Army Times : Whistle-blower blasts VA mental health policies
Testimony from a former employee at a New Hampshire Veterans Affairs hospital confirmed what the VA’s inspector general noted in a scathing report released Monday — that VA embellishes its success rates of helping veterans with their mental health care needs.
Taking it further, Nicholas Tolentino, a former mental health administrator at the Manchester VA Medical Center, said VA culture encourages administrators to game performance metrics, lie on VA-wide surveys and emphasize quantity over quality.
For example, at Manchester, the hospital was able to say it was providing therapy to numerous veterans in a timely manner by placing those who needed intense individual psychotherapy into group sessions.
If veterans refused to attend group, they were labeled as ‘non-compliant’ for treatment.
Worse, Tolentino added, this strategy spread to other regional VA hospitals, ensuring that administrations met their performance metrics by failing needy veterans.
Appearing before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, Tolentino and a panel that included VA officials and VA Inspector General representatives discussed the IG report findings, which showed the VA grossly overstated how quickly it serves veterans needing mental health care.
Chairwoman Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., who requested the IG investigation, called the report ‘substantial and troubling.’
Speaking for the VA, William Schoenhard, deputy undersecretary for health for operations and management, said VA concurs with the IG’s findings and has instituted a number of changes to address the issues.
VA announced last week its plans to hire 1,900 mental health care staff members, including 1,600 practitioners, and said yesterday it will add family therapists and mental health counselors to its staff in addition to the 1,900.
It also is reviewing mental health operations and future plans across the board and has formed a working group to directly address the IG’s concerns.
There’s more in the Army Times article. And as someone that is currently dealing with the VA on this issue, I can’t see I’m shocked by this.