Feds Investigate 11 Unexplained Deaths at West Virginia VAMC

by Brenda Mooney

September 13, 2019
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) recently met with officials at the Clarksburg VA hospital to discuss deaths at the facility and lack of answers to critical questions. (Photo from Manchin’s Twitter feed.)

CLARKSBURG, WV – Law enforcement officials announced recently that a criminal investigation has been launched to look into the unexplained deaths of as many as 11 patients at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center here.

The probe, described as “an ongoing and comprehensive federal criminal investigation” is being conducted by the U.S. Attorney’s office in West Virginia, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the VA Office of Inspector General.

Bill Powell, the West Virginia U.S. Attorney said the investigation “initiated as soon as potential criminal conduct was discovered and continues to be a top priority.   We fully understand the desire for a speedy resolution and need for closure. The VA will continue to coordinate with the affected families, but in order to protect the integrity of the investigation, we will not be making any additional comments until the investigation is complete.”

After the indictments came out in the case of an impaired pathologist in Arkansas, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) spoke to Michael Missal, the VA’s inspector general, and sent a letter to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie urging them to expedite the West Virginia investigation.

Manchin said his office was first notified by the VA’s OIG in July that at least nine in-patients at the Clarksburg VA hospital had been diagnosed with significant hypoglycemia of unclear cause over the past nine months, and a medical and criminal investigation had been opened.

In a call the next day, members of West Virginia’s congressional delegation heard from the director of the Clarksburg VAMC, according to Manchin, and were told that, in June, several doctors reported eight episodes of low blood sugar with no identified medical cause to the Clarksburg Quality Management (QM) team.

“I also ask you to contact grieving family members and share as much information as you can with them,” Manchin wrote. “Further, I ask you to establish a crisis hotline to answer questions from impacted veterans and their families. As of this morning seven families have reached out to me, and they deserve answers and all of our support.”

VA Secretary Robert Wilkie appeared on Fox News and urged that the investigation be completed as soon as possible. “I’ve been inquiring and demanding that this inspector general gives us the answers,” Wilkie said. “I am not privy to the particulars of these investigations. What I am asking is that [Missal] finally end his investigation so we can get answers to the families that they deserve.”

Missal’s office released a statement saying, “The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) has been working with our federal law enforcement partners to investigate the allegations of potential wrongdoing resulting in patient deaths at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg, West Virginia. At this time, we cannot comment further on those activities. As is always the case, the VA OIG works with the Department to identify and urgently address allegations related to patient safety. The care and safety of our veterans and their families remain our top priority.”

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