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Millions in Settlements Paid to Problem Employees by VA

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By Debbie Gregory.

You wouldn’t think doctors, nurses, and other medical workers would be classified as “problem employees.” But many former medical professional employees have cost the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) over $6 million.

A recent investigation has uncovered that the VA, the nation’s largest employer of healthcare workers, has concealed the mistakes and misdeeds of its staff for years.

Examples include a VA radiologist who had misread dozens of CT scans at a VA hospital in Washington State, and a podiatrist who had 88 cases where mistakes that harmed veterans at the Togus hospital in Maine were made.

Citing inadequate performance, hundreds of VA employees were fired or forced into early retirement. But they fought back in the legal arena.

In just those two years, 230 settlement deals were made to pacify problem employees. These settlements were withheld from the public. In some of those cases, the employees receiving the settlements were whistle-blowers, or were wronged by the VA. But in the remaining cases, the employees were the problem.

Because the settlements were reached in secret, there is no official word as to why the VA determined that the employees should be fired or forced to resign.

According to the VA website, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs wants to demonstrate accountability and transparency regarding settlements with employees. To that end, on July 7, 2017, Secretary Shulkin announced that he is requiring approval by a senior official of any monetary settlement with an employee over the amount of $5,000.

Any settlement above this amount will require the personal approval of the Under Secretary, Assistant Secretary or equivalent senior-level official within the organization in which the dispute occurs.

“We’re changing to a culture of accountability at VA, and this is an important step in that direction,” Shulkin said.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

A Little About our VA Secretary Shulkin

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By Debbie Gregory.

Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin may be an unlikely choice to overhaul veterans services. Although he is the son of an Army psychiatrist, for the first time, the head of the agency is not a veteran. His family has a history of military service and providing military medical care. Both his grandfathers served in World War I. And maybe most importantly, Dr. Shulkin, has spent a lifetime studying how to make health care organizations deliver better care at lower costs.

The entire U.S. Senate, all 100 Senators, voted to confirm Dr. Shulkin as President Trump’s VA Secretary. Prior to his confirmation as Secretary, Dr. Shulkin served as VA’s Under Secretary for Health for 18 months, leading the Nation’s largest integrated health care system, with over 1,700 sites of care serving nearly nine million Veterans.

While at the Medical College of Pennsylvania, Shulkin studied how to improve efficiency in health care management. Utilizing best practices resulted in saving money and patients.

Dr. Shulkin rose through top jobs there, at Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia, at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York and eventually at Morristown Medical Center, in the affluent suburbs of northern New Jersey.

He is all for increasing reliance on private health care for routine procedures, like hearing aids, so it can focus on its core mission of caring for the wounded.

Shulkin, a board certified internist, has been extremely concerned about veteran suicide after a news report showed high rates among young combat veterans. In a September 2016 op-ed, Shulkin wrote, “Losing even one veteran to suicide is unacceptable, which is why suicide prevention is a top priority at VA.”

Dr. Shulkin has been named as one of the “50 Most Influential Physician Executives in the Country” by Modern Healthcare. He has also previously been named among the “One Hundred Most Influential People in American Healthcare.” He has been married to his wife, Dr. Merle Bari, for 29 years. They are the parents of two grown children.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Trump Taps Shulkin for VA Secretary

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By Debbie Gregory.

President-elect Donald Trump has announced his intention to nominate David Shulkin as his secretary of veterans affairs.

Shulkin currently serves as the undersecretary for health at the VA. The new position requires Senate confirmation.

Shulkin is a board-certified internist. He served as the President and Chief Executive Officer of Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City. He also served as President of Morristown Medical Center and the Atlantic Accountable Care Organization.

He has been Chief Medical Officer of the University of Pennsylvania Health System, the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Temple University Hospital, and the Medical College of Pennsylvania Hospital.

His other academic positions have included Chairman of Medicine and Vice Dean at Drexel University College of Medicine, and Professor of Medicine at Albert Einstein School of Medicine. Shulkin has been the editor of Journal of Clinical Outcomes Management and Hospital Physician, and has been on the editorial boards of several journals, including Journal of the American Medical Association.

Dr. Shulkin founded and served as the Chairman and CEO of DoctorQuality, Inc a consumer-oriented information service.

In a departure from the norm, Dr. Shulkin is not a veteran, breaking the pattern that the VA has previously established, having a veteran at the helm.

“I have no doubt Dr. Shulkin will be able to lead the turnaround our Department of Veterans Affairs needs,” Trump said in a statement following the announcement. “Dr. Shulkin has the experience and the vision to ensure we will meet the healthcare needs of every veteran.”

Trump considered a series of possible VA secretaries before deciding on Shulkin

“The first responsibility that we have to our veterans is to make sure those that need urgent care are getting care on time,” Shulkin said.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Military Connection: The Gift of Education

GI Bill Students

 

By Debbie Gregory.

One of the greatest gifts we can give to those who serve and their families is the gift of education. As a way of making it easier for Veterans and their families to use their GI Bill benefits where they choose, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (USDVA) announced all Veterans and dependents using USDVA’s GI Bill benefits shall receive temporary in-state tuition status through the end of the year, regardless of their state of residence. The Secretary of Veterans Affairs has used his authority to waive the provisions of Section 702 of the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014 (Choice Act). This action will ensure all GI Bill students are able to continue training at their chosen institutions.

“Our military members and their families make sacrifices that require them to pack up and move with little notice,” said Bob McDonald, Secretary of Veterans Affairs.  “They shouldn’t be penalized after they leave military service by burdensome residency requirements.  This waiver will allow students to continue receiving the GI Bill benefits they’ve earned as states work to comply with this important law.”

The states that are currently in compliance, meaning that covered individuals using the Post-9/11 GI Bill or Montgomery GI Bill-Active Duty benefits at public institutions of higher learning will be charged the resident rate for tuition and fees are: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

The states/territories that intend to comply, meaning that they are undergoing an internal review process with support from the State Approving Agency and VA are: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virgin Islands, and Washington.

According to Keith Boylan, CalVet’s Deputy Secretary for Veterans Services, “Students using GI Bill benefits in California are able to continue training at their chosen institutions and receive in-state tuition status.” Boylan went on to say, “CalVet thanks USDVA for taking the initiative for our Veterans and dependents using the GI Bill.”

USDVA’s policy impacts Veterans and dependents who enroll in an institution within three years of the Veteran’s qualifying discharge. The new rule was issued as a waiver under the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the ArmyNavyAir ForceMarinesCoast Guard,Guard and ReserveVeterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Boardinformation on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: The Gift of Education: By Debbie Gregory