The VA Debt Management Center just announced it reduced call wait times by over 75 percent while also increasing calls taken by 40 percent from 2016 to 2018.

As part of the agency’s veteran-focused initiatives, they agency reduced call wait times from 21 minutes in 2016 to under 5 minutes during 2018. The initiatives include increasing staff levels, improving technology, and driving better employee development.

“The team at the DMC has enhanced services to our Veterans,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “It’s our mission to take care of our Veterans, no matter what their needs are. DMC is in concert with our priority of improving customer service and will continue to gather customer feedback through direct feedback, surveys and outreach in FY19 to further enhance the Veterans’ experience.”

Debt Management Center Excerpt

According to the press release:

For the past three years, DMC received around 1 million calls annually with an average call wait time of about 21 minutes. In FY 2017, DMC launched a series of internal efficiencies and process improvements to enhance contact center capabilities. 

Initiatives included enhancing staffing levels to meet demand, enhancing contact center technology, focusing on employee development and engagement, and implementing an automated 12-month payment plan.

These Veteran-focused initiatives represent a 79 percent reduction over two years to the average time for waiting and a 40 percent increase of actual calls taken. These are all indicators of successful initiatives providing a better experience for Veterans and VA employees.

The DMC’s inbound contact center serves as the central point for Veterans and their family members to make payment arrangements, or receive guidance regarding the collection process on overpayments which could include debts created from education or pension payments.

Debt counselors at the DMC work with callers in a professional and service-oriented manner to help them understand their options to address overpayments with Veterans either through extended repayment plans, the dispute process, compromise process or waiver process

DMC’s contact center provides debt counseling for the Veterans Benefits Administration, and consolidated collection services of non-health care debt for Veterans Health Administration and National Cemetery Administration, enabling these entities to focus resources on accomplishing their core missions. 

DMC has provided centralized debt collection programs of Veteran benefit overpayments since 1975 and became a fee-for-service Enterprise Center in 1996. 

This is great news for veterans trying to deal with the agency as a debt collector.

Lack Of Information

What is not great is the amount of information the agency publishes for veterans dealing with the Debt Management Center for the first time. The agency gives us little information about how to advocate for yourself and what elements of your fact set to focus on when creating your argument – – whether for a waiver or to plainly dispute the alleged debt in full.

They instead focus on how to pay and how to submit a waiver with no limited discussion of disputing the alleged debt in full.

Ever have a run in with DMC? If you have a debt story, I would like to hear it below.

Any idea how the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act might apply to VA or one of its contractors attempting to collect an illegitimate debt from a disabled veteran?

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25 COMMENTS

  1. That doesn’t help one iota when the regular phone lines not only place a Vet on hold indefinitely, but during that time the VA constantly hits a Veteran’s brain with REPEATED phrases, as if the VA’s PSYOPS Manchurian Candidate Suicide Line was in full play, increasing Veteran Suicide Rates by….”Are you having thoughts of hurting yourself or others around you? If so….” “Are you thinking of hurting yourself today or others around you?”

    Give me a real person and I DARE YOU to continue asking me that you fucking assholes!

  2. Interesting how one of the major ‘improvements’ in the performance of the VA is the office tasked with managing/recouping overpayment amounts to veterans that any half-ass competent disbursing officer/accounting team would not have allowed to be paid in the first place.

    On the other hand, if the VA owes you money on a back claim . . .

    Incompetent, Criminal, Useless Pikers.

  3. This round about circle-jerking is prevalent throughout all DVA departments and right down to the most mundane operations of its subsidiaries. By ‘handing off’ tidbits wherever possible, affording the longest lapse of “Hurry up and wait” tactics among the several tidbit task time-wasters, quickly working their tasks in slow motion, while snidely complaining of how tiring their duty is to those veterans they are supposed to be helping.

