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VA Moves to Fire Already-Retired Hospital Director

Carl Vinson VA Medical Center Dublin, Georgia
Carl Vinson VA Medical Center Dublin, Georgia

The Department of Veterans Affairs proposed firing the director of its medical center in Dublin, Georgia, on Thursday, the same day the official began his retirement.

John S. Goldman had announced his retirement on Monday, was expected to finish up Friday, but called it quits on Thursday, the same day the VA said it proposed canning him.

"The proposed removal of [Goldman] underscores VA's commitment to hold leaders accountable and get veterans the care they need," the VA said in a statement, while making no mention of the fact Goldman was already officially retired.

The VA did not respond to Military.com's request for comment.

The VA's Office of the Inspector General reported in August that Goldman approved the "batch" closing more than 1,500 veteran appointments with non-VA healthcare providers in order to meet organizational goals.

Of that number, the IG said, "We substantiated that more than 600 patients whose consults were batch closed had not been seen by the [non VA provider] at the time" of the cancellations.

Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Florida, who as chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee has demanded the VA take action against officials when mismanagement has been found, said "bragging about the proposed removal of someone who has already announced his retirement can only be described as disingenuous."

"Such semantic sleights of hand are insulting to the families struck by the VA scandal and only do more harm to the department's badly damaged credibility," he said.

The IG's investigation into the Dublin facility was prompted by an anonymous complaint of mismanagement of non-VA consults. Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Georgia, also asked the IG to investigate the allegation.

Since May the IG has been investigating mismanagement and manipulation of patient appointments across the country, a major undertaking spurred by whistleblower allegations that patients with the VA hospital in Phoenix, Arizona, died waiting to see a doctor.

Leaders at the Phoenix VA remain on administrative leave pending further investigation. The IG has told Congress that it cannot conclude that any of the Phoenix deaths were directly caused by manipulation of appointments, including a secret waiting list of veterans seeking care.

The IG has previously found that secret wait lists and other methods for manipulating appointments are systemic across the VA. About 100 investigations are underway by the VA's Office of Special Counsel, the Department of Justice and the FBI, and some VA officials could face criminal charges.

Frank Jordan, a spokesman for the VA hospital in Dublin, said Dr. Shirley Warren, associate director of patient care services, will stand in as director until Monday, when Thomas Grace, associate director at the Atlanta VA Medical Center, will be named acting director.

Grace previously worked at the Carl Vinson facility, first as business manager for the primary care service line and later as a health system specialist supporting the facility's chief of staff.

Goldman was named director of the Carl Vinson facility in 2010. Before then he had been acting director of the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center in Charleston, South Carolina.

-- Bryant Jordan can be reached at bryant.jordan@monster.com

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