VA secretary apologizes for saying he was in the special forces – Nick Gass – POLITICO

The secretary of Veterans Affairs apologized Tuesday after reports surfaced that he falsely claimed earlier this year that he was part of U.S. special operations forces during his time in the military.Robert McDonald spent most of his time with the 82nd Airborne Division in the late 1970s, which is not a component of special operations forces.

via VA secretary apologizes for saying he was in the special forces – Nick Gass – POLITICO.

V.A. Secretary: ‘900 People Have Been Fired’ – NBC News.com

More than nine hundred employees in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs have been fired in the past six months, Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald told Chuck Todd on NBC’s “Meet The Press.”

“We’re making fundamental changes in the department in terms of leadership,” McDonald said. “We have held accountable about 900 employees who are no longer with us that were with us before I became secretary.”

Sixty of those who were laid off, McDonald explained, were removed because they manipulated wait times on records from medical facilities serving veterans.

McDonald was confirmed unanimously by the Senate in late July after a scandal rocked the VA, resulting in the resignation of his predecessor, Eric Shinseki.

During the interview, McDonald touted his dedication to reducing homelessness among veterans, a goal which the administration hopes to accomplish by the end of this year. He said he’s given out his personal cell phone number to augment services provided by the homelessness call center.

“We want the veterans’ experience with the VA to be as good as the best private sector experiences,” said McDonald, formerly the CEO of Proctor and Gamble. “Like if you took your family to Disney.”

via V.A. Secretary: ‘900 People Have Been Fired’ – NBC News.com.

Tammy Baldwin asks for criminal probe into 3 deaths at Tomah VA hospital

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin is calling for a criminal investigation into the deaths of three individuals who received care at the troubled Tomah VA Medical Center — after she has come under attack for her handling of complaints about the facility.

“I request that you investigate both the circumstances surrounding patient deaths and allegations of the illicit distribution of opioids that originated at the Tomah VA facility,” Baldwin said in a Friday letter to Attorney General Eric Holder.

Candace Baer-Delis, whose father died after suffering two strokes at the Tomah facility, dismissed Baldwin’s action.

“She’s doing this for PR,” Baer-Delis said Friday. “She’s trying to save her reputation.”

The medical center is being investigated by the VA Office of the Inspector General and the Veterans Affairs secretary of health. The state Department of Safety and Professional Services is also conducting its own review of the Tomah facility’s chief of staff, a nurse and a pharmacist.

The medical center came under scrutiny last month when whistleblowers alleged that physicians were handing out prescriptions like candy.

In her letter to Holder, the first-term Madison Democrat identifies three Tomah patients who had died after receiving treatment there.

The Center for Investigative Reporting disclosed that a 35-year-old Marine veteran, Jason Simcakoski, died at the Tomah facility in August as a result of “mixed drug toxicity.”

The center also told the story of Jacob Ward, 27, who died in a Milwaukee apartment of cocaine and heroin overdose after a stint at Tomah.

This week, Gannett Wisconsin Media reported that 74-year-old Thomas Patrick Baer died Jan. 14 after suffering two strokes at the Tomah facility. Baer-Delis said her father had one stroke after spending hours in the medical center’s waiting room.

An inspection report from the Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General found last year that officials at the Tomah medical center were prescribing high amounts of opiate pain pills to patients.

Veterans who relied on the facility for care had begun calling it “Candy Land.”

For months, Ryan Honl, a former Tomah employee and Gulf War veteran, had tried to get three Wisconsin lawmakers — U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, Baldwin and U.S. Rep. Ron Kind — to intervene.

via Tammy Baldwin asks for criminal probe into 3 deaths at Tomah VA hospital.

