VA Facing Pushback from Lawmakers on Screening Process for New DoctorsWednesday, February 2, 2022
A recent review by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has shed light on the VA’s process of screening outside doctors and its shortcomings. The report’s findings outline the department’s list of provider referrals, 1,600 of which are ineligible to treat veterans. Over 600 of these ineligible providers are dead.
The VA has over 1.2 million active providers working in its Veterans Community Care Program. While the GAO’s report identifies only 1,600 of these providers, they represent a broader problem that could lead to risks in health and safety for veterans. A group of representatives outlined these issues in a letter to VA health officials last week, also highlighting a risk of financial fraud.
The representatives have demanded that the identified providers be deactivated from the Community Care Network so that veterans are no longer referred to them for care. The push from these representatives including, Chris Pappas, Tracey Mann, and Jack Bergman, comes at a time of increasing scrutiny of the Community Care program. The program currently allows veterans to see private physicians while taxpayer dollars cover the bill.
Yet, the program has been instrumental in providing care for veterans for decades. Many have pushed for the continued expansion of the program even as it faces long wait times and a shortage of specialists at many VA medical centers. Others have argued that oversight needs to improve before the program can expand further, an argument that this latest GAO report bolsters.
Aside from 601 deceased providers, the list includes 216 with revoked medical licenses and 796 that have forfeited their licenses due to investigations. Among them is a provider that lost their license and was arrested for patient abuse in 2019. Clearly, the VA’s oversight of and the providers referred to the program needs to improve.
Along with the statistics from the report, the researchers also offered recommendations for reform. These included monthly checks of outside provider credentials and other safeguards to eliminate more instances like these. The VA has responded, claiming that it will make changes in the coming months, and lawmakers have requested an updated report by the end of February.
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