Since 2006, he has served at the federal level as undersecretary for health operations and management. It is in this role that he has faced criticism over the past year in response to rising suicide rates among soldiers and veterans.
Feeley was singled out in a story published June 1 by The Public Record, an online media source published by the nonprofit International Humanities Center. The story highlighted a backlog of nearly 1 million unfinished disability claims from veterans. The story cited the VA’s inability to implement components of its Mental Health Strategic Plan (MHSP), which was designed to provide rapid services for veterans who show signs of suicide or who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Feeley was blasted for failing to provide oversight, as well as for failing to implement elements of the strategic plan, when he ran the Upstate VA network. He previously was criticized by suicide experts during a lawsuit challenging the VA’s mental health system.
A story published in the San Francisco Chronicle in April 2008 quoted Feeley, who said in a pretrial deposition that the VA had no systematic national plan for suicide prevention.
Feeley, who was not available by phone, declined via e-mail to comment on the criticism but said he looked forward to the new challenge: “I have enjoyed the opportunity to serve VA on a national level for the past three years and welcome the opportunity to return and serve the veterans of Western New York.”
He is not new to the region: Feeley came to the area as associate director in 1994, rising to director of the system in 1998. In 2003, he became director of the VA Healthcare Network Upstate New York, where he oversaw medical centers in Albany, Bath, Buffalo, Batavia, Canandaigua and Syracuse, as well as 28 community-based outpatient clinics.