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VA scandal brings out the critics and cynics

Who was surprised about recent allegations of misconduct at the Veterans Affairs Department? Not many of our readers, if the number of comments we've received is any indication.

According to two reports from VA’s inspector general, high-ranking officials abused their authority, misused their positions, engaged in prohibited personnel practices, improperly administered awards and engaged in nepotism while working in the department’s information technology office.

VA officials, in response, said they are “aggressively pursuing a thorough review of the situation.” (To learn more, read “VA IG finds abuse of authority and ethical breaches in IT office” and “VA responds to IG reports of misconduct in IT office”.)

But it’s all in a days work at the VA and other agencies, according to reader comments.

* The VA corruption is another example of why civil service is not an effective way. Regardless of ability, people are promoted, and never seem to be fired even when they're corrupt such as at the VA. In private practice these corrupt workers would have been fired.
-- Anonymous

* This has been going on for quite time now, not only at VA, but within other federal agencies. With VA's reputation, I'm not surprised. Politics as well as greed plays a vital role in what has happened. Hopefully other organizations will take heed and begin to clean house.
-- Anonymous

* This is exactly the type of report that casts doubt on VA's ability to maintain the integrity of their procurement process. Now, let's see what action is actually taken by VA leadership. VA contractors, and hopefully Congress, will be watching to see what happens to the individuals cited in the report and if impartiality and fairness are reintroduced to the process.
-- VA Contractor

* The government is rife with the cited practices. You merely need to scratch below the surface to find the criminal mismanagement of personnel and the HR environment. The system has been so "diversified" that it can no longer even be recognized as a system. It is created and run to respond to the political hacks desires du jour. To bad it too is so in the VA.
-- Anonymous

* The VA will appear to cave, scurry around with a lot of high-profile activity, and continue with business as usual. (You have to lay low for a while, but that is only temporary.) That word "alleged" in their statement is the critical clue that VA is going to string this out until even the IG is fed up with it.
-- oracle2world

* Translation: VA will do the minimal to make this go away. They'll overcomplicate the response and hope it blows over. Meanwhile, veterans wounded in combat will continue to suffer poor service, in part due to inadequate information technology. (You can't even do a chat with VA, and they send me all sorts of snail mail.) Meanwhile, OI&T employees will continue to screw the veteran, while apparently "engaging in inappropriate relationships" with each other while using dollars supposed to be used for the veteran.
-- Iraq Vet - VHA

* What does this mean for the hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals that put in for VA IT jobs and were told that they were qualified, but not selected? I am a certified Project Manager with a high achievement record of excellence, but I was never chosen for a job. Can we have a recount? Probably not.
-- Justice4All Texas

* I applied for a job with the information protection group. I have 6 industry certifications in that profession, 2 Master's and a PhD, also in that profession. After 3 months I received a letter, "Oh, we're not going to fill that position." PEH! I say, we all know what happened: my qualifications hammered their preferred candidate AND I have 10 point preference as well. YES, there is nepotism and favoritism in that office.
-- Tet Vet USA

* It's not just the VA. But everyone continuously turns a blind eye to the truth, unless of course it serves the immediate interests of their particular political party to clean house.
-- Beltway Contractor

* The IG needs to look into its own abuse of personnel practices. I have to agree that these are just a few of the problems which exist within the VA but these are the tip of the ice berg. The problem is that the IG doesn't have a clue where to start looking. And when they do, it's political.
-- Anonymous

Some readers were especially concerned with allegations of discriminatory hiring practices.

