Northville, MI (Law Firm Newswire) November 10, 2017 - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has been accused of hiding serious mistakes made by medical professionals for years, allowing them to secure jobs elsewhere outside the VA system.
A USA Today investigation examined hundreds of confidential VA records from 2014 and 2015. It found the VA paid almost $6.7 million in secret settlements to resolve cases with employees who were either fired or forced to retire due to poor performance. The settlements involved VA workers at over 100 facilities in 42 states.
“Secretary David Shulkin has promised more accountability and transparency at the VA,” commented Jim Fausone, a Michigan veterans attorney. “However, the results of this investigation reveal yet another cover-up in which problem employees seem to get away with harming veterans without suffering any real consequences. The VA needs to take steps to prove that it is indeed committed to cracking down on employee misconduct.”
The report cited numerous cases in which doctors, nurses and other medical staff were paid large settlements upon removal from the VA. In many instances, the VA allegedly agreed to conceal misconduct, negligence, dangerous medical errors and other reasons for their departure. According to USA Today, the VA failed to report problem employees to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) or state licensing boards, enabling them to find work in the private sector after leaving the agency.
In one case, the VA admitted it took years to inform veterans about substandard care they received from podiatrist Thomas Franchini at the Togus VA hospital in Maine. The VA denied accusations by six veterans who said the agency concealed the findings to avoid lawsuits.
Franchini was allowed to quietly resign in 2010 after botched surgeries that harmed veterans in 88 cases. A VA spokesperson said the agency told him to step down or face being fired. He now works as a podiatrist in New York City.
Following the USA Today investigation, VA Secretary David Shulkin said future settlements with employees involving payments of over $5,000 will require approval from top Washington officials. The VA will also revise its policy of reporting only certain medical professionals to the national database that monitors problem workers.
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