WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV) joined a letter pressing Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Denis McDonough to take swift action to protect veterans seeking opioid prescriptions following concerning reports that some veterans’ health care providers are not meeting VA prescription opioids safety standards.
“We write today to discuss our concerns with the Department of Veterans Affairs’ oversight of non-VA providers who prescribe opioids to veterans,” wrote the senators. “We are particularly concerned with providers participating in the Veterans Community Care Network (CCN) not querying state prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) before prescribing opioids to veterans, creating life-threatening patient safety concerns.”
“It is clear VA and its contracted third-party administrators failed to do their due diligence in ensuring the health and safety of the veterans in their care,” the senators continued. “As stated many times before, we feel if there is an issue at one location, it will likely occur elsewhere. The Department must work not only to address the shortcomings outlined in these OIG reports but also to ensure lessons learned are implemented system-wide.”
“It is the responsibility of VA to ensure the veterans in its care, or that of its community partners, are being provided high-quality care. We urge VA to act to ensure our nation’s veterans are not put at risk when seeking care in the community…VA can outsource the work – but it cannot outsource the responsibility for taking care of our veterans.” the senators concluded.
In 2017, the Department of Health and Human Services declared opioid deaths a public health emergency. At the time, studies indicated veterans were twice as likely to die from accidental opioid overdoses. A recent report from the VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) found that third-party administrators, responsible for contracting with VA community care providers, failed to provide adequate oversight of whether Veterans Community Care Network health care providers were completing and certifying VA’s Opioid Safety Initiative training module. An additional report found a similar lapse in oversight resulted in patients being overprescribed opioids from both VA and Community Care Network providers—increasing veterans’ risk of sedation and overdose.
The full letter can be found HERE.
Senator Rosen has been a leader in supporting Nevada’s veterans. She recently helped pass the bipartisan Commitment to Veteran Support and Outreach Act to expand and support state and local entities that inform veterans of their eligibility for VA programs and services. Senator Rosen also secured authorization for a new VA hospital in Reno and Nevada’s first-ever in-state Veteran Business Outreach Center. Senator Rosen has also joined the bipartisan GUARD VA Benefits Act to protect veterans from predatory practices. Last year, she helped pass the bipartisan PACT Act to extend VA benefits and health care to all veterans suffering from illnesses as a result of exposure to burn pits and other toxins during their service overseas.