Did the VA try to bug Congressional investigators?

posted at 3:21 pm on July 15, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

When Congressional investigators arrived at the regional VA office in Philadelphia, they probably didn’t expect the red-carpet treatment. However, they probably didn’t expect the Red Scare treatment, either. In testimony before Congress last night, investigators revealed that the VA office initially gave them offices that were wired to record audio and video. They also found a notebook detailing how one manager instructed employees to obstruct the investigation:

Congressional staffers investigating data falsification and whistleblower retaliation at the Department of Veterans Affairs regional office in Philadelphia were given a workspace there that was wired with activated audio microphones and video cameras, the chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs said Monday.

Committee investigators also glimpsed a notebook used by the agency’s regional director that bore written instructions to ignore their requests for information, Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., said during a late-night hearing.

Miller, chairman of the veterans committee, said he is “shocked” by the directives from VA officials to ignore congressional investigators.

“You will not ignore this committee anymore,” Miller said to Allison Hickey, VA’s under secretary for benefits, who testified at the hearing.

The notepad belonged to Acting Director Lucy Filipov, who insisted on putting investigators into a room where computer microphones and cameras had been activated. One handwritten instruction was “ignore Rory,” one of the Congressional staffers conducting the investigation for Miller. Another note listed two of the whistleblowers that were cooperating with the committee.

ABC News reports that the whistleblowers’ notoriety resulted in unpleasant consequences:

Kristen Ruell, an authorization quality services representative at the VBA, claimed that some employees at the Philadelphia Regional Office staff were motivated to manipulate data so they’d get better performance reviews and higher bonuses.

“Instead of solving problems, I was retaliated against,” Ruell testified. “VA’s problems are the result of morally bankrupt managers.”

Ruell told lawmakers her car was dented and covered with coffee one morning and she suspects the culprits were vindictive VBA managers from the Philadelphia office. “If something doesn’t change soon, I don’t know if there’s going to be any good workers left in the VA,” she said.

If that sounds familiar, it should. The benefits side of the VA engaged in the same kind of data manipulation practices as the provider side did, and for the same reason — to fake performance metrics to boost job approval and bonuses. I wrote about this yesterday before the hearings started, and the Washington Post reported it this morning as “another VA scandal, very much like the last one”:

Some of the same problems that led to a scheduling scandal for the Department of Veterans Affairs’ health network also infected the agency’s benefits division, according to VA employees and federal watchdog agencies.

Witnesses at a House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing on Monday evening testified that the Veterans Benefits Administration created unrealistic goals, manipulated data to meet its targets and fostered a corrosive culture in which accountability is scarce and managers punish workers who report wrongdoing. Various official reviews have shown similar problems at VA medical centers nationwide. …

All three VA employees who testified at Monday’s hearing, each of whom came from separate benefits centers, said their managers had retaliated against them for coming forward about data manipulation.

VA disability rater Javier Soto, who worked at a Columbia, S.C. office but was later transferred to Orlando, Fla. after exposing problems, said the issue of whistleblower reprisals appears to be systemic. “There are very few managers who handle it differently,” he said.

In other words, this isn’t just a handful of provider facilities acting on their own. The VA has a culture of corruption and cover-up, conducted at the expense of veterans who have nowhere else to go for their care. Not only has the VA retaliated against whistleblowers trying to protect these veterans, they’re now resorting to spying on investigators and obstructing probes into their operations. Back in May, one whistleblower said that the VA was run like a “crime syndicate.” That certainly seems to be the case.


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Nope, not a smidgen of corruption. I hope the perps are white because calling for Rope Solution then won’t be considered racism.

Rix on July 15, 2014 at 3:25 PM

Dismantle the va entirely and give each vet a disbursement of the savings. Three problems solved at once and cheaper than the current scam of paying people to pretend to work.

AH_C on July 15, 2014 at 3:27 PM

Fascist obama Amerika

Schadenfreude on July 15, 2014 at 3:29 PM

To answer the question, is water wet?

(I never want to hear about Nixon or Watergate after Whitewater Willie and Little Zero)

formwiz on July 15, 2014 at 3:30 PM

Holder is busy investigating a parade float. No special prosecutor needed here.

ConstantineXI on July 15, 2014 at 3:31 PM

Do not talk about impeachment!

the_nile on July 15, 2014 at 3:32 PM

AH_C on July 15, 2014 at 3:27 PM

This will be covered under the, “Too big to let it fail” banner.

