Investigation into the VA Reveals Doctors Hired with Discipline/Malpractice

Investigation into the VA Reveals Doctors Hired with Discipline/Malpractice
Dec 8, 2017

An investigation by USA Today revealed that the Department of Veterans Affairs routinely hires physicians who have multiple malpractice claims, including felony convictions, and who have made horrifying medical mishaps that have left patients dead or gravely injured.

For example, a VA hospital in Iowa City knew that one neurosurgeon’s medical license had been revoked in one state and that he had other outstanding malpractice issues, but hired him anyway. He was found to have botched many surgeries severely, injuring many veterans and even killing some. After USA Today’s investigation, the VA determined that the neurosurgeon, John Henry Schneider, had been hired improperly and illegally. He resigned before the VA could successfully move to fire him.

The VA has since launched an independent review of all the care that Schneider provided while working for the Department. When speaking to USA Today, Schneider disputed that he was at fault and blamed other providers who were treating veterans for their serious injuries and complications.

Many other physicians may also have been improperly hired by the VA. In Oklahoma, a VA hospital hired a psychiatrist with the knowledge that they had previously received sanctions for sexual misconduct and then slept with a patient. A Louisiana VA clinic employed a psychologist who had felony convictions. He was fired after the VA determined that he was a threat to patients and staff, as well as to the VA’s mission.

Federal law forbids the VA from hiring doctors if their license has been revoked by a state board, even if their license is active in another state.

For a doctor to be hired at the VA, their applications, licenses, and references are supposed to be checked and verified before they undergo a rigorous interview process. However, if applicants disclose medical licensing problems that are not severe enough to warrant revocation of their license or criminal malpractice charges, hospital officials at the VA have discretion and often approve their hiring regardless.

In fact, those very VA policies appeal to physicians who have had malpractice or licensing issues, since clinicians at the VA are not mandated to have malpractice insurance, which is paid out by the federal government with taxpayer money. This, unfortunately, makes the VA a good choice for doctors who could not get their own private malpractice insurance.