WASHINGTON – House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chairman Jack Bergman (R-MI) and Representative Mike Bost (R-IL) called on U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs Secretary David Shulkin to make changes in the Human Resources department at the Marion VA Medical Center.
“Our heroes deserve the best care possible, and unqualified leadership in the HR department at Marion prevents that from happening,” said Bost. “That’s why I have appealed directly to the VA Secretary to get an HR team in place at Marion that can clean up the mess. We’ve heard stories of grossly inconsistent salaries among staff, low morale, and a lack of proper training and discipline. Serious HR changes need to be made, and fast. Our veterans deserve better than this.”
"Effective leadership can only be achieved by assembling a qualified team with a defined objective,” said Bergman. After months of investigations conducted by the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, it has become clear that the Marion VA Medical Center’s HR department has failed to meet its core missions. Secretary Shulkin has begun the important task of changing the culture within VA, which is why Congressman Bost and I have appealed to him directly seeking immediate change in the facility’s HR department. By putting in place a highly motivated and effectively led HR department, the Marion VA will be able to provide Veterans with the quality and timely care they have earned."
The full text of the letter is available here and below:
January 23, 2018
Via Electronic Transmission
Dear Secretary Shulkin,
We write to you to express our deep concerns regarding the strength of the Human Resources (HR) Department at the Marion, Illinois VA Medical Center (VAMC). The Veterans’ Affairs Committee’s investigative work has uncovered numerous, systemic issues that plague VA health systems. A persistent root cause of issues like prolonged difficulties recruiting and retaining staff, failures to track and enforce training standards, and the inability to discipline misbehaving employees is an absence of strong HR leadership and staff.
The issues facing the Marion VAMC are of a similar nature. Staff consistently voice concerns about inconsistencies in pay scales and grade; a chronic confusion about processes for disciplining employees; and high employee turnover and vacancy rates. Furthermore, Committee investigators found that Marion fails to track employee no-show rates and disciplinary actions, despite the chronic recruitment and retention issues that face the medical center. The Committee knows conclusively that these issues persist, despite our and our staff’s candid information sharing with you personally, as well as VAMC and VISN leadership.
Without a strong leader, the current status quo within Marion HR will continue to impact the organization’s culture and productivity. However, the Committee found that Marion’s long-time HR Chief has no college degree, raising concerns that his educational foundation is insufficient to carry out his role and responsibilities as the head of HR. We strongly encourage you to take the necessary steps to review and improve the HR department at the Marion VA and throughout the VA system.
We voice these concerns in a letter because we are sincerely invested in the well-being of both Marion’s veterans and employees. This medical center is at a crossroads: Marion’s dysfunctions have been exposed for all to see, and subsequently the facility has received significant attention and support from the VISN, VA Central Office, and congressional stakeholders to improve operations and move forward. But bettering and maintaining the quality of services Marion provides requires that the medical center improve the culture of its workforce. This, in turn, necessitates an educated, competent, and respected HR Chief. Without such a leader in place, we fear Marion will continue to have issues recruiting and retaining a quality workforce.
Given these serious concerns, Committee staff will be in contact to schedule a briefing to discuss specific personnel actions that have taken place at the Marion VAMC since their investigation. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to have your staff contact Jon Hodnette, Majority Staff Director, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, at (202) 225-3569.
JACK BERGMAN MIKE BOST
Subcommittee on Oversight and Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and
Investigations Memorial Affairs