New Legislation Won’t Help
One Women’s Opinion
By – Sheri de Grom
For months I’ve been telling myself, “Stop taking yourself so seriously. It’s not the end of the world if you don’t keep up with what you believe is faulty legislation or improper actions by governmental agencies.”
But can I really let go and just have fun for a change? Must I write about the rising number of deaths on cell phone towers and my fury that no one is doing anything about it?
And what about the continued downsizing of our military in the wake of chemical warfare?
The Pentagon has announced the U.S. will send two batteries Of Patriot missiles and four-hundred troops to Turkey as part of a NATO force meant to protect Turkey territory from potential Syrian missile attacks. An Air Force member asked Secretary of Defense Panetta what the U.S. would do if Syria used chemical or biological weapons against the rebels. Panetta said he could not be specific in a public setting, but added, “we have drawn up plans” that give President Obama a set of options in the event that U.S. intelligence shows that Syria intends to use such weapons.
I know I can’t drop the issue of a retired military member or a civil-service federal employee having to pay up to one-half of their retirement to an ex-spouse, even if that spouse is completely self-sufficient. (This is a separate issue from the requirements of paying child-support.) It’s just plain wrong!
I’ll always write about mental health; it’s my platform. And yes, as a graduate professor long ago accused, I am guilty of wearing my heart on my sleeve. I always wished Don Polden, the best professor ever, had lived to see me in action. He was my mentor for years and I still think of him when making important decisions.
I plan to challenge myself in the months to come and write about slices of life along with the more serious subjects I pursue in my Monday blogs. Items on the agenda include:
- The Day We Waxed The Walls
- Someone’s Been Sitting In My Seat
- The Old Grey Ghost
- Morti and Me . . . A Continuing Series
- On the bridge with Uncle Kenneth
- Yes, dear, we still live in Arkansas
- Culture shock killed Herman the German
Meanwhile, I actually had today’s post written but it’s been pre-empted by other Monday topics.
I’m furious with both the Senate and House of Representatives for not passing a budget. All talk of bipartisanship angers me further. Obviously, our members of congress haven’t a clue when it comes to surviving in today’s economy.
Instead of addressing the real issues facing our country, they elected to spend time on a frivolous piece of legislation having to do with the government charge card program. Take it from me—it’s not going to change a thing.
The Government Charge Card Abuse Prevention Act of 2012 won’t help. I’m unhappy with the previous do-nothing House and Senate. Identical legislation was in place when this matter was brought before congress. I’m positive this legislation will be rolled out as an accomplishment, but what about our nation’s decade-plus war and the lack of a balanced budget?
The bill was sponsored by Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Senator Susan Collins of Maine.
You might wonder why I believe the new legislation is worthless. My answer is easy. Honest people behave responsibly with government-issued credit cards.
I’m a retired civil service Department of Defense employee and after I climbed the ranks and reached a certain level, I was issued my own government American Express card for travel and I used a second government charge card for operational expenses for my department.
Before I obtained rank and director status, each time I traveled on behalf of the government I either had to pay for my flight and all travel expenses, hotel, food, etc. out of my own money and then once I returned to my office the mountain of paperwork began. I had to fill out supporting documents, get appropriate signatures and turn my travel expenses into the finance office for reimbursement. If lucky, I’d receive payment for my travel expenses within three to five weeks.
The other alternative was to go to the finance office before I traveled and obtain what was called a travel allowance. However, the finance officer only allowed a percentage of the expected cost of the trip. Obtaining a portion of the money up front was often necessary, but it also meant I had to do two sets of copious amounts of paperwork instead of one.
Having a government charge card for department cost—which primarily consisted of office supplies—was heaven sent. My department was large but I still saved money for the government because I could buy in bulk, take advantage of certain sales at government-approved sites and, if an inferior product was received, it could always be returned.
The new law requires federal agencies to put new controls on government charge cards and enforce more stringent penalties for violations by federal employees.
However, in October it was determined that no one at the Veteran’s Affairs Administration (VA) would be reprimanded for their lavish expenditures of $762,000 in unauthorized, unnecessary, and/or wasteful expenses. Additionally, it appears a $6.1 million in total costs may have been unlawfully spent using Government issued American Express cards, although the full price tag by Veteran’s Affairs could be even higher.
Not only were governmental expenditures out of line, but eleven VA employees in charge of managing conferences also improperly accepted gifts from contractors seeking to do business or already doing business with the VA. These ‘gifts’ ranged from lodging to meals to helicopter rides to massages.
We have veterans seeking care who are placed on long waiting lists and other veterans who cannot even make it onto these waiting lists. Disability claims are slow in being adjudicated. The amount of misappropriated monies spent could have provided care for our veterans.
Congress states public trust has been violated by abusive use of government charge cards. I couldn’t agree more, but when no one at the VA is held accountable, what message does this send to anyone else holding a government credit card?
In reviewing the required safeguards established by the Charge Card Abuse Prevention Act of 2012, I noted that many of the stated standards were already in place when I retired from government in 1999. Additionally, other internal controls required are common sense. In my opinion, Congress hasn’t exhibited common sense during their last several sessions. I implore them not to mandate rules they themselves don’t follow.
I cannot imagine not checking my own credit card statement each month to insure every line item is accurate. The same was always true of government credit cards issued to me for operational purposes.
I recognize many high ranking civil service government officials do not come up through the ranks and often times they’ve seemed to present a privileged attitude. This is especially true of the Senior Executive Service (SES) Presidential appointees. This attitude is wrong. A career working for the government is one of service to and for our country. The privilege is ours to serve.
Government charge cards create an efficiency without a mound of paperwork. The high-ranking employees who are able to rack up tens of thousands of dollars in personal expenditures on their government charge card should not place a good program in jeopardy.