A former Veterans Affairs police officer who worked at the VA Hospital in Vermont has pleaded guilty to charges stemming from a road rage incident in Maine. Demetria Buhalis of Brownsville, Vermont, pointed a gun at a driver and passenger along Interstate 95 in Gardiner, Maine. The Portland Press Herald reports that Buhalis pleaded guilty Tuesday to criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon. Under the plea deal, if Buhalis stays out of trouble for a year, the felony charge will be dropped and she’ll only have a misdemeanor on her record.
TAMPA – A cyber attack forced the James A. Haley VA Medical Center to partially shut down a computer drive shared by thousands of employees for days while experts assessed the damage. The servers inside the hospital contain sensitive personal and medical information about nearly 100,000 veterans and 5,000 employees. The VA discovered Friday that the data was put at risk by a Trojan virus discovered on a computer drive shared by 4,000 employees. The virus corrupted multiple files. “It is highly likely this was an employee who fell for a fishing scam that was sent by the bad guys,” said Stu Sjouwerman, who is CEO of a Tampa Bay cyber security company called KnowBe4. His staff trains employees from more than 2,000 com
News 12 at 6 o’clock / July 18, 2015 AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) — A former Charlie Norwood employee is charged on 50 counts of falsifying medical records. The VA terminated Cathedral Henderson’s access to all systems, and placed him on administrative leave. A patient of the V.A., Jeremy Johnson served in the army for five years. He calls the former employee’s alleged actions unacceptable. He to Charlie Norwood for his medical care, and says many of the trips have been good ones. “I came in like an hour early for one appointment. My doctor actually skipped his lunch in order to see me for that hour I was early,” he said. But he says more than once, employees have lost his paperwork and messed up his appointment schedules. Authorities allege former the Chief of Fee Basis at Charlie Norwood, Cathedral Henderson terminated unresolved consults, by saying the patients had completed of refused services. “Charlie Norwood has had a bad rap, I think they’ve earned it. I think they’re doing better, I think they’re going in the right direction. but these 50 counts of mishandling information, it’s just horrible,” said Johnson. The Assistant Inspector General for Investigations says “these alleged actions give the appearance that medical care was rendered or in some cases the appearance that veterans declined medical care.” Yesterday Henderson was placed on administrative leave, and his access terminated from all systems, but he is not fired. His lawyer sent News 12 a statement, saying Henderson was a model employee there for 20 years and an army veteran. “In general, all around bad situation. I really felt that they were doing better, they were getting better with their appointments but with this thing it kind of sets them back a lot,” said Johnson.
OIG conducted an inspection at the request of Representative Kevin Yoder in response to concerns about the extent to which a patient received timely and adequate care for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other health care needs at the Kansas City VA Medical Center (facility), Kansas City, MO. … We substantiated that aspects of the patient’s care were inadequate. In particular, we found that some requests for outpatient consultations were inappropriately cancelled or discontinued, the patient’s abnormal findings and/or care needs were not fully assessed, and appropriate consults were not made when the patient was treated in the Emergency Department. Whether addressing these issues previously would have resulted in a different outcome for the patient is unknown. However, addressing these issues now will help facilitate a more patient-centered environment, especially for those veterans with complex medical and mental health issues. Incidental to our review, we noted that because the facility did not have a signed release of information, staff were unable to discuss the patient’s care with a family member. We made one recommendation to the Interim Under Secretary for Health and three recommendations to the Facility Director. The Interim Under Secretary for Health and the Veterans Integrated Service Network and Facility Directors concurred with our findings and recommendations.
Source: Report Summary
KUSA – Retired Denver VA Hospital Director Lynette Roff made plans for a “fast exit” from the agency just prior to 9Wants to Know airing a whistleblower report in January, according to an email obtained by 9NEWS. 9Wants to Know obtained several documents relating to Roff’s retirement through a Federal Freedom of Information Act request. The documents include an email from Roff dated January 26, 2015, just days after members of Congress approached the Denver VA asking about a secret patient wait list obtained by 9NEWS. Roff had repeatedly refused 9NEWS interview requests about the list. Roff said in the email she wanted to retire March 1, and she explained, “I do not want staff to know and so when I go, would like to make it fast.” She also wrote she had spoken to her direct supervisor about making a “fast exit.” The email recipient’s name has been redacted. “No one prompted me to retire,” Roff said in a phone interview Friday with 9Wants to Know investigator Melissa Blasius. Roff said she had been thinking about retiring for two years and wanted to do it quietly because “I didn’t want to be a lame duck.”
