The head of the state Department of Veterans Affairs says his agency is working to improve problems at the State Veterans Home in King.
Secretary Dan Zimmerman appeared before lawmakers to address a state audit released earlier this year, which cited problems with staffing shortages, excessive overtime, and low morale at the facility. Zimmerman took over the agency after the audit was ordered, and told the Joint Audit Committee he’s spent hundreds of hours there working with staff.
“I’ve learned much through my immersion at King,” he said. “I know precisely where the operation needs to go.”
Zimmerman outlined steps the Department is taking to address King’s nursing shortage, such as hiring a recruiter and implementing forced overtime protections.
However, the secretary had several tense exchanges with lawmakers on the Joint Audit Committee after questioning the audit’s assertion that morale at the facility is low. A survey of staff found 75 percent of the employees rated the morale at the facility as poor or very poor. Zimmerman argued that may actually be a symptom of other problems, such as workers feeling administrators are not hearing their concerns, which may frustrate them. “I see what’s going on, and there’s some ticked off people about something, but I get at the…why and the how, and I attack that,” he said.
Still, state Representative John Nygren (R-Marinette) cautioned Zimmerman not to ignore concerns about morale. “If you don’t take those into consideration, we are going to be back here with similar concerns in the future,” he warned.