Find Post Investigations On:
Facebook Scribd Twitter
Friendfeed RSS Google Reader
» About This Blog | Meet the Investigative Team | Subscribe
Ongoing Investigation

Top Secret America

The Post explores the top secret world the government created in response to the attacks of Sept. 11.

Ongoing Investigation

The Hidden Life of Guns

How guns move through American society, from store counter to crime scene.

Have a Tip?

Talk to Us

If you have solid tips, news or documents on potential ethical violations or abuses of power, we want to know. Send us your suggestions.
• E-mail Us


Post Investigations
In-depth investigative news
and multimedia from The Washington Post.
• Special Reports
• The Blog

Reporters' Notebook
An insider's guide to investigative news: reporters offer insights on their stories.

The Daily Read
A daily look at investigative news of note across the Web.

Top Picks
A weekly review of the best
in-depth and investigative reports from across the nation.

Hot Documents
Court filings, letters, audits and other documents of interest.

D.C. Region
Post coverage of investigative news in Maryland, Virginia and the District.

Washington Watchdogs
A periodic look into official government investigations.

Help! What Is RSS?
Find out how to follow Post Investigations in your favorite RSS reader.

Hot Comments

Unfortunately I believe that we are limited in what we can focus on. I think that if we proceed with the partisan sideshow of prosecuting Bush admin. officials, healthcare will get lost in the brouhaha.
— Posted by denamom, Obama's Quandary...

Recent Posts
Bob Woodward

The Washington Post's permanent investigative unit was set up in 1982 under Bob Woodward.

See what you missed, find what you're looking for.
Blog Archive »
Investigations Archive »

Have a Tip?
Send us information on ethics violations or abuses of power.
E-Mail Us »

Notable investigative projects from other news outlets.
On the Web »
Top Picks »

VA: Hospital Head Abused Travel, Purged Files

POSTED: 03:11 PM ET, 10/10/2008 by Derek Kravitz

"Washington Watchdogs," a periodic feature of the Post's Investigations blog, looks at the findings of the federal government's official investigators.

A Veterans Affairs hospital director has been disciplined after department investigators found that he had improperly influenced a hiring decision, overcharged for travel, made personal calls on his Blackberry and destroyed his computer hard drive while he was under investigation.

Dr. Robert W. Ratliff, the former director of the Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System, could not be reached for comment today. Staff at the Birmingham hospital said Ratliff no longer worked as director at the facility, where he was employed as recently as last month. Jeffrey Hester, a spokesman for the Birmingham hospital, said he was unsure if Ratliff was still employed by Veterans Affairs.

Ratliff had previously run government medical centers in Orlando, Daytona, Fla., Canandaigua, N.Y., and central Texas, according to his online biography.

The most serious allegations in the report from the VA's inspector general are that Ratliff and Shirley Bealer, the acting director of the Central Alabama health care system, obstructed the government investigation by destroying potentially incriminating computer files and telling employees to provide them with confidential information from investigators.

In April, while the inspector general was investigating his spending habits, Ratliff told another employee that he wanted to have a "spring cleaning" of his hard drive, according to the inspector general's report.

"The thought never occurred to me until my recent issues...So now that I am truly paranoid I am going on a regular scheduled hard drive erasure," he wrote in an e-mail.

Ratliff told investigators that he did not erase the hard drive to hide evidence of misconduct but rather wanted "to avoid just what we are doing right now; to avoid somebody coming in and going through all this stuff; looking at every little thing; and asking you to explain every little thing you did."

Investigators called the Ratliff's action "completely intolerable and unacceptable."

As the investigation continued, Ratliff's co-worker, Bealer, sent employees an e-mail asking what questions investigators asked. She admitted to sending the e-mail, saying that she was "being nosy and wanted to know if there were any other issues."

Investigators also found that Ratliff misspent government funds on trips to properties he owned near Nashville, Tenn.; Jackson, Miss.; and Birmingham, Ala.; and that he made thousands of personal phone calls on a hospital-only Blackberry.

The Veterans Affairs Department concurred with the report's findings and indicated it would finish all of its disciplinary action against Ratliff by November.

The report by the VA's inspector general's office was released this week after a Freedom of Information Act request was filed by The Post's Investigations blog.

By Derek Kravitz |  October 10, 2008; 3:11 PM ET Washington Watchdogs
Previous: AIG Cancels Ritz Trip, Other Events | Next: Picks of the Week: Nursing Licenses, Government Eavesdropping and Voter Rolls


Please email us to report offensive comments.

it is a struggle to understand this rampant pillaging of our departments.i am a veteran that finds it difficult to get the smallest of treatments because the va quotes budget constraints.
all offices nationwide needs some checking into.

Posted by: jim in okla | October 12, 2008 11:25 AM

Just another example of how the VA commits fraud, waste and abuse then claims they have no funds for primary care for America's Heroes. Perhaps if they spent less time figuring out ways to waste money and more time adjudicating VA claims in a timely and fair manner they wouldn't have these problems. Typical VA.

