According to recent reports, an unverified pathologist with The Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks treated thousands of patients while impaired. This news comes shortly after the VA released a study finding veterans are twice as likely as civilians to commit suicide.

The Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks

At a town hall meeting, officials from the Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks announced that one of their past doctors was working while impaired. Patient rumors shared with news station KNWA indicate the pathologist in question was Dr. Robert Levy. Levy was arrested in March 2018 for driving under the influence of depressants.

Further information from the VA explains the pathologist was impaired on the job in 2016. When he was discovered under the influence again one year later, he was dismissed from his position. Approximately 2,000 patients may have been affected.

“All medical personnel have a responsibility to their patients,” states a personal injury lawyer in Manassas, VA. “When that responsibility is disregarded, lives are lost.”

Dr. Robert Levy recently denounced charges of being impaired while on duty and claims he was fired from his position as Chief of Pathology due to a DUI, which was later dismissed.

An investigation is currently underway by the VA, which has already discovered seven misdiagnoses and one possible death.

The Link Between Suicide and Duty

In addition to this news, the VA released a report in June describing the current patterns of suicides in veterans. The research points out a startling trend associated with not only civilians but past soldiers, as well.

Data from 2005 to 2015 indicates veterans are 2.1 times more likely to commit suicide than civilians. Although they make up only 8.3% of the population, they account for 14.3% of all suicide-caused deaths.

While national suicide rates climb, the CDC and other health organizations are contemplating new preventative measures to reach those who need assistance. “Suicide in this country really is a problem that is impacted by so many factors,” Deborah Stone, a behavioral scientist at the CDC states. “It’s not just a mental health concern.”

Unfortunately, John Toombs was one such victim of the tangled mess that makes up suicide prevention tactics in the healthcare system. After being kicked out of a rehabilitation and treatment program at Murfreesboro Veterans Affairs center for taking his medications late, Toombs committed suicide.

A Changing Culture

Toombs’ death spurred further attention to the high rates of veteran suicide, and Murfreesboro’s new director has taken drastic and effective measures to reform patient care. Further, researchers at the University of Southern California are developing a machine to identify veterans at risk of suicide.

In response to the VA’s investigation into the impaired pathologist, Arkansas Sen. John Boozman recently proposed a bill to increase oversight of VA doctors.

As most vets and families openly explain, the VA offers much-needed help and assistance to US soldiers. However, recent events demonstrate a need for future improvements.