Feds launch probe into hiring practices at VA Connecticut health system

Kelly Gooch - Print  | 

A federal agency is investigating the VA Connecticut Healthcare System after a union complaint alleging illegal employment practices, the nonprofit Connecticut Health Investigative Team reported.

The American Federation of Government Employees Local 2138, which represents more than 820 employees, filed the complaint with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel. Allegations in the complaint include obstructing employment competition as well as providing unauthorized preference or advantage, according to the investigative journalism website.

The complaint centers on the hiring of seven employees — former Manchester VA co-workers of Alfred Montoya Jr.,  the current medical director at VA Connecticut Healthcare.

According to the report, union president Sandra Salmon said in the special counsel complaint: "It appears that only those level 3 hospital staff was good enough to work here at VA CT."

"If you love the VA at all, you have to do something," she said. "There's a lot of unfairness at every level."

When contacted by Becker's Hospital Review, the Office of Special Counsel declined to comment, saying:  "We can neither confirm nor deny whether we have an open investigation."

The investigative team's request to interview Mr. Montoya was denied by VA New England Healthcare System, which oversees VA health facilities in the New England region, but a VA New England spokesperson shared a statement with Becker's in which she defended Mr. Montoya and VA Connecticut's employment practices.

"VA Connecticut is squarely focused on providing the best possible care and services to veterans. That's why it always strives to fill positions with the most qualified candidates while adhering to all federal hiring guidelines," said Maureen Heard.

"VA Connecticut recognizes and respects its talented pool of employees and offers many paths for advancement, including leadership programs, scholarship opportunities and mentorships," she said.

Ms. Heard also described Mr. Montoya as "an outstanding medical center director" who "was instrumental in helping the Manchester VA Medical Center."

"We have complete confidence in the job he's doing at VA Connecticut," she said.

Read the full C-HIT report here.

 

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