Opioid Theft at VA Hospitals Leads to Reformed Policies, Firmer Enforcement

Kristina Derro, Esq.

As a result of the epidemic that has been plaguing the nation, individuals are looking for the easiest place to get their hands on prescription opioids. In recent years, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities have been one of the many victims of this epidemic.

In 2009, there were 272 reported incidents of drug losses or theft at federal hospitals (which include VA facilities, seven correctional hospitals and 20 hospitals serving Indian tribes) to 2,926 in the year 2015. As a result of these statistical increases, VA has decided to boost employee drug testing and inspections.

Although the VA has stated their intentions to combat the opioid theft issue, some are still not convinced the VA is doing enough. Reports from VA facilities seem to reflect this concern. According to data by AP, around 372 VA employees were dismissed, suspended, or reprimanded for a drug or alcohol-related issue since 2010; around 3 percent of cases.

Additionally, VA hospitals have been careless in tracking drug supplies. Auditors have reported that four VA hospitals skipped monthly inspections. Randall Williamson, health care director at the Government Accountability Office estimates between 85 and 90 percent of VA facilities had notable problems with inspections.

Rep. Jack Bergman chairs the house panel that has heard the reports from the VA. Bergman has made it known that he wants more from the VA stating, “In case after case, what we see are examples of drugs being diverted for personal use or personal gain, yet there does not seem to be much progress being made by VA… It is time for the VA to start making effective changes to avoid putting veterans and the employees who serve them at risk.”