Key members of Congress today grilled administrators at the Dallas VA Medical Center about plans to improve patient care.
Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, a Dallas Democrat, says she began receiving volumes of complaints four years ago from employees and patients.
“The problems they are bringing to our attention are so serious they should not be happening anywhere,” said Johnson
Complaints included claims that some of the veteran suicides could have been prevented and patients were being released too early or without instructions for follow-up care.
“They tell us about accidents that happen in the emergency rooms, patient drownings, it is endless,” she said.
The Dallas medical center located in Johnson’s district is one of the largest in the VA system treating some 100,000 patients at a time.
Johnson says administrators their either wouldn’t or couldn’t provide adequate explanations so she turned to the White House and to Florida Republican Jeff Miller who chairs the House Veterans Affairs Committee.
“The complaints are somewhat similar to around the country,” said Miller who is visiting troubled VA facilities as his congressional committee prepares for September 9 hearings on veterans’ health care.
Today, after Miller and Congresswoman Johnson questioned the executive staff, Miller said he’s encouraged the mental health care team is making progress.
But he remains disturbed by bonuses awarded to administrators when patient care is not adequate.
Two Dallas VA executives received at least $50,000 over two years.
“You cannot nor should you reward poor performance with a bonus. You reward poor performance with being dismissed or fired,” Miller said.
Harry Kabler, a 92-year old World War II bombardier, was among a dozen or so veterans who came to the press conference to defend the Dallas VA Medical Center. Doctors at the center have treated him for back pain and problems with hearing.
“I have no complaints. This hospital has been good to me. Every time I’ve been out here I’ve been treated very well,” said Kabler who
Kabler is concerned the horror stories being told about the center will keep young veterans from going there to get care they need.
Congresswoman Johnson says she’s just after answers and solutions, because the complaints continue to pour in.
Dallas VA administrators declined interview requests. They issued a statement saying the meeting with congressional representatives was productive and allowed them to share action plans that will address their challenges.