Dayton VA chief to retire from post

The Dayton VA Medical Center director recognized nationally for his work to help two embattled VA medical facilities in the midst of scandals will step down in October from the local top post.

Glenn Costie, 55, announced his retirement Monday to give the VA time to find and train a replacement before he leaves.

“I feel like the organization is doing really well,” he said in an interview at the Dayton VA. “Dayton is a top performing medical organization for our veterans and it just felt like it was the right time for me to go start a new chapter in my life.”

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Costie said he’s in negotiations with a Miami Valley health care provider on a new leadership post, but declined to elaborate Monday.

The Dayton VA leader gained national attention when he was appointed for several months to oversee two troubled VA facilities in Phoenix in 2014 and Cincinnati last year, temporarily stepping aside from duties in Dayton each time.

Pushing for transformation and fixing broken cultures is not new for Costie — it’s what brought him to the Dayton VA 2011 in the midst of a dental clinic hygiene scandal.

In Phoenix, hundreds of staff were added to deal with a patient backlog. In Cincinnati, Costie said he tried to give employees “hope” in the midst of a high-level staff shake-up. He aided in the recruitment and selection of a new leader in Cincinnati, Costie said.

“Defining the culture and transforming it was one of my biggest challenges at both facilities and I think it’s one of my biggest successes here in Dayton,” he said.

The Dayton dental clinic today ranks nationally among VA medical centers for patient satisfaction, he said.

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During his tenure, the number of patients at Dayton VA facilities rose 11 percent to 39,724 last year while patient satisfaction ratings rose by double digits, according to the VA. In 2013, the VA ranked the Dayton medical center among 32 facilities as “top performers.”

However, Costie also has faced controversy at the Dayton VA. In 2015, a whistleblower employee brought attention to a patient backlog at the pulmonary clinic. The VA reported “scheduling irregularities” when a prior employee used an informal list to set up appointments.

At the time, Costie said 150 patients had died before they could be seen for appointments, but a VA panel investigation determined none of the patients died because of a lack of care. The employees who were involved in the situation faced “some of the most severe accountability measures we can take,” Costie said Monday.

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With patient wait times an issue at VA hospitals and clinics across the nation and a rising tide of veterans returning from years of wars, the agency faced heightened public and congressional scrutiny. Washington has sent billions of dollars more to the VA and lawmakers have passed legislation to increase accountability in the organization nationally.

National VA History Center in Dayton

In perhaps the biggest announcement while he was director, the VA announced Dayton was selected to be the future home of a VA National History Center. The future museum and archive, with an estimated $20 million to $25 million price tag expected to be significantly dependent on private fund raising, will be housed in a yet-to-be restored former VA national headquarters and a club house. The West Dayton campus was named a National Historic Landmark in 2012.

The Dayton VA, one of the first three national hospitals set up to medically treat veterans, marks its 150th anniversary in 2017. The campus was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2004.

Becoming the first community in Ohio to “effectively” end veterans’ homelessness in the Dayton region with a collaboration of community groups was a key milestone, he said.

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U.S. District Judge Walter H. Rice, leader of the American Veterans Heritage Center on the VA campus, said Costie has worked to integrate the campus with the community more than any other Dayton VA leader in decades. He called Costie’s departure “a loss.”

“At a time when the VA generally is under some negative publicity, he’s done just a tremendous job of improving the image of the VA in this community,” Rice said.

Ohio’s congressional lawmakers noted Costie’s departure.

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U.S. Rep. Mike Turner said in a statement Costie was “a national figure for saving veterans affairs facilities.” The lawmaker said he worked with Costie to bring additional housing for senior citizens and the national history center to the West Dayton campus.

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, called Costie “an innovative leader” at the VA.

“His retirement will leave a void not just in Dayton, but in the VA as a whole where Glenn’s efforts have had important impacts across the nation,” the senator said in a statement.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio and a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, said Costie served the state’s veterans well in both Dayton and Cincinnati.

The Dayton VA has about 2,000 employees and cares for about 40,000 patients a year. It operates clinics in Lima, Springfield, Middletown and Richmond, Ind.

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