This article was produced in partnership with ProPublica. New Mexico In Depth is a member of the ProPublica Local Reporting Network. The head of the U.S. Veterans Health Administration, the nation’s largest integrated health care system, has banned most administrative staff from working at home, despite calls from public health officials and the White House for more Americans to stay home during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a March 13 memo obtained by New Mexico In Depth and ProPublica, Richard A. Stone, the VHA’s executive in charge, called for a halt to authorizations for administrative employees to telework until further notice, citing concern about overwhelming computer servers that are needed by health care providers for telemedicine.
“Telework is not to be authorized for administrative staff at this time,” the document states. “Telework may be authorized for patient care providers if that is the only way by which they can continue to provide patient care.”
Stone’s memo is the latest indication of how federal agencies are straining to function in the face of the crisis brought on by the novel coronavirus.
The March 13 memo came one day after the White House Office of Management and Budget called for agencies to maximize how many federal employees are allowed to work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.