War Veterans With Traumatic Brain Injury Pay the Price of Waste at the VA, Says Dr. Robert Van Boven
A recent report from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Office ofInspector General (OIG; report no. 08-01105-171) substantiated waste,mismanagement and inaction to disclosures of fraud, waste, sexual harassmentand research mismanagement at the Central Texas Veterans Health Care System(CTVHCS).
Inaction to these serious disclosures constitutes violations of the VAsecretary's memo on senior management conduct and performance issues.Misconduct and neglect of duty are also in violation of Statute 5 U.S.C.Moreover, this inaction undermines the integrity of the Department and ourcommitment to our veterans. Further, the great promise of a new traumaticbrain injury treatment research program, the Brain Imaging and RecoveryLaboratory (BIRL) at CTVHCS in Austin, Tex., was shattered one day after itsinaugural open house, and to date nearly $2.5 million and 2 1/2 years havebeen wasted. (Seehttp://www.austinchronicle.com/gyrobase/Issue/story?oid=oid:696352).
"With estimates of more than 40,000 soldiers returning home with traumaticbrain injury, this waste and mismanagement is a disservice to our woundedheroes," said Dr. Robert Van Boven, physician-scientist specializing in TBIresearch.
The VA OIG report a) substantiated the allegations made by Van Boven ofwaste and mismanagement; b) confirmed failures of human subjects protections;c) discovered failures of security and privacy compliance; d) found evidencesupporting the claim that funded work was scientifically invalid; e)discovered a faulty contract resulting in the waste of hundreds of thousandsof dollars; and f) found CTVHCS failed to comply with VA policy in contractingwith a contractor. This contractor was also found to have worked without acontract, committed plagiarism, lied about work-product not submitted, andcollected $107,000 over nine months while working on-site one day per week butbilling 35 hours per week.
The OIG also confirmed that senior management failed to act despiteknowledge of the serious nature of the disclosures. The OIG report concluded,"We found no written evidence that CTVHCS leadership requested an accountingof BIRL expenditures following [Dr. Van Boven's] October 15, 2007 letter orotherwise investigated the appropriateness of BIRL expenditures."
The Chief of Staff (COS) at CTVHCS testified that he was clearly aware ofthese disclosures, yet he failed to act. At a VA hearing, the COS stated thatDr. Van Boven "expressed concern that [an investigator's] research wasill-conceived, and he [the investigator] was making excessive use of aconsultant, and that the consultant could be padding his hours, and a bunch ofthings." Instead of remedies, ultimately electronic erasure and retraction ofthe disclosures were requested by management. Further, senior management'srole in these improprieties went unchecked, suggesting a failure of internalpolicing of wrong-doing and condoning of such behavior.
"In sum, my disclosures of waste, fraud, and mismanagement were shown tohave merit by the VA OIG," said Van Boven. "However, one of the most egregiousof these transgressions is the abuse of power and suppression of disclosuresof violations by senior management."
"As we give tribute to those who have 'borne the battle' in service to ourcountry this Veteran's Day, I call on the VA to commit to ensuring responsibleand accountable use of taxpayer dollars to serve and help our veterans leadproductive and fulfilling lives."
SOURCE Dr. Robert Van Boven, M.D., D.D.S.
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