Make the bureaucracy great again

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Make the bureaucracy great again

All was well the day of my daughter’s surgery. Despite wait­ing an addi­tional two hours because of a higher pri­or­ity case, the sur­geon came out around 4 pm to tell me every­thing was fin­ished and looked great. He said some­one would arrive in about 15 min­utes to take me to my daughter’s recov­ery room.

Unfor­tu­nately, that per­son never came. I sat in Yale’s Pedi­atric Surgery wait­ing room for another hour, and when the lights went dark, I real­ized I had been for­got­ten. An hour after that, after speak­ing with var­i­ous Yale offi­cials and fran­ti­cally scour­ing the hos­pi­tal, I finally found my daugh­ter on the 7th floor in recov­ery. Right about that time, I received a Yale text mes­sage ask­ing me for my opin­ion of today’s service.

After dash­ing off my response, I fig­ured that was it. Yale is a mas­sive hos­pi­tal, just the sort of place where lit­tle peo­ple like myself get ignored. To my sur­prise, two days later a young man called me and wanted details. We spent almost an hour going over what was great and find­ing where the break­downs were. By the time we were done, he told me the two very specifics things that Yale would work on to make sure that break­down never hap­pened again. A few months later, when my daugh­ter returned for surgery, I observed first-​hand a smoother post-​surgery process.

Think­ing about it as I’m typ­ing still makes me smile. Yale took my feed­back and acted on it, mak­ing their process bet­ter. They took a neg­a­tive inter­ac­tion and ulti­mately made it a pos­i­tive. They didn’t pay me com­pen­sa­tion, apol­o­gize pro­fusely, or give me candy to make the prob­lem go away. Instead, they acted on the prob­lem, solved it, and con­tin­ued to pro­vide great med­ical care.

I’m also part of the military’s med­ical sys­tem, and the dif­fer­ence is stark. When a doc­tor at Eisen­hower Army Med­ical Cen­ter messed up my wife’s surgery, instead of work­ing to fix the prob­lem, he told her to essen­tially shut up. I was at work and got a sob­bing phone call, which I acted on. Our command’s med­ical team met her at the hos­pi­tal to address the issue. She filed an ICE com­plaint, and our patient advo­cate met with the hos­pi­tal to try and resolve the issue.

And in the end, none of it mat­tered. The doc­tor was never dis­ci­plined. The hos­pi­tal never cor­rected any­thing, nor allowed her to go out in town to see a civil­ian doc­tor. Despite all the doc­u­men­ta­tion, noth­ing was ever done.

This isn’t a one-​off. I’ve had movers break and steal items. I’ve had an inves­ti­ga­tor neg­li­gently list false infor­ma­tion on my secu­rity back­ground check. I’ve had big issues with the Navy’s han­dling of spe­cial needs chil­dren. I’ve dis­cov­ered yeomen throw­ing away sub­mit­ted awards for my Sailors (if you ever won­dered how a Medal of Honor could get “lost,” now you know). And in almost all cases, despite fil­ing com­plaints, doc­u­ment­ing the issues and sav­ing emails, noth­ing hap­pens. Nobody gets fired. Nobody gets dis­ci­plined, espe­cially DoD civil­ians. I’ve had some great advo­cates get me com­pen­sa­tion in some cases, but the process rarely gets fixed, mean­ing the Sailors after me prob­a­bly got screwed too. Worse, I’m often told that my claims are base­less and I should watch what I say.

Too many peo­ple think the mil­i­tary is some sort of won­der­ful orga­ni­za­tion that can get stuff done. Maybe that’s why peo­ple are call­ing (fool­ishly) for a mil­i­tary coup. News flash: there is a lot of inef­fi­ciency that you don’t see and don’t want. All too often, uncar­ing peo­ple are allowed to make life mis­er­able for the young men and women in uni­form, with no repercussion.

Plenty of peo­ple freaked out when Con­gress approved rules that could zero-​out a civil ser­vants pay. Are you sur­prised though? There is plenty of frus­tra­tion when orga­ni­za­tions like the VA still aren’t cleaned up. And I have to give Con­gress credit, because when nobody would fix a sit­u­a­tion where almost 200 Air Medals for my Sailors “dis­ap­peared” (thrown in the trash), a let­ter to my Con­gress­woman actu­ally got results.

