KARE 11’s investigation into why Veterans Administration records show a man who died while waiting for an appointment allegedly canceled an appointment four days after he died has led to a potential new scandal: bonuses that were handed out based on phony records.
In Minnesota, according to KARE, VA Midwest network director Janet Murphy was paid $99,465 in bonuses over a seven-year period on top of her $176,000 a year salary. She’s not talking.
Minneapolis VA whistleblowers tell KARE 11 scheduling performance numbers and the bonuses that came as a result of good numbers have been the top priority at the hospital. Letty Alonso, the former manager in the gastroenterology department at the Minneapolis VA met with the VA’s Office of Inspector General and the FBI last week. She tells KARE 11, “Numbers is all that really counts. Not the veteran’s lives.” Alonso was fired in June after questioning how the VA was violating its own rules regarding the scheduling of appointments. The U.S. Office of Special Council is investigating her claims and those of Heather Rossbach, a medical support assistant who also alleges scheduling fraud. Rossbach was also fired.
“The VA is continuously saying we need more money, we need more money for more doctors, we need money for more nurses, we need money for computers. You’ve got money,” said Jason Quick, the Minnesota director of Concerned Veterans for America.
Related: VA to fire 4 senior executives in response to wait-time scandal (Stars and Stripes).