Controversial Veterans’ Administration Leader Retires – WJBF-TV ABC 6 Augusta-Aiken News, Weather, Sports

Controversial Veterans’ Administration Leader Retires – WJBF-TV ABC 6 Augusta-Aiken News, Weather, Sports.


Augusta , GA -

There is fallout from the recent investigations into delayed care at the Norwood VA Medical Center that resulted in the deaths of three Veterans.  A key administrator has left the government agency. WJBF News Channel Six’s Dee Griffin has the story.

As a cloud of scrutiny looms, the Veterans’ Administration is taking action to straighten out a road of errors in an effort to move forward.

An investigation revealed three Veterans died after they were not promptly diagnosis and treated for GI related issues.

According to reports, during the same time, the VA experienced a high amount of backlogs in GI patients. During that time, the woman at the helm of the Norwood VA Medical Center was Rebecca Wiley. In December of 2010, she was reassigned to the Dorn VA in Columbia, South Carolina which has since come under fire for six deaths due to delays in care.

Last week, during a news conference, when asked about repercussions for the deaths, the current Director of the Norwood VA Medical Center acknowledged a course of action was in motion.  Director Robert Hamilton said, “there has been some administrative action taken but it really isn’t appropriate for me to share much more than that.”

WJBF News Channel Six has learned that Wiley has retired from the VA.  On Tuesday, WJBF shared Venus Cain’s husband’s experience with the VA.

After complaining of pain for months, he was finally diagnosed with cancer in January of 2012. He died thirty days later. “I hate the VA with everything in me for putting me through and my family and other family members through hell. Because they didn’t care,” Cain cried.

In response to recent viewers speaking out with stories of mistreatment and delayed diagnosis, the Norwood VA has issued a statement saying “We provide patient advocate support for all questions and concerns. Should Veterans want to express a concern, we welcome the opportunity to help. Veteran feedback helps us improve in how we deliver healthcare.

As we reported yesterday, Congressman John Barrow has requested a Congressional Hearing into the lack of proper care at the VA.

Register Exclusive: Veterans hospital employed Iowa sex offender | The Des Moines Register |

Register Exclusive: Veterans hospital employed Iowa sex offender | The Des Moines Register |


For at least three years, a Des Moines veterans hospital employed a registered sex offender who was legally barred from working there.


The worker was one of at least two sex offenders working at the hospital this past summer. One of the men, Stanley McGinity, 46, of Knoxville, has two convictions for lascivious acts with a child dating back to 2007.


In 2010, McGinity applied for a job at the Des Moines hospital run by VA Central Iowa Health Care System.


He disclosed his past convictions on his written application, along with his 20 years of service in the National Guard. He was then hired as a housekeeping aide.


“I’m a veteran, and so when I applied for the job they said everything should be OK, and then they hired me,” McGinity told The Des Moines Register.


After 36 months on the job, he was fired in September when hospital administrators learned that as an Iowa sex offender McGinity couldn’t legally work at a care facility for dependent adults. His parole officer informed him that if he showed up again for work, he’d be arrested.


At McGinity’s recent unemployment benefits hearing, Greg Smith, the hospital’s human resources director, testified that until this summer he hadn’t known of the state law that bars some sex offenders from working at the facility.


“He was the first person like this I had ever hired, so I wasn’t familiar with those kinds of restrictions or that they even existed,” Smith testified.


He said that in June or July, the hospital had some unspecified “issues” with another sex offender who worked for VA Central Iowa Health Care System. He said that prompted him to contact McGinity’s parole officer, who told him of the work restrictions on sex offenders.


During a contentious exchange with Administrative Law Judge Teresa Hillary, Smith faulted McGinity for failing to disclose his employment restrictions.


“When you find out that someone you are potentially going to hire has a conviction for sex offending, don’t you think it’s your job to go through and see if they are eligible to work at your facility?” Hillary asked.


“That’s why I called his parole officer at that time, and he didn’t reveal that to me, either,” Smith testified.


“Well, how come you didn’t go find it out?” Hillary asked.


“I don’t have an answer for that,” Smith said.


As part of the hearing, McGinity submitted documents in which he said the hospital, the Polk County sheriff’s office and 5th Judicial District Department of Correctional Services were all aware of his employment at the hospital and it had never been an issue. He said his two parole officers — Troy Jones and Sara Nelson — also knew where he worked and never made an issue of it.


Dwayne Rider, public affairs officer for the hospital, did not respond when asked about the other sex offender Smith referred to in his testimony and the number of sex offenders, if any, currently working at the hospital. When asked about the hospital’s job-applicant background checks, he referred the Register to the website of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.


