VA fails to release 140 healthcare investigation reports

The Department of Veterans Affairs' inspector general declined to publicly release the findings of 140 healthcare investigations on medical care at VA facilities or clinical misconduct complains dating back to 2006, USA Today reported.

The USA Today analysis comes on the heels of last year's VA scandal, which revealed the system used secret wait lists to cover up long delays in care and retaliated against whisleblowers who reported misconduct, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

The agency declined to comment on the findings of the reports or why the inspector general has withheld them from the public, according to the publication. "We have not analyzed these reports and therefore cannot offer a specific description of the kinds of reasons," Catherine Gromek, a spokeswoman for the VA inspector general, told USA Today.

The publication requested the reports in January under the Freedom of Information Act but has yet to receive them. Potential reasons that the inspector general doesn't want to release the information include unsubstantiated allegations, pending lawsuits, or the fact that the subjects of the investigation no longer work for the VA, Joanne Moffett, a special assistant to the inspector general, told USA Today. 

However, the inspector general has released more than 400 healthcare reports since 2006, including 10 that detail the VA's opium-based painkiller procedures, according to the publication.

But those 10 reports didn't help Jason Simcakoski, a 35-year-old Marine veteran, who died of an overdose five months after the agency kept secret a report that raised serious concerns about the unusually high opiate-prescription rates at the VA medical center in Tomah, Wisconsin. He died at the facility as an inpatient after doctors added another opiate to the other 14 medications he was prescribed. His father, Marv Simcakoski, believes his son might be alive today if the VA released the report to the public. 

"When something is kept secret, it makes me wonder what else are they hiding?" he told USA Today. "If something doesn't get done, there could be other veterans that end up losing their lives."

To learn more:
- read the USA Today article

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