Three high-level, Topeka-based VA employees have been reassigned in the wake of an internal investigation.
Matt Eitutis, who was the acting executive director of VA member services, is now assigned to the Office of Administrative Operations and Management. Ryan Heiman had been an executive assistant for member services. He is now a health systems specialist. And Shane Kolbaba, who was the chief financial officer for member services is serving as a financial manager, VA press secretary Curt Cashour said.
They were moved from their permanent positions, pending the results of an inquiry by the VA’s Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection. The nature of the investigation isn’t being disclosed, Cashour said.
Member services oversees eligibility, enrollment and other programs.
Eitutus and Heiman didn’t respond to a request for comment. Kolbaba deferred comments to VA’s public affairs office.
Eitutis came under fire several times while acting executive director, a position he began in January 2016. The next month, the Veterans Crisis Line was realigned under member services.
In March, an Office of Inspector General report found that the Veterans Crisis Line’s “management team faced significant obstacles providing suicide prevention and crisis intervention services to veterans, service members and their families.” The inspection concluded there were deficiencies in the governance and oversight of the crisis line’s operations.
A report released earlier this month on the VA’s enrollment system also cited governance and oversight problems.
“The acting executive director of VHA’s Member Services Division acknowledged that they did not review enrollment procedures or otherwise monitor the health care enrollment process nationwide,” the report read.
The agency continues to grapple with an enrollment backlog. More than 650,000 applications remain in a pending status.
Scott Davis, a VA whistleblower based in Atlanta, has alleged systemic failings in member services leadership, with disclosures made to President Donald Trump, VA Secretary David Shulkin, Congress and OIG.
“I think they should have been terminated,” Davis said, pointing to challenges with the crisis line and enrollment as well as hiring practices.
Davis said member services management impacted the care that veterans received. However, he also contends that problems within the VA are larger than the three employees who were removed from their positions.
“They deny, delay and deflect,” he said. “That’s pretty much the nature of VA.”
In late August, Davis requested a transfer out of the Veterans Health Administration to a different VA department, citing a hostile work environment. He said he’s faced retaliation despite a bill signed by Trump in June that’s intended to protect whistleblowers.
“Despite changes in legislation signed by this president, there are two systems of justice — one for managers and one for whistleblowers,” Davis said.
Eitutis and Kolbaba are also named in a complaint obtained by The Capital-Journal which alleges a litany of transgressions ranging from racial discrimination to department inefficiencies.
Topeka-based member services employee Cain Davis, sent the complaint to Shulkin earlier this year. In it, he wrote that member services leadership has methodically replaced senior black leaders with white leaders and treated men more favorably than women.
The complaint also notes ineffective practices.
“Member services leadership pursues activities which are costly, unrealistic and distracts from providing real services to our veterans,” he wrote.
Despite numerous external and internal complaints against member services leaders, Cain Davis wrote he was “amazed” more hadn’t been done to address concerns.
He didn’t respond to a request for comment.
A fourth VA employee, based in Atlanta, was also reassigned as a result of the internal investigation. Angel Lawrence, who was the health eligibility center’s director, is now with the Office of Mental Health Operations, Cashour said.