Middletown police say they expect to charge a Dayton VA employee next week with patient negligence, falsifying records and possibly theft in office because “he’s getting paid to do a job he’s clearly not doing.”
Lt. Scott Reeve, of the Middletown Division of Police, said detectives have been investigating the home health care worker for the past 10 months and are close to proving he falsified reports about a Middletown veteran who died last year.
Officers found Calvin Coleman, Jr.’s body on March 28 at a residence in the 2200 block of Carolina Street, but investigators believe he died four days prior to their discovery. The Dayton VA employee, who was charged with assisting Coleman, documented that he spoke with him the day before his body was found and visited him on March 25.
“We believe he actually died on the 23rd or the 24th, so when the home health care worker documented his visit on the 25th and 27th, Calvin was already dead,” said Lt. Scott Reeve, of the Middletown Division of Police.
Coleman’s death certificate lists his official date of death as March 28, but Butler County Coroner’s officials said that based on the autopsy it looked as though Coleman had been dead for a few days before he was found, according to police. Police say coroner’s officials told them that Coleman’s body had already started to decompose.
Coleman was 62 years old when he passed away and served in the Army, according to his sister, Diana Pearson. She said she saw photos of her brother’s body, which she described as “decomposing and mummified.”
“Obviously, the case manager did not do what he needed to do,” Pearson said. “Makes me angry… My parents are devastated with his death.”
Detectives spoke for the first time with the home health care worker on Monday.
“He’s standing by his reports that he filed through the VA that he did talk to him (Coleman) on the 27th and 25th,” said Reeve. “We don’t believe the records are accurate…We don’t believe the home health care worker was there because Calvin was already dead.”
Ted Froats, a spokesman for the Dayton VA, said Tuesday that the agency has launched its own internal investigation into the matter. He said the Dayton VA is fully cooperating with the Office of Inspector General and Middletown police to the extent that it is permitted to by law.
“The Middletown Police Department has informed us the reports are not yet completed and that no time/date of death has been established,” Froats told this newspaper in an email. “As the veteran was found deceased one day after the employee says that he spoke to the veteran, the time/date of death is a key aspect of this investigation. Nonetheless, we take the allegation seriously.”
Froats said the employee is currently detailed to a job that does not require face-to-face patient interaction while the police, OIG and Dayton VA investigations continue.
Reeve said Agent Gavin McClaren with the VA’s criminal investigations division is helping obtain records for this case, but acknowledges the probe has been frustrating at times.
“It’s been a challenge. (We started) 10 months ago and are still looking into it, trying to get the records to prosecute,” said Reeve. “It’s difficult to investigate a case like this because there’s so many patient rights to privacy.”
After reviewing the home health care worker’s report, detectives said they noticed other incorrect information.
“Calvin had fallen down and burned himself a week and a half before, and the home health care worker did not document those injuries,” Reeve sad. “If he was there, let’s say the 25th, why didn’t he make note Calvin had a huge gash on his face and the skins on his legs were peeling off from the severe burn he got over a week before that.”
In addition to what police call inaccurate reports by the VA worker, Reeve said the worker has a “disturbing” background.
“He has a pretty significant criminal history of breaking and entering, burglary, he’s been charged with domestic violence…charges when he was younger, but significant charges,” said Reeve. “You would think that you wouldn’t take a person like this and send him into people’s homes.”
But Froats said background checks for most federal jobs go back five years, and the employee in question has no known criminal history during that period of time.
Reeve said he “feels sorry” for Coleman because he wasn’t getting the treatment he should’ve been getting.
“These are our veterans, people who have put their lives on the line to protect our country, and they deserve better,” he said.
Coleman was the oldest of seven siblings, his sister said. She said she wants to see the VA’s practices change.
“I would like to see them really monitoring what happens with veterans. As you know, they’ve been in the spotlight over the past year because of this very same issue,” Pearson said.
Last year, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs was embroiled in a scandal involving the deaths of nearly 40 veterans because of delays at the Phoenix VA hospital.
This newspaper reported that since 2001, the VA paid $36.4 million to settle as many as 167 cases involving delays in medical treatment.
Pearson said her family just wants the truth, adding that her brother was the family’s caretaker.
“If any of us needed anything, he was very giving,” she said.
Pearson said her brother was diagnosed with schizophrenia, and she believes he was “mentally unstable due to medication not being monitored correctly.”
Pearson submitted a letter to the VA’s Cleveland regional office on Aug. 8 of last year about her brother’s death but didn’t get a response until Dec. 9 after she contacted the Assistant Director of the Ohio Department of Veterans Affairs Jason Dominguez. She said her family has been consulting with an attorney about her brother’s death.
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