    A related example is something many sc patients wrestle with at every VHA appointment. You’re at primary to be evaluated for something that feels off, you’re sent for labs and also sent to schedule an appointment for 6 months to a year out. The ‘something off’ could be the earliest stages of something major happening within but you’re getting labs that turn out to be only for the routine CBC, etc. type of tests, and you find out that your health issue isn’t even mentioned in your records let alone tested. When you do inquire about testing for some possible condition(s) you’re automatically and without skipping a beat told, “We don’t test for that.” and definitely not informed of any way to secure the proper testing within the VHA system. If you are one of the lucky ones that has a primary willing to treat you as a real human patient, your testing will likely be sent to Choice, and by golly you’ll get to pay for that, which is part and parcel of the run around in today’s topic. If you get sent to a university connected VHA facility, someone there may well treat you like you’re imposing on their time because of your referral. (Hand held up high..it has happened!)

    A couple of weeks ago, I’d asked about contracted physicians at VHA facilities, and SK informed that about 90% were actually contracted providers. Since this is the time of year when the health insurance companies are trying to get our few dollars and convince us that their schmeal is better than anyone else’s, I ventured out to do a bit of research. Actual paper phone books at the library still come in handy! I began looking up the doctors that practice at a couple of non-university connected mid-sized VHA facilities, and I found out that many of them primarily work at civilian hospital clinics or stand alone clinics which, by the way, MUST follow HIPAA standards of care guidelines. This still begs the question… why are these physicians not allowed to give the full scope of their sometimes glowing expertise, to the sc patients while on duty at a VHA facility? Why are sc patients only allowed to have symptom treatment and that from only the woefully inadequate formulary, of which may not even meet WHO minimum standards?

    I surely can not advise anyone on any course for their individual care, but I do hope I have given enough info for some to allow getting their own ducks in a row!

    @Jim, got it!

  4. James ur right ! If employees would have done their job’s right the first time, none of this would even be needed.

    Employee mistakes are harming veterans and rbe VA does not care if veterans are harmed.

    If employees were held accountable for their mistakes by having the employee who made the mistake.

    Have their pay check garnished in order to recoup those fund’s, they were responsible for making in the first place !

    This would Stop mistakes or they will go broke and have to go through what the veterans are forced to go through.

  5. The phone system is probably their best way to ignore you too. You can call the VA, get the standard overly long message that they’ll get back to you, for me it’s about 75% of the time. Of that it’s about another 50% that even leave a message, I’ll get a lot of call backs that ring a few times before I even get to the phone- they hang up with no message and the number is the generic call-all number to the VA, so you can’t even tell who called you. Even when I e-mail them on MHV, for me, they like to call back and leave a message instead of just sending an e-mail. If I had a dollar for every time I was told “We tried to call you, but you didn’t answer” or getting a letter saying “We tried to contact on this date (like three weeks ago) but were unable to contact you- Please call to make an appointment” and then you call them and guess what- a recording that says we”ll get back to you again. Man, it’s so infuriating…

  6. @Rosie – – – Roger. Glad to hear that.

    You ask two prolific questions:

    “Why are these physicians not allowed to give the full scope of their sometimes glowing expertise, to the sc patients while on duty at a VHA facility?”

    “Why are sc patients only allowed to have symptom treatment and that from only the woefully inadequate formulary, of which may not even meet WHO minimum standards?”

    While I do not have those answers, I (as do a lot of others) know that is what should be happening within the VA Healthcare System. And it really would not be all that difficult to make it happen, were the VA employees given some proper leadership and incentive.

    Unfortunately, the first one they might find moved a bit fast for their liking. The second might be a wee bit harsh. Here is where the VA managers and employees need to start:

    1. Leadership: I do not work for the VA. I work at the VA for my veterans.
    2. Incentive: If I do well enough for my veterans, I will be able to keep my nice, secure, cushy job that allows me to live much better than the disabled veterans I work for one more day.

    Heaven forbid my ever being appointed SecVA. A prolific apology to all veterans for the failings of the VA would be the first order of business. Followed by a ‘walkabout observation period’ prior to the Mass firings that would ensue.

    Then we could begin the rebuilding based on service to the veteran, NOT personal greed.

    @r – – – Been experiencing the same thing for nigh on 25 years now. Completely agree with you. Infuriating beyond description.

  7. This article exactly matches my experience with them. They are one of the only va services that have a phone system that works. however if you lose connection and have to call again you have to restart the whole process which is annoying. They also charge you money with no breakdown and it takes an unimaginable amount of time and effort to advocate for yourself. I eventually just gave up and paid them whatever. I don’t understand why they cant make info more accessible, everyone else does it.