Veteran: VA Doctor Asked Him Not To Talk To Congress, Media « CBS Denver

Denver VA requires veteran not to speak to Congress

Denver VA requires veteran not to speak to Congress

DENVER (AP) — A new dispute surfaced at the embattled Denver VA Medical Center Thursday when a veteran who has been charged with disorderly conduct said a doctor asked him to sign a document promising he wouldn’t contact members of Congress or news organizations.Daniel King of Denver, who has thyroid cancer, said he refused to sign the document, which was labeled “Behavior Contract.” King said he didn’t know why he was asked to sign it.Denver VA hospital spokesman Daniel Warvi said he could not comment because King would not sign a privacy waiver.VA officials have accused King of being abusive to hospital staff, and he faces a federal charge of disorderly conduct. King denies misconduct.A judge on Thursday refused to dismiss the charge.The behavior contract also called for King to be respectful to hospital staff.King said Medical Center Director Lynette Roff later sent him a letter stating the behavior contract was not a standard Veterans Affairs Department document and that she had not approved it. Roff also said the contract would have no bearing on King’s treatment.

via Veteran: VA Doctor Asked Him Not To Talk To Congress, Media « CBS Denver.

Report: Patients Delayed Care At VA Hospital

According to a new report, a medical professional contended ‘scrubbing’–that is, convincing patients to postpone their medical appointments–was taking place in a VA hospital where he was once employed.“When it comes time for their appointment, one of their colleagues will say you don’t need to see anyone because you just saw someone six months ago. So they get bumped another six months,” former nurse practitioner John P. Beavers told The Daily Caller in an article published Tuesday. Beavers is a former nurse practitioner at Michigan’s Battle Creek VA Medical Center.“The person who answers the phone might not even be the person’s physician, but they’ll pull up the person’s record and tell them they don’t need the appointment,” Beavers added.

via Report: Patients Delayed Care At VA Hospital.

Florida files lawsuit against VA for hospital access | Fox News

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. –  The state Agency for Health Care Administration has filed suit in federal court in an attempt to inspect federal Veterans Affairs hospitals in Florida.

The lawsuit was announced Thursday.

This comes after the state agency made several unannounced visits to inspect Florida’s six VA hospitals and other VA-operated facilities. Each time they were blocked, and the VA responded with three letters — one to Gov. Rick Scott and two to AHCA Secretary Elizabeth Dudek — stating that federal facilities aren’t subject to state laws.

The lawsuit says the VA has repeatedly failed to comply with minimum standards of patient safety in VA hospitals within the State of Florida.

The VA did not immediately return a call or email for comment

via Florida files lawsuit against VA for hospital access | Fox News.

House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health Hearing

Chairman Benishek, Ranking Member Brownley and distinguished Members of the Health Subcommittee, on behalf of Commander Helm and the 2.4 million members of The American Legion, I thank you and your colleagues for examining the recent analysis of health care costs by the Congressional Budget Office in an attempt to achieve greater clarity into the cost considerations that impact VA’s health care budget, as well as the quality of care and patient satisfaction.

Normally The American Legion focuses our testimony predominantly on field work and primary research evidence. This hearing was precipitated by the December 2014Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report “Comparing the Cost of the Veterans’ Health Care System With Private-Sector Costs”, and calls on us to evaluate the provided data against the data collected by The American Legion in an effort to determine how the quality and cost of VA provided care is comparatively more or less medically efficient, and more or less cost efficient than non-VA provided care that would be offered at taxpayer expense.

The CBO was asked to conduct an examination of how the costs of health care provided by the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) compare with the costs of care provided by the private sector. With the lack of evidence, and substantial uncertainty, CBO had difficulty reaching any firm conclusions to determine if it would be cheaper to expand veterans’ access to VHA facilities or private sector facilities. However, if CBO is looking for a baseline by which to estimate the cost of non-VA care, they need look no further than their own library of published reports when in June of 2014, they estimated the cost of outsourcing VA care to exceed $50 billion n[1] over 5 years, or roughly $10 billion dollars per year, just to eliminate the backlog of veterans waiting more than 30 days to see a VA doctor. One important point to keep in mind is that this $50 billion represents an additional $10 billion per year to VHA’s already existing $65 billion annual budget, and this measure was only designed to serve less than one percent of VA’s total patient population. After reducing eligibility and constricting payments not to exceed Medicare rates, and a couple of other adjustments, CBO was able to come back with a second score that trimmed about $15 billion from the figure and came in with a second estimate of $35 billion. n[2]

via House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health Hearing.

McDonald criticized during hearing on VA bonuses bill – Stripes

got bonus? Campaign to end bonuses for VA executives!

