VA nurses protest at Corryville VA hospital – Local 12 WKRC-TV Cincinnati – Top Stories

CORRYVILLE, Ohio (Jeff Hirsh) — Staff and patients at the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Corryville demonstrated Friday, Jan. 30.

They protested what they said were poor staffing conditions and patient care. The nurses union and some patients marched outside the hospital. The protest comes on the heels of the controversy involving the VA in 2014.

Nurses said there were not enough nurses to properly care for patients. They were forced to do extra work. That put a strain on them and the care of their patients. The equipment was outmoded. They claimed patient care was suffering.

The nurses have a lot of empathy for their patients, some of them are veterans themselves.

The VA released a statement that said, “There is no higher priority for the Cincinnati VAMC than ensuring that Veterans access the high quality care they have earned. Cincinnati VAMC respects the union and shares their commitment to federal workers. We have a well-documented collaborative and proactive partnership with labor.

via VA nurses protest at Corryville VA hospital – Local 12 WKRC-TV Cincinnati – Top Stories.

VA admits to ‘unauthorized’ waiting list at Denver hospital

DENVER – Denver VA Hospital officials reversed course Thursday, admitting their employees broke the rules when they used an improper wait list in the sleep lab in 2012. This comes just one day after the VA made a blanket denial of the existence of secret waiting lists in Denver.

9Wants to Know spent months looking into a whistleblower’s allegations regarding the sleep lab, which performs diagnostic testing for disorders – including potentially deadly sleep apnea.

“I think that putting my neck out for fellow veterans in this instance is the right thing to do,” said whistleblower Tommy Belinski.

Belinski worked for the VA from 2011 to 2014. For part of the time, his boss was the hospital’s chief administrator.

“The health administration cannot make data-driven decisions that are needed to better service veterans without the proper documentation, without the proper data,” Belinski said.

Belinski tells 9Wants to Know he was given a copy of a manual list containing 508 unscheduled sleep clinic patients, and he says he was instructed to transfer the names onto the VA’s official Electronic Wait List (EWL) in May 2012. Keeping a manual wait list would have been a violation of VA policy at that time, according to records 9Wants To Know obtained.

“My bosses were concerned about that,” Belinski said. “They constantly sent out things saying, ‘Hey, make sure you don’t have any paper wait lists,’ and then there were ones that were found,” he said.

via VA admits to ‘unauthorized’ waiting list at Denver hospital.

You Might Be Surprised To See How The Las Vegas Veterans Hospital Spent Its $1 Billion

As reported in an editorial piece from the Las Vegas Review Journal (LVRJ):

“According to members of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs’ Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, major VA medical facility construction projects typically run an average of 35 months late and $360 million over budget — each! The delays and overspending have led to a congressional battle regarding mismanagement of VA construction projects across the country.”

The editorial piece in the LVRJ continues:

“A sparkling new VA hospital opened in North Las Vegas in August 2012 at a cost of about $1 billion to taxpayers — despite the fact that it had no land costs because it was built on federal acreage. It took six years to finish, with construction costs soaring far, far beyond a $286 million initial estimate.”

Even with the extra money spent, the VA hospital was not able to handle the patient flow in its emergency room. The solution was to expand it 18 months after the initial opening and at a cost of an additional $16 million.

After the expansion, there were still long wait times at the emergency room – some patients waited upwards of six hours to be seen.

via You Might Be Surprised To See How The Las Vegas Veterans Hospital Spent Its $1 Billion.

Man found dead at veterans hospital – Metro – The Boston Globe

VA New England Health system find dead veteran at the Brockton VA medical campus!

VA New England Health system find dead veteran at the Brockton VA medical campus!

The body of a man was found on the Brockton campus of the VA Boston Healthcare System on Sunday morning, officials said. The man, whose name was not released pending notification of family, was found at 9:10 a.m. inside a structure that is at the facility to shelter people from inclement weather, according to Pallas Wahl, a spokeswoman for the Department of Veterans Affairs. The man’s death is not believed to be suspicious, Wahl said, but state and local agencies are investigating. “The VA’s office is really upset that this has happened,” said Wahl. No further information was available Sunday afternoon.

brockton dead veteran

via Man found dead at veterans hospital – Metro – The Boston Globe.

Tony Kurtz: Hold leaders accountable for VA failures

Tony Kurtz calls for Veterans Affairs leaders to be held accountable for medical malpractice that veterans receive from the va

No airman, Marine, sailor or soldier has ever sent themselves into harm’s way on behalf of the United States. That decision is made by federally elected men and women, on behalf of their constituents. In my humble opinion, it’s the most important decision an elected official will ever make.

