WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Representative Martha Roby (R-AL) is responding to reports of further misconduct at the Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System (CAVHCS). More than 1,200 pulmonary patients’ records were manipulated by a Montgomery VA physician to show tests that never occurred, according to a report released by the United States Office of Special Counsel (OSC) on Monday.
Even after confirming the allegations were true, the VA Office of Medical Inspector (OMI) downplayed the blatant misconduct, saying patient health was not proven to be “endangered.” For this reason, the pulmonologist is still employed by CAVHCS, the Associated Press reports.
“How can anyone think that falsifying more than 1,200 pulmonary records does not endanger patient health,” Rep. Roby asked. “What good is a ‘watchdog' if they are just going to downplay such obviously egregious behavior?
“My office continues to look into numerous specific issues raised by constituents, and what we are learning is alarming. The Special Counsel's report is entirely consistent with what we have been hearing in terms of both phony medical practices and the VA’s own inspectors' apparent inability to act aggressively on complaints.
“I am pleased that the Office of Special Counsel seems to be doing what the VA and its inspectors have thus far failed to accomplish: provide a simple, straightforward, and commonsense assessment of some of the serious problems at the VA. Too often, information from the VA has been clouded in confusing doublespeak. This I know from personal experience."
In a letter to President Obama on Monday, Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner chided the VA’s OMI for the handling of whistleblower complaints that turned out to be true, writing that “Too frequently, the VA has failed to use information from whistleblowers to identify and address systemic concerns that impact patient care.”
The letter cited the previously-unrevealed instance in which a Montgomery-based VA pulmonologist "copied prior provider notes to represent current readings in over 1,200 patient records.”
“Unfortunately, these are not isolated examples,” Lerner writes. “Rather these are cases of a troubling pattern of deficient patient care at VA facilities nationwide, and the continued resistance by the VA, and OMI [Office of Medical Inspector] in most cases, to recognize and address the impact on the health and safety of veterans.”
A copy of the letter is available online here. The U.S. Office of Special Counsel is an independent federal investigative and prosecutorial agency that handles whistleblower issues.
Rep. Roby has been actively engaged in efforts to improve VA services even before the now-brewing scandal became public. Most recently, Rep. Roby dispatched top staff members to Montgomery to field information from whistleblowers about the continued reports of systemic problems at CAVHCS.