SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The Sioux Falls VA Medical Center is trying to move forward after the director of the medical center was removed and reassigned. The change comes after veterans and workers at the VA complained about care and working conditions.
Lisa J. Simoneau was appointed Medical Center Director in Sioux Falls in January of 2020. According to a letter from Senator Mike Rounds to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough, at least 46 employees left during her tenure. Two days ago, Simoneau was reassigned to the VA Midwest Health care network headquartered in Eagan, Minnesota.
Rounds met with the VA Secretary in Washington DC on March 21 and sent the letter as a follow-up. It says.
“According to whistleblowers who have contacted my office, the SFVA medical center is a hostile work environment, where employees are mistreated and veteran care is not a priority.” Rounds said whistleblowers who contacted his office faced retaliation by their superiors.
In the letter the senator also voiced his concerns the director’s office was having a negative impact on veterans seeking care, saying…
“Quality patient care is at risk because of these leadership issues.”
South Dakota’s lone congressman, Dusty Johnson, spoke with veterans this morning at the Military Heritage Alliance. He heard firsthand what kind of problems veterans were having.
“The wait times to call in were absolutely unacceptable, the average wait times were at 52 or 55 minutes,” said Johnson.
According to Johnson, those wait times have improved.
He says a move like this is regrettable but in this case, it was necessary.
“Our congressional delegation does not normally get involved in calling for somebody to be reassigned but in this instance, it was just clear that a change had to be made, obviously that is going to create a little bit of disruption. I think getting the right leadership in place is going to make a big impact long term,” said Johnson.
Dr. Timothy Pendergrass, the current chief of staff will take over as the interim director. The Sioux Falls V.A medical Center serves 25,000 veterans in eastern South Dakota