NORTH TEXAS (CBS 11 NEWS) – Two members of Congress said their public oversight visit to the VA North Texas System Friday, only came after extensive work trying to quietly handle complaints behind closed doors.
As the CBS 11 I-Team reported in June, Johnson’s office was flooded with complaints from employees as well as patients.
She worked with Rep. Jeff Miller from Florida, the Veterans Affairs House Committee Chairman. He said the committee has had issues getting answers from the VA as a whole. More than 100 requests for information nationwide he said, are still unfulfilled.
“We cannot stop the flow of complaints,” said Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson of Dallas. “There have been problems all along the spectrum, from admission, to hospitalization to discharge.”
Both representatives said they were convinced during Fridays visit that VA North Texas Director Jeff Milligan is making an effort to fix the problems.
Milligan said Friday that emergency department wait times for triage are down to 19 minutes. The department is now 95-percent staffed. A mental health emergency room opened in June. Phone systems have been streamline he said and text messaging added for veterans to communicate with providers.
When asked why he thought Rep. Johnson and Rep. Jeff Miller, from Florida, felt the need to take the problems public, VA North Texas Director Jeffrey Milligan pointed to some staff under-performing.
“Never want to see anybody lose their job, but after training and education if employees can’t figure out how to get it right then we’re going to hold em to a higher level of accountability,” he said. “I think our veterans deserve that.”
There has been high staff turnover Milligan said, and he is bringing in new people to fill positions. A source at the VA said some managers who have drawn complaints are still employed. In the press conference, Rep. Johnson said there had been a culture of protection at the VA, rather than one that dealt with the problem.
Milligan is included in a list of executives who Rep. Miller has criticized for receiving bonuses while complaints added up. Milligan received nearly $20,000 in bonuses from 2011-12. They were awarded after performance reviews by a regional director showed he met or exceeded goals set out for the system. He said he believed he deserved it, based on the agreement signed at the beginning of the year.
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