WASHINGTON, D.C. – Responding to a December 4th letter from Senators Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today said that the Iowa City VA doctor in question is no longer a VA employee and that they have “issued a new policy to ensure full compliance with the law and a national review to verify that this policy is being implemented correctly.” This follows a disturbing report that shed light on hiring practices at VA hospitals, including the Iowa City VA. While Iowa senators are pleased to hear that actions to correct these missteps are taking place, they are calling for more answers to their questions.
The full text of Senator Ernst and Grassley’s letter is available here and below.
The VA’s December 21st response letter, can be found here.
Senator Ernst and Grassley’s original December 4th letter to the VA is available here.
December 21, 2017
The Honorable David Shulkin
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Washington DC 20420
Dear Secretary Shulkin:
On December 4, we wrote a letter to you requesting answers regarding hiring practices at the VA. We sent this letter because the VA knowingly hired a neurosurgeon who had his medical license revoked in one state, which goes against VA regulations. We appreciate your responses to our questions and are glad to hear corrective action is being taken. However, we would like you to provide additional clarification regarding your responses.
Our first question asked for the “incorrect” guidance given to the Iowa City VA that allowed them to hire the neurosurgeon. In your response, you stated that the Iowa City VA relied on VA Handbook 5005/57. Please provide the page number and section in VA Handbook 5005/57 which “suggested” that the Iowa City VA could hire the neurosurgeon. Additionally, please explain how hospital officials were expected to reconcile the aforementioned section with the information on page 80 which states that “individuals are not eligible for appointment” if their license had been revoked in another state. You also stated that the VA issued new guidance that fully complies with current law, accordingly, please provide a reference to the newly issued guidance.
We also asked what steps the VA is taking to determine how many providers at the Iowa City VA were hired illegally. In your response you stated that the VA has initiated a national review of currently appointed providers to ensure they meet all licensure qualifications. Will the results of the review be made public? Will patients and family members be notified if they received care from a provider who had been hired illegally? In addition, a recent USA Today report found that the VA has been hiring providers illegally since 2002. Will you expand the scope of your national review to examine providers hired from 2002 onwards?
Please respond by January 22, 2018.
Charles E. Grassley Joni K. Ernst
United States Senator United States Senator