The medical director of the Iowa Veterans Home is defending a staffing decision that gave her a substantial pay increase. Melissa Bruhl says she and other staff physicians started getting paid for on-call duty when it became increasingly difficult to recruit outside physicians for nights and weekends.

"At that time we were averaging between four and five 12-hour shifts a month that we couldn’t’t get coverage for," Bruhl says. "And as the months went on the number was increasing.

Bruhl says that’s when she asked Commandant Dan Steen — the top administrator at the home — to approve a new on-call system that eliminated the need for outside physicians. The home’s four staff physicians, including Bruhl, were then paid extra to cover those hours.

"I, personally, have had no resident or staff member complain to me about the change," Brool says. "In addition I have had no contact from any family members complaining about the quality of care."

Bruhl testified yesterday before the Legislature’s Veterans Affairs Committees. Ray Zirkelbach, an Iraq war veteran who is chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, told Bruhl the staff are doing a "great job" caring for the 700 veterans who make their home at the facility, but Zirkelbach also said the Veterans Affairs Commission should have been asked to sign off on the decision.

The top manager at the Iowa Veterans Home — Commandant Dan Steen — must leave the post on May 1st as Governor Culver did not reappoint him to another four-year term.