There is no local tarnish from a federal report that found 57 percent of the security force at Veterans Administration Hospitals have criminal or questionable backgrounds, according to a VA spokesman.
Don Moore, staff assistant to medical center Director W.L. Hodson in Salt Lake, said the personnel files from all seven of the hospital's security officers have been double checked since the Office of Inspector General released a report in Washington saying more than half of the VA Security Service at the nation's VA hospitals "did not possess the required employment qualifications when hired, had been convicted of criminal acts, or were terminated or resigned from law enforcement agencies and other employers under questionable circumstances."The files of 225 officers or individuals in the process of being hired as of Sept. 30, 1987 at nine VA hospitals were checked in the investigation. The VA hospital in Salt Lake was not included in the investigation, and no hospitals or officers were singled out in the findings of the report.
Criminal offenses discovered during the investigation included murder, rape, armed robbery, assault or embezzlement. Only two of the 73 officers found to have been convicted of criminal acts disclosed information of their convictions on their applications for VA employment.
Moore said it is likely the problems surfaced in larger metropolitan areas where there is more crime, in general, and where there is a larger turnover on hospital staff. "We're rather unique. We have a much more stable staff."
The report attributes many of the personnel problems to non-compliance with existing hiring guidelines that require background checks with police agencies and former employers. Moore said hiring practices for security officers in Salt Lake followed VA policy guidelines. After the report was released, "We did a re-check two or three times on each officer just to make sure."
A report that the security force in Salt Lake was qualified and in compliance was returned to the VA in Washington, Moore said.
There have been no personnel changes because of the report, nor has there arisen a need for changes in background checks to comply with agency policy, Moore said.
VA security officers are responsible for protecting about 203,000 employees, 126,000 patients and $7 billion in government property at 176 medical centers and independent outpatient clinics.
The report indicates a separate study of chiefs of security is yet to come, and states other aspects of the nationwide audit of the VA Security Service will be disclosed in separate reports to be issued later.