Suit planned over DOD system

LabororganizationsrepresentingtheDefenseDepartment's650,000civilianworkerscondemnednewNationalSecurityPersonnelSystem(NSPS)regulationsas"unionbusting"andsomeofthelargestunionsplantosueDODaftertherulesarepublishedFeb.14intheFederalRegister.
TheAmericanFederationofGovernmentEmployees(AFGE)saidinastatementthatNSPS"hassignificantlynarrowedemployees'rightstocollectivebargainingandallbuteliminatedthedueprocessrightsthatenableemployeestospeakwithconfidencewhentheyseewrongdoingormismanagement."
AFGE,theAssociationofCivilianTechnicians,theLaborers'InternationalUnion,theNationalAssociationofGovernmentEmployeesandtheNationalFederationofFederalEmployeessaidtheywillfilesuitinfederalcourtthatwillchallengethenewworkrulesonastatutorybasis.
TheunionssaidthatthePentagonisviolatingtheNationalDefenseAuthorizationActof2004,whichcreatedNSPS,byrefusingtoconsultwiththeunionspriortoissuingtheproposedregulations.NavySecretaryGordonEngland,whooverseesNSPS,saidduringaDODpressbriefingyesterdaythattheenablinglegislationallowsthedepartmenttoconsultwiththeunionsduringa30-daycommentperiodthatstartsoncetheregulationsarepublished.Pentagonofficialsplantohave300,000workerscoveredbyNSPSthisJuly.
JoyceFrank,anNSPSspokeswomansaidDODemployeesandtheirunionshavehadampleopportunitiestoprovideinputintotheNSOSregulations.Shesaidthisincluded"extensiveandfruitfuldiscussionsonpotentialoptionsforthedesignofthesystem."Sheaddedthatinseveralareastheproposedregulationsreflecttheinterestsandconcernsthatwerevoicedduringthosediscussions.
DetailsoftheNSPSplanprovidedatthePentagonthisweekandontheNSPSWebsiteshowtheproposal"expandsnonnegotiablemanagementrights"and"prohibitsbargainingoverproceduresinexercisingcoremanagementrightsbutmanagementwillconsultwithunions"withacaveatthatagreementwithunionsisnotrequired.
ThenewregulationsalsowillgiveDODmanagerswiderlatitudeindealingwithcivilianpersonnel."Nothingdelaysmanagement'sabilitytoaccomplishitsmission,"thebriefingslidesstate.Englandsaidtheagencyneedsnewflexibilitytoperformitsnationalsecuritymission."Weneedtobeabletopullresourcesandmoveresourcesandreassignpeople,"Englandsaid.Headded,"Weneedtodowhatisnecessarytorespondtothethreatthatemergesandthethreatthatwefaceeveryday.Soweneedthisflexibilityintheworkforce."
GregoryJunemann,presidentoftheInternationalFederationofProfessionalTechnicalEngineers,saidthatinhisview,NSPS"isdesignedforthepurposeofdestroyingthecivilserviceasweknowittoday."Headded,"Asalaborleaderwhoholdstherightofcollectivebargainingdear...thisis,simplystated,aperfectexampleofunionbusting."
Labordisputeswillbehandledbyanewthree-memberNationalSecurityLaborRelationsBoard(NSLRB)appointedbythesecretaryofDefense,accordingtotheNSPSbriefingslides,with"one-stopshoppingforresolutionoflabordisputes,includingunfairlaborpractices,scopeofbargaininganddutytobargaindisputes,negotiationimpasseandarbitrationexceptions."RonSanders,associatedirectorforhumanresourcespolicyattheOfficeofPersonnelManagement,saidattheFeb.10pressbriefingthatDODpersonnelwillstillbecoveredbytheMeritSystemsProtectionBoard,whichadjudicatesfederalemployeeremovals,demotionsandlong-termsuspensions."TheMSPBstaysinplace,"Sanderssaid."Itisstillavailablebythelawthatestablished[NSPS].Itisstillavailableforemployeestoappeal."AnNSPSfactsheetstatesthatDODemployeeswillstillalsohavetherighttoappealanydecisionsinfederalcourts.ThenewNSPSregulationsandarbitrationprocedureswilldolittletoprotectwhistleblowers,saidMarkRoth,AFGE'sgeneralcounsel.Undertheproposedsystem,DODmanagerswillhave"newwaystoretaliateagainstemployeeswhochallengemanagementdecisions,"hesaid."Whatwillbecomeofemployeeswhoblowthewhistleonpork-loadedmilitarycontracts,orwhospeakonbehalfofsoldiersinneedofequipment?"
http://home.hamptonroads.com/stories/story.cfm?story=82046&ran=168011