Federal investigators Friday said they’ve confirmed a San Antonio whistleblower’s claim that the Audie Murphy VA Hospital failed to protect maintenance workers there from unsafe levels of asbestos and didn’t properly monitor the employee. The Office of Special Counsel, in a letter to President Barack Obama and Congress, said it confirmed most of the whistleblower’s allegations, finding that he and others were exposed to airborne asbestos. That exposure came after they were told to remove material containing asbestos, a deadly cancer-causing agent. The worker, a longtime maintenance employee, told authorities that he and others were ordered to work in asbestos-contaminated spaces without precautions or protective equipment. He said supervisors knew the areas contained asbestos, which is found in products ranging from roof shingles and cement to floor tiles and plumbing. If those products are disturbed, asbestos fibers can become airborne and enter the lungs. The OSC said in the letter that it could not confirm that medical center managers knowingly told workers to perform maintenance tasks without proper protection. The Veterans Administration, in a statement, didn’t address that issue, didn’t say how many people were exposed and didn’t admit wrongdoing. It said corrective action was immediately taken after the agency’s Office of the Medical Inspector examined construction projects two years ago that could expose workers to asbestos.
Some 15 months ago, with the Veterans Affairs Department mired in scandal over secret waitlists for patients that were linked to deaths, lawmakers and at least one major veterans service organization demanded the resignations of the agency’s top officials. By mid-May of last year, Veterans Health Administration Under Secretary Dr. Robert Petzel was gone – his planned retirement pushed ahead of schedule when VA Secretary Eric Shinseki asked for his resignation. Not long after that Shinseki tendered his own resignation to President Obama. That left only Veterans Benefits Administration Under Secretary Allison Hickey, who last week – still very much on the job – announced that the disability claims backlog had hit “an historic milestone” by dropping below 100,000 from a high of more than 600,000. Resigning never entered her mind, she told Military.com in a separate interview later. “No. And I say that very straightforward,” she said. “I don’t say it was easy.” Rep. Jeff Miller, a Republican from Florida who chairs the House Veterans Affairs Committee, was the first to call for Hickey’s resignation in March 2014. By May, The American Legion, one of the largest veterans service organizations in the country, joined that call, noting that Shinseki and Petzel needed to go, as well. Neither Miller nor The American Legion would comment for this story. Hickey has been on the job since June 2011. Before then, she headed the Human Capital Management program at the consulting firm Accenture, focusing on the intelligence community and the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency. For Hickey, the resignation calls came as she was preparing to announce that VA had reduced the backlog by about 50 percent. “So, no, I didn’t [resign],” she said. “You know why? Because I came here for this mission. I came here for the people this mission serves. I gave up a very lucrative job in industry. I was happy where I was but this was a calling for me.”
KUSA – Retired Denver VA Hospital Director Lynette Roff made plans for a “fast exit” from the agency just prior to 9Wants to Know airing a whistleblower report in January, according to an email obtained by 9NEWS. 9Wants to Know obtained several documents relating to Roff’s retirement through a Federal Freedom of Information Act request. The documents include an email from Roff dated January 26, 2015, just days after members of Congress approached the Denver VA asking about a secret patient wait list obtained by 9NEWS. Roff had repeatedly refused 9NEWS interview requests about the list. Roff said in the email she wanted to retire March 1, and she explained, “I do not want staff to know and so when I go, would like to make it fast.” She also wrote she had spoken to her direct supervisor about making a “fast exit.” The email recipient’s name has been redacted. “No one prompted me to retire,” Roff said in a phone interview Friday with 9Wants to Know investigator Melissa Blasius. Roff said she had been thinking about retiring for two years and wanted to do it quietly because “I didn’t want to be a lame duck.” 9NEWS Casualties of Care | Investigative | Colorado’s Online News Leader | The 9Wants to Know investigation aired January 29. It revealed the Denver VA’s sleep clinic kept a secret waiting list of more than 500 patients in 2011 and 2012. Top hospital administrators were aware of the list, which was kept on an Excel spreadsheet. Some of those sleep clinic patients waited nearly six months for an appointment, but their wait times were not calculated with the rest of the Denver VA patients.
