Coffman Conducts Hearing on VA Oversight of Drug Prescriptions and Medical Facilities

f t # e
Denver, CO, May 23, 2016 | comments
Denver, CO — On Friday, Representative Mike Coffman (CO-06), Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations, conducted a field hearing on VA’s oversight of drug prescription practices and proper use of medical facilities.
share: f t

Denver, CO — On Friday, Representative Mike Coffman (CO-06), Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations, conducted a field hearing on VA’s oversight of drug prescription practices and proper use of medical facilities.

“I convened this hearing to address numerous issues related to the Veterans Administration (VA) handling of prescription medications, oversight practices of controlled substances, and VA’s use of medical facilities to benefit veterans,” said Coffman who was joined by Ranking Member Representative Ann Kuster (D-NH) and Representative Doug Lamborn.

Witnesses at the hearing included Mr. Ralph Gigliati, Network Director, Veterans Integrated Service Network, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Ms. Sallie Houser-Hanfelder, Director, Eastern Colorado Health Care System, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Ellen Mangione, M.D. Chief of Staff, Eastern Colorado Health Care System, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

According to Coffman, the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee has held numerous hearings on the improper prescription practices of VA physicians.  In one of those hearings, the presentation included video of multiple VA medical employees stating how they were turning veterans into drug addicts.

“This hearing follows up on those revelations by looking at VA’s internal procedures,” continued Coffman. “Once again, this hearing demonstrated a disgraceful lack of accountability at the VA. In one instance of drug theft in VA, an employee was prosecuted by the Department of Justice and in a second instance, a VA nurse was indicted by a federal grand jury for stealing a narcotic – neither one of these employees was fired by VA.”

“Perhaps the most shocking incident was an employee shooting up narcotics in an operating room [Insert Link],” continued Coffman. “Two years after the incident, no disciplinary action has been taken. VA Secretary Robert McDonald once told me that he could not fire his way to success. It’s a good place to start in my opinion.”

Coffman continued, “It appears that current procedures at VA have created an environment where the VA’s medical practitioners have developed a prescribe-first mentality. Other poorly designed and implemented procedures have resulted in controlled substances winding up missing, stolen, or in the hands of the wrong person.”

One example of these internal procedures gone awry is at the current Denver VAMC. The Drug Enforcement Administration recently conducted a review of the Denver VAMC and it found dozens of problems that compromised the safety and legality of the facility’s prescription practices. 

Some of the findings include:

  • Mail room employees with controlled substance-related felony convictions with access to controlled substances. This calls into question whether VA conducts proper background checks prior to hiring.  DEA also found that the facility’s random drug testing was inadequate;
  • A wall-to-wall audit of inventories performed between February and July 2015 found 16 of the 27 medications audited did not balance when comparing receiving, dispensing, and destruction records; and
  • VA pharmacy and leadership failed to report theft or loss of controlled substances within DEA time requirements, and in some cases, failed to report them at all.

Other deficient practices include, the Denver VAMC’s oversight and management of research facilities. For example, numerous pieces of expensive scientific equipment are broken or unused. Further, boxes of patient information, some water damaged, from research studies dating back to 2011, remained stacked up in unsecured rooms during a visit made last month by a member of the committee’s staff.  

In some cases, research chemicals are also unsecured and unaccounted for within the laboratory.

Following the hearing, Coffman will work with members of the Committee to introduce a package of legislation that will reform VA’s drug practices.

“VA must focus on its core mission: providing quality services to our veterans,” continued Coffman.                                                  

Coffman serves on the House Armed Services Committee and House Veteran’s Affairs Committee, where he is the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. He is a Marine Corps combat veteran with service in both the first Gulf War and the Iraq War.

###

f t # e

Stay Connected

Use the form below to sign up for my newsletter and get the latest news and updates directly to your inbox.

Office Locations

  • Aurora District Office
    3300 S. Parker Road
    Cherry Creek Place IV Suite #305
    Aurora, CO 80014
    Phone: 720.748.7514
    Fax: 720.748.7680
    Hours: M-F 8:30 AM - 5:00 PM
    Meetings By Appointment Only
  • Washington, DC Office
    2443 Rayburn House Office Building
    Washington, DC 20515
    Phone: 202.225.7882
    Fax: 202.226.4623
    Hours: M-F 9:00 AM - 6:00 PM