Judge Hillary rejected McGinity’s claim for unemployment benefits, saying it was his responsibility to inform his employer of the work restrictions and it was not the Department of Veterans Affairs’ “responsibility to catch him.”

Report on Legionnaires’ disease outbreak at VA due soon | TribLIVE

Report on Legionnaires’ disease outbreak at VA due soon | TribLIVE.

Any federal workers found responsible for a fatal Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in Pittsburgh soon could learn their fates.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is “finalizing its review for recommended administrative actions” linked to the outbreak blamed for five deaths over two years in the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, spokeswoman Ramona Joyce said in a two-paragraph written statement.

Joyce would not elaborate on Friday on whether department leaders might disclose publicly any punishments handed down in the Pittsburgh VA system, where federal reviewers linked the fatalities and at least 16 other illnesses to the outbreak.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said bacteria-tainted tap water sickened patients apparently from February 2011 to November 2012, although a Tribune-Review investigation turned up records of alarming bacteria levels as early as 2007.

Furious relatives of victims called for new leadership in the Pittsburgh VA system, which includes campuses in Oakland and O’Hara.

Bob Nicklas of Adams, whose father William Nicklas died in the outbreak, said any responsible executives should lose their pensions.

“If you were in the military and had five people die under your watch, you (might) go serve prison time, be discharged with no military benefits and have a black flag on your resume throughout your life,” Nicklas said. “I feel it should be the same for these people if they find who’s responsible.”

VA officials would impose any necessary discipline once federal investigators finish a criminal investigation, department Under Secretary Dr. Robert Petzel said during a Sept. 9 congressional hearing.

U.S. Attorney David Hickton announced on Nov. 21 that the review identified no criminal missteps, leading lawmakers to pressure the VA to reveal how it will hold workers accountable.

A report by the VA Office of Inspector General found the Pittsburgh VA did not follow established guidelines in combating the Legionella bacteria that cause Legionnaires’ disease, a severe form of pneumonia.

“It’s disappointing that it took no less than a congressional investigation, federal criminal probe and a shocking inspector general’s report to convince VA leadership that disciplinary action must be taken,” Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair, said in a statement. “The trust of veterans in their medical-care system has been broken and that trust can be restored only by the VA being totally honest, open and with the goal of putting veterans first.”

Murphy has asked the VA to tell him by the week of Dec. 9 all of the discipline it imposed in response to the outbreak, along with internal findings and reports.

Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Lehigh Valley, and Rep. Keith Rothfus, R-Sewickley, made similar requests.

Rothfus called it “appropriate” for the VA to disclose the names of anyone punished, along with the punishments.

“There’s no excuse for any further delay” in revealing the discipline, he said.

Although VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki told Murphy in a Nov. 15 letter that “internal personnel actions must remain confidential,” Joyce said the VA would respond to the congressional inquiries.

She would not say when disciplinary action might be taken but emphasized the Pittsburgh VA now has one of the most rigorous water-safety regimens in health care.

Federal rules generally prohibit disclosure of certain personal information about government workers — including disciplinary records — except when an employee allows the release of that information, according to the federal Office of Personnel Management.

Union leaders who represent 2,500 Pittsburgh VA workers hope administrators will discuss with them “how this will play out,” attorney J. Ward Morrow said.

“We’re particularly concerned that the VA will be using this as open season to go after whistle-blowers,” said Morrow, assistant general counsel for the American Federation of Government Employees in Washington. “What we would like to see is for the VA to go after lapses in management and leadership on this issue, and in particular, any managers who made it difficult for investigators to find the deficiencies.”

Adam Smeltz is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-380-5676 or

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Area congressmen want disclosure on VA accountability for Legionnaires outbreak | TribLIVE

Area congressmen want disclosure on VA accountability for Legionnaires outbreak | TribLIVE.

A bipartisan group of Pennsylvania congressmen is urging the Department of Veterans Affairs to explain whether it will hold anyone accountable for a fatal Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in Pittsburgh.

Rep. Tim Murphy asked the VA to release by the week of Dec. 9 all its internal findings and disciplinary actions related to the outbreak and other patient-safety issues in Pittsburgh.

“The victims deserve better by the VA,” Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair, wrote in a Friday letter to VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki and obtained by the Tribune-Review. “Their families, who are still grieving their loss, deserve to know that someone has been held accountable.”

In a separate letter on Tuesday, Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Allentown, and Rep. Keith Rothfus, R-Sewickley, inquired about “what related administrative action the VA plans to take.”

