Where Did it All go Wrong?

April/24/2016 10:28AM
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I was reminded this week how we continue to be abused by the very people we pay.  I have to get emissions tests in Arizona for my cars licensed in Illinois. Illinois is broke. This is about to change, but they stopped sending both license tag and emissions requirement notifications because they have no money. I realize I need to get tags for both cars. But, they won’t issue the tags until the cars are emission tested.

Off I go to the nearest Arizona test facility. Both cars pass. After 45 minutes on various Illinois State Web Sites, I find a phone number. I call to get the address to send the approvals. A very nice lady says she can do it on the phone since AZ put approvals for IL cars on line.  Can’t find mine. Call the next day. I do get an address and e-mail from her. I scan both in and send them via e-mail. Get an e-mail back saying they found one but not the other. Now I look at the test sheet. An 8 was scanned in as an H. I go back to the test facility and go in the office. A very large woman is in the back playing some game on her computer. Drags her self to the counter with an “I ain’t doin squat for you jack” look, and does squat. Tells me to go to the back of the test line. I tell her I’m not paying her another $20 because her technician can’t scan Vin numbers. Plus I have the other car and would need to go back and switch cars.” No money” she says,” just a retest”.

I go back and call the lady at the IL facility that I talked to the first time. Miracle of miracles she can make the correction on the AZ test and issue the approval. Now I can go back and spend another 20 minutes getting the tags issued after the license people get the approval from the emissions people. ( give it 10 days to two weeks, she says).   I now have 3 hours, including travel time for two cars and telephone time, on-line time invested in getting IL license tags. All because the state of IL is broke and can’t send reminders. I have a bad experience with a useless bureaucrat who is taking up space at the emissions test facility, and a good one with a lady who can change an H to an 8 and issue an approval.

Now, a second example. My wife likes her 3rd class mail. Catalogs, magazines, etc. So, for $13 a week, the USPS will hold your mail in one town and box it up and send it to you in a second.  In our case the box comes every Thursday in AZ. Except, one Thursday, no box. Friday, no box and the same on Saturday and Monday. Off to the post office. A nice gentleman says he will look into this. Just wait a few minutes. We are at the special window where you pick up mail being held. I’ve seen this act at this window before. People in Scottsdale feel entitled. No getting in line for anything. Just go to that special window and play dumb. No thanks, sir, here’s my phone  number, call me. He will call in 15 minutes. Three hours later, I get his call. Yes the box was shipped from IL. Yes, the box was scanned on the mail truck. He will talk to the driver and see what he/she knows. He will get to the bottom of the problem and get back to me. See, the first class mail goes into that box and this is tax time and who knows what is lost? Never heard a word back. Box is gone forever. Some bills and at lease one debit card re-issue have been identified as missing.

So, we go on knowing the system is broken. We are taking crap from those we pay at every level of government. Some are good, decent, conscientious people, but far too many are not. Why should there be any?

Several reasons. First, most can’t be fired. They have lifetime union protection. From top-to-bottom. The people we elect to manage them don’t have term limits. But, first and foremost, we believe we can’t change the system. We go along as it gets progressively worse and tolerate. Everything slows down. Even the great one, Obama, found there are no shovel ready projects in America. Why? Because there are 100 bureaucrats waiting to find reasons not to do every project. See, it’s a game. I have the power, you have none. I’m bored and I can piss you off and you can’t do a thing about that.

Here’s your poster girl: Sharon Helman:


Notice the Scottsdale teeth. In addition to all the other stuff listed, they were probably part of the deal. See, my little problem with the emissions people, the license people, and the post office are just little things that cost  all of us precious time. This lady was part and parcel of at least 40 veterans dying. Her punishment, probation. I rest my case.

“The former Phoenix VA hospital director who was fired following revelations that patients died while waiting for appointments has pleaded guilty to not disclosing she took gifts from a lobbyist.

Sharon Helman, who became the face of the VA wait-times scandal in 2014, on Tuesday pleaded guilty to filing a false financial disclosure that failed to list more than $50,000 in gifts she received from a lobbyist. She was sentenced to probation.

The VA fired Helman after it came to light that dozens of veterans seeking appointments at the Phoenix medical center were kept on a secret waitlist and died before getting an appointment. Subsequent investigations concluded the lists intended to conceal the scope of the problem, which was found to be systemic across the department.

Helman appealed her firing to the Merit Systems Protection Board, which upheld the termination in December 2014 but not because of the wait-list scandal. It ruled her firing was justified because she took gifts from a lobbyist friend and former supervisor who was representing a vendor. That gift-taking prompted an investigation by the FBI and the charge brought by Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona Frank T. Galati, to which she pleaded guilty.

