The Department of Veteran Affairs was already rocked with a major scandal when it was discovered that they were intentionally falsifying appointment records leading to months and years in delaying treatment for thousands of veterans. A number of veterans died while waiting to be seen by doctors or treated for their serious illnesses.
Now a second scandal is about to rock the VA as reports are surfacing that they have been using unauthorized and counterfeit medical supplies and surgical devices to treat our nation’s veterans. Some of these questionable supplies have worked their way into operating rooms at many of the VA hospitals.
The news is based upon internal memos from Johnson & Johnson along with information supplied by some VA officials. In the 2012 memo, Johnson & Johnson, the world’s largest supplier of medical devices, warned the VA that they (the VA) were purchasing surgical supplies from unauthorized distributors through what they referred to as the ‘grey market.’ The memo went on to say that some of those unauthorized supplies could pose serious questions to patient safety.
One company official wrote:
“We do not believe that the VA intended for its efforts to utilize new procurement tools such as reverse auctions to result in these outcomes.”
Other warnings were given to the VA informing them that some of the ‘grey market’ supplies they were purchasing from the unauthorized providers were stolen from other hospitals and then being re-sold to the VA.
One example involved the procurement of a surgical device known as a trocar, a device that is inserted through the abdomen of a patient during laparoscopic surgery, which allows other instruments to be inserted into the abdomen. This specific trocar was delivered to a VA hospital in South Carolina wrapped in packaging that had been yellowed and held together with rubber bands. Paul Smith, a government account director for the company told the VA:
“The product being sold may not have been stored properly (high temperature, high humidity, no pest control, etc.), which could create patient risk.”
Early in 2012, Jan Frye, a contracting official put a stop to using reverse auctions to purchase supplies for the VA, but strong lobbying by FedBid, a politically connected contractor that handled the VA reverse auction program, was able to get the program going again in a relatively short time.
The Inspector General’s office investigated the reverse auction purchasing by FedBid for the VA and issued a very cutting report earlier this year. They recommended that FedBid be disbarred for their practices. Shortly after the IO report was issued, Susan Taylor, the procurement official for the VA resigned.
From the information concerning the reverse auction purchasing of stolen and dangerous unauthorized supplies and equipment, this practice was placing our veterans that were being treated in danger of serious complications and infections. Worse yet is that this was taking place at the same time that thousands of veterans were being kept from getting treatment at VA hospitals all over the nation. Some vets died waiting and those that did manage to get treated were possibly being placed in danger by the bogus equipment the VA was buying.
Sadly, the almighty dollar has become more important than the lives and health of our veterans. These men and women served our nation and in many cases sacrificed limbs and health in preserving our freedoms and they deserve the best medical treatment, not the worst.