Investigation reveals VA shuffled managers and declared it 'new leadership': 5 things to know

The Department of Veterans Affairs has made various leadership changes at its medical centers since VA Secretary Bob McDonald took over the troubled agency in 2014. However, there are not as many new leaders in place as expected, a USA Today investigation reveals.

Here are five things to know about the issue.

1. Secretary McDonald has contended more than "90 percent" of the agency's medical centers have "new leadership" or "leadership teams" since he began his role, according to USA Today. But the publication's investigation found the VA has only hired eight medical center directors from outside the VA since Secretary McDonald took over in 2014.

2. Outside of the eight new hires, the "new leadership" cited by Secretary McDonald is the result of moving existing managers between jobs and medical centers, reports USA Today. The publication states some managers moved to new jobs, even though there were concerns about the care provided to veterans at the facilities they previously worked at.

3. Overall, USA Today found only 92 of 140, or 66 percent, of medical center directors are new under Secretary McDonald's tenure. According to the publication, only 69 are permanent placements; the rest are interim appointees.

4. In response to the USA Today investigation, VA officials told the publication Secretary McDonald's initial statistic was incorrect, and the actual percentage of new medical center leaders is 84 percent. The percentage includes new chiefs of staff, associate directors and other top executives, even where center directors did not change. 

"I said very carefully, and I’ve always said 'leadership or leadership teams' — both are important," Secretary McDonald said in an interview with USA Today. "In some cases, you've got directors who are doing a great job, but they've got a chief of staff who's not and you've got to change that person."

Secretary McDonald added that the actual percentage is not as important as the fact he and other VA leaders are "trying to attract top talent, to get them in the right seats on the bus, in order to make outcome changes for veterans."

5. VA Undersecretary for Health David Shulkin told USA Today the agency has been limited in its ability to draw in non-VA applicants due to salary constraints, a long hiring process and other factors.


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