The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hired an Iowa doctor, accused of incompetence by the state licensing board, who immediately allegedly botched a surgery that led to a $950,000 settlement with the patient.
On October 16, 2015, Iowa regulators filed disciplinary charges against Dr. Alan R. Kaslow for “incompetence” and “disruptive behavior.” He received a fine and five years’ probation.
The next month, he was working for the VA in South Carolina, a move so surprising given his record that the Des Moines Register wrote about it at the time.
What the paper didn’t know back then was that within his first month on the job, a patient accused Kaslow of bungling a surgery. Kevin Langager said he was “basically gutted like a fish” by Kaslow, according to a new Register report revealing the financial settlement in which the federal government paid Langager to resolve the case.
Langager filed a lawsuit saying he “was left to be a guinea pig at the behest of the VA, which is supposed to advocate for the veterans of this country.”
Kaslow denied bungling Langager’s surgery, but said that VA settled to protect the federal agency’s own image by avoiding calling attention to its choice to hire someone with a troubled record.
“They basically settled because of their exposure because of what the Iowa board wrote — not because of anything I did,” Kaslow told the Register. He said the VA did not even interview him to get his side of the story about what happened with the South Carolina surgery before agreeing to shell out nearly $1 million in taxpayer money.
Nearly an identical situation occurred a few years prior. In 2011 another Des Moines surgeon, Robert Finley III, paid a fine to settle charges in Iowa related to mistakes that allegedly caused the deaths of six patients.
Then he was hired by a VA hospital in West Virginia, and in 2014, the family of a veteran sued the government alleging that Finley caused that patient’s death in 2013.
The VA has a long history of hiring those who no one else will and putting them in positions of trust.
An Illinois VA hospital hired Dr. John K. Sturman Jr. as its chief of opiate safety shortly after his privileges were suspended in Indiana when 35 patients died of drug issues in his care. The VA hired him in 2015 despite having lost his privileges in Indiana in 2012 and also been reprimanded in California. The VA has had major problems with the reckless administration of opiates in order to sedate patients.
Sturman was later hauled out of the hospital in handcuffs after Indiana prosecutors decided to take the case criminal. They said fifteen patients died of overdose or toxicity within a month of receiving treatment from him between 2009 and 2012, alleging he “recklessly killed another human … by writing and/or issuing prescriptions.” They said he had a pattern of giving obvious drug addicts frequently-abused drugs without medical cause, and billing the charges to Medicaid, the government healthcare program for the poor.
The VA also hired a human resources official fresh out of prison for breaking into the home of a judge, attacking his daughter in the shower and cutting her car’s brakes. At another hospital, a convicted child molester works in HR, saying “There’s no children in , so they figure I could not harm anyone here.”
At the highest levels of hospital leadership, the VA has a pattern of recycling failed managers through multiple states after performance scandals. Residents of the first state assume they have been removed as problem employees, but rather than go through the unwieldy federal employment termination process, the agency simply gives them top jobs at different hospitals.
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