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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.
The DNA of a niece and nephew, who never met their uncle, has helped identify the remains of the Kansas Marine who died in WWII.
The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced that 21-year-old U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Pfc. Raymond Warren was identified using DNA and circumstantial evidence. Warren had been buried in a cemetery in the Gilbert Islands, where he was killed when U.S. forces tried to take secure one of the islands from the Japanese.
The Battle of Tarawa lasted from Nov. 20 to Nov. 23, 1943, and claimed the lives of 1,021 U.S. marines and sailors, more than 3,000 Japanese soldiers and an estimated 1,000 Korean laborers before the U.S. troops seized control, the agency said.
Arizona lawmakers are vowing to fight a plan by the Air Force to start retiring some of the nation's fleet of A-10 Thunderbolt II ground-attack jets — a major operation at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base — as part of a plan to drop some older, legacy weapon systems to help pay for new programs.
U.S. Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., a former A-10 pilot, and U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz., both vowed to fight the move to retire 44 of the oldest A-10s starting this year.
During a press briefing last week, Air Force officials unveiled plans to start mothballing several older platforms, including retiring some A-10s even as it refits others with new wings.
MOSCOW/SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea, whose leader Kim Jong Un was filmed riding through the snow on a white stallion last year, has spent tens of thousands of dollars on 12 purebred horses from Russia, according to Russian customs data.
Accompanied by senior North Korean figures, Kim took two well-publicized rides on the snowy slopes of the sacred Paektu Mountain in October and December.
State media heralded the jaunts as important displays of strength in the face of international pressure and the photos of Kim astride a galloping white steed were seen around the world.
North Korea has a long history of buying pricey horses from Russia and customs data first reported by Seoul-based NK News suggests that North Korea may have bolstered its herd in October.
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - A high-profile local Taliban figure who announced and justified the 2012 attack on teenage Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai has escaped detention, Pakistan's interior minister confirmed a few days after the militant announced his breakout on social media.
Former Pakistani Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan, who claimed responsibility on behalf of his group for scores of Taliban attacks, proclaimed his escape on Twitter and then in an audio message sent to Pakistani media earlier this month.
The Pakistani military, which had kept Ehsan in detention for three years, has declined to comment but, asked by reporters about the report, Interior Minister Ijaz Shah, said: "That is correct, that is correct."
Shah, a retired brigadier general, added that "you will hear good news" in response to questions about whether there had been progress in hunting down Ehsan.
The 7-day "reduction in violence" negotiated between the United States and the Taliban is set to begin on Feb. 22, an Afghan government official who spoke on condition of anonymity told Task & Purpose on Monday.
A temporary truce beginning on Saturday that would last for one week is seen as a crucial test between the Taliban, U.S., and Afghan governments that would prove all parties to a potential peace deal can control their forces. Defense Secretary Mark Esper declined to confirm the date on Sunday.
"That is a moving date because we are still doing consultations, if you will," Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters.