New VA Secretary visits Reno offices; addresses concerns

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Updated: 8/19/2014 6:33 pm
RENO, Nev. ( & 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.
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BDeckwa - 8/19/2014 9:55 PM
0 Votes
I last seen my doctor at the Reno VA on Nov. 21, 2013. I don't will not get to see the doctor until 1 Oct. 2014. That is eleven month. I don't know if my doctor is still there. I went in to get a dental appt. and was scheduled to see one but a few days before I was to be there, I was notified by dental that I was not 100%. I took my papers to eligibility and was told I was only 30%. I showed them where I was given a decision of 100%. They upgraded my file but only had it listed at 90%. I was to go to the dentist and received a call from dental that I wasn't 100%. I went to regional and asked for some papers showing I was at 100%. I received them , then went to eligibility again then took a copy up to dental. I finally got in. I wrote a complaint to Sen. Reid and received a call from his office in Reno. The person I asked why eligibility couldn't update a veteran's file at the hospital from the information at regional. I was told they could. Someone at the VA hospital needs to learn how to operate the connection.

DeputyDawg - 8/19/2014 7:51 PM
1 Vote
I have a claim at the Reno VA office that is nearly 500 days old, a retro payment that has been ready to be paid for over two years and an adaptive housing claim that is almost two years old. Senator Heller hasn't been able to get anyone to move on any of them. We need to see indictments and prosecutions at the Reno VA not just replacement killers.

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