Ex-manager of vets’ home is reinstated
This is a shame. As our sister organization, AFP Foundation Arkansas, highlighted in a recent video (view it here) the Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs and the Arkansas Veterans Home have had some major issues. Just when we think leader’s cleaned house and began to once again advocate for Arkansas Veterans, it seems the same old same old is in effect. Janet Levine, former administrator at the Arkansas Veteran’s Home, has been reinstated. The panel found no evidence that she had willfully aided in illegally collecting fees from disabled Veterans; however they do maintain that she “did not perform well as administrator.”
The cause for her underwhelming performance as administrator? Seems it wasn’t her fault that she didn’t keep up to code. Oh no. That fault lies with her superiors. Well there you have it. It wasn’t her fault she was a bad administrator. Hmmm… something doesn’t seem right with that argument. Shouldn’t Ms. Levine have kept up with the regulations of how to work for her charges? Shouldn’t that fall under the umbrella of the role of an administrator?
What are your thoughts? Please post in the comments section.
Below is today’s article on Ms. Levin’e reinstatement from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
A state panel this week reinstated the former administrator of the Little Rock Veterans Home, finding that her firing this spring was based on false findings and her performance was the product of poor leadership.
The Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs has 10 days to appeal the decision to the director of the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration.
Dave Fletcher, former director of the state veterans department, fired Janet Levine on April 26, alleging she had violated federal law and committed “fraudulent or dishonest acts.”
The State Employee Grievance Appeal Panel, in a report released this week, deemed Fletcher’s reasons for firing Levine to be unfounded.
“While the record is sufficient to show that [Levine] did not perform well as Administrator, the cause of the poor performance could be correlated to the ignorance and lack of leadership of the Director [Fletcher] and Deputy Director [Lawrence Pickard],” the report stated.
The panel further noted that Gov. Mike Beebe removed Fletcher as director in May and that the new veterans department director, Cissy Rucker, fired Pickard shortly after she took office.
Reinstating Levine could pose a problem, as Rucker hired a new home administrator last month. The new administrator started Aug. 6 with the understanding that the home is in the process of closing.
Rucker met with residents in June and told them that the home would close as soon as they all found alternative homes. The building is in disrepair and the facility has been operating at a deficit for years.
With a new administrator in place, the state could opt to enter into a settlement with Levine, but Rucker said Wednesday that she had just received the panel’s report and hadn’t made a decision “as to what action we will take.
“We are considering several options,” she said.
David Sterling, Levine’s lawyer, said Tuesday that the state hadn’t offered a settlement.
“They haven’t brought her back yet,” he said. “I have corresponded with the other side and told them she’s eager to get back to work or figure out what is going on.”
The crux of the conflict is a 2009 federal law that Fletcher claimed Levine willfully disregarded. The law prohibits the collection of out-of-pocket fees from veterans who are at least 70 percent service-disabled to cover the cost of care.
Title 38 U.S. Code 305 Section 211 substantially increased the monthly per diem rate paid to state nursing homes by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for the care of the nation’s most disabled veterans.
The law stipulates that the increased federal funding constitutes payment in full for care of those veterans.
But for the past three years, the Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs continued collecting $1,800 per month from each of the residents that the law exempted from those fees. The department is refunding almost $600,000 to the residents who paid those fees over the years.
Fletcher placed the blame for that fee collection on Levine.
The appeal panel noted that the state failed to offer proof that Levine was ever trained on the law after being hired in late 2009.
“It is clear from the written record that the entire Agency was grossly mismanaged and that neither the Director [Fletcher] nor the Deputy Director [Pickard] was aware of the federal law or, if aware, thought that it applied to the Agency,” according to the panel’s findings.
E-mails obtained by the
earlier this year, however, showed that both Fletcher and Pickard knew the collection of the fees from the most disabled veterans conflicted with federal law.
Further, the panel found, that Tracy Pearsall, administrative services manager, who is over finance and human resources for the state Veterans Department, was aware of the fee collection and continued to collect them until he learned of the law earlier this year.
Other justifications Fletcher gave for Levine’s firing were also unfounded, the panel said, including that she allowed family members to live in her state-owned home provided as a benefit of her job as administrator, that she used lancets from the Veterans Home supply and used a motorized wheelchair that had been donated to the home for use by residents.
The panel found that the agency knew she had family members living with her, but failed to adjust the rental agreement. The use of lancets out of the home’s supply and a donated wheelchair were found to be untrue, according to the panel.
“Rucker testified that [Levine’s] ignorance of the law was no excuse and that the more generalized allegations of poor management of staff, the lease, lancets and wheelchair issues all showed a pattern of inability to perform the job of Administrator,” the report stated in showing that the state failed to meet its burden of proof in Levine’s firing. “Even based on the State’s case, there is no showing of intent to defraud or be dishonest.”