Deputy Secretary Scolds VA Over Seattle VA ER Incident

Seattle VA Sloan Gibson Email

Benjamin KrauseDeputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Sloan Gibson, laid the smack down on all VA employees over failures to go the extra mile by using common sense to help a vet. Last week, the media hit VA hard over refusal to help a veteran with a broken foot.

RELATED: Seattle VA makes vet call 911 before letting him into ER

The operator at the Seattle VA told the veteran to call 911 to get help into the facility despite literally parking on the ambulance ramp outside the facility doors just a few feet away. The veteran, a 63-year old trucker with a broken foot, was demoralized when he called 911 to seek help from city firemen to help him move just a few feet into the facility.

The veteran was in tears on the phone call, and VA has since recanted its hardball approach to the issue initially claiming they did the right thing. They did not. The employees were behaving like brazen a@@holes refusing to help the same veterans who justify their job.

Shame on them. I hope they are either fired or forced to wear a scarlet “A” for a@@hole instead of a name badge for the duration of VA employment.

DOWNLOAD PDF: Deputy Secretary Sloan email scolding to VA employees


Helping Veterans

Recently, an elderly Veteran drove himself to a VA medical center (VAMC) with a broken foot.  After parking his car, he called the VAMC to ask for help getting from his car to the emergency room.  Instead of sending someone out with a wheelchair, the person taking the call advised the Veteran to call 911, which the Veteran did.  The local fire department then responded, helping the Veteran from the parking lot into the hospital.

We can all see now how wrong it was for this Veteran to be referred elsewhere for the little help he needed.  I am certain all of us would have freely offered that help had we been there and understood the situation; however, sometimes we get so focused on following what we believe to be policy and procedure, limiting what we can and cannot do, that we lose sight of the Veterans we are committed to serving.

I am asking that we all take this as a learning opportunity—that we all think a little harder about our I-CARE values (Integrity, Commitment, Advocacy, Respect, and Excellence) and the customer experience we want every Veteran to have, every time.  These core values and the basic principles of doing the right thing for Veterans, taking ownership, and being good stewards of taxpayer dollars should guide our day-to-day decisions.  This is the essence of what we mean when we talk about “MyVA.”  Leaving Veterans in our parking lot for others to rescue is not who we are, and not who the American people expect us to be.

Let us be good stewards of the public trust and the kind, helpful, sensible, and compassionate human beings Veterans deserve.

Sloan D. Gibson

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  1. Well I have something good to say about the Doctors and Nurses at the Dorn VA in Columbia , I just cannot thank Them enough . I went down last month for some Pulmonary test , My Wife and Youngest Son went with Me , well when We were through My Wife pushed My Son ,He has grand maul seizures, out to the side walk , Well I was in My power chair , so I was just sitting there beside Him , He is 29 and weighs around 165 , 6’2″ , all of a sudden He broke out into a full blown seizure , got His head down between My chair and His , it was tough , A fellow Veteran was sitting talking to Us waiting for His ride , When he noticed what was going on He went through the big doors and hollowed help Man seizing , Well in about 1 minute those doors flew open , looked like a MASH unit ER Doctors and Nurses came out and started working with Him , then they decided to take Him back to ER , I told Them He wasn’t a Veteran , He is My Son , just rode down with Me from Waterloo , They said it didn’t matter He needed help . They kept Him in recovery for an hour , gave Him an IV drip and Oxygen , checked His eyes and gave Him an EKG . They are so Professional , even the Student Nurse that looks like Jessica Alba ! We went on Home , I offered Them some money , but They would not take it . I will have a warmer feeling about that Hospital when I go back.

    1. What a difference caring for your fellow man makes. And some common sense.

  2. Just read the following from Speaker Boehner regarding the VA and disappointment with new VA Secretary and the VA slow to make improvements:

    “[WASHINGTON — The Department of Veterans Affairs is no better off a year after former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned amid a scandal over long wait times for veterans seeking health care and falsified records to cover up the delays, House Speaker John Boehner charged Wednesday.

    In a speech on the House floor, Boehner said the VA has made little progress since Shinseki resigned, despite a new law that overhauled the agency and authorized $16 billion in new spending over three years.

    The number of patients facing long waits is about the same, Boehner said, while the number of patients waiting more than 90 days has nearly doubled.

    The VA’s problems are so deep it can’t even build a hospital, Boehner said, referring to a half-finished project in Denver that is $1 billion over budget.

    Boehner, R-Ohio, said he is especially frustrated that so few VA officials have been fired, despite evidence that at least 110 VA facilities kept secret lists to hide long wait times.

