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Letter From Former Va Employee


Question

I was recently contacted by a former VARO employee that sent me this letter. I am with holding her name for her sake. It's interesting reading about someone actually acknlowdging whats happening at the VA.

Office of Senator James Inhofe

1924 S Utica Suite 530

Tulsa OK 74104

This is a request for help resolving some issues at a government agency that has been using practices that are grossly unethical, and are resulting in treatment to our veterans of the armed forces that is unfair, and heartbreaking in many instances. My hope is that this letter will instigate an investigation and correct this increasing problem before a larger one is created.

I would like to state for the record, however, that I am requesting this letter not be forwarded to the office I am referring to, as I have exhausted all possible resources at this facility seeking a change in operations, and am now in fear of losing my job for having brought this to the attention of higher authorities.

The facility I am referring to is the Education Division of the Department of Veterans Affairs in Muskogee Oklahoma.

Attached is a copy of the “Performance Awards Program For VBA Field Operations” that was implemented recently. Since this program began the education department has been kept under such intense pressure to increase production levels and lower timeliness that it has resulted in the accuracy and quality of the claims processing to suffer inexcusably. The disregard for quality processing is not harmless, but is adversely affecting the lives of our service men and women. This program has been destructive, exposing selfishness and greed, rewarding bad service and making it almost impossible to give good service.

I understand we processed approximately 467,000 claims in 2003. The current system being used to ensure quality control audits 400 files per year by our Central Office. I can assure you that based on what I see as a claims processor, this is not an accurate representative sample of the work we are doing and obviously not sufficient to prevent the overall absence of concern for accuracy.

I have been warned by supervisors and managers to stop worrying about accuracy and start worrying about production. I’ve also been told to stop correcting errors I see that have previously been made because it takes too much time. We are instructed to work only the most recent document in file, not to look the documents that are already in file. There are a lot of errors that never get corrected.

When we get instructions for processing something and realize that the entire office has been processing it incorrectly, we do not make any attempt to correct the ones that we know have been done incorrectly.

We are not processing the claims correctly for our service people that have been called to active duty from the 9-11 terrorist attack. We are not restoring their entitlement when they are called to active duty and have to drop out of college. We are not extending their delimiting date to give them longer to use their benefits because they are gone. Benefits are being stopped at the wrong time creating overpayments for money that they are entitled to. I brought a case like this to the attention of 3 supervisors by email hoping they would give refresher training with so many servicemen and women being activated and so many of our new processors not knowing how to process them. We had made several mistakes underpaying her approximately $1300, not restoring about 3 months of entitlement when she had to withdraw from school in October 2001, and also not entering her additional service for the time she was on active duty. The supervisors never responded to my email. One of the supervisors processed the enrollment for her new term without correcting any of these things. When I asked her about it she told me we do not have time to go back 2 years fixing mistakes.

I hope I can find someone that will agree with me that it is not acceptable to blatantly ignore mistakes that cost our veterans money we promise them when they volunteer to serve our country, especially with the reason being to get more money for our office.

Our veterans cannot be expected to understand all of our rules and regulations, and the never-ending changes, to figure out that we have incorrectly processed his or her claim, creating havoc in their lives and we don’t even give it a thought. This is a numbers job, and we don’t even think about those numbers representing people.

There are numerous unethical and corrupt strategies, tactics, procedures, etc. this office practices to meet the criteria for the sole purpose of receiving more recognition and awards, with blatant disregard for the affect it has on our claimants.

Our work is measured only by production (the number of claims processed). We have a lot of work that needs to be done that doesn’t count because it is not a processed claim. Since the awards are distributed based on the number of claims processed, this encourages doing only work that counts, causing our quality of work to suffer and service to our veterans is meaningless.

After several attempts to lay out just a few examples of how we are not upholding our duty to our service men, women, and veterans, and ending up feeling so frustrated and overwhelmed I decided to just state that I have extensive documentation and evidence to show these accusations are true.

The Education Division is in constant chaos and terribly inefficient. Our leaders do not have the organizational skills and qualifications needed to be in the positions they are in. It appears that most of our management staff consists of employees that started in this office at a young age, and have little if any, knowledge of operating effectively and efficiently. I think all these positions are filled with in-office promotions or through nepotism and these people follow their leaders blindly.

This is a small town and we have a problem with nepotism that starts with our Regional Director. I understand that he is originally from Muskogee has had more friends and relatives hired and promoted here than anyone. Higher-grade positions have been created for friends and relatives. If these vacancies are announced, it’s usually pretty obvious they are pre-selected and are written to limit the people eligible to apply for them. This is not run like a government agency, but more like a private business run by the hometown Good Ole Boys.

They make their own rules, abuse their authority, treat employees unfairly, and in some ways I’m sure are unlawful. They have intimidated and harassed employees to the point of them filing for disability or resigning. If they are unsuccessful doing this, they will find some way to “remove” an employee. We feel that we have no recourse and we have an office full of employees with a morale that couldn’t possibly get much lower and a stress level that is dangerously high.

As I stated in the beginning of this letter, this is a sensitive issue in this office; most employees are too fearful of the reprisal they would receive if they complained, but if questioned in an investigation and felt that it would remain confidential, would be truthful. This is a very small picture of the turmoil and confusion this office is in; and I would appreciate the opportunity to furnish any information or evidence to help resolve this injustice. I am requesting the recipient of this letter to please notify, or direct, me to the correct government agency that could investigate this. I would appreciate the opportunity to furnish any information or evidence to help resolve this injustice. If we won’t consider the ethical question raised throughout this letter, then I hope someone will at least consider the huge bad faith exposure our government has with this situation. If a large number of veterans ever became aware of how we incorrectly compensate them for the service they provided to us, I am afraid the impending lawsuits that could create would cost our government millions of taxpayers dollars, when some resources invested now might prevent this kind of thing from ever happening. Thank you for your time and I will look forward to hearing from someone on this matter.

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Rogus, was the letter writer told she was being fired because of this letter, or was she told another reason?

Was there an appeals process open to her as a federal employee?

If I were her, I wouldn't go quietly. I hope she didn't sign a severance agreement stating she wouldn't file wrongful termination charges.

If she's got the stomach to write that letter while she was still employed, she's a brave gal, so pursuing an EEOC complaint is the next step if she's up to it. It's one thing to complain about company (vs. public) policies not being followed (which are irrelevant if not in violation of Title VII protections), but quite another to blow the whistle on the type of activities she described in the letter.

Good luck to her.

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Vickie - From what I understand she was told she was fired due to poor performance even though up to that point she had won several performance awards. There was an in house hearing convened where she could state her case. Having been involved in one of these hearings myself I can tell you they are anything but fair or impartial (I was asked to testify at one but wouldn't stabb my co-workers in the back).

In fact the both my wife and I were victims of this kind of treatment when we worked at the VA. I can verify through personal experience that a number of the things she mentions do go on at the VA.

Rogus

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Just so you know - This person was fired after writing this letter.

Firing is normally done in steps of progression. I can’t understand why this one letter is all that was related to her firing.

She should have an attorney look at this; I bet she gets her job back or one somewhere. I have seen others fired in the Government and a few months later their back. GOOD ATTORNEY.

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foreveryoung - Trust me this kind of thing permeates the VA. Even if she were offered her job back it would be a poor decision to accept. I know neither my wife or I would accept our old jobs back at the VA in Wichita because of the unethical if not outright illegal things that go on there.

Rogus

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