Monday, March 28, 2016

Just punishment.

DENVER (AP) — The Veterans Affairs Department has no plans to punish any other employees over massive cost overruns at a VA medical center under construction outside Denver, the agency said Tuesday.
The executives who made the decisions that caused the price to swell to $1.7 billion have already left department, the VA said in announcing the long-awaited results of an internal review. The VA said last year that three other executives were transferred or demoted.
A separate investigation by the VA's inspector general is still underway.
The decision angered members of Congress who have demanded for months that the executives responsible be fired.
"There's going to be a billion dollars wasted on this hospital that could have gone to veterans' health care," said GOP Rep. Mike Coffman, whose district includes the site.
The facility's final cost will be nearly times the amount estimated in 2014. It's expected to be finished in January 2018.
When Congress reluctantly approved additional spending in September to complete the hospital, it stripped the VA of the authority to manage large construction projects in the future and turned it over to the Army Corps of Engineers.
VA officials have repeatedly said federal personnel rules controlled what action they could take against executives. They also said they had no legal authority to stop employees from retiring amid the internal review.
Coffman said the department should have at least tried.
"I think they use that system, the personnel system, to hide behind when it's convenient to do so," he said.
Colorado Sens. Michael Bennet, a Democrat, and Cory Gardner, a Republican, also condemned the decision.
Bennet called it an abdication of responsibility.
"It's incomprehensible that the VA concluded no further personnel action was necessary to hold these individuals accountable," he said.
Gardner said the VA's decision makes it appear that "federal employment comes with a get-out-of-jail-free card."
The 184-bed medical center in Aurora will replace an old, overcrowded hospital in Denver.
The new facility is a collection of a dozen large buildings connected by a long, soaring, glass-walled corridor. It is near the University of Colorado Hospital and Children's Hospital Colorado.


  1. WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs doled out more than $142 million in bonuses to executives and employees for performance in 2014 even as scandals over veterans' health care and other issues racked the agency.

    That will certainly send the proper message.

  2. The increasingly tense relationship between Congress and the Department of Veterans Affairs was on display in a standoff Wednesday in which the department refused to allow five officials prominent in a report on misuse of authority and waste of government money to appear before the House Veterans Affairs Committee for questioning.

    The department said allowing the officials to appear could jeopardize its ability to investigate the allegations.

    Facing a table reserved for the officials with name cards and empty seats, the committee voted unanimously to subpoena the officials to appear before it in November.

    Deputy Secretary Sloan D. Gibson said in a letter to the committee this week that having the officials appear could undermine internal efforts to investigate and discipline them.


  3. And some wonder why government appears to be broken.

    WASHINGTON — The scandal-plagued Department of Veterans Affairs is systematically overpaying clerks, administrators and other support staff, according to internal audits, draining tens of millions of dollars that could be used instead to ease the VA’s acute shortage of doctors and nurses.

    The jobs of some 13,000 VA support staff have been flagged by auditors as potentially misclassified, in many cases resulting in inflated salaries that have gone uncorrected for as long as 14 years.

    Rather than moving quickly to correct these costly errors, VA officials two years ago halted a broad internal review mandated by federal law. As a result, the overpayments continue.

    Moreover, in the two years since thousands of misclassified jobs were identified, hundreds of additional positions have been filled at improperly high salaries. Internal VA documents obtained by The Huffington Post show that between September 2013 and May 2014, for instance, overpayments in annual salaries for the latter jobs alone came to $24.4 million, not counting benefits.

    In May alone, senior VA classification specialists identified 284 probably misclassified positions newly posted on the federal jobs site, USAJobs. Once filled, those jobs would result in estimated overpayments of $3.3 million per year.

  4. The VA mess has been going on for years. But administration after administration ignored the problem, both Democrat and Republican. When will we wake up and demand action?

    1. Take action? And give up the moral ground of always complaining how F'd up government is? No, much better to just keep complaining.

    2. What's to complain about?

      People are not fired or laid off and they are paid contributing to GDP.

    3. Who should be fired? A bureaucrat who likely has little power to challenge contractor shakedowns? The VA was not designed to handle the jobs it is being tasked with today. There was seemingly no thought given to this before we decided to be at war forever, and now we are playing catchup. Contractors routinely shake down the government and anytime we get an inspector general who does their job, they are either handcuffed by some senator or congressman who represents the contractor. Who should be fired? I tend to think more blame lays outside the VA, but firing VA people is easier and makes it look like someone is taking action.

    4. A project/program of size has a program director who monitors the program ensuring the program is in budget and on time.

      The program director reports to VP and above to give the program status. The program director also presents all changes requested by the departments to the finance committee via the VP or above that has overall responsibility.

      When a program goes over budget, explanations are required. When a program doesn't meet the required timeline explanations are required.

      There are many people who approve funds, changes and extended timelines.

      Maybe the government doesn't operate like business and no one is responsible and all changes to the program are immediate approved without a responsible signature.

      Having run programs of substantial size, I reported to VP's Executive VP's weekly updates and a monthly with the CFO and on occasion the CEO.

      One would think that a program of that size 400 million expanding to i.3 billion and 2 years behind would have had visibility all the way to the top of the VA.

      See Max, The VA is either totally inept or corrupt. Either they had a project team that didn't do their job or they were totally ignored by management. Either the VA's program team didn't communicate with the general contractor or they didn't pass information to management. The finance team had to sign off on all change orders for increased funding. Were they inept or didn't care? Did the VA approve the design and the estimates for the program? Who was responsible if this program was under bid? I have worked in the industry and there is little deviation in the way a project is managed. When it comes to spending company money, everyone is interested unless it's a government project and it seems no one cares as so aptly displayed at the VA.

      Contractors are another story.