USA Today recently published an account of its own investigation into hiring practices at Veterans Affairs facilities throughout the country that revealed a pattern of hiring doctors who had been sanctioned for malpractice and ethics violations. Some of the hirings were in fact illegal, because federal law prohibits the VA from hiring physicians whose licenses have been revoked by a state board, even if they have a valid license to practice in another state.
The story focuses intently on neurosurgeon John Henry Schneider, who had more than a dozen malpractice claims spanning two states, including allegations he’d left patients maimed, paralyzed or dead. Wyoming revoked his license, but the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Iowa City, Iowa, hired him. His surgeries at the Iowa City VA were rife with complications: a 65-year-old patient died after Schneider performed four brain surgeries on him in a four-week span, and a 77-year-old surgical patient required two additional surgeries to remedy an infection.
In addition to its focus on Schneider, USA Today notes that the “VA hospital in Muskogee, Okla., hired a psychiatrist in 2013 with multiple disciplinary actions against his Oklahoma license, including for sexual misconduct.” The psychiatrist went on to sleep with a patient. The VA also “hired a psychologist to work at a clinic in Lafayette, La., in 2004, despite his revealing previous felony convictions on his application….” He was later terminated after an internal investigation determined he was a “direct threat to others (and) to the Department’s mission.”
Other problematic hires include a previously sanctioned ophthalmic surgeon now accused of botching surgeries and leaving one patient blind, and a psychiatrist who’d been charged with inappropriate relationships with patients, who later surrendered his license voluntarily when a VA patient died from drug toxicity at the facility the psychiatrist worked in.
It’s important to note that the VA does not require physicians to have their own malpractice insurance; the federal government covers malpractice claims. This adds insult to injury, as veterans receive substandard, damaging care, and taxpayers wind up footing the bill.
Attorneys at Marcari, Russotto, Spencer & Balaban have more than 200 years of combined legal experience. The firm handles appeals of VA disability claims throughout the United States. For more information, call 866-866-VETS or contact our office online.
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