If you have read many of my posts, you will know I am not a fan of big government. I have railed against it on more than a few occasions and I firmly believe the quote from Thomas Jefferson in the above picture is true. Most bad government comes from having too much government. For the most part, it does not work the way its champions claim it will. Time after time, we have seen the examples. Government agencies growing too big for the pants they are trying to wear. The EPA and the IRS both think they are God to the American people. The Department of Education thinks they are the fix for all that is wrong with the education system in America. And the Department of Veterans Affairs thinks it is the one-stop solution for all things concerning the men and women who have served our country, protecting our freedom.
What is the one thing these departments have in common? They are all part of a massive government bureaucracy that has grown far past its original mandate. And the more they grow, the more out of control they become. The EPA has claimed the right to garnish your wages, should they deem it necessary to fine you for some perceived wrong you are doing to the environment. The IRS has investigated tax exempt groups for their conservative leanings and claimed bonuses for “doing a good job”. Veterans Affairs has gone down that same road. They have caused thousands of veterans to have delayed healthcare. Some of them have died while on the waiting list to see their doctors. Said waiting lists have been manipulated and manufactured, hiding the truth about what is really going on at the VA. And all the while, bonuses are being paid for jobs well done.
Let’s take a look at some of the things that have gone on at the VA, courtesy of Human Events.
Huffington Post – 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.
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.
Moreover, in the two years since thousands of misclassified jobs were identified, hundreds of additional positions have been filled at improperly high salaries. Internal VA documents obtained by The Huffington Post show that between September 2013 and May 2014, for instance, overpayments in annual salaries for the latter jobs alone came to $24.4 million, not counting benefits.
In May alone, senior VA classification specialists identified 284 probably misclassified positions newly posted on the federal jobs site, USAJobs. Once filled, those jobs would result in estimated overpayments of $3.3 million per year.
For that amount of money, the VA could instead hire five neurosurgeons, 10 psychiatrists and five suicide prevention case managers at the average salaries currently offered on USAJobs.
The pattern continued in June, with more than a quarter million dollars of overpayments involving jobs at the Veterans Health Administration headquarters, according to an internal VA report.
Some of this is almost surreal. Imagine, an agency of the federal government so far removed from the needs of the people it is charged with serving that the most important thing on their minds isn’t to serve those people. Rather, the people in charge of the VA are more concerned with protecting their status and salaries. And people wonder how Senator Tom Coburn can find so many places where the federal government is wasting money? It’s not that hard to see. All you have to do is look.
It should be noted that this problem is not necessarily isolated to the Obama administration. I believe they have made things worse with their lackadaisical attitude towards the management of the federal bureaucracy, but this was going on well before they moved into the White House. One thing that exasperates the problems at the VA, or any other government agency, is the lack of review and positive action taken to correct the problems that are found. No one wants to be the man or woman who stands their ground and says enough big and wasteful government is enough. If reviews are started, they are halted and excuses are given as to why it is taking so long to correct the issue.
The widespread misclassification of jobs has created a deep and systemic problem at the VA that will require massive job and pay turbulence to resolve — and will surely set off angry protests within the ranks. The General Schedule, or GS, sets pay grades and rates for all federal employees. Even if they keep their higher pay, the loss of a GS grade can affect employees’ future promotions and retirement pay.
Evidently alarmed at that looming employee reaction, senior officials at VA headquarters in Washington ordered a halt two years ago to any review and correction of misclassified jobs that might lead to lowered pay grades and smaller salaries. 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.
That means VA communications clerks, for instance, will keep receiving overpayments. These jobs were misclassified above the proper civil service grade in 2003. All such clerks across the VA have been overpaid since then, at a total cost of $33,715 for each clerk in the last decade. Checks will also continue to go out for air conditioning equipment operators who were improperly classified in 2000, resulting in overpayments for each of those jobs of $67,172 over the past 14 years.
As I have written this post, I have gone back and read some of the comments on the Huffington Post article. Yes, I know it is a liberal blog, but those comments are interesting, nonetheless. Many are complaints about how much it costs to build military equipment or how much Congress is making. While those may be valid arguments on another level, there is one thing that those commenters are missing, or are simply ignoring.
The scandals (yes, I used that word) at the VA are symptomatic of the overall problem of a large federal government and the bureaucracy that comes with it. It is so far out of control that the problems can not even be addressed. It’s like driving a boat with the steering wheel locked straight and the throttle full on. Sooner or later, we are going to run out of water to swim in and we will run aground. Much of this could have been avoided, and could at least be slowed down, if only we could see and admit the truth. Our federal government is growing bigger and badder every day.