Shinseki and VA Pittsburgh spokesman William Leuthold expressed sympathy to the families of the Legionnaires’ victims in written statements. Leuthold said the water safety regimen at the VA Pittsburgh is now one of the most rigorous in health care.

In a Nov. 15 letter to Murphy, Shinseki said that “internal personnel actions must remain confidential [and] any appropriate actions will be taken once all of the pertinent information from the pending investigations is gathered.”

At least five veteran deaths and 16 non-fatal cases are linked to the Legionnaires’ outbreak believed to have occurred at two VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System hospitals from February 2011 to November 2012, when the outbreak was publicly announced. VA officials have said they would take any necessary disciplinary action once federal investigators finished a nine-month criminal review of the matter.

U.S. Attorney David Hickton announced on Thursday that his joint investigation with the FBI and VA’s Office of Inspector General had not uncovered criminal wrongdoing in the handling of the outbreak. That stirred further outrage among families of victims, some of whom believe the VA misled them, botched a response to the disease and covered up the problem.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tied the outbreak to bacteria-tainted tap water at VA campuses in Oakland and O’Hara. A Trib investigation found Legionella — the bacteria that cause Legionnaires’ disease — had appeared at alarming levels as early as 2007. The ailment is a severe form of pneumonia.

Sen. Bob Casey Jr., D-Scranton, said the VA must hold “fully accountable” everyone responsible for any missteps. He was instrumental in pending legislation that would require VA campuses to follow standards that private hospitals must meet in disclosing cases of infectious disease.

Independent reviews by a House subcommittee and the American Legion are continuing.

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Somebodys Watching Me: IRS Criminal Investigations Ramp Up Efforts To Thwart Tax ID Thefts – Forbes

Somebodys Watching Me: IRS Criminal Investigations Ramp Up Efforts To Thwart Tax ID Thefts – Forbes.

He did it for crack cocaine.


That’s what David F. Lewis reportedly told investigators when he was arrested as part of a massive identity theft scheme earlier this summer. Lewis, a former Veterans Affairs employee at the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital, was charged with wrongful disclosure of health information, access device fraud, and aggravated identity theft. While at the Veterans’ Hospital, Lewis allegedly stole the identities of dozens of patients; he sold the information to third parties who used the information to file fraudulent tax returns. Lewis was paid more than $100,000 for his role in the scheme, money that is likely never recoverable since Lewis used the funds to fuel what was deemed “a severe drug problem.”

That same week, a federal grand jury indicted Tigi Moore, a records clerk at Tampa General Hospital for a similar crime. Moore was accused of using her position in the records department to access names and Social Security numbers of a number of patients; she allegedly handed that information to Corey A. Coley, Sr., and Albert E. Moore Jr., and the three used the information in order to file false federal income tax returns. All three were indicted on conspiracy, wire fraud and theft of government property charges; Moore was also indicted on additional counts of wrongful disclosure of health information.


Those arrests followed on the heels of the sentencing of Alci Bonannee, a Fort Lauderdale woman, convicted of one count of conspiracy to defraud the government, nine counts of filing false claims, nine counts of aggravated identity theft and 14 counts of wire fraud. Bonnanee was said to be the ringleader of a scheme which used stolen identities in order to file fraudulent tax returns seeking $11.7 million in fraudulent income tax refunds – the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) paid out nearly half of that before the arrest. For her role in the scheme, Bonannee was sentenced to 26 years and five months in prison and ordered to pay more than $1.9 million in restitution.


These arrests are just the latest in what has been deemed an “epidemic” in identity theft crimes. Acting IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel testified before a subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform panel in Congress that “[r]efund fraud caused by identity theft is one of the biggest challenges facing the IRS today.” Nina Olson, the National Taxpayer Advocate agrees, putting identity theft schemes at the top of the IRS Dirty Dozen Tax Scam list for the second year in a row.


Despite funding challenges as Congress continues to wield an axe over the IRS budget, IRS has ramped up its investigations into identity theft issues. In fiscal year 2012, the number of IRS criminal investigations into identity theft issues more than tripled; that number increased even more for the 2013 filing season. Those efforts in 2012 helped the IRS protect $20 billion of fraudulent refunds (more than twice the proposed IRS budget), including those related to identity theft, compared with $14 billion in 2011.


Leading the charge in enforcement efforts is the IRS Criminal Investigation (CI) department. The little known, rarely touted arm of the IRS is made up of approximately 3,700 employees worldwide; about 70% of those employees are special agents who tackle crimes focusing on tax, money laundering and Bank Secrecy Act laws. CI “follows the money” in many financial crimes cases: while other federal agencies, like the Federal Bureau of Investigation, may also chase financial criminals, IRS is the only federal agency that can investigate potential criminal violations of the Internal Revenue Code.


How effective are they? For the last fiscal year, IRS-CI initiated 5,314 investigations, recommending 4,364 potential defendants to trial. Those cases, which are usually prosecuted by the Tax Department of the Attorney General’s Office of the U.S. Department of Justice, resulted in 3,865 convictions and 3,311 sentencings: a better than 80% to prison rate.


For the last fiscal year, nearly one-third of IRS-CI investigations focused on “questionable refund investigations” – or what you and I would simply consider identity theft. And the epicenter of their operations has been the southeastern United States.


As a former southerner – I grew up on the coast of North Carolina – I’ve been fascinated with the near explosion of identity theft in the southeast. Lewis, Moore and Bonannee ran their operations in Florida. So did Rashia Wilson, the self-dubbed “Queen of IRS Tax Fraud,” and Maurice Larry. In fact, Florida touts the highest per capita rate of reported identity theft complaints in the country – followed by Georgia.


So what gives? Is it the great weather? The lovely beaches? What makes Florida – and other parts of the southeast – such a great target for identity theft?


In a word, says James Robnett, Special Agent in Charge for the Tampa Field Office of IRS-CI, it’s opportunity. The southeast is a target-rich environment. The population is generally older in the southeast than in other parts of the country. Older people frequent doctor’s offices – a potential hotbed for identity theft – and nursing homes; despite accumulated wealth, they may not have a stream of taxable income, making it less likely that they’ll file a federal income tax return.


And of course, there’s the proximity to Puerto Rico; the U.S. granted citizenship to Puerto Ricans in 1917 but under the law, they don’t have to file with the IRS or pay federal taxes unless they have certain kinds of income. They do, however, tend to have Social Security numbers – unused Social Security numbers – making it easy for fraudsters who steal those numbers to use them for years without detection.


This combination has made the area “ripe” for fraud, according to Robnett. Michael DePalma, Special Agent in Charge for the Miami Field Office of Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigations (IRS-CI) and former National Identity Theft Coordinator for IRS-CI, agrees, noting that fraud has been more prevalent in the southeast. DePalma hopes, however, that efforts to stamp out identity theft crime – including meaningful criminal sentences – sends a strong message to potential criminals.

But how does the IRS find those potential criminals in the first place? Increasingly, the IRS relies on tips from state and local law enforcement, and coordinates investigative efforts with other federal agencies.


One of the best examples of these efforts can be found in Tampa where last year, a collaborative effort was formalized and named the Tampa Bay ID Theft Alliance. The Alliance, has as its mission, the coordination “of police efforts to prosecute individuals that target citizens for criminal financial gain through the theft of personal identifying information.” That criminal financial gain was – by the millions – tax fraud related ID theft, making it natural for the Tampa Office of IRS-Criminal Investigation (CI) to become a center for coordination. Today, the list of those participating in the Alliance reads like a “Who’s Who?” of crime fighters:


Tampa Bay Identity Theft Alliance Members

Florida Department of Law Enforcement

Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation

Hernando County Sheriff’s Office

Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office

Manatee County Sheriff’s Office

Pasco County Sheriff’s Office

Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office

Polk County Sheriff’s Office

Brooksville Police Department

Clearwater Police Department

Largo Police Department

Plant City Police Department

Tampa Police Department

US Secret Service

US Federal Bureau of Investigation

US Veterans Administration, Office of Inspector General

US Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General

US Treasury Office of Inspector General

US Attorney’s Office, Middle Judicial District of Florida

Florida Statewide Prosecutors Office

This hasn’t always been the case. Traditionally, each of these law enforcement arms and agencies worked independently. There were a lot of factors at play – including coordination challenges and privacy concerns – but some of it was merely sorting out the mechanics of this relatively new crime of tax fraud related ID theft.

Local law enforcement, for example, started noticing different behaviors when they made their patrol rounds. The same thugs that had been focused on drug and gang-related activities were still hanging around at all hours of the day and night but their vehicles weren’t filled with evidences of drug crimes: they were filled with lists of names and numbers. That wasn’t enough to consider criminal behavior without context: how did they get those names and numbers and what were they doing with them? Increasingly, undercover techniques, including videotape, led to the answer: they were stealing names and Social Security numbers and using that data to file false tax returns seeking refunds. Once those pieces started to fall into place, it was natural to coordinate law enforcement efforts with agents in IRS-CI to follow-up on the tax crimes.


