February 14, 2019

Cassidy, Colleagues Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Hold VA Providers Accountable

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Jerry Moran (R-KS), and Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced the VA Provider Accountability Act, bipartisan legislation strengthening accountability at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

A troubling 2017 GAO report revealed an unacceptable trend of VA facilities failing to report providers who made major medical errors to the National Practitioner Data Bank and the relevant state licensing boards responsible for tracking dangerous practitioners. As a result, these practitioners can go into private practice or move across state lines without disclosing prior mistakes to patients or state regulators. A 2017 USA Today story uncovered specific, horrific medical care failures and mistakes that the VA allowed to continue and concealed.

The VA Provider Accountability Act would solve this problem by requiring the VA to inform the National Practitioner Data Bank and state licensing boards of major adverse actions committed by medical providers at the VA. Additionally, it would prevent the VA from signing settlements with fired employees to hide major medical mistakes in their personnel files.

“As a doctor, I believe the patient comes first. When VA providers make mistakes, transparency and accountability protects veterans best,” said Dr. Cassidy, a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “Covering up mistakes does not protect patients. This bill makes it more likely veterans get good care.”

“The vast majority of VA employees and medical providers offer exceptional care to our veterans and we are grateful for their service,” said Gardner. “However, there is no excuse for allowing certain medical providers with a history of committing major medical errors to continue putting other patients at risk. We owe every single veteran the best possible care, and we can only provide that care with increased accountability. This bipartisan bill will protect veterans, and potential patients outside the VA system, from mistakes made by medical providers who have proven themselves to be dangerous.”

“I originally cosponsored this bill in response to a 2017 GAO report that showed the VA has an alarming pattern of incompetence in treating VA patients without adequately holding those care providers accountable when they make mistakes,” said Senator Manchin. “VA has made attempts to correct this on their own, but I believe strict guidelines must be implemented to assure our veterans they are receiving the highest quality of care. This is problem should not have happened in the first place, and I believe our legislation provides a fix that can be supported by my colleagues on both sides of the aisle.”

“It is critical that those on the front lines of caring for our veterans are held to the highest level of accountability,” said Senator Moran. “For too long, mistakes made by VA providers have been concealed by the VA and not reported to the appropriate state and federal databases. I am introducing this legislation to make certain no adverse medical outcome impacting a former service member is swept under the rug. Our veterans deserve a VA that is worthy of their service and sacrifice, and holding providers accountable is an important step to restoring trust in the VA.”

“Our nation’s veterans deserve access to the high-quality health care that they have earned through their service to our country. As the daughter of a World War II veteran, I was shocked and outraged by recent investigations that found far too many instances of patients’ care being mismanaged by medical providers,” said Senator Collins. “By requiring the VA to report these issues in a timely manner and prohibiting the concealment of serious medical errors in settlements with fired VA employees, this legislation would help restore accountability, protect veterans, and enhance the care that veterans receive at the VA.”

The legislation is supported by the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) and the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB).