VA Illegally Hiring Doctors With Malpractice History Since 2002

By Faye Higbee

According to a USA Today investigation, the VA has been illegally hiring doctors with a malpractice history. It is illegal because a 1999 law prohibits the VA from doing so, yet in 2002 they issued “guidelines” allowing it if they had reviewed “prior consideration of all relevant facts surrounding” the revocation of the license and if the doctor was still licensed in one state.

The 1999 law bars any VA hospital from hiring ANY doctor whose license has been revoked in ANY state. But the “guidelines” issued in 2002  allowed it, and subsequently caused major issues for the healthcare of veterans.

USA Today reported about the case of Neurosurgeon John Henry Schneider, whose license had been revoked in Wyoming after a patient death. He was still licensed in Montana. The VA moved to fire Schneider on November 29, but he resigned first.

The USA today investigation revealed:

“… 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.   

Schneider denied in an interview that he had provided substandard care and blamed poor patient outcomes on other providers or unfortunate complications that can occur in neurosurgery…”

Both members of the House and Senate are justifiably angry over the revelations. Republican Senators Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley from Iowa sent a joint letter to the VA demanding answers. Fourteen Senators also sent a letter demanding answers. Thirty one members of the House of Representatives sent a letter as well.

For his part, VA Secretary David Shulkin has ordered a rewriting of the guidelines and a review of ANY personnel with a questionable past. He has also promised to reduce the agency’s 66,000 regulations by 80%, stating that he doesn’t think that any human being could wade through that many regulations without these kinds of issues surfacing.

“It’s very clear to me that our job is to have the best quality doctors that we can provide to take care of veterans, and that’s going to be our policy.” VA Secretary

USA Today also reported,

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…”

This may be a huge reason why there are so many complaints about the VA- hiring doctors with malpractice complaints, and workers with felony records?

Rep. Mike Coffman, R-CO, worried that the VA had become a “dumping ground” for  poor medical providers. And judging from the series of complaints, he may indeed be correct. Shulkin has his job cut out for him.