* I think you skipped one of the most important issues from the report. A disabled veteran was passed over for a position within the VA for a friend of the individuals that was not qualified for the position. This is an organization that is supposed to help disabled veterans.
-- Anonymous

* We must not forget that this is not solely discrimination against one particular minority. Hispanics and Asians have been severely overlooked in the federal management ranks especially in the VA. Look at the statistics of hired managers in contrast to the employee ranks. Many of those Hispanics, just like myself, hold a Masters Degree or a B.A. and are also overlooked disabled veterans. Hopefully, this shameful event will clean up the hiring practice within the VA and other agencies.
-- Anonymous

* Unfortunately, nepotism and racism runs rampant in the federal sector. Often managers are found violating rules, but rarely are they disciplined for the rules they break. Many educated and qualified African-Americans have filed non-selection complaints throughout government. Such complaints are often lodged because managers freely engage in discriminatory treatment. Although "favoritism" reportedly is not against the law.....it definitely has an adverse impact on African-American employees.
-- C4C

However, a few readers took pains to differentiate between the ethical misconduct of a few individuals and the hard work done by the majority of VA employees.

* I agree that this is somewhat common across the VA and other government agencies. Keep in mind that there are good, honest, ethical employees at the VA and their focus is care of our veterans. They fulfill their mission with the utmost respect and integrity. It is a shame that people like this tarnish the other employee’s reputations. I am proud to work for the VA and serve our veterans as proudly as they served for me.
-- Anonymous

* For all those hard working folks at VA doing your job, keep doing it. You serve a very deserving group of people.
-- Anonymous

* The previous response unfairly labels all OI&T employees as people who have intent to “continue to screw the veteran...” A 27 year VA computer professional, the Vet knows nothing about me and my professional and dedicated behavior on my job. The people in the IG report were cited for unethical, unprofessional, and possibly illegal practices. No label of OI&T or any other service line in any government agency deserves that generalization just because of what the service line's mission is to deliver.
-- Anonymous

Posted by John Stein Monroe on Aug 24, 2009 at 12:14 PM

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Reader comments

Mon, Mar 15, 2010 Frustrated DC

The ironic thing is the Senior Manager that did all of this is being re-hired in the VA system with the same title and office space that she had before. I guess a good lawyer does make one invincible in the Government.

Sun, Aug 30, 2009

Having insight to this situation, it not only pains me to see that this type of conduct was going on while I was there and was involved with the organization...It also kills me that hard working individuals on the teams that do the grunt work are denied simple benefits like tuition assistance and training to better do their job while certain people get special treatment and just get things handed to them. I can get over the positions being given out and "created", but the fact that employees are denied access to training and education or are told by management "I don't know" or "The VA doesn't pay for stuff..." it really gets me heated. Education and training are key and guess how many people that I know of actually were afforded the opportunity to use TA and receive training??? NONE!! Go figure huh??

Wed, Aug 26, 2009 DOD

Personnel managers, as a whole, throughout the Government have serious lack of ethics. They can get away with their misbehavior primarily because they are in the Government. Contrary to some of the writers, no it is not such a big problem in the private sector. When Personnel actions in a for-profit group hurt the company, their profit goes down and the CEOs will go after them as it is in both their interest and the stockholders interest to fix the problem. With the Government, it is all image and all that matters is what impression they can project. Profit is a meanless term when it comes to their performance.

Wed, Aug 26, 2009 M

Do you mean the sending of "you have xxx disease" to vets by accident, or the "Death book" thing? No, something else entirely? Not suprised. The veterans deserve to be treated with much better service. When the position is "just another job, let's see what we can get away with", then the personnel aren't doing justice to the people they were put there to serve. Root out the disease and get personnel in that are willing to conduct themselves in the highest manner, as befitting serving those who served us.

Wed, Aug 26, 2009 Retired VA employee

I retired from VA OI. I can say in my 29 years with the VA from my direct observation this behavior was an exception rather than the rule. What concerns me more is why this has come to light and why is there so much emphasis on it? We all know this type of unacceptable behavior is in every government agency and department throughout the federal government. There are thousands of IG reports every year. Why was this one incident exposed to the press? Obviously the recent spot light on the VA for it management is part of that answer. But I cannot help but believe there is a political motive behind this.

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