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A Major VA Medical Center Gave Veterans Inaccurate HIV Test Results, Investigation Finds
At least eight military veterans who were tested for HIV at the Miami VA Medical Center received a different result when they were screened for a second time by an outside lab — a discrepancy discovered only after an employee at the Miami facility complained to outside agencies and the White House that local managers were ignoring his concerns, according to an independent federal investigator.
The Department of Veterans Affairs investigated the complaints and said it was unable to substantiate the employee’s claims after a four-day visit to the Miami VAMC in October 2016.
On Wednesday the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, an independent federal investigative agency, called the VA’s findings “unreasonable” and expressed “incredulity” that the Miami VAMC complied with new HIV testing policy only after the employee complained to outside agencies.
In a letter to President Trump, Special Counsel Henry J. Kerner said VA investigators were unable to substantiate the claims because they loosely interpreted the deadline for the Miami VAMC to comply with the new HIV testing policy.
Kerner added that Miami VAMC officials failed to respond to concerns raised by the employee, Roman Miguel, a lab director, until after Miguel complained to the OSC in May 2016 and hand-delivered a notice to Miami VAMC Director Paul Russo on June 30, 2016.
“I am incredulous that compliance with Directive 1113 [the policy] and implementation of fourth generation HIV testing occurred only after Mr. Miguel’s disclosures and OSC’s intercession,” Kerner wrote in the letter.
Kerner noted that the OSC also asked VA Sec. David Shulkin to report on whether all of the agency’s medical facilities around the country were using the latest HIV testing procedures as required by the 2015 policy.
Shane Suzuki, public affairs officer for the Miami VA Healthcare System, which oversees the medical center, said administrators “strongly disagree” with the OSC’s allegations.
“As VA mentioned in its formal response provided to the OSC in January 2017, we did not substantiate any of the allegations; rather, VA confirmed compliance with VA and CDC recommendations and did not validate a public health risk,” Suzuki said in a written statement. “A comprehensive review of patients revealed they were tested under the appropriate CDC-approved alternative HIV testing procedures pending the receipt and installation of new laboratory equipment.”
The new HIV testing policy, known as Directive 1113, was implemented in May 2015 and involves general processes and programs for HIV testing as part of the VA’s routine medical care. It includes guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for recommended and alternate testing sequences that updated the standard used since 1987.
Each VA medical facility is required to establish a written testing policy, and to follow requirements and processes for obtaining oral consent for HIV testing. The policy also details procedures for performing HIV tests and establishes timely notification of results in order to link newly diagnosed patients with the appropriate medical care.
But the VA’s investigation identified eight veterans whose HIV test results from outside labs differed from the Miami VAMC’s test results — including one patient who was deemed “high risk” for HIV and tested positive for the virus after follow up screening.
In a second case, the Miami VAMC tried at least five times between June and December 2016 to contact a veteran with differing HIV test results. Eventually, the veteran returned for repeat screening and tested positive for HIV. The remaining six veterans with differing results returned to the Miami VAMC for retesting and were negative.
It’s unclear how many HIV tests from the Miami VAMC were sent to an outside lab. But the VA’s investigative report notes that the eight cases identified were produced by the Miami VAMC in response to the agency’s request for all differing test results from Oct. 1, 2015 to Oct. 11, 2016.
Reached by phone on Wednesday, Miguel said he was unaware of the OSC’s letter to the president and unprepared to comment. But he added that Miami VAMC administrators had taken steps to ensure the integrity of the facility’s HIV testing process.
“I’m happy that this came out,” Miguel said, “because it’s for the best of the patient. That’s what we want to do here. We try to give the patient what they need.”
©2018 Miami Herald. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
'What happens after that is out of their control' — Former military leaders and lawyers react to Trump's war crimes pardons
On Friday, President Donald Trump intervened in the cases of three U.S. service members accused of war crimes, granting pardons to two Army soldiers accused of murder in Afghanistan and restoring the rank of a Navy SEAL found guilty of wrongdoing in Iraq.
While the statements coming out of the Pentagon regarding Trump's actions have been understandably measured, comments from former military leaders and other knowledgable veterans help paint a picture as to why the president's Friday actions are so controversial.
Raccoon infestations and extreme rust didn’t stop an anonymous buyer from nabbing this Soviet-era submarine
A former Soviet submarine that became a tourist attraction docked adjacent to the Queen Mary in Long Beach is expected to be sold soon to an anonymous buyer, with plans to remove the rusting sub by mid-May.
The 48-year-old Russian Foxtrot-class submarine, known as the Scorpion, had hosted paying visitors for 17 years before it fell into such disrepair that it became infested with raccoons and was closed to the public in 2015.
Former Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance, whom President Donald Trump recently pardoned of his 2013 murder conviction, claims he was nothing more than a pawn whom generals sacrificed for political expediency.
The infantry officer had been sentenced to 19 years in prison for ordering his soldiers to open fire on three unarmed Afghan men in 2012. Two of the men were killed.
During a Monday interview on Fox & Friends, Lorance accused his superiors of betraying him.
"A service member who knows that their commanders love them will go to the gates of hell for their country and knock them down," Lorance said. "I think that's extremely important. Anybody who is not part of the senior Pentagon brass will tell you the same thing."
"I think folks that start putting stars on their collar — anybody that has got to be confirmed by the Senate for a promotion — they are no longer a soldier, they are a politician," he continued. "And so I think they lose some of their values — and they certainly lose a lot of their respect from their subordinates — when they do what they did to me, which was throw me under the bus."
Fifteen years after the U.S. military toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein, the Army's massive two-volume study of the Iraq War closed with a sobering assessment of the campaign's outcome: With nearly 3,500 U.S. service members killed in action and trillions of dollars spent, "an emboldened and expansionist Iran appears to be the only victor.
Thanks to roughly 700 pages of newly-publicized secret Iranian intelligence cables, we now have a good idea as to why.
A U.S. Air Force combat controller will receive the nation's third highest award for valor this week for playing an essential role in two intense firefight missions against the Taliban in Afghanistan last year.
Tech. Sgt. Cody Smith, an airman with the 26th Special Tactics Squadron, 24th Special Operations Wing at Air Force Special Operations Command, will receive the Silver Star at Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico on Nov. 22, the service announced Monday.