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Some South Carolina veterans may have been harmed by VA policies

Those who have served their country deserve to be treated with respect and dignity, especially when it comes to providing ill and aging veterans with appropriate medical care. Unfortunately, it has come to light that the Veterans' Affairs hiring practices may have placed veterans everywhere, including here in South Carolina, at risk. There are now repeated calls from congressional members to revise the agency's policy of hiring medical providers with licensing issues.

In the latter part of 2017, news broke about a physician who had been hired by the VA after his medical license had been suspended in another state. The neurosurgeon had his medical license revoked in one state after a patient in his care died. Since then, he has been named in other malpractice suits, including one in August that resulted in a patient dying from an infection after four surgeries in as many weeks. According to an investigation, this is not the first time the VA has hired a doctor with a troubled past.

A journalistic investigation discovered that, in spite of a 1999 law that prohibited the federal agency from accepting providers whose licenses had been suspended in any state, a 2002 policy revision allowed the agency to hire these providers as long as they had a valid license in at least one state. This was a clear violation of the earlier prohibition and has purportedly led to 15 years of hiring doctors and other caregivers who may pose a threat to the well-being of the agency's patients. In fact, it has been determined that veterans have been harmed by some of these providers.

The agency has stated that it will immediately review its policies and evaluate those providers currently in its employ. Congressional leaders have made several inquiries into the hiring policies and are calling for a reduction in the number of rules that are currently in place concerning its hiring practices, in an effort to ensure the safety of the veterans who rely on the agency for medical care. Any South Carolina resident who has suffered harm as a result of suspected medical malpractice may seek compensation for their related monetary damages through the civil court system.

Source: USA Today, "VA policy for hiring doctors has violated law for last 15 years", Donovan Slack, Dec. 21, 2017

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