    Instead, many officials have been allowed to retire with full benefits, while others have been transferred, suspended with pay or given a “slap on the wrist,” he said. “And all of them go right on collecting checks from taxpayers,” Boehner said.

    “If only the VA did half as good a job taking care of our veterans as they do their own bureaucrats,” he said.

    Boehner said a law passed last year by Congress should help and said more legislation to hold the VA accountable is likely. “But only the administration can change the culture from within,” he said.

    As Memorial Day approaches, President Barack Obama “owes the American people a real, long-term plan to fix the VA,” Boehner said. “Not a promise or a pledge or a rearranging of deck chairs: a real plan to clean up this mess.”

    A VA spokeswoman disputed Boehner’s remarks, saying that under the leadership of VA Secretary Robert McDonald and his deputy, Sloan Gibson, “VA has charted a path forward and made significant progress over the past year to enhance our health care system, improve service delivery and set the course for long-term reform.”

    The agency has expanded access to care and completed 97 percent of appointments within 30 days of the veteran’s preferred date, said spokeswoman Victoria Dillon.

    The agency made over 2.6 million authorizations for veterans to receive care in the private sector from last May until March 31, a 44 percent increase over the previous year, she said. The VA also has reduced a longstanding claims backlog and cut veteran homelessness by 33 percent, Dillon said.

    On the issue of accountability, Dillon cited a May 14 report to Congress that listed 144 “adverse employment actions” proposed or decided since June. Twenty-one employees were fired, six probationary workers were let go and eight employees retired or resigned after being designated for removal, the report said.]”

    1. When you read the VA’s official rebuttal to Speaker Boehner today, it’s as if the VA has total blinders on, tunnel vision, with the audacity to continue to make these calculated and droning ROBOTIC public statements, thatin fact differ very little from how the VA answers questions directly BEFORE Congress.
      These wolves running the VA need a cultural shock of “pulling a President Reagan” and as he did with the air traffic controllers, regardless of Union, FIRED THEM ALL and REPLACED THEM. Replace them with Veterans and no, please not of the likes of West Point brainwashed Lt. Col. Gade ex-Officers, no, the ENLISTED Vets actually are ones that ALWAYS do the bulk of the work, specifically in the E-1-E-6, then there’s the upper E-6– > with excellent hands-on management of large groups/masses of people in a coordinated way using something the VA seems to have little use of, Communication.
      I think the VA needs a healthy dose of following The UCMJ. Well-oiled Military Machine works…the Civilians have run the ‘VA Boat’ aground and just keep asking for more $ rather than actually addressing the “VA Problem”, which really would not need an infusion of more cash…am thinking as The Joker in the original Batman Movie, “This town needs an enema”…with the VA being the ‘town’ here.

      With Speaker Boehner’s statements today, it’s CLEAR the problem is VA Admn. Management Levels and WHY this POTUS will not address it, order it, and start seeing some heads fly?

  3. We had a Vet commit suicide a few months ago. He was a young guy and had a lot of potential. Directly following his death, we (the employees) at the VA in Des Moines, three emails telling us to not talk to the press, but to send all reporters or inquiries to the hospital director or public affairs office.

    It gave me the impression of a gag order Google.” Richard Miles was found dead in Water Works Park in Des Moines last week” Feb 2015

    1. I was absolutely heart broken to read the story of Richard Miles, why on earth did the VA turn him away, he had been treated there before……… I know it is a huge risk for VA employees to speak out, sometimes doing the right thing means doing the hard thing but it still needs to be done………

  4. This is happening all over the VA and needs to stop. i was in a similar situation, I stepped off my steps and into a hole, my ankle rolled over and I was unable to stand on it. I called the VA after hours number and because I live over 40 miles from the VA, was told to go to the local hospital for care. I went to the hospital and was initially told that the ankle was broken and they put me in a cast. The following day I received a call saying the break was an old break, but I had never broken that ankle. The following Monday, the incident took place the evening before Thanksgiving, so the VA was closed Friday, I called the VA and advised them of the hospital visit. I was told that it would be taken care of, but two months later I get a bill for the care. I called the VA and they said it was not covered even though the previously told me it would be as well as the after hours care telling me to go to the hospital.

    The problem at the VA is the right hand has no idea what the left hand is doing, but it shouldn’t be hard to figure out as both are side-by-side with their thumbs up their butt.

