Edmonds Military Wire: VA pays bonuses despite poor results
The Department of Veterans Affairs is dealing with a major public relations setback. On both a local and national level, their performance has been rated as, well, less than favorable.
The Sept. 8, 2013, Seattle Times reported that:
-The Puget Sound VA’s reviews for overall quality have lagged far behind the top performers in the Department of Veterans Affairs health-care network. In the latest evaluation, the Puget Sound VA got one out of a possible five stars.
-The only time “one out of five stars” is good is when we are talking how spicy the Chinese take-out should be.
-And while the Puget Sound VA review is new news, the backlog of hundreds of thousands of veterans’ claims nationally is not.
And yet, bonuses have been paid.
FOX News reported that the Department of Veterans Affairs awarded more than $500,000 in bonuses despite the ongoing challenges.
One of the biggest bonuses “went to an agency official who oversaw the Pittsburgh medical centers in which five veterans died from an outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease.”
The inspector general concluded the centers simply failed to prevent the outbreak. In simple speak: Someone failed to do their job and as a result, people died.
Let me get this right: low stars, continual backlog, dereliction of duty and yet, bonuses were paid.
Congress is now getting involved.
What is evident is that “status quo” is not getting the job done and people are dying.
The Fox News article reported that, “Dr. Robert Petzel — the agency’s undersecretary for health and the official who gave the bonus to the Pittsburgh-area regional director, Michael Moreland — recently told congressional investigators he did not regret the decision.”
He later told Fox News: “The patient care issues the committee has raised are serious, but not systemic.” One could argue the problems do stretch from coast to coast though.
Dr. Petzel is retiring in early 2014 after three-plus years of leading the agency. And while some may welcome this as a good thing, he has championed the use of more 21st century methods in an effort to improve care for our veterans. Unfortunately, one is often better remembered for their last scandal and not their last positive contribution.
It is important to note that while the federal VA is scrambling to spin something positive, the federal Department of Veterans Affairs is quite different than our State Department of Veterans Affairs — which, by the way, is leading the nation with its proactive approach to better serving veterans in Washington state.
The Washington Department of Veterans Affairs is considered a thought-leader on how to improve “warm hand-off” between agencies and is building a coalition of states that will demand an outcomes model to care and service as opposed to the “business as usual” approach of how many veterans were served. After all, if the service is bad and the outcome is — worst case scenario — death, then does it matter if he/she was actually “served?”
Bottom line: Bonuses should be paid for performance and positive outcomes — not “just because.” (Hmmm…imagine if we implemented a bonus for Council decisions that resulted in job growth in Edmonds – but I digress.)
– By Michael Schindler
Michael Schindler, Navy veteran, and president of Edmonds-based Operation Military Family, is a guest writer for several national publications, author of the book “Operation Military Family” and “The Military Wire” blog. He is also a popular keynote and workshop speaker who reaches thousands of service members and their families every year through workshops and seminars that include “How to Battle-Ready Your Relationship” or “What Your Mother-in-Law Didn’t Tell You.” He received the 2010 Outstanding Patriotic Service Award from the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs.