Metro-East News

Region’s congressmen urge VA to appoint permanent director for St. Louis VA hospitals

The congressional delegation representing the region is urging Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald to appoint a permanent director of the St. Louis Veterans Affairs Health Care System, which has been vacant since March of 2013 and is currently on its eighth interim director.

U.S. representatives Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville; John Shimkus, R-Collinsville; Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro; and other members of the St. Louis-area congressional delegation have made the request.

“This is indicative of an overall system that is failing our veterans,” Davis said in a written statement. “Veterans in my district who rely on the St. Louis VA for care deserve better. They deserve a VA that is focused on responsiveness and quality care, not one that continually fails to meet even the most basic requirements for patient care standards. Appointing a permanent director is just the first step to improving the VA facility in St. Louis.”

Davis sent letter to VA Director McDonald that follows June 2015 correspondence between Congress and the VA in which they said they would appoint a permanent director soon. The letter was signed by Davis, Shimkus, Bost and fellow U.S. Congress members from Missouri: Blaine Luetkemeyer and Ann Wagner.

The lawmakers conclude their letter by urging McDonald to appoint a permanent director for the VA hospital system as soon as possible to ensure that deficiencies regarding patient care quality highlighted in a January VA inspector general report are remedied “so that veterans in the St. Louis area can receive the high quality medical care that they deserve.”

Keith Repko, the St. Louis VA hospital system’s eighth interim director, took over the job in late January. He had served as the hospital system’s deputy director for more than a year.

The St. Louis VA system hasn’t had a permanent director since June 2013. Repko has a 120-day appointment, which is the standard length of time for interim tenures. He succeeds Patricia Ten Haaf, whose temporary appointment ended Jan. 2.

The St. Louis VA system serves more than 46,000 veterans in Eastern Missouri and Southwestern Illinois. It covers the John Cochran hospital in St. Louis and Jefferson Barracks hospital in south St. Louis County, in addition to clinics in Belleville, St. Charles, Mo., Washington, Mo.

Mike Fitzgerald: 618-239-2533, @MikeFitz3000