RENO, Nev. (MyNews4.com & KRNV) -- Newly appointed VA Secretary Bob McDonald is in Reno, visiting both the VA Hospital and Regional Benefits Office.
Both locations have been under scrutiny for underperforming in recent years, when compared nationally. Senator Dean Heller has been calling for the resignation of Regional Office Director Ed Russell for months, due to poor performance reviews in processing claims. But McDonald revealed on Tuesday that Russell is on leave and since early July, Kathy Milan has been Interim Director.
During McDonald's remarks at the Regional Office, he stressed the importance of transparency and accountability. When News 4 asked Secretary McDonald why the change was not announced publicly, he said, "Well, we are here in this room right now, today, and we just told you."
When pressed further, McDonald said he understands the point. "I thank you for your advice, (but) I've been in office two weeks."
Tuesday's news means both the VA Hospital and VA Regional Benefits Office have interim directors, and the search for new leadership is underway.
McDonald also answered questions about the patient stabbing that occured in late March at the Reno hospital. News 4's On Your Side broke the story last week, and it has received attention from Senators Harry Reid and Dean Heller.
Marine Veteran Bruce Hill was stabbed in the neck on March 24 by a fellow patient who he was asked to share a room with. The VA declined to speak specifics regarding the incident. Hill said the patient had demonstrated serious mental issues, including paranoia, before he used a pair of surgical scissors to stab Hill in the neck twice.
Secretary McDonald said he is aware of the incident and it is one of the reasons he is here. "Our primary mission is to care for veterans. We want to have a safe environment for all our veterans. We cannot predict every single behavioral outcome that occurs in every situation, nor can any other medical system. So, the individual that may have done the stabbing, had no prior history of mental illness."
Senator Reid also shared his thoughts on our investigation. "It's obvious. The guy who is sharing a room with you getting up urinating and deducting on the floor shouldn't be sharing a room. He should be on a psycho facility and they have that there and that's where he should have been placed."
Coming up on News 4 at 11, Senator Dean Heller will weigh in on the investigation.