Now that Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki has fallen on his sword, the agency can finally give our growing population of ill and aging vets the care they deserve, right? Not according to the many frazzled VA employees who have sent Gawker their stories. Here's one.
We've heard from many VA workers and are reading all of their accounts—of malfeasance, of incompetence, of inertia caused by politicization and budget cuts—and we'll share more in the coming weeks. Here's one we received immediately after Shinseki tendered his resignation to President Obama this morning, which describes an underfunded, undermanned spoils system at VA: "You fucking had two fucking wars and demand that we take care of our veterans, but somehow you can seem to come up with equitable funding that you do for some fucking fighter jet."
This employee has worked at VA since 2007. Despite holding a graduate degree, the author was "was immediately sat down and ordered to make copies, and make notebooks. For the larger part of not quite a year and a half, I was assigned menial tasks while most of the work was contracted out to 'program support contractors.'"
My issues with the VA are as follows:
1. Thanks to Congressional pressure to not grow the government, we rely heavily on contractors to administer services. The rationale being that you keep government from growing and keep costs down (HR and pension costs down), you contract services. However, the American population is still growing as does the need for services. In addition, it is not uncommon to have the same resource in excess of 5 to 10 years (especially if a subject matter expert). We have no way to hire them full time because we cannot offer competitive wages. If you really want to cut down on waste fraud and abuse, private contractors hired should be the first to go. Upon my second year the the VA, 1 single program support contract resource was 250K, whereas a GS12 employee with benefits was valued at 125K. I don't know about you, but it seems as if government employees are still cheaper. That said:
2. The hookups for a good govt job need to stop. I was hired through an internship program that no longer exists. But, there are many people who hook their family members up that are unqualified and lazy. That is a job that could be going to a new, hungry college grad who is eager to learn and help.
3. My job started in Washington, DC and I am now in the field. I am appalled by the discrepancy of working conditions between the ivory tower elite of inside the beltway and in the Field VISN's. The campus I currently work in is a shithole. There are condemned buildings, a lack of appropriate IT equipment, textbook, stereotypical, lazy employees, and a lot of egos in management that are not necessarily good directors.
1. We need more people. PERIOD. We connot keep up, people are quitting and retiring right and left and we are not backfilling. The Center for Investigative Reporting has been tracking the VA and our problems for a long time.
That said, VA needs to evaluate all field directors and employees and examine qualifications and see if people know how to do the job they are assigned to do. I guarantee they do not. We also need to fucking clean house and get the useless employees out.
2. Congress need change their appropriations so that money goes to sustainment and not just contract dollars. VA needs more money to keep the lights on and maintain what is already in place. Stop with the fucking budget cuts. You fucking had two fucking wars and demand that we take care of our veterans, but somehow you can seem to come up with equitable funding that you do for some fucking fighter jet. You love haviung a fucking new VA hospital in your district, but you don't want to fund personnel. You are fucking pricks.
3. VA executive leadership needs to be honest with true state of affairs at the Cabinet level. Part of the problemn is that a lot programs just flat out lie un their performance measures rather than admitting that there are problems. And we see how well that turned out.
I will continue to work here in the VA and I, like many of my colleagues, are sad to see the Secretary go. He was a good guy, unlike much of the Bush people who were lighting this fucker on fire. Yes, we have waste. Yes, we have problems. Firing the one guy who was working to solve it isn't going to help things. Ultimately, the problems we have are broad and systemic. The fucking taxpayers demand that the Federal government not spend money or less money, and that affects the quality of care for many. In the end motherfucking taxpayers get what they fucking pay for.
Again, if you have personal dealings with the VA, consider sharing them in the comments below or emailing adam.weinstein at gawker dot com.