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Drug Thefts At VA Hospitals Rise Twice As Fast As At Private Facilities
Despite efforts to curtail the theft of opioids and other drugs by employees at Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals, “the rate of reported missing drugs at VA health facilities was more than double that of the private sector,” according to an Associated Press exclusive.
“This is why the VA needs stronger inventory checks and balances and employee accountability,” Joe Davis, a spokesman for Veterans of Foreign Wars, told Task & Purpose in an email. “We cannot allow patients to receive watered-down medications, and we cannot allow thieves and drug dealers to thrive behind federal employee protections. Breaking the law and endangering others must come with immediate consequences, to include prosecution to the fullest extent of the law.”
Amid a nationwide opioid-addiction crisis, medical facilities everywhere have been crunched by drug thefts. But since last October, investigators have opened 36 new theft cases in VA facilities — bringing the department’s total number of open investigations into pilfered prescriptions to 108, according to data from the Drug Enforcement Agency obtained by the AP through a Freedom of Information Act request. That’s well ahead of the 2016 pace, in which VA reported 2,397 drug losses or thefts.
There are more instances of drug theft in private hospitals — but there are also many more private hospitals than VA centers, meaning the VA’s overall drug-theft rate is actually higher.
That spike may partly be a function of the VA’s tougher oversight of drug losses in recent years, Davis told Task & Purpose.
“The tighter the oversight the more incidents that will be reported, initially, because an apex will be reached,” he said. “Whether it’s a fair comparison is debatable, because the VA is required to report whereas the private sector isn’t, unless law enforcement is called in, and then you might only get a snapshot instead of the full picture because the private sector can just fire you instead of risking the embarrassment of public knowledge.”
Following a Feb. 20 report by the Associated Press on the theft of prescription drugs, the VA announced new measures to curtail theft of prescription drugs, including employee drug tests, inspections, and reviews of data in order to identify problems, but “criminal investigators said it was hard to say whether new safeguards are helping,” the Associated Press reports.
In the meantime, VA Secretary David Shulkin and allies in Congress are using the stats as evidence that the department needs freer reign to discipline and fire VA employees. Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida told the AP that "the theft and misuse of prescription drugs, including opioids, by some VA employees is a good example of why we need greater accountability at the VA."
2 years after the Fitzgerald and McCain collisions, the Navy has no idea if its new ship-driving training is working
Two years after a pair of deadly collisions involving Navy ships killed 17 sailors and caused hundreds of millions of dollars of damage, the Navy still can't figure out whether its plan to improve ship-driving training has been effective.
In fact, according to senior Navy officials quoted in a recent Government Accountability Office report on Navy ship-driving, it could take nearly 16 years or more to know if the planned changes will actually have an impact.
The command chief of the 20th Fighter Wing at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, was removed from his position last month after his chain of command received evidence he disrespected his subordinates.
An Air Force private housing company faked its maintenance records to get millions of dollars in bonuses
SAN ANTONIO, Texas (Reuters) - A U.K. company that provides housing to U.S. military families came under official investigation earlier this year, after Reuters disclosed it had faked maintenance records to pocket performance bonuses at an Oklahoma Air Force base.
At the time, Balfour Beatty Communities said it strove to correctly report its maintenance work. It blamed any problems on a sole former employee at the Oklahoma base.
Now, Reuters has found that Balfour Beatty employees systematically doctored records in a similar scheme at a Texas base.
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on ProPublica.
It was 10 p.m. on Jan. 15, 2018, when the phone rang in Navy Cmdr. Bryce Benson's home tucked into a wooded corner of Northern Virginia.
Benson had just gotten into bed, and his chest tightened as he saw the number was from Japan. It was his Navy attorney calling. The lawyer said he wished he had better news, but he'd get right to the point: The Navy was going to charge Benson with negligent homicide the following day.
Benson, 40, stared at the ceiling in the dark, repeating the serenity prayer as his feet pedaled with anxiety. Next to him, his wife, Alex, who'd followed him through 11 postings while raising three kids, sobbed.
Seven months earlier, Benson had been in command of the destroyer the USS Fitzgerald when it collided with a massive civilian cargo ship off the coast of Japan, ripping open the warship's side. Seven of his sailors drowned, and Benson was almost crushed to death in his cabin. It was then the deadliest maritime accident in modern Navy history.
Benson, who'd served for 18 years, accepted full responsibility. Two months after the crash, the commander of the Pacific fleet fired Benson as captain and gave him a letter of reprimand, each act virtually guaranteeing he'd never be promoted and would have to leave the service far earlier than planned. His career was essentially over.
Then, days later, another of the fleet's destroyers, the USS John S. McCain, collided with a civilian tanker, killing 10 more sailors. The back-to-back collisions exposed the Navy to bruising questions about the worthiness of its ships and the competency of the crews. Angry lawmakers had summoned the top naval officer, Adm. John Richardson, to the Hill.
Under sustained fire, Navy leaders needed a grand, mollifying gesture. So, in a nearly unprecedented move in its history, the Navy decided to treat an accident at sea as a case of manslaughter. Hastily cobbling together charges, the Navy's top brass announced — to the shock of its officers — that the captains of both destroyers would be court-martialed for the sailors' deaths.
The Navy told ProPublica that “given the tragic loss of life, scope and complexity of both collisions," it had an “obligation to exercise due diligence" and its investigation had “informed charges against" Benson and the captain of the McCain.
To many officers, the Navy had gone too far. “There was a deflection campaign," one admiral said recently, likening the Navy's response to shielding itself from an exploding grenade. “It was pretty clear Richardson wanted to dampen the frag pattern."
Even then, no one, least of all Benson, could have predicted how relentless the Navy's pursuit of him would be.