VA needs to fire dangerous doctors and improve hiring practices, oversight

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Washington, May 29, 2018 | comments

VA needs to fire dangerous doctors and improve hiring practices, oversight

BY REPS. JOHN RUTHERFORD (R-FLA.), ANDY BIGGS (R-ARIZ.), RALPH NORMAN (R-S.C.), OPINION CONTRIBUTORS —05/28/18 08:00 AM EDT 74

THE VIEWS EXPRESSED BY CONTRIBUTORS ARE THEIR OWN AND NOT THE VIEW OF THE HILL

Would you trust a doctor who had their license revoked, had a history of sexual misconduct, and had on numerous occasions engaged in unethical, unprofessional behavior? Obviously not. Why, then, would we ever put someone like that in a position to care for the men and women who served our country?

In December, we were shocked to learn that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) had hired medical providers who have been accused of all of the above offenses. These reports clearly indicate that the VA’s hiring of many of these providers was not only appalling, but also violated federal law.

That is why we led a bipartisan letter of 30 members to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to ask how these hires were cleared and what actions have been taken to prevent this from happening again.

In response to that letter, then-Secretary David Shulkin said that the VA was conducting a review of all 165,000 active licensed providers at the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), starting with a more thorough review of a subset of 77,000. Both reviews were expected to be completed by March 2018, but now we are learning that they have been pushed back even further to June. To date, nine providers have been fired. No disciplinary actions have been taken against the professional standards boards that cleared these hires. This is simply not good enough.

Every day that the VA continues this review is another day we risk the health of the heroes who have served our country. The VA needs to prevent this from happening in the first place, not just carry out a five-month long review.

Congress and the VA need to concentrate on making the department an environment that will attract the best workers so veterans get the best care possible. We see the great work many are doing in VA facilities across the country, and we owe it to those employees and our veterans to strengthen the hiring and retention processes. This includes scholarships, loan repayment, and other factors providers consider when making the decision of where to work.

We, as representatives, need to hold VA leadership accountable for their actions. These problems should never have arisen in the first place, and we will continue to shine a light on these issues until the VA learns to step up and fix their own immense problems. We will continue to work with with our colleagues in the Congress to ensure our brave veterans are receiving the timely access to quality care from qualified providers that they deserve, and it is our sincere hope that the VA will do the same.

Also written by Reps. Michael Bost (R-Ill.), Walter Jones (R-N.C.), Steve Stivers (R-Ohio), Ted Yoho (R-Fla.), Jack Bergman (R-Mich.), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), Barbara Comstock (R-Va.), Steve Pearce (R-N.M.), Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.), Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), and Mimi Walters (R-Calif.) 

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