  8. “VA Hospital: Multiple weapons found, employee charged”
    By Max Lindsey & Brooke Buford |, KALB News
    Posted: Mon 2:27 PM, Oct 22, 2018

    “PINEVILLE, La. (KALB) – Late last week KALB received reports of an employee being charged at the Alexandria VA Medical Center in Pineville.”

    “Yesterday (Tuesday) an Alexandria VA Medical Center employee was charged with weapons possession on federal property. As a result, the department is taking steps to propose him for termination. VA has made clear that it will hold employees accountable when they fail to live up to the high standards taxpayers expect from us, and that’s exactly what we’re doing in this case.”

    We asked the VA if it would release the name of the person, what charges they are facing and which agency charged the person. They refused to give any more information, so Rep. Ralph Abraham’s (R-District 5) office also reached out to the VA about the issue. Rep. Abraham’s office relayed to News Channel 5 some information that it found out.

    The VA told Rep. Abraham that the employee was charged with two counts of possession of a firearm, three counts of possession of ammunition, and one count of possession of a knife which exceeded a blade length of three inches. The VA did not release the name of the employee to Rep. Abraham’s staff either but described the person as a dental technician.”

    Full report at: “https://www.kalb.com/content/news/VA-Hospital-Multiple-weapons-found-employee-charged-498231611.html”

    ___

    Looks like another VA employee, AFGE union member, was about to go postal at a VA Hospital!!!

  9. “Former VA psychiatrist sentenced to federal prison”
    5 hrs ago

    “The United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Oklahoma announced that Stephen Lester Greer, 58, of Tulsa, was sentenced to 21 months imprisonment, and three years supervised release for tampering with a witness, victim, or informant. The charge arose from an investigation by the Department of Veterans Affairs – Office of Inspector General.

    The indictment alleged that from about June 29, 2016, and continuing until in or about July 7, 2016, Greer did knowingly intimidate, threaten, or corruptly persuade Patient A, or attempted to do so, and engaged in misleading conduct toward Patient A, with intent to hinder, delay, or prevent the communication to federal law enforcement officers by Patient A of information relating to the commission or possible commission of a Federal offense.

    In June 2016, an employee of the Jack C. Montgomery Veterans Affairs Medical Center recognized Greer and Patient A checking into the La Quinta Inn and Suites in Muskogee. Greer was a staff psychiatrist for the Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center from March 2013 until July 2016. During the subsequent investigation, special agents with the Department of Veterans Affairs – Office of Inspector General interviewed Greer and admonished him to have no further contact with this patient. Instead, Greer met with his patient and instructed her to lie to federal law enforcement officers about their sexual relationship, the financial assistance Greer provided to her, the paternity of the patient’s unborn baby and the hotel rooms they shared. Greer also advised the patient that they both needed to destroy their cellphones to prevent law enforcement officers from reading their text message communications.

    Full Article At: “https://www.muskogeephoenix.com/news/former-va-psychiatrist-sentenced-to-federal-prison/article_d91ab518-d899-11e8-9f01-0b24d6ac099c.html”

  10. “‘I knew something was not right’: Mass cancellations of diagnostic test orders at VA hospitals draw scrutiny”
    Donovan Slack, USA TODAY Published 6:00 a.m. ET Oct. 1, 2018

    “IOWA CITY, Iowa – Radiology technologist Jeff Dettbarn said he knew something was wrong at the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Iowa City, Iowa, when a patient arrived in February 2017 for a CT scan, but the doctor’s order for it had been canceled.

    “To have a patient show up for a scan and not have an order – you’re like, ‘What the heck is going on?’ ” he told USA TODAY in an interview.

    Dettbarn started collecting cancellation notices for diagnostic procedures such as CT scans, MRIs and ultrasounds.

    “I knew something was not right,” he said. “Because none of them were canceled by a physician.”

    Cancellations of more than 250,000 radiology orders at VA hospitals across the country since 2016 have raised questions about whether – in a rush to clear out outdated and duplicate diagnostic orders – some facilities failed to follow correct procedures. At issue is a concern over whether some medically necessary orders for CT scans and other imaging tests were canceled improperly.

