June 3, 2016
In his initial 2013 review, DeNofrio found that out of 647 patients identified as having a TBI who the hospital said were receiving care 414 were not receiving any care. Out of those left, DeNofrio found that 97 were still in need of follow-up appointments.The Veteran Affairs Office of Inspector General (VAOIG) is currently investigating the Altoona Pennsylvania VA Medical Center (VAMC) for manipulating data in treating patients with traumatic brain injuries (TBI).
“We have opened a case based on a review of the information you sent to our office,” according to a May 10 email sent to James DeNofrio, an Altoona VAMC employee and whistleblower who originally filed the complaint.
Because veterans who suffer TBIs can develop all sorts of physical and psychological issues ranging from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) they require specialized care which is provided in polytrauma at the Altoona VAMC.
The problems started in 2013 when Dr. David MacPherson, then the Chief Medical Officer for Veteran Integrated Services Network (VISN) 4, a region which includes the Altoona VAMC, expressed concerns that the number of TBI patients purported to be treated at the Altoona VAMC appeared to be unusually high.
“Altoona reports a very large number of case managed polytrauma Veterans and I don’t think the report is accurate,” Dr. MacPherson said in a 2013 email to Dr. Santha Kurian, the chief of staff of the Altoona VAMC.
A call to VISN 4 was left unreturned and Andrea Young, public affairs officer for the Altoona VAMC said Dr. MacPherson has since retired.
DeNofrio was then tasked with reviewing the TBI files.
According to subsequent emails sent to superiors, DeNofrio found that not only did Altoona VAMC take credit for providing polytraumatic care to patients who were not receiving it — many who the hospital claimed were receiving care had moved to other parts of the country and DeNofrio discovered one was in jail. He also found dozens of veterans with TBI who were receiving no care at all.
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