Parkersburg VA flagged for review

PARKERSBURG – In his 11 years with the Army National Guard, Shawn Healy often participated in AARs – after action reviews- in which soldiers reviewed what went well and what needed improvement following both training and actual missions.

He feels that’s an approach the Veterans Affairs medical system needs to take.

“I think the VA clinics right now should have an after action review done on them and see what we can do to improve our VA clinics,” said Healy, the veterans advocate at West Virginia University at Parkersburg.

Officials will be taking a closer look at the Department of Veterans Affairs Outpatient Clinic in Wood County after it was flagged for further review by a national access audit in response to allegations of months-long delays in new patients being treated and some workers fabricating data to cover them up.

The audit, conducted between May 12 and June 3, lists Wood County on a list of “phase two sites requiring further review.” The audit does not list any specific reasons for the review, but states the need for further assessment is based on site team reports.

“Overall, 31 sites in the Phase Two Access Audit require further review,” the audit report states. “This initial assessment of sites requiring further review is based on a review of qualitative responses by front-line staff to questions and comments contained in site audit reports.

“The listing of these sites should be understood as a preliminary step, and further actions will be taken after the determination of the extent of issues related to scheduling and access” management practices, it says.

Phase one of the audit covered VA medical centers and community-based outpatient clinics serving at least 10,000 veterans. Wood County fell into the phase two group, which dealt with smaller facilities.

The local clinic was the second listing among the phase two sites, just below Westover, W.Va. The listing contained offices from around the country, including North Carolina, Virginia, Illinois, Michigan and California.

Healy said he sees room for improvement at the local clinic, where he goes for regular checkups.

“When you call and schedule, it does take about a month to get in there and see anybody,” he said.

A message left at the clinic was not returned Tuesday afternoon.

Other local veterans contacted Tuesday had positive views of the local clinic.

“I use the Wood County clinic, and they have been fantastic for me,” said Mike Francis, senior vice commandant for the Marine Corps League Detachment 1087 of Wood County and state judge advocate for the group.

Greg Smith, commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8127 in Vienna, said he’s heard few negative comments about the local facility from VFW members and fellow veterans.

“We’ve had a lot of people that have had positive experiences with it,” he said.

Smith noted the requirement of further review doesn’t specify any problems at the location.

“Let’s just wait and see what the final review shows,” he said.

When contacted for comment, the Parkersburg Veterans Affairs Office directed questions to the VA office in Charleston. Heather Miles, public affairs coordinator for the West Virginia Department of Veterans Assistance, released a written statement from Rick Thompson, cabinet secretary of the West Virginia Department of Veterans Assistance.

“I’m pleased that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has taken the initiative to investigate their medical facilities nationwide,” Thompson said in the statement. “I am hopeful that they will continue to address any deficiencies so that all veterans, in West Virginia and throughout the country, are provided the care they so deserve.”