LegislatorsunitetofightcutsatyardsandLangley
ByALLISONCONNOLLY,TheVirginian-Pilot
©February12,2005Lastupdated:10:20PM
HAMPTON—Puttingasidetheirpartydifferences,membersofVirginia’scongressionaldelegationclosedranksFridaytofightpotentialjobcutsatNASALangleyResearchCenterinHamptonandatshipyardsthroughoutHamptonRoads,includingNorthropGrummanNewportNews.InresponsetoPresidentBush’sbudgetrequestforthenextfiscalyear,U.S.Reps.JoAnnDavis,R-1stDistrict,ThelmaDrake,R-2ndDistrict,andRobert“Bobby”Scott,D-3rdDistrict,heldanewsconferenceoutsideNASALangley’sfrontgate.TheycriticizedproposedfundingcutstotheNationalAeronauticsandSpaceAdministration’saeronauticsprogramandtotheNavy’sshipbuildingandrepairbudgets.
Theysaidtheywereconfidenttheycouldrestoresomeofthefundingbeforethefinalbudgetispassed.
“Thisbudgetisaproposedbudget,”Davissaid.“Thebudgetisnotsetinstone.”
YetseveralLangleycivil-serviceworkerswhocametohearwhatthelegislatorshadtosaywonderedaloudwhethertheirjobscouldbesavedgiventhesizeoftheproposedcuts.
“MaybeweshouldchangeNASA’snameifwe’regoingtocutaeronautics,”saidengineeringtechnicianMarieLane,whoispresidentofAmericanFederationofGovernmentEmployeesLocal2755,whichrepresentsthetechnicians,clericalworkersandsecretariesatNASA.
AlthoughBushrecommendsa2.4increaseinNASA’soverallbudgetto$16.5billion,fundingforaeronauticswouldsteadilydeclineduringthenextseveralyears,from$906.2millionthisyearto$717.6millionin2010.AndaeronauticsisLangley’sforte.
Thecutislargelyaresultofthepresident’sannouncementayearagothatNASAshouldshiftitsfocustowardreturningmantothemoonandpossiblyMars.Iffundingisn’trestored,Langleyofficialssaidtheywouldhavetoeliminate1,000jobs,oraboutonequarteroftheworkforce.
TheNavy’sshipbuildingbudgetalsotookahit,withfournewshipsproposednextyearcomparedwitheightthisyear.Thepresidentalsoproposeddelayingconstructiononthenext-generationaircraftcarrier,CVN-21,whichcouldaffectjobsatNorthropGrummanNewportNews,thelargestprivateemployerinHamptonRoads.
“Aeronauticsandshipbuildingarenotexamplesofwastefulspending,”Davissaid.
LobbyistsforLangleysaythecutsaretheequivalentofa“backdoorBRAC,”referringtothegovernment’sprocessofscalingbackorclosingbasesthatareunderused,knownasbaserealignmentandclosure.
TheNationalAeronauticsSupportTeam,formedsixyearsagobyHamptonRoadsresidentstopreservejobsatLangley,planstojoinsupportersofGlennResearchCenterinCleveland,anotherNASAcenterthatfocusesonaeronautics,tolobbyforfunding.
ThegroupplanstomakethecasethatthenationislosingitsedgeinaeronauticstotheEuropeansandcannotaffordfurtherfundingcuts.
RoyHarris,aformerdirectorofaeronauticsatLangleyandamemberofthelobbyinggroup,saidtheresearchthatproducedthecountry’snewestfighterjet,theF-22,beganatLangleyResearchCenter15yearsago.TheF-22recentlyarrivedatitsnewhomeatLangleyAirForceBase.
“Ifsomethingisn’tdonesoon,”Harrissaid,“we’llhavegiventhislucrativemarketaway.”
HamptonCityCouncilmenCharlieSappandJoeSpencer,NewportNewsAssistantCityManagerNeilMorganandCityManagerJoeSpenceralsoattended.U.S.Rep.J.RandyForbes,R-4thDistrict,saidhewantedtoattendbutwasnotableto.
http://www.dailypress.com/news/dp-65312sy0feb12,0,6004665.story?coll=dp-headlines-topnews

February122005

HAMPTON--ThetoughestquestionsposedtolocalmembersofCongressonFridayatamediabriefingoutsidetheNASALangleyResearchCenterdidnotcomefromreporters.Theycamefromemployeeswhoventuredoutsidethecentergatestoaskaboutthefutureoftheirjobs.

Rep.JoAnnDavis,R-Gloucester,andotherleadersfromCongress,HamptonandNewportNewsheldthebriefingtostresstheimportanceofLangley'saeronauticsresearch.Theypromisedtodowhattheycouldtorestoremoneyinthe2006fiscalyearbudget,which,asitstands,wouldtrigger1,000jobcutsatLangley.

AlsoattendingtheeventwereReps.RobertC.Scott,D-NewportNews,andThelmaDrake,R-Norfolk;HamptonCityCouncilmemberCharlesSapp;andNewportNewsAssistantCityManagerNeilMorgan.

"Thisbudgetisaproposedbudget,"Davissaid,repeatingtheword"proposed.""Pleasedon'tthinkeverythingissetinstone."

