IN A STUNNING REBUKE, THE FORMER PRESIDENT OF VICE DICK CHENEY HAS CALLED FADED CELEBRITY IN CHIEF BARRY O THE WORST PRESIDENT EVER.
"THAT'S QUITE AN HONOR," BARRY O REPLIED BEAMING WILDLY. "NOW DOES THIS COME WITH A TROPHY OR A CHECK?"
WHEN IT WAS EXPLAINED TO HIM THAT THIS WASN'T AN HONOR, BARRY O BEGAN SCREAMING FOR "MY JAY! WHERE IS MY JAY!"
JOSH EARNEST WAIVED TO BARRY O AND EXPLAINED, "JAY'S GONE. I'M HIS REPLACEMENT."
"YOU'RE MY JAY NOW?"
"YES, I'M YOUR JAY NOW."
"OKAY, I'M GOING TO CALL YOU MY JAY-JAY SO YOU DON'T GET CONFUSED," BARRY O SAID WIPING AWAY A TEAR AND TRYING TO SMILE.
Let's go back to today's Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing. Here, Ranking Member Richard Burr is speaking to Acting VA Secretary Sloan.
Ranking Member Richard Burr: Mr. Sloan, I want to focus a few moments on data integrity and specifically at the VBA. I want to give you a few examples of some testimony at the VA provided by the Office of the Inspector General and the General Accounting Office in a House hearing Monday night. The Inspector General made this statement -- and I quote all of these, "We have concerns that VBA's goals are not realistic and [are] comprised by data integrity issues." Quote: "We're receiving a number of complaints regarding mail mismanagement, manipulation of dates of claims and other data integrity issues in the Baltimore, Philadelphia and Los Angeles, Oakland and Houston VA regional offices. And today we received an additional allegation regarding the Little Rock VA regional office. We are concerned about how quickly the list of regional offices with allegations is growing." Quote: "VBA removed all provisional rated claims from its pending inventory. VBA's process misrepresented the actual work load of pending claims and its progress towards eliminating the overall claims backlog." Quote: "An Office of Inspector General team sent to Philadelphia regional office on June 19, 2014 determined that there were significant opportunities for regional offices to manipulate and input incorrect dates of claims in the electronic record, incorrect application of data claims compromises data integrity related to timeliness of claims processing." Then there's this exchange that took place between Congressman [Gus] Bilirakis and the Assistant I[nspector] G[eneral] Linda Halliday. Mr. Bilirakis said, "You remarked in your opening statement that VBA self-reported a decrease in the national backlog of more than 50% since March 2013. Do you trust those numbers?" Ms. Halliday: "At this point, I would say 'no.' I can't trust those numbers. I think we have a lot of work ahead of us to address the allegations we've just received. They all seem to focus on data integrity and they need to be looked at very carefully so I don't want to say I trust them." Near the end of the hearing, Congressman [Beto] O'Rourke asked Ms. Halliday, and I quote, "One of the things that you said in your opening comment that struck me was that some of the success may be compromised by data integrity issues. Anything that Secretary [Allison] Hickey has said tonight that alleviates those concerns that you raised in your opening statement?" Ms. Halliday simply responded, "No."
Monday night, the House Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing. We noted some of it in Tuesday's snapshot. We're noting some of it today. Grasp that what Ranking Member Burr noted of the hearing is important but that it's not even all of the important from that hearing.
Where is the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee? Why aren't they doing a damn thing. Not only was there the issues Burr pointed to, it was also true that the VA attempted to record agents of Congress as they questioned VA workers. US House Rep Jeff Miller is the Chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee. Monday's hearing included a panel of whistle-blowers. It also included a panel of VA officials including the infamous and notorious liar Allison Hickey.
House Committee Chair Jeff Miller: [. . .] I instructed the Committee staff to make a visit to the Philadelphia regional office on the second of July, 2014. As of the 20th of June, specific concerns that we've heard some tonight had been raised on the management or more accurately mismanagement of that office. And I did want our staff to spend a day on the ground to perform a technical review of some of the various files, view the office and meet with some of the individuals who work there. This is a customary thing for our staff to do. So let me run through what occurred on this unannounced visit. My staff alerted the office of Congressional Legislative Affairs of their imminent arrival at approximately nine o'clock in the morning and about 20 minutes later they arrive and are greeted by an employee of the regional office and they were accompanied to a conference room on the fourth floor. Within moments of arrival, while waiting for the acting director of the regional office, one of my staff went to the restroom on the fourth floor and there was another individual who was in the restroom who had set a yellow notepad not far from the sink and when my staff member and when my staff member went by the sink, they noticed there was writing at the top of the page that was circled. In fact, we've got a copy of it, I'd like to go ahead and post it if we can so everyone can see it. Members you have a copy of this, it's the yellow legal pad. And two names were circled at the top of the page. Now these two employees were from the regional office and they both had acted as whistle-blowers to improper acts in the past. Alright, my staff then looked at the remainder of the page and on it were written my staff members' names for information as their status for the Committee of Veterans Affairs. And if you will notice about mid-way down, you'll see where the word "ignore" was followed by one of my staff member's names -- so you see the word "ignore" just, it looks like, to the left of the pen. But before I finish the timeline for the members' benefit, the person who exited the bathroom with the yellow notepad in hand was the acting director Lucy Filipov of the Philadelphia Regional Office and now the acting director had met with my staff later in the conference room and when requested who had provided notice of the visit, she stated she had not spoken with OCLA but instead had only spoken with Diana Rubins regarding the Congressional staff's arrival. She then began the conference with two comments. First, she said the Philadelphia regional office endeavors to do all things with integrity and give proper benefits to veterans. Second, she made a curious statement when taken in the context of Ms. Filipov's possession of the notepad with the name of two of our whistle-blowers at the top -- that were circled. She said it's difficult to have employees or ex-employees who say we are not doing a good job.