With the decision to send our American fighting force off to war comes the obligation to care for those very same men and women once they return. For the past 10 months, the Veteran Administration has had scandal after scandal, and unfortunately, the VA facility in Tomah is no exception.

We have recently learned about a few high-level bureaucrats at the Tomah VA who are suspected of excessively abusing their power — instead of treating veterans, they took the easy way out and drugged them.

The brave men and women who served this country are not being served by the very same men and women who ordered them into harm’s way.

In September 2011, Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, received an anonymous complaint addressing the very claims made by the whistle-blowers in this case. Kind forwarded the complaint to the VA Inspector General Hotline that same month. According to reports, it takes about two years to conduct an internal VA investigation, so by the fall of 2013, this report should have been made available to Kind and other elected officials. One wonders why Kind failed to ask for the report by the Office of the Inspector General more than a year ago?

On May 28, Kind said he was “mad as hell” after learning about problems at VA facilities across the nation. He said he wanted to form a blue ribbon commission to get to the bottom of the delays in providing care.

Kind said the Tomah VA only had minor issues with staff shortages. There was no mention publicly about the complaint his office received in August 2011. If, in fact, Kind was “mad as hell,” why didn’t he ask for the report about the OIG investigation into the Tomah VA?

As a veteran, all we really want is to be treated with respect and receive quality care. The vast majority of VA employees are wonderful caregivers who go the extra mile to take care of veterans.

For the ones who fail in this task, it’s quite simple — they need to be held accountable for their actions. And the public, along with our veterans, need to know they have been held accountable.

I also question why it takes two to three years to conduct an internal investigation? I have conducted Army-level investigations, and they typically take just four to six weeks, possibly 12 weeks for more complex problems. Just think about the time wasted and the lives that lost because of such delays. The OIG must streamline its investigation process and allow outside organizations to conduct these investigations in a timely manner.

In addition, prescriptions of opiate and other additive medications should have to be approved by two caregivers.

The Veterans Administration is a huge government bureaucracy that has the task of taking care of veterans, and it must be held accountable. It will take time and proactive leadership from our elected officials to hold the VA’s leadership accountable to make positive changes to serve our veterans.

via Tony Kurtz: Hold leaders accountable for VA failures.

VA hospital hasn’t met with dead veteran’s family | www.kirotv.com

Veteran recalls nearly dying after receiving 17 pints of blood during surgery at the VA Puget Sound more Vterans Affairs medical malpractice at VAmalpractice.infoU.S. Marine, but died in 2010 after routine surgery at the veterans’ hospital in Seattle. Even though his now-grown children have already received an $800,000 settlement, they’re still fighting Veterans Affairs years later.

Carrie Vincler Richards and her two siblings sued the VA in 2011, a year after their father died of preventable gastric bleeding at the hospital on Beacon Hill.

“It was really awful to see him that way, and it was absolutely apparent from the moment we walked in the door that something was very wrong,” she said of the day her father died, April 10, 2010.

She said her 63-year old dad was curled up in the fetal position, complaining of abdominal pain.

“I specifically asked his nurse whether he could be bleeding internally,” Richards told KIRO 7.  “And she told me ‘no.’”

But Vincler did die of an untreated gastric bleed and cardiac arrest.  Without admitting wrongdoing, the VA settled the Vincler family’s lawsuit for $800,000.

via VA hospital hasn’t met with dead veteran’s family | www.kirotv.com.

The Stories of Four VA Whistleblowers Who Exposed Lapsed Patient Care – Management – GovExec.com

of Special Counsel on Tuesday distributed four new profiles of Veterans Affairs Department employees who experienced retaliation for reporting botched medical care.

The detailed workplace stories of Mark Tello, Richard Hill, Rachael Hogan and Coleen Elmers are among more than 25 cases for which the governmentwide ombudsman’s office has obtained corrective actions since last spring’s scandal over falsified scheduling records at some VA hospitals that placed veterans at risk.

“OSC will continue to work with the VA to obtain relief for VA whistleblowers with meritorious reprisal claims,” Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner said in a statement. “We appreciate the VA leadership’s cooperation with OSC in assisting many VA whistleblowers.”

The newly detailed cases were:

Mark Tello, a nursing assistant with the VA Medical Center in Saginaw, Mich., who in August 2013 told his supervisor that management was not properly staffing the VAMC and that this could result in serious patient care lapses. The VAMC then issued a proposed removal, which was later reduced to a five-day suspension that Tello served in January 2014. The VA again proposed his removal in June 2014. OSC facilitated a settlement where the VA agreed, among other things, to place Tello in a new position at VA under different management, to rescind his suspension, and to award him appropriate back pay.

