JOHNSON CITY, TN (WJHL) – Mountain Home VA Medical Center had some of the longest wait times in the nation and even attracted a federal investigation, but the VA reports the agency has not punished any local employees for wait time-related issues.
“We have not disciplined any employees over wait times,” then Acting Director Dan Snyder said.
Public records previously revealed Mountain Home disciplined roughly 150 employees in 2014 and 2015.
Snyder says among the employees who did not face discipline was the former administrator at the center of a Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General investigation into wait times at Mountain Home. The OIG released a report earlier this year that concluded the former administrator, who the OIG did not name, ordered his employees to break with federal policy and change scheduling records in the months after the national wait time scandal.
The VA previously declined an on-camera interview to talk about the investigation. However, Snyder answered our questions about the investigation during a later interview.
“I think everybody intended to improve patient wait times,” he said. “I can’t speak to the people, individuals’ intent and why they did that. Making those changes does not help our statistics in any way.”
Instead of facing punishment, the man retired unexpectedly last year.
“He just quit,” Rep. Phil Roe (R), TN-District 1, said. “He retired. He just disappeared.”
Congressman Roe says he saw the former administrator’s actions as a clear manipulation of data. He says agency wide, the VA is just not accountable enough when employees fail. The VA has taken heat across the country for only disciplining a handful of employees for the national wait time scandal.
“We will note one of these egregious acts and this person’s allowed to retire after 20 years, 25 years or whatever, with a severance package or whatever and go on,” Rep. Roe said.
Snyder says Mountain Home did not punish the former administrator because the OIG did not recommend it.
“They did make recommendations. That was not one of them,” Snyder said. “If they had felt that there was a need for discipline, they would have made that recommendation.”
Snyder says Mountain Home retrained its employees as a result of the investigation and added more staff, including several nurses, to help with scheduling.
The OIG investigation found the administrator’s actions did not harm patients.