The primary complaint of health care providers employed by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is retaliation by management – including “sham peer reviews” and even dismissal – for speaking up about serious deficiencies in the VA’s medical system, several VA doctors said during a two-day meeting in Washington on how to improve veterans’ health care.
Dr. Rafael Montecino, a surgeon with the VA in eastern Kansas, complained that “when you try to make things more efficient, the system is working against you. They say that you are creating a hostile environment.”
And “when you complain, or you say like ‘You know, this is not the right thing,’ then you become a target and they gang together to get you out of there,” Dr. Montecino added.
Other complaints raised by VA physicians included inefficient scheduling systems, a lack of appropriate post-surgical care, lazy VA employees, and having their input ignored by VA management.
The discussion was hosted by the Foundation for Veterans Health Care (FHVC) and the National Association of Veterans Affairs Physicians and Dentists (NAVAPD) at the National Press Club prior to Thursday’s House and Senate hearings.
“I mean, you know, I got fired from the VA many times,” Rep. Dan Benishek (R-MI), chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs’ Subcommittee on Health who is also a doctor, commiserated with the physicians, dentists, and others talking about retaliation for complaining about substandard conditions in VA medical facilities,
“You have to be willing to put your career on the line, frankly,” Benishek told them, recounting that he had been fired by the VA himself for voicing his concerns, but that he was eventually re-hired because of the scarcity of surgeons in his rural area.
The majority of the doctors who testified complained of “sham peer reviews” – a name given to the abuse of a medical peer review process to attack a doctor for personal or other non-medical reasons.
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