War Veterans With Traumatic Brain Injury Pay the Price of Waste at VA, Says Dr. Robert Van Boven
November 6, 2008, Austin, Texas – The following was released today by Dr. Robert Van Boven, M.D., D.D.S.: A recent report from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General (OIG; report no. 08-01105-171) substantiated waste, mismanagement and inaction to disclosures of fraud, waste, sexual harassment and research mismanagement at the Central Texas Veterans Health Care System (CTVHCS).
Inaction to these serious disclosures constitutes violations of the VA secretary’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 our commitment to our veterans. Further, the great promise of a new traumatic brain injury treatment research program, the Brain Imaging and Recovery Laboratory (BIRL) at CTVHCS in Austin, Tex., was shattered one day after its inaugural open house, and to date nearly $2.5 million and 2 1/2 years have been wasted. (See http://www.veteransforcommonsense.org/articleid/11541).
“With estimates of more than 40,000 soldiers returning home with traumatic brain injury, this waste and mismanagement is a disservice to our wounded heroes,” said Dr. Robert Van Boven, physician-scientist specializing in TBI research.
The VA OIG report a) substantiated the allegations made by Van Boven of waste and mismanagement; b) confirmed failures of human subjects protections; c) discovered failures of security and privacy compliance; d) found evidence supporting the claim that funded work was scientifically invalid; e) discovered a faulty contract resulting in the waste of hundreds of thousands of dollars; and f) found CTVHCS failed to comply with VA policy in contracting with a contractor. This contractor was also found to have worked without a contract, committed plagiarism, lied about work-product not submitted, and collected $107,000 over nine months while working on-site one day per week but billing 35 hours per week.
The OIG also confirmed that senior management failed to act despite knowledge of the serious nature of the disclosures. The OIG report concluded, “We found no written evidence that CTVHCS leadership requested an accounting of BIRL expenditures following [Dr. Van Boven’s] October 15, 2007 letter or otherwise investigated the appropriateness of BIRL expenditures.”
The Chief of Staff (COS) at CTVHCS testified that he was clearly aware of these disclosures, yet he failed to act. At a VA hearing, the COS stated that Dr. Van Boven “expressed concern that [an investigator’s] research was ill-conceived, and he [the investigator] was making excessive use of a consultant, and that the consultant could be padding his hours, and a bunch of things.” Instead of remedies, ultimately electronic erasure and retraction of the disclosures were requested by management. Further, senior management’s role in these improprieties went unchecked, suggesting a failure of internal policing of wrong-doing and condoning of such behavior.
“In sum, my disclosures of waste, fraud, and mismanagement were shown to have merit by the VA OIG,” said Van Boven. “However, one of the most egregious of these transgressions is the abuse of power and suppression of disclosures of violations by senior management.”
“As we give tribute to those who have ‘borne the battle’ in service to our country this Veteran’s Day, I call on the VA to commit to ensuring responsible and accountable use of taxpayer dollars to serve and help our veterans lead productive and fulfilling lives.”