VA Holds Abusive VA Employee Accountable
Two VA employees tied to an incident of patient abuse at Tomah VA were finally held accountable, according to Public Affairs Officer Matthew Gowan.
Last week, I reported on a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) release related an incident of alleged patient abuse at Tomah VA. That abuse was confirmed last Thanksgiving but the agency was slow to release the records and video of the incident.
SEE IT: Video Of Patient Abuse At Tomah VA
The VA employee who assaulted the veteran was removed from service and forced to resign. The other VA employee who witnessed the abuse but failed to report it. Luckily, the whole incident was captured on video.
Gowan reported that the employee who committed the abuse “tendered resignation” while the agency “took steps to separate the employee from federal service.”
The other employee was reportedly suspended for two business weeks (10 days) without pay. This may well be a first and great example of a VA employee being penalized for not becoming a whistleblower.
If true, this would be a good step in a great new direction for the agency, especially at Tomah VA.
PROs AND CONs OF VA EMPLOYEE RESIGNATION
I can deal with the fact that the employee was allowed to resign during terminations proceedings because it saves VA money to avoid the appeals process should the union fight the termination action. Why throw good money after bad?
The guy is forced out of VA and not able to collect unemployment. He will also need to explain why he quit the job without referrals from VA. While a termination would have been better, this is a result I can deal with.
What I am disappointed with is the apparent lack of criminal charges that were brought against the individual. He did assault a vulnerable adult and was caught on video. Why have Tomah, Wisconsin sheriffs not pursued the issue? Or, perhaps they have and we do not know about it?
VA EMPLOYEE RESIGNED DURING TERMINATION PROCEEDINGS
Good afternoon Ben,
I appreciate the opportunity to provide some additional information.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) makes every effort to provide a safe environment for Veterans, staff and visitors at each of its facilities. VA has a no-tolerance policy for anyone who abuses the Veterans who entrust us with their care. Likewise, we must ensure a safe environment for staff, family members, and visitors.
In this instance, once officials at the facility became aware of this issue, they removed the employee from patient care and took steps to separate the employee from federal service. In the course of that action, the employee tendered resignation and it was accepted. Management also suspended, for 10 days without pay, a second VA employee who witnessed the incident and did not promptly report it.
It is important to note in the course of providing medical services, tensions may become high and disruptive behaviors or behaviors considered threatening do occur. In those instances, VA staff is trained to quickly manage these occurrences with the fewest negative effects possible. In addition, the VA Police Service is trained to de-escalate potentially violent events and to investigate such incidents. VA’s goal is to ensure that its facilities are safe and comfortable places to both deliver and receive care. For more Information about violence prevention in VA health care facilities, visit www.publichealth.va.gov/employeehealth/threat_management/index.asp.
Please feel free to contact me with any additional comments or questions.
The video of the town hall last night is up on westernslopenow dot com. I don’t know how long it is since I haven’t watched it yet.
There is also an article in the local newspaper at gjsentinel dot com.
Dear Mr. Krause:
I do not think that such an employee should be protected from any type of punishment and let he /she suffer the punishment meted out to any person that is subjected to any type of deliberate brutality, if someone kicks a dog and is caught he/she will serve jail time.
If they will not treat a sick person more humanly then that person does not belong working in a place like such a hospital let them do the time to its fullest extent of the law.
No such a person should not be spared from retribution to the extent of the law.
Yours for GOD and country
Frank P. Calderon
I forgot to mention a couple of veteran speakers. One was a young guy who clearly was in pain and said he had PTSD who had his pain meds cut off, and could not get spinal care that the VA had provided in the past.
The other speaker was rather eye-opening. She is a current local American Legion officer, and was a VA employee up until April 13th when she was fired…5 days short of completing her probationary period. She made clear she was being fired for taking care of veterans, and said her only recourse was to be referred to VA officials who had a hand in her firing, including falsifying paperwork. It sounded like they were forcing her to take leave without pay to care for her veteran father rather than family friendly leave. Whether that led to her firing wasn’t clear. The National Legion official said they wanted to meet with her about that, particularly when she said her only recourse now is to go through the MPSB. After the Legion said they wanted to meet with her, she said she wanted the director in the meeting because she felt he was unaware of what his employees were doing in firing her.
