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Veterans Health Administration under scrutiny for putting veterans at risk


Federal care for veterans is under scrutiny after a new watchdog report pointed out some significant problems.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., sent a letter Monday to Secretary of Department of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough raising concerns about how veterans are being treated.

Rubio’s letter comes after an Inspector General report released earlier this month said that VHA’s internal processes would not prevent them from using healthcare providers even after they violated federal policies around safety.

“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.”

The IG report recommends that VHA make clear if providers were removed for not providing “safe and accessible care.”

“The OIG made two recommendations to the Under Secretary for Health related to the criteria and processes used to identify and exclude ineligible healthcare providers from the VCCP, and reviewing previous personnel actions to determine whether the reason(s) for those removals were for violation of policy related to the delivery of safe and appropriate care,” the report said.

VHA did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.

Rubio called on VHA to comply with the IG’s recommendations and pointed out this problem is not new.

“Unfortunately, the OIG’s recent reports are not novel assessments of the VA’s lack of ability to track the reliability of providers in VCCP,” the letter said. “In 2021, the Government Accountability Office found that gaps in VHA’s ability to identify providers ineligible to participate in the VCCP. At the time, VHA assessed 800,000 providers and identified 1,600 VCCP providers ‘who were deceased, were ineligible to work with the federal government, or had revoked or suspended medical licenses.’ As an example, one of the providers was convicted of patient abuse and neglect in July 2019, but entered the VCCP in November 2019 – to which the VHA stated the provider was uploaded in error. This is unacceptable.”

Rubio said veterans deserve better and asked for information from VHA on how it is addressing the problems.

“Whether veterans receive care at a VA facility, or in the community through the VCCP, they are trusting the VA to refer them to qualified and reliable providers,” the letter said.