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Biden administration defends treatment of veterans despite IG report

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The U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs pledged to protect veterans and address any problems identified by federal watchdogs after an Inspector General report raised concerns about the physicians employed by the VA.

Press Secretary Terrence Hayes responded to an inquiry from The Center Square about recent IG reports. The reports in question said that the healthcare wing of the VA was paying doctors to care for veterans even after those doctors had been disqualified for safety reasons.

“At VA, our mission is to make sure Veterans get the world-class health care they deserve from caring, qualified professionals – and we will never settle for anything less,” Hayes told The Center Square. “Inspector General reviews like this help us make VA health care better, and we are already taking action to address the OIG’s recommendations.”

As The Center Square previously reported, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., raised questions with Secretary of Department of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough about the treatment of veterans.

His letter pointed out that internal policies at the VA would not prevent health care providers from being paid to treat veterans even after those health care providers had violated federal policies.

Hayes said the agency would respond to Rubio’s letter directly and that the agency is beefing up review processes for health care providers after the IG report’s results.

“We are thoroughly reviewing our criteria and processes to ensure that all ineligible health care providers are identified and excluded from participating in VA’s Community Care Program,” Hayes said. “And, we are establishing an appropriate review process for the Veterans Health Administration to ensure that past removals of health care providers were due to patient safety concerns.”

Rubio called for accountability at the VA and pointed to examples of physicians who should not have been treating veterans.

“While this is an issue that needs to be addressed nationwide, one specific instance the VA OIG has considered in recent months resulted from a case involving a surgeon who had a medical license revoked in Florida but later would participate as a provider in the VCCP,” the letter said. “The OIG found that the surgeon voluntarily relinquished a Florida medical license after being investigated by the Florida Department of Health and notified of ‘a potential termination for cause.’ The OIG stated that Optum was unclear on whether such an instance should be considered as part of the VCCP credentialing process, and OIG stated that the VA’s contracts do not address or define this terminology.”

Hayes also pledged to address the third-party providers who are ineligible to care for veterans.

“Further, we will make certain that appropriate corrective actions are established for providers who have been identified as ineligible – including working with our third-party administrators – to ensure that these ineligible providers are removed from the Community Care Network,” Hayes told The Center Square. “We will not rest until this issue is fully resolved for the Veterans we serve.”