Lawmakers call for investigation at Marion VA

WASHINGTON, D.C. (KFVS) - Representative Mike Bost (R-IL) and Jack Bergman (R-MI), the House Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chairman, are asking the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary to investigate allegations of mismanagement at the Marion VA Medical Center.

According to a letter sent to Secretary David Shulkin on July 28, the mismanagement at the VA Medical center may have compromised quality of care and patient safety.

"According to a memorandum dated May 31, 2017, written by the VA National Center for Patient Safety (NCPS) program manager, the Marion VAMC has experienced significant declines in patient safety culture metrics and employee morale since these areas were last assessed in 2014. Specifically, the memo describes a 2015 visit by NCPS to investigate employee complaints pertaining to worsening organizational and patient safety culture at the facility. Employees also alleged that senior leadership retaliated against them for reporting such problems," the members wrote. "VA internal documents demonstrate a strong need for the Central Office to investigate and take action to address the safety concerns."

In the letter, the members wrote that an employee filed a complaint claiming that 15 veterans have "died during or shortly after discharge from the CLC.

Bob Hennessey, a veteran, started going to Marion VA in November for his hearing aids. "I can hear my grandkids again (chuckles) and my wife, she is really happy not having to repeat everything," he explains his experiences, "I can't say anything bad about them, I really can't. Maybe that sounds kind of put on but it's not. It's been a good experience, it really has."

Another veteran, Roger Tolbert, who has been going to the V-A for 42 years has had a similar experience. "They've been treating me fine. I haven't has a problem with none of my doctors and service that they perform for you is just great."

While these gentleman may have had a pleasant experiences with the VA, this is not the case for everyone. A confirmed employee with the Veterans Affairs, who wants to remain anonymous, says there is "active discrimination with supervisors", "threats" and even bullying.

This matches the comments in the National Center for Patient Safety (NCPS) memo like: "leadership is a gang or mafia type system", "distrust between some Marion employees and management", or even "bullied openly in a meeting with the Quad".

VA Office of Public Affairs sent a statement:

"VA is reviewing health care and personnel concerns at the Marion VA Medical Center raised by Representatives Bost and Bergman from Veterans and we will address any deficiencies identified by the review."

Bergman and Bost asked that a response be filed by September 1, 2017.

In an interview on Wednesday, Aug. 2, Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) said he and Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) would be meeting with leaders of the Veterans Administration in Washington. He said he wants to make sure their concerns about management are heard and that whistleblowers will be protected.

"I can tell you that at a recent town meeting in Carbondale, several people who work at the Marion VA asked to meet with me privately afterwards and talked about their concerns," Senator Durbin said. "The concerns really state with patient safety. That is the highest priority and continues to be. There's worry that some corners are being cut, and favoritism in management that really isn't creating the best environment for safe care of our veterans. We want to make sure that we look into this seriously."

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