Salisbury VAMC director 'caught off guard' by release of report detailing wait time manipulation

VA director discusses wait time fixing

SALISBURY, NC (WBTV) - The Director of the Salisbury VA Medical Center answered questions from reporters for the first time since a new investigative summary report was released Tuesday that revealed employees at the Salisbury VAMC manipulated wait times to make it appear as though veterans were being seen sooner than they actually were.

Kaye Green, the Salisbury VAMC director, had previously refused to answer questions posed by On Your Side Investigates just a day earlier.

On Thursday, Green dismissed the report as being "old news" and said she and her staff have made strides to improve operations at the medical facility in Salisbury and its satellite health clinics in Charlotte and Kernersville over the past year.

"It's very troubling to me that this report, which is two-and-a-half years old now, would shake the confidence that our veterans have in us," Green told reporters, incorrectly state when the report was finalized.

The report, which was compiled by the VA's Office of Inspector General, is a summary of an OIG investigation that was conducted from April 2014 through March 2015. The investigative report upon which the summary is based was released in September 2015.

On Your Side Investigates was first to publish details of the report Tuesday night.

Green told reporters she was caught off guard by the report, noting she was not notified by the OIG ahead of its release and struggled to find a copy of the report online.

Members of Congress, including US Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) and Representative Robert Pittenger (R-09) reacted to the report's findings, calling for additional change and accountability.

"The Salisbury VA Inspector General report is replete with a lack of accountability and the self-serving interests of employees.  Staff was more focused on serving the bureaucracy than serving our brave veterans," Pittenger said in a statement released Wednesday.

Green called Pittenger's statement a mischaracterization and disappointing when asked about it by a reporter during her media availability on Thursday.

"Every one of us are absolutely committed to providing the very best care we possibly can," Green said.

Also during the media availability, Green pushed back on a previously-unanswered question raised by On Your Side Investigates about whether the director received any bonus or performance pay as a result of the manipulated wait time numbers.

"I'm going to tell you, I haven't had one bonus or performance award since I've been here," Green said.

A spokesperson for the VA administrative office in Washington, D.C. has yet to respond to an inquiry to determine what, if any, benefits Green received as a result of the manipulated numbers.

What is clear is that Green was evaluated using the manipulated numbers as late as 2014.

The investigative summary report released Tuesday says Green's performance review plan included a 'results driven' category that counted for fifty percent of her total evaluation. Patient wait time was one of 14 criteria that accounted for the 'results driven category', specifically, the following language:

"The Network Director assures excellent access to VA care by ensuring Specialty Care (Including Mental Health) patients will not wait more than 14 days from desired date."

Document: Click here to read the full investigative summary

Green downplayed the importance of patient wait times as part of her performance evaluation when asked by On Your Side Investigates on Thursday.

"That was one, uh, the wait times were one of about 102 metrics that I was evaluated on," Green said without acknowledging the limited number of metrics that comprised half of her evaluation score.

Green said current wait times range from five to 14 days, depending on the type of service that is being requested.

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