McMorris Rodgers, Roe, Poliquin introduce legislation to stop VA from shielding dangerous doctors

Oct 12, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C. (October 12, 2017) – Today, Eastern Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05), House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Phil Roe (R-TN), and Congressman Bruce Poliquin (R-ME) introduced the Ethical Patient Care for Veterans Act of 2017. This legislation requires Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical professionals to report directly to state licensing boards if they witness unacceptable or unethical behavior from other medical professionals at the VA. The legislation is in response to the alarming USA Today article out yesterday that revealed the VA failed to disclose bad medical practitioners to the public, risking the public’s exposure to these dangerous doctors.  

“These newest reports out of the VA are deeply troubling,” said McMorris Rodgers. “Our veterans deserve the best care imaginable, but as we’ve seen, far too often that’s not the case. This bill will help reform the culture at the VA by holding bad actors accountable and keeping them from continuing these mistakes at the VA or elsewhere. We should be rolling out the red carpet to our nation’s heroes in Eastern Washington and around the country, and that starts with ensuring that the best and brightest are at the VA caring for our veterans.”

“The findings of the USA Today investigation are intolerable,” said Chairman Roe. “The committee has long been concerned about VA’s settlement agreements, and even held a hearing on the topic last year. While I can appreciate VA’s recent decision to more closely vet settlement agreements, malfeasance within the department will not be ignored. It certainly cannot be rewarded and hidden from state licensing boards. As a physician, I find this deeply troubling, and I thank Reps. McMorris Rodgers and Poliquin for their leadership on this issue.”

“These most recent reports are nothing short of appalling,” said Congressman Poliquin. “Our Maine Veterans depend on their services at Togus and other VA facilities across our State for critical care, and it is absolutely unacceptable for them to ever be subjected to this kind of medical malpractice. We must have accountability at the VA, to ensure our Veterans are always getting the best care possible, and I am proud to be working on the Veterans Affairs’ Committee to do that. I’m now pleased to work with Chairwoman McMorris Rodgers and Chairman Roe to help prevent this unacceptable behavior from occurring again.”

NOTE: Currently, if the VA receives a report of substandard health care practices, it takes at least 100 days to decide whether to refer the matter to a state licensing board. This legislation will require timely reporting to state licensing boards so there is proper notice of these serious allegations. 

As reported by USA Today, “the VA — the nation’s largest employer of health care workers — has for years concealed mistakes and misdeeds by staff members entrusted with the care of veterans.” The article lays out a number of cases where doctors provided poor, unethical, or irresponsible care, and faced zero medical licensing reviews. 

By requiring malpractice to be reported to state licensing boards, this legislation ensures that if poor care happens, doctors and clinicians will no longer be shielded by the VA and could face consequences just like they do in private practice. 

In June, Rep. McMorris Rodgers had representatives from the House Veterans Affairs Committee come to the Spokane VAMC to conduct a site visit and see where improvements could be made. On the visit, they discovered a hole in the roof that had been ignored for years that was leaking into important electrical, heating, and cooling areas. The Congresswoman went back and got funding, and construction will soon begin to fix the hole and ensure our VA facilities are safe and healthy. Read more from the Spokesman-Review here

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