Sunday, May 28, 2006

Regarding your article "Veterans assess info theft risk", please let your Boulder Vet Center office manager Brent Offermann know that his was one of the more insulting although fairly typical responses I've seen since this occurred.

The blizzard of press across the nation has been full of a lot of misinformation but his quote, "It's the same chances of winning the lottery...There's some bright people in Washington, D.C., that will take care of the issue.", will likely win some sort of prize.

I'm reading this in Georgia where we've had our own unique blend of wackos and nut-cases hooting and hollering but it appears you in Colorado have us soundly beat. Congratulations!

Brent seems to be totally disconnected from the fact that it was those "bright people" in Washington that violated the law (for 3 years running), took home a laptop full of data, managed to get it stolen, didn't report it for weeks, mismanaged the reporting process when they did finally report it and have fumbled the process since then. The IG & FBI is fuming mad, local police are furious, the VA Director has been angrily hauled in front of congress, President Bush is involved, millions of Veterans have no idea what their risk may be and Brent says, "Don't worry, be happy!"

I'll take my chances with the lottery Brent, whatever that means.

And then, resident expert Peggy Foster tells us that identity theft is "very common" and ""It happened to me before". Peggy is an esteemed VA Services assistant and she says, ""I don't fault the employees...they are all understaffed and overwhelmed. It's unfortunate."

That's great Peggy, really great. Yes indeed, it is unfortunate, isn't it? When a federal employee is in clear violation of the law and causes millions of Veterans throughout the United States at the least high anxiety and most unforeseen problems for years to come, to say nothing of the cost to taxpayers of the millions of dollars of revenue already wasted in ongoing criminal investigations, we should never ever hold those employees accountable for their unlawful actions.

Peggy typifies everything wrong with VA today. "Don't blame me" she says. "We're overworked. If I knowingly break the law, it's because you made me do it. Nothing is my fault. I cut corners, provide poor service, have a terrible attitude, and I'm rude to you on the telephone because of you. I am never ever responsible for my failures."

Yes, I'm a Veteran too. I'm a VAVS volunteer, I give hundreds and hundreds of hours every year to make VA Hospitals better places for Vets who need them and overall, VA health is the best in the nation. The VA benefits centers, those places where Brent and Peggy work along with the laptop guy...they all need to be fired, the slate should be wiped clean and it should be rebuilt from the ground up, Brent and Peggy and the guy with the laptop have to go right now or we will see this happen again and again and again. They just don't get it.

It's unfortunate, it really is.

(I wrote the reporter , the author of the article below that response you see above. I posted it to her in care of her editor, she didn't seem to have an email address. As today has worn on, I've come back and reread the comments that Brent and Peggy each made to the press and I hope that each time I read it I'll find I was wrong about my feelings earlier. I'm not. Those two are so typical, so far removed from reality, it's stunning. This is your VA services today.

Two years ago, I was to have a "Personal Hearing" at my VARO near Atlanta, Georgia. I shared the date with my wife so she could plan to drive me there. She quickly pointed out that the date that VA had scheduled was a Federal Holiday, Martin Luther King's birthday. Now, if this were Des Moines or Fargo, maybe we could forgive the error. This is scheduled in Decatur, Atlanta...the epicenter, ground zero for everything that is MLK. I called VA and got nothing. Typical. I called DAV, my chosen representative and was assured it was on the calendar, scheduled and I needed to be there. I argued that was wrong...I was warned I would surely lose by default if i didn't show. So, we were there at the appointed time. Alone. At a locked and shuttered building on a federal holiday. There has never been an explanation, no apology. A 4 hour drive each way, a days pay for my wife lost. No mileage paid as it was a hearing at my request.

Two years later, the hearing hasn't been rescheduled. Every now and then I get a form letter that VA is sorry for the delay, they're working on my file and will do their best to move things along, they really do want to assist me as quickly as they can.)

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