An employee at the VA's Charlie Norwood Medical Center in Augusta, GA is facing federal charges on 50 counts of falsifying medical records. The charges state that the employee's actions prevented veterans from getting the healthcare they needed.
Cathedral Henderson, 50, of Martinez, GA, made his first court appearance in U.S. District Court on Friday and was released on $15,000 bond.
According to the indictment, Henderson, the supervisor of the Non-VA Care Coordination department at the Augusta VA Hospital from 2012 to 2014, cancelled pending appointments by falsely stating in the patients records that "services have been completed or patient refused services.” The indictment also states that Henderson "ordered subordinate employees to falsify records in the same manner."
The Non-VA Care department coordinates appointments for veterans who require specific care from civilian doctors, normally these services are unavailable at the local VA medical facility.
In the 50 count indictment it was listed that 45 patients were seeking mammograms, two were seeking medical imaging services, one was awaiting an ultrasound, and one needed surgery. If convicted, Henderson faces a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each count.
A statement released by the VA after the indictment says Henderson's access to all VA systems was terminated and he has been placed on administrative leave.
“The crimes alleged in this indictment are troubling," says United States Attorney Edward Tarver, "Our VA officials and employees are entrusted with the health and welfare of some of the most honorable and vulnerable in our nation – our veterans. Patients, doctors, nurses and hospitals rely heavily upon the truth and accuracy of our permanent medical records. The intentional falsification of veterans' medical records is a serious offense and will not be tolerated.”
Henderson's attorney, Keith B. Johnson, said Friday that "The problems at the VA were systemic and documented nationally." Henderson “was following the directive of his supervisors, and that will come out in court documents.” He also stated that Henderson, a 20 year VA employee and Army veteran, “understood the importance of his role in assisting our country's heroes and took pride in assisting fellow veterans. He is eager to defend his good name in federal court.”
Problems with scheduling are not new to Augusta. In 2011, 4,580 endoscopy referrals in the hospital's gastrointestinal clinic were delayed, causing three cancer-related deaths and four patients to experience worsening conditions.