I REALLY wish she was given more time to provide more detail. It sounded like she worked in Voc Rehab, and she stated she thought she was fired for taking care of veterans.
All good reporting. Did they allow cameras, video/audio recording or did you get any good stuff perhaps for Benjamin? 🙂
TV was there throughout the event and other media was there with cameras. If you wanted to use a phone camera you could, but I didn’t record any video since I wouldn’t have been able to pay attention as much to those speaking. I really wanted to see how many similar problems were reported, or whether any unique problems were reported.
Anything about the DBC
Nothing at all was mentioned by any veteran about DBCs.
Given how many thought the VA should be saved, I am not surprised.
An update to the town hall tonight…in my opinion it was as I suspected, a forum provided to try save the VA from being shut down, with lots of excuses provided and issues completely ignored, but there were also several issues noted where there will be some serious follow-up tomorrow and the days following.
Those in attendance were at least 3 National level American Legion people, along with several other Legion officers from around the area. The one who lead the meeting said the “System worth Saving” program has been a Legion program for 13 years.
I guess he didn’t see the irony of having a program running for 13 years to save the VA.
There were 3 representatives from congressional offices. Senator Gardner’s office, Representative Tipton and Senator Bennett’s office all had people there. The local newspaper was there, along with KREX channel 5 TV because I emailed her and did an interview with her today. Their video may show up at westernslopenow dot com at some point since it aired tonight. I was happy to see she and other media stayed for the entire town hall. They said they will be following up with the director tomorrow.
It was shocking how many VA employees showed up. The two most prominent were the director and his PR/Patient Advocate guy, but there were several others that I or other veterans recognized, or the director mentioned in comments. I would guess there were at least 6 and maybe as many as 8 additional VA employees there who did not make it known they were VA employees. It was interesting to see one of the patient advocates walk in with his hat pulled down low as if he didn’t want to be recognized. He stood in the back with other VA employees throughout the event.
Along with those were about 75-100 rather upset veterans, male and female.
Throughout the event, every veteran who wanted to speak was given about 5 minutes to speak. It was interesting to see the Legion people taking notes to follow up with the VA, and several instances in which the one National official stopped a veteran speaking and asked whether the director or other VA employees could fix a situation.
One was a young veteran (likely Iraq or Afghanistan) who had a prosthetic leg who talked about some kind of adaptive housing loan or something from the VA…it was hard to hear him. For whatever reason, it sounded like the VA screwed it up, so the builder was filing a lien against his house tomorrow.
EVERY SINGLE VETERAN said they had problems with Choice in getting appointments or timely care with the exception of one. He thought getting his two appointments within 90 days or within 6 months was good. He didn’t stop to think about the veterans who had serious need of getting appointments faster than 90 days.
Many veterans wondered why the fee for service program was stopped in favor of Choice. Nobody mentioned the possibility of money flowing to Congressional cronies.
What was frustrating was the number of veterans who believed they had gotten good care at the VA, or that the VA was needed and should be saved. These were all older veterans who had likely been in the system for a number of years. Many of these same veterans describing problems they had in getting care don’t realize the problem is with the VA.
Even the VA fiduciary program was mentioned. It was hard to understand the situation, but it appeared as if a veteran had a fiduciary forced on him, and he was essentially kidnapped and taken to Austin, TX for a few weeks. His full time care giver was in attendance and described the situation. He eventually found out where the veteran was when the VA called him about an appointment the veteran had missed. When he found out where the vet was, he went to Austin, picked him up and moved him here.
Another veteran spoke of a WWII veteran who committed suicide 2 days before Christmas. He said he tried calling several at the VA for an intervention and got no help. He said he had the sheriff do a wellness check which helped for a short while, but the veteran eventually committed suicide. It did not sound as if he was ever seen by the VA.
