Opioids and other drugs have been disappearing from the Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals, stolen by employees. The VA inspector general's office filed 36 new criminal investigations, bringing the total number to a staggering 108 cases. These cases, according to CBS, involve "missing prescriptions, theft or unauthorized drug use. Most of those probes typically lead to criminal charges." This is a stark increase from last year's number, even though the VA promised to have a "zero tolerance" policy regarding drug theft:
Doctors, nurses or pharmacy staff in the VA's network of more than 160 medical centers and 1,000 clinics are suspected of siphoning away controlled substances for their own use or street sale - sometimes to the harm of patients - or drugs simply went missing without explanation.
Drug thefts are a growing problem at private hospitals as well as the government-run VA facilities as the illegal use of opioids has increased in the United States. But separate data from the Drug Enforcement Administration obtained by the AP under the Freedom of Information Act show the rate of reported missing drugs at VA health facilities was more than double that of the private sector. DEA investigators cited in part a larger quantity of drugs kept in stock at the larger VA medical centers to treat a higher volume of patients, both outpatient and inpatient, as well as for distribution of prescriptions by mail.
I can't imagine being so calloused toward the American military that you would take valuable pills away from veterans who need them just to make a buck or to get high. Congressional auditors also discovered that some VA hospitals -- at least four -- didn't even report their monthly drug stock inspections, even after having been warned. More from CBS:
"Inventories are always an issue as to who's watching or checking it," said Tom Prevoznik, a DEA deputy chief of pharmaceutical investigations. "That would always be part of any investigation we do, asking 'What are the employees doing, and who's watching them?'"
The Senate is expected to vote June 6 on VA accountability legislation that would give the agency "the tools necessary to remove employees who are failing to perform at the high-quality level." A lead sponsor of the bipartisan bill, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., pointed to the AP's findings as "troubling."
"The theft and misuse of prescription drugs, including opioids, by some VA employees is a good example of why we need greater accountability at the VA," he said.
This is inexcusable. The tightening restrictions and the "zero tolerance" policy have done nothing to stop the theft. How about more government accountability, period?
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