JOHNSON CITY, TN (WJHL) – The same VA facility tasked with taking care of roughly 70,000 veterans needs to do a better job of taking care of its equipment, according to our review of federal records.
Mountain Home VA Medical Center can’t account for almost 1,300 pieces of equipment, which is more than any other VA facility in the mid-south region combined, according to VA documents. Records show those items originally cost taxpayers $1.7 million to buy.
Updated Facility Breakdown (added July 5, 2017)
At worst, the items are gone for good. At best, this is the result of poor recordkeeping, according to a top Mountain Home VA administrator.
“Any loss in unacceptable,” Associate Medical Center Director Dan Snyder said. “We don’t accept that as that’s okay. It’s not okay and we do continue to try to take steps to minimize it and eliminate it if at all possible.”
Snyder said employees file a police report for every missing item and VA police investigate every case, but he says those investigations haven’t turned up evidence that any items were stolen.
Federal documents show 1,295 items remain unaccounted for since 2011, which means employees lost, threw away or failed to document the equivalent of more than 5 percent of Mountain Home VA’s inventory.
“It bothers me to have any missing items,” Snyder said. “It is my problem. I am to blame for it along with my responsible inventory officials, department heads.”
Those 1,295 items are significantly more than every other VA facility in Tennessee and Kentucky, according to federal records.
“Does it surprise you that Mountain Home has more missing items than any other VA facility in this region?” we asked.
“I’m disappointed that we have any and I’m a little surprised that we have more,” Snyder replied.
The items on Mountain Home’s list include expensive medical technology, computers and monitors, phones, refrigerators, stretchers, cameras, printers, several big screen televisions and even a handful of bone saws.
In addition, records show multiple drills missing, as well as anesthesia units, Blu-ray players, DVD players, a Wii game system, BiPap units, exercise bikes and more than two dozen medical scopes.
Snyder said most of the missing items are what’s considered moving stock.
“Much of the equipment will follow a patient through the medical center through different levels of care and that makes it tough to find sometimes,” Snyder said.
He said the items are likely somewhere on the VA’s vast campus, but just not inventoried properly. Snyder said it’s not uncommon for things to show up months and even years after they’re put on the list.
“35 televisions, including nine 51-inch plasma HD televisions, those are pretty big items to go missing.” we said.
“Those HD televisions I don’t have a good answer for,” Snyder responded.
He did follow-up after our interview, telling us two of the plasma televisions have broken screens for unknown reasons, which means they are not missing, but still considered a loss.
After our interview we sent the VA a new public records request. Two weeks later, we’re still waiting for an explanation about the other big screen televisions.
Snyder said employees likely threw out some items without documenting them properly as part of renovations or replacements.
“To say the least it’s sloppy, but not dishonest,” Rep. Phil Roe (R), TN-District 1, said. “They need to tighten up and tell us what happened to it.”
Roe is the chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. He hopes our investigation prompts closer attention to detail at the local level.
“There’s no question they could do a better job and I think probably sunshine on this will help and who should be held accountable are the local directors,” Roe said.
Veteran John Armstrong found himself in disbelief when we told him about all of the missing items.
“They’re lacking somewhere obviously,” Armstrong said.
The vet can’t complain about the healthcare Mountain Home’s provided him, but he just wishes the government would take better care of the items he helped fund.
“Somebody is going to have to pay for those missing items somehow or they’ve already paid for them and that’s taking away from the care of the veterans,” Armstrong said.
Snyder said Mountain Home already inventories property yearly and said the VA is in the process of improving its technology so that one day employees will be able to track all equipment in real time.
“These are taxpayers’ dollars that go to buy and support this equipment and we intend to be accountable for that,” he said.
The depreciated value of Mountain Home’s missing items is roughly $327,000, which is the highest of all VA facilities in its region.
Snyder said that is about 0.4 percent of Mountain Home’s total inventory value, but nonetheless is still unacceptable.
In addition to police investigations, Snyder told us when a single inventory shows more than $5,000 worth of missing items, he notifies headquarters in Washington, D.C. and authorizes an in-depth analysis.
He said he’s ordered those reviews 14 times in the last five years, including twice in 2016.
Snyder said Mountain Home’s new director came from a military facility with no missing items.
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