Another veteran mentioned having surgery by the VA years ago, but they now have no record of him, and he can’t get care for the problem he had surgery for.
Towards the very end, the director spoke again and said he needed the authority to make deals with surrounding private hospitals to pay for talented doctors to come here, and those resources could then be shared between the VA and private hospitals. It sounds like a good idea, but I think it misses the point. Several veterans mentioned doctors cycling through here so fast, and the claim is they cannot pay doctors competitively with what they can make in bigger cities. No mention of the bureaucratic BS they have to put up with in trying to provide care to veterans.
When I spoke, in addition to calling out the head of the patient advocates/PR guy and the director for not having an open door policy, I said if they wanted to fix their VA, they needed to let the patient advocates do their jobs, and to advertise the fact that they had Choice Champions that were supposed to be helping veterans get appointments. Many veterans in attendance never knew the Choice champions existed, and the VA initially did not want to admit they had them. The Patient Advocate issue was not addressed at all by the director although it was mentioned more than once, and the director claimed he had no control or authority over the Choice Champions since it sounded like he said they were contractors working for HealthNet. Regardless of who pays them, the VA does not tell veterans they exist. They also claimed that the Choice program was passed by Congress with billions spent, but no training was provided to VA employees or their Champions on how to use it. It was an excuse because clearly the VA has done nothing to help the veteran with Choice, or to follow up with them once they are referred. There was even one veteran who said he lived on $1100 a month disability, and was hit with a $30,000 bill because Choice would not pay a bill. Another veteran mentioned having to go to a civilian emergency room, called the VA first who told him what to do and what to tell the ER, and the VA refused to pay the bill after. There was lots of discussion on that one until a Legion service officer made clear if they contacted the VA within 72 hours, the VA should pay the bill. I was shocked the PR guy did not immediately mention it because he told me about the 72 hour rule a few weeks ago in a phone call.
At the end, I told the one National official who was leading the town hall that if they wanted to improve Choice so it should work, the VA doctors who refer patients to Choice should be following up with them to make sure they get timely appointments. It took some explaining, but he finally understood what I was saying. I told him many of the veterans referred to Choice are essentially on their own, and a veteran does not know who to contact when Choice won’t schedule the appointment.
The National Legion officials will be at the hospital tomorrow following up with everything, and will be visiting several areas of the hospital. I was happy to hear at the end that the National Legion official leading the meeting told the director he wanted to dig into the patient advocate mess. I gave him a copy of the comments I made, so hopefully he does follow up on that. He also gave me his business card and said I needed to email him so he could follow up with me in a few days and see if the VA had been in contact with me to fix the issues I mentioned.
I believe they (Legion) are sincere, but I also believe they should have been listening to veterans all along. It shouldn’t have to take a public town hall meeting to get action from the VA.
I also think they could be more forceful in calling out the VA when they give BS excuses.
With respect to my legion brothers, I have noticed Legion members dressed up in legion shit get ushered into psychiatric care past other vets. Ostensibly they are there to assist, however the ones I have seen, many years my senior, have berated younger vets for a variety of things. I was turning in a civil rights complaint when one approached me and berated and belittled me for “biting the hand that helps you.” This came from a guy wearing a hat seldom seen outside parking lots selling little flags to nelp their own. Very hard to take it personal, as I revere those who came before. He made me think.
The Legion serves a highly focused group. I will not honor those who wish to take away their special access to services, but I do respectfully choose to bite the hand that “helped” me, even if it is the same hand that serves them well.
I hear what you are saying Dennis. I looked on the town hall as an opportunity for all veterans to state publicly what the VA is already aware of, but refuse to act on because the problem is not public, and nobody is watching.
Issues are on the table now. At this point it depends on whether they keep their word, follow through and make changes.
Dear Benjamin Krause,
“Iowa is killing younger vets through admission policies,” Bob Krause of Fairfield said. In addition to being president of the Veterans National Recovery Center, he is a candidate for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate.
Is this happening across the nation?
