Veterans

Scandal-Plagued VA Is Overpaying Workers By Millions Of Dollars, Internal Audits Find

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The scandal-plagued Department of Veterans Affairs is systematically overpaying clerks, administrators and other support staff, according to internal audits, draining tens of millions of dollars that could be used instead to ease the VA's acute shortage of doctors and nurses.

The jobs of some 13,000 VA support staff have been flagged by auditors as potentially misclassified, in many cases resulting in inflated salaries that have gone uncorrected for as long as 14 years.

It gets worse: Read the story. 

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  1. Rather than moving quickly to correct these costly errors, VA officials two years ago halted a broad internal review mandated by federal law. As a result, the overpayments continue.

    Even if the improper pay grades are eventually downgraded, VA officials said that employees will be able by law to keep their higher salaries, meaning the VA will be saddled with these excessive costs for years.

    The VA can and will selectively ignore federal law, it appears.

      1. The EPA said the rule was not subject to review because it was not a “significant regulatory action.”

        These clowns are so fucking arrogant it *almost* defies belief.

    1. Single-payer for the win.

      1. I thought it was 160 million payer.

  2. Paula Molloy, the senior official at the VA’s Office of Human Resources Management handling the issue, told HuffPost that once the VA begins to examine the misclassified jobs, it will be at least 15 months before any corrective action could be taken. “We are not going to be able to do these reviews overnight,” she said.

    Oh, pretty sure *Mr. Obama* could “do these reviews” overnight, Paula.

    Also, notice the phrasing: “once the VA begins ….” What’s the probability that beginning will start before January 2017?

    1. Are you implying O! actually has the ability to do something that involves work?! I am not sure the pen and the phone are for actual effort.

  3. If you have ever worked in the federal government, you find that professional people, lawyers, engineers, IT people and such are generally paid about average or a below average for the qualifications. The federal employees who are massively overpaid are the lower end administrative and support staff. To give an example, the typical receptionist in my office who answers the phones and makes copies makes as much money as my wife, who has a masters and is a fairly senior person in the private sector. You can literally make sixty or seventy thousand dollars a year making copies and answering phones in the federal government.

    From my limited experience, the VA is the same way. The doctors, nurses, physical therapists and medical professionals are not very well paid in comparison to those in the private sector. The low end support staff in contrast do very well when you consider what they could make in the private sector.

    1. The retirement benefits are better than what you’d get in the private sector, though, right? And how long do you have to work there to qualify for that?

      1. The retirement isn’t quite as good as it used to be. But it still isn’t bad. Does it make up for the lower wages? Depends on who you are and how good of an offer you can get in the private sector. With lawyers, it probably does. But that is only because the bottom has fallen out of the private sector legal market such that being a well paid lawyer is almost as rare as being a well paid actor. For doctors, engineers and IT people? Probably not.

        1. Very few professionals in the private sector get a defined benefit plan.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F…..ent_System

          The only private sector professionals I’ve heard of getting a defined benefit plan anymore are people who work for way overfunded institutions, like Harvard or some huge institutional hospital. I think Cedars-Sinai, in Beverly Hills, gives their professionals a defined benefit plan.

          The only other people in the country who get a defined benefit plan are people who work for unions like the UAW.

          1. Also…

            Someone should make sure that these people who were overpaid inappropriately? That the three years they were overpaid isn’t used in the calculation to determine their retirement benefits.

            My understanding is that your retirement benefits are calculated based on your three highest paid years–and that shouldn’t happen if your highest paid years were the result of fraudulence.

          2. But if you make twice the salary, you can make your own pension plan. I would rather be a doc making say $350K a year in private practice than one making $150K a year for the VA, pension or no.

            If you can make partner in a big law firm, you can easily make over a million. Successful small firm attorneys can make even more than that if they get the right clients.

            That retirement is nice, assuming you trust the government to give it to you. But it doesn’t make up for making really big dollars in the private sector.

            1. John, you might be underestimating the incompetence bonus. The ability to be an incompetent VA doctor and not face any consequences is very valuable for someone with a medical degree that has no business holding one.

              1. That works both ways. It attracts the incompetent doctors and drives away the competent ones who don’t want to practice around the stupid ones.

                I know for a fact there are at least a few good doctors who practice at the VA. Oddly, the ones I know hate the VA and only stay there out of a real commitment to helping veterans, even though they know life would be better on the outside. You really have to hand it to them.

                1. And then competent doctors take steps to get their incompetent colleagues fired, right?

                  1. Bryan, that sounds nice until you realize the really incompetent people become managers. The competent doctors are just trying to do their jobs and stay out of the way of the idiots who run the place.

          3. The only other people in the country who get a defined benefit plan are people who work for unions like the UAW.

            They get them until the company files Chapter 11. (see United Airlines, for one)

            1. Or Congress changes the rules or the US files Chapter 7.

          4. That’s true, but a defined benefit plan can be valued in dollars and then compared to the current salary you give up to get it. My wife is a fed, and I figure we’d have to save approximately $18,000 a year (after tax) to build up a nest egg that would pay out the same as her pension would. So she’d need to make roughly $28,000 more (pre-tax) in the private sector for that to equal out.

