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New Report Finds No Fault with Former Manchester VA Leadership

Peter Biello
/
NHPR

Another government report looking into whistleblower allegations at the Manchester VA finds no fault with its former leaders.

This report, by the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection, looked at senior leadership. Whistleblowers claimed former medical center director Danielle Ocker and chief of staff James Schlosser were not focused enough on patient care. In this report, investigators say quote: "We disagree."

They did find a "clear rift" between some clinical staff and leadership, and, as in previous reports by other agencies, the OAWP found problems with the Veterans Choice program.

Former VA New England Network director Dr. Michael Mayo-Smith obtained the report through the Freedom of Information Act.

"In many places they talk very positively about the commitment and the effort of former leadership at Manchester. Many times, they went above and beyond,” Mayo-Smith says.

Lead whistleblower Ed Kois says investigators did not pick up on how bad morale was at the VA, before those leaders were removed, and that the VA can't adequately investigate itself.

Former nurse executive at the Manchester VA, Carol Williams, says the OAWP report “stirs up the same feelings of VA’s support toward the whistleblowers who, as you saw in the report, created the situation, and no support for loyal staff of 37 years.”

Williams was forced into retirement shortly after then-VA Secretary David Shulkin arrived in Manchester in August 2017 to address the whistleblower complaints and outline the VA’s response. Whistleblowers had accused her of having an unusual amount of decision-making authority. OAWP investigators found no evidence to support this.

This was the final of two reports Shulkin requested in 2017 shortly after whistleblowers came forward with allegations of mismanaged care at the Manchester VA. The first, by the Office of Medical Inspector, focused on allegations regarding medical care and sanitation.

Ocker and Schlosser declined to comment.

Peter Biello is the host of All Things Considered and Writers on a New England Stage at New Hampshire Public Radio. He has served as a producer/announcer/host of Weekend Edition Saturday at Vermont Public Radio and as a reporter/host of Morning Edition at WHQR in Wilmington, North Carolina.
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