Here’s another video concerning the “60 Minutes Dialing for Dollars” article. It’s from MSNBC. The “bill” Congressman Jolly is trying to push through Congress is called the “Stop Act”! It’s four (4) pages of simple common sense politics.
BTW, It’s also illegal, through FCC regs, for a “sitting politician to raise money while on the job!” This is why Congressman Jolly (R-Fl) is catching heat from others in Congress!
The Utube video is called –
“Congressman Calls Out ‘Dialing For Dollars’ System | Morning Joe | MSNBC”
A great video, approx. 10 minutes, to watch!
Congressman Jolly’s website is called – “Stop Act dot com” check it out!
In my opinion, corruption at it’s finest by Congress!
Getting ready to go to the Legions dog and pony show on saving the VA. I emailed the 3 local TV stations. At least 1 is planning on being there and wants an interview before the town hall.
Should be interesting. Depending on how much the Legion wants to control the message.
Give em hell brother!
The interview went well. She will be at the town hall tonight, then putting the Director on the hot seat later.
When, or if, the video is shown on your local station. Please put the website on here so all of us can see what’s happening at your end. Especially inside the “town hall”,
Local,law emforcement cannot investigate and arrest unless asked by VA OIG to do so. This is thhe explanation I was given when I went to local police with the evidence in my hand of illegal drug distribution on the street corner. This was documented by VA police but it never ever went anywhere. I called the local FBI office and hey said if OIG does not refer it, they have no legal standing to,pursue it.
VA is much more powerful than a pitiful Sherrif or State cop, and they damn well know it.
Try forwarding these replies from the FBI and local law enforcement to the OIG via your congress critters office, see how they respond.
My Oregon congressman, Peter Defazio, has forwarded multiple letters on my behalf. The fifth response told the Honorable Congressman from Oregon, to respectfully foreard any further inquiries about me to a social worker, whose phone number they did not give.
They gave an extremely powerful representative the middle finger. They are not afraid of congress or the Circuit Court. My congressmans office did all they could do. They do hot have the power to engage an executive branch. V H A is untouchable.
If you don’t know what horror is, imagine being strapped down so you cannot move at all and locked in a room so quiet its hard to hear a loud fart. Then imagine your captors have comlete control of everything that makes you vulnerable, including which torments work really well. Then i,agine there are no breathing people in the world that care.
Then you will know what room number one is.
Strap them down for awhile
I often bitch about how bad the VA is, but in this instance, I have to applaud them for taking definite action against both of these employees.
Definitive because the one will no longer be working with veterans, and the other will have that mark on their record permanently. Both acts of discipline should be enough to wake up other staffers on what could happen with their own jobs if they decide to assault a patient or fail to report an incident.
Time will tell if this is just an anomaly in dealing with bad PR quickly or if the VA has finally learned they need to deal substantially with bad employees.
Gowan did weasel in his statement suggesting it may have been simply de-escalation of a situation, but the video doesn’t show the veteran causing anything other than butthurt.
As for the Tomah Sheriff, I doubt it was reported…or maybe the one who resigned was told it would be reported if he didn’t resign. Either way, the employee is gone. A former employee who may not be licensed, but will have a tough time finding a similar job.
Unless it’s at another VA.
Agree whole heartily
I guarantee you that had this incident been the other way around with a veteran patient assaulting the employee in the same manner; that veteran would’ve gotten manhandled by the VA police, then locked up and charged with a whole slew of federal violations!
I was an impatient at a VA. And as part of the process, a va employee came to collect my wallet and some other personal belongings. Included in that was a debit/credit card. I was assured that these will all be sealed in a envelope and other plastic bag, and locked in a safe, and given back to me when i am discharged. later that month I got a bank statement that showed about 5000 dollars of charges. a small one to a gas station, of about 10 or 20 dollars. and then another for abour 3k to what appears to be a cell phone company. I didn’t own a car or a cell phone at that time and did not make those purchases. And they occurred during time my wallet shud have been in a sealed bag and locked in a VA safe. I was in shock and i filed a fraud report with my bank. the money was refunded. I am still stuck with a $50 charge they said would not be refunded. I wondered.. how many other VA patients are being robbed by VA employees who hand over thier credit cards or money, to have it used while they are supposed to keep them safe and protected.
