A legislative oversight committee heard testimony Monday that focused on construction projects at the Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown as part of the panel’s investigation into executive branch practices for state contracts, project bids and hiring. The Senate Government Oversight Committee’s investigation into those and other issues began months ago when the issue of confidential settlement agreements with former workers surfaced….When Gov. Terry Branstad arrived in 2011, he changed top officials at the Iowa Department of Administrative Services, and they fired a number of state employees responsible for overseeing construction projects and hired outside companies to manage projects….One witness, Greg Wright, a former financial executive at the Veterans Home, said at one point in 2011 after new DAS management moved in, an architect was hired to start work without a contract. Wright, who was responsible for filing documents with the federal government on the project for reimbursement under the grant program, said he asked how the company would be paid without a contract and was told to stop asking questions. At one point he refused to sign federal documents that certified the state was meeting appropriate certifications for contractors, he said. … He said bosses told him that a contract would be negotiated and backdated to the date the firm started work, which he said he believed to be illegal. Wright said he tried to report the practices to the state auditor and other state officials, but nothing was done….
Governor closing secretive NERD fund without disclosing donors as questions remain about Vets Home privatization….Today former employees of the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans sent a letter to Gov. Rick Snyder asking him to disclose whether or not the Home’s new for-profit management company, J2S Group Healthforce, has ever contributed to the Governor’s secretive NERD Fund. The letter was also submitted to the NERD Fund’s Chairman, Charlie Secchia, of Grand Rapids….
Nursing aides at the Jacobetti Home for Veterans will not be privatized, but those at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans will be. Governor Rick Snyder sought to privatize certain state jobs. A union appeal of the measure was rejected by a state commission in March. Now about 150 nursing aide jobs at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans will be privatized. “We’re (the Jacobetti Home for Veterans) a small facility in a rural area and so the environment here is not the same, and so there’s no proposal to do it (privatize services) here,” said Jacobetti Home for Veterans Administrator, Brad Slagle.
Most Los Angeles residents only know the Veterans Affairs medical center in West Los Angeles as something they glimpse from their cars when they’re on traffic-choked Wilshire Boulevard. From the road it looks like a park, but within the grounds is the largest medical facility in the VA’s health care system.
The campus is also one of the most fought-over pieces of property in Los Angeles. The nearly 400 acres are in the middle of a densely populated and affluent part of the city. Given its location, the land has been coveted for commercial development. It’s also been targeted as a perfect place to provide housing for some of the city’s 8,000 homeless veterans.
The VA has had plans to create housing for disabled homeless vets for years. But so far, those plans have gone nowhere. Meanwhile, government documents show that the VA has made millions of dollars renting out chunks of the property to private enterprises.
The Veterans Affairs Department is being accused of undermining its own goal of hiring more veterans by expanding its outsourcing practices that eliminate many federal jobs currently, or historically, held by veterans, according to the union representing 205,000 employees at the VA….For example, the Veterans Benefits Administration recently entered into a $54 million three-year contract with ACS Government Systems to perform claims processing work.
…Yes, the taxpayer-financed, government-run V.A. hospitals are some of the finest medical facilities in the country. That is, by the way, as it should be — men and women in uniform put their lives on the line for us, and providing them with world-class medical care and facilities is the least the country can do in return. In this case, it just so happens that world-class care comes in government-run facilities.
Romney, the Republican frontrunner, prefers to change this, and would apparently rather hand vets a voucher….
Opinion: Vouchers For Veterans
Source: Paul Krugman, New York Times, November 12, 2011
Romney’s Trial Balloon For Privatized Veterans Care Explodes
Source: Benjy Sarlin, Talking Points Memo, November 21, 2011
Like many states and local governments struggling to cut costs, Michigan hopes to replace some government employees with contract workers who will do the same job for less.
FAllS CHURCH, VA – TRICARE, which provides civilian health benefits for military personnel, military retirees and their dependents, announced on Wednesday that Science Applications International [SAIC] has reported a data breach involving personally identifiable and protected health information (PII/PHI) impacting an estimated 4.9 million military clinic and hospital patients.
The breach was reported by SAIC on Sept. 14 and involved backup tapes from an electronic healthcare record used in the military health system (MHS) to capture patient data from 1992 through Sept. 7, 2011…
– Contractor hit with second class action suit over TRICARE data theft
Source: Bob Brewin, NextGov.com, January 6, 2012
A Vietnam vet told the Michigan Civil Service Commission on Wednesday he feels “thrown to the wolves,” by the state’s privatization of nursing aides at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans. Union members turned out in force at the meeting to push for reversal of the planned layoffs of 170 resident care aides at the state home, effective Oct. 1.
– Judge blocks privatization of jobs at Grand Rapids Home for Veterans
Source: Terri Finch Hamilton Grand Rapids Press, October 01, 2011
– Vets testify on planned privatization
Source: WOOD TV-8, October 12, 2011
– Judge halts privatization plans at Grand Rapids veterans’ home
Source: Paul Egan, Detroit News, October 14, 2011
– Layoffs, cutbacks at Grand Rapids Home for Veterans spark anger
Source: Ted Roelofs, Grand Rapids Press, January 25, 2012
…. According to Bilmes, a number of former generals contacted her to argue that there was an unexplored link between the rise of contracting and the rise of post-traumatic stress syndrome. In Vietnam, the generals said, they were able to manage the stress loads of their soldiers by moving troops who seemed in particular mental distress to so-called “kitchen duty.” They could be sent to repair trucks or work a desk job or cut potatoes. “But now,” Bilmes says, “100 percent of those jobs where they used to put people to relieve strain are done by contractors.” The generals she spoke to thinks this has contributed to the rise in stress-related disorders, and because those disorders are enormously expensive over the course of a person’s life, the actual cost of contracting out these positions isn’t being effectively calculated.