    The VA inspector general is auditing mass cancellations at eight VA medical centers “to determine whether VA processed radiology requests in a timely manner and appropriately managed canceled requests,” VA Inspector General Michael Missal said.

    Those hospitals are in Tampa and Bay Pines, Florida; Salisbury, North Carolina; Cleveland; Dallas; Denver; Las Vegas; and Los Angeles.

    After receiving inquiries from USA TODAY, a ninth was added – Iowa City.

    In Iowa City, Dettbarn alerted the hospital’s compliance officer about his concerns. He is now facing disciplinary proceedings and contends they are an effort to retaliate against him.

    Full Report At: “https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2018/10/01/va-hospitals-cancellations-diagnostic-exam-orders-draw-scrutiny/1424298002/”

  11. Title loan company reportedly refuses to accept payment on behalf of hospitalized veteran
    by Jordan Vandenberge, Cleveland News channel 5, 6:03 PM, Oct 25, 2018, Updated 4 hours ago

    “AKRON – The family of an Army veteran and officials from the Summit Co. Veterans Service Commission said LoanMax, an Akron car title loan company, has refused to accept a lump sum loan payment on behalf of the veteran who remains in the hospital after suffering numerous strokes.

    Because of the company’s reported refusal to accept the final loan payment, the veteran’s family is concerned that the outstanding loan balance will continue to accrue additional interest and fees.

    Gibson ‘Gib’ McMaster III, a veteran of the United States Army, suffered as many as eight strokes earlier this month, his family said. McMaster also has two holes in his heart, which have complicated his recovery and rehabilitation. The situation revolving around his outstanding title loan has only brought further grief on McMaster and his family.

    “Stress, a lot of stress. It’s a very stressful situation on everybody. Of course, in Gib fashion, he’s worried about the stress that it is causing for [his girlfriend] and her heart and how we’re operating at home without him,” said Kelly Doolittle, the sister of McMaster’s longtime girlfriend.

    Amid financial hardship in September 2017, McMaster took out a title loan on his vehicle from LoanMax, a consumer lending company that has dozens of storefronts across Ohio. According to state business filings, LoanMax is doing business as a Georgia-based company, Drummond Financial Services. McMaster’s title loan was for $515, which he used to make repairs to his family’s van — their only vehicle, according to loan documents.

    Loan documents provided to News 5 show the annual percentage rate on the $515 loan was a whopping 329.82 percent, bringing the total payment over the life of the loan to $1,213.05, nearly three times the amount lent to McMaster. According to the loan documents, McMaster was given $500 plus a $15 fee for the lien on the title.

    Then came the other fees.

    A total of $592.25 would go toward a credit service organization (CSO) fee paid to Drummond Financial Services, records show. There was also a $15 loan origination fee, bringing the principal amount of the loan to $1,122.25.

    Over the next six months, McMaster faithfully paid on the loan every month, his family said. Then, in February 2018, McMaster thought he was nearing the end of the payments when LoanMax notified him that he had not paid down the principal on the loan — only the interest and fees, his family said. Because he still had an outstanding balance, he renewed the loan for another six months, which incurred an additional $100 fee, according to loan documents.

    “Their payment is over $200 a month for a $515 loan,” Doolittle said. The total current cost of the loan, if paid in full, would be nearly $2,500.

    Then, in early October, McMaster began to not feel well and his health quickly deteriorated.

    “He’s had eight strokes and he has two holes in his heart,” Doolittle said. “[Doctors] are trying to get him stabilized from the strokes so they can see if they can repair the holes in his heart.”

    Knowing McMaster still had the remaining title loan balance to pay down, Doolittle sought the assistance of the Summit Co. Veterans Service Commission. Every county in the State of Ohio has a veterans service commission. The Stark Co. commission then quickly approved of providing $1241 to help McMaster pay down the rest of the title loan.

    “We took the paperwork from Summit County, from veterans services, with a stamp on it, an official stamp. We took it down there and [LoanMax employees] said they had never seen this before,” Doolittle said. “They didn’t think it was a real place and refused to fill out the paperwork. Whether you are in the service or not if you are going to pay off that loan and you have the cash in hand, it’s a valid check from anyone, you should be able to pay it off.”

    Full Report at: “https://www.news5cleveland.com/news/local-news/akron-canton-news/title-loan-company-reportedly-refuses-to-accept-payment-on-behalf-of-hospitalized-veteran”

  12. “Local VA supervisor, wife, business owner charged in fraud investigation”
    by Staff, KWTX News

    WACO, Texas (KWTX) Christopher Sebek, 55, of Temple, his wife Melissa, 55, and Killeen business owner Jeffrey Pearson were charged Wednesday for their roles in a scheme to defraud the Department of Veterans Affairs of about $250,000, U.S. Attorney John Bash announced.

    Sebek, an operations supervisor in the Engineer Department of the Temple VA and Pearson, the owner of Whitetail Industries, which contracted to provide goods and services to the Temple VA, were both charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud the government and one count of theft of government property.

    Melissa Sebek, who owns MS Bookkeeping Services, was charged with one count of theft of government property.

    Court records show that Christopher Sebek and Pearson entered into an agreement in February 2012 to steal money from the Temple VA, allegedly by submitting fraudulent invoices for payment for goods and services.

    Sebek also allegedly presented bogus invoices to the hospital from his wife’s company.

    “Those invoices, however, were used by Sebek to pay for personal items and to cover Pearson’s 30 percent commission on each invoice. Court records also allege that Sebek stole two VAMC credit cards and used them to pay for personal expenses,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a press release late Wednesday afternoon.

    The three will receive summonses for an initial appearance in federal court in Waco, the press release said.”

    Full Report At: “https://www.kwtx.com/content/news/Local-VA-supervisor-wife-business-owner-charged-in-fraud-investigation-494429671.html”

  13. “Water at VA Boston in West Roxbury tests positive for Legionnaires’”
    By Jackson Cote Globe Correspondent October 03, 2018

    ” By Jackson Cote Globe Correspondent October 03, 2018

    Water at a VA Boston Healthcare System hospital in West Roxbury tested positive for Legionnaires’ disease, officials announced Tuesday, more than a week after a patient was diagnosed with the disease.

    Low levels of Legionnaires’ were found at three locations in the facility. All fixtures at the hospital were removed for further testing, and the source of the disease was eliminated, the VA said in a statement.

    Two other VA hospitals in Brockton and Jamaica Plain tested negative for Legionnaires’, the statement said.

    The patient, who had been treated at all three Boston VA hospitals, is believed to have contracted the disease from the West Roxbury facility’s cooling tower, where a bacterial culture, drawn Aug. 20, tested positive for “the patient’s bacteria level,” officials said.

    Infrequent transmission of the disease has previously been reported between the tower and the hospital’s smoking shack, officials said.

    Legionnaires’ is contracted by “inhaling water droplets or mist of water contaminated with the bacteria,” the VA Boston said. It is not spread person to person. While most patients with healthy immune systems who encounter the bacteria do not get sick, elderly people and patients with compromised immune systems can develop symptoms similar to pneumonia.

    From June to August, 14 people were diagnosed with Legionnaires’ in New Hampshire. The cases were tied to an outbreak in Hampton.

    Three cases were also confirmed at a Providence, R.I. nursing home on Sept. 21, the Associated Press reported.”

    Full Article At: “https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2018/10/02/water-boston-west-roxbury-tests-positive-for-legionnaires/lHs4gdqIKaouqXUMKPnISI/story.html”

  14. “Atlanta VA fined $13,600 after hazardous waste storage violations”
    By Willoughby Mariano, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Oct 02, 2018

    “The Atlanta VA Medical Center suffered another setback after inspectors discovered more than one ton of hazardous waste packed floor to ceiling in unsafe conditions, recently-released records show.

    A portable building was stuffed so full of the hazardous waste that there was no room for inspectors to enter, much less firefighters or emergency equipment, an inspection report said. Some of it was later classified it as “ignitable waste” a state Environmental Protection Division spokesman said — a designation that includes liquids that can catch fire at 140 degrees.

    The violations are the latest in a series of troubles at the hospital, which serves 145,000 of the region’s veterans annually and is one of the fastest-growing in the country. Through a spokesman, Atlanta VA director Annette P. Walker said the hospital has proper procedures in place and is hiring a long-term contractor “to assure environmental wastes are properly disposed of timely.”

    To experts, it’s troubling that hazardous waste disposal, a basic hospital function, has gone awry. The culture of the entire hospital may need to be reset, said William Custer, director for Georgia State University’s Center for Health Services Research.

    “If you don’t have a good system for that, you’re probably not providing good quality care,” said Custer.

    Veteran advocates said they’ve seen improvements in certain areas, but this and other recent problems show that the hospital has a long way to go.

    “This is the kind of attention to detail and safety issue we’re always concerned about,” Amy Stevens, a former U.S. Navy officer and founder of veterans advocacy group Georgia Military Women, said of the waste violations. “They’ve got plenty of staff, they should be on top of it,” Stevens said.

    The Atlanta VA dropped in a Veterans Affairs quality rating from three stars to one, the lowest out of five stars, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported last week. This means it ranks among the worst 10 percent VA hospital in the nation.

    A Sept. 13 report by the VA’s Office of Inspector General found that the Women Veterans Health Program failed to complete mammograms for 42 patients over nearly three years. Another found it had the worst staffing shortages in the country.

    A 2017 report found basic cleanliness and safety issues, including damaged furniture and dirty floors, ventilation grills, and kitchen ice machines.

    “A given patient, no matter how simple their care, is touched by many parts of any health care organization,” Custer warned. “And if those parts aren’t working smoothly and together, you’re going to have errors and reduced quality of care.”

    In the latest case, inspectors found a half-dozen violations during its unannounced inspection on May 30 and 31, which was prompted by a complaint. The VA stored the hazardous waste inside of a 1,050-cubic foot storage building installed on the ground floor of a parking deck. It had been moved from its former site to make room for construction of a new gas turbine power plant.

    When inspectors peered inside, they could see no required labels on the containers warning that they held hazardous waste or describing the materials.

    Only one of an estimated 600 containers had a label showing the date it entered storage, as required. The box, labeled “investigational chemo waste,” had been there since August 2016.”

    Full Article At: “https://www.ajc.com/news/atlanta-fined-600-after-hazardous-waste-storage-violations/A4v5lXx5Yy4hgQHrvxjJMN/”

  15. The VA Continues a Centuries-Long History of Scandal / Fraud and waste plagued veteran pensions in 1820. Since then the problem has only expanded.
    By Rebecca Burgess, Wall Street Journal

    “When Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin was ousted earlier this year, most of Washington wrote it off as another result of President Trump’s chaotic management style. Perhaps, but the change also reflects the state of pandemonium long associated with the VA. Caring for veterans has never been a straightforward task in the U.S.

    Since its elevation to a cabinet-level department in 1989, the VA has shed secretaries faster than the Praetorian Guard knocked off Roman emperors. Seven of its nine confirmed secretaries have resigned out of frustration or over scandal. The secretary’s employment background hasn’t made a difference. Whether he came from the military, medicine, the corporate world or Congress, the result has largely been the same: Exit stage right, with little applause from veteran-service organizations or the broader public.

    Scandals plagued veteran affairs before an official agency even existed. Fraud, overspending and waste nearly ended the relatively modest veterans pension program in 1820. The same trio of ills showed up in post-Civil War veterans programs. By 1921 Congress established the Veterans Bureau, which consolidated the majority of existing veterans programs. President Harding nominated Col. Charles Forbes to lead the bureau, and Congress tasked him with building hospitals. Forbes promptly squandered the bureau’s budget, was relieved of his duties, and served time at the U.S. Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kan., for conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government.

    In 1924 Brig. Gen. Frank T. Hines attempted reform, reorganizing the Veterans Bureau into six services—medical and rehabilitation, claims and insurance, finance, supply, planning, and control. By 1930, feeling political heat from the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, President Hoover decided that more was necessary to “coordinate Government activities affecting war veterans.” He created the Veterans Administration as an independent federal body, replacing three bureaus then separately overseeing all veterans programs. Two years later tens of thousands of veterans protested at the Capitol in what became known as the Bonus March.

    Hoover’s reorganization essentially created the modern VA. Under his administration, the agency overshot demand for hospital beds. The glut fueled the VA practice of expanding health benefits to veterans without service-connected injuries to justify increases in congressional appropriations. That often-overlooked decision still fuels contemporary debates about veterans care. Does “providing care” for veterans mean VA hospitals ought to provide cradle-to-grave care for anyone affiliated with the nation’s uniform? Or should they focus on responding to a defined set of service-related injuries?

    The Veterans Health Administration, created by Hoover, remains the VA’s largest division—and its most visibly troubled. Yet the Veterans Benefits Administration spends the most money and badly needs reform. It faces an enormous backlog of claims, operates under an anachronistic disability model, and chronically miscommunicates with veterans regarding benefits. Meantime, the National Cemetery Administration cares for 3.6 million graves and supports a network of national, state and tribal burial grounds. Many of them can no longer accommodate veterans wishing to be buried there, partly due to an expanding legal definition of “veteran.”

    The VA secretary is supposed to direct all of this—plus 20 or so other offices. He’s accountable for a $188.65 billion budget and the second-largest federal agency, serving nine million veterans directly. And he must do so within the parameters of a collective-bargaining agreement made with the American Federation of Government Employees, to which more than 250,000 VA employees belong. He also must defer to the Merit Systems Protection Board, a quasijudicial, largely independent body guarding the rights of senior-level employees.

    How does this system serve America’s veterans? Poorly, as the revolving door of VA secretaries implies. But Congress and several presidents haven’t helped much. They tend to see veteran issues through the lens of lobbying efforts by veteran-service organizations. There’s a reason a former VA official once called reforming the agency the “fourth, nuclear rail” of American politics. Each branch of government has favored expanding the parameters of “providing care” but avoided answering what the end goal of that care is. Nor have they given the VA secretary and his staff clear instructions on what they ought to prioritize to achieve it.”

    Full Article At: “https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-va-continues-a-centuries-long-history-of-scandal-1530052942”

  16. “VA home based clinic under investigation”
    by Doris Maricle, American Press

    “JENNINGS — A federal investigation into allegations of patient neglect, fraudulent billing, falsification of medical records, misuse of government vehicles and other mismanagement practices is underway for the Veterans Affairs Home Based Primary Care Clinic based in Jennings.

    Andrew David, press secretary for Rep. Clay Higgins, said the office has been made aware of the allegations of corruption through media reports and has voiced concerns.

    “Congressman Higgins spoke directly with the VA Inspector General’s office to voice concerns about potential waste, fraud and abuse within the VA,” David said in an email to the American Press.

    David said the office was unable to offer comment on specific allegations since it is an ongoing investigation.

    “Congressman Higgins strongly supports whistleblower protections within the VA, and he is working with the House Veterans Affairs Committee to ensure greater accountability at VA facilities across the country,” he said.

    The allegations were made by Crystal LeJeune and Harvey Norris, two former employees of the Home Based Primary Care facility in Jennings. The clinic is part of the VA Medical Center in Alexandria and provides home-based primary care to veterans.

    The Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection in Washington, D.C., is reviewing the information and working with the South Central VA Health Care Network to look into the matter, according to an Aug. 13 letter to LeJeune from Executive Director Kirk Nicholas.

    LeJeune is also awaiting an administrative hearing date based on a nearly 700-page Office of Resolution Management investigation.

    The American Press was provided with dozens of pages of emails and documents concerning allegations of potential for waste, fraud and abuse within the system by employees, along with other lack of accountability and mismanagement practices, many which led to delays in patient care and expired supplies, including medication.

    LeJeune, who took medical retirement in June, and Norris, who resigned in January to take another job, raised concerns of alleged neglect and improper care of veterans and fraudulent record keeping with management prior to leaving employment. The Department of Veterans Affairs Central Office, Office of Resolution Management, Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection, the White House, the VA Senate Affairs Committee, along with various other federal agencies and elected officials have been made aware of the complaints. Incidents have been reported dating back years.

    “There is possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of fraud and abuse here and no one cares,” Norris said, adding the paper trail is easy to follow.”

    Special Note: “Editor’s Note: All patient and personal information was redacted from documents viewed by the American Press.”

    Full Article At: “https://www.americanpress.com/news/crime/va-home-based-clinic-under-investigation/article_64b27e42-ba9c-11e8-8f3f-570626054f07.html”

    DorisMaricle

  17. “Pearland man headed to prison for $1.6M VA contract scheme”
    By Gabrielle Banks, Chron News

    “A Pearland contractor will spend a year in federal custody after admitting he hired a disabled veteran to pose as his business partner to land a dozen lucrative U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs contracts over a six-year period.

    U.S. District Judge Alfred H. Bennett on Thursday sentenced Henry Guillory to one year in prison to be followed by two years of supervised release. The judge also ordered the former contractor to repay $450,781.99 to the regional office of Veterans Affairs. Bennett allowed Guillory to remain free on bail until he is summoned to report to federal authorities.

    Guillory’s defense lawyers declined to comment on the hearing.

    Guillory, 55, pleaded guilty on May 1 to conspiracy to commit wire fraud involving money transfers between 2012 and 2018. He admitted that he and his “partner” defrauded the VA of more than $1.6 million in the scheme.

    According to court documents, Guillory falsely claimed that a service-disabled veteran was the majority owner of his business. Guillory had his friend, Derrick Andre Chizer, sign up as his fellow contractor.

    The pair then landed 12 set-aside contracts for maintenance and construction work at the DeBakey VA Medical Center. Guillory made $450,000 in the scheme. He gave Chizer $38,000.

    Chizer, 56, of Pearland, also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and was sentenced in July to two years of federal probation.

    The contracting program was set up to benefit businesses owned by injured veterans. In their pleas, the men admitted they deprived legitimate businesses of being awarded those contracts. The contracts are intended for veteran-owned small businesses, and federal agencies can receive credit for hiring those businesses.

    According to their pleas, the six-year scam began Nov. 21, 2012, when Guillory and Chizer registered a business, MEP Sales and Service, in Harris County. The following April, they filled out a form claiming Chizer was a service-disabled veteran with majority ownership of the company.

    Chizer is disabled and was honorably discharged as a petty officer after serving in the U.S. Navy from 1986 to 1989, according to his attorney. Guillory had majority ownership of the company, even though he claimed on official forms to be a minority owner.

    Veteran’s Affairs awarded the company 12 small business set-aside contracts with a value of more than $1.6 million.

    Guillory’s sentencing was continued to give his lawyers an opportunity to present the argument that five of the 12 government contracts were properly awarded to Guillory, who is African American, because he is a minority business owner. The parties later concluded that all 12 contracts were properly included. Guillory requested another continuance for an expert witness to determine the fair market value of the contracts. The judge denied that motion on Thursday.”

    Full Article At: “https://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Pearland-contractor-faces-sentencing-in-1-6-13175717.php”

  18. Hey VA,

    Instead of wasting $2500 per set of Wheelchair wheels just to help enrich a Doctors startup company in Israel. One that will never make a marketable product and certainly go under without the VA investing tens of Millions of dollars in a product that will not last.

    Do something real with the money like give Disabled wheelchair bound Veterans more mobility. As demonstrated in the following Video.

    “https://youtu.be/2d-dgfjRMZ0?t=206

    It would certainly help a lot more Veterans then that scam to enrich a VA doctor with his Israel company.
    “https://www.timesofisrael.com/us-veterans-get-smoother-wheelchair-ride-with-tech-twist-from-israeli-startup/”

  19. My husband hasn’t been on here lately.
    He is sick with the flu. We need your prayers. His temperature has been going up and down. From 96.4-103.8 almost every day.
    Thank you in advance.

    • Our Thoughts and Prayers are with you KatterKat. I have been worried when he wasn’t posting. Tell Elf to get well soon as possible.

    • Hope Crazy Elf gets on the mend ASAP. I ‘played’ with the yo-yo temp flu for about a week during my move from Hawaii to Texas during August – September this year. No fun for sure.

  20. Who cares if the call wait time for the billing department is decreased? How about if they decrease the cost of the meds or better yet INCREASE the poverty level so those of us who truly can’t afford the eternal $25 garnishment per month will be approved for the waiver?

    How about if they just get their shit together, give me the C-File that was requested in JULY 2018 and quit fuckin’ around my claims. They turned my ankle pain claim into a “pain causes depression” claim. WTF?

  21. My adventure into Debt Management Center hell is just beginning. Why? The malfeasance of the VA to act on timely information provided and then give totally irresponsible and misleading information to this Veteran. Wait! I am full of dread at the prospects I face.

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