Veteran Affairs Hospitals recently found themselves in the middle of an investigation concerning illegal hiring practices for some of its doctors and medical officials. An investigation by USA today found that multiple doctors hired by VA had previous discrepancies ranging from medical malpractice, to sexual misconduct, to felony convictions.
Neurosurgeon John Schneider had racked up more than a dozen malpractice claims and settlements in two states with allegations of patients being maimed, paralyzed and even dead. Schneider also was accused of costing a patient bladder and bowel control in addition to improperly placing spinal screws causing the patient to be paralyzed from the waist down. Schneider, who had his license revoked by the state of Wyoming, was hired earlier this year in April by a VA Hospital that serves 184,000 veterans in Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri. Since his hiring, Schneider’s patients have already suffered complications, including a brain surgery in which a 65 year old veteran died in August.
Schneider’s case is not an isolated incident pertaining to erroneous hiring’s by VA Hospital. A VA Hospital in Oklahoma knowingly hired a psychiatrist previously sanctioned for sexual misconduct who went on to sleep with a VA patient. A Louisiana VA Clinic hired a psychologist with felony convictions. They later fired him after determining he was a direct threat to others and the VA’s mission.
The VA’s spokesperson defended the hospital by saying hospital officials were provided with incorrect guidance to permit Schneider’s hire. The spokesperson also said the VA is conducting an independent third-party clinical review of Schneider who says he did not provide subpar care to any of his patients.
All VA employees are supposed to be subjected to a rigorous vetting process in which applicants are vetted and their education, licenses, and references are checked. For clinical hires, a review and approval by a professional standards board is also required. It is at VA’s discretion however to hire applicants who disclose prior problems with licensing, malpractice, and criminal histories.