DAILY CALLER — Department of Veterans Affairs leaders have shuffled nearly 100 hospital administrators to three or more states each in the last eight years, often to deal with underperforming directors whom they could not fire, according to a Daily Caller News Foundation analysis.
The list of VA employees with unusual workplace moving patterns includes infamous names like Diana Rubens, who was a D.C. based administrator until she created a job for herself with less work and the same $181,000 salary near her family in Philadelphia. Then she billed VA for nearly $300,000 in relocation costs.
It also provides a roadmap for a costly trail of chaos left by less well-known VA hospital executives on a management merry-go-round that continually shifts poor performers and problem employees to different jobs and locations in the hope of getting different outcomes.
Looking at directors’ past inability to hold a job for long might have even been an indicator of the system’s deadliest scandal, wait-time manipulation in Phoenix. When she arrived there in 2012, its now-fired director, Sharon Helman, had worked at VA facilities in four cities in five years. The Phoenix second-in-command had worked in three.
For an illustration of how VA recycles problem managers, consider Shirley Bealer. She was acting director of the Central Alabama VA hospital in 2008 when the department’s ethics watchdog determined that she “interfered with our investigation” into abuses by Robert Ratliff, the hospital’s permanent director. Because he was under investigation for his actions at Central, the VA had made Ratliff “interim director” of a neighboring hospital, leading to Bealer’s promotion.
It’s not surprising that Bealer disappeared from Alabama soon after she was faulted for “grossly inappropriate” obstruction of a misconduct investigation. But she wasn’t gone from VA. A sunny news brief on a local news website in Shreveport, Louisiana, in 2011 noted that the city’s problem-plagued VA hospital was turning over a new leaf with the infusion of some fresh blood at the top: Shirley Bealer.
(Story continues after interactive graphic. Explore VA’s re-treads below:)