The Department of Veterans Affairs has carried on with the practice of hiring doctors with malpractice claims and felony convictions in their backgrounds.
A USA Today investigation has found that the VA’s hiring process for physicians may not be as thorough as it seems. The hiring process entails license verification and reference-checking, but it appears as though VA officials have some amount of discretion when they discover medical licensing problems, malpractice or felony convictions.
In other words, VA officials can simply disregard sordid pasts and approve hiring of questionable doctors, anyway.
For example, in one case USA Today uncovered, a VA hospital in Muskogee, Oklahoma, brought on a psychiatrist in 2013, despite knowing he had a history of actions taken against his medical license for sexual misconduct, among other things.
This psychiatrist, Stephen Lester Greer, ended up having a sexual relationship with a patient at the VA. In August, he pleaded guilty to trying to persuade the patient to lie about the relationship.
Another psychiatrist started work at a VA clinic in 2014 in Lafayette, Louisiana, although he had felony convictions on his job application. The VA overlooked those convictions, but then ran a background check more than a year after his firing. Officials discovered eight arrests, some of which involved drug dealing and burglary.
This unnamed psychiatrist was still allowed to practice until a couple of years ago., at which point the VA was inundated with complaints about patient mistreatment. He was finally fired earlier in 2017.
Infamous psychiatrist David Houlihan, who worked at the Tomah VA in Wisconsin and was known by veterans as the “candy man” for doling out copious amounts of drugs, took on the job in 2002 and then became chief of staff in 2004. The VA ignored the fact that the Iowa Board of Medicine had stated he became involved with a patient inappropriately and also that he had taken patient medications home.
He was fired in 2015.
Curt Cashour, VA press secretary, told USA Today that the department will examine whether any doctors were hired who should not have been hired.
“We will take the same prompt removal action with any other improper hires we discover,” Cashour said.
The USA Today investigation comes on the heels of a Government Accountability Office report, which determined that the VA failed in 90 percent of cases to report doctors who may be dangerous to a national database.