Coordination and investigation can take a long time – sometimes months. Why not, I asked, simply make an arrest on the spot? DePalma explained that investigations can be lengthy because taking the little guys out may not always the best strategy. These are, he noted, large and often sophisticated organizations, akin to what we normally think about in terms of organized crime. Building a case is important in order to not only put a stop to the behavior but also to successfully bring those down at the top. Following the money is important, he says, because part of the job is to take away the tools the criminals are using and return those to the Treasury. Recent high profile seizures have included fancy homes, expensive jewelry and luxury vehicles including recent seizures of a BMW X6, Porsche Cayenne, and a Bentley – not to mention the “King Camaro” seized as a result of the Larry investigation. Those assets also include literally millions of dollars in debit cards (loaded up with false tax refunds) and Treasury checks.


You can also learn from the bad guys. Undercover investigations have allowed agents to figure out how schemes are perpetuated and how new criminals are “recruited” into existing schemes. Robnett emphasized that these operations are often conspiracies – not just one-off petty crooks. Operations can involve dozens of people but are usually comprised of at least three individuals: someone to steal the identities, someone to file the returns and someone to collect the money. Organizations are often larger and more complex, with narrowly defined jobs: data thieves, runners, data buyers, data sorters, counterfeiters (to be used to collect checks), tax return preparers, check collectors, signature forgers and check cashers. Each of these criminal elements can result in a jail sentence; sentencing for federal tax crimes is more harsh when it can be proved that the individual components were part of a known and organized scheme to defraud the government.


That takes patience, says Robnett. He credits IRS agents with not only bringing dollars back to taxpayers but bringing criminals to justice for potentially lengthy prison sentences; those sentences, he says, should serve as potential deterrents for future criminals.


IRS-CI has been busy with a number of high profile cases, bringing publicity not only because of the sheer dollars involved but also for the brazen nature and in some cases, “no fear” approach that criminals have taken as they snatch up government money. Many criminals, like Rashia Wilson, taunted the feds, believing that they would never be caught – or if they were caught, they would not serve significant time. The Alliance has proven them wrong. Robnett points to the 21 year sentence for Wilson as an example of what IRS-CI together with the Alliance has been able to achieve. The recent takedown of 45 defendants in South Florida is more evidence that IRS is serious about cracking down on tax fraud.


Robnett is, however, also quick to acknowledge that IRS relies on the “serious commitment by our local partners” who are often the eyes and the ears on the ground. Those partners, he points out, have different resources and talents than IRS. In addition to local law enforcement, other agencies are playing important roles. He cites Crime Stoppers as an example of the process. Billboards and publicity in target areas where citizens have seen and reported criminal activity have resulted in information handed off to investigators in a faster, better, more coordinated fashion than before.


Why rely on the public? Not only are taxpayers a great source of information, they are most affected. Tax refund fraud isn’t an anonymous, victimless crime. In addition to the obvious (the dollar suck at the Treasury for money that has been diverted to criminals), taxpayers who lose their identities may face significant uphill battles trying to get their own lives back. That makes it personal.


According to Richard Weber, Chief, IRS-Criminal Investigation, fighting ID theft is not just about protecting the integrity of the tax system. “This is about doing everything we can do prevent taxpayers from being financially brutalized by identity thieves. It’s a top priority of IRS-CI and we set in motion a very robust, fluid enforcement program partnering with our federal, state and local law enforcement counterparts. Our recent, coordinated enforcement actions around the country bear out our effectiveness in combating this heinous crime. To the surprise of these malfeasants, we are catching them in the act, often before they click the send button. My warning to cold hearted identity bandits: we will track you down, you will be caught and justice will be served.”


So how do you protect yourself? Find out how identity theft theft can happen and tune in later this week for more information about ways to protect yourself.

Family Questions Man’s Death at Memphis VA Hospital |

Family Questions Man’s Death at Memphis VA Hospital |

Memphis) After three deaths at the Memphis VA Hospital were investigated by the Office of the Inspector General, one family is questioning the care their loved one received.

“He was a fun person to be around. He always kept me laughing,” Lisa Coleman said.

Coleman’s father, Laymon, served his country and worked at the Memphis VA Hospital for 54 years.

In April 2012, he became a patient.

“He complained of chest pains and my sister took him to the emergency room and they said they couldn’t find anything wrong with him so they sent him back home,” she said.

