Category Archives: Federal

How One Company Is Making Millions Off Trump’s War on the Poor

Source: Tracie McMillan, Mother Jones, January/February 2019

President Trump plans to make the poor work for Medicaid and food stamps. That’s extremely punitive for them—but highly lucrative for companies like Maximus. ….

…. Missing from the debate—perhaps because there’s hardly been any reporting on the subject—is the fact that work requirements are also a profit center for a rapidly growing private industry. Exhibit A is Maximus, the company that helps run HIP and the bureaucracy that stands between Sue and insurance. Business processing behemoths like Hewlett-Packard and IBM often run the minutiae of public-benefit paperwork and accounting. Local nonprofits sometimes contract for services like job training and case management. But Maximus does it all, holding contracts for everything from job training to child support enforcement to health care enrollment. In a 2014 business presentation, the company claimed to have a hand in the cases of roughly 59 percent of America’s Medicaid clients. ….

…. As workfare programs began to sprout up nationwide, Maximus capitalized on the doublespeak. The big payoff came when Clinton signed welfare reform into law with the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Recon­ciliation Act in 1996. Welfare agencies told clients to start looking for employment if they wanted to keep cash assistance; if they couldn’t find a job, the state would try to give them work to do. Sue, then a young, single mother, first went on welfare that year.

The following year, Maximus went public, posted rev­enue of $128 million, and told investors that far greater profits were to be found in the social safety net. In its annual report, Maximus laid out its targets: 6.5 million people on Supplemental Security Income (which goes mostly to people with disabilities), requiring $2 billion in administrative spending a year, and 28 million people on food stamps at $3.7 billion in overhead. Between those, plus Medicaid, welfare, disability assistance, and child support, Maximus was eyeing a $21 billion market serving about 100 million people. …

Civilians Are Cheaper Than Contractors for Most Defense Jobs, Internal Report Finds

Source: Eric Katz, Government Executive, December 18, 2018

…. Civil service workers are most likely to be less expensive than contractors performing the same work in the Washington, D.C. region and in the Southeastern United States, the report compiled by the Office of the Secretary of Defense found. More than 75 percent of comparisons in the Southeast the Pentagon ran between government and contract workers showed a higher cost for the private sector, and the capital region was not far behind. Government Executive obtained the never-before reported on document through a Freedom of Information Act request. …. In 10 broad job groups the Defense Department studied, contractors came in as the pricier option. That compared to just four in which civilians were more expensive. When divided by Defense component the breakdown was essentially split, though three organizations had 75 percent of comparisons higher for contractor costs and just one saw the reverse. Across the department, comparisons with a significant sample size ranged from a group of contractors costing 316 percent more than their civilian counterparts to a group of civilians costing 154 percent more than similarly functioning contractors. ….

The VA’s Private Care Program Gave Companies Billions and Vets Longer Waits

Source: Isaac Arnsdorf, ProPublica, and Jon Greenberg, ProPublica and PolitiFact, December 18, 2018

Here’s what has actually happened in the four years since the government began sending more veterans to private care: longer waits for appointments and, a new analysis of VA claims data by ProPublica and PolitiFact shows, higher costs for taxpayers. Since 2014, 1.9 million former service members have received private medical care through a program called Veterans Choice. It was supposed to give veterans a way around long wait times in the VA. But their average waits using the Choice Program were still longer than allowed by law, according to examinations by the VA inspector general and the Government Accountability Office. The watchdogs also found widespread blunders, such as booking a veteran in Idaho with a doctor in New York and telling a Florida veteran to see a specialist in California. Once, the VA referred a veteran to the Choice Program to see a urologist, but instead he got an appointment with a neurologist. The winners have been two private companies hired to run the program, which began under the Obama administration and is poised to grow significantly under Trump. ProPublica and PolitiFact obtained VA data showing how much the agency has paid in medical claims and administrative fees for the Choice program. Since 2014, the two companies have been paid nearly $2 billion for overhead, including profit. That’s about 24 percent of the companies’ total program expenses — a rate that would exceed the federal cap that governs how much most insurance plans can spend on administration in the private sector.

