In a stunning investigation put forth on Sunday by USA Today, revelations were made about the people being employed by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The VA regularly hires people in the healthcare field who have been sued and even convicted of malpractice.
The VA has been forced to issue a statement since the release of the article. In the statement, the VA acknowledges the hiring of an unknown number of individuals may have been illegal.
One doctor, neurosurgeon John Henry Schneider, managed to maim more than a dozen victims in two States. In his wake he left many patients paralyzed and a few had died directly as a result.
After placing spinal screws in one patient, one Wyoming resident claims they lost bladder and bowel control. Another patient was left paralyzed from the waist down after a spinal insertion. After the death of another surgical patient, the State of Wyoming revoked his medical license.
Early in 2017, Schneider applied for work at the Department of Veterans Affairs in Iowa. He was hired in April at the Iowa City hospital after being honest and upfront on his application. The hospital services 184,000 veterans across three states.
A 65-year-old veteran died in August after four brain surgeries in four weeks. A 77-year-old veteran has received three spinal surgeries since July after the first incurred a lumbar infection. Unfortunately, these cases are not unique.
A psychiatrist who had been convicted of sexual misconduct was hired on at an Oklahoma VA facility. The doctor, according to internal records, slept with a patient. One VA clinic in Louisiana hired a convicted felon for the role of a psychologist.
An ophthalmologist, Daniel Kim, was hired in Jackson, Mississippi. Kim had several sanctions placed against him by the Georgia State licensing board. Kim was accused of blinding a World War II vet in 2006. Six years later he had inserted an incorrect lens into a patient’s eye.
Psychiatrist David Houlihan, also known as the candy man, was hired at the Tomah, Wisconsin, VA in 2002. Although the Iowa board of medicine charged Houlihan for sexual misconduct and theft of prescriptions, he was promoted to chief of staff within two years.
He earned the nickname candy man due to the number of narcotics he would script. After the death of a 35-year-old veteran, he was let go from the Wisconsin facility. The Tomah facility director, Mario DeSanctis, was fired a few months prior to Houlihan.
The VA Office of Inspector General and Office of Healthcare Inspections found the death of Marine Corps veteran Jason Simcakoski was entirely avoidable and unnecessary. In 2015, the report concluded the Tomah facility had prescribed a cocktail of narcotics without the proper warning of possible side effects.
Federal law forbids the department from employing healthcare workers whose license have been revoked by a state board. Physicians with active or reinstated licenses are also barred from being hired.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 29, 2017
The hiring process for the VA appears to be a thorough and tedious process. Applicants are vetted, licenses are verified, references contacted, and interviews are held. A professional standards board is required to review and approve clinical hires.
Clinical workers are not required to have malpractice insurance; rather claims are funded by the tax payers. This means that people who may have trouble getting insurance are incentivized to apply for VA positions.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has created a National Practitioner Data Bank in an attempt to prevent doctors from crossing state lines and hurting more patients. According to a new report put out by the GAO, the VA chose not to disclose the misconduct in eight out of nine doctors examined.
The VA reported one doctor to the state licensing board 136 days after court proceedings had finished. Federal VA policy require a reporting deadline of no more than 15 days after the appeals process.
The GAO also directed a review of 150 practitioners over the course of four years. The report found that in many cases the behavioral reports of the doctors were never done or not conducted in a timely manner.
Administration at the facilities which failed to write behavior reports stated simply they were unaware of current guidelines. The VA has since agreed with all the findings of the GOA and has sworn to implement new policy to involving a clear timeline and expectations for doctor reviews.
At the beginning of this year, President Trump signed an executive order aimed at helping our veterans. The order declared more transparency and assigned greater accountability to the VA. Whistleblowers of the department were granted more leeway and mandated investigations to be followed through and recorded.