In a sign that some lawmakers may be losing patience with the man brought in to clean up the Department of Veterans Affairs, VA Secretary Bob McDonald came under unusually personal criticism Tuesday during a hearing on a bill that would give him sweeping powers to rescind bonuses and reduce pensions.After VA officials told the House Committee on Veterans Affairs that the department had not taken a position on the bill, Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., gave a pointed response.“We have a secretary of Veterans Affairs who can’t make a decision on something that’s so obvious,” he said. “It’s just extraordinary, and what it says to me and what it says to the veterans of this country is nothing’s really changed.”The VA did not immediately respond to a request for comment. McDonald, who replaced Eric Shinseki in July, has come under fire for not doing more to hold accountable officials connected to a health-care scandal. He has said that he must work within the legal framework established to discipline employees.

via McDonald criticized during hearing on VA bonuses bill – Stripes.

Daniel Bice – State investigating doctor, two others in Tomah VA case

Tomah VA where opiates are allegedly handed out to veterans like candy

Tomah VA where opiates are allegedly handed out to veterans like candy

 

The state has opened an investigation of a doctor dubbed the “Candy Man” and two other individuals tied to the death of a patient at the Tomah VA Medical Center.

An official confirmed that the state Department of Safety and Professional Services is investigating David Houlihan, chief of staff at the troubled Tomah facility.

Houlihan had been given the nickname “Candy Man” by some vets for his supposedly easy and widespread distribution of painkillers. He wrote at least some of the prescriptions for a 35-year-old Marine Corps vet who died at the medical center in August.

A nurse and pharmacist who worked with Houlihan are also under investigation by the state.

State officials have the authority to issue reprimands or suspend or strip the state licenses of medical professionals in Wisconsin. The state could also refer the matter for criminal prosecution.

“We do have investigations ongoing against them,” said Hannah Zillmer, spokeswoman for the state agency.

“Because there is an alleged death, it is on an expedited process,” Zillmer continued. “So we are currently investigating, but I can’t give you a completion date.”

Two individuals interviewed by a state investigator said the matter could be turned over to the Monroe County district attorney.

But Zillmer said that would not be done until after her agency completes its probe.

“We, of course, take these complaints very seriously,” she said. “We’re investigating as quickly as possible.”

An inspection report from the Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General found last year that officials at the Tomah medical center were prescribing high amounts of opiate pain pills to patients.

Veterans who relied on the facility for care had begun calling it “Candy Land.”

Media reports last month disclosed that Jason Simcakoski, a 35-year-old Marine Corps veteran, died at the Tomah facility in August from “mixed drug toxicity.”

As a result of the press coverage, members of the Wisconsin congressional delegation called for an investigation of the medical center.

Last week, the Center for Investigative Reporting disclosed that U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonalddispatched a team of investigators to the facility.

via Daniel Bice – State investigating doctor, two others in Tomah VA case.

Tomah VA where one physician where an investigation is ongoing into medical malpractice that lead to the death of a veteran.

Tomah VA where one physician where an investigation is ongoing into medical malpractice that lead to the death of a veteran.

Jon Stewart Says the Veterans Affairs Department Is Broken. Can Google Fix It? (GOOG, GOOGL)

Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart has a bone to pick with the VA. Video stillshot..The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is in shambles — figuratively and almost even literally.In 2012, the VA made headlines when its Veterans Benefits Administration office building in Winston-Salem, N.C., nearly collapsed under the weight of paper files recording backlogged health claims. According to media reports, files on one floor had overflowed the capacity of cabinets to hold them, were stacked as much as 2 feet deep in piles on top of the cabinets, flowed from there down into cardboard boxes on the floor, and then began climbing back up the surrounding walls.The immense weight of the VA’s inefficiency, reported the VA inspector general at the time, “exceeded the [load-bearing] capacity of the floor by approximately 39 pounds per square foot.” The floor, bowing under the excess weight, had “the potential to compromise the structural integrity” of the entire building.The scandal of the slow-motion collapse of one of the VA’s key service centers soon caught the eye of Jon Stewart at Comedy Central, who has aired numerous segments…

via Jon Stewart Says the Veterans Affairs Department Is Broken. Can Google Fix It? (GOOG, GOOGL).