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Feds: Training drill threatened Butler VA patients, employees

October 13, 2020 News Extra

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The federal government found the VA Butler Health Care Center endangered veteran patients and employees at the facility by holding “spontaneous” training drills using loaded weapons in 2017.

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel made the announcement Tuesday and noted that it has sent letters to the president and Congress.

The letter stated a whistleblower told the office about the drills. The whistleblower, a VA police officer, told the office in 2018 that a training drill in December 2017 occurred where “Police Service leadership ran an active-threat training without providing police officers advance notice, and did so while the responding officers were on duty and carrying loaded-duty weapons,” according to the letter.

The unsafe drills “had been reported to the facility’s associate director of operations, but appropriate corrective actions had not been taken,” according to the Special Counsel. The office found that “the drills violated firearms safety protocols and put VA employees, police officers, and veterans in danger.”

The whistleblower alleged that these unsafe drills happened at least a dozen times. The Inspector General’s Office conducted an investigation and confirmed the whistleblower’s allegations, according to Special Counsel.

In response to the findings, the Butler Health Care Center Police Service “suspended all trainings pending the revision of relevant procedures and subsequently implemented corrective measures,” according to the report.

The new measures were made April 13, updating standard operating procedures to prevent drills with live ammunition from taking place in a situation that could endanger the public.

The Butler VA did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday afternoon.

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