The chest pains didn’t go away. He went back to the VA hospital the next day.

“They admitted him and ran some tests,” she said. “They were going to run some more tests on to him, but they didn’t get around to that.”

That night, he passed away.

“They said he had a blood clot in his lungs,” she said.

Lisa was always concerned about the care he received, and says those concerns were justified when she saw the recent report from the Office of the Inspector General.

It concluded three deaths last year were caused by errors made by the Memphis VA.

When Lisa saw the hospital was investigated, “I said my prayers have been answered. I wanted that to happen.”

All three men in mentioned in the report had also gone to the emergency room.

One man, who was given medicine he was allergic to and later died, was there the same month as her dad.

“Something’s wrong with this hospital,” she said. “They aren’t taking care of the patients like they should.”

Now she wants her father’s file re-opened.

“I need to know what happened,” she said.

The Memphis VA Hospital responded the findings in the report and said it has corrected the problems.

It’s using a tracker system that gives regular updates to staff about any problems.

Patients on heart monitors are regularly observed by staff members, and a nurse educator has been assigned to the emergency department.

VA Medical Center Police shoot and kill vet, 68, at Bay Pines VA Medical Center | Tampa Bay Times

Police shoot and kill vet, 68, at Bay Pines VA Medical Center | Tampa Bay Times.

Police shot and killed a man at Bay Pines VA Medical Center on Friday evening after he came into the facility, said he had a bomb and lunged at officers with a knife, federal officials said.

The man, who officials said was a 68-year-old veteran, came into a lobby about 5 p.m. and told someone he had a bomb, said FBI spokesman Dave Couvertier.

When officers with the Bay Pines VA Police Department arrived, the man brandished a knife and threatened the officers, Couvertier said. “He lunged and the officers took action,” he said.

The man, whose name wasn’t released Friday night, was treated in the emergency center but later died.

Officers noticed that the man had a backpack and when they looked inside, they saw a PVC pipe that looked like a bomb.

Bay Pines officials evacuated parts of the first floor of the center while bomb experts inspected the pipe. They determined it was a “hoax device,” Couvertier said.

Law enforcement officers searched the facility for other devices but didn’t find any. Investigators believe the incident is isolated but remained unsure of the man’s motives late Friday. His next of kin had not yet been notified of his death.

Officials with the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, St. Petersburg Police Department, the Tampa Bomb Squad and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were on scene Friday night. The investigation will be led by the FBI…

VA says its patient records werent compromised –

VA says its patient records werent compromised –

VA says its patient records weren’t compromised

By LOIS HENRY Californian staff writer

Responding to allegations that a doctor had taken confidential patient records out of the Bakersfield Veterans Administration clinic, the VA announced Thursday that three separate investigations over the course of seven months showed that no such patient information had been “released into the community or abused in any way.”

“We are confident that these results confirm that veterans in Bakersfield and Kern County did not have their personal information compromised,” said David Holt, the VA Los Angeles associate director who was in Bakersfield Thursday to talk to the media and meet with veterans at the clinic just west of downtown Bakersfield.

He praised clinic staff for being vigilant and reporting their suspicions, but repeated several times that veterans had no cause for concern about their personal information.

Some of the original tipsters weren’t convinced.

Two of the staffers who made the reports maintained that patient records were breached and they were unsurprised by what they felt was a continuing VA whitewash.

“The VA doesn’t want anyone to know, the general public to know, that a VA employee could do this terrible HIPAA violation and they’ll deny it forever because it makes them look bad,” said JoAnn Van Horn, the former clinic site manager who has since retired.


HIPAA is a reference to federal laws that prohibit the release of private medial information.

Van Horn said she notified the Los Angeles VA office several times that medical records could be at risk based on reports from a security guard and others who said they saw a doctor taking boxes and even garbage bags filled with documents out of the clinic after hours.

“It was common knowledge among the people who worked late,” she said.

Holt said he first heard of the allegations in October 2011 and reported them to the Los Angeles VA privacy officer who immediately launched an investigation.

The allegations were found to be unsubstantiated, he said.

Holt was again notified of a potential breach when the security guard caught the same doctor with a sheaf of papers stuffed in a magazine in the clinic parking lot in June 2012.

The guard confiscated the papers and showed them to Blanche Glasier, then a nurse at the clinic who has since retired.

Glasier determined that the papers contained sensitive patient information. Together the guard and Glasier put the papers in clinic manager Van Horn’s office while the doctor, who has not been identified, reportedly created a scene in the parking lot yelling, demanding the papers back and even grabbing the security guard’s arm.

