Florida Sues for Right to Inspect VA Centers Accused of Poor Care

Thursday, 05 Jun 2014 06:07 PM

By Cathy Burke

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Florida's healthcare agency filed a lawsuit Thursday against the Department of Veterans Affairs to get the authority to inspect VA facilities around the state where there have been complaints of poor care and "deplorable" conditions.

The state's Agency for Health Care Administration suit alleges its agents were denied access to six VA facilities during April — in the wake of the lapse-in-care scandal that ended in the resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki.

The refusal to allow inspections at VA facilities in West Palm Beach, St. Petersburg, Lake City, Miami, Tampa and Gainesville, the suit charged, made it "abundantly clear to AHCA that [VA authorities] have no interest in partnering with AHCA to ensure the six VA hospitals and other VA-operated medical facilities in Florida meet minimum standards of patient care."

“I am committed to righting the wrongs experienced by Florida’s veterans at the hands of the federal VA, that has repeatedly failed to comply with minimum standards of patient safety," Gov. Rick Scott said in a statement.

"The VA has failed to provide necessary and timely care to those who have fought and defended America’s freedoms. This is why I called on AHCA to shine a light on this tragic situation."

The suit contained instances where patients or their families were appalled at the care and conditions they saw in facilities around the state.

One vet alleged his cancer treatment at a VA medical center was delayed for more than a year, while others described "deplorable conditions" at facilities.

The wife of one ailing St. Petersburg area vet charged the "poor care" he received at Bay Pines VA Medical Center forced her to buy private insurance so he could be treated at a non-VA facility.

"They’re not doing their job at Bay Pines, and they don’t care," she told the agency, the suit alleged.

The lawsuit was announced the same day a bipartisan deal was reached in the Senate to address major issues with the troubled VA.

The new bill would allow eligible veterans to use non-VA medical care if they experience long wait times or live more than 40 miles from the nearest VA hospital or clinic.

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