The Department of Veterans Affairs has deliberately charged doctors with a trail of malpractice charges, licensure problems, malpractice charges, and patient decisions, just recently USA Today study.
In fact, the newspaper suggested that the VA could attract troubled doctors and paramedics because it does not require that they have their own malpractice insurance. Therefore, doctors who are considered too risky for private malpractice insurance based on problematic precedents may find relief at the VA, where malpractice claims are paid out using taxpayer dollars.
In their research, USA Today sought 15 prior malpractice complaints and settlements against neurosurgeon John Henry Schneider, who was hired in April by the Veterans Affairs hospital in Iowa City, Iowa, with an annual salary of $385,000.
The malpractice cases date back to 1997, just months after Dr. Schneider received his medical license in Montana. Lawsuits and complaints allege that Schneider’s surgeries left one patient paralyzed, another with severe brain damage, and several with botched spinal operations and severe pain. One patient lost bladder and bowel control after Schneider underwent three spinal surgeries.
In 2014, the Wyoming Board of Medicine revoked Schneider’s license following a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of one of his former patients. In that case from 2011, Russell Monaco, a father of two, had surgery to reduce pressure on the nerves in his lower back. Later, he was released—despite dangerous oxygen levels—and given a combination of drugs, including fentanyl, oxycodone, valium, and Demerol. He took the drugs as prescribed and died at home the next day, devastating and damaging his family, the lawsuit said.
“I tried to wake him up and scream and the girls came down crying,” said his wife, Kathy Monaco. USA Today. “It’s scary, I mean, I live that day every day.”
However, Schneider obtained a medical license from Montana and continued to practice. Later in 2014, he filed for bankruptcy, leaving the wrongful payments in limbo, including payments to the Monaco family.
In an interview with the paper, Dr. Schneider denied any wrongdoing and blamed colleagues or uncontrollable medical complications.
In a statement, the VA said Schneider had disclosed “all the issues” in his job application and was hired after “a team of medical peers thoroughly reviewed” his file and “confirmed his competence.”
According to a USA Today investigation, though, VA officials determined that Schneider’s hiring was illegal. Agency spokesman Curt Cashour said agency officials provided the Iowa City hospital with “incorrect guidance” about hiring Schneider. The VA moved to fire Schneider last Wednesday, but he resigned prematurely.
Schneider isn’t the only questionable hire from the VA, the investigation found. The reporter has dug up many others. That includes the hiring of psychiatrist Stephen Lester Greer in 2013 at a VA hospital in Muskogee, Oklahoma, despite the state board taking several disciplinary actions against Greer earlier. One of those disciplines is for disruptive behavior. Greer continues to sleep with one of his VA patients.
In 2004, a VA hospital in Lafayette, Louisiana, hired a psychologist with multiple felony convictions. He was fired earlier this year after complaints were raised and an internal investigation deemed him a “direct threat to others.” A VA hospital in Jackson, Mississippi, hired ophthalmologist Daniel K. Kim, despite disciplinary actions against him by the Georgia medical board. In 2006, a surgery by Dr. Kim left a WWII veteran blind. In 2012, Kim allegedly implanted the wrong contact lens into another patient’s eye.
VA patients who spoke with the paper said they deserve better.
“Here are the veterans—they go and serve their country—and they’re messed up and everything,” said Michael Green, who is awaiting an improper payment from Dr. Schneider for an alleged spinal surgery. “And then turn that person on them — that’s what makes no sense.”