Holt confirmed during Thursday’s press conference that the incident did occur. At first, however, he said the papers did not contain private information and were patient schedules.

He later acknowledged the schedules included patient names, their diagnoses and their social security numbers.

Holt said all VA doctors, provided they’ve had appropriate training and have approval, are allowed to take such schedules home and can access them electronically via home computers.

The doctor did have approval to take patient schedules out of the VA facility. Holt said he didn’t know — despite three investigations — whether the doctor had electronic access to those same schedules.

Holt said the investigations took seven months because they involved numerous interviews with employees and witnesses, some of whom he described as “resistant” and who had to be “compelled” to testify. He did not say whether computers and printers were confiscated or checked.

Clinic employees have told The Californian that, to their knowledge, no computers or other equipment was ever seized or examined.

While the doctor was not found to have compromised patient information, Holt said, he did violate VA policies.

“Excessive use of a copy machine,” Holt said. “It was a minor violation.”

Holt confirmed the doctor is no longer with the VA but refused to say whether he was fired. The security guard, meanwhile, employed by a private contractor, was let go.

All three investigations were completed last February, Holt said. He said the more than 7-month delay in notifying media and veterans was because he had to implement recommendations and take “administrative actions.”

He didn’t say what those recommendations and actions were, other than dealing with the copy machine misuse issue.

The three investigations were conducted by the Los Angeles VA, the Veterans Integrated Services Network, Region 22 (the regional office that oversees the Los Angeles VA), and the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General.

Holt said members of the media would have to submit Freedom of Information Act requests to each of the three offices for additional details on the investigations.

Congressman Kevin McCarthy said he would continue to work with the Veterans Affairs oversight committee seeking answers.

“I want to see and review all the evidence that was collected in these investigations, and I want to make sure the VA has taken every possible action to ensure this situation never happens again,” said McCarthy, R-Bakersfield. “No veteran should have to question if their privacy information and medical records are protected.

Trouble in Tennessee! VA OIG confirms that malpractice at the Memphis VA emergency room contributed to the deaths of 3 veterans!

Trouble in Tennessee! VA OIG confirms that malpractice at the Memphis VA emergency room contributed to the deaths of 3 veterans!

VA OIG confirms that medical malpractice in the emergency department at the Memphis VA contributed to the deaths of 3 veterans.More information about this and other medical malpractice at veterans affairs hospitals and lawyers who handle medical malpractice cases against the VA for veterans at

VA OIG confirms that medical malpractice in the emergency department at the Memphis VA contributed to the deaths of 3 veterans.



The VA OIG has released an investigation that confirms medical malpractice was responsible for the deaths of 3 veterans at the Memphis Tennessee VA. The substandard medical care that led to the deaths of these veterans all took place in the emergency department. In the first case, the veteran was administered a drug that he had a documented allergy to. He died 8 days later. In the 2nd case, a veteran was found not breathing and unresponsive in the emergency department; a subsequent review revealed that his monitoring equipment had stopped functioning forty minutes before he was found unresponsive. This veteran died 13 days later. A 3rd veteran was admitted to the emergency room with signs and symptoms that should’ve resulted in more aggressive management. Due to a combination of mistakes in the emergency department there was a tremendous delay in diagnosing the fact that there was bleeding occurring in the patient’s brain. He died the next day.


These are the OIG’s descriptions of the cases:


Patient 1. The patient arrived at the facility ED complaining of back and neck pain. The ED triage1 nurse documented in the EHR that the patient’s condition was non-urgent, listed the patient’s allergies, including aspirin, and indicated that the allergies were verified with the patient. A physician’s progress note entered approximately 3½ hours later made no mention of allergies. The physician ordered ketorolac (a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory pain medication) to be administered intramuscularly for the patient’s back pain. This medication is contraindicated for patients with an allergy to aspirin. The physician’s order for ketorolac was hand-written rather than being entered into the EHR as required by local policy. Entering the order electronically would have generated an alert that the medication was contraindicated due to the patient’s drug allergy. A few minutes after the physician wrote the order, a staff member administered the ketorolac, and the patient was discharged from the ED approximately 10 minutes after receiving the medication. An hour later the patient returned to the ED by ambulance in full cardiac and respiratory arrest. A different physician saw the patient and noted the drug allergy. The patient had a breathing tube inserted, was placed on a ventilator, and was transferred to the Medical Intensive Care Unit (MICU). The patient died 8 days later after the family agreed to discontinue life support


Patient 2. The patient arrived at the facility ED complaining of back pain described as “10” on a scale of 0 (no pain) to 10 (unbearable pain). A physician saw the patient and hand-wrote orders for hydromorphone (a narcotic pain medication) 2 mg to be administered intravenously2 (IV), ondansetron (an anti-nausea medication) 4 mg IV, lorazepam (a tranquilizer) 1 mg IV, and dexamethazone (a potent steroid medication with anti-inflammatory properties) 4 mg IV). Both hydromorphone and lorazepam have sedating properties.