Nursing stations left unmanned, health care workers not wearing the proper gear; these are among the allegations being made by a patient the Memphis Veterans Administration Hospital. >> Read more FOX13 Investigates stories FOX13 spoke with a veteran who has been a patient there for 18 months. He is a U.S. Army veteran; a paraplegic who suffers from a bed sore so massive it has taken months to heal. Despite promises from the VA system to clean up its act, he told FOX13 he has seen things get worse. The patient did not want to be identified, but he called the care disgraceful. He pointed out examples of what is being done wrong by hospital staff. Because of his severe bed sore, healthcare workers and even visitors who enter his room are required to wear specialized clothing to prevent the spread of infection. But in a video he showed us, nursing were not abiding by those rules. “With no gloves, no apron on in an isolated room,” the veteran said as he showed FOX13 video of the workers. The nurses were not wearing the required equipment, despite the fact that a sign on the exterior of the room clearly states that everyone must follow the outlined “special organism precautions.” When FOX 13 asked the VA about their policies and procedures regarding isolation rooms, a spokesperson sent an email saying the following: “Universal precautions are required for all patient care areas. The personal protective equipment (PPE) required for nurses, healthcare workers, and visitors vary according to the patient’s isolation and infection control requirements.” FOX13 sent the video clip to Arthur Shorr, an author and consultant to hospitals and healthcare facilities for more than three decades. Shorr said the potential spread of infection should always be the first and most important concern in any hospital. “The presumption is that every aide and caregiver on that unit understands the significance of infectious disease,” Shorr said. “How infectious diseases are transmitted from one patient to another, and how it can run wild in a hospital.” >> Read Trending Stories The veteran who spoke with FOX13 also claims the hospital staff often leaves the nursing station on the spinal cord injury ward unattended for long periods of time. “All of us (are) a paraplegic or quadriplegic, so we can’t go and get help,” the veteran said. “If there was an emergency, somebody would actually die because as you can see, there’s nobody at the desk.” He gave us more video he recorded with his cell phone. Four different clips from four different nights, each one between 30 seconds and one minute long, showing an empty nursing station and no nurses in the hall ways. Again, FOX13 asked the VA for comment and we were given the following statement: “Nurses’ stations are attended all times. Staff are physically at or near the nurses’ station at all time.” But that’s not what the video shows. FOX13 asked to interview Memphis VA Hospital Director Dr. C. Diane Knight to show her the video. Our request was denied. “As a former hospital administrator, I can tell you that according to the community standards the CEO is ultimately responsible for everything that goes on,” Shorr told FOX13. Meanwhile, the veteran patient who’s been in this hospital for close to two years said he’s seen little, if anything, change in the way patients are cared for. “I’ve talked to the charge nurse and the nurse managers about different things, and it just seems like nothing happens,” the veteran said. Since we began talking about this story, FOX13 has received numerous phone calls from veterans wanting to tell their stories about the VA Hospital
‘VA is Lying’ campaign organizer aids Waynesboro veteran
Within view of hospital beds at downtown Augusta’s Charlie Norwood Veterans Affairs Medical Center, a startling but familiar message started appearing this week on a 40-foot-tall billboard across 15th Street.
In bright yellow, the sign reads: “VA is LYING. VETERANS ARE DYING!”
As patient complaints persist and wait times continue to increase at the Augusta VA, a former Army staff sergeant who fought in the Vietnam War is advocating for veterans nationwide, alleging mistreatment by a health care system that is “corrupt” and operated exclusively to benefit federal administration.
VA is Lying, a Web site and Facebook page founded by Ron Nesler at his home in southwestern Indiana, paid for the space as part of a veterans’ rights campaign that now has 10,165 online followers and five billboards, including signs in Minneapolis and Tampa, Orlando and Daytona, Fla.
