Arlington, VA – A Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) watchdog again urged the Washington, D.C. VA Medical Center to take immediate action after new revelations of “troubling incidents” that pose a risk to patient safety surfaced yesterday during an onsite visit by the Inspector General.
In a letter sent to the VA Acting Under Secretary for Health, it was detailed that a patient was prepped for vascular surgery and under anesthesia when it was discovered that the surgeon didn’t have the necessary instrument to perform the operation. The surgery was postponed.
Concerned Veterans for America CVA Executive Director Mark Lucas issued the following statement:
“It is angering to hear that veterans’ lives are being put at risk at the DC VA as a direct result of the negligence of senior VA officials there. The VA did the right thing by relieving the DC director from his position last month, but he’s still on the VA payroll and under current law it will be very difficult to fire him. These problems will persist until Congress moves on the solid accountability measures currently on the table, like the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act. Those entrusted with the care of our veterans should be held to the highest standards and that requires giving the VA Secretary the authority to fire bad employees.”
Today members of the Senate – Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Johnny Isakson, (R-GA), and Jon Tester (D-MT) – introduced a new bipartisan accountability bill called the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017. The bill will reduce the time it takes to fire bad employees at the Department of Veterans Affairs, give Secretary Shulkin the ability to recoup bonuses awarded to employees who are found to have engaged in misconduct, and reduce the pensions of VA employees found guilty of felonies related to their employment at the VA.
In April, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for the Department of Veterans Affairs issued an alert that patients at the VA facility in Washington DC are in imminent danger. Shortly thereafter, the VA removed the DC VA director from the position and temporarily assigned him to administrative duties. According to the report, hospital staff there is insufficiently equipped to perform operations, despite senior VA officials knowing about low inventory levels and unsterile conditions for months.
The preliminary OIG report also found that in the past three years at this facility, there have been 194 reports that patient safety has been compromised because of insufficient equipment. These reports include surgeons using expired equipment during operations and biopsies being canceled because the right tools weren’t available.