ST. PAUL, Minn. - The Department of Veterans Affairs' top official is discussing a KARE 11 investigation during his visit to Minnesota to tour VA facilities.
U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald is in Minnesota at the invitation of the state's Congressional Delegation. The visit comes in the wake of numerous scandals over care, wait times, and benefits at VA hospitals and clinics.
McDonald spoke with members of the media inside the Saint Paul Veterans Benefits Administration headquarters. The facility has been in the national spotlight since director Kim Graves was accused by the VA's Office of Inspector General of manipulating the hiring system for her own gain.
McDonald said the facts of the case don't match the OIG's conclusions but said "some final accountability actions were warranted for Kim and for other leaders in the veteran benefits administration."
Graves was reprimanded this week and had her pay cut by 10% for what McDonald characterized as a failure to exercise sound judgement. "I don't believe this impairs Kim's ability to be an effective leader in fact I have every confidence in her leadership" McDonald added.
Secretary McDonald also addressed KARE 11's investigation which exposed the Minneapolis VA and other VA hospitals around the country using unqualified doctors to diagnose veterans with brain injuries. The unqualified doctors often misdiagnosed veterans which resulted in them being denied access to care and benefits.
"I was obviously upset when I learned that" McDonald said. "We've gone back and contacted every single one of those veterans. We've reviewed all their cases, we've contacted them, we've asked them to come in and get an exam by a validated credentialed doctor. We've got a number of those done already and the people are already getting their benefits. But we have some that still have to come in, but we got to get that right."
Congress has demanded a nationwide investigation. McDonald indicated that is still underway.
"We're going through it with a fine tooth comb nationally to make sure we get all those veterans in and we get them what they deserve," McDonald said.
On Friday, McDonald will be at the St. Cloud VA to take part in a town hall meeting with staff to talk about the contentious relationship between employees and management there.