VA hires doctors despite disclosures of malpractice, disciplinary issues

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An investigative report finds VA hospitals hire physicians with a known history of disciplinary issues.

A neurosurgeon disclosed a series of malpractice claims spanning two states when he applied for work at a VA hospital in Iowa. The hospital hired him anyway, according to an investigative report from USA Today.

It's just the latest of ongoing troubles at medical centers run by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The article described a trail of more than a dozen malpractice suits alleging botched surgeries by neurosurgeon John Henry Schneider, some of which led to paralysis or death. The suits were enough cause for Wyoming to revoke his license, but when Schneider applied to the VA hospital in Iowa City, Iowa, the agency hired him anyway.

VA spokesman Curt Cashour told the publication that the hire got approved due to “incorrect guidance” provided by his agency. The VA also issued a statement indicating a “group of his medical peers thoroughly reviewed” his disclosures before approving the hire.

RELATED: VA under fire: 5 medical centers failed to report potentially dangerous doctors

Already under fire for issues involving its quality of care and a failure to report potentially dangerous physicians in a national database, the new findings suggest the VA’s hiring policies give hospital officials a surprising amount of latitude to overlook issues in applicants’ disclosure histories.

And that's on top of revelations that many VA medical centers across the country are paying doctors millions in paid administrative leave. For example, although neurosurgeon Mohamed Eleraky, M.D., has been barred from performing any surgeries at a VA medical center in Mississippi, he continues to collect his $339,177 annual salary. 

RELATED: VA Secretary issues blunt assessment of care for veterans

The USA Today investigation described situations in other states where VA hospital officials overlooked disclosures of certain medical licensing issues to hire individuals with criminal backgrounds, or histories of inappropriate encounters with patients.

Lawmakers are trying to get to the bottom of the VA problems. On Wednesday the House Committee on Veterans Affairs will hold a hearing about quality and safety concerns at the VA.