VA deaths discussed in congressional hearing

PARKERSBURG — The suspicious deaths at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg were cited Wednesday at a congressional subcommittee meeting on preventing clinical harm to veterans.

Recent events in West Virginia and elsewhere were raised at the hearing streamed live of the House of Representatives Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations about policies and procedures for the reporting and addressing of problems at Veterans Affairs facilities and issues in provider care.

In West Virginia at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg, federal authorities are investigating the deaths of nine or 10 veterans under similar suspicious circumstances. Five of the veterans have been publicly identified, three of which have been determined as homicides after autopsies by a medical examiner, while Veterans Affairs officials say a person of interest no longer works at the medical center.

“These reports are sickening,” subcommittee Chairman Chris Pappas, D-N.H., said.

The department has not received a specific number of affected veterans, said Dr. Steven Lieberman, acting principal deputy under secretary for health, Veterans Health Administration, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

“We have not confirmed the numbers,” he said.

Also, the department is not proactively informing families of the veterans of the status of the investigation because it is not concluded, according to Lieberman.

“We have not reached out to anyone as this is an active investigation,” Lieberman said.

In addition to Lieberman, also testifying before the committee were: Sharon Silas, director of the Health Care Team, U.S. Government Accountability Office; Dr. John Daigh, assistant inspector general for healthcare inspections, Office of Inspector General U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; and Dr. Gerard Cox, deputy under secretary for health for organizational excellence of the Veterans Health Administration.


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