While the nation was honoring the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our country, a shocking story came out on Memorial Day about a series of criminal investigations into drug theft by employees at dozens of Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals.
The Associated Press reports that the VA Inspector General opened 36 new cases of drug theft from October 1st of last year through May 19th of this year.With these new cases, there are now 108 open criminal investigations involving drug theft, missing prescriptions, or unauthorized drug use at the VA.
Even after the VA vowed “zero tolerance” after a similar story was reported in February, the VA has demonstrated that legislation is needed to bring about serious reform and accountability. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) found the rate of missing drugs at VA health facilities was more than double that of the private sector. This disturbing amount of negligence is the result of many of the same ineffective and negligent processes remaining untouched at many VA hospitals. The AP writes:
“Congressional auditors this year found that at least four VA hospitals skipped monthly inspections of drug stocks or missed other requirements, even after warnings about lax oversight dating back to at least 2009.”
The toxic culture that is systemic throughout the VA will continue to put veterans’ health at risk if the status quo remains. The VA has responded to this report by pledging to develop additional policies, but so far internal changes have shown to be ineffective in substantially improving care or changing the culture at the VA. Thankfully, the Senate is expected to vote next week on bipartisan VA accountability legislation that will give Secretary Shulkin the tools to hold employees who participate in this type of illegal activity accountable.
With this legislation, Congress and President Trump have the rare opportunity to bring much needed accountability to the VA. Opioid and substance abuse is rampant across the United States, and it significantly affects veterans. A DoD survey found veterans are at a more than 2.5 times higher risk to misuse prescription drugs than the civilian population. Yet with this higher risk, the VA has been negligent and careless with its handling of drugs. Even worse, its employees have put our veterans’ health in danger by engaging in illegal activity.
More work is needed, but the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act is a crucial step to ensure that VA staff are the responsible and accountable employees that our veterans deserve.
The post #VAFail – Opioid theft at VA facilities is a continuing problem appeared first on Concerned Veterans for America.