VA's long marriage to med schools may be on the rocks

While most eyes are on the Department of Veterans Affairs’ struggles to improve care delivery, the VA’s longstanding relationship with medical schools is under strain as well.

The VA has maintained relationships with medical schools nationwide for seven decades. Sixty-five percent of current U.S. doctors had at least some of their training through the VA. But a recent report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) highlighted a shaky foundation between the institutions, notes the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Hints of the schism emerged earlier in the year, according to a separate Enquirer article, when a petition circulated complaining about the performance of Barbara Temeck, M.D., as chief of staff at the Cincinnati VA Medical Center. After being demoted, Temeck told the U.S. Office of Special Counsel that her tenure was marked by efforts to break ties between the facility and University of Cincinnati Health and the UC College of Medicine. She blamed doctors affiliated with the academic institutions for her demotion.

This case highlights numerous issues with the VA-medical school relationship, according to the Enquirer. For example, at a hearing in June, Robert Jesse, M.D., head of the VA’s Office of Academic Affiliations, told a Congressional committee that surgeons from University of Pittsburgh Physicians had overbilled the VA on numerous occasions.

Even when the relationship between the VA and medical schools bears fruit, it can be lopsided, according to the Enquirer. In many cases, the VA doesn’t receive credit for progress made on agency time with agency resources.