Filipov then insisted that the Congressional staff would conduct any and all interviews in a third floor office. Upon discovering the third floor office had microphones and recording devices, Miller's staff refused to use the office.
Chair Jeff Miller: . . . You will not ignore this Committee anymore. And be on notice, you will not ignore our staff that is acting as this Committee's agents as well. The Committee has Constitutional oversight and I intend that it shall be carried out unhindered on behalf of the American public and on behalf of the nation's veterans. If you look very carefully, if you put this note back up, there are some pretty derogatory comments that are on this. [C.I. note: One Congressional staffer is called an "ass."] Would anybody at the table like to comment about the comments that are written on this piece of paper? Ms. Hickey, you're welcome to comment.
Allison Hickey: Chairman, without question, without question, we respect the oversight of this Committee and your staff. What occurred on that day was not acceptable and not indicative of the normal ways in which Ms. Rubin might behave. And I know that she has been on visits with your staff and even with members of this Committee before. And I think if we reflect on those visits in the last year, you would say she did not repeat similar behaviors. But I will not excuse it. I have not excused it with her. And we -- And I will just tell you without question it is unacceptable and I offer on behalf of the Dept my sincere apologies to your staff who experienced it that day and my commitment that it will not happen again and that you will receive absolutely with open arms and full-leaning-in support anything that you need on any visit that you go on.
Allison Hickey is such a damn liar.
There's no nice way to put it. And if you've endured her previous lying you not only understand why the American Legion called for her resignation in May, but you know she never stops lying. She lies to Congress about numbers -- numbers they have before them and she lies about them.
She's said to be the 'brain' behind the con game (slap a partial rating on a disability claim -- any rating at all, call the claim done even though it's going to be appealed because the appeals don't count towards the backlog). She certainly was in charge of selling it to Congress.
She's just a liar.
Chair Miller noted Diane Rubin came to the Committee and lied that she wasn't involved in any of it. Miller asks Hickey what she thinks of that and Hickey -- with a trembling voice -- insists that Rubin was there to make an honest apology. No, there's nothing honest about it was someone else's fault. Or someone else called the staff member an "ass." Hickey admits, in the exchange, that Rubin did do that, called the staff member and an "ass" and much more. But Hickey refuses to call Rubin a liar when asked about Rubin trying to pass that off, to the Committee, as someone else having said it, not her.
Chair Jeff Miller: Ms. Rubens came to our Committee offices and when she did, she did not apologize for that. What she said was, she had told the acting director to ignore what other people might be saying about my staff. And you're telling me this person is still employed? Even though she gave a directive to not tell an agent of this Committee what was happening at the regional office?
Allison Hickey: Chairman Miller, I will say again without question, without question, we respect the oversight of every single one of you on this Committee and in these hallowed halls
I'm not interested in her damn lies. She lies over and over.
She should have been fired long ago but she's part of the corruption and the lies of the VA and that she thought she would get away with lying yet again?
Chair Jeff Miller responded, "So I'll take that as a 'no' that Ms. Rubens did not lie, even though she did. Again, your commitment is appreciated but it is not believed." Nothing Hickey says is to be believed.
Ranking Member Richard Burr: Under Secretary Hickey was the one that testified for the VA and despite her testimony -- which was refuted by the Inspector General and the GAO -- the VA put out a press release the very next day entitled "VA Takes Action to Ensure Data Integrity of Disability Claims" in which the VA touts that it's reduced the backlog claims by 55%, has reduced the number of days it takes to process claims and has improved its accuracy rate to over 90%. Now listen, you've said that you've got to gain the trust of the Committee, of the veterans, of the country and I think we agree with you. Let me ask you, how smart was that press release? Did you sign off on that press release? And how can numbers that are refuted by the people that are actually doing the investigation of VA facilities -- how can they refute the numbers and the next day VA come out with the same [false] numbers and tout them?
Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson: Senator, I think, as you've noted, trust is the foundation of everything we do and where there are questions about what -- about data integrity, I think we've got to bore into those very deeply. There are a number of issues that have been raised there. I could sit and go through and pick at an item or two but the fundamental issue remains that there is -- there are questions about whether or not we've got good data integrity there. And just as we are undertaking independent reviews in the VHA side, we'll undertake those in the VBA side.
Ranking Member Richard Burr: Mr. Secretary, they've been under way. Much of it initiated by members of this Committee with the Inspector General, with the General Accounting Office. And you've acknowledged the shortcomings on the VHA side. This is fresh, this is this week. And still the press releases stresses that the VA will continue to post these performance data on their website. How does publicizing suspect data increase the integrity and the trust --
Gibson interrupted and began sharing his personal backstory. The name of this website is The Common Ills -- not The James Boswell. So we'll leave it to someone else to tell the tale of Sloan Gibson.
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