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Lawmakers Worry New VA Private Care Program Could Be a ‘Train Wreck’
Source: Eric Katz, Government Executive, December 19, 2018

Lawmakers from both parties cautioned the Veterans Affairs Department to tread carefully in enacting a law President Trump signed last year to give more veterans access to private sector health care, suggesting the current trajectory could sabotage the entire program. VA is actively seeking to address potential pitfalls through its negotiations with potential contractors that will make up the “community care network,” Secretary Robert Wilkie told a joint, bicameral congressional committee on Wednesday. Criticisms came from an array of sources, most of whom voted to approve the MISSION Act last year…..

VA Secretary Robert Wilkie owes veterans, Americans answers on secret Mar-a-Lago ‘council’
Source: Anne Harkavy and Will Fischer, Courier Express, Dec 19, 2018

When Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie testifies before a joint congressional hearing on VA efforts to modernize health care access and services for veterans, we urge him to do what this administration has refused to do to date and answer a question of critical concern: Is a shadow council of President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago golf buddies still holding meetings and exerting unlawful influence over the makeup of VA leadership and policy decisions aimed at privatizing VA health care services?
We know that prior to his confirmation, then Acting Secretary Wilkie flew to the president’s private Florida golf estate to meet with the Mar-a-Lago “council” — Marvel Entertainment CEO Ike Perlmutter, Palm Beach concierge doctor Bruce Moskowitz, and financial consultant Marc Sherman, all members of the president’s private club — and thanked the group for creating a “template” that set a new direction for the agency.

We also know that, despite having no government or U.S. military experience, these three men met more than two dozen times, behind closed doors, to use their prominent position of influence to try to steer VA projects. For example, the VA tasked them with reviewing a $10 billion contract for the largest health information technology project in American history. And at least one project they worked on was one in which a member of the trio may have had a personal interest…..

Privatizing the VA: Billions for contractors, longer waits for veterans
Source: ELIZABETH HOWE, ConnectingVets.com, DECEMBER 19, 2018 – 8:29 AM

In 2014, the government started referring more and more veterans to private health care in an effort to mitigate the backlogs and dysfunctions of the VA’s health care programs. ProPublica investigated what has happened in the four years since then — and it looks like it’s all bad for veterans.

Privatizing VA health care was meant to result in better, easier-to-access health care for veterans.  Former President Barak Obama and President Donald Trump supported this effort. Since 2014, 1.9 million veterans have received private health care through Veterans Choice.

However, consistent with patterns at the VA, the program was riddled with flaws. Average wait times for medical care were longer, veterans in Idaho were referred to doctors in New York, an appointment with a neurologist was made for a veteran in need of a urologist — the list goes on. Many of these flaws can be traced back to the program’s expedited launch…..

Trump NLRB May Strip Disabled Workers of Union Rights

Source: Mike Elk, Payday Report, December 12, 2018

…. For nearly a century, disabled workers have complained that they have been treated like second-class citizens when it comes to their rights as workers. Under the 14c exemption to the Fair Labor Standard Act, more than 400,000 disabled Americans, employed in so-called non-profit “sheltered training workshops” are exempt from minimum wage laws and other federal labor laws.

Now, a non-profit employer, Didilake,  that specializes in employing disabled workers, Didlake, is asking Trump’s National Labor Relation Board (NLRB) to strip some disabled workers of the right to unionize.

For more than three years, a group of two dozen disabled workers at the Army National Guard building has been attempting to organize with Laborers Local 572. The workers say that they are treated like second-class citizens compared to their non-disabled colleagues often performing the same jobs.

The disabled workers are paid as little as $12.66 an hour and forced to pay $170 a month for inadequate health insurance that often leaves workers with out-of-pocket deductibles sometimes ranging in the thousands of dollars. While non-disabled workers performing similar work at the Pentagon, who are union members of Laborers Local 572, make $15 an hour and receive health care at far cheaper rates…..

For-profit prison companies back criminal justice reform. It could be good for business.

Source: Steve Contorno, Tampa Bay Times, December 13, 2018

A bipartisan push in Congress backed by President Donald Trump to slow America’s rising prison population has a puzzling supporter: A Boca Raton-based for-profit prison company. GEO Group, one of the country’s largest detention companies, is publicly urging the Senate not to adjourn without passing the FIRST STEP Act, a bill that seeks to shorten some federal drug sentences and reduce the likelihood inmates will end up back behind bars. GEO’s biggest competitor, CoreCivic, is backing the bill as well. On the surface, it’s a curious position for leaders of a $4.8 billion industry enriched by tough-on-crime policies that swept millions of Americans into lengthy sentences over the past three decades. But others see two companies well-positioned to profit if Congress goes through with this reform. …

