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For Years the VA Department Knew About the Serious Conditions at D.C. Hospital

For Years the VA Department Knew About the Serious Conditions at D.C. Hospital

VA Director Shulkin announced plans to reorganize the agency from top to bottom.

USA Today reported on Wednesday that officials at the Department of Veterans Affairs knew for YEARS about the poor conditions at the DC VA Medical Center and did nothing. The horrific conditions left patients at risk and wasted our tax money.

Officials Knew

An inspector general investigation discovered officials within the department “were either unwilling or unable to fix the problems.” Since 2013, people told those in charge at the local, regional, and national level all about the issues, “but investigators concluded ‘a culture of complacency and a sense of futility pervaded offices at multiple levels.” USA Today continued:

“In interviews, leaders frequently abrogated individual responsibility and deflected blame to others,” the investigation report says. “Despite the many warnings and ongoing indicators of serious problems, leaders failed to engage in meaningful interventions of effective remediation.”

However, the investigation did not discover any evidence that showed anyone informed VA Secretary David Shulkin or his top deputies of these problems.

Last April, I blogged about how the IG at the VA found that veterans at the VA Medical Center faced “imminent danger” due to the horrific conditions. USA Today reported:

The VA inspector general found that in recent weeks the operating room at the hospital ran out of vascular patches to seal blood vessels and ultrasound probes used to map blood flow.

The facility had to borrow bone material for knee replacement surgeries. And at one point, the hospital ran out of tubes needed for kidney dialysis, so staff had to go to a private-sector hospital and ask for some.

The hospital, which serves more than 98,000 veterans in the nation’s capital, lacks an effective inventory system, the inspector general determined, and senior VA leaders have known about the problem for months and haven’t fixed it. Investigators also inspected 25 sterile storage areas and found 18 were dirty.


• In February 2016, a tray used in repairing jaw fractures was removed from the hospital because of an outstanding invoice to a vendor.

• In April 2016, four prostate biopsies had to be canceled because there were no tools to extract the tissue sample.

• In June 2016, the hospital found one of its surgeons had used expired equipment during a procedure

• In March 2017, the facility found chemical strips used to verify equipment sterilization had expired a month earlier, so tests performed on nearly 400 items were not reliable

Shulkin Response

Shulkin fired the hospital’s medical center director after the IG published the April 2017 report and “also dispatched teams of specialists from headquarters to inventory and ensure adequate supplies were available to treat patients.”

On Wednesday, USA Today noted that Shulkin has taken action by announcing “sweeping plans” to reorganize the agency from top to bottom:

Three regional directors who oversaw 23 hospitals serving nearly 3 million veterans are out, and their offices now will report directly to a new executive in Washington.

Two of the directors opted to retire — Michael Mayo-Smith, who oversaw VA medical centers in New England, and Marie Wheldon, director of VA hospitals in Arizona, New Mexico and Southern California. The third, Joseph Williams, was reassigned. He had supervised VA facilities in West Virginia, Maryland and Washington.

Shulkin told USA Today that he recognizes “this as a failure issue, and this isn’t just about fixing the specific problems that the report mentions.” He views this an “opportunity to address similar issues around the country.”

Bryan Gamble, who works at the Orlando VA Medical Center, will have the responsibility to overlook “three regions and to lead an effort to draft a plan to reorganize VA regional governance as a whole by July 1.”

In the 1990s, the government split the agency hospitals into regions with their own directors who then report to national headquarters. But as USA Today points out, “the extra layers of bureaucracy have grown, defusing accountability and at times throwing up barriers to improvement of front-line health care provided to veterans.”

Shulkin wants to reorganize the VA national headquarters to make sure these situations do not fall through the cracks and the right people receive the information:

Shulkin ordered staff to come up with a plan to reorganize VA headquarters offices as well to better serve veterans. He expects that plan by May 1.

