I’m not a fan of the Department of Veterans Affairs. I’ve had too many members of my family and too many friends abused by it. In an ideal world, I’d demolish the VA medical system, except for a handful of facilities that specialized in military particular injuries (traumatic amputation, rehab of multiple amputees, traumatic brain injuries) and give eligible veterans a credit card, good for medical services, with a very high limit.
But, even on my worst day of disliking the VA, I’d never imagined this could be the case:
The Department of Veterans Affairs has allowed its hospitals across the country to hire health care providers with revoked medical licenses for at least 15 years in violation of federal law, a USA TODAY investigation found.
The VA issued national guidelines in 2002 giving local hospitals discretion to hire clinicians after “prior consideration of all relevant facts surrounding” any revocations and as long as they still had a license in one state.
But a federal law passed in 1999 bars the VA from employing any health care worker whose license has been yanked by any state.
What this means is since 2002 the VA has been hiring clinical staff who had lost their medical licenses in direct violation of federal law. The impact is horrifying.
Hospital officials at the VA in Iowa City relied on the illegal guidance earlier this year to hire neurosurgeon John Henry Schneider, who had revealed in his application that he had numerous malpractice claims and settlements and Wyoming had revoked his license after a patient death. He still had a license in Montana.
USA TODAY reported that the malpractice claims against Schneider included cases alleging he made surgical mistakes that left patients maimed, paralyzed or dead, and that his veteran patients in Iowa already have suffered complications. One of those patients, 65-year-old Richard Joseph Hopkins, died from an infection in August after four brain surgeries by Schneider in a span of four weeks.
A VA hospital in Oklahoma hired a psychiatrist previously sanctioned for sexual misconduct who went on to sleep with a VA patient. The VA in Tomah, Wis., hired a psychiatrist previously disciplined for medication violations who went on to overprescribe narcotics to veterans. A Louisiana VA clinic hired a psychologist with felony convictions. The VA ended up firing him after determining he was a “direct threat to others” and the VA’s mission.
Trumps VA Secretary, Dr. David Shulkin, is taking action to remove these people and to reevaluate clinicians who had received reprimands from licensing boards but were still hired by the VA.
At least the barn door is shut and someone is trying to round up the stray horses, but a lot of needless damage has been done to a very vulnerable population for no good reason.