Metro-East News

Three Phoenix VA executives fired for patient care delays

Mike Fitzgerald
Mike Fitzgerald

WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairson Thursday announced that it has removed three senior officials at the Phoenix VA Health Care System.

The move follows an announcement in March in which VA proposed the removal of Lance Robinson, the facility associate director; Brad Curry, chief of health administration service; and Dr. Darren Deering, chief of staff. In addition to other causes, the three were removed for negligent performance of duties and failure to provide effective oversight for not ensuring veterans were either properly scheduled for appointments or placed on an appropriate wait list.

“We have an obligation to Veterans and the American people to take appropriate accountability actions as supported by evidence,” said VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson. “While this process took far too long, the evidence supports these removals and sets the stage for moving forward.”

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U.S. military troops may be able to sidestep the Pentagon's entrenched, 100-year-old “up or out” promotion system under sweeping new proposals unveiled Thursday, aimed at keeping high-tech experts or other specialists on the job, according to ABC News.

In announcing the plan, Defense Secretary Ash Carter marked the third — and most dramatic — installment in his campaign to modernize the military’s antiquated bureaucracy. The proposals are aimed at making it easier for the military services to attract and retain good quality people and keep them in jobs where they excel.

“’Up-or-out’ isn't broken — in fact, it’s an essential and highly successful system — but it's also not perfect,” Carter said. “The problem, however, is that DoD can't take a one-size-fits-all approach.”

Carter's plan won't abolish the traditional system that forces service members to leave if they don't get promoted within a certain period of time. Instead, it will allow the services to bypass those rules for people when they feel it's needed.

The current promotions system does not give credit for experience and training that occurred along slightly different timelines, even if it benefited the military.

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Reuters is reporting that U.S.-backed forces fighting Islamic State near the Syrian-Turkish border said on Thursday they had reached the militants' last main route in and out of their stronghold in the area, the city of Manbij.

Monitors confirmed that the Syria Democratic Forces — an alliance which includes the powerful Kurdish YPG militia and Arab allies — had advanced to within firing distance of the road, one week into a campaign to push the militants out of their foothold along the frontier.

Washington hopes the operation will choke off Islamic State's last major link to the outside world - the militants have used the border for years to receive supplies and manpower, and more recently to send back fighters for attacks in Europe.

“We have reached the road that links Manbij and Aleppo, from the west,” Sharfan Darwish, spokesman for the Syria Democratic Forces-allied Manbij Military Council, told Reuters.

Darwish appeared to be referring to the highway between Manbij and Islamic State-held al-Bab, further west. That highway also leads onto Aleppo.

A statement from the Manbij Military Council said its forces had already cut Islamic State supply lines leading north, east and south from the city, and were now close enough to Manbij itself to be able to fire on Islamic State militants.

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Marines and sailors facing involuntary separation due to a diagnosed mental health condition will now be better guarded against leaving the military with other-than-honorable discharges, according to Marine Times.

The unprecedented change was made last week by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus. It requires service members with conditions like post-traumatic stress or traumatic brain injury to have a disability evaluation before a final decision on their involuntary separation is made.

Veteran groups lauded the change and are calling on other military branches to follow suit.

In the past, misconduct was the predominate factor in every involuntary separation. This long-held approach adversely impacted veterans’ ability to receive benefits, and did not take into full consideration how the service member's condition may have contributed to the misconduct.

Mike Fitzgerald: 618-239-2533, @MikeFitz3000

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