VA Boots Agents During Surprise Inspection

The Department of Veterans Affairs turned away Florida state agents trying to review records at a VA hospital last week, a move that has drawn criticism from Gov. Rick Scott and moved the VA to consult attorneys about what authority the state may have.

The VA falls under federal jurisdiction, not state, and about an hour after two agents of Florida's Agency for Health Care Administration arrived for the April 3 surprise visit to the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center they were escorted out.

"Florida veterans deserve quality health care and I am disappointed," Scott said in a statement later the same day. "We expect the federal government to do what's best for our veterans and answer the many outstanding questions important to improving their health care."

The VA has said little about the incident. A VA spokeswoman in Florida said the department "is working with Governor Scott's office to address his concerns and [the] unannounced visit."

In Washington, a VA official speaking on background said the department has been talking to its attorneys about what authority, if any, the state may have to demand a look at VA records.  On Sunday The Tampa Tribune quoted FHCA spokeswoman Shelisha Durden as saying: "We have no authority to request or demand anything."

Durden told Military.com she never made that statement.

The state visit came three days after Scott announced during a press conference in West Palm Beach that he would direct the AHCA to investigate the care veterans are receiving at VA hospitals in the state.

Scott reportedly took the action after hearing that five veterans died while receiving care at VA hospitals in the region that includes Florida. 

The agency investigators went to the VA hospital in West Palm Beach and asked to see the center's risk management activities, policies and procedures.

They also sought documentation showing that employees were trained in risk management, the content of the training and more.

The VA said it is inspected by The Joint Commission, a hospital accreditation organization whose independent, non-profit panel that evaluates more than 20,000 health care facilities in the country.

And in addition to self-inspections and internal monitoring, the VA said in a statement, it is reviewed by dozens of independent medical and outside organizations. these include the VA Office of Inspector General, the American College of Radiology and even The American Legion.

"These organizations inspect our facilities and all facets of our health care system to help ensure VA consistently meets and exceeds industry standards," the statement said.

-- Bryant Jordan can be reached at bryant.jordan@monster.com.

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