Deano1952 on July 15, 2014 at 3:34 PM

Dismantle the va entirely and give each vet a disbursement of the savings. Three problems solved at once and cheaper than the current scam of paying people to pretend to work.

AH_C on July 15, 2014 at 3:27 PM

Good luck getting a Doctor that will take VA reimbursement. I had the devil of a time finding a Physical Therapy place that would take the VA vouchers I was given.

Johnnyreb on July 15, 2014 at 3:34 PM

one whistleblower said that the VAWH was run like a “crime syndicate.”

the_nile on July 15, 2014 at 3:34 PM

Undo this, America.

Otherwise, suffocate in there.

Schadenfreude on July 15, 2014 at 3:34 PM

The Obama administration has taken a page from the Leona Helmsley book on governance: ‘Only the little people obey the law.’

Lawless. Motto and byword of the Obama administration.

thatsafactjack on July 15, 2014 at 3:34 PM

Jaw dropping corruption. But not a smidgen. (Spell check works on smidgen. Who knew.)

InterestedObserver on July 15, 2014 at 3:35 PM

Congress is now the apparently the sole investigative body in the government, and a makeshift one at that.

Imagine where we would be in the Tea Party hadn’t won big in 2010 and Democrats still controlled the House.

forest on July 15, 2014 at 3:35 PM

Dismantle the va entirely and give each vet a disbursement of the savings. Three problems solved at once and cheaper than the current scam of paying people to pretend to work.

Exactly—or, at a minimum, give them all coverage through Medicare plus a subsidized specified secondary, through which they can see whomever they choose, wherever they choose.

But there is no political nor union leverage in such a solution. So it won’t happen. A smattering of transfers; a few ‘suspensions with pay’ for a month or so, and another handful of retirements 3 or 4 months earlier than planned. With full benefits. And no repercussions.
Watch for it.

orangemtl on July 15, 2014 at 3:35 PM

Is the VA under the Obama Regime? Yes? Then you have your answer to that.

We’re now living under our first Fascist American Dictatorship.

So, exactly how bad does it have to get before the GOP gets off their azzes and does something about ANY of it?

Establishment GOP bought and paid for by the Chamber of Commerce, will NEVER secure the border. And will likely push amnesty first thing next year.

They will do absolutely NOTHING to preserve this nation.

Meople on July 15, 2014 at 3:36 PM

The Obama administration to American citizens ” Lawlessness. It more than just our brand, it’s our modis operandi.”

thatsafactjack on July 15, 2014 at 3:37 PM

Bank robbers go where the money is. The most money just happens to be in government agencies today.

RBMN on July 15, 2014 at 3:44 PM

The Obama administration wants to legalize 5-6 million ADULT illegal aliens, individuals who have willfully shattered federal immigration law and every other law they found inconvenient in this nation in their pursuit of their own goals and interests, by use of yet another Executive Order, to go along with the 2-3 million DREAMERS covered and giving temporary legal status in the Obama Executive Order DACA, proving that he is more than happy to rule by his will alone trampling separation of powers and bypassing congress, the legislative branch which hold the sole power to LEGALLY change or make the law.

Obama has said that he will not deploy the National Guard to stop the ‘humanitarian crisis’ that his Executive Orders have already created of thousands upon thousands of illegal aliens, many children, some drowning in the Rio Grande as they try to cross into this nation illegally because “That would only be a temporary fix.”

Meanwhile, the Obama administration has been going about the business of denying health care EARNED by veterans of the United States Armed Forces and their dependents and passed into law in recognition of the service and sacrifice of these men and women.

I guess premature death and unnecessary pain and suffering for those who have served this nation honorably is the Obama administration’s idea of a PERMANENT FIX.

thatsafactjack on July 15, 2014 at 3:45 PM

OT – just a good start.

Schadenfreude on July 15, 2014 at 3:45 PM

Bergdahl is free and rich, soon.

The Marine, who served with distinction, sits in a Mexican jail.

Schadenfreude on July 15, 2014 at 3:46 PM

This fukking administration is out of control. And yet there are gd morons who still defend the POS. It’s hard to decide who I despise more.

HumpBot Salvation on July 15, 2014 at 3:48 PM

An epidemic of hard drives to crash at the VA in 4..3..2..

HumpBot Salvation on July 15, 2014 at 3:49 PM

OT – just a good start.

