HIV scare causing new problems for Veterans Affairs
Updated 7:06 a.m. ET
Lawmakers plan to hold hearings next week in St. Louis after the Department of Veterans Affairs informed more than 1,800 veterans treated there that they may have been exposed to HIV.
About 1,800 veterans received letters last week telling them they may have been exposed to HIV during dental procedures at the St. Louis VA Medical Center. The veterans received dental work from Feb. 1, 2009, through March 11 of this year. No Veterans are currently ill and the potential risk is extremely low, VA said. At least 180 of the veterans have already agreed to be tested for hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV.
Ironically, last week's revelations coincided with a previously scheduled department-wide effort to promote HIV testing at VA facilities.
The hospital's chief of dental services is on administrative leave pending an independent investigation into why employees failed to properly sterilize dental equipment, VA said. Hospital officials discovered that improper steps were taken during a routine oversight visit, according to the department.
"The mistakes made at the St. Louis VA Medical Center are unacceptable, and steps have been and continue to be taken to correct this situation and assure the safety of our veterans," VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said late last week.
Bob Filner, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, on Monday blasted VA for waiting so long to inform veterans.
“It's outrageous, one, that this happens, but even worse is this secretive, almost cover-up mode that they go into when something like this happens,” Filner told CNN. The California Democrat didn't call for Shinseki's ouster, but said “only way you can get accountability is if there is someone who actually pays a price for this."
The care and treatment of military veterans is a major focus of the Obama administration, especially First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, who spent the weekend in Baghdad visiting with troops preparing to return home. The latest exposure scare comes after the VA admitted last year to exposing more than 10,000 military veterans to hepatitis B, hepatitis C or HIV at hospitals in Florida, Georgia and Tennessee.
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• Cabinet and Staff News: President Obama and Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts are on a collision course. After his meetings with Benjamin Netanyahu, President Obama meets with Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Gen. David Petraeus gets a call from the big boss. Vice President Biden flexes his muscles as a deal maker in Baghdad. President Obama's national security team burns the midnight oil. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton tries to calm Georgia's fears about the renewed U.S.-Russia ties. The Al Gore sex scandal story goes mainstream. Why is Richard Holbrooke going to New York? NASA Chief Charles Bolden says his new mission to improve relations with the Muslim world.
• Black-farmers group cheers deal in war bill: Two longstanding discrimination lawsuits received settlement money in the war supplemental approved by the House late Thursday, spurring advocates to call on the Senate to follow suit.
• BP has steady sales at Defense Department despite U.S. scrutiny: The oil giant remains a heavy supplier of military fuel under contracts worth at least $980 million in the current fiscal year.
• DFAS employees fired after security review: They were terminated or indefinitely suspended after they were found "ineligible" to meet security requirements of the job.
• New satellite to monitor debris in Earth orbit: If all goes as planned, the Space-Based Space Surveillance satellite will have an unobstructed, around-the-clock view of the heavy traffic in Earth orbit.
• Pentagon issues new rules for engaging the press: The defense secretary issued a directive to all senior Pentagon military and civilian officials saying their dealing with the media "has grown lax."
• Near-collisions on rise in Washington area's skies amid influx of inexperienced controllers: Forty-nine of the 177 controllers who handle in-flight traffic for the Washington region have yet to be certified in all aspects of their job.
• Booz Allen wins $700 million deal for FAA's NextGen: The system is designed to move the agency from a ground-based air-traffic-control system to a satellite-based approach.
FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE:
• Agency agreed wildlife risk from oil was ‘low’: The federal agency charged with protecting endangered species like the brown pelican and the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle signed off on conclusions that deepwater Gulf Coast drilling posed no significant risk to wildlife, despite contrary evidence.
• Senator wants administration to pick up the pace on sole-source rule: Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) is frustrated by slow implementation of an eight-month-old law that requires closer scrutiny of noncompetitive contracts.
• Uncle Sam reminds federal employees of their shelter in storms: It's summertime, but the living is not so easy -- especially if you're a federal employee living in other hurricane-prone areas.
• GSA plans to beef up security of cloud computing: It will launch a new effort this fall intended to help agencies overcome their security concerns with cloud computing.
• Wyoming governor puts slice of Grand Teton National Park on the market: The state is trying to force the Interior Department to trade land, minerals or mineral royalties for 1,366 acres that the state owns within the park.
• Sept. 11 terrorism trials still in search of a venue: A venue decision has been put on hold and probably will not be made until after November's midterm elections.
U.S. POSTAL SERVICE:
• Sides form over threat to Saturday mail service: The business community is sharply divided about the consequences of switching to five-day service.
• U.S. passport fees to rise: If you've been procrastinating about getting or renewing your passport, it's time to get going because fees are rising soon.
| July 6, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories: Eye Opener
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