Amid controversy, head of Iowa Veterans Home resigns

Five months after Iowa legislators were called to investigate the Iowa Veterans Home and its leadership, Commandant David Worley has resigned.

Gov. Terry Branstad made the announcement in a news release Tuesday, in which he also said Brig. Gen. Jodi Tymeson, IVH chief operating officer, will serve as the new commandant.

Worley, who said he is seeking other opportunities, said Tymeson is very competent and qualified for the position.

“My top priority has been to provide the excellent standard of care Iowa’s veterans have earned and deserved,” Worley said. “It’s been a wonderful mission. Care of our veterans and their spouses always comes first. I worked hard to maintain that standard, and believe we have made a number of positive changes for the betterment of our veterans.”

Former Gov. Chet Culver appointed Worley commandant in August 2010.

Critics of Worley called for action in an open letter published by the Times-Republican and other Iowa newspapers in April. Richard Schrad, the retired director of Resident & Family Services at IVH, led the charge, alleging Worley created a culture of fear at the home.

In May, a 2.5 hour State Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing was held at the statehouse. At the conclusion of that Sen. Steve Sodders, D-State Center, called for Worley’s suspension while an investigation was completed.

Branstad declined to open an investigation and instead defended Worley’s job performance on many occasions, often citing that Worley knew all of the veterans at IVH by name.

“The exit of David Worley from the Iowa Veterans Home is long overdue,” Sodders said. “I hope Jodi Tymeson moves quickly to regain the trust of residents and rebuild the relationships damaged by poor leadership.”

In June, Sen. Daryl Beall, D-Fort Dodge, asked the Iowa Ombudsman to open an investigation of the Iowa Veterans Home. Beall, Senate Veterans Affairs chairperson, said he had to follow up on accusations about the care and safety of veterans and employees at the home.

“This is very good news for the veterans of the Iowa Veterans Home,” Beall said on Tuesday. “It was clear back in May that the dignity and respect for the veterans living at the Iowa Veterans Home was in trouble.”

Beall said he has confidence in Tymeson and looks forward to working with her.

“Now we must rebuild and recover from this disappointing failure of leadership,” he said.

Kristie Hirschman, senior assistant ombudsman, said she received information requested for the investigation of the Iowa Veterans Home on Monday.

She was not aware of Worley’s resignation, and declined to comment on whether it would impact the investigation. Beall said the investigation would continue.

Despite challenges, Worley said his critics and the ombudsman investigation were “absolutely not a factor” in his decision to resign.

“I have no concerns whatsoever about that investigation,” he said.

Tymeson said the Iowa Veterans Home is required to have a licensed nursing home administrator on staff, something she will address in coming days.

“The Iowa Veterans Home provides high quality care and I am proud to be a part of the team,” she said.