Butthatdidn'tsitwellwithMarieLane,anengineeringtechnicianatLangley,whoraisedherhandabovethetelevisioncameras.Lanewasoneofabout500Langleyemployeeswhorecentlyreceivedreductioninforceletterswarningofpotentiallayoffs.

"Ifthisbudgetisnotinconcrete,whydidwereceiveRIFnotices?"askedLane,whoisalsopresidentofthelocalchapteroftheAmericanFederationofGovernmentEmployees.

"Idon'tknow,"Davisreplied,askingherstafftolookintothematter."Maybethat'saquestionyoushouldaskyourboss."

SamPollard,anotherLangleytechnicianwhogotawarningletter,followedupbyaskingDavistodosomethingaboutwhat'sgoingonatLangleynow,beforeactingonwhatmighthappenin2006.

"IfweloseourjobsinJuly,andyou'reabletoincreasethebudgetfor'06,thenwe'llbegonebythen,"Pollardsaid.

LangleyspokeswomanMarnySkorastressedthattherecentwarninglettershavenothingtodowiththeproposed2006budget.

"It'sunfortunatethatthetwoarecomingouttogether,buttheyhavenorelationshipwhatsoever,"shesaid.

NASAissuedthelettersafterateamofgovernmentworkersinthecenter'scentralmachineshopwonacompetitionagainsttheprivatesectortobuildwind-tunnelmodelsandtodootherwork.Teammembersofferedtocut20jobsfromtheirstaffinordertoofferacompetitivebid.Governmentregulationsrequiredthathundredsofadditionalemployeesbenotifiedofpossiblelayoffs.

LanesaidLangleymanagerstoldherNASAwouldonlyreassignworkersthisyear.Nowshehearsthatthoseworkerswillbelaidoff.

"We'vebeenliedto,"shesaid.

SkorasaidLangleymanagersneverguaranteedthatpeoplewouldbeabletokeeptheirjobs.

"Whileitwasrepeatedtothemoftenthateveryeffortwouldbemadetofindthemanotherjob,therewasneveraguarantee,norcouldtherehavebeen,"Skorasaid."Thelandscapehascertainlychangedfromayearago,whentheproposalwaswritten,untilnow,whenwearealreadyexperiencingreductioninbudget."

LanesaidLangleyemployeesarereceivingmixedsignalsfromNASAmanagementaboutwhethertheyshouldcontactCongressabouttheproposedcuts.

Davislistedseveralspendingitemsintheproposedbudgetthatcouldbecuttofindmoneyforaeronauticsresearch-from$1millionfortheInternationalCoffeeOrganizationto$1.1billionforrenovatingtheUnitedNationsheadquartersinNewYork.ShealsoquestionedwhyPresidentBushwantstospendmoneyonsendingpeopletothemoonandMarsinsteadofonresearchtohelpAmericansflymoresafelyonEarth.

"ThelastIlooked,Marsisnotreadytoattackusrightnow,"shesaid.

WhenaskedwhetheritwasdifficultforhertoopposeBush'sspaceplansandbudget,Davisresponded:"IwassenttoWashingtonnotbythepresidentandnotbytheRepublicanParty.IwassenttoCongressbythe1stDistrictandmyconstituents."

Lanedidn'tletDavisleavewithoutgettingherattentiononelasttime.

"CanIjustthankyouforanythingyoucandotohelpus,"LanesaidtoDavis."It'snotjustourjobs,it'sthesafetyofthenation.It'sashametoletothercountriesdothisaeronauticswork."

"Iknow,"Davisreplied."Chinaisbuildingupitsarmyandairforceaswespeak."
http://www.hometownannapolis.com/cgi-bin/read/2005/02_13-61/BUS

Unionsdecrychangesforfeds
ByKATHLEENCULLINAN,CapitalNewsServiceThePentagonhasunveilednewpersonnelrulesthatwouldreplacethecurrentpayscalewithaperformance-basedpaysystemandwouldreducebargainingrightsforcivilianemployees.Laborunionsquicklythreatenedtosueoverthesweepingnewrules,whichtheleaderoftheAmericanFederationofGovernmentEmployeesdecriedas"ajoke."

Thenewsystem,whicheventuallycouldaffectsomeofthethousandsofcivilianDefenseDepartmentworkersinAnneArundelCounty,wasannouncedThursday,justdaysaftertheDepartmentofHomelandSecurityproposedasimilarreformofcivilservicerulesforabout110,000ofitsworkers.TheDODchangescouldaffect700,000nationwide.

"AswiththeDHSregulations,thoseadvancebytheDefenseDepartmentwillgoalongwaytowarddemoralizingtheDoDworkforce,"saidColleenKelley,presidentoftheNationalTreasuryEmployeesUnion.

Shesaidthatwasparticularlytruebecauseoftheplans'"limitsoncollectivebargainingandtheshrinkingofindependentthird-partyreviewoflabor-managementdisputes."