Schadenfreude on July 15, 2014 at 3:45 PM

Agree But back on thread-How come managers are part of a union??
We need a Reagan, to do the same he did to the Controllers Union-burn it to the ground.

Lord Whorfin on July 15, 2014 at 3:51 PM

OT – just a good start.

Schadenfreude on July 15, 2014 at 3:45 PM

Yes, now we need that x1000 all across Obama’s bureaucracy.

Meople on July 15, 2014 at 3:52 PM

Back in May, one whistleblower said that the VA was run like a “crime syndicate.” That certainly seems to be the case.

The whole Obama administration is a “crime syndicate.

redguy on July 15, 2014 at 3:53 PM

This fukking administration is out of control. And yet there are gd morons who still defend the POS. It’s hard to decide who I despise more.

HumpBot Salvation on July 15, 2014 at 3:48 PM

Hate them all, it works for me.

Meople on July 15, 2014 at 3:54 PM

But, but, but, Ed, government-run healthcare removes the ‘greed’ aspect of medical care…or, at least, that’s what Krugman and his fellow-travellers claim.

Resist We Much on July 15, 2014 at 3:59 PM

If this crew were civilians, DOJ would slap RICO charges on them.

Resist We Much on July 15, 2014 at 4:02 PM

This is my question…did the IRS teach the VA or the other way around?

Or did they both go to some special school that this administration is running…wasn’t there something today about another agency having their computer disks being wiped out?

right2bright on July 15, 2014 at 4:10 PM

So when is King Barack going to FIRE every damned one of these corrupt SOBs?

GarandFan on July 15, 2014 at 4:10 PM

So when is King Barack going to FIRE every damned one of these corrupt SOBs?

GarandFan on July 15, 2014 at 4:10 PM

What? Fire himself?

right2bright on July 15, 2014 at 4:11 PM

But, but, but, Ed, government-run healthcare removes the ‘greed’ aspect of medical care…or, at least, that’s what Krugman and his fellow-travellers claim.

Resist We Much on July 15, 2014 at 3:59 PM

If this crew were civilians, DOJ would slap RICO charges on them.

Resist We Much on July 15, 2014 at 4:02 PM

+1000000

It’s a sacred non-profit! And fully funded and run by the government! It can’t fail! It’s been purged of all the capitalist devils!

gwelf on July 15, 2014 at 4:12 PM

Too late- BO has already quit his job, now all he does is whine.

Lord Whorfin on July 15, 2014 at 4:12 PM

If you want quick high-quality government-insured health care, first get elected to Congress.

RBMN on July 15, 2014 at 4:13 PM

The regime will transfer the obedient one to IRS and EPA.

tim c on July 15, 2014 at 4:15 PM

The crime syndicate, redux.

“crime syndicate” says it all. Wonder when the majority of Americans will come to realize that? We thought the RICO Act was a great thing to get rid of Mafia-type organized crime, but these bastards we actually vote in (again, and again, and again in some cases), and give our hard-earned money to.

But it’s always “the other guy in the other party” that’s the crook, never “my candidate”. Ego I suppose.

Dr. ZhivBlago on July 15, 2014 at 4:15 PM

In other words, this isn’t just a handful of provider facilities acting on their own. The VA has a culture of corruption and cover-up, conducted at the expense of veterans who have nowhere else to go for their care.

Eric Shinseki should be facing charges. There is no way that all of this could have been going on without that filthy lying bastard having knowledge. I don’t care what he did on active duty he betrayed veterans with his lies, cover-ups, and (if the above is true) outright crimes.

Happy Nomad on July 15, 2014 at 4:22 PM

So when is King Barack going to FIRE every damned one of these corrupt SOBs?

GarandFan on July 15, 2014 at 4:10 PM

Once he discovers that the VA was a secret front for the Tea Party movement. But you didn’t hear that from me.

Happy Nomad on July 15, 2014 at 4:24 PM

How the hell can any of these people still have their jobs much less their freedom?

All of them should be in jail for conspiracy to commit murder.

jukin3 on July 15, 2014 at 4:29 PM

Each of these whistleblowers should be put in charge of one of the VA hospitals. I hope there are enough of them to go around.

slickwillie2001 on July 15, 2014 at 4:31 PM

Why does Obama’s VA hospital have rooms that are “wired with activated audio microphones and video cameras”?

This is a new type of health care.

faraway on July 15, 2014 at 4:31 PM

Troll free thread.

