This is a guest article. The author is anonymous because of the sensitive nature of some of the information, their position, and the distinct possibility of retribution.
Deferring the Appointment of the Director of the Pittsburgh Veterans Administration Hospital
The appointment (on April 29, 2007) of the new Director of the Pittsburgh VAMC should be deferred until investigations into EEOC violations and other Personal Prohibitive Practice violations on the part of this individual are fully investigated.
There are ongoing investigations at this time at the Lebanon Veterans Administration Medical Center by the Office of Special Counsel concerning retaliation and reprisals against employees who have spoken out against her. The accusations involve matters of waste, fraud, abuse of power, and racial, age and gender discrimination.
The current scandals involving the Department of Justice and the debacle at Walter Reed Army Hospital, which also revealed the fiascos at many VA facilities make it imperative that persons unfit to do the nation's business should not be permitted to take positions of high office and be promoted, much less be allowed to serve our Veterans. Staff who have worked at the Lebanon VA Medical Center refer to this woman as the "Absent Director." She has seldom been on the job while posted at Lebanon.
When she has been there she has exhibited poor leadership and management skills, wasting money and resources. She has also retaliated against employees and demotes or fires anyone who speaks up. A complete department was dissolved as a vendetta against the head of that service, a competent woman. The safety officer (low on the totem pole), a veteran of 28 years on the job, was scapegoated and fired for this person's own failings when the Lebanon VAMC was cited for safety violations. When it's accreditation was restricted by JCAHO (a serious and damning matter for any hospital administration) she penalized the minor employee instead of the Chief of Quality Management who should have been held accountable for the failure. That person, though was one of her cronies.
A project to build a Women's Health Clinic at a cost of $1.5 million resulted in services to 1500-3000 male veterans being interrupted and they were forced to go to other medical providers and clinics. Her hubris resulted in service to only 300-500 women while displacing so many men. An entire floor of the VA was used for such little purpose and at the cost of medical care to so many male veterans. Meanwhile these women were forced to abandon their previous medical providers and clinic. Many had to travel from Camp Hill, Lancaster, York and Reading to go to Lebanon for their care without their consent.
She did these actions to massage the numbers of unique users and to satiate and humor her unappeasable abuse of power.
Another example of waste and mismanagement was the purchase of scanners and retinal cameras at a cost of millions of dollars. These were left sitting in warehouses and clinics because there was no planning to house them or staff trained to operate them.
The VA remained in egregious violation of the HIPAA regulations for over two years at one of it's clinics. This Director was more concerned about artwork than patient's privacy rights at a meeting called to address the issue. One attendee commented "Is this Director always so clueless?" Patient's privacy rights have been routinely violated.
Primary care doctors were denied pay increases while her cronies who had little direct action with patients were given very generous increases. Primary care doctors are where the rubber meets the road in medicine. A senior physician was placed on administrative leave for nearly 200 days at taxpayer expense then fired because the doctor refused to drop a case against the Director for waste, fraud, abuse of power, and EEOC violations. The case ended with a cash settlement and the doctor's resignation.
This pattern of hubris, retaliation, and reprisals is rampant and goes unchecked throughout the Veterans Administration system simply because the regulations governing the VA are written as to embolden and encourage administrators to run roughshod over any employee who dares to question their conduct, motives, or lack of integrity. This is the people's business and that's what should be paramount. Instead it is almost impossible to hold them accountable or liable. When they are it is the taxpayer who bears the cost of the settlements.
VA employees who have had similar experiences and see or witness similar irregularities, injustices or potentially criminal violations should contact their Member of Congress and Senators to have the VA regulations reviewed. There needs to be a system in place by which these administrators are held responsible both morally, ethically, and fiscally for the damage they do to the institution and lives of hard working employees who serve our heroic veterans day in and day out.
Considering the recent exposure of the VA medical care establishment the public no longer has confidence in any government organization or the belief that our honored veterans are getting proper care and treatment. It is sad that investigating organizations have to have their feet held to the fire or be prodded out of their inertia and forced to act only when the media get involved.
You may report these matters to OIG on their hotline VAOIGHOTLINE@forum.va.gov or call 1-800-488-8244. The OIG is prohibited from disclosing your identity if you wish to keep it anonymous. Their mailing address is:
Office of the Inspector General (53E)
P.O. Box 50410
Washington, D.C. 20091-0410