Richard Hill, a primary care physician at the Fort Detrick Community Based Outpatient Clinic in Frederick, Md. In March 2014, he made disclosures to VA officials, the VA Office of Inspector General, and others regarding an improper diversion of funds that resulted in harm to patients. Specifically, Dr. Hill expressed serious concerns about the lack of clerical staff assigned to his primary care unit, which he believes led to significant errors in patient care and scheduling problems. In early May 2014, the VA issued Hill a reprimand. He retired in July 2014. As part of the settlement agreement between Dr. Hill and the VA, the department has agreed to, among other provisions, expunge Dr. Hill’s record of any negative personnel actions.

Rachael Hogan, a registered nurse with the VAMC in Syracuse, N.Y., disclosed to a superior a patient’s rape accusation against a VA employee. When the superior delayed reporting the accusations to the police, Hogan warned the superior about the risks of not reporting the accusations in a timely manner. Later, she complained that a nurse fell asleep twice while assigned to watch a suicidal patient and that another superior engaged in sexual harassment. In April 2014, those two superiors informed Hogan that they were considering seeking a review board to have her terminated because of her “lack of collegiality” and that she was not a good fit for the unit. After this meeting, Hogan disclosed a number of allegations to her compliance officer involving the two superiors. In May, the superiors informed Hogan that the review board would go forward and gave her an unsatisfactory proficiency report. VA agreed to stay the review board for the duration of the investigation. The department agreed to place Hogan in a new position at the Syracuse VAMC under different supervision and a revise her performance rating. The Syracuse VAMC will also pay for an OSC representative to conduct whistleblower protection training for managers at the facility, including the two referenced in Hogan’s case.

Coleen Elmers, a nurse manager at the VAMC in Spokane, Wash., who in July 2014 filed a complaint with the VA Office of Inspector General about a fraudulently altered performance evaluation of one of her subordinates, which Elmers previously refused to change.  In October 2014, the supervisor rated Elmers’ performance as unsatisfactory, charging her with a lack of candor, failure to follow instructions, and inappropriate behavior for a management official. The supervisor proposed Elmers’ termination. In December, the Merit Systems Protection Board granted OSC’s request to stay the termination while OSC investigates.

via The Stories of Four VA Whistleblowers Who Exposed Lapsed Patient Care – Management – GovExec.com.

Saginaw VA Medical Center settles whistleblower complaint with employee | MLive.com

SAGINAW, MI — The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has settled a whistleblower complaint involving a nursing assistant at the Aleda E. Lutz VA Medical Center in Saginaw.

Mark Tello was suspended from his job as a nursing assistant after telling his supervisor about staffing shortages at the medical center, according to a press release from the U.S. Office of Special Counsel.

“In August 2013, he told his supervisor that management was not properly staffing the VAMC and that this could result in serious patient care lapses,” the press release stated. “The VAMC then issued a proposed removal, which was later reduced to a 5-day suspension that Tello served in January 2014.”

Tello was again proposed for removal from his position in June 2014, according to the Office of Special Counsel’s press release.

Carrie Seward, the medical center’s public affairs officer, said privacy issues and employee rights prevented her from answering any questions about Tello and the settlement.

via Saginaw VA Medical Center settles whistleblower complaint with employee | MLive.com.

Phoenix VA Hospital scandal: VA settles more retaliation complaints by whistleblowers – ABC15 Arizona

The Veterans Affairs Department said Tuesday it is offering relief to more than two dozen employees who faced retaliation after filing whistleblower complaints about wrongdoing at VA hospitals and clinics nationwide.

The actions follow settlements reached last year with three employees who reported widespread problems at the Phoenix VA hospital, including chronic delays for veterans seeking care and falsified waiting lists covering up the delays. The resulting uproar forced the ouster of former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and led to a new law overhauling the agency and making it easier to fire senior officials.

The latest actions offer relief to about 25 VA employees, including a doctor who was reprimanded and retired after reporting significant errors at a Maryland clinic, and a nurse manager in Washington state who was fired after refusing to alter a performance evaluation for a subordinate. The doctor will have a negative appraisal removed and the nurse manager will keep her job while an investigation continues.

Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner applauded the VA for taking steps to protect employees who file whistleblower complaints. Lerner’s office, which is independent from any government agency, is investigating more than 120 complaints of retaliation at the VA following employee allegations about improper patient scheduling, understaffing and other problems at the VA’s 970 hospitals and clinics nationwide.

VA Secretary Robert McDonald, who took over the agency last summer, has vowed to root out retaliation as the agency seeks to change a culture that he and other officials acknowledge has allowed and even encouraged reprisals against those who file complaints.