ButNavySecretaryGordonEnglandsaidThursdaythatthePentagon'sproposedregulationswouldbemore"agile"thanthe50-year-oldcivilservicerulescurrentlyineffect.

"It'sanoutdatedsystem,frankly,"Mr.Englandsaidofthecurrentregulations.

Mr.Englandsaidthenewrulescamefroma"very,verybroad-based"collaborativeprocessthatincludedmorethan100town-hall-stylemeetingsand50focusgroups.

Hiringwillbefasterunderthenewsystem,accordingtoaPentagonsummaryoftherulechanges,andthenewpaysystemwillallowmanagerstorewardworkersfortheirperformanceratherthantheirtimespentinthejob.

ThelargestDepartmentofDefenseagencyinthecountyistheNationalSecurityAgencyatFortGeorgeG.Meade.ButotheremployersincludetheNavalAcademyandseveralotheragenciesatFortMeade.

Thedepartmentalsosaidthatbesidescreatingmoredialoguebetweenworkersandmanagers,thestreamlinedhiringandlaborreviewprocesseswouldgivethePentagontheflexibilityneededtorespondtosecuritythreatsinarapidlychangingworld.

Thechangescannotbefinalizedforseveralmonths,asthePentagonsolicitspubliccommentandconsidersanychanges.Oncefinalized,thelaborrulechangeswouldtakeeffectimmediatelybutthepaysystemchangeswouldbeginwithafirstwaveofabout60,000employeeswhowouldbeswitchedovertothenewsystemthissummer.

"We'rechangingtheculture,"saidDanBlair,theactingdirectoroftheOfficeofPersonnelManagement.Butheconcededthattheshiftis"goingtotaketraining"andtime.

Mr.England,inapreparedstatement,calledtheproposal"awinforouremployees,awinforourmilitaryandawinforournation."

Unionofficialsdisagreed.

"Ifanything,the...planmakesthenationlesssecure,"AFGEPresidentJohnGagesaidinastatement.

AFGEhasalreadyfiledalawsuit,inconjunctionwithotherunions,againsttheDepartmentofHomelandSecurityinanefforttohaltitsproposedpersonnelrulechanges.AndunionrepresentativesthreatenedtochallengetheDefenseDepartmentrulesinfederalcourtassoonastheyarepublishedintheFederalRegister,whichisexpectedtohappentomorrow.

ThePentagonannouncementcameseveralhoursafteracongressionalhearingontheHomelandSecuritypersonnelproposal.

Laborofficialssaidtheplan,whichwouldreducerightstocollectivebargainingandcreateaninternalreviewboardtoresolvelabordisputes,arenotonlybadforthedepartment'semployeesbutare"verybadforhomelandsecurity."

AFGEattorneyMarkRothcalledtheproposedsystematHomelandSecurity"a19th-centurymodel"thatwouldbeharmfulforthedepartmentandthecountry.

---

AreyouaDoDemployeeconcernedaboutthechange?E-mailStaffWriterDavidLeivaatdleiva@capitalgazette.com
http://www.caller.com/ccct/local_news/article/0,1641,CCCT_811_3543390,00.html

