Walter Reed wounded warriors A-76’d?; Three-headed dog of hell and Dan Quayle; AHLTA AWOL at Walter Reed?; Big bucks for AHLTA PR

Walter Reed wounded warriors A-76’d?
The average enlisted grunt — and maybe even the average grunt general — probably has no idea what an A-76 public/ private competition is. But the wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center have had to suffer from the consequences of A-76, according to an internal memo released last week at a hearing held by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Col. Peter Garibaldi,  Walter Reed garrison commander, said in an undated memo sent last year to Maj. Gen. George Weightman that a reduction in force resulting from job outsourcing would have an adverse effect on patient care.

So, too, would a 2005 decision of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission to close Walter Reed. Weightman, you recall, is the hospital commander relieved of his duties earlier this month after The Washington Post reported horrendous living conditions at the Walter Reed facility.

Garibaldi, who appears to be the only guy in the Army Medical Department  chain of command who realizes this country is involved in a couple of wars, told Weightman and Col. Darryl Spencer, the department’s assistant chief of staff for resource management, that an A-76 competition started in 2000 did not take into account the increased workload at Walter Reed because of combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Army performed the A-76 competition with “dated workload data and expectations” that did not take into account combat operations, Garibaldi said in the memo that urges his superiors to retain more federal employees.

Lt. Gen Peter Kiley, Army surgeon general, said at a House hearing last week that since the United States began combat in Afghanistan in October 2001 and in Iraq four years ago this month, Walter Reed has cared for more than 6,000 troops. About 2,000 of them had battlefield injuries.

Garibaldi, who is well aware of the care those soldiers needed, wrote that if Walter Reed did not beef up its government staffing, base operations and patient care services there “are at risk of mission failure.”

Yet despite that warning — and despite two ongoing wars — the Army Medical Department awarded a $25.8 million outsourcing contract last year to IAP World Services for support services. Those  included administration, network support, housing management, transportation, grounds maintenance and a whole mess of other services previously handled by government workers.

Three-headed dog of hell and Dan Quayle

No, the above is not some sort of weird Dan Quayle joke, but it is a good segue for describing a weird relationship between the former vice president, IAP World Services and Walter Reed. Quayle is chairman of the Cerberus Global Investments division of Cerberus Capital Management, which in turn, said a Cerberus spokeswoman, owns IAP World Services.

Arlene Mellinger
, an IAP image therapist, sent a press release to FCW editor Chris Dorobek last week just to let him know that her company started work on its outsourcing contract at Walter Reed only last month. She reported that the company has 290 of its own and subcontractor employees on site and procedures in place “that ensure that the highest priority facility maintenance items are addressed first.”

I don’t know why the former vice president works for a company named after a mythological beast that guards the gates of hell, but the Army sure made a poor choice of outsourcing contractors based on the name of the parent company.

AHLTA AWOL at Walter Reed?
We’ve slain a lot of forests reporting on the Defense Department’s Armed Forces Health Longitudinal Technology Application electronic health records system that serves outpatients. But based on the testimony of one Walter Reed patient, Staff Sgt. John Daniel Shannon, before a House panel, AHLTA appears to have gone AWOL at that facility.

Shannon said that once he entered outpatient status at Walter Reed, he made some hospital appointments. But after he completed those, Shannon was not scheduled for others. Shannon testified that when he finally managed to hunt down his case manager for help in making additional appointments, she was distressed that she had been unable to locate him.

Shannon also testified that paperwork he needed for his Medical Evaluation Board and Physical Evaluation Board (PEB) review for his retirement kept getting lost.

He repeatedly had to restart the entire paperwork process. Kiley explained that Shannon had to haul around paper because the PEB cannot access AHLTA.

However, Kiley insisted that all medical records at Walter Reed are generated electronically. If that’s true, it raises the question of why Shannon was not routinely scheduled for medical appointments and why his case manager could not find him.

Big bucks for AHLTA PR

This one’s been a burr under my saddle for almost two years. It seems that every time outgoing Assistant Secretary of Defense William Winkenwerder wanted to hold a big time dog-and-pony show for AHLTA, he hired the Edelman public relations firm to massage the press.

I don’t know if the hourly rate Edelman charged the Military Health System for a job that could have been done more cheaply by a government PAO. But I do know Edelman is so pricey that maybe that exercise in executive vanity could pay for at least one additional federal employee at Walter Reed.

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