RENO, NV - Approximately 2 months ago, an audit of the VA Benefits Office proved less than stellar.
The VA Inspector General reported the local office reported 76% of disability claims were being processed inaccurately.
The report spurred Nevada U.S Senator Dean Heller and Congresswoman Dina Titus to call for Director Ed Russell to resign.
Tuesday, it appears the two may be closer to getting their wish.
“Mister Russell is not in the room, Mr. Russell is on leave. Kathy is leading this site, and we have a new leadership team here,” said Secretary Robert McDonald at a news conference Tuesday afternoon.
Kathy is Kathy Malin, who has taken over Russell's post.
Reno Regional Office Chief Ed Russell has not been in charge since July 9th, says VA Secretary Robert McDonald.
We don't know what Russell's fate will be but we do know the regional office received less than stellar marks from the V-A Inspector General, who showed well more than half of the disability claims were processed inaccurately; and that those claims resulted in overpayment and underpayment.
There was a lack of urgency or oversite by management.
McDonald says such severe problems are not reflected at the Reno hospital. He says the hospital needs to fill four positions---unlike Phoenix, where 1,000 positions need to be filled.
McDonald says he also likes the change in policy at the VA Hospital in Reno.
Since last March, newly-processed veterans can get a medical appointment that day if they choose.
“The medical center has been named a top performer by the independent joint commission which accredits and certifies health care organizations all over the country,” says McDonald.
McDonald says with the new appropriations bill, 2.3 million dollars will be made available to the Reno Veterans Hospital to give veterans even more access to care.
McDonald says access to care can be directly related to a shortage of staff at many hospitals.
Its estimated more 1,000,000 veterans will be entering the system with medical problems unheard of or unseen in previous wars.
He says the new appropriations bill allows for newly-minted doctors to get their student loans paid for, if they choose to work at VA hospitals at least for a time.
The following is an explanation in part of what residents could take advantage of, should they decide to work at a VA Hospital:
"You’ve worked hard to achieve. At VA, we know that, and we want to help you as you choose a career path in healthcare."
Education Debt Reduction Program (EDRP): Loan reimbursements up to $120,000 over 5 years.
Student Loan Repayment Program (SLRP): Pays lending institution student loans of up to $10,000 per year, with a lifetime cap of $60,000.
Employee Incentive Scholarship Program (EISP): scholarships to employees for degrees or training in select health care area—covers tuition & related expenses for a service obligation.
Comprehensive pay & compensation packages commensurate with education, clinical experience, and market.
Recruitment, relocation, and retention incentives to increase clinical providers for rural/highly rural hospitals / clinics.