DoDplandeflatesseniorityUnionsfearthatsupervisorswouldbetoopowerfulByTaraCoppScrippsHowardNewsService
February12,2005
WASHINGTON-NewrulesthatsignificantlychangethewayfederalciviliandefenseemployeesarepaidandpromotedwillbereleasedMondayandopentopubliccommentforthenext30days-whichmaybethelasttimeemployeeswillgetasdirectachancetoappealsalarydecisionsthatwillimpacttheircareersforyearstocome.ThePentagonispushingthechangesbecauseitsaysthecurrentsystemdoesnotallowittocompetewithprivatesectorhiring,andinthecurrentwaronterrorism,itcan'taffordanymore"braindrain"ofitsskilledworkerstoprivatecompanies."Thiswillgiveustheflexibilitytocompensateouremployeesproperly,"saidJoyceFrank,aspokeswomanforthePentagon'sproposed"NationalSecurityPersonnelSystem."TheproposednewNationalSecurityPersonnelSystemisthePentagon'splantoreplacethecurrentGeneralSchedulepaysystem's15"GS"levelswith"paybands"thatgroupandpayemployeesbytrades.Inthenewsystem,allpromotionsandraisesaredeterminedbyperformance.IntheGSsystem,employees'promotionsandraiseseachyeararebasedonseniorityandperformance.AffectsfutureraisesIfthechangesareimplemented,currentemployees'salarieswon'tbecut.Butthewaytheyearnfutureraiseswillchange.U.S.Rep.SolomonOrtiz,D-CorpusChristi,whorevieweda12-pagebriefingtheDefenseDepartmentpreparedformembersofCongressonWednesday,saidhewasmostconcernedaboutwhowouldberatingtheperformanceoftheCorpusChristiArmyDepot's3,200-manworkforce.Hesaidhedidn'twantsupervisorstobeabletofireemployeesforarbitraryreasons,andwantedtomakesuretheappealprocesswasfair."Who'sgoingtoapproveorratepeople?"hesaid."Theymightusethelinesupervisors,butifthatlinesupervisorgivessomebodyabadrating,youhavetoappealtoanothersupervisorthathasnoknowledgeofhowthisemployeeworks.Forhimtobetheonethatmakesthatfinaldecision,thatdoesn'tmakeanysense."OrtizsaidtheDefenseDepartmentisgoingbeyondtheexpectationsCongresshadwhentheyvotedinthe2003DefenseAuthorizationbilltoauthorizethechanges."Idon'tthinkit'sgoingtobefairtotheemployees,"hesaid."We'reinthemiddleofawarrightnow.MostoftheseguyswhoworkattheArmydepotareveterans.Theyknowwhatit'sliketocomeunderfire,toseethosebulletsflying.TheyknowtheyhavetoperformtoseethatthosepeopleinBosniaorIraqgettheequipmenttheyneedwell-maintainedandontime.Idon'twantthistobeacloudhangingovertheemployees."UnionsseekhalttoideaUnionorganizersandCongressgotabroadoverviewoftheproposedchangesthisweek-andtheunionsrespondedquicklybymovingtofilesuittostoptheproposal.MarkGibson,alaborrelationsspecialistwiththeAmericanFederationofGovernmentEmployees,saidit'sfalseforthegovernmenttoclaimthatunderthenewsystemitcouldcompetewithprivatesectorsalaries."Mostfederalcivilianemployees,whentheyfirsthearofit,think"payforperformance"isagoodthing,"Gibsonsaid."Theyassumethatbecausetheyknowtheydogoodworkandtheythink'it'sabouttimeIgetpaidforwhatIdo.'Therealityisthatitwon'tmeettheirexpectations.Inreality,thefederalgovernmentcannotaffordtopayfederalemployeeswhattheyareworth."Theoverviewoftherecommendationsispostedonlineatwww.cpms.osd.mil/nsps.OnMonday,thefulldetailswillbepostedonwww.regulations.gov,thenselect"DepartmentofDefense."Theregulationsareopenforpubliccommentfor30days,thentheDepartmentofDefensewillmeetwithemployerunionsfor30days.Ifagreementisreached,thenewpaysystemcouldbestartedafterCongressisnotified.That'sunlikely,withalawsuitpendingandtheexpectedvolumeofresponsestocomein.http://www.dallasnews.com/s/dws/dn/latestnews/stories/021305dnprova.75ec7.html

