VA Secretary Shuffles Leadership After Investigation Into DC Medical Center

VA Secretary Shuffles Leadership After Investigation Into DC Medical Center
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Gina Harkins is MOAA's Senior Staff Writer. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at: @ginaaharkins.

The head of the VA replaced key members of his leadership team and announced sweeping changes to medical centers across the country following a troubling report of systematic failures at the VA facility in Washington, D.C. 

VA Secretary David Shulkin announced Wednesday the regional directors for the New England and Arizona/Southwest regions will retire in coming days, Military Times reported. The national director of the Washington, D.C., network also will be reassigned. A new executive now will oversee all three regions, according to Military Times.

The leadership shuffle follows a scathing inspector general (IG) report into the Washington, D.C., VA Medical Center that said consistent and critical deficiencies left patients at unnecessary risk. Failures included ineffective sterilization procedures; more than 10,000 open and pending prosthetic and sensory aid requests; and misuse of government credit cards, according to the report.

Shulkin said Wednesday that he appreciates the office of the IG's work, calling it a “critical step in improving the overall performance of this facility.”

“Further, it is especially valuable as VA strives to markedly improve the care we provide to our veterans and as we move forward in restoring veterans' confidence in the medical care they receive,” he said.

The VA took steps to eliminate all pending prosthetics consults more than 30 days old at the Washington, D.C., medical center. VA officials also established a robust oversight process to address supply and equipment shortages and filled three dozen logistics and sterilization service positions.

The announcements follow reports into other problems at the VA. There have been reports of infighting at the VA, with some accusing Trump administration appointees of undermining Shulkin's efforts in the department. MOAA was one of several VSOs to meet last week with White House Chief of Staff Gen. John Kelly, USMC (Ret), to discuss ways to stabilize operations within the VA and legislation that can help provide better care for veterans.

A separate IG investigation also found that Shulkin misused a subordinate's time to arrange personal travel during a trip to Europe. The VA secretary also was found to have improperly accepted Wimbledon tennis tickets as a gift. 

Shulkin said during the Wednesday press conference that he will take steps to prevent problems like those that took place at the medical center in Washington, D.C. That includes independent health care management experts making unannounced audits at VA facilities, restructuring at the VA's central office, department-wide staffing reviews, and new oversight for medical center performance.