That was why Baghdad Bob told Fox News to have Rob ONeil the SEAL that killed bin Laden to call his cell. His wallet was stolen while getting iirc an MRI at the va.
We all know how know how that worked out. Bob’s cell said too busy call back later live on the air.
Wih all due respect, that was not the employees intent. I have been a guest on thise waeds and godamnit I know personally what goes on. That was pure out of the book a set up. I have seen that too many time to count. That incident was benign comparitively.
Let me tell you precisely what the VHA employee was doing; if he succeeded in getting that patient to defend himself physically, that employee and four other like him who were listening nearby in their assigned posts, would put an extremely painful arm bar lock on his neck and he whole party would retire to the “State Room”. There are two, side by side. The left one would have been for the patient who defended himself. It is the one with the addition to the pads on every surface of a bed upon which that patient would have been strapped down. That was classic mental ward setup of vet at VHA. I know.
These type of matters, should be dealt with by the outside court system, not the VA police or management. They are breaking the law and policing themselves. The VA will never change, until the employees are shown by example, if you hurt a veteran, you will be arrested by the local police and charges placed upon them. The employees have to see someone in hand cuffs and escorted out by police. If this were to be done, I bet that the abuse would drop by 90%, knowing their is a price to be paid !
@Robin Mitchell and Retired Nurse.
I believe once Mr. Trump gets in office, MANY heads will be cut off, (not literally)!
His daughter, (who received a threatening letter), who is also VERY wealthy, was given the “task” of investigating everyone in Washington.
Plus his sister, who was appointed by Reagan, is staying very quiet over being threatened also!
Who in their right mind would send a threatening letter to a high ranking federal judge?
This morning Mr. Trump was “upset”, to say it mildly, over what was reported on “60 Minutes” sunday night. Google:
“60 Minutes/dialing for dollars”
if y’all are unaware of what all the Washington (malignancy) Elites have been up to since “Citizens United” was put through by Congress. Y’all don’t really know what those asswipes have been up to for the past few years!
We’ve said it more times than I’ve kept count. VA needs an enema in the worst way! What has happened to all those billions of taxpayers monies?
Close it down NOW!
Cruz and Kascich should drop outta sight. Their both lying little crying bitches. With no chance in hell of receiving any kind of nomination!
Years ago I sold building materials in New York. In addition to meeting a group of Muslim miscreants on the loading dock of WTC not too long before 9/11 my boss used to try to sell to Trump as well. I am told that Trump had all his kids in the business from the time they could understand it. Trump was known to have a superb mind knowing a skyscraper from top to bottom. I used to build an entire house in my head estimating it. Can’t imagine what a skyscraper takes to do that And, if you know the NYC commercial building business and are successful you know some interesting people. We sent out a load of windows once because a developer used non-union windows and labor to install them. The union got the job to re-install the next set of union made windows. I don’t think they ever found out how they all came out of the openings at the same time in one night. Same for a long time with nails, bolts, etc. Anything Chinese might not be accepted on delivery. With several thousand dollar per trip fines it mattered.
Trump will do just fine if he can make it alive into the White House. And, at least one ‘family’ in New York I hear is all for him. Unheard of. It seems a large portion of NY sees what country corruption is leaving their grandchildren. I hope the entire country does.
I agree! Mr. Trump will do just fine!
His attitude toward all politicians is justified. They have gotten away with so much criminal activity, for so long, I believe they think it’s ok to defraud the American People!
Right now, I’ll bet a lot of these miscreants are hiding from their constituents. Especially after Sunday’s addition of “60 Minutes/Dialing for Dollars”!
To be honest, they should be hiding!
I have no trust in any of our government agencies right now. Starting with POTUS on down to each elected and appointed official……and the agencies and/or committees they represent!
