Saturday, May 25, 2024
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Veterans Health Administration Endangered Vets, Screwed Up Employee Background Checks

The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) bucked the rules and hired employees previously convicted of drug felonies, and, obviously, this put veteran patients at risk.

This is according to a new 94-page report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) requires VHA medical centers to get a waiver before they employ anyone with a controlled felony drug conviction whose job gives them access to such substances. But the GAO discovered the VHA doesn’t have a waiver policy and didn’t consistently request them.

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“The GAO identified 12,569 VHA employees with indications of controlled substance-related criminal history,” according to the report.

“Of these, GAO obtained further information about a generalizable sample of 305 employees and found 50 of them had one or more controlled substance-related felony convictions.”

VHA staff confirmed they did not request waivers for 48 of the 50 employees GAO identified and did not confirm whether they requested waivers for the remaining two. VHA officials said they are developing an employment waiver policy. They did not, however, say when they might approve or implement such a policy.

“The GAO also identified vulnerabilities in VHA’s process for completing employee background investigations. For example, GAO found that 13 of the 305 employees in the generalizable sample did not have background investigations as required by regulation and policy,” the GAO report said.

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“Without adequate control procedures to ensure employee background investigations are completed as required, VHA lacks assurance that its personnel are properly vetted and suitable to provide care to veterans.”

The VHA, under the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, provides health care to more than 9 million veterans and is responsible for ensuring that its providers are qualified, competent, and suitable to provide care. The federal agency provides care at 1,298 health care facilities, including 171 VA Medical Centers and 1,113 outpatient sites of care of varying complexity.

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