How the VA failed to report bad providers who were still working

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs failed to report a number of medical providers, whose privileges were revoked, to national databases, according to a Nov. 27 report by the independent Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The GAO reviewed five of the VA’s 170 Medical Centers “after concerns were raised about their clinical care.” It found that VA officials did not report eight of nine doctors it found should have been reported.

The GAO report examined 148 providers from October 2013 to March 2017 and found that more than half didn’t provide documentation of reviews to the National Practitioner Data Bank or state licensing boards, as required by VHA policy. Also, the medical centers did not start the reviews of 16 providers for months to years “after the concerns were identified.”

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“Depending on the findings from the review, VAMC officials may take an adverse privileging action against a provider that either limits the care a provider is allowed to deliver at the VAMC or prevents the provider from delivering care altogether,” the GAO report said.

Marines, veterans, and care providers watch as the American flag is walked to the flagpole at the Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center in Phoenix, AZ. (Photo by Sgt. Justin Boling)

Marines, veterans, and care providers watch as the American flag is walked to the flagpole at the Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center in Phoenix, AZ. (Photo by Sgt. Justin Boling)

At the five unidentified hospitals, providers weren’t reported because VA officials “misinterpreted or were not aware of VHA policies and guidance related to the NPDB and SLB reporting processes,” the report said.

“At one facility, we found that officials failed to report six providers to the NPDB because the officials were unaware that they had been delegated responsibility for NPDB reporting.”

Related: The VA might actually be getting its act together

The report found that two of four contract providers — whose privileges were revoked and were not reported — continued to provide outside care to veterans.

“One provider whose services were terminated related to patient abuse subsequently held privileges at another VAMC, while the other provider belongs to a network of providers that provides care for veterans in the community,” the report said.

Nearly 40,000 providers hold privileges in the centers.

(Photo courtesy of VA.)

In the last few years, the VA is undergoing a string of reforms, aimed a ultimately providing better services to our nation’s veterans. (Photo courtesy of VA.)

GAO is making four recommendations for the Veterans Health Administration: To document reviews of providers’ clinical care after concerns are raised, develop timely requirements for reviews, to ensure proper oversight of such reviews, and perform timely reporting of providers.

The GAO said the VA agreed with its recommendations.

The Nov. 27 report is the latest in a string of reforms aimed in recent years at the Veterans Affairs Department.

In October, a USA Today investigation that found the VA had concealed medical mistakes and misconduct by health care workers.

After the newspaper report, Rep. Phil Roe, R- Tenn., chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, asked GAO to investigate. A hearing on the findings is scheduled for Nov. 29.

In 2014, lawmakers spurred reform after it became known that some veterans had died while awaiting care at a medical center in Arizona.

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