Editorial: The Pentagon Doesn’t Know Where Its Money Goes

Source: Editorial Board, New York Times, December 1, 2018

After decades of ducking the legal requirement that it undergo a thorough financial audit, the Pentagon finally opened up its books to 1,200 outside accountants and analysts. The report was recently completed, and here’s the good news: The Army Corps of Engineers (most of it, anyway) and the Military Retirement Fund passed the audit. The bad news: The Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines and most other divisions failed, which means they were unable to show that they were properly keeping track of their finances and assets. … The Pentagon failed the audit largely because there are serious gaps in the financial controls that guide it, the world’s largest military organization. Basically, the auditors couldn’t account for where all the money went because of flaws in information technology systems. That laxity — and the prospect of tax dollars flowing to boondoggles — would be concerning at any time. But it is especially worrisome when the federal budget deficit has skyrocketed to $779 billion — and the military is insisting it needs more money. …

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POGO Identifies Defense Contractors Recently Sanctioned for Human Trafficking Abuses

Source: Neil Gordon, Project on Government Oversight, August 21, 2018

POGO has identified two companies that were recently sanctioned by the government for violating U.S. restrictions on human trafficking. An official in the Pentagon’s watchdog told POGO that Tamimi Global Company and Texas Gulf Global General Trading & Contracting Company were the two of the companies referred to, although not by name, in a recent State Department report. The State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report 2018 released in June reported: [The Department of Justice] and other federal law enforcement agencies continued to investigate allegations of debt bondage and excessive recruitment fees required of third-country nationals working on certain U.S. government contracts abroad, but no federal criminal prosecutions of employers or labor contractors resulted from these investigations in FY 2017. [The Department of Defense] took action against noncompliant employers or labor contractors from U.S. programs resulting in 22 suspensions, six debarments, one job termination, and one compliance agreement. …

Children poisoned by lead on U.S. Army bases as hazards go ignored

Source: Reuters, August 16, 2018

Like most family housing on U.S. bases today, the home wasn’t owned and operated by the military. It was managed by Villages of Benning, a partnership between two private companies and the U.S. Army, whose website beckons families to “enjoy the luxuries of on-post living.” … The results: At least 113 spots in the home had lead paint, including several peeling or crumbling patches, requiring $26,150 in lead abatement. Villages of Benning moved the Browns into another old house next door. The heavy metal had stunted JC’s brain, medical records reviewed by Reuters show. At age two, he was diagnosed with a developmental disorder caused by lead. Now eight, JC has undergone years of costly therapy. … The Browns’ story and others, told publicly for the first time here, reveal a toxic scourge inside homes on military bases. Previously undisclosed military and state health records, and testing by Reuters for lead in soldiers’ homes, show problems at some of America’s largest military installations.

… Reuters tested five homes at Benning, using a methodology designed with a Columbia University geochemist. All five contained hazardous levels of deteriorating lead paint within reach of children, in one case exceeding the federal threshold by a factor of 58. Testing turned up problems elsewhere as well. At West Point, New York, home of the United States Military Academy, paint chips falling from a family’s front door contained lead at 19 times the federal threshold. At Kentucky’s Fort Knox, whose vaults hold much of America’s gold reserves, Reuters found paint peeling from a covered porch where small kids play. It contained 50 percent lead by weight, or 100 times the threshold. … These homes put military kids at risk. Reuters obtained medical data from the Army showing that at least 31 small children tested high for lead at a Fort Benning hospital over a recent six-year period. …

The $1.4 Billion Transit Fund the U.S. Government Won’t Release

Source: Laura Bliss, CityLab, August 15, 2018 

Like a nasty pothole, Trump’s unkept promises on road-and-rail dollars have given transportation fans a mild case of whiplash. But there may be worse harm in another infrastructure lapse on the part of this administration, this one more basic: $1.4 billion promised to transit projects across the U.S., still unallocated by the Federal Transit Administration for no clear reason. From New York to Los Angeles, El Paso to Minneapolis, 17 rail and rapid bus projects are awaiting grants promised by the federal appropriations bill signed into law by Trump in March 2018. But the funds have still not been delivered nearly five months later. Make that 144 days, 20 hours, and 15 minutes later, as of this writing, according to a splashy countdown clock built by Transportation For America, a progressive transportation policy organization. …

