By Sandra Basu
In addition, the agency is working to ensure that drug checks at medical facilities are performed and follow all requirements, according to VHA Deputy Undersecretary for Health for Organizational Excellence Carolyn Clancy, MD.
Clancy made her comments at a hearing held by a House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs subcommittee in late February that assessed VA’s risks for drug diversion.
The hearing was held in the wake of a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that found a failure by the VA to conduct required monthly inspections of facilities that house controlled substances and to always follow VHA inspection requirements when the inspections are performed.
Referring to recent news reports, Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Jack Bergman (R-MI) said “in case after case, what we see are examples of drugs being diverted for personal use or personal gain, yet there does not seem to be much progress being made by VA to correct the glaring problems that allow it to happen.”
Bergman said that issues of drug diversion “are in part a result of VA having inadequate procedures in place to safeguard against theft and diversion of controlled substances.”
GAO Director of Healthcare Randall Williamson told lawmakers that VHA requires medical facilities to conduct monthly inspections that follow procedures outlined by VA. GAO found in a review of four medical facilities it conducted from January 2015 to February 2016, however, that the oversight was inconsistent.
Williamson told lawmakers that he estimated that, overall, as few as 10% to 15% of VA facilities nationwide are following agency inspection procedures, making them vulnerable to drug diversion.
Meanwhile, Nicholas Dahl, VA OIG Deputy Assistant Inspector General for Audits and Evaluations, explained that, in recent years, his department has reported that VA facilities did not always comply with its own policy to drug-test applicants prior to appointment.