The Douglas County Veterans Forum issued a statement of “no confidence” for the top three executives at the Roseburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center late Friday night.
The forum’s board of directors voted 11-0 to call for the resignation or removal of Director Carol Bogedain, Associate Director Steven Broskey and Nurse Executive Tracy Weistreich. They also called for the resignations of the top four officials at the regional Veterans Integrated Service Network, an organization based in Vancouver, Washington.
Forum board member Jim Little said the move was made after a poll of 17 member organizations which collectively serve 5,000 veterans.
“We contacted all of the groups, all of their leaders and asked them to please poll their members,” Little said. “We didn’t want to just make this decision as the board.”
Fourteen of those organizations voted in favor of the no-confidence statement, two were unable to complete polling of their members in time for Friday’s vote and one group voted against, Little said. The Oakland American Legion was the lone dissenting group.
Little, who serves as chairman of a subcommittee on the VA and is a past forum president, said the statement was mailed to VA Secretary Robert McDonald and to the U.S. House and Senate committees on veterans affairs.
“I hope it gets their attention,” Little said. “I hope that there’s a close look at all that’s gone on in the past few years.”
The Roseburg VA, much like VAs across the country, has been under fire in recent months for long wait times for veteran care. It has been flagged for further investigation because some employees said they had been asked to lie about those wait times. The forum’s conflict with the VA began after its previous director closed the facility’s intensive care unit in 2009.
The no-confidence statement accuses Bogedain, Broskey and Weistreich of “mismanagement, possible corruption in attempts to hide veteran appointment wait times, low employee morale resulting in a large turnover of medical providers, lack of acknowledgement of problems regarding the health care of veterans,” and “poor communication with veterans groups,” among other things.
Bogedain announced last week she plans to retire in January. Little said the forum decided to include Bogedain anyway because of the number of problems which occurred under her watch.
“A lot of it is due to the leadership of Carol. Just to leave it a moot point wasn’t serving our veterans well,” Little said. “We didn’t feel it was appropriate to just let her fade away.”
Bogedain could not be reached for comment Saturday.
Little said the other officials, known to veterans and employees as the “tetrad,” were included because the group is “jointly to blame” for the VA’s troubles.
Chief of Staff Chip Taylor, until recently the fourth tetrad member, left the Roseburg VA July 31 to become chief of staff for the Umpqua Regional Medical Center in Roseburg. He is not named in the forum’s statement.
Oakland American Legion Post Adjutant Don Adams could not be reached for comment Saturday about why veterans there opposed the forum’s no-confidence vote.
Larry Hill, a past first vice commander for the Oregon Department of the American Legion who lives in Winston, is currently a member of the Oakland post. He observed the group’s discussion but did not take a position himself. He said most of the group’s members are older and served in World War II or the Korean War. These “more seasoned” veterans have a different mind-set than Vietnam veterans, he said. Many do not like criticizing the VA and some said they feel the forum has become too focused on its fight with VA leaders.
“They are pleased with what they get when they go into the VA. Their needs are met and they’re taken care of properly,” Hill said. “They’ve never had any cause to be dissatisfied with their service or dissatisfied with management.”
Hill is a Vietnam veteran but said he’s never had any trouble with the VA either.
“On a personal level I’ve never experienced any difficulties ... a little frustration with longer waits than 30 days or whatever for my annual, but to me that’s no big deal,” he said. “By and large my experience has been pretty positive up there.”
Little said he wants to be clear that the veterans’ complaint is directed at upper-level managers and not at the doctors, nurses and other workers at the VA.
“Our criticisms aren’t directed at them at all. They’re trying to do the best job they can and many of them look at it as a calling,” Little said.
The statement accuses the VISN leaders of underfunding the Roseburg VA and preventing it from filling vacancies “in a timely manner.” It says they failed to deliver on promises given after the VA shut down its intensive care unit, including not finalizing a contract with Mercy Medical Center for ICU services.
• You can reach reporter Carisa Cegavske at 541-957-4213 or firstname.lastname@example.org.