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Cincinnati VA Officials Face Disciplinary Actions, Possible Charges

Dr. Barbara Temeck (Photo: va.gov)
Dr. Barbara Temeck (Photo: va.gov)

The director of the Veterans Affairs Department's regional service network in Cincinnati, Ohio, Jack Hetrick, turned in his resignation on Thursday after hearing from VA headquarters he was to be fired and dismissed from federal service.

At the same time VA Under Secretary for Health Dr. David Shulkin said he has removed the Cincinnati VA Medical Center's acting chief of staff, Dr. Barbara Temeck, from her job pending administrative action.

Investigators found evidence that Temeck ordered veterans be sent into the community for care as a cost-shifting measure, resulting in poor quality of care. They also substantiated misconduct by both Hetrick and Temeck related to Temeck's providing prescriptions and other medical care to members of Hetrick's family.

Some of the substantiated allegations may result in a criminal investigation, according to the VA.

"We are committed to sustainable accountability," Gibson said in announcing the actions against the two. "We will continue to use VA's statutory authority to hold employees accountable where warranted by the evidence. That is simply the right thing to do for veterans and taxpayers."

The Cincinnati VA facility has been the subject of VA investigations dealing with patient care and alleged employee misconduct.

The state's two U.S. Senators -- one a Republican and the other a Democrat -- urged the VA to move quickly to get to the bottom of the allegations just last week, and law makers from both parties and both chambers have regularly pressed the VA to hold employees more accountable for bad behavior.

But Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Florida, who chairs the House Veterans Affairs Committee, expressed doubts that either Hetrick or Temeck will face significant punishment, claiming that the federal Civil Service system "is designed to coddle and protect corrupt and incompetent employees" and that President Obama does nothing to change that.

Miller said Hetrick "will retire -- likely with full benefits and a lifetime pension," while Temeck "will remain on the department's payroll making hundreds of thousands of dollars per year for the foreseeable future."

Since last month at least two Senior Executive Service-level employees demoted and transferred to lesser jobs by the VA were ordered returned to their previous positions by the Merit Systems Protection Board that adjudicates appeals brought by the high-level Civil Service workers.

Hetrick told the Cincinnati Enquirer on Feb. 17 that he could not say much about the investigations, though did tell the paper VA was "reviewing a number of employee allegations about certain things at the hospital. I cannot get too much into it. It's part of what the Washington review is looking at."

The VA investigators did not substantiate any impropriety with respect to community care referrals or quality of care for veterans.

-- Bryant Jordan can be reached at bryant.jordan@military.com. Follow him on Twitter at @bryantjordan.

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Headlines Department of Veteran Affairs Veteran Benefits Congress Bryant Jordan

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