LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- In a Fox16 Investigates update, the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System said it appropriately disciplined employees found to have manipulated patient dates to reduce the appearance of wait times and lying to investigators. But according to internal VA documents obtained by Fox 16 News, only two employees were disciplined with written reprimands and none of them were supervisors. The VA says the documents we've received are inaccurate.
The Daily Caller initially published an article, citing internal documents it had received. Shortly thereafter, Fox16 Investigates had the same documents disclosed by an anonymous source.
Yesterday, we learned two employees who had lied to federal investigators were still employed there. Today, internal documents seem to indicate that only two employees were disciplined and neither were supervisors.
The documents show they received only reprimands, which are just shy of the lowest level of punishment. According to the Veterans Administration manual, a reprimand can be automatically removed from the employees' personnel files.
According to the documents we obtained, neither of the employees held supervisory job titles, despite the VA Inspector General report identifying both supervisory and non-supervisory staff altering patient appointment dates to reduce the appearance of wait times.
And the proposed action from the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System is recorded as a reprimand, despite a letter from the Office of the Special Counsel to the White House saying CAVHS had proposed removal of one supervisor and the suspension of another.
On Thursday, Acting Chief of Staff Tina McClain told us she couldn't go into details, but employees who had provided misinformation had been appropriately disciplined but were still employed with the VA.
"I'm not at liberty to discuss the specifics, out of concern for the privacy of the employees. But I can tell you appropriate action was taken," she said. "And neither of those employees currently work in positions that deal with scheduling or access."
"But those employees are still employed by the system?" we asked.
"Yes, they are," McClain responded.
Spokesperson Debby Meece also told ArkansasOnline that employees identified in the Inspector General report had administrative action taken against them that was "not insignificant".
A spokesperson for the Central Arkansas VA has denied that the employees only received a reprimand as a result of the OIG report. In a phone conversation with McClain she said that at this time, she was cleared to tell us that a GS-13 grade employee, with the job title of Supervisory Health System Specialist" had received the most severe discipline action. Another employee, with a GS-7 grade, noted as a Supervisory Medical Support Assistant, was also disciplined.
"I can tell you I personally proposed the disciplinary actions outlined in the letter to the White House," McClain said. "We take accountability seriously, and the actions taken were more than reprimands."
As for the specific disciplinary actions taken, we have submitted an FOI request for those specific actions and the job titles of any other employees, along with the discipline taken against them, linked to the OIG report. McClain assured us the VA would work to release what it could under privacy restrictions.
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