VApatientspaintpictureofneglectDirectoracknowledgesproblems,saysDallashospitalisimproving
01:28PMCSTonSunday,February13,2005ByDOUGJ.SWANSON/TheDallasMorningNewsJohnHahnlaymaroonedinhisbedlastyearattheDallasveterans'hospital,desperatelyseekinganurse.AnAirForcevetwhoseterminalbonecancerhadmadehimaparaplegic,Mr.Hahnrequiredturningeverytwohours.Thatday,March21,hestartedat5:30a.m.pushinghiscallbutton,whichrangatthenearbynurse'sstation.Noonecame.Hepusheditthroughoutthemorningandintotheafternoon,andstillnothing."Called/Requestedhelpforthepast8hrs,"hewroteinhisjournal.Finally,inangerandfrustration,Mr.Hahnusedhisbedsidephonetosummonthepolice.Anofficerarrivedwithinminutes,andnursessaidtheyhadinfactcheckedonMr.Hahnseveraltimes.Whentheofficerleft,ahospitalaidegavethepatientthereliefhesought."Took5min,"Mr.Hahn,61,wroteinhisjournal."Withinan8hrperiodoftimetheycouldn'tfind5mins.toturnme."Althoughhissolutionwasunusual,Mr.Hahn'sstoryofneglectattheDallasVeteransAffairsMedicalCenterisnot.VirginiaPritchettofMineralWellsrecalledherfather'sstaythereforhipsurgery."IcantakemyanimalstotheveterinarianandgetbettertreatmentthanmyfathergotattheDallasVA,"shesaid."Theyshouldn'tdothistoanybody,letalonesomeonewhofightsfortheircountry."TammyTurnerofFortWorthalsotookherfathertotheDallasVA."Theymadeitalivinghellthere,"shesaid.StephanieCanadaofDallasrememberedherhusband'shospitalizationlastyearforastroke."Thenursestheredonotcareifpeopleliveordie,"shesaid."Therewasplentyofstaff,butthey'dratherplaycards."OfficialswiththeU.S.DepartmentofVeteransAffairssaidtheyareawareofproblemsatthemedicalcenter,whichrankedlastamongallveteranshospitalsinitsadherencetofederalperformancestandardsin2004.Changesarebeingmade,saidThomasStranova,directoroftheVAHeartofTexasHealthCareNetwork,whichoperateshospitalsandclinicsfromtheRedRivertotheRioGrande."It'sliketurningaroundabattleship....Wearemakingvisibleimprovements,"hesaid,adding:"Wehaveagooddistancetogoyet."Mr.Stranovadidnotblamefundingorstaffinglevelsfortheproblems."Weneedtolookathowweuseourresources,"hesaid."Dowehavetherightpeopleintherightplace?"DozensinterviewedOverthelastthreeweeks,areporterforTheDallasMorningNewshasspokento,orexchangede-mailswith,morethan150DallasVApatientsortheirfamilies.SomesaidininterviewsthattheyfaredwellattheOakCliffhospital."Therearesomanygoodthingstopointout,"saidKennethHackney,whosupervisesDisabledAmericanVeteransvolunteersattheDallashospital."Wehavepeoplewhocareabouttheveterans.Theyareconcernedaboutveterans,andtheyunderstandveterans."Ofhisstaytherein2003foraspinalepiduralprocedure,Mr.Hackneysaid:"Ithinkit'sthebestcareIcouldreceiveanywhere."Eventhosewithmajorcomplaintsaboutthehospitalpraisedsomeindividualdoctors,nursesandtherapistswhoshowedextraordinarydevotiontoduty.Somesingledoutthespinalcordinjuryunitasparticularlygood.Butmanyofthoseinterviewedalsodescribeddeliberatemistreatmentatthehandsofnursesandsupportstaff.Theyportrayedmuchofthemedicalcenterasadirtyandill-equippedinstitutionwherepatientscryoutvainlyforaidandothersarelefttodiealone.Ms.Pritchett,forexample,saidnursesandaidesroutinelyignoredherbed-riddenfather,an81-year-oldMarineveteranofWorldWarIIwhowontheNavyCross.Hewasn'taloneinhissufferingatthehospital'sTransitionalCareUnit."Iwouldbewalkingdownthehall,andpatientswouldbecallingoutformetogethelp,becausethenurseswouldn'tanswer,"Ms.Pritchettsaid.Whenshewenttonursestocomplain,shesaid,shefoundthem"sittingtherehavinglunch."SteveVanNote,aPlanopoliceofficer,saidhisstepfather,anArmyveteranofWorldWarII,checkedintotheDallasVAinlate2003fortreatmentofbreathingproblems.Inhisbathroom"therewasfecessplatteredonthewall,"Mr.VanNotesaid."Inoneweekalonetherewerethreeorfourdayswhentheydidn'tfeedhim."Aidestoldthefamilythepatienthadbeensetformedicalteststhatrequiredthemtowithholdfood.Actually,Mr.VanNotesaid,notestshadbeenscheduled.Atthestepfather'srequest,thefamilymovedhimtoaprivatefacility,Mr.VanNotesaid."Evenhehimselfsaid,'Ineedtogetoutofhereandgettoanotherhospital.'"Hisstepfather,JohnM.Patton,diedinAprilattheageof74.Notonlypatientsandfamiliesfindfault.Dr.DellSimmons,aresidentphysicianinemergencymedicineattheDallasVA,saidpatientsaredyingneedlessly."Livesarebeinglostunnecessarilyduetothemismanagementofthisfacility,"Dr.Simmonssaid."We'reconstantlyinabattletogetcareaccomplished....Theyhaveanundertrainedandundermannedstaff,andit'spoorlydeployed."Dr.Simmons,whoisinthesecondmonthofhisresidency,saidmanypatientsfacelongdelaysinreceivingroutinetestsandprocedures,especiallyonnightsandweekends."Thosekindsofthingscanturnaproblemthatcanbeeasilytreatedintoadisaster,"hesaid,addingthatheseeslittlehopeforimprovement."Peopleherehavereallykindofgivenupfixingproblems."LowmarksTheinspectorgeneralfortheDepartmentofVeteransAffairs,inareportcompletedinNovember2004,gavetheDallashospitallowmarksinmanyareas,includingsanitation,managementandpatientsafety.Hospitalofficialssaidproblemscitedbytheinspectorgeneralwereeliminatedwhiletheinvestigationwasunderway.ButRobertFaulknerofAbilene,anAirForceveteranandsafetyengineer,saidhewasadmittedtothehospitalinNovemberandfoundhisroomfilthy.Aurine-soakedpadhadbeenleftunderhisbed,hesaid.Hediscoveredanotherpadinthenightstanddrawer,thisonesmearedwithexcrement."Therewasbloodygauzealloverthefloor,"Mr.Faulknersaid."Ishowedittothenurse,andshesaid,'Whatdoyouexpect?ThisistheVA.'"DorothyDavisofDallassaidthemanforwhomsheisalegalcaretaker,a56-year-oldArmyveteran,spenttimeintheDallasVAinOctoberforastrokethatparalyzedhisleftside."Hereceivedtheworstcareanyhumancouldhave,"shesaid.Ms.Davissaidtheman,whoaskedthathenotbeidentifiedforfearofretaliation,hadatracheotomywithabreathingtubeinserted.Suchtubesoftenneedtobesuctionedfortheremovalofmucousandsaliva.Manytimes,shesaid,nursesrefusedtoperformthisprocedure."Iliterallyhadtogoinanddothesuctionforhim,"shesaid."Thenurseswoulddisappear."Lastmonth,TheNewsdisclosedresultsofafederalsurveyofmedicalstudentsattheDallasVA.Theysaidanincompetentanduncaringnursingstaffoftenneglectedandabusedpatients.Onedaylater,thechiefofnursingservicesforthehospitalwasreplaced.AndthenationalveteranshealthofficeinWashingtonannounceditwassendingtwospecialteamstoDallastoinvestigateconditions.TheDepartmentofVeteransAffairsturneddownarequestbyTheNewstointerviewmembersoftheinspectionteams.ThedepartmentalsorefusedrequestsforinterviewswithmanagersofthenursingserviceattheDallasVA.NetworkdirectorStranovasaidthenationalofficesentinspectionteamstoDallasinpartbecauseofpublicityandinpartbecauseofneed."I'dliketosaythat85percentoftheveteranswhowalkthroughourdoorgetexcellentcare,"hesaid."Butwhatabouttheother15?"Somepatientshavenocomplaints.RichardHearne,62,ofDallassaidhehadcolonsurgerylastyearandwastreatedwell."Itwasgreatforwhatitis,"hesaid."Ifoundthepeopletobedelightful."AnArmyveteran,Mr.Hearnesaidmuchdependsonone'sapproach."Thepeoplewhohaveagoodattitudehaveagoodexperience.Thepeoplewhohaveabadattitudehaveabadexperience,"FredCantrellofPoint,Texas,saidhehasenjoyedexcellentcareduringandafterfivesurgeriesattheDallasVA.A69-year-oldArmyveteran,Mr.Cantrellsaidpartoftheproblemlieswiththemedicalstudents."Thesewannabedoctors,theydon'thaveanypower,"hesaid."Theycan'ttellanursewhattodo,sotheyfeellikethenursesarenotdoingtheirjobs."Expectationsofnursesmaybetoohigh,saidDonnaJackson,aregisterednursewhoworkedattheDallasVAformorethan10years.Sheleftin2001."Peoplehaveideasintheirheadsaboutwhatnursesaresupposedtoprovide,"shesaid."Butpatientsmaywantsomethingthat'snotapriority.Ifyouwantapainpill,thatshouldbeapriorityoverissuesofpersonalcare."Mrs.Jackson,whonowworksataHoustonVAhospital,saidshefoundnursesattheDallashospitaltobededicatedandcompassionate.SomenursesanddoctorsattheDallasVApointedtodifficultieswithpoorlyperformingsupportstaff,suchasaidesandcustodians.Incompetentworkersarerarelyfired,theysaid."Thesepeopleareprotectedbytheunion,"onenursesaid,"andtheymovefromoneunittoanotherbecausenobodywantsthem."LackofcooperationNetworkdirectorStranovasaidhospitalmanagementandunionofficials"havenotworkedwelltogether."Hesaidhehopesnewleadershipatthehospitalwillprovide"anopportunitytobuildnewbridges."DonaldBurrell,presidentoftheAmericanFederationofGovernmentEmployeeslocalthatrepresentsallunionizedworkersattheDallashospital,includingnurses,declinedtocomment.Manypatientsandfamiliessaidhospitalmanagementhasshownlittleinterestinreactingtoproblems.Ms.Turnersaidshefiledanestimated10complaintswithhospitalofficialsbutneverreceivedasatisfactoryresponse."Nobodywantstodoanythingthere,"shesaid."Ninetypercentofthepeople,ifyouaskthemtodoanything,theyactlikeyouaskedthemtodoafliporsomething."Herfather,anex-MarinenamedRonaldShort,hadcancerthathadspreadtohisspine,shesaid.Thatmadesittingorstandingexcruciatinglypainful.SowhenshebroughthimtotheDallasVAforhischeck-ups,Ms.Turnersaid,heneededtolieonagurney.However,shesaid,"theywouldn'teverhaveagurney....Theytoldmetheydidn'thaveenough."Once,whilewaitingtoseeadoctor,"Hesaid,'I'vegottolaydown.I'vegottolaydownnow,'"Ms.Turnerrecalled.Withnobedorgurneyavailable,"Ihadtotakehimoutsideononeofthosesteelbenchesinthepouringrain."Mr.Shortdiedlastyearatage68.Duringoneofhishospitalstays,Ms.Turnersaid,"twoofthenursesthatweresupposedtobehelpingmydadwereoutinthehallwaycussingupastormaboutwhattheyhadtodoforhim.Mydadcouldhearthewholething."Sheconveyedherconcernsaboutsuchtreatmenttohospitalofficials,Ms.Turnersaid."Theynevergotbackwithusonanything.Nothing."LynnLopez,thedaughterofthejournal-keepingMr.Hahn,echoedthosesentiments."Wecomplainedatleast15or20timesoverthreemonths,"shesaid."Theresponsewaskindoflikeabrush-off.Youneversawanythingdifferent."Forexample,shesaidthatdespitetheircomplaints,thestaffoftenfailedtogiveMr.Hahnallhismedications.Sometimestheywouldfindhispillsdumpedintohisbed,Mrs.Lopezsaid."Webasicallyturnedintothepolicingagency,"shesaid."Wehadsomebodyupatthathospital12to14hoursaday,sevendaysaweek."Mr.HahndiedinJune.FrankWatson,aretiredAmericanAirlinesexecutiveandNavyveteran,cametothehospital'sTransitionalCareUnitinJanuaryforatwo-weekstay.Mr.Watson,74,hasamyotrophiclateralsclerosis,alsoknownasLouGehrig'sdisease.Mr.Watson,whoonceenjoyedplayingtennis,wasdiagnosedwiththedegenerativenervediseasein2002.Ithaslefthimwithnouseofhislegsandonlytwofunctioningfingers.HewenttotheDallasVAsohiswife,Carol,couldhaveamuch-neededbreakfromcaringforhim.Mr.Watsonhadbeenapatientatthemedicalcenteraboutfiveyearsbefore,"andeverythingwasterrific,"hesaid.Thistimewasdifferent.Hegotonebathintwoweeks.Histeethwereneverbrushed.Anemaciatedpatientroamedfromroomtoroom,stealingfoodoffotherpatients'trays.NursestoldMr.Watsonthatthemanhadatapeworm.Whenheneededtourinate,Mr.Watsonpressedhiscallbuttonforhelpwiththebottle.Frequentlynooneresponded.ThismadelittlesensetoMr.Watson,whocouldseethenurse'sstationfromhisbed."Icouldseethreeorfournursessittingovertherejustchatting,havingagoodtime,"hesaid."Sometimesthey'dletitringforaroundahalf-hour."Attimeshewasleftlyinginhisownwasteforhours,andnoonewouldanswerhiscallbutton."Onenighttheyjustturneditoffforanhourormore,"hesaid.Onanotheroccasionheaskedanursewhowasinhisroomtohelphimmovehisfeettoeasehispain."Isaid,'Nurse,couldyouhelpmeforasecond?'Shesaidnoandjustkeptongoingoutthedoor."Afterhereturnedhome,theWatsonscomplainedandreceivedanapologyfromoneofthenursingmanagers."Heaskedthatwegivehimanotherchance,"Mrs.Watsonsaid."IwouldneversendFrankbackthere.Never."Anotherfamily–adaughter,threegrandchildrenandfourgreatgrandchildren–cametotheDallasVAinOctobertovisitDavidSledge,67,anArmyveteranwhohadbeenadmittedtwodaysbeforewithsymptomsofapossiblestroke.AdeathunnoticedExpectingapleasantchat,theywalkedintohisroomonenightandfoundhiminbed,wearingonlyadiaper,unattendedandnotconnectedtoequipmentthatmonitorsheartrateandbloodpressure.Hiscallbuttonwasseveralfeetawayonanightstand.Hehadbeendeadsolonghisbodywascoldtothetouch."Hisearswereblue,andhistonguewasblack,"saidhisgranddaughter,TeresaGarvinofCoppell."Morethanhalfhisbodywasdiscolored."Shewenttothenurse'sstationabout50feetdownthehall.Thetimewas8p.m."Iaskedthenurse,'WhenwasthelasttimeyoucheckedonDavidSledge?'"Ms.Garvinsaid."Shesaid,'Wecheckedonhimabout6:30[p.m.].Why?'"Anautopsylatershowedthecauseofdeathtobecardiacarrest,Ms.Garvinsaid.ThefamilywasinformedthatMr.Sledgehadnotbeenconnectedtomonitorsbecausehisconditionwasbelievedtobestable,whichisinaccordancewithstandardpracticeatmanyhospitals.AnattendingphysicianhadthisexplanationforMs.Garvinofhergrandfather'sunattendeddeath:"Shestatedtome,'Iapologize,butournursesareoverworkedandunderpaid,andthingslikethisjusthappen.'"NetworkdirectorStranovasaidhebelievestheDallasVAstaffislargeenoughandsufficientlypaidtodeliverserviceswell.Hospitalmanagement,hesaid,needstopaymoreattentiontorecentlyincorporatedperformancestandards."Westillhaveasteepcurvetogoup,butwe'reclimbingthecurve,"hesaid."We'reanxioustochangetheculture."WiththenextwaveofVApatientscomingfromthewarinIraq,officialsarebracingfornewchallengesandincreasedscrutiny."We'reheretoserveveterans.They'veearnedit,"Mr.Stranovasaid."Wecareaboutthem.Weseethemasmembersofourfamily."


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