      2. Put it to you this way Ken, the recent hires where I work are from top 20 law schools and coming out of clerkships. Those sorts never used to take government jobs outside of a few plum positions at DOJ. Now they work at other agencies for less money than I make because the legal job market sucks that badly.

      3. The pension a federal employee earns is 1 percent of salary for each year of federal service and it is based on the average of the highest 36 months of federal pay. In order to retire with this amount, the federal employee must meet one of four different ways as published by OPM. Some of these involve a term called Minimum Retire Age (MRA) which is between 55 and 57 depending on the year of birth.

        The following scenarios describe the ways that a federal employee can meet retirement requirements:

        Complete 30 years of service and have reached the Minimum Retire Age (MRA) which is between 55 and 57 depending on the year of birth.
        Complete 20 years of service and have reached age 60.
        Complete 5 years of service and have reached age 62.
        Complete 10 years of service and have reached the MRA.

        1. It used to be 50% for life after 30 years I think until they changed it in the mid 80s. Can you imagine that?

          30% is good but it is hardly a ticket to real wealth.

          1. But under that old system 1) you had to pay in a significantly higher percentage of salary (but were exempt from SS taxes), and 2) did not get social security. Under the new system, you only pay in .8% of salary (now 3% I think for new hires), you pay SS taxes, and you get social security too. I think it more or less evens out.

            1. And there is a 401K

    2. Not only that, the support staff at times is simply unskilled. like can’t do simple word processing. at least, that was my experience. i had to work around the person assigned to support my group. things either wouldn’t get done or done incorrectly.

      1. You are not kidding. My wife could quit her job right now and go be a rock star secretary in the federal government and make more money. She just doesn’t want to be a secretary.

  4. Because Nothing Left To Cut, That’s Why. (NLTCTY)

  5. tens of millions of dollars that could be used instead to ease the VA’s acute shortage of doctors and nurses.

    Shut the VA down, and there would be billions of dollars that could be used more effectively.

    1. They don’t pay nurses and doctors high enough wages to attract the really good ones and instead spend their money giving 50% above market wages to receptionists and diversity coordinators.

      1. Hey, don’t be dissin’ *diversity coordinators*!

      2. are the diversity coordinators so the black vets can be treated as badly as the white ones?

        1. No. They are there to ensure the patronage jobs go to sufficient numbers of minorities and that no one hangs a Redskins poster in their cubical.

            1. That is awesome.

  6. McDonald … was himself forced to retire after 33 years at P&G because of slumping earnings and a failure to trim P&G’s infrastructure.

    So, *just* the man to handle this scandal!

  7. “The jobs of some 13,000 VA support staff have been flagged by auditors as potentially misclassified, in many cases resulting in inflated salaries that have gone uncorrected for as long as 14 years.”

    Once all of those embezzled misallocated funds have been recovered from the workers in question, I’m sure the responsible parties will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

    1. Reign in the snark, Ken. You know those “inflated salaries” are an essential contribution to our economic upturn.

      1. You know what I’m thinking?

        Maybe what we need to do is extend the Sarbanes-Oxley Act to the public sector.

        We’ll make the various department heads sign their financial statements, just like in Sarbanes-Oxley, and if the statements are fraudulent, for whatever reason, then we’ll throw the department heads in jail.

        If it’s good enough for corporate America, why isn’t it good enough for the federal government?

        That should be a legitimate responsibility of the IRS. Why aren’t they tracking the income and expenditures of various government agencies?

        Make every agency and subdepartment submit something like a tax return every year. If it’s okay for the IRS to make large corporations, small businesses, and private individuals account for every penny they make (and spend) every year–with all sorts of criminal penalties for inaccuracy or noncompliance–then why isn’t it okay to subject government bureaucrats to the same thing?

        Government agencies don’t have any shareholders or any board of directors that are primarily accountable to the shareholders–and the people who fund them don’t have the option of selling their stock and absolving themselves of financial responsibility. Thus, the government’s spending needs more scrutiny than corporate spending does…

        What better way to accomplish that than have department heads submit individual returns to the IRS, with all the appropriate penalties for noncompliance and fraud?

        1. I want these department heads to have to worry about an audit.

          Just like in the private sector.

          1. Sed quis custodiet, ipsos custodiem?

            1. We’ll let the watchers watch each other!

              It’s also answers my favorite libertarian conundrum: how do we get people in power to participate in limiting their own power?

              How do you get the Drug War Industrial Complex to support ending the Drug War? That’s a multi-billion dollar government industry. I suggested the other day that we should pay them to stay home and do nothing. It’ll still cost us the same, but at least they won’t be doing any other harm.

