Advertisement
  1. Florida Politics

Gov. Rick Scott to sue VA for 'stonewalling' state health inspectors

Gov. Rick Scott says the list of allegations is unacceptable.
Published May 29, 2014

Florida will sue the Department of Veterans Affairs because the agency is "stonewalling" state health care inspectors who have been denied access to veterans hospitals, Gov. Rick Scott said Wednesday.

The announcement sets up a legal fight between Florida officials who say they need access to VA facilities and records to protect veterans and VA leaders who insist that no state has oversight of federal hospitals.

And it ensures that veteran care will figure prominently in Scott's current re-election bid. Democrat Charlie Crist, Scott's likely opponent, is attacking the Republican governor for refusing to expand Medi­caid. That, Crist said, denies veterans medical care even as Scott rails against the VA.

State Agency for Health Care Administration inspectors have been turned away from several VA hospitals in Florida in recent months, including the James A. Haley VA Medical Center in Tampa and the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center near Seminole.

"We're committed to being the most veteran-friendly state in the nation, and reports of deaths, neglect, poor conditions and a secret waiting list in federal VA hospitals in Florida are unacceptable," Scott said in a written statement. "Transparency and accountability are critical to supporting our veterans, and this suit will fight the federal VA's continued practice of stonewalling our inspectors."

VA regional spokeswoman Mary Kay Hollingsworth declined to comment. Hollingsworth sent a statement to news outlets this month defending VA care and denying reports of a secret waiting list at the VA hospital in Gainesville. She said audits of Florida VA hospitals "have indicated that our employees have exhibited nothing but passion and dedication to serving our veterans."

Scott's announcement comes the same day as a Haley spokeswoman confirmed to the Tampa Bay Times that the VA's Inspector General's Office visited the hospital a week ago. What the IG is investigating is unclear. A Haley spokeswoman referred questions to the IG Office, which did not return calls for comment.

The IG said this month that it is investigating 26 VA facilities nationally for a variety of allegations, from treatment delays to falsified records.

Crist said the state's failure to expand Medicaid denied medical care to 41,000 Florida veterans.

"The VA could do a better job," Crist said. "There's no question about that. … (Scott) ought to turn his focus, instead of suing people, on helping veterans in Florida and making sure they get the health care they deserve by expanding Medicaid."

Scott's office did not say when the VA lawsuit would be filed.

"It is my understanding that AHCA representatives have continued to arrive unannounced at VA medical centers within the state of Florida," said a recent letter sent to state officials by the VA's top attorney, Will Gunn. "Please be advised that VA and its medical centers are components of the federal government and as such are not subject to Florida laws."

The VA has been shaken in recent months by numerous allegations of poor care, wrongful deaths, secret waiting lists and delays in veterans receiving care at VA hospitals around the nation.

The Times on Saturday reported the story of a Largo veteran, Horace Lalley, a patient at the Young VA Medical Center, who died in 2012 of bladder cancer that his family says was misdiagnosed for years as a urinary tract infection. The VA is investigating the case.

Times staff writer Steve Bousquet and Miami Herald staff writer Marc Caputo contributed to this report. William R. Levesque can be reached at levesque@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3432.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. In this March 24, 2018, file photo, crowds of people participate in the March for Our Lives rally in support of gun control in San Francisco. JOSH EDELSON  |  AP
    ‘Guns are always a volatile topic in the halls of the legislature,’ one Republican said.
  2. Pasco County school superintendent Kurt Browning says Fortify Florida, the new state-sponsored app that allows students to report potential threats, is "disrupting the education day" because the callers are anonymous, many of the tips are vague and there's no opportunity to get more information from tipsters. "I have an obligation to provide kids with a great education," Browning said. "I cannot do it with this tool, because kids are hiding behind Fortify Florida." JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |
    Vague and anonymous tips often waste law enforcement’s time and disrupt the school day, says Kurt Browning, president of Florida’s superintendents association.
  3. Tonight's LGBTQ Presidential Forum is hosted by Angelica Ross of FX's Pose. Twitter
    A live stream of the event and what to watch for as 10 candidates meet on stage in Iowa.
  4. In this April 11, 2018, file photo, a high school student uses a vaping device near a school campus in Cambridge, Mass.  [AP Photo | Steven Senne] STEVEN SENNE  |  AP
    "The department does not appear to have the authority to do anything.”
  5. Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos listens to a speaker share an opinion about a city matter during a city council meeting at Clearwater City Hall in Clearwater, Fla. on Thursday, April 20, 2017.  On Thursday, the Clearwater City Council rejected the mayor's resolution urging lawmakers to ban assault weapons.  [Times files] TIMES FILES  |  Tampa Bay Times
    However, the city did pass a resolution calling for more modest gun control measures.
  6. Maurice A. Ferré at his Miami home earlier this year. JOSE A. IGLESIAS  |  Miami Herald
    He served as mayor for 12 years and set the stage for Miami to become an international city.
  7. Rep. Susan Valdes, D-Tampa, during a Feb. 7, 2019, meeting of the House PreK-12 Appropriations subcommittee. [The Florida Channel]
    ‘One test should not determine the rest of your life,’ Rep. Susan Valdes says.
  8. Vice President Joe Biden, right, talks to supporters as former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, left, stands near during a campaign stop at at Century Village in Boca Raton, Fla., Monday, Oct. 13, 2014. Crist is locked in a tight race against Gov. Rick Scott in one of the most negative gubernatorial campaigns in Florida history. The two disagree on most major issues, including health care, the minimum wage, Cuba policy, gay marriage and medical marijuana. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz) ORG XMIT: FLAD102 ALAN DIAZ  |  AP
    The Florida Republican-turned-Democrat said Biden’s ‘record of getting things done speaks for itself.’
  9. FILE - In this June 20, 2018 photo, immigrant children walk in a line outside the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children a former Job Corps site that now houses them in Homestead, Fla.  Migrant children who were separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border last year suffered post-traumatic stress and other serious mental health problems, according to a government watchdog report obtained by The Associated Press Wednesday. The chaotic reunification process only added to their trauma. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File) BRYNN ANDERSON  |  AP
    Since Homestead’s closing on Aug. 3, at least $33,120,000 has been paid to Caliburn, the company contracted by the government to run Homestead.
  10. The economies of Canada and Florida go together like, well, palm fronds and maple leaves, as seen outside the Sweetwater RV Resort in Zephyrhills. (Times file photo) KATE CALDWELL  |  Tampa Bay Times
    To qualify under the proposed Canadian Snowbirds Act, visitors would have to be older than 50 and would have to own or rent a home here.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement