Friday, September 2, 2016

The Department of Veterans Affairs - Why The Government Should Never Be In Control Of Our Health Care, Part 2

Many times in this blog we have tried to determine what is the most inept and most wasteful Federal government agency or organization. Which agency is the most inefficient, sucking up the most resources while falling far short of fulfilling even their basic job functions. Leading candidates usually include the TSA, the IRS, the Defense Department, and the Social Security Administration.

But yesterday’s and today’s focus is on another of the usual suspects, the Veterans Affairs (VA) organization. Many, many times we have reviewed how the VA is not fulfilling even its basic role of providing medical care to our veterans, wasting millions of dollars in many different, inane ways while the VA executives get large pay bonuses and salary increases. 

And while Obama has claimed from the very beginning of his Presidency to fix the VA, his efforts have been little more than empty rhetoric as almost eight years later, veterans are still not getting the medical care they have been promised and deserve.

So let’s check in on the latest embarrassments from the VA and see if they still deserve to be classified as one of the worst functioning government organizations ever:

1) One of the excuses the VA administrators has put forth on why veterans are dying from not getting the medical care they should be receiving is that the VA does not have enough money or resources. But according to a Daily Caller article written by Luke Rosiak, while the VA claims it is under funded, it currently has 167 interior designers on its staff. So rather than putting dozens of more doctors on its staff to serve the veterans in need of medical care, the VA leadership has decided that 167 interior designers and the budget they burn up are more important to their mission.

Details of this disgrace include the following atrocities:

  • Part of the interior decorators’ jobs includes buying artwork for VA facilities and they have spent a whopping $16 million on this art since Obama took office.
  • Even more amazing and gross is the reality that at least 12 of these pieces of art cost more than a quarter million dollars each with nearly $700,000 of taxpayer wealth spent on just two sculptures that were displayed at a VA location that served blind veterans.
  • Besides the artwork, the American taxpayer has likely spent over $136 million on salaries and benefits for these 167 interior designers since Obama took office.
  • How many veterans could have been served with that $136 million rather than wasting it on interior designers?
  • The article claims that just about every VA facility actually has an interior designer on its staff with some facilities employing more than on designer.
  • The Cleveland VA location has FIVE designers on its staff, which is pure insanity.
  • Adam Andrzejewski, the head of the government spending watchdog organization, stated that: “The VA needs more doctors, nurses and healthcare professionals and fewer public relations officers, lawyers and interior decorators and designers.” 
  • Additionally, Mr. Andrzejewski pointed out the following low cost alternative to spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a single piece of art: “Veterans have their own art museum. Why is the VA spending millions on lavish art when veterans are already producing great art? Veterans themselves should benefit from art displays, not vendors who sell the VA pricey art.” 
  • A recent government want ad for an interior designer said the potential hire would be in charge of “accoutrements” like “window treatments” and that any job candidates with a Ph.D. in interior design was preferred, i.e. the VA was not hiring cheap labor for its interior designer positions.
  • This wasteful spending and cries of poverty continues to go on even though Congress increased the 2016 VA budget by 7.5% over the 2015 level.
Veterans are not getting the treatment they need, they are being put on multi-month waiting lists where many of them die before getting in to see a doctor, and the top officials at the VA continue to waste millions of its budget dollars on interior designers that have no relationship to the mission of the VA, serving the medical needs of our vets. Pathetic and often fatal priorities.

2) But the VA does not just waste taxpayer wealth on artwork and interior designers. According to an August 9, 2016 Washington Times article by Dave Boyer, the VA inspector general has found that the VA has wasted millions of dollars on its solar energy project.

Details of this atrocity include the following details:

  • The VA has spent over $408 million on solar panels over the past five years but the use of them has been delayed and much of that investment is still not operational.
  • 11 of the 15 VA solar projects that were awarded between 2010 and 2013 are still not completed.
  • Only 2 of the 15 have been completed and are actually creating solar energy.
  • Two other projects have been completed but are not yet generating power.
  • This dismal performance, according to the inspector general, is because: “This occurred because of planning errors, design changes, a lengthy interconnection process, and contractor delays. As a result, VA did not increase renewable energy for those solar projects in the time frame planned and incurred additional costs through needed contract modifications.”
  • At the Little Rock, Arkansas VA facility, solar panels were installed but before they could generate any power, they had to be removed, at a cost of more than $1 million, to make room for the building of a parking garage. 
  • If it cost an insane $1 million to remove the panels, imagine how much it cost to install them for nothing in return from an energy perspective.
  • The total project of solar panel installation at the Little Rock location will likely run $1.5 million over budget and be four years behind schedule.
  • Investigations of the VA’s solar panel effort found that while all of the projects were initially expected to take 7 to 12 months to complete, in reality, they are likely going to take 42 months to complete on average, just another example of terrible and inept VA management and personnel.
The VA objected to the inspector general’s findings, claiming that its solar panel projects are providing $10 million in savings per year, savings that allows it “to redirect those recurring funds to provide care and services to veterans.”

But at $408 million, that means that the break even point for the solar panels is just currently just under 41 years (which assumes that the panels last that long and do not require repair or replacement, activities that would push the break even point out way beyond 41 years). In 41 years, today’s veterans would be long dead, many of them dying prematurely because they could not get the proper medical care TODAY, not 41 years from today. 

Look, I am all for saving energy costs and saving the planet and using solar energy. But there is a crisis today when it comes to the medical needs of our vets. That $408 million could have been used to save lives today, not four decades or more from today. 

Once the VA was a well functioning and efficient operation, then the diversion of some budget dollars to solar energy would be appropriate. But the VA is no well functioning and certainly not efficient and as a result, people are dying. Another set of very, very bad government and Washington politician priorities.

Going by today’s and yesterday’s list of embarrassments and waste, it is quite clear to any open minded person why the government should never be in charge of any American’s health and medical needs. Between the unfolding disasters of Obama Care and the joke that the VA has become, we have shown hundreds examples of wasteful spending, incompetent management, greedy employees, a general ineptness that results in the deaths of Americans and not the saving of lives and easing of pain. Thus, the VA continues to be on the short list of most incompetent Federal entities ever.

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