EXCLUSIVE: Report Confirms Former Shreveport VA Head Belittled And Demeaned Staff

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Jonah Bennett Contributor
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An internal report on the now-fired Shreveport, La., Veterans Affairs (VA) director Toby Mathew shows that in the course of his management of the facility, Mathew retaliated against, belittled and demeaned staff.

An Office of Accountability Review (OAR) report from February obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation via Freedom of Information Act reveals numerous substantiated allegations against Mathew, namely that he belittled and mistreated employees.

TheDCNF recently reported that the VA removed Mathew from his position on April 13 “based on charges related to general misconduct, and failure to follow policy and provide effective oversight of the Center’s credentialing and privileging program,” though at the time, those charges were left completely unspecified. His removal was one of the most high profile cases of discipline since former Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned in May 2014 after news broke of a massive wait list scandal at the Phoenix, Ariz., VA.

Toby officially became director of the Overton Brooks VA medical center (OBVAMC) in December 2014.

The OAR report, initiated in October 2016, gives insight into some of Mathew’s untoward activities at the Shreveport VA medical center. It also places blame on chief of staff Dr. John Areno, who according to the report “did not act with diligence to stop providers from practicing without privileges when he knew or should have known that providers at OBVAMC were providing direct patient care without privileges to do so.”

Numerous providers’ privileges expired while waiting on Mathew’s review and signature despite him being reminded, which is a clear violation of VA policy. The report also found no evidence to suggest that senior leadership stepped in to prevent those providers from continuing to see patients.

As the report notes, part of the reason why the lapses occurred was likely because Mathew embodied a micro-management leadership style.

“Mr. Mathew’s micro-management leadership style and his reluctance to delegating his signature authority when absent likely contributed to lapses,” the report states.

Mathew also failed to finish the appropriate training that must be completed within three months of taking on the position of medical center director.

Aside from failing to delegate authority or sign documents relating to providers’ privileges, Mathew regularly made the workplace psychologically unsafe. He slammed doors and other objects, raised his voice and “belittled, demeaned and mistreated VA employees,” so much so that investigators said “the totality of evidence shows that OBVAMC is clouded by a culture of fear.”

In one example of retaliation, Mathew decided to move an employee a week after she told him what other employees were saying about the work environment.

“You all can cry hostile work environment all you want. Nobody is ever going to believe you,” Mathew said.

Mathew did not respond to a request for comment from TheDCNF by press time.

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