A VA surgeon barred from operating on patients since 2013 still collects an annual salary—and he's not alone

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A neurosurgeon is back on staff at a Mississippi VA medical center as a legal battle continues over his firing from the hospital.

A neurosurgeon has been barred from performing any surgeries at a Veterans Affairs medical center in Mississippi but has continued to collect his salary as a legal battle goes on.

The G.V. (Sonny) Montgomery VA Medical Center in Jackson barred the doctor, Mohamed Eleraky, from seeing patients years ago, but Eleraky continues to collect his $339,177 annual salary, according to the Clarion Ledger.

Eleraky filed an amended court complaint earlier this month against the VA seeking injunctive relief and monetary damages in a jury trial.

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The VA has paid Eleraky more than $1 million over the course of three and a half years, during which he has not performed any surgeries. For three of those years, he didn't see patients, according to the newspaper.

According to the lawsuit, Eleraky’s operating privileges were suspended in July, 2013, his entire clinical privileges were suspended in 2014 and his employment at the VA was terminated in August, 2016. The lawsuit said while his privileges were suspended he was “relegated to sitting in his office with no job responsibilities.”

Eleraky and the VA are in ongoing litigation and the VA was forced to reinstate him in April after a Disciplinary Appeals Board found medical center officials did not prove their claims that the doctor failed to properly assess patients or follow surgical rules, the newspaper said. In his lawsuit, Eleraky said VA officials did not explain the reason for his suspension or give him a fair disciplinary hearing.

In a statement to the newspaper, VA spokesman Curt Cashour said Eleraky is not presently working in a surgical position. If leaders at the medical center do not believe he can resume surgical duties, he should be moved to a “clinical, non-surgical capacity” and his salary adjusted downward to reflect his new role, Cashour said. If he is not qualified to treat patients altogether, he should be removed from VA employment or transferred to an administrative position with a corresponding salary, Cashour said.

The Clarion-Ledger said Eleraky’s situation is not unique; it found VA medical centers across the country are paying doctors millions in paid administrative leave.

The spokesman said VA Secretary David Shulkin has directed the agency to conduct “a top-to-bottom review to determine whether there are other doctors in the VA system who were hired for clinical position and are not performing clinical duties while receiving salaries of practicing physicians.”

Among the VA’s myriad challenges, Shulkin in a press belief earlier this year talking about staffing issues that include bureaucratic impediments to holding employees accountable for misconduct. The VA Accountability Act, which President Donald Trump signed into law in June, includes new firing rules aimed at cleaning up corruption in the VA more quickly.