USA Today: VA knowingly hired physicians with malpractice, legal problems

The U.S. Veterans Affairs Department allegedly illegally hired several physicians whose medical licenses had been revoked in other states or who have had multiple malpractice claims made against them, according to USA Today.

USA Today began investigating the agency in October and discovered the VA had for years concealed medical workers' mistakes and legal issues after they left the agency.

The publication also discovered that despite maintaining a seemingly rigorous vetting process for job applicants, VA hospital officials reportedly have the discretion to weigh providers' explanations regarding legal action or medical malpractice claims and can choose to hire those individuals anyway, the report states.

However, under federal law, the VA cannot hire physicians whose licenses have been revoked by a state medical board even if they hold an active medical license in another state.

One such physician, John H. Schneider, MD, was hired at a VA hospital in Iowa City, Iowa, earlier this year despite racking up more than a dozen malpractice claims and settlements in two states, including allegations he had left former patients maimed, paralyzed or dead, according to the report.

Of the 15 malpractice complaints USA Today identified against Dr. Schneider, four complaints were settled and two were dropped by the plaintiffs. Six other complaints were deemed valid after Dr. Schneider filed for bankruptcy in 2014, according to court records obtained by USA Today.

VA officials moved to fire Dr. Schneider Nov. 29, but he resigned instead.

A spokesperson for the VA told USA Today agency officials provided Iowa City hospital officials with "incorrect guidance" in hiring Dr. Schneider, and said the agency “will take the same prompt removal action with any other improper hires we discover."

The spokesperson also said the agency will initiate an "independent, third-party clinical review" of Dr. Schneider's alleged faulty care practices highlighted by USA Today.

In an interview with USA Today, Dr. Schneider said he has not provided substandard care for the patients he treats. He reportedly blamed poor patient outcomes on the other providers involved in patients' treatments. He also claimed he had disclosed "all the issues" regarding previous malpractice claims on his job application to the VA .

Dr. Schneider was arrested in September on federal criminal charges of lying and attempting to conceal assets in his bankruptcy case in Montana. He allegedly pleaded guilty to the charges.

"I'm a neurosurgeon; neurosurgeons across the country get litigation because of complications related to surgery," Dr. Schneider told USA Today. "I've had a great run at the VA with zero issues. Have I had to take patients back [for surgery] for post-op infection? Yes. I mean, I can't prevent every infection."

To read the full USA Today report, click here.

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