More problems at VA
Sen. Joni Ernst demands more accountability
The Trump administration has worked hard to make certain that veterans receive high-quality health care. Their service to our country warrants nothing less. U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, herself a combat veteran, has been a leader in Congress in providing strong oversight of the Department of Veterans Affairs. The Iowa Republican’s own years in uniform make her ideally qualified to understand what veterans need.
Unfortunately, despite much improvement in the VA’s health care system, there are still problems. That was made clear by a disturbing report from the Government Accountability Office. The GAO found that Veterans Health Administration facilities aren’t doing an adequate job of screening and evaluating doctors and other health care providers before they are hired. The report concluded that some providers with a history of problems, which should have been identified, are being hired because that negative information isn’t being detected prior to their employment. That puts veterans at unnecessary and unacceptable risk.
Ernst has joined with a bipartisan group of U.S. senators to request an explanation by the VA of how it plans to address these major flaws in its hiring process. In a letter to the VA the senators wrote:
“Veterans Health Administration … facilities lack adequate safeguards to ensure that veterans are not treated by providers who have a history of adverse actions against them related to providing substandard patient care, endangering public safety, substance misuse or unprofessional conduct. We urge you to take immediate action to correct this issue and to ensure quality care for veterans who have sacrificed much in the brave defense of our freedoms.”
In addition to working with her colleagues to provide thorough oversight of the VA’s response to the GAO, Ernst has also introduced legislation designed to better protect veterans from substandard care – the Ensure Quality Care for Our Veterans Act. According to information provided by the senator’s office, this bill requires that every health care provider hired by the VA with a revoked license undergo a third-party review of that provider’s care. If the review determines that a competent practitioner would have managed the veteran’s care differently, the veteran will be notified. This bill makes sense and deserves careful consideration by Congress.
Devoting appropriate resources to evaluating the education, training and work experience of physicians and other health care providers who are prospective hires is a top priority at all well-managed hospitals and health care facilities. Failures in that process can have dire consequences for patients. It is imperative that the VA address the major shortcomings identified by the GAO. There is no excuse for poor performance in carrying out this critical credentialing function.
The Messenger commends Ernst for her aggressive oversight of the VA. She and her colleagues are right to be concerned about the GAO’s negative report. We are confident that she will accept nothing less than a robust and thorough response from the VA.