(PITTSBURGH)—At yesterday’s field hearing conducted by the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, VA leaders exhibited the same unwillingness to take responsibility for their harmful actions as they did at a February hearing where AFGE VA Local 2028 President Kathi Dahl testified about a management cover up of a Legionnaires’ outbreak at the Pittsburgh VA that resulted in five patient deaths.
“During the field hearing it was heart-wrenching to hear the stories from the families of veterans who have died while receiving care at VA medical facilities,” said AFGE National President J. David Cox, Sr. “VA employees are charged with providing world-class care to our nation’s heroes and are up to the task. All too often our rank-and-file employees must battle mismanagement and a lack of accountability among agency leaders when doing their jobs. For years we have seen Network Director Michael Moreland, in particular, rewarded for poor management and the retaliation of whistleblowers under his watch. Veterans have died while he’s been at the helm of VISN 4. It is unconscionable that he would defend his five-figure bonus while the victims’ families expressed their anguish over their experience.”
The hearing also addressed patient safety issues at VA facilities in Atlanta, Jackson, Miss., Dallas, and Buffalo. All these issues were highlighted by stories from veterans’ families and whistleblowers within the agency. The hearing also delved deep into the performance bonuses awarded to executives within the VA who had patient deaths occur under their supervision.
“I am deeply moved by the stories of the victims’ families and echo their frustrations when trying to get a straight answer out of VA officials,” said AFGE District 3 National Vice President Keith Hill. “The union has demanded time and time again that the agency drop its veil of secrecy and stop playing politics when it comes to veterans’ care.”
“The time is now for agency leaders to lead by example, own up to their mistakes and work with veterans, employees and community partners to ensure without a doubt that the VA provides the best care for our nation’s heroes,” said AFGE District 5 National Vice President Everett Kelley.
“This hearing illustrated the challenges that come when leaders and decision makers look to point the finger and shy away from taking responsibility when a crisis occurs,” added AFGE District 10 National Vice President Roy Flores.
“America’s veterans and their families deserve the best service we can provide in exchange for their sacrifice to our nation. The employees that we represent are committed to that mission, but as we saw yesterday are often trapped in a system that rewards mismanagement and lack of proper oversight. Hopefully, this hearing has challenged agency leaders to reassess how they do business,” said AFGE National VA Council President Alma Lee.