“Secretary McDonald has taken whistleblowing within the VA seriously,” Lerner said in a statement Tuesday. “He recognizes that an essential step toward improving veterans’ care is to listen to employee concerns and protect them from retaliation.”

Deputy VA Secretary Sloan Gibson said the department is committed to holding accountable those who retaliate against whistleblowers. Employees who blow the whistle on higher-ups because they have identified a legitimate problem “should not be punished” but instead should be protected, Gibson said, citing a similar comment last year by President Barack Obama.

“Personally, I would add that you should be praised,” Gibson said.

Among those who settled complaints in recent weeks were Dr. Richard Hill, a primary care physician at Fort Detrick Army Base in Frederick, Maryland, and Coleen Elmers, a nurse manager at the VA hospital in Spokane, Washington.

Hill complained about a lack of clerical staff at his primary care unit, which he said led to significant errors in patient care and scheduling problems. Instead of fixing the problem, VA reprimanded Hill last May. He retired two months later. As part of the settlement, the VA agreed to expunge Hill’s record of any negative personnel actions.

Elmers filed a complaint last year with the VA’s Office of Inspector General about a fraudulently altered performance evaluation of one of her subordinates, which Elmers had refused to change. A supervisor later moved to fire Elmers for “lack of candor” and failure to follow instructions.

The VA’s Merit Systems Protection Board granted the special counsel’s request to put off the firing until the counsel’s office completes an investigation.

The VA also agreed to reverse a decision to fire Mark Tello, a nursing assistant at a VA hospital in Saginaw, Michigan, who reported improper staffing that he said could result in serious patient care lapses. The VA agreed to place Tello in a new job and award him undisclosed back pay.

The VA also agreed to find a new job for Rachael Hogan, a registered nurse at a VA hospital in Syracuse, New York, who disclosed to a superior a patient’s rape accusation against a VA employee. When the official delayed reporting the accusations to police, Hogan warned the manager about the risks of failing to file a timely report.

VA managers had threatened to fire Hogan. Under the settlement, the VA agreed to place her in a new job under a different supervisor. The Syracuse facility also will pay for whistleblower-protection training for managers at the site.

via Phoenix VA Hospital scandal: VA settles more retaliation complaints by whistleblowers – ABC15 Arizona.

Veterans Affairs whistleblower speaks out about Fort Detrick clinic – The Frederick News-Post : Fort Detrick

A doctor who raised concerns about insufficient staffing at Fort Detrick’s Veterans Affairs clinic says the agency responded with threats.

Dr. Richard Hill, a Frederick resident, said he quit his position as a primary care physician at the community-based outpatient clinic at Fort Detrick in July. The Office of Special Counsel, which he had contacted for help with the allegations, said Tuesday that it had negotiated “over 25 corrective actions” for Hill and other VA whistleblowers.

Hill started in the U.S. Public Health Service, then joined the Department of Veterans Affairs in St. Cloud, Minnesota. He came to Fort Detrick shortly after its VA clinic opened in 2011.

As part of the clinic’s team-based approach to patient care, each physician is assigned one registered nurse, one licensed practical nurse and one patient services assistant. When Hill started, the patient services assistant had left the clinic and was not replaced.

“A lot of things that needed to get done couldn’t get done,” Hill said.

According to Veterans Affairs spokesman Michael McAleer, vacancies at the clinic “were identified and recruitment is in progress.” When the assistant left the clinic, a health technician already assigned to the laboratory volunteered to support Hill’s team. The clinic is still looking to hire another technician and has reposted the job listing.

But Hill believes the lack of clerical staff, along with the high workload, led to errors in patient care and scheduling problems. He reported this in March 2014 to the VA Office of the Inspector General. That opened the door for the VA to retaliate against him, Hill said.

Later that month, a nurse on Hill’s team was tasked to remove a patient’s sutures, but the clinic did not have the required supplies. The nurse, a combat veteran, improvised by using a technique he learned for removing sutures in the field.

Hill said the nurse was subsequently threatened with the loss of his job and a report to the state’s nursing board.

“I and others at the clinic were troubled by this and began to put together a letter to the acting Medical Center director pointing out how the public revelation of this would damage the VA’s reputation and recommended that the charges be dropped,” Hill said in an email.

In the letter, Hill said the complaint against the nurse was not a “serious attempt” at managing a performance issue.

“It is not merely that the complaint is unfair, but that the complaint is one the press could have a field day with,” the letter states.

He asks in the letter that the acting director restore staff’s faith in their leadership by resolving the matter quickly, “before any more trust and confidence is eroded.”

via Veterans Affairs whistleblower speaks out about Fort Detrick clinic – The Frederick News-Post : Fort Detrick.