For those of us who have been con­stantly screwed by the sys­tem, we’re a lot more hope­ful that this might bring about real change. Maybe as we’re improv­ing the mil­i­tary we can truly make our bureau­cracy great again.


This post does not rep­re­sent the views of the Depart­ment of Defense, Depart­ment of the Navy, or any other fed­eral agency. It only rep­re­sents the views of the author. But that should have been obvi­ous from the start.

Have you donated to DaT­e­chGuy yet? You should! Instead of buy­ing that latte from Star­bucks, drop him 5 dol­lars. I guar­an­tee he’ll put it to bet­ter use.

You can check out the author’s blog here.

All was well the day of my daughter’s surgery.  Despite waiting an additional two hours because of a higher priority case, the surgeon came out around 4 pm to tell me everything was finished and looked great.  He said someone would arrive in about 15 minutes to take me to my daughter’s recovery room.

Unfortunately, that person never came.  I sat in Yale’s Pediatric Surgery waiting room for another hour, and when the lights went dark, I realized I had been forgotten.  An hour after that, after speaking with various Yale officials and frantically scouring the hospital, I finally found my daughter on the 7th floor in recovery.  Right about that time, I received a Yale text message asking me for my opinion of today’s service.

After dashing off my response, I figured that was it.  Yale is a massive hospital, just the sort of place where little people like myself get ignored.  To my surprise, two days later a young man called me and wanted details.  We spent almost an hour going over what was great and finding where the breakdowns were.  By the time we were done, he told me the two very specifics things that Yale would work on to make sure that breakdown never happened again.  A few months later, when my daughter returned for surgery, I observed first-hand a smoother post-surgery process.

Thinking about it as I’m typing still makes me smile.  Yale took my feedback and acted on it, making their process better.  They took a negative interaction and ultimately made it a positive.  They didn’t pay me compensation, apologize profusely, or give me candy to make the problem go away.  Instead, they acted on the problem, solved it, and continued to provide great medical care.

I’m also part of the military’s medical system, and the difference is stark.  When a doctor at Eisenhower Army Medical Center messed up my wife’s surgery, instead of working to fix the problem, he told her to essentially shut up.  I was at work and got a sobbing phone call, which I acted on.  Our command’s medical team met her at the hospital to address the issue.  She filed an ICE complaint, and our patient advocate met with the hospital to try and resolve the issue.

And in the end, none of it mattered.  The doctor was never disciplined.  The hospital never corrected anything, nor allowed her to go out in town to see a civilian doctor.  Despite all the documentation, nothing was ever done.

This isn’t a one-off.  I’ve had movers break and steal items.  I’ve had an investigator negligently list false information on my security background check.  I’ve had big issues with the Navy’s handling of special needs children.  I’ve discovered yeomen throwing away submitted awards for my Sailors (if you ever wondered how a Medal of Honor could get “lost,” now you know).  And in almost all cases, despite filing complaints, documenting the issues and saving emails, nothing happens.  Nobody gets fired.  Nobody gets disciplined, especially DoD civilians.  I’ve had some great advocates get me compensation in some cases, but the process rarely gets fixed, meaning the Sailors after me probably got screwed too.  Worse, I’m often told that my claims are baseless and I should watch what I say.

Too many people think the military is some sort of wonderful organization that can get stuff done.  Maybe that’s why people are calling (foolishly) for a military coup.  News flash: there is a lot of inefficiency that you don’t see and don’t want.  All too often, uncaring people are allowed to make life miserable for the young men and women in uniform, with no repercussion.

Plenty of people freaked out when Congress approved rules that could zero-out a civil servants pay.  Are you surprised though?  There is plenty of frustration when organizations like the VA still aren’t cleaned up.  And I have to give Congress credit, because when nobody would fix a situation where almost 200 Air Medals for my Sailors “disappeared” (thrown in the trash), a letter to my Congresswoman actually got results.

For those of us who have been constantly screwed by the system, we’re a lot more hopeful that this might bring about real change.  Maybe as we’re improving the military we can truly make our bureaucracy great again.


This post does not represent the views of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other federal agency.  It only represents the views of the author.  But that should have been obvious from the start. 

Have you donated to DaTechGuy yet? You should!  Instead of buying that latte from Starbucks, drop him 5 dollars.  I guarantee he’ll put it to better use.

You can check out the author’s blog here.