Veterans Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald is in Minnesota on a morale-boosting trip to embattled facilities in St. Paul and St. Cloud.
“We have and must maintain the trust of America’s veterans and America’s taxpayers,” said McDonald, who met Thursday with staff members at the Minneapolis Veterans Medical Center. “If somebody’s not happy, or they’re not getting the service they need, I like to hear from them.”
The St. Paul facility has been rocked by allegations that staff members manipulated records to cover up lengthy wait times for care. A recent report by the VA’s independent internal watchdog found no evidence to back up the allegations.
“There were allegations of egregious misconduct, ethical violations and conflict of interest. Those findings simply were not supported by the thousand pages of evidence that [the inspector general] reviewed personally,” said McDonald, who expressed “every confidence” in the leadership of St. Paul VA Executive Kim Graves, although he said she exercised “poor judgment” in some of her decisions. “If they were [supported], we would have taken much more aggressive action.”
On Friday, McDonald is scheduled to travel to St. Cloud, where relations between labor and management at the St. Cloud VA Health Care System became so tense that members of Minnesota’s congressional delegation appealed for federal mediators. The mediators wrapped up their work last week, after a series of training sessions meant to improve the facility’s work environment.