Watchdog Report Urges VA to Boost Hospital Security Measures and Oversight

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Legal Help for Veterans is a law firm helping veterans get the benefits they deserve.

Northville, MI (Law Firm Newswire) March 14, 2018 - A new report revealed the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) failed to implement a number of federal security requirements at medical centers nationwide. The findings concluded the shortcomings are potentially exposing patients to the risk of harm.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) evaluated the agency’s security measures and risk management protocols. The watchdog found the VA did not fully follow the standards for federal buildings established by the Interagency Security Committee (ISC).

“It is vital for security at VA medical centers to be comprehensive and up to date to ensure patients are not put at risk of harm,” commented Jim Fausone, a Michigan veterans attorney. “The department should take immediate steps to implement the GAO’s recommendations across all its hospitals. This should not be a one-off occurrence. Officials should consistently evaluate the quality of their security measures through a clearly mapped out strategy.”

One of the key security lapses the report noted was that VA hospitals are not required to modify security measures according to varying threat levels. The ISC has identified five factors when considering threat levels. The VA does not include facility population and size, which are two of the factors.

The VA requires all of its health care facilities to have silent distress alarms, security cameras, a police force and perimeter fencing. However, security levels vary across each hospital. For example, police forces at many medical centers had vacancies due to recruiting challenges.

The GAO investigation found that there is also a lack of oversight across VA facilities. Key security decisions are left up to local officials. As a result, the VA lacks the ability to measure security performance and determine the effectiveness of various measures.

Lori Rectanus, a GAO director, sent a letter to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs Chairman Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn. in which she said that VA hospitals nationwide have recently faced multiple security threats including violence and weapons attacks. As a result, it is crucial for the VA to examine its handling of security.

VA officials said the agency’s policies were developed before the ISC issued its guidelines in 2013. They agreed to reevaluate their risk management protocols and comply with the GAO’s recommendations to enhance oversight of security across its hospitals. Officials said the agency aims to implement all the recommendations by January 2019.

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