Ruth Cooperrider

Ruth Cooperrider

A report from the State Ombudsman finds complaints generated about the former commandant of the Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown were primarily due to commandant’s demeanor and management style.

Ombudsman Ruth Cooperrider says despite the “dissatisfaction and the dissent” in complaints to the media, legislators and others, she did not find that the quality of care or health and safety of the residents was a major concern under Commandant David Worley. “As with any facility where you are dealing with vulnerable people not really attributed to any significant systemic problems,” Cooperrider says.

Cooperrider says she did find two issues with Worley’s management that led to the complaints. “One was his personal style and how he interacted with both staff and residents,” Cooperrider says. “And then the second was that he did implement some organizational decisions, managerial decisions that I think people saw as impacting their programs and services.” She says the implementation process could have been better.

“Usually there was some reason for it, but that led to I think the only recommendation I had, which is to be more inclusive of resident sin the decision-making process so that they have information and the ability to feel like their voices are heard before decisions are made,” Cooperrider says.

When it comes to the health and safety of the residents, Cooperrider says she reviewed the complaints to the Longterm Care Ombudsman’s office, which is supposed to look investigate such issues. “They weren’t getting that many and nothing seemed to be largely systemic problems either,” according to Cooperrider. “We weren’t able to really directly say that yes because of his management of the facility that they were directly responsible for any of the incidents that we looked at in terms of concerns.”

Cooperrider says she was particularly concerned about more than two dozen residents were notified they had to transfer to another facility. She says they found the transfers came after a review of whether some of the residents met the federal level needed for residential care. “When they did the review and found that some of them did not and they had to make room for some of then that did — then they did start the process of discharging those residents. But, they did give them more than the 30 days that is required by rule,” Cooperrider says.

She says she was satisfied after investigating the reasons for the involuntary discharges. “Yes, there were involuntary discharges, but I don’t know that we can fault them necessarily for the reasons for doing it and the process for how they did it,” Cooperrider says. Cooperrider says there should continue to be regular oversight of the facility.

“I think it is still a very good thing for the legislature to ensure that these discharge reports — which are required by law to be filed annually — are reviewed to ensure that the facility is acting appropriately when they are discharging residents,” Cooperrider says. The Ombudsman did not review charges of sexual harassment and a possible hostile work environment created by Worley. She says that does not fall under her jurisdiction.

Worley resigned in October of 2013 and Governor Terry Branstad replaced him with retired Iowa National Guard Brigadier General Jodi Tymeson.

Here’s Cooperrider’s report: StateOmbudsman-IVH-Final Report PDF

Two Democratic lawmakers, State Senator Steve Sodders and Representative Mark Smith, both of Marshalltown released a statement on the Ombudsman’s investigation:

“A thorough, independent investigation has confirmed many of our fears about the mismanagement at the Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown. It is shameful that our veterans were not receiving the respect and care that Iowans expected of the Iowa Veterans Home.

The lengthy report by the Office of the Iowa Ombudsman focused primarily on the care, health and safety of the residents of the Iowa Veterans Home. It is fair to blame many of the problems and complaints on the management decisions by then Commandant David Worley and on Governor Branstad’s terrible decision of leaving Worley in charge despite repeated complaints and concerns raised by Iowa Veterans Home residents, family members, staff and veterans advocates.

The departure of Worley was a first step toward improving conditions and the atmosphere at the Iowa Veterans Home. However, we continue to believe that more legislative oversight is needed to ensure that these and other problems don’t occur in the future. This includes strengthening Iowa’s whistleblower protections so that employees can come forward without fear of harassment, demotion or dismissal.Our veterans deserve nothing less.”