The patient was in a “Level 2” ED bed, not in the main ED area. The patient rooms in this area are not visible from the main ED and do not have bedside electrocardiographic, oxygen saturation, or vital signs monitors connected to the central monitoring system in the main ED. The patient was connected to a portable oxygen saturation monitor that should alarm if there is a critical change in oxygen saturation level; however, staff would have to be within hearing range of the monitor since it was not connected to a centralized monitoring system. According to the EHR, the registered nurse (RN) checked on the patient 45 minutes after administering the medications and found him to be unresponsive and not breathing. ED staff began resuscitation efforts, a breathing tube was inserted, and the patient was placed on a ventilator. He was transferred to the MICU, where he remained in a coma until he died 13 days later. A retrospective review by the facility revealed that the oxygen saturation monitor had stopped recording data approximately 40 minutes before the patient was found unresponsive.

Patient 3. The patient had a history of frequent hospitalizations and complex medical issues, including hypertension, diabetes, congestive heart failure, and end stage renal disease requiring dialysis. The patient arrived at the facility ED complaining of shortness of breath and eye pain. He was noted to have an extremely elevated blood pressure and an ED physician entered an order in the EHR for hydromorphone 1 mg IV and hydralazine (a vasodilator3) 20 mg IV. Approximately one hour later, a nurse documented that the patient was confused, but a subsequent note stated that he was alert and oriented. EHR progress notes reflected that the RN notified the physician that the patient’s blood pressure readings remained very high, but there is no notation that the physician was alerted about the patient’s confusion. A second dose of hydralazine was administered about two hours after the first dose, and the physician documented about an hour after the second dose that the patient was “improving slowly.” Shortly afterwards, another physician came on duty and documented that patient was awaiting admission to an inpatient unit. About an hour later, the RN documented that the patient again complained of eye pain. A few minutes after that, the patient was found unresponsive. A CT scan4 detected bleeding in the patient’s brain. A breathing tube was inserted and the patient was placed on a ventilator in the ED, transferred to the MICU approximately 4 hours later, and died the following day.

These are the OIG’s findings:

We substantiated that a patient was administered a medication in spite of a documented drug allergy, and had a fatal reaction. Another patient was found unresponsive after being administered multiple sedating medications. A third patient had a critically high blood pressure that was not managed aggressively, and experienced bleeding in the brain approximately 5 hours after presenting to the ED.

We found that the facility took actions as required by VHA in response to the unexpected patient deaths, but noted that implementation of action plans developed through RCAs was delayed and incomplete.

We found inadequate monitoring capabilities for patients in some ED rooms, an issue identified during our site visit last year.

We also found that nursing ED-specific competency assessments had not been completed.


This is the link to the complete report:

VAOIG-13-00505-348 Emergency Department Deaths Memphis VA

Veterans protest plans to tear down buildings at FDR Veterans Hospital in Montrose

Veterans protest plans to tear down buildings at FDR Veterans Hospital in Montrose.

Veterans protest plans to tear down buildings at FDR Veterans Hospital in Montrose

The veterans say they are alarmed that VA officials are planning to tear down five buildings on the 192-acre complex next year. They fear it’s part of a larger plan to demolish and dismantle the facility. (10/23/13)

MONTROSE – Dozens of veterans protested outside of a VA hospital in Montrose today over the possibility that some of the buildings on the property could be torn down.

Al Donohue was part of a small army of veterans and politicians rallying outside the FDR Veterans Hospital with the mission of saving the medical facility.

“It’s the only place for guys that get wounded that have head injuries. This is what they are treated for,” Donahue says. If they close this place down, they will have no place to go.”

The veterans say they are alarmed that VA officials are planning to tear down five buildings on the 192-acre complex next year. They fear it’s part of a larger plan to demolish and dismantle the facility.

VA officials tell News 12 that there are no plans to dismantle VA or reduce any services there. They insist the buildings they are tearing down have been vacant for decades and are no longer safe.

Officials say they plan to demolish the buildings next summer.