Grassley, Ernst Issue Statement on Latest Regarding Omaha VA Waitlist

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Following a letter of response from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) regarding a recent report that details unauthorized waiting lists outside of the VA patient tracking system for some mental health appointments that date back to 2006, Iowa’s U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst this week each met with VA Deputy Secretary Tom Bowman. Following these meetings, the Iowa Senators issued the following joint statement:

“During our meetings, we each stressed that prompt care for our veterans is absolutely critical. As we’ve made clear, it’s important that our veterans and the public know what disciplinary measures are being applied by the VA.

“Deputy Secretary Bowman stated that individuals identified as being culpable for the secret waitlists will be held accountable. In the two cases he referenced, the individuals resigned and the circumstances regarding their departure will be part of their record. The VA has pledged to provide documentation on the disciplinary action taken against each of the culpable employees. The VA has also committed to issuing further guidance to make it absolutely clear that unofficial waitlists are not permissible. We will continue to hold the VA accountable and ensure they follow through on these commitments.”

Additionally, the VA stated that they are working to assess the situation at the Iowa City VA and will be answering the questions in the letter sent by Senators Grassley and Ernst yesterday, following a disturbing report that shed light on hiring practices at VA hospitals.

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Republican Senators Author Plan to Resolve DACA Situation, Improve Integrity & Confidence in Immigration System

WASHINGTON – A group of senators led by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) today introduced legislation to protect and provide certainty to DACA recipients, and improve the lawful immigration system by targeting illegal immigration and criminal aliens.  The Security, Enforcement, and Compassion United in Reform Efforts, (SECURE) Act contains provisions from several immigration proposals, including Senator Dick Durbin’s (D-Ill.) bipartisan BRIDGE Act, which protects DACA recipients from deportation.

The SECURE Act is cosponsored by senators John Cornyn (R-Texas), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.).

“This legislation combines common sense border security and interior enforcement reforms with Senators Graham’s and Durbin’s bipartisan solution on DACA. It restores integrity to our immigration system by cracking down on illegal immigration and criminal immigrants, while recognizing the circumstances of those brought here through no fault of their own. This bill improves public safety and prosperity for Americans and immigrants alike, and ensures tragedies like the deaths of Kate Steinle and Sarah Root never happen again. This is a bill that our colleagues from both sides of the aisle should be able to support. President Trump is ready and willing to sign it, so it’s time for Congress to get it done,” Grassley said

“This bill provides a real, bipartisan solution for those brought here by their parents illegally who now find themselves in limbo. The SECURE Act gives us the chance to both help these young adults and win back public confidence by securing our borders and enforcing our immigration laws,” Cornyn said.

“Congress has a responsibility to secure our borders and address the legal uncertainty facing the DACA-eligible population. The SECURE Act takes concrete steps to accomplish both objectives by helping prevent future illegal immigration while providing Congress with more time to work on a long-term solution for undocumented children,” Tillis said.

“An essential part of national security is border security. Every nation has the right to know who comes into their country. For decades, the United States has ignored obvious issues in our immigration policy, which has only made the problem worse. The President and many Members of Congress believe a DACA solution should be combined with a permanent fix to the many broken elements in our nation’s border security and immigration system. The SECURE Act is a first step to bring everyone to the table to negotiate a common-sense solution to DACA and issues related to illegal immigration. It is my hope that in the months ahead, Republicans and Democrats will come together so that we can provide the certainty that families deserve and the border security our country desperately needs,” Lankford said.

“This bill draws upon ideas supported by members of both parties to provide legal status to the thousands of young people who are here through no fault of their own—without encouraging more illegal immigration in the future. This legislation would go a long way to building an immigration system that supports the American worker, and there’s simply no good reason for either party to oppose it,” Cotton said.

“Our outdated and broken immigration system is an economic and national security issue that we have got to fix. As it stands today, our immigration policies encourage illegal immigration, existing laws are being ignored by rogue cities, and our country’s southern border is not secure. Furthermore, green-cards are primarily awarded through a chain migration system that does not prioritize skill and merit. In this proposal, we’ve taken steps to fix these problems and more. It’s time we have an immigration system that meets our country’s economic needs, protects our national security, prioritizes the well-being of Americans, and truly discourages illegal immigration,” Perdue said.