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Shovels Down: White House Drives Dagger Into Infrastructure Bill
Source: John T. Bennett, Roll Call, May 25, 2018
 
The White House formally drove a dagger into the passage this year of the kind of massive infrastructure package called for by President Donald Trump. What is on the White House’s legislative agenda for the rest of the year includes another tax package, a farm bill, more federal judiciary nominations — and possibly immigration legislation. White House legislative affairs chief Marc Short told reporters Friday that infrastructure will slide into 2019. He blamed election-year politics, saying Democrats have signaled in recent conversations they are uninterested in handing Trump a victory ahead of the midterm elections. …

Opinion: Rebuilding Schools, Bridges—and Lives
Source: Richard Trumka and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, Wall Street Journal, May 14, 2018

As unions, businesses, engineers and policy makers celebrate Infrastructure Week from May 14-21, we’re reflecting on the investments that add value to America. For every dollar a country spends on public infrastructure, it gets back nearly $3, according to a 2014 study from the International Monetary Fund. Keep this in mind when you hear that the American Society of Civil Engineers, or ASCE, has called for $2 trillion to repair, renovate or replace water lines, public schools, bridges and mass transit systems. On top of that, another $2 trillion could make America the global leader in the infrastructure technologies of the future, such as high-speed rail and smart utilities. … When you see that the ASCE’s infrastructure report card gives the nation overall a D+, don’t hang your head. The U.S. can get that grade up. But it won’t happen with a plan like President Trump’s , which would cut Washington’s contribution to infrastructure projects from 80% to 20%, quadrupling the burden on cash-strapped cities and states. The true way forward is to do the opposite: Put the federal government back in the business of building America’s future. …

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Labor Dept. Wants Religious Freedom Focus in Bias Probes

Source: Ben Penn, Bloomberg Law, August 10, 2018 (Subscription Required)
 
The Trump administration is expanding the circumstances in which federal contractors can use religious beliefs as a defense against job discrimination charges, a move likely targeting the Obama Labor Department’s ban on bias against gay and transgender workers.  The DOL’s Office of Federal Contractor Compliance Programs issued a new enforcement directive Aug. 10 calling for investigators to factor in recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings and White House executive orders that protect religious freedom. Lawmakers, administrative agencies, and courts have grappled with drawing a line between religious liberty and unlawful discrimination. …

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“We just get by check to check”: Workers cheated as federal contractors prosper
Source: Talia Buford and Maryam Jameel, Salon, April 6, 2017
 
… But each year, thousands of contractors enriched by tax dollars skirt federal labor laws and shortchange workers. In fact, U.S. Department of Labor data show that upwards of 70 percent of all cases lodged against federal contractors and investigated by the department since 2012 yielded substantive violations. … The Center for Public Integrity examined a subset of 1,154 egregious violators — those with the biggest fines, highest number of violations or most employees impacted — included in the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division enforcement database and cross-referenced them with more than 300,000 contract records from the Treasury Department. The Center found that between January 2015 and July 2016:

  • Federal agencies modified or granted contracts worth a total of $18 billion to 68 contractors with proven wage violations. Among them: health-care provider Sterling Medical Associates, Cornell University and Corrections Corporation of America
  • Of all agencies, the U.S. Department of Defense employed the most wage violators – 49, which collectively owed $4.7 million in back pay to almost 6,200 workers. The department paid those 49 contractors a combined $15 billion
  • Violations by the 68 contractors affected some 11,000 workers around the country — about the same number of people who moved to D.C. in 2016.

…The Labor Department tried to address the problem in 2016 with a rule that would have required federal contractors to disclose wage and safety violations and come into compliance with the law if they wanted to keep doing business with the government. Invoking a statute rarely used prior to the Trump administration, however, Congress voted to undo the regulation — already on hold because of a legal challenge — and Trump sealed its fate with his signature. …

Trump’s Courageous, Valiant Decision to Gut Government Worker Safety
Source: Michelle Chen, The Nation, April 5, 2017
 
As he gets ready to put Americans to work on big-league federal projects, President Trump seeks to cut “burdensome red tape” for federal contractors. But that might mean cutting a few fingers and toes, too. That’s because Trump has repealed an Obama administration executive order ensuring fair pay and safety standards for workers contracted for government projects. So the workers Trump wants to supposedly rebuild bridges and highways will be working under a regulatory regime that’s now more likely to ease up on abusive employers in “public-private partnerships.” …

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