SPOKANE, Wash. - President Obama has ordered a comprehensive investigation of Veterans Affairs hospitals, but despite the president's forceful words to take action, the scandal is not going away as more current and former VA employees come forward with concerns.
Some of the biggest concerns that current and former employees of the VA are saying is there is a disconnect with management, a division and lack of communication that creates discontent in the system and ultimately effects services to veterans.
When the scandal at the VA hospital in Phoenix broke, eyes turned back to the Spokane VA Medical Center, where Phoenix VA hospital administrator Sharon Helman used to work as the hospital director from March 2008 to January 2010.
"We thought she was sharp alright, she was a good politician but she was not a good director," former VA employee Carroll McInroe said.
McInroe worked for the VA at that time and says immediately things started to fall apart.
"After she arrived 16 professionals walked out the door and a lot of those were our top MDs. Our top MDs pretty much left," said McInroe.
McInroe, who has worked in several VA medical centers around the country, says bonus driven quotas to close veteran disability cases pushed VA management to unfairly send claims to appeals.
"You can deny a case you don't have to read 20 pages. Deny. Deny. So they'll deny any cases they need to deny to reach that quota," McInroe said.
Overall McInroe said VA employees truly want to help veterans but promotions aren't based on performance.
"You can be the best doc, you can be the best social worker there, that doesn't make two cents difference. You have to be the best ass-kisser there," McInroe said.
Under orders from Secretary Shinseki, the Spokane VA Medical Center underwent an audit specifically focused on patient scheduling practices. Registered nurse Link Miles, local president of the National Federation of Federal Employees, hopes employees are given a chance to voice their concerns.
"Again, the concern is whether we are going to get the right answers from this audit and if the right questions are being asked," said Miles.
Miles said administrators at the Spokane VA haven't given them answers about perceived shortages.
"Some of the delays, some of the shortages in the clinics, some of the employees to carry out the work," Miles said.
Obama has posted White House Deputy Chief of Staff Rob Nabors to the VA to investigate allegations that VA hospitals delayed treatment to veterans and lied about wait times. He's also said he doesn't plan to fire VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. Also, this week a bill in the House is being drafted that would give the head of the VA more power to fire managers.
Meanwhile the report from the audit of the Spokane VA Medical Center should be finished in the next week.
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