Are third party contractors hired by the VA OIG considered employees or are they just committing crimes against veterans on their own, Without oversight or accountability.
When is anyone going to take heed and protect the veteran families from VA threats, lies and harm that is unloaded on family members, by VA?
Anyone want to bet that Shulkin is working on Ms Rivera s resignation signature as we speak? Ican’t post it from my phone but last Tuesday bothered him enough to answer the va committee with a pr release op ed on her. A week later no reach out to Zelin on John or why he has to prove medically accepted symptoms of TBI are related to his TBI for aid and attendance. For a doctor that takes pride in his medical school days Shulkin suddenly seems out of touch with what even first year med students are taught.
Assault on a disabled person is a felony. The person who witnessed the act, and said nothing, should have been charged with “complicity”! They both should have faced a judge.
“Quiting” (for the perp), and getting 10 days off, (for the other asswipe), without pay, was, in my opinion, a slap on the wrist!
Does the vet, who was assaulted, have relatives in the area? If yes, could they file some charges against these two individuals? Or, could they file a “civil case” against them and the VAMC for failing to keep their loved one safe?
Sitting here this morning, a “theory” came to mind.
We all now know, late last year, Obama gutted VA out of $6 BILLION “…to help refugees acclimate into American Society!”
What if it’s actually more? What if it’s higher? What if he gutted more agencies? What if it’s 10 times what was reported?
Is this the “WHY” VA can’t give great healthcare? Or, pay their bills? Or, allow vets to use the “Choice Program” or any other programs? Or, hire Quality Healthcare Professionals? Or, finish hospitals, which are over- budget and still not operational?? Or, are VA upper echelons stealing the monies for their own use?
Reports are now surfacing where he’s made a deal with the EU, to bring in 10’s of thousands more this year and next year. How much $$$$ did he give them?
He just made a fool out of America[ns] in Great Britain over this past weekend. He tried to tell them, “How to run their country!” Bad move on his part!
The next day, Sunday, in Germany, 30 thousand [+] people were out in force, protesting the “trade deals”, he and Mercle (sic) were attempting to implement against their wishes!
The ‘TPP’ will be a disaster for jobs! Other “deals”, ie: Iran, Saudi Arabia and others, he’s made are disasters!
When is it going to stop?
Where is the money coming from to pay for all of these “deals”?
Elf, I have posted on the guys looking into Indy and the fiduciary scandal. If they have proof of what they have told me it will dwarf the other scandas. Including Aurora. How about a GS14 with an expensive show horse hobby with a felon for the trainer? How about an offshore account for a known name? Or the 115 year old version of Robert Reynolds running around with a present credit score. Considering that Reynolds gets SOCOM confirmation of a veterans Special Operations status and they couldn’t exclude it being the DAV honorable one it upset them. That is their brothers.
Assault is a crime…VA is federal property…CALL THE FBI…
And the problem with a civil suit. The US Attorney under Obama will come in and backstop any suit. Give free legal representation and pay any money. It is the thugs way and needs to change. They need to charge the employee. Now you have to file against the Secretary which why you see McDonald v. So much.
Phoned Federal prosecutor’s office in PHX about VA killings…they spit and sputtered! Now go Vote for TRUMP!
The problem is the US Attorney runs both sides of the house. They are tasked with both prosecuting those for federal crimes and protecting the same agency if they are sued. A firewall is supposed to exist but we know how that works..lawyers are generally scum.
Sorry Ben. There are exceptions but given a choice I would take pistols at 20 paces at dawn over a long drawn out lawsuit. And, I am not kidding. At least it is over in seconds not years and most people are lousy shots even at that range. I am a great shot. Beat the ‘contractors’ on their way to Iraq (all former military) and the Marine recruiter in my class. Shot 109 out of 110 and put a happy face on my target with a gun my husband gave me brand new that morning.
I am thinking the best way to fix the VA is to hope ISIS gives out all the employees info like they just did the State Dept and says go get them. I bet fake Special Forces Bob McDonald finds himself are real Green Beret to protect his useless butt fast.
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