“We are not condemning the sweet nurse who bandages your finger,” said Nesler, who started the group in 2013 before the veteran health care scandal involving preventable deaths and secret wait lists broke. “Our fight is against the thousands of highly paid VA administrators who are preying on veterans.”
Nesler, who served from 1967 to 1975 as an artillery technician, said 1,200 VA administrators are paid an annual salary of more than $300,000, and thousands more earn at least $150,000 a year, plus performance bonuses, car allowances and other benefits.
He said through his online movement, he supports shutting down VA health care and enrolling veterans in a Medicare-style system with no co-pays and a prescription benefit – similar to what Congress has – to eliminate government waste and improve funding levels, including in Augusta.
Since Maria Andrews became the director of the Augusta VA, wait times for completed primary- and specialty-care appointments have increased from 3.7 and 4.6 days in February, respectively, to 8.6 and 6.2 days in July, according to the latest VA data released last week.
As delays have ticked upward, veterans’ complaints about negligent care, mishandled documents and cuts in medication continue.
NESLER SAID part of the inspiration behind the Augusta billboard was the VA’s treatment of James “Randy” McChesney, a disabled Vietnam veteran who lives in Waynesboro, Ga.
McChesney said he hurt his back in an accident during his service in the Army from 1975 to 1978 as a tank commander, then reinjured it in 1989 and was diagnosed with a rare, incurable condition called complex regional pain syndrome for the debilitating pain and limited function that resulted in his arms and legs.
About that time, McChesney said, his insurance ran out and he was assigned to a pain management team at the Cleveland VA Medical Center in Ohio that consisted of a neurologist, psychiatrist, physical therapist and an anesthesiologist.
After spending a couple of years experimenting with different combinations of medications, the team in 1997 prescribed McChesney to take four, 30-milligram morphine tablets by mouth twice a day and one at noon, for a total dosage of 270 miligrams, he said.
“I still had pain, but instead of being at a level 10 on a scale of one to 10, I am at a five-to-seven level and I am able to deal with it most of the time,” said McChesney, adding that the medication has enabled him to graduate from a wheelchair to crutches.
Then, last month, McChesney said, the Augusta VA, without warning, began weaning him off his prescription per a directive from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. He said the hospital’s pharmacy changed an order of 252 morphine tablets to 224, which translates to eight pills a day instead of the originally prescribed nine.
McChesney said the VA later told him that he would undergo psychological and physical therapy and that it would continue to reduce his narcotic dosage until he was down to 100 milligrams. He said he tried those options before going on morphine, but they had no success in reducing pain.
“I am not suicidal. I am not depressed. I just want to continue on with my life,” said McChesney, adding that he has never asked for an increase in medication. “Why does the VA want to mess with something that has worked for me for 18 years?”
FEARING THE reduction would once again make him have to use a wheelchair, McChesney contacted Nesler after attempts to work with the hospital or get help from local members of Congress proved unsuccessful.
Through Nesler’s help, the Augusta VA contacted McChesney to resolve his concerns and “an appropriate plan” was put in place, said hospital spokesman Brian Rothwell.
McChesney said the hospital appointed him a new primary care provider and promised to ship his missing medication. An appointment was scheduled, but McChesney’s attorney, Roger Taylor, a veterans’ rights lawyer based in Minnesota, said the VA prescribed him a new 28-day supply that cannot be renewed for 56 days.
“They’re playing games with him and they won’t stop,” Taylor said. “That’s why we put up the billboard.”
U.S. Rep. Rick Allen, R-Augusta, said this week that he has noticed an increase in wait times and veterans’ complaints. He said he has spoken with Rep. Jeff Miller, the chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, to schedule an appointment with VA Secretary Robert McDonald to resolve the staffing and provider issues that have led to problems in Augusta.
“They need to be more autonomous,” Allen said. “I think for them, it is this one-size-fits-all, top-down approach for the VA that is not working.”
Rothwell said a few factors have caused wait times to increase by a fraction of a day this past month, including a loss of providers, increased demand, and the need to bring some specialty care appointments slated for outside providers in the community back in-house.