The SECURE Act includes various border security provisions, such as additional human and technological resources on the border and fencing in certain areas. It also provides more judicial resources to reduce backlogs in immigration court and target fraud. The bill seeks to improve community safety and cooperation by eliminating so-called “sanctuary” policies that inhibit enforcement and it provides expedited removal for individuals involved in certain criminal activities. 

The SECURE Act permanently reauthorizes the proven E-Verify program and encourages greater voluntary enrollment to strengthen our legal workforce and encourage legal immigration. It also limits family migration to spouses and minor children.

Finally, the bill includes the BRIDGE Act, which was cosponsored by senators Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Chuck Schumer ( D-N.Y.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.).  This bill protects the status of the approximately 690,000 current DACA recipients for three years.

Legislative text is available HERE.

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Iowa Senators Seek Answers on Iowa City VA Hiring Practices

Washington, DC – Today, Iowa Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) expressing concern and seeking information over a disturbing report that shines a light on hiring practices at VA hospitals, including the Iowa City VA.

The senators wrote, “It should go without saying that physicians hired by the VA should be fit to practice and have a track record of providing quality care. However, a disturbing report in USA Today found that the VA has knowingly hired providers who have a history of providing substandard care.

“A neurosurgeon featured in the article had ‘a dozen malpractice claims and settlements in two stats’ and had his license revoked in one state, yet he was hired to work at the Iowa City VA this April.” The Iowa senators noted that this hiring goes against the Veterans Health Administration Handbook.

The report specifically cites an Iowa City VA neurosurgeon who was hired even though “licensure revocation and other malpractice claims were on his application,” all of which should have prevented him from being lawfully employed by the VA in the first place.

Senators Grassley and Ernst are now seeking answers from the VA as to how this individual was hired, and the actions the VA will take if they determine other providers were hired illegally. Additionally, the Senators requested insight into the VA’s hiring practices to better ensure that Iowa’s veterans receive the care they deserve.

The full text of the letter is available below.

 

December 4, 2017

The Honorable David Shulkin                                                      

Secretary      

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Washington DC 20420

Dear Secretary Shulkin:

Veterans who receive care through the VA deserve the highest standard of care available. This high standard applies throughout an entire episode of care, but is most critical when a veteran sees their physicians. It should go without saying that physicians hired by the VA should be fit to practice and have a track record of providing quality care. However, a disturbing report in USA Today found that the VA has knowingly hired providers who have a history of providing substandard care.

A neurosurgeon featured in the article had “a dozen malpractice claims and settlements in two states” and had his license revoked in one state, yet he was hired to work at the Iowa City VA this April. His hiring goes against Veterans Health Administration Handbook 1100.19 which states:

“Applicants…who had such license, registration, or certification revoked for professional misconduct, professional incompetence, or substandard care by any of those States, or voluntarily relinquished a license, registration or certification in any of those States after being notified in writing by that State of potential termination for professional misconduct, professional incompetence, or substandard care, are not eligible for appointment.”

According to the report, the neurosurgeon’s licensure revocation and other malpractice claims were on his application. It is unacceptable that it was only as a result of USA Today’s report that the VA determined that hiring this neurosurgeon was illegal.

Accordingly please provide the following:

1)      Please describe the “incorrect” guidance that was given to hospital officials in Iowa City that led to the hiring of the neurosurgeon.

2)      On his application the neurosurgeon listed the previous malpractice suits and the revocation of his medical license. As part of his contract with the VA, was the neurosurgeon required to be monitored while providing care?

3)      The VA is initiating an “independent, third-party clinical review” of the care the neurosurgeon provided. Will the results of the third-party review be shared with the patients and their families?

4)      What steps is the VA taking to determine how many providers at the Iowa City VA were hired illegally and what actions will the VA take if they determine that additional providers were hired illegally?

5)      What discretion do VA hospital officials have in regard to hiring providers who have not had their licenses revoked but have had problems with their State Licensing boards?

Thank you for your attention. Please respond by December 11, 2017.

Sincerely,

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