VA hospitals should provide better care

An editorial from the Parkersburg News and Sentinel

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — Despite the flurry of attention last year about the state of our nation’s Veterans Affairs hospitals, the facilities are still poorly enough funded and supervised that, here in West Virginia, one hospital has been flagged for “cutting corners on needed drug therapy to save money in violation of VA policy,” according to Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner.

In Beckley, the Veterans Affairs Medical Center was caught switching out patients’ prescribed medications for older drugs in order to save money. The hospital’s pharmacy and therapeutic committees were also led by nonphysicians, also a violation of VA policy.

Investigators say the actions were “a substantial and specific danger to public health and safety.” These are facilities meant to serve those who have given far more of themselves to the service of our country than most. These are facilities dependent on the resources and oversight of the federal government – and that should have been fully in the spotlight after federal lip service to the degree of vigilance VA patients deserve when it comes to making sure they receive the best care possible.

Instead, it is clear little has been done to change the business-as-usual attitude of hoping VA facilities can get by with as little as the government can get away with giving, and no real accountability. Here in the Mountain State, which historically has a higher number of veterans per capita than any other state, such lapses are even more detrimental. Because of a courageous whistle-blower, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel has been able to conduct an investigation that surely will bring those responsible to justice.

But what about the larger picture? Will Congress and the Department of Veterans Affairs miss one more opportunity to get right the medical and psychological care we owe to our veterans? Doing less would be shameful.

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