Congressional Hearing into Alleged Painkiller Abuse at Tomah VA Starts Monday | WUWM

Staff at the Tomah VA is accused of over-prescribing painkillers and retaliating against people who blew the whistle. Before federal leaders decided to act, a 35-year-old marine died of an overdose there, last year.

Federal officials acknowledge that problems likely extend beyond Tomah. Carolyn Clancy, Interim Under Secretary for Health for the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs, recently told the Senate Veterans Committee that the number of veterans who suffer from chronic pain appears daunting. She put the rate, among those returning from service in the Middle East, at 60 percent.

“Many of our veterans have survived severe battlefield injuries, some repeated, resulting in life-long moderate to severe pain related to muscular-skeletal and permanent nerve damage. This can impact not only their physical abilities but also their emotional health and brain structures,” Clancy said.

When a person suffers from two or more disorders or illnesses, they’re known as co-morbid conditions. Those patients can be particularly at risk for developing addictions to painkillers, because treatment is complex. Clancy says it has to blend care for both the physical and emotional pain and, too often, the narcotics prescribed, have included opioids. They’re known for their addictive nature.

via Congressional Hearing into Alleged Painkiller Abuse at Tomah VA Starts Monday | WUWM.

Former VA doctor, patient charged with prescription fraud :: WRAL.com

NVILLE, N.C. — A former physician at the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs Health Care Center in Greenville and one of her former patients have been charged with prescription medicine fraud, authorities said Friday.

Dr. Elizabeth McNeil Byrd, 47, of 1900 Tottenham Court in Winterville, and Brock Lauren Parrish, 29, of 7282 Allen Road in Lucama, were each charged with seven counts of obtaining controlled substances by fraud or forgery. Both surrendered to Pitt County authorities on Wednesday; Byrd was released on a written promise to appear in court, and Parrish was released on a $25,000 unsecured bond.

Pitt County deputies and agents with the VA Office of Inspector General began investigating allegations of prescription fraud at the Greenville health center in December 2013, authorities said. During the investigation, they found multiple prescriptions written by Byrd for Parrish, a veteran she was treating, that were filled outside the VA pharmacy, which isn’t standard procedure.

When questioned by VA administrators and a local pharmacist, Byrd said the prescriptions may have been stolen and forged. VA prescriptions with Byrd’s name continued to appear at local pharmacies even after she left the VA center, however, and investigators determined that she was receiving some of the narcotics from the prescriptions, authorities said.

After her arrest, Byrd voluntarily surrendered her medical license to the North Carolina Medical Board, authorities said.

via Former VA doctor, patient charged with prescription fraud :: WRAL.com.

Troubled Iowa veteran sought help from VA hospital before freezing to death – CNN.com

On February 15, Iraq War veteran Richard Miles entered a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Des Moines, Iowa, and told the staff: “I need help,” according to hospital records obtained by CNN.

He had told friends he was going to check himself in. He was diagnosed with “worsened PTSD,” anxiety and insomnia, but Miles was not admitted to the hospital.

Five days later the 40-year-old father was found dead in the woods, having taken a toxic amount of sleeping pills, according to a toxicology report obtained by CNN. He died from exposure to the elements.

Now those who loved him want to know why the VA hospital did not admit him when he showed up that night.

“That was his cry for help and it was not taken seriously or received the way it should have been received,” said Katie Hopper, his ex-girlfriend and mother to their daughter Emmalynn.

Miles was one of the premiere presenters at the Science Center of Iowa, a beloved employee popular with the staff and guests.

“He was passionate and knowledgeable about science himself and it went beyond that. His passion extended to sharing that knowledge with others,” said Science Center of Iowa President and CEO Curt Simmons. Miles’ image was featured prominently in YouTube videos and advertisements for the museum; a large photograph bearing his image stands outside the center.

What this popular Iraq war veteran did not share with most, is that he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

“He knew the date, and where he was when he had shot and killed people in the war,” says Hopper. “He was very, very aware of what he was doing, that he was ending people’s lives, even if it was for the greater good.” The memory of an interrogation incident with a frail, old Iraqi man upset him quite a bit, she recalled.

via Troubled Iowa veteran sought help from VA hospital before freezing to death – CNN.com.

Battle of the watchdogs: Treasury, VA inspectors general trade barbs over contracting report | Star Tribune

The inspector general’s office at the Department of Veterans Affairs is defending its actions after the office came under unusual criticism from its counterpart at the Treasury Department.

In a report in December, the VA inspector’s office found that a former VA procurement officer improperly steered $15 million in uncompetitive contracts to a friend’s company. The report also accused the former official, Iris Cooper, of a “lack of candor” during the IG’s investigation.

The VA report sparked a rare and sharp rebuke from the Treasury Department’s inspector general, who said the allegations against Cooper were unsupported and based on a complaint by a VA supervisor that Cooper had complained about for creating a hostile work environment. Cooper is now a top contracting official with the Treasury Department.

Eric Thorson, the Treasury IG, said his review found that while Cooper knew two officers of the company that received the contract, Ohio-based Tridec Technologies, she did not award the contract nor did she improperly influence those who did. Thorson said the VA report “calls into question the integrity of the VA OIG’s actions.”

