Investigation uncovers questionable physician vetting at the VA

An investigation published this week by USA TODAY found that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hired physicians with histories of malpractice, legal complaints, and felony convictions. For example, neurosurgeon John Henry Schneider was hired in April to work in the VA hospital in Iowa City, Iowa, despite a dozen malpractice claims, settlements in two states, and having his medical license revoked in Wyoming. Schneider still has a medical license in Montana.

Federal law prohibits the VA from hiring a physician whose license has been revoked by a state board, even if he or she still hold an active license in another state. The VA still hired Schneider even though he disclosed the license revocation and other malpractice issues on his application. As a result of the investigation, VA officials determined Schneider’s hiring was illegal and moved to fire him last week. He chose to resign instead.

A VA spokesman said the VA would look into whether other physicians may had been improperly hired. USA Today’s investigation found that a psychologist was hired to work at a VA clinic in Lafayette, Louisiana, in 2004 despite disclosing felony convictions on his application. A criminal background check run on him a year later uncovered eight arrests. Those charges included burglary, drug dealing, and reckless driving resulting in death. The psychologist continued to practice at the VA but was fired earlier this year after receiving multiple complaints about patient mistreatment.

Psychiatrist Stephen Lester Greer was hired in 2013 to work at the VA hospital in Muskogee, Oklahoma, despite having multiple disciplinary actions against his Oklahoma license, including for sexual misconduct. His hiring was approved with the condition that he be monitored closely during a probation period. He went on to have a sexual relationship with a VA patient and pleaded guilty to witness tampering in August for attempting to persuade the patient to lie to federal investigators about the relationship.