Although Congress has failed at providing the needed oversight, it still remains one of the better avenues to help reform the VA, because Congress can legislate new laws that is supposed to make the VA do so. Unfortunately, Congress has failed at enforcing their laws. The VA cannot be trusted to fix it’s own problems, because VA directives, memorandums, and protocols can be changed by the VA at any time, as well as, their interpretation and adherence to their own made up rules. A well written law minimizes ambiguity and ensures adherence and accountability.
The Big Six VSOs have a resolution process, which the VSO will get behind and advocate for if the resolution passes at the National level, but a resolution that tackles a hard to fix problem or is highly resisted by the Agency, probably will not get the backing of a VSO. For example, many of the big VSOs will not help Veterans and VA employees who were harmed by the VA. No matter how much/many Veterans want to change policies and practices that harm Veterans, the leadership at the top of these VSOs are playing a balancing act which tends to favor ensuring their seat remains at the decision-making table.
Veterans and their families must become Veteran advocate lobbyists by regularly communicating directly with their U.S. Representative or Senator. Even though the big VSOs do not advocate for Veterans and VA employees who were harmed by the VA, they still do important legislative work for other issues. Volunteering and donating to VSOs can help with making changes for specific issues, but keep in mind you will need to become your own lobbyist if an issue that is important to you falls outside of their scope of interest.
Assist The Cogs
What is a cog?
The technical definition: Cogs are the teeth on a sprocket or gear. A cogwheel is any wheel with teeth (cogs). A gear is a wheel with cogs that mesh with the gears of another wheel. A cog is a simple spur gear. A cogwheel or gear is a rotating machine part which meshes with another toothed part to transmit or receive motion.
The Allegorical definition: Government employees. Cog also refers to a subordinate member of an organization who performs necessary but usually minor or routine functions of an organization. Interestingly, the transitive verb of the word means to “load or manipulate fraudulently,” and the noun of the word means “an instance of cheating; a swindle or trick.”
Why refer to government workers as cogs?
Calling a VA employee a cog is a common term used by Veterans to describe the de-humanizing and frustrating experiences they encounter with the VA.
Not only do federal employees have very specific job descriptions, they can only act within their specific job description. The VA is divided into hundreds of departments and thousands of jobs which are all supposed to work with one another like cogs on a wheel and gears in a machine. The VA is an enormous system of connected parts forming a complex whole. There is a hierarchy within each job description and department which forms a hierarchical tree, where the VA Secretary presides at the top.
A cog who knows his/her job well and stays within it’s wheel (job description) is more efficient than a cog who tries to do another cog’s job (duplication of work). Cogs that have a clear understanding of their role minimize confusion for everyone.
Most of the time services to the Veteran require several different cogs (people, job descriptions, departments) working together. However, when a person, job description or department is not functioning well it creates a bottleneck. A bottleneck is a point of congestion in a production system that occurs when workloads arrive too quickly for the production to handle.
Unfortunately, too many government workers are treated like cogs in a machine rather than being treated with respect and dignity. People who have limited understanding about the way government works tend to blame the individual (cog) for failing to deliver on services and wrongly takes their frustrations out on the employee whom they have been interacting with. Many times the Veteran has been interfacing with very exceptional and highly dedicated employees, but who were unable to help the Veteran due to a systems problem. Employees also get frustrated with the bureaucracy because what seems like a simple task can easily become a time-consuming challenge.
Fixing system problems takes a long time to correct because there are usually many people and departments involved. Services delivered to the Veteran are based on law, which must be interpreted and converted into language that explicitly states how the service to the Veteran will be delivered. The interpretation of these laws trickle down to specific departments (e.g., Information Technology, Human Resources, Member Services, Billing, Privacy, Medicine, Benefits, Legal, etc.), who are responsible for maintaining the integrity of the law and provide consultant services to cogs in other departments.
Thus, two areas the VA focusses on is 1) Compliance and 2) Production.
(check back as we expand on these concepts)
Support VA Whistleblowers
Whistle-blowers are just employees who report wrongdoing such as fraud-waste-abuse
“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” ~ Lord Acton
“Nothing strengthens authority so much as silence.” ~Leonardo da Vinci
Most employees NEVER planned on becoming a whistle-blower. They just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. No one plans to be a whistle-blower and certainly no one wants to be a whistle-blower. The the stigmatization along with the far reaching and severe negative consequences can take its toll even on the most hardy of persons, especially if the employee happens to be a Veteran.
The best advice I can give any Veteran who is considering reporting wrongdoing: Don’t do it. If compromising your values is an issue for you, just find another job because VA officials can retaliate against Veterans for life. Civilians can quit the VA and move on, but that’s not so for Veterans. We are forever linked to this institution and there is no escaping it. It is far better to join an organization or create one, which will help shield the Veteran from retaliation.
As you can see this puts a chilling affect on other employees and Veterans who are afraid to report wrongdoing for fear of retaliation. Even though there are laws and regulations that were designed to help protect employees who report wrongdoing, it has done very little to curb the retaliation. The VA will go to great lengths and spend a lot of resources to discredit an employee or Veteran who reported wrongdoing. The person reporting the wrongdoing is often times the person who gets investigated rather than the person who committed the malfeasance. It appears that the VA has been using what some refer to as a “Playbook” of unethical and illegal tactics for decades. It is for this reason the VA tries to keep whistle-blowers separated from one another so that the patterns of malfeasance are not revealed.
Civilians who are out of reach from the VA tentacles are Veterans and VA employees’ greatest assets and allies. However not enough of the public are interested in helping Veterans for various reasons. Some wrongly think these problems are being addressed by enough of the right people or they are confused by the doublespeak and the obfuscation.
Become an ADA Advocate
The role of certified ADA advocates is to successfully implement federal mandates through unique training and skills that will smooth out the wrinkles in the system, bringing the strengths of the person with disabilities to the forefront. All give a little and, in the middle, there is a great reward and protection for all parties. The key to unlocking justice and setting a positive path for humane courts of the future lies in the trained advocate who anticipates and prevents problems.
"Leaders inspire accountability through their ability to accept responsibility before they place blame."