Posted by: Melissa | October 12, 2008 7:30 PM

This has been my contention The Veterans Administration Regional Office in processing claims the representatives are confrontational and adversarial,Also destroyed records pertaining to proving claim.Hospitalized 50days active duty Compensation and Pension should have been in place prior to discharge USC Code title 10 Army regulation never applied by US ARMY been a thirty year battle with Veterans Administration.And a continued one at that.

Posted by: Al New Jersey | October 12, 2008 7:56 PM

I'm an honorably discharged veteran of the US Army and have received treatment at CAVHCS (Central Alabama Veterans Healthcare Services; the system is considered one hospital with an east campus in Tuskegee and west in Montgomery) for a few years now. The motto for this pathetic excuse for a hospital is "Created For Healthcare, Combined For Excellence". Yeah, right; very creative...and an outright lie.

I have a close friend who has the misfortune of working in upper management at CAVHCS. He has suffered for years now of being just about the only person there who actually CARES about what should be EVERY employees only mission: SERVING OUR NATIONS VETERANS WITH COMPASSION AND DIGNITY!

From my own disappointing and disheartening experiences as a patient in this joke of a hospital and the insight I receive from my caring friend, all I can say is that the way proud veterans are treated at this facility is nothing short of shameful.

Posted by: Scott in Montgomery, AL | October 15, 2008 9:17 AM

This (I feel) is just the tip of the Iceberg as it pertains to the unfair practices of the this administration. Take a look a the number of unfair firings that took place over the past 2 years under Dr. Ratliff and his staff. Some however were reinstated after spending thousands of dollars on legal representation. However most were placed in positions of lesser authority. I personally feel that all should be compensated for the money they spent just defending themselves and slso reinstated in their respective positions. I of course knew it would be just a matter of time before SOME of this wrong doing would be discovered. SOME

Posted by: Anonymous | October 15, 2008 12:29 PM

I agree with the above comment because I witnessed this first hand. Someone should investigate the number of actions taken against black managers and supervisors especailly at the Tuskegee Campus under the present adminstration. I have never witness such in my life. Think I'm kidding? Just interview the staff, especailly those in managment or supervisory postions. Also, look up the ones who are no longer with CAVHCS.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 15, 2008 12:39 PM

I had the great misfortune of working at the VA Medical Center in Nashville during Dr. Ratliff's term as an Assistant Director there.

His time in Nashville was fraught with many stories of cronyism and questionable behavior.

Dr. Ratliff left Nashville under a cloud of suspicion. How he evaded the IG investigations there is still a mystery.

The problem with the VA and Federal Government in general is that no one is ever fired for misconduct. The individuals are just moved to a non supervisory position, away from their current location, allowed to continue in government service and then retire.

Someone really needs to look into why the New York City Veterans Affairs Regional Director, the Assistant Director, the Service Center Manager and three others were told not to report to work on Monday October 6th. They are still at home this week. Much to look into there, if you'd like to.

Posted by: Frank in the Department of Veterans Affairs | October 15, 2008 12:46 PM

As someone very close to the situation at CAVHCS I can attest to the inappropriate firings that occurred. The most blatant abuse of power in this was that employees did not receive "due process". Before a termination decision is made, a "proposed removal" must be issued to the employee. The Director is the deciding official as to sustain the proposed removal, and should NEVER be involved in the decision to "propose removal". Dr. Ratliff DEMANDED that proposed removals be issued to certain employees, even though he was to be the deciding official. This was morally wrong and illegal.

Posted by: Carmine Carlucci | October 16, 2008 7:35 AM

I am a witness to Dr. Ratliff's improprieties. It is about time that he's slid down that slippery slope and gotten caught. Dig deeper and you'll find even more - That's all I will say on that...

Posted by: Witness | October 16, 2008 11:46 PM

I urge you to not lump the entire VA system in to one awful bowl. There are employees and managers that REALLY REALLY care about veterans and are dedicated to the mission of the VA. The VA is not defined by the likes of Robert Ratliff. It was likely a group of caring VA employees who probably called the inspector general to investigate this country boy gone bad.

Posted by: Don't Stereotype | October 16, 2008 11:57 PM

ratliff fired me shortly after he came to montgomery. the termination was a direct result of reporting patient neglect resulting in that vietnam vet's death. i sent relevant information to the office of special counsel and ratliff made it clear that this was the reason for the termination both in the letter of termination and in his testimony before the mspb. i am petitioning the supreme court for consideration. mspb and the fed. circuit for federal appeals have no respect for the rights of veterans or whistleblowers.

Posted by: diane king | October 17, 2008 1:04 PM

William H. "Bill" Greer while serving as CIO in Tuskegee stored pornographic pictures of himself, friends and females in
bikini's on government computers in tuskegee. Could Robert Ratliff be trying to
hide these pictures when he erased his harddrive?

Posted by: ANONYMOUS | October 17, 2008 11:08 PM

Post a Comment

We encourage users to analyze, comment on and even challenge's articles, blogs, reviews and multimedia features.

User reviews and comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions.

characters remaining


© 2010 The Washington Post Company