              I’ve been hoping to get rid of the income tax since the day I found out what it was. But how would you get the people who collectively make billions, from H&R Block, CPAs, and IRS agents to support that change? Maybe part of the answer is, you give the IRS, anyway, something legitimate and useful to do.

              Who will watch the IRS? I don’t know, but at least someone will be watching 98% of the other watchers, that make up the federal government.

              1. “What better way to accomplish that than have department heads submit individual returns to the IRS, with all the appropriate penalties for noncompliance and fraud?”

                Because the IRS will inevitably collude with their colleagues in other agencies to conceal any damaging information, while pretending to provide oversight. And then they’ll use that information as a weapon to covertly dragoon other agencies into do things they cannot legally do.

                So how about we leave the IRS out of it, and just require the various agencies to make their “returns” public, directly? Until their hard drives crash, of course.

                1. This law already exists, and it is effectively ignored.

                2. We need an enforcement mechanism that will target individuals in power and hold them responsible individually.

                  Making those individual managers sign something like a tax return will accomplish that.

                  Holding a faceless, giant bureaucracy responsible, where no one under a cabinet level position is ever held personally responsible for anything, just won’t do.

                  You can require the government agencies to put their financial statements and reports up on the web, as well–just publicly traded companies do with the SEC. …but we also need a mechanism by which individual mangers are held criminally responsible individually.

                  Take a look at the government now. They don’t seem to care if the public knows that they left a thousand veterans to die. They don’t care if they public knows that they misallocated and overpaid tens of thousands of employees. Why don’t they care if the public knows what their agency did?

                  Because none of them can be held individually responsible.

                  1. I will admit I do really like the “hold individual people criminally liable” part.

        2. This may have some merit. I need to think about it.

        3. There actually is a law requiring each agency to produce an audited annual financial statement. DoD hasn’t even been ready to be audited (much less received a clean audit opinion) since that law was passed in 1990.

          1. If Sarbanes-Oxley works (in regards to not letting upper management escape responsibility for accounting trickery), it’s because of the criminal penalties associated with non-compliance and putting all that weight on the individuals who are responsible.

            Subjecting all those agencies to the IRS is probably an important part of it, too. No need to audit an entire Department either. I imagine there would be thousands of “return” like statements submitted to the IRS from a department like the DoD, and it would only be necessary to audit some of them, randomly, on an individual basis.

            Just like the IRS does with individuals.

            And when something like this hits the news, now the IRS can do an audit and go to that individual and say, “You signed this statement, and the papers say it’s baloney”. And at that point, if the IRS deems it appropriate, I think the manager in question should have the right to remain silent, the right to an attorney, and the right to be told that anything he or she says may be used against him or her in court of law.

        4. Part of me likes this idea, and part of me finds it just exceedingly masturbatory.

          “We’re paying government people to track government spending and then paying other government people to audit the paper trail, and still more government people to prosecute the first set of government people…”

          I dunno.

          1. That’s the way we do things in a well-run corporation.

            We’re certainly not trusting the accounting department to both do the accounting and audit themselves.

            In fact, the government won’t let the same agencies do that in a publicly traded corporation anymore. The government simply isn’t following their own guidelines.

  8. Any more, this stuff shocks me so much that I feel like I’m in a water tank filled with electric eels with a live 12K volt power line running into it.

    Cause it’s that shocking.

    /not shocked

    1. I’m starting to think “this stuff” is just a calculated program for sufficiently desensitizing the population to allow seamless revelation of The Rule of The Lizard People.

      1. I’d welcome our Lizard People overlords if it meant they’d let slip the mask permanently. The tears and gnashing of teeth from the statist ignorati and their camp followers would be legendary.

  9. When did the Huffington Post stop being a leftist mouthpiece? It used to basically be Mother Jones.

    1. It still basically is. They just have a few token people form the right and occasionally print a fact or two that don’t fit the narrative.

      1. Oh thank God! I thought my world was crashing down!

  10. Oversight of this process has been provided by eight senior classification specialists charged with monitoring job descriptions and requesting corrections of those that have been misclassified. These senior specialists, with decades of experience

    Sounds like those should be junior classsification specialists. But seriously, eight classifiers reviewing work of unknown number of primary classifiers? Forget the upclassified employees, file those group of worthless incompetents.

  11. The official, who is in her early 40s, came to the VA from the military. “As a veteran, this is heartbreaking,” she said. In her region, she said, “We have over 2,000 employees identified as overgraded. In the military, you follow the law. Everything is done by regulation.

    Hah hah hah. Sure it is. On paper at least.

    1. You know of military personnel being paid above their rank?!

      1. I took her statement as meaning everything in the military follows the official regulations.

        But on considering just the pay issue, the problem isn’t that they’re getting paid above their grade (or rank) but that the duty position is being classified at a higher level than it supposedly should be. I saw a number of cases in my day where someone would get slotted into a position to get promoted or keep their qualification but in actuality was somewhere else doing something else.

        1. Full disclosure: I may have been paid above my rank for a brief period of time due to a screw up by the pay clerks that advanced my date of rank.

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