D-fusit on July 15, 2014 at 4:39 PM

All of them should be in jail for conspiracy to commit murder.

jukin3 on July 15, 2014 at 4:29 PM

Only after a trial. Where the jury is made up of veterans. Too bad Obama and Democrats don’t care about veterans nearly as much as they care about the filthy vermin on our Southern borders.

Happy Nomad on July 15, 2014 at 4:47 PM

Why does Obama’s VA hospital have rooms that are “wired with activated audio microphones and video cameras”?

faraway on July 15, 2014 at 4:31 PM

Doesn’t everybody?

Happy Nomad on July 15, 2014 at 4:47 PM

Why would they be any different than any other part of the Executive Branch?
Give the Vets vouchers, and pink-slip the Apparat.

Another Drew on July 15, 2014 at 4:53 PM

…the ‘smidgen’…keeps expanding!

JugEarsButtHurt on July 15, 2014 at 5:13 PM

Hundred
Thousand
Million
Smidgen

faraway on July 15, 2014 at 5:17 PM

Abolish the VA.

Take the money that used to fund it, divide it amongst the veterans and let them figure out the best way to spend the cash. They will do a better job forming their own associations and banding together to help each other than the US federal government will EVER DO.

The complaints about the VA have been going on as long as I can remember… this is what happens when you do NOT exercise proper care and oversight of a federal agency. It now needs to go as it is killing veterans, funding cronies and no longer thinking it has to abide by the law.

ajacksonian on July 15, 2014 at 5:40 PM

The notepad belonged to Acting Director Lucy Filipov, who insisted on putting investigators into a room where computer microphones and cameras had been activated.

Why hasn’t this reprobate been summarily terminated?

Someone also needs to check to see if PA is one of the states that requires the knowledge and approval of both parties for a conversation to be taped / monitored. If it is, then criminal charges need to be filed.

Athos on July 15, 2014 at 6:02 PM


Holder is busy investigating a parade float. No special prosecutor needed here.

ConstantineXI

This!

Gothguy on July 15, 2014 at 7:20 PM

If this was a federal building, then there are federal laws against wiretapping and recording in place. This woman needs to be prosecuted, and if that doesn’t happen, Boner needs some balls and needs to throw holder in the House jail.

Spartacus on July 15, 2014 at 7:37 PM

As a disabled veteran, who worked for a Veteran Service Organization (VSO) for about 16 1/2 years, I can personally attest to some of the malfeasance as described here. The problem, as I HAVE always told the DC circuit, inside the beltway, bureaucrats, is that they NEVER listen to the rank and file VA employees, only the upper management and executive management, who display stats, numbers, etc., to display how well they are doing, and the DC bureaucrats happily go along with it, because it re-affirms their already pre-conceived notion of how well their agency is doing.

The fact of the matter is, these bureaucrats don’t give a sh*t about the veterans, except how their numbers are, and the bonus money they get.

Gothguy on July 15, 2014 at 9:46 PM

The VA has a culture of corruption and cover-up

This is not unique to the VA. This is a systemic problem throughout the Federal government.

schmuck281 on July 15, 2014 at 10:15 PM

This crap with the VA has being going on for years. Anyone ever seen Article 99 with Kiefer Sutherland. This movie came out in 1992.

Movie quotes: This is the VA soldier. Now the enemy is behind those desks….Now you only got one chance. The gospel according to Luther. Whatever you need, you ain’t gonna get. And whatever you get, ain’t worth sh**.

As long as political hacks keep running the VA nothing will change.

CMH_Dude on July 16, 2014 at 2:52 AM

These vile “public servants” should be drug into the street by the people they serve and have some justice administered. Our government is out of control at all levels. Every government employee now sees the US Citizen as a subject to control and not as citizens to serve. There maybe a few good public servants, but they are the exception and not the rule. If you want your government and country back you are going to have to take it back, physically. If not then we will be subjects rather than citizens.

Doomsday on July 16, 2014 at 8:45 AM

Congress is now the apparently the sole investigative body in the government, and a makeshift one at that.

forest on July 15, 2014 at 3:35 PM

And, apparently, an impotent one, too.

Someone also needs to check to see if PA is one of the states that requires the knowledge and approval of both parties for a conversation to be taped / monitored. If it is, then criminal charges need to be filed.

Athos on July 15, 2014 at 6:02 PM

It doesn’t matter if the people involved in the recording weren’t even present. They are now a third party to *every* conversation, and that is illegal everywhere (without consent of the recorded).

GWB on July 16, 2014 at 9:23 AM