    1. Ditto this, twice I’ve been given permission to use a civilian hospital (ER). Both times I later got a bill and was then told by the VA that I was never given permission. Even worse, I spent two weeks at a civilian hospital because the local VA (San Diego) had no bed spaces available. Sharp (private hospital) wouldn’t check me in until VA approved (they did) and I thought all was well until I got a bill from the hospital as the VA was refusing to pay. In the end I had to go out and get qualified for MediCal just to get the Sharp bill paid and I’m still paying off the crazy expensive ambulance ride the VA is refusing to cover. I’ve started recording all of my calls with the VA at this point so I have proof later (if that even helps).

  5. The VA Medical or the VARO cannot even connect the dots and those that are “supposed to help” don’t and as Shannon Gaston says in a round about way, “this is the VA and we can do anything because it says so, ib regulation blah, blah, blah!” All us writing and “venting” as failed VA would say…is not do9ing anything to change the failed for decades the VA period. Actions not words but our government is full of “NONE ACTION,” when it comes to it’s obligation to the United States Veterans who have earned to right for quality medical care. Instead we get the bottom of the barrel…Martinez, California VA Medical, Vet Center and Dental have already put the enemy in it’s employment…just a matter of time until we are all eating pudding from a straw…beheading is the new brain surgery at the VA!

    1. My wheelchair was pushed aside ,violently, as I was rolling to the cafeteria at Atlanta VSMC.
      The persons that did this were house keeping employees,
      I reported this and was told to stay away from the cafeteria at lunch time.

      I am a 65 year old, 100% service connected, Viet Nam Vet.
      What would have happened to me if I slugged one of them (besides getting my old ass handed to me 😉


  6. All Vet’s who served between 1960 and 1970 need to be quite and not rock the boat about being exposed to the different colored defoliants all over Southeast Asia that have now been proven to cause death. Shut up and die it’s less expensive on the Government,then when all of you are dead they can write a cheap letter of apology and own up to their mistake. After all,what are you worth to a politician!!!!!

  7. Ben–It is not necessary to call an asshole an a@@hole. Tell it like it is. These people are cretins and should be addressed as such.

      1. I like Stu’s comment however I think it’s also important to have a family friendly format. Using incomplete or partial swear words in journalism already paints a vivid picture and is often acceptable across the board. Printing the entire word may offend some and stop this publication from reaching the viewers we need!

  8. I think there is something that is unexpected and admirable in this story. I believe that the official version of this story, that the VA did nothing wrong, would have remained the same had it not been for the public outcry about this. Kudos to the reporter and media outlets who took enough interest to take this story wide. It’s just a shame that more media don’t have a beat for at least one reporter who would report on nothing but the abuses federal agencies perpetrate daily. You can’t convince me that there wouldn’t be enough work to make this a full-time job.

  9. Did you know that if you go to a vet Center from the VA and have an emergency health issue while there that they are instructed not to assist but to call 911 no cpr nothing!

  10. I had an incident at the VA in VISN 3 (I will attempt to keep this as general as I can). I was in pain and my doctor ordered immediate x-rays. To travel to x-ray, I had to take an elevator up one floor. When I arrived at the elevator, it was being held open by an EMS employee chatting very loudly with two female employees, one who was outside the car and one within the elevator. Before going further, EMS in VA land is Environmental Management Service – in other words, they are janitors. The male employee held the door for about another 30 seconds and finally said goodbye to the employee who was outside the elevator. I said nothing during this time.

    As we traveled up to the next floor, the two employees continued their conversation in a loud, obnoxious manner. I asked them politely if they could please lower their voices. Instead of lowering their voices, the male started yelling at me. He said I wasn’t showing him respect and went into a tirade. Fortunately the door opened on the next floor. Yet, he continued his tirade, following me down the hall in a very threatening manner. I finally had enough, turned to him and said give me your name. I reached over and turned his badge around so I could read it. He then started yelling, I have witnesses. I told him he better back off. He then went down a hallway saying to some other employees, “you saw what happened” who didn’t see the incident.

    The first person I called, was his direct supervisor. Her response was, “well, you know he is a veteran too.” I got her drift and called the patient advocate. She told me to call personnel, as it involved an employee. I said yea, but it involved me and I am a patient. She said she couldn’t help. So, I called personnel, and you guessed it, they told me to call the patient advocate. Enough I thought and called the Directors office and was told they would investigate. A month later, after not hearing anything, I called again. A week later, I receive a call from the head of the department. He said he believed my story after I told him another vet overheard the commotion and said he would be a witness if need be. The department head said he would be talked to and that is about all he could do. I figured they were all going to cover their butts, so what was the use?