Maureen Regan, a top official at the VA inspector’s office who wrote the VA report, called Thorson’s letter unfounded and improper. She told a congressional committee Monday night that she stands behind the original report and has referred Thorson’s actions to a committee that oversees federal inspectors general.

The chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee said he found VA’s actions in the Cooper case troubling.

“The implication that VA OIG was acting as a retaliatory arm of a VA executive who had a score to settle with another employee is downright disturbing and demands further investigation,” said Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla.

via Battle of the watchdogs: Treasury, VA inspectors general trade barbs over contracting report | Star Tribune.

Indy VA Manager Robin Paul suspended after email scandal – TheIndyChannel.com

INDIANAPOLIS – A manager at the Roudebush Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Indianapolis was removed from her position Tuesday after an inappropriate email surfaced.

Robin Paul served as manager of the Seamless Transition Integrated Care Clinic and was accused of sending an email that reflected poorly on the staff.

In December, Paul sent an email to her staff that allegedly mocked the mental health of returning combat veterans.

Director Tom Mattice said that Paul’s actions were dishonorable.

via Indy VA Manager Robin Paul suspended after email scandal – TheIndyChannel.com.

Veteran and former VA doctor charged with prescription fraud

The Pitt County Sheriff’s Office has charged a veteran and former VA doctor with prescription fraud.Deputies say in December 2013, they received a complaint of possible prescription fraud occurring at local pharmacies in Pitt County from July 15, 2013 through October 4, 2013.They say the prescriptions in question were generated from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs Health Care Center in Greenville.As a result of the investigation, detectives and agents with the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs Office of Inspector General discovered that 47-year-old Dr. Elizabeth McNeil Byrd of Winterville was treating veteran 29-year-old Brock Lauren Parrish of Lucoma at the VA center.Deputies say Dr. Byrd wrote multiple prescriptions to Parrish over the course of his treatment and several were filled outside of the VA’s pharmacy, which is not standard procedure.Detectives discovered that Dr. Byrd was questioned by a local pharmacist and the VA administration about the prescriptions, which Byrd reported the prescriptions were possibly stolen and forged.During June 2013, Dr. Byrd left her position at the VA center, yet detectives found she still was writing prescriptions to Parrish after leaving. Interviews indicated that several of the narcotics received from these prescription fills were ultimately received by Dr. Byrd.On March 16, detectives and agents obtained warrants and charged both Dr. Elizabeth McNeil Byrd and Brock Lauren Parrish with 7 counts of Obtaining Controlled Substance by Fraud/Forgery each.Both Byrd and Parrish turned themselves in March 18th. Byrd signed herself out on a written promise while Parrish received a $25,000 unsecured Bond.Byrd voluntarily surrendered her medical license to the North Carolina Medical Board.

via Veteran and former VA doctor charged with prescription fraud.

Family sues over Des Moines VA hospital death

A negligence lawsuit has been filed by family members of a Pomeroy man who died at a Des Moines hospital after a nurse with a history of disciplinary problems purposefully shut off alarms monitoring patients’ conditions.

Michael Deal, 65, died in March 2013 at Veterans’ Administration Central Iowa Healthcare System one day after he went to the hospital for treatment of a foot infection caused by diabetes. Deal’s body was found around 11:45 p.m. after oxygen levels in his blood dropped undetected for three hours.

In a hearing for unemployment benefits, nurse Bernard Nesbit admitted that he turned off alarms that night that would’ve alerted staff to Deal’s condition. The Veterans’ Administration fired Nesbit, and he’s also named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

During the hearing, Nesbit told an administrative law judge that he turned off the alarms because they always went off, even when patients didn’t need help.

via Family sues over Des Moines VA hospital death.

VA Dentist Convicted of Stealing Gold from Omaha VA Hospital

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A 59-year-old dentist has been convicted of stealing dental gold and equipment when he worked at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Omaha.

A federal judge entered his ruling on Tuesday against Randall Toothaker. In December he’d pleaded no contest to theft. His sentencing is scheduled for April 9, and he faces up to 10 years in federal prison.

Investigators say Toothaker stole more than $16,000 in dental gold and equipment from a locked cabinet in 2013. An officer stopped Toothaker while he was leaving the property.

via Dentist Convicted of Stealing Gold from Omaha VA Hospital.

VA hospital manager on leave for ‘offensive’ email about mental illness – CNN.com

(CNN)A manager at an Indiana Veterans Hospital has been placed on paid administrative leave after sending a “completely and totally unacceptable” email apparently mocking mental illness.

The email, sent by Robin Paul, “in no way reflects the attitudes of our staff toward our patients,” Roudebush VA Medical Center Director Tom Mattice said in a statement posted on the hospital’s Facebook page.

Paul, a licensed clinical social worker, had been managing the Seamless Transition Integrated Care Clinic, which is responsible for assisting new veterans with their VA benefits, services and programs, to include mental health, according to the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Her email, first published by the Indy Star this week, was sent December 18 to members of her team and shows four photos of an elf in different scenarios. Two of the photos have struck a nerve with the veterans and mental illness communities.

via VA hospital manager on leave for ‘offensive’ email about mental illness – CNN.com.