WASHINGTON, D.C. – Following a recent investigation from USA Today on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hiring and retaining medical providers who are unfit or not legally authorize to serve, Congressman Rutherford led a bipartisan congressional letter to Secretary Shulkin requesting information on how the Department oversees and hires its health professionals. Current law prohibits the VA from hiring providers who have had their license revoked in any state to ensure quality care for veterans, yet reports show professional standards boards clearing the hiring doctors with histories of malpractice and sexual misconduct.
The USA Today article includes the following excerpt: “Neurosurgeon John Henry Schneider racked up more than a dozen malpractice claims and settlements in two states, including cases alleging he made surgical mistakes that left patients maimed, paralyzed or dead. He was accused of costing one patient bladder and bowel control after placing spinal screws incorrectly, he allegedly left another paralyzed from the waist down after placing a device improperly in his spinal canal. The state of Wyoming revoked his medical license after another surgical patient died. Schneider then applied for a job earlier this year at the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Iowa City, Iowa. He was forthright in his application about the license revocation and other malpractice troubles. But the VA hired him anyway.”
Further, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a report this month showing that the VA failed to report 90 percent of problematic providers to their national database designed to prevent doctors found guilty of malpractice from crossing state lines.
Congressman John Rutherford said, “I am appalled that the VA has hired felons, sexual predators, and medical providers with revoked licensures. Not only does this malfeasance put our veterans in serious medical danger, but this astonishing mismanagement of the vetting process subjects veterans to pain and harm that is completely unacceptable. While I recognize that the VA is taking action to remove these unfit providers from the system, they must do more to prevent this illegal activity from ever occurring again. Most VA employees share our commitment to ensuring our nation’s veterans receive the highest quality care possible, and we must work with them to remove all bad actors so the VA can fulfill its critically important mission of faithfully serving our nation’s heroes.”
Rutherford is one of 30 signatories on the bipartisan letter including, Jack Bergman, Mark Meadows, Barbara Comstock, Madeleine Bordallo, Walter Jones, Ralph Norman, Ann McLane Kuster, Doug Collins, Tom O’Halleran, Beto O’Rourke, Mimi Walters, Mike Bost, Mike Johnson, Darrell Issa, Thomas Rooney, Jim Banks, Doug LaMalfa, Kevin Yoder, David Valadao, Roger Marshall, Ted Yoho, Andy Biggs, Neal Dunn, Steve King, Daniel Donovan, Jr., Charlie Crist, Peter DeFazio, Steve Pearce Ron DeSantis. The full text of the letter can be found below:
December 18, 2017
The Honorable David J. Shulkin, M.D.
U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20420
Dear Secretary Shulkin:
We write today to express extreme concern regarding recent reports that the VA has hired medical providers, including surgeons, who have histories of malpractice and disciplinary actions taken against them. These reports include the hiring of providers who have previously lost their medical licenses, providers who have a history of sexual misconduct, and providers who have a record of disciplinary actions that would preclude them from employment in the private sector.
We recognize and share your commitment to ensuring that our nation’s veterans receive the highest quality care from the best providers possible. Therefore, recent reports of these bad hires, along with the recent Government Accountability Office report that found VA failed to conduct appropriate reviews and report doctors who received adverse privileging actions to state medical boards and other databases, are of great concern to us as we conduct oversight of the Department.
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.
As you are aware, the President signed the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act into law in June. This was a result of Congress’s and the American people’s outrage at the lack of appropriate disciplinary action within the VA. We are encouraged by your exercise of these new authorities; however, these recent reports lead us to question if further action by Congress may be necessary.
In order to help us learn more about the VA’s response to these reports, we request the following:
· Actions taken to terminate the employment of those listed in recent reports who should not have been hired by the VA;
· Actions taken to discipline the professional standards boards who cleared the hiring of those providers with histories of misconduct and malpractice;
· Any Department-wide guidance on how medical facilities review and conduct their hiring processes to prevent current hiring laws from being broken;
· Actions taken to identify other current providers within the VA who have had disciplinary actions taken against them.
We thank you in advance for your prompt response to our concerns. We appreciate your dedication to our veterans and look forward to working together to ensure they receive the highest quality medical care available. Please contact us with any further questions.