    What if a vet did what he did? At minimum, he would be flagged and escorted out of the building. More likely, a vet would have been arrested for battery.

    But, it gets better. In talking to a female doctor she told me a lot of these guys are ex-cons. They are hired in an outreach program to incarcerated vets. She went on to tell me about sexual harassment and threats made by employees to other employees to the point where good people have quit in fear of their safety. She also told me she will not walk down the halls of the VA alone.

    As a final note, I checked a state database and learned this individual whom I reported had been in prison twice and was last released early on an 8-12 year bid for armed robbery. The VA is a barrel of rotting and rotten apples.

    BTW, whenever I go to the VA now, I start a voice recording from the moment I step on the property.

    1. Good for you for not putting up with that BS. There is no excuse whatsoever for it.

    1. lucky? you for being able not to utilize the VA med/disability system. millions of veterans are not so fortunate?, for many a long list of valid reasons, and thus have to use it. for some it worked out, for many others, those stories keep coming everyday, like Seattle

  11. Some people that are reading these post will find them hard to believe. I would not believe it had I not started going to the VA in 1976, and now have been an employee for two years.

    Since being employed at the VA I have heard and have seen for myself what is going on inside the VA. The bad employees are out of control spoiled brats and they are allowed to create a hostile work environment and bring the good and caring employees down. If a good employee tries to say anything to correct them, they will be called in front of the boss.

    I worked with a guy that would complain all day about other employees, yet if anyone got caught looking at him cross eyed, he’d run to the boss and complain, then they would take action against the good employee. This man has caused so much trouble it’s hard to believe that he’s still there but that’s the VA way.

    They have a saying around the hospital, “there’s the right way, there’s the wrong way, and there’s the VA way. It’s a miserable place to work for someone that has a good attitude and is energetic.

    I am 58 and will not have another chance to work for any retirement package if I leave, but I am considering it. I have only been with the govt for five years. The first three were spent at the Dept of Defense. It was much better but you still have the govt. brats, just not as many.

    I have never had a bad work review in my life until going to work at the VA. All those years and my reviews were always top notch for work ethic and attitude, not to mention getting along well with others. Since starting at the VA I am now on anti depressants and high blood pressure pills. I also have anti-anxiety pills that I have to take on the way to work because my heart starts beating so fast and I start to perspire and get a headache and dizzy. I’m not a complainer and defiantly not a whiner, but this work environment is hostile as it gets and I most likely will not stay more than a few more months.

    As the psychiatrist told me , “this place breeds that kind of behavior”, another one told me, “you don’t need a doctor, you need a lawyer.” While these stories may sound unbelievable, ask around to any govt. employee you may know, or ask around the next VA you visit.

    Don’t forget that there are good and decent employees, but everyone will have a story to tell you.
    Just a few quick ones before signing off. Took me two years to get a Phillips screwdriver and a socket set because they said “were don’t have any money.” All the while they were installing big screen TVs in a lot of offices around the facility. I asked them why I can’t get a screwdriver, a simple socket set or a 26 dollar printer, (all of which I needed every day) when they are installing all of these TVs? They always corrected me “they’re not TVs, they are TRAINING MONITORS'” Well the “training monitors were on all day with TV programs on.”

    I hope I don’t sound like a disgruntled worker, but I guess I am disgruntled in a way, ya think? Never in my life have I been disgruntled and negative, but after all attempts to go to work happy and productive, the VA has brought an end to all of that positive attitude. I now have four or so “write ups” and can not avoid trouble unless I just roll over and accept the way it is. When you contact someone higher up to help, they go directly to the management to see what the problem is. They seem oblivious to the fact that the management is the problem and leave it in their hand to fix. (see ADR and Reprimand for telling the lead supervisor to not assault me again) I was reprimanded for “threatening him” but was able to get it changed after several meetings with the management. To my knowledge, nothing ever happened to him for his assault and I am told that “we can’t discuss that” when I ask the union or managment.

    1. My only advice I could offer while you are still there is to document everything in writing, and if meeting with someone, either put the issues in writing before the meeting and give them a copy, or follow up with something in writing to the supervisor in writing such as an email, or do both before and after a meeting. Supervisors or management hate paper trails because it proves they were informed. What I don’t understand is why VA personnel would not want to stop that kind of behavior. I have experience with other federal agencies, and I am shocked the VA would allow themselves to be so open to liability under labor law. Generally if an employee has a valid serious complaint such as sexual harassment or hostile work environment and no action is taken by management after being informed, it opens them to massive payouts to the employee for violations of labor law. I would think the Department of Labor or Office of Personnel Management would not be happy if they knew of the violations not being corrected.

      What happens if you filed for medical retirement for the health problems caused by your work environment? Someone would not be happy over those issues not being corrected.

      But then, the VA just wasted $6 billion, so maybe they don’t care if an employee gets a payment over labor violations.

      I found much of this out long after being harassed on the job for 11 years to the point of health problems, and thought I was having a heart attack one day. I left the building rather than giving the Bastard the satisfaction of dying inside.
      Knowing what I know now about that process and labor law, I would not put up with that crap for 11 seconds rather than 11 years.

    2. @RWW, why do you think many many veterans’ anxiety problems and psych defense issues start to elevate the closer they get to a VA when having to go there for any reason, especially an appointment?

      i think you answered it and shed light on this particular set of issues. our collective defense mechanisms have for years sounded internal alarms though could never quite put a finger on it. between you and the current batch of whistle-blowers, we now know with zero doubt.

      the Seattle VA ER fiasco is just another spotlight onto more reasons why there is practically zero trust with this VA system. and they seem to show themselves every other day.

      seems more people are actually listening and taking notice of veterans’ plight with VA now than in the past … the only real difference i see.

      1. @ Cantigny. You are absolutely correct. I have to take a lorazepam before I go to the VA. I take my vitals every morning at home. On the days I go to the VA my BP, both systolic and diastolic is up 20 to 25 points. My pulse is also up about 20 bpm and this is with the pill. When I go to a private doctor, those readings reflect closely what I recorded at home that morning without taking a pill.

        After one episode with a non-caring, idiot VA employee in the ROI office, my BP went to 190/115. It is normally around 120/75. I told my PCP that every time I come to the VA my blood pressure goes up. His comment? “So, does mine.” I call it VAIH – VA induced hypertension.

      2. Catigny and Dan, I was prescribed clonazepam for my anxiety and things were better for me when I had to go to an appointment. After moving to the Indy VA this med was taken away because I am also taking Hydrocodone. I tolerated not having the clonazepam at first but now with this VA thinking it is God, I now have more anxiety that I have ever had. My blood pressure has risen continuously and I have become reluctant to go out of my apt. more and more.
        And as a side note, I tried to get the Seattle VA to look into my abdominal issues I was having for two yrs. with no luck. I am now having a CT scan done June 1 because the Indy VA thinks I have a carcinoid tumor in my small intestines.

  12. I think the world has no compassion for our fellow man or woman,no common sense I know if I were there I would have helped ,no question at all ,I was taught to hold doors open for others and I have taught my sons this as well ,even if the people don’t always say thank you ,it’s the right thing to do.

  13. Carolyn Fields, Get an attorney if it happened within the last two years (check with your state for time requirements for filing a lawsuit. The VA can NOT refuse medical care to ANY U.S. citizen. That sign that says VA on the building is a mere facade and signage. VA hospitals are FEDERAL hospitals and open to everyone BY LAW. An example to make my point and a VA attorney who wrote this particular verbage explained why she wrote the way she did when I questioned it.
    Title 38 → Chapter I → Part 17 → §17.165 (Please note that the law states persons and individuals and nowhere does it say “Veteran”. The VA is open to anyone who walks through the doors in an emergency. Hence, FEMA designates VA hospitals as “surge hospitals” as well. Whoever sent you away (THE VA) was wrong and should be held liable.

  14. Same thing happened at the Wilmington VA a few years back. Senator Carpers office knows about this. It happened quite a few times as a matter of fact. I once got scolded for carrying in a lady just 20 feet from the ER after she passed out in her car. The VA police flagged me down and I assisted him. I had to quickly get her to the ER because we were isolated on the side of the hospital where it was partioned by a fence rail.You had a herd of nurses just chatting and walking to the scene like a flock of HR Puff N Stuffs. Shameful

    1. This has happened to my husband. He was refused treatment and went into complete renal failure. Even though he’s retired and had never been to a VAMC. He’s was refused treatment because he had no VA ID. He had his military ID and a Vietnam veteran. Then when they did see him the wacky doctor did not wait for the lab results. We were told to go home. By the time we got home we were called to get back to the hospital because he was in complete renal failure. That hospital visit resulted in him having to be in the hospital for 30 days. He had to be transferred to a private hospital because of rectal bleeding and I would not allow them to take him from Fayetteville, NC to Durham, NC by ambulance on a rainy Friday in rush hour traffic. Then he had to have 28 units of blood.

      So we know that it happens.

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