02202018Headline:

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Chris Nace
Chris Nace
Attorney • (202) 930-0292

Congress Seeks Answers amidst VA Malpractice Claims

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The Veterans Affairs Health Administration is America’s largest integrated healthcare system, with close to 1,300 healthcare facilities—including 170 medical centers—that serve 9 million enrolled veterans each year. Yet, negligence and malpractice committed on behalf of the VA is a long-standing issue that has recently gained national attention. In fact, a Government Accountability Office (GAO) study released at the end of 2017 investigated five random VA medical centers to find that VA officials had failed to appropriately review eight of nine doctors that should have been reported for medical malpractice—and more than half of all patient complaints about VA hospitals went largely ignored by the Administration.

“We found that all five [hospitals] lacked at least some documentation of the reviews they told us they conducted, and in some cases, the required reviews were not conducted at all,” investigators said about the GAO review. Additionally, a recent USA Today investigation documented at least 126 cases in which medical providers committed serious offenses for which they should have been fired, yet the VA actually agreed to omit such information from their records, allowed them to resign, and in many cases, even provided neutral or positive references to prospective employers. In one recent blog, I specifically discussed the checkered past of one neurosurgeon who was hired by the VA even after including in his application information on malpractice suits and a previous license revocation.

As public awareness of such conditions has mounted, more than two dozen members of Congress wrote to the Dept. of Veteran Affairs demanding swift action in dealing with these dangerous and potentially lethal medical providers. In the letter, these members of Congress requested information on the actions that the VA is taking to review and report those medical providers who have fallen below the standard of care. In some instances, it is believed that the VA knowingly hired medical providers who had been terminated in their previous job for failing to meet such a standard, to which Rep. Walter B. Jones (R-N.C.) commented, “For the VA to be illegally hiring doctors who failed to meet that standard in their previous jobs is very troubling and absolutely unacceptable.”

Additionally on December 18, 2017, more than 30 members of the U.S. House of Representatives continued the commentary with letters to the VA stating, “The hiring of doctors who have had their medical licenses revoked in any state is already prohibited, and clinical hires must be cleared through professional standards boards . . . However, it appears the laws and regulations establishing that prohibition are not being followed by VA medical facilities.”

While such lax attitudes in the face of misconduct, licensing issues and malpractice accusations are disturbing, it’s one potential cause for all of this that’s most worrisome—could it be that the VA in recent years has become a magnet for troubled doctors and surgeons because taxpayer money not only pays their salaries, but also pays out on malpractice claims when they make mistakes? We as taxpayers deserve better fiscal responsibility, and the men and women who have served and protected our nation certainly deserve far better medical care.

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  1. Berta M. Simmons says:
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    I am a successful FTCA/Section 1151 claimant and also I have been a disabled veterans advocate for over 30 years.
    There are 2 main reasons this issue is still prevalent within the VA.
    I negotiated my FTCA 1995 case with the OGC and had no independent medical opinions, nor any lawyer would help me. I had evidence of malpractice against my husband at the local Bath NY VAMC and evidence of how another NY VAMC (Syracuse)tried to cover up that malpractice.
    I had written to former H VAC Chairman Miller about this issue, as well as to Secretary Shulkin and ,in an email to President trump, I told him the Wall could be paid for ,if the VA stopped their systemic medical failures that cost so much in FTCA settlements.( and 1151 payouts)
    But the VA still fails to comply with the NPDB mandate reporting requirements. The reason my settlement was not reported to the FTCA-per the OGC attorney- who I negotiated with-is ludicrous.
    And also the VA hides their Section 1151, 38 USC statistics.
    Unlike reported FTCA settlements, no one, not even Congress, knows of the amount of tax payer money which is paid out to 1151ers like me (wrongful death) or to the many living veterans who also have proved 1151 malpractice.
    Unlike the settlement I signed with the USA, an 1151 award contains the exact nature of the malpractice, as mine does.
    I asked the BVA ombudsman via email last year how much of the reported Service Connected compensation paid out,in their BVA annual reports to Congress, to veterans or their survivors is actually Section 1151 ,38 USC ,“as if” service connected money.
    The answer from the BVA, available if requested, shows that 1151 malpractice/negligence payments are absorbed into the over Service Connected Compensation fund. These awards are not public, as NPDB FTCA reported cases are.
    I helped a Bath VAMC NY patient- veteran get 100% P & T for malpractice in 1995-1996.He is fortunately still alive.The VA has paid him a large amount of compensation for 22 years now, that he deserves, but yet his compensation is considered “service connected” under Section 1151, yet has resulted from blatant VA malpractice….which should not have occurred in the first place.