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August 1, 2014
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Editorial: Roseburg VA needs an honest, accountable leader

We’ve asked for more transparency from the leadership at the Roseburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center. We’ve asked leaders to admit there are problems so they can work toward solutions.

Yet, with each passing week, we get more reports that point to a facility that is poorly managed, contributing to low morale among employees and potential health risks for veterans.

The men and women who volunteered to sacrifice their lives to defend our country deserve better.

The leadership at the Roseburg VA cannot continue to deny there have been unethical activities going on within their brick walls. Too many people have been watching, taking notes and standing up for what’s right.

VA employees and the veterans in their care need leaders who listen to them and believe them. They need strong leaders who admit shortcomings and hold people accountable for any wrongdoing.

The most recent example of poor leadership occurred this past week. An audit by the Veterans Health Administration reported that 30 percent of the Roseburg VA employees surveyed said they had been instructed to falsify the date a veteran asked for an appointment to see a doctor.

In a written statement on Thursday, Roseburg VA Director Carol Bogedain denied employees had been told to manipulate data.

When The News-Review sought further explanation, the director granted only a 15-minute phone interview Friday in which she said her staff is still looking at the results because the report only arrived last week. She also wanted to clarify that just 22 people were interviewed by the auditors, not all 200 who schedule appointments.

She blamed the results on old computer software that involves multiple computer screens and confusion over the definition of a veteran’s desired date for an appointment.

Bogedain admitted that when she became director in September 2011 she heard about a couple of departments — she didn’t recall which ones — where appointments for veterans weren’t being scheduled.

“I made it very clear to staff that this was not an acceptable practice,” she said.

Employees within the VA say Bogedain chose not to investigate who had authorized the practice. And Bogedain admitted she didn’t discipline or dismiss anyone over the matter.

This type of inaction provides clues to how the culture within the Roseburg VA could become corrupt. When an agency dedicated to caring for veterans neglects to schedule their appointments but holds no one accountable, practices don’t change.

Nationwide VA investigations have found evidence hospital directors and supervisors personally manipulated data, instructed subordinates to do so or withheld information from higher officials so they would look better on performance evaluations, upon which their bonuses were based.

We may have to wait for results from the Office of the Inspector General to learn who was behind the deception at the Roseburg VA.

Because of Bogedain’s short tenure in her post, she may not be responsible for falsified records, but her leadership is still lacking. She walked out of Douglas County Veterans Forum meetings and now refuses to meet with the group that represents 5,000 local veterans.

She has lost credibility with many veterans and staff members. She’s a career VA employee who doesn’t recognize the VA culture that is such a mess today.

It’s likely the problems in Roseburg started with the leadership in the unnecessary layer of bureaucracy called the Veterans Integrated Service Network 20.

Still, the ultimate responsibility for the Roseburg VA lies with its director. It’s time for her to resign.

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The News-Review Updated Aug 2, 2014 07:05PM Published Aug 3, 2014 05:16PM Copyright 2014 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.