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Government Accountability Office New Findings Show that Hundreds of Fired VA Doctors May Still Be Treating Veterans

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Through the VA’s network of private physicians, up to 227 medical providers fired by the VA may still be treating veterans. The finding was uncovered by a Government Accountability Office Review. 

The VA Mission Act has provisions outlining the tracking of providers as of May 2019. The tracking was implemented to ensure that all active providers were eligible to care for veterans. If standards were not met, providers could be dismissed for providing poor care or having previously lost their medical licenses. 

The VA Mission Act’s tracking did not address providers that were removed from the VA before May 2019. This loophole left 227 providers who had been fired by the department, eligible to care for veterans under community care programs. 

Anything from deficiencies in clinical performance to patient abuse could have been construed as grounds for termination, the GAO noted in their report. Theoretically, providers with history of patient abuse could still be caring for veterans in community care programs. The VA has denied 136 clinicians from participating in the program since they started tracking community care providers. Responding to the GAO’s findings, the VA said that they would not review the additional providers that the GAO has discovered, supporting their eligibility for the community care program because they were fired before the Mission Act went into effect. 

Two companies front the VA’s efforts under the Mission Act, Optum and TriWest. Each are responsible for ensuring quality-of-care standards for their physicians across the country. The GAO insists that they’ve fallen short in achieving these duties and let many physicians fly under the radar. The GAO blames their shortcomings on a lack of adequate systems. 

The report notes that neither contractor is able to adequately monitor the health care providers in their respective networks. “There is a continued risk that former VA providers associated with quality of care concerns are participating in the [community care program],” the report states.

The GAO’s report came equipped with recommendations for the VA to begin adequately monitoring their providers. Some of their recommendations outline a process in which the contractors would institute credentialing and monitoring policies. The VA has stated that they largely agree with the findings presented by the GAO. 

Randy Noller, the VA spokesperson said the department is “committed to ensuring our nation’s heroes receive safe and appropriate health care from qualified community providers.” The VA has committed to implementing the recommendations by April 2021. 

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