme quiet—few people were walking around.

    The meeting never happened.

    That same day the officials used the 5th Amendment to avoid being implicated into this Treason case.

    This mismanagement is not by mistake!

    There are now 19 Books on the VA Scandal and the 20th Book has a good start to finish the year off good.

    Xylene Dream Video is on You Tube.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F6XG5MwOwuc

    Enjoy,

    Don Karg

    Rhode Island NPR is looking for info–Torey Malatia, President, CEO & General Manager: 401-351-6142, [email protected].

    Insys—Profit Statement—11/05/2015 [another Candyland]

    What happened with our Kyron people [HHS former exec]?

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