Lawmakers Angered by VA Report About Problems at Marion VA Hospital

The Southern

June 17, 2008, Marion, IL – The U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs may soon find himself in the crosshairs of the Illinois congressional delegation.

Federal lawmakers from Illinois expressed anger Tuesday about a newly released federal report on poor management at the VA Medical Center in Marion.

U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Belleville, said the findings of the report by the VA’s Office of Resolution Management show disturbing mismanagement at the Marion center.

“That such flagrant violations could occur for a significant period of time again calls into question the VA’s ability to conduct quality oversight of its facilities,” Costello said. “This will be a major point of discussion when other members of the Illinois Congressional delegation and I meet with Secretary (of Veterans Affairs James B.) Peake later this week.”

Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin of Springfield and Barack Obama of Chicago made a joint statement.

“This new report from the VA confirms many of our suspicions about the problem that existed at the Marion VA Medical Center,” they said. “The report paints a disturbing picture – a management culture that compounded problems at the facility; management at the regional level that did not serve as a quality check on the Marion facility; and no way for employees to complain or make meaningful suggestions about problems when they arose.”

The senators said, “Our veterans and their families have made incredible sacrifices for this country, and when they return home, we owe them access to the best health care. Today’s report proves that this was not the case at the VA medical facility in Marion.”

U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, said the proper care and treatment of veterans should be first priority.

“Some of the personal and medical conduct at the Marion VA was appalling,” Shimkus said. “The majority of the employees, however, are dedicated to the veterans they care for and deserve proper and professional guidance and management.

“Any unlawful activity should be vigorously prosecuted and new managers need to stay long enough to return a healthy work environment to the facility,” he said.

Matt Smith, VA media relations spokesman in Washington, said Tuesday that the agency assessment team’s report was one step in a process dealing with several sensitive personnel and workplace issues.

“The VA continues to ensure the assessment recommendations are fully implemented and the Marion VA can move forward in providing quality health care to our nation’s veterans,” Smith said.

An employee, Kenneth Dilbeck, said the root of most of the problems at the Marion facility is a lack of managerial accountability.

Dilbeck emphasized that his beef is not with the current set of acting supervisors but those who formerly held the top positions and a few who still work in mid-management positions.

Dilbeck said he has received excellent care from medical personnel at the hospital.

“Believe me, there are a lot of good people who work at this hospital,” he said. “I think a lot of employees like me are just sick and tired of seeing certain people dodge bullets and have others cover for them.”

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