The Justice Department said Helman has been sentenced to probation but did not describe the terms. The conviction could have resulted in a five-year prison sentence, it said in a statement.

FBI Acting Special Agent in Charge Mark Cwynar said Helman’s pleading guilty to the felony charge “will permanently attach to Ms. Helman’s legacy,” while Michael E. Seitler, special agent in charge for the VA’s Office of the Inspector General, said the prosecution “holds Ms. Helman accountable.”

But Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Florida, who chairs the House Veterans Affairs Committee that conducted numerous hearings into the secret wait lists, criticized what he said was a light sentence.

“I’m extremely puzzled as to why the Department of Justice chose to coddle her with a sweetheart plea deal that amounts to nothing more than a weak slap on the wrist,” Miller said in a statement. “Such extraordinary leniency is an insult to the many veterans who suffered from the malfeasance and mismanagement of the Phoenix VA Health Care System.”

Miller also took the opportunity to note that no official with the Phoenix VA center has been successfully disciplined for the wait-times manipulation. He also said VA has yet to discipline officials there who retaliated against whistleblowers who exposed problems at the center.

The gifts to Helman included airline and concert tickets. Helman accepted tickets for a Beyoncé concert, Chang’s Rock & Roll Arizona Marathon, the Mississippi Blues Marathon and an eight-night stay at Disney World. The family trip to Disneyland cost $11,000, according to the MSPB ruling.

The gifts were provided by Dennis “Max” Lewis, vice president of Jefferson Consulting Group, a consultant for a healthcare company wanting to do business with the VA facilities’ community-based outpatient clinics”.

Lewis had once been a senior executive for the VA and was Helman’s boss at one time.

— Bryant Jordan can be reached at bryant.jordan@military.com. Follow him on Twitter at @bryantjordan.

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Comments (5)

  1. Doug Gordon says:

    I had a similar experience when I tried to register my car upon moving back to Corpus Christ Tx from NJ and the VIN #/emissions test form copying error. I get up to the head of the DMV line and they point out the VIN # on the test form doesn’t match the VIN number on the registration from NJ. I have the option of going back for another test and paying again and getting the form filled out correctly, or they will give me a piece of paper and a pencil to go to my car and trace over the VIN number to bring back in proof that the NJ form is correct. So, like an idiot I go out to my car that’s been sitting locked with the sun beating in through the windows. The VIN plate is at the front of the dash, there is not enough room between the windshield and the plate to trace the number with the yellow pencil they gave me. I poke holes in the paper repeatedly, I’m dripping sweat in buckets in the South Texas sun/heat in the car, and it just won’t work. In frustration and desperation I go back in with my mutilated piece of paper to try again to plead with them for some other way out of this mess.

    This is when the final straw kicks in. Once again at the head of the line and hearing my story and seeing the paper, the brain dead functionary that can’t be fired behind the counter pulls out a pre-printed pad of forms that in essence says: I tried to do this really stupid thing you told me to do and it didn’t work (like you knew it wouldn’t because you already have a form for this) but I swear the VIN number is really this: and I got to write the correct number on this form. After three times longer than it should have taken, I had my Texas registration.

    On a side note: from 1959-1969 my father was the medical administrative director at the Phoenix VA. As far as I am able to tell, there were not systemic problems in those days, I know he really cared about the veterans. Even then, though, the culture of never being able to fire anyone because they were all a protected category of government worker was in place. Put in your ten years and you get a promotion for basically just showing up for work, you didn’t necessarily have to do anything, so I can’t be sure. It ate away at my dad and he retired at 53 with uncontrollable high blood pressure. Basically as long as he was on the job at the VA, medicine could not keep his blood pressure in the desired range, although he was in Albuquerque at that point.

    • bill says:

      Anytime the customer has zero options there is the opportunity for abuse. When the business(government agency) can’t do out of business, the need to train employees to be courteous is small. Basically, from top to bottom no one really gives a rip if people get jacked around, are treated badly, or even die. Bid the post office to Fed Ex and UPS and see what happens. The mail will get delivered, the clerks won’t all be on break at the same time, and there won’t be billions lost supporting lazy people.

  2. Name says:

    VIN segments are codes, so an experienced smog tech probably would know that an integer cannot substitute for a letter and vice-versa.

    Bumbling is not just a government thing.
    The difference is that there are no FOIA in business.
    Outright corruption gets buried and the corrupt blacklist anyone who smells of potential whistle-blower.

    • bill says:

      It seems I never get treated the same way at a business. If I do I walk away. I don’t have to accept the treatment. I have options.

  3. Jack Remington says:

    Sharon Hellman should have been put in prison. Eerily like another female in the news every day.

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