“We are looking to make sure that the central office has greater accountability, that it is streamlined and that it is de-layered and that we can return resources from administrative functions back out to the field where they more directly impact veterans,” he said.

If Shulkin succeeds in implementing his goals in full, it would mark the biggest transformation of the VA in more than 20 years. Many such plans have been considered in recent years, and some have been implemented.


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I see new office furniture in their future. Office furniture is important.

Gub’mint healthcare at its finest, so let’s expand it nation wide!

“However, the investigation did not discover any evidence that showed anyone informed VA Secretary David Shulkin or his top deputies of these problems.”

Then what was the point? Paper-pusher job security?? I despise these people.

Everyone who has served or knows someone who has served knows that 85% of these VA facilities are festering shitholes that will kill you more times than not.

Trump needs to take his chainsaw to these festering shitholes and ABOLISH THE VA.

It’s replacement is a universal med card for ANY licensed facility or doctor paid out like medicare, etc. Period.


Ghost Rider | March 8, 2018 at 2:43 pm

The handful of people I know who rely on the VA for healthcare have gotten nothing put terrible service, experienced endless delays, and get the run around all the time. I truly feel sorry for anyone with a serious condition who is 100% dependent on the VA.

“However, the investigation did not discover any evidence that showed anyone informed VA Secretary David Shulkin or his top deputies of these problems.”

Translation: “The head of the VA is not doing his job.”

Employees respect what management inspects. I wonder what would have happened if Mr. Shulkin had taken a day or two to tour — unannounced — one of the medical facilities for which he is responsible?

Gremlin1974 | March 8, 2018 at 4:26 pm

It is long past time to put down the decrepit dinosaur that is the VA medical system, it is a brontosaurus collapsing under its own weight.

It has also become a haven for those that have been found to be incompetent and/or dangerous to be allowed to practice in the real medical world.

Give Vets the care they deserve, just give them a card good at any accredited medical facility.

i’vew been meaning to get a couple of these shirts, so i always have one ready to wear to my next appointment.

just about every time i go to an appointment at a facility here in Lost Angeles, whether to Left LA or Sepulveda, i see at least one Type 1 Joint Commission issue.

the only reason my care isn’t completely 5hitty is that i speak fluent healthcare, having w*rked in real HCf’s since 92, and i know how the game is played, which words to use, which buttons to push and how to go up the food chain and get what i need, rather than what they want to give me.

We had a traitor as a president for eight years. What would anyone expect from the swine, but to decimate the military in any way he could.

    John McCain didn’t help the vets either despite his rhetoric.

    May they both face God’s Justice

    jmdenison in reply to | March 10, 2018 at 2:52 am

    The reality is, Obama continued to provide the pentagon with $2 billion per day to blow stuff up. He was a war criminal. He allowed the pentagon to also “lose” $2 or $3 trillion every few years. He did not stop that. And for sure, he did not worry about the efficiencies of vets hospitals. Email me and let’s start some systems to stop this. Everyone in a hospital deserves better. Let’s put supplies on the internet for the public to see. There’s stuff we can do. Let’s do it.

Voice_of_Reason | March 9, 2018 at 7:17 am

my experience at walter reed 12 and more years ago was that some of the staff were local diversity/affirmative action hires, and they were indifferent, gave contradicting medical instructions, ans didn’t give a rat’s azz about patients. One time i was there a black female nurse was wearing a Howard Dean for president button, which now I know is a violation of the Hatch act. I saw a black nurse completelty ignore an old white man, probably alzheimers patient, who kept yelling, “help me, help me”.

i suspect the VA has similar issues.

I worked at the DC VA as a medical intern for two months back in 1973 and it was an utter disaster then. The staff just did NOTHING. They did not work. Moreover, they were racists.

“The third, Joseph Williams, was reassigned. He had supervised VA facilities in West Virginia, Maryland and Washington.”

The person who supervised the terrible Washington VA facility wasn’t fired!