VA manager indicted on 50 counts of falsifying records of veterans waiting for medical care
Cathedral Henderson was eventually convicted and sentenced to 27 months in federal prison.
By Lisa Rein – The Washington Post – July 20, 2015
A manager at a Veterans Affairs medical center in Georgia is on leave with pay following his indictment on 50 counts of ordering his staff to falsify medical records of veterans waiting for outside medical care.
The case against Cathedral Henderson appears to be the first round of criminal charges stemming from a wait-times scandal that came to light last year and led to the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.
Henderson, 50, was in charge of revenue and billing and chief of “purchase care” in Augusta, coordinating medical care for veterans that VA could not offer. He was responsible for ensuring that more than 2,700 veterans awaiting approval for care outside the system were properly referred to for doctor’s appointments.
But under pressure from VA headquarters in 2014 to close out all requests for outside care, Cathedral simply ordered his staff to falsify the waiting patients’ medical records to show that the veterans had either completed or refused services, prosecutors allege.
Each of the charges against Henderson refers to a veteran with a pending need for medical care: Two patients were waiting for imaging, one for an ultrasound, one for neurology, another for surgery and 45 more for mammograms, according to prosecutors.
Henderson appeared in U.S. District Court on Friday and was released on bond. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. His attorney, Keith B. Johnson of Augusta, told The Augusta Chronicle that his client “was following the directive of his supervisors, and that will come out in court documents.”
He’s one of 130 employees across the VA system who have faced disciplinary action in the year since reports of extreme wait times and falsified data exploded into the biggest scandal in VA history. After a whistleblower at a veterans hospital in Phoenix alleged that scheduling clerks were coached by VA administrators on how to cook the books and “zero out wait times” to hide long delays for patients, the practice turned out to be widespread at veterans hospitals, particularly in rural areas.
Spokeswoman Victoria Dillon said in a statement that the agency may take “additional administrative action” against Henderson, underscoring the pledge by VA’s new leadership to pursue discipline against poor performers. Under Secretary Robert McDonald, the agency has terminated more than 1,495 employees through firings and probationary terminations, Dillon said.
Henderson’s Linked In profile shows a lengthy resume with 20 years with the agency in financial, information technology, clinical and administrative positions. Since February 2014, he has served as technical implementation manager in VA’s chief business office in Atlanta, overseeing and directing “deployment of new products, services or projects.”
The resume says he also serves as a mentor to junior staffers.
Sen. Johnny Isakson, (R-Ga.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, said in a statement that while he regrets that the criminal actions alleged by prosecutors took place, “I am pleased that the investigation we called for in the wake of the Phoenix scandal is being done and people are being held accountable for manipulating medical appointment records when they should have been giving our veterans access to the care they need and deserve.”
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Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016
AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) — A former Augusta VA hospital manager has been sentenced to 27 months in prison after the court found the government had sufficiently proven through evidence that Henderson willfully and knowingly made false statements relating to healthcare matters to a federal agency.
Henderson was convicted of falsifying veteran’s health records to show their cases were closed. Nearly 50 victims were listed in the federal case against him. He was in charge of more than 2,700 veterans waiting for approval for care outside of the V.A.
He will report to prison the Monday after Thanksgiving.
Former VA doctor is charged with involuntary manslaughter in the deaths of 3 patients
(CNN) A former doctor at an Arkansas veterans hospital has been charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection with the deaths of three patients.
Robert Morris Levy, a pathologist, entered false and misleading diagnoses into the medical records of patients in his care, contributing to the death of three of them, according to a criminal indictment. In one case, the indictment says, a patient died of prostate cancer after Levy had concluded that test results showed the patient did not have cancer.
Levy had been the Chief of Pathology and Laboratory Medical Services at the Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks since 2005, according to a Department of Justice news release. He was fired in 2018.
In a statement made before Levy was charged, Kelvin Parks, director of the Fayetteville VA medical center, offered his “sincerest apology to the Veterans and family members negatively impacted by this now-fired former employee,” the Washington Post reported.
According to the indictment, Levy not only entered false or misleading diagnoses into patient records, on two occasions, he falsified entries to indicate that another pathologist had agreed with his diagnosis.
An attorney for Levy, Darren O’Quinn, issued a statement saying his client’s conduct had been the subject of “misstatements” in the media.
“An indictment is an accusation only, and we are reviewing the accusations and collecting evidence. There have already been some misstatements about Dr. Levy’s conduct in the media. Dr. Levy maintains his innocence and we intend to vigorously defend him,” the statement said.
Levy is also facing federal charges of wire fraud, mail fraud and making false statements, according to a news release from the Department of Justice.
Those charges stem, in part, from allegations that he defrauded the VA by concealing that he had not complied with the requirements of the voluntary drug and alcohol testing program in which he was placed after the VA suspended his privileges to practice medicine in 2016, according to the news release from the DOJ.
Levy had been suspended “due to unprofessional conduct related to high blood alcohol content while on duty,” the release says.
After completing a three-month in-patient treatment program in 2016, Levy agreed to abstain from alcohol and other mood-altering substances and to submit to random screenings in order to return to practice and keep his job and medical license, the DOJ said.
Test results from his blood and urine specimens taken from November 2016 to June 2018 came back negative for drugs and alcohol, according to the indictment. But on 12 occasions beginning in June 2017, Levy purchased a chemical substance that allows a person to reach intoxication without it showing on a routine drug and alcohol screening, the Justice Department said.
Levy committed fraud when he continued to collect salary, benefits and performance awards while violating the sobriety contract, the DOJ said.
“These charges send a clear signal that anyone entrusted with the care of veterans will be held accountable for placing them at risk by working while impaired or through other misconduct. Our thoughts are with the veterans and their families affected by Dr. Levy’s actions,” said Michael Missal, inspector general of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
CNN‘s Jamiel Lynch contributed to this report.