Twitter icon
Facebook icon
Flickr icon
YouTube icon
RSS icon

Representative Mike Coffman

Representing the 6th District of COLORADO

House committee to investigate VA crack house incident

Aug 22, 2014
In The News

The U.S. House Committee on Veteran's Affairs is seeking answers about why a Tuskegee VA employee took a recovering patient to a crack house and is still employed more than a year later.

U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., chairman of the subcommittee on oversight and investigations, wrote a letter to VA Secretary Robert A. McDonald on Thursday detailing the Montgomery Advertiser's Aug. 17 story on an investigation that found the employee was guilty of patient abuse, misuse of government vehicles, filing false overtime requests and multiple ethics violations.

Coffman's letter asks McDonald to provide information about the incidents, including the employee's personnel file, performance reviews, pay, disciplinary actions taken against him and the investigative report.

"Considering the pervasive violations of criminal law and VA policy perpetrated by the employee, I am perplexed at how VA has chosen not to terminate his employment," Coffman wrote in the letter.

The letter also asks for a full explanation of the VA's decision, along with all internal correspondence discussing disciplinary action. It also asks whether VA plans to take any administrative or criminal action, and whether it has sufficient authority to hold poorly performing employees accountable.

In March 2013, the employee brought a patient in the drug addiction treatment program at the Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System to the home of a known drug dealer in Tuskegee and left him there overnight, according to the VA's official investigative police report from May 2013.

The employee "interfered with the medical treatment plan" of the patient, further "endorsed" the patient's drug addictions and exposed him to a "dangerous environment," the report said.

The patient was discharged from the program when he returned to the VA seeking $600 the employee "borrowed" from him, and according to the report from May 2013, was living at the Montgomery Salvation Army.

The employee, who is still listed in the CAVHCS employee directory and isn't listed in a human resources list showing employees who retired, transferred or left this fiscal year, was a former patient in the program and worked as a peer support specialist.

On more than one occasion, the employee took the patient and his roommate out to run official errands, but kept them out for long periods of time while the employee conducted personal business, including purchasing a vehicle, according to the report.

The employee used a government vehicle for his personal business, and was paid overtime for at least one of the days, the report said.

It's unclear if any administrative or criminal action against the employee was taken. CAVHCS is one of more than 100 VA health systems under investigation by the committee, which has Constitutional oversight authority.

A House Committee on Veteran's Affairs staffer said one of the biggest problems is getting VA officials to respond to Congressional requests for information.

Since the national scandal broke earlier this year, the department hasn't responded the committee's requests for weekly updates on disciplinary actions for employees involved in scheduling and record manipulation, appointment delays and patient deaths.

Issues: