GO
Loading...

Whistleblowers shed light on VA abuse allegations

The G.V. (Sonny) Montgomery VA Medical Center in Jackson, Miss., has had seven whistleblowers, the most at any of the Department of Veteran Affairs' 153 hospitals across the country, according to congressional sources and the Office of Special Counsel.

Dr. Phyllis Hollenbeck, who works at the VA in Jackson, is one of the whistleblowers. Her complaints included an allegation that she experienced pressure to sign prescriptions without the opportunity to see the patients in question. And she said the hospital is not properly staffed.

"Essentially everything that happens in primary care at the Jackson VA can be included under the umbrella of being unethical, illegal, heartbreaking, and life threatening for the veterans," Hollenbeck said at a House Committee on Veterans Affairs Congressional Hearing in Pittsburgh in September.

Many of her complaints were substantiated by the office of special counsel. Its findings in a Sept. 17 report said that 75 percent of the total primary care unit staff consisted of nurse practitioners, compared with an average of 25 percent for the VA. It also concluded that the center's policy of prescribing narcotics was inconsistent with federal law.

(Read more: Rare disease at hospital raises concerns about VA health care)

In a statement to CNBC, the VA said, "VA welcomes recommendations of the Office of Special Counsel as an opportunity to evaluate our programs and identify areas for improvement. They also said, "The concerns raised pertaining to primary care staffing are still under review."

But the VA's undersecretary of Health, Dr. Robert Petzel, has downplayed the problems at the Jackson center in April.

"There have been some public kerfuffles in the paper that don't in my mind reflect the Jackson VA facility," Petzel said at a town hall meeting at the hospital.

The G.V. (Sonny) Montgomery VA Medical Center.
Source: U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs
The G.V. (Sonny) Montgomery VA Medical Center.

Despite Petzel's remarks, a CNBC investigation found current patients who have experienced problems. Among them:

CJ Jackson, a Purple Heart recipient and 101st Airborne medic, was severely wounded during a battle in Afghanistan when an enemy rocket-propelled grenade hit a wall a couple of feet from him, sending debris into his arm and leg. He said he waited over a year to see a doctor at the Jackson VA despite being considered critically injured.

Vietnam veteran Bob Slater has been going for care to the Jackson VA for decades. "They've diminished my quality of life, they've diminished my longevity."

(Watch more: Investigations Inc. uncovers alleged waste and abuse in the VA hospital system)

Slater claimed he's had kidney disease since 2004 but that no one at the VA said anything. He added that he discovered it in 2008, when he was able to access his medical records online.

Recently, Slater sought emergency medical treatment for what he says was renal failure. According to Slater, the VA took three hours to hydrate him and five hours to get him into a room.

The VA wouldn't comment on specific cases. But in a statement to CNBC, it said it is "deeply committed to providing the quality care and benefits our Nation's Veterans have earned and deserve. VA welcomes recommendations of the Office of Special Counsel as an opportunity to evaluate our programs and identify areas for improvement. ... Providing quality care to our Veterans remains our top priority. All employees are expected to help VA achieve its mission of providing Veterans the highest quality care possible. The Medical Center Director and other facility leaders maintain an open door policy for Veterans to speak with them about their concerns, and the Director and Under Secretary for Health have personally addressed the comments provided by them on comment cards at an April town hall meeting."

(Read more: Veterans fill skillsgap at manufacturing plants)

By CNBC's Jennifer Schlesinger and Dina Gusovsky. Follow Schlesinger on Twitter @jennyanne211 and Gusovsky @DinaGusovsky.

  • Andrea Day

    Andrea Day covers Crime & Punishment for CNBC. She and her team have reported nearly $1 billion in fraud this year.

Inside the SEC

  • The Treasury estimates that $21 billion in potentially fraudulent refunds due to identity theft could be issued in the next five years.

  • CNBC's Gary Kaminsky takes a look at the massive amount of digital data that pours into the SEC's enforcement division, which is in charge of investigating violations of securities laws.

  • CNBC's Gary Kaminsky spent time with SEC's Bruce Karpati to learn more about his division, which investigates allegations of fraud committed by investment advisers. Kaminsky reports that if you're breaking the law, the agency will find you.

Madoff Trustee: Investigations Inc

Selling the American Dream

Investigations Inc.: Cyber Espionage

  • When a person enters information on a website, like an email or credit card, it gets stored in that company’s data base. Those web-based forms are a simple tool for users, but they are also another way hackers can exploit a company’s system. Instead of inputting a name into the website, cyber spies can put in a specially crafted text that may cause the database to execute the code instead of simply storing it, Alperovitch said. The result is a “malicious takeover of the system,” he said.

    By attacking business computer networks, hackers are accessing company secrets and confidential strategies and creating huge losses for the overall economy.

  • China is working feverishly to counteract its slowest GDP growth in recent years, and one of the ways it’s doing so, say U.S. officials, is through the theft of American corporate secrets.

  • US businesses are enduring an unprecedented onslaught of cyber invasions from foreign governments, organized crime syndicates, and hacker collectives, all seeking to steal information and disrupt services, cybersecurity experts say.