Gov. Rick Scott announced Wednesday he plans to sue the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in an attempt to force the agency to allow the state to inspect its Florida hospitals. (See also Inspector General's Report Finds VA Hid Waiting Lists)
At Scott's order, the state Agency for Health Care Administration has made several unannounced visits to inspect VA hospitals. Each time they were blocked and Veterans Affairs responded with three letters — one to Scott and two to AHCA Secretary Elizabeth Dudek stating that federal facilities aren't subject to state laws.
Scott said the lawsuit will seek to allow access to the facilities.
"As the chief health policy and planning entity for the state that licenses, inspects, and investigates consumer complaints, AHCA should be allowed access to federal VA hospitals to inspect their processes and their facilities," Scott said in a press release.
The action comes as 26 VA facilities nationwide are under investigation after allegations about treatment delays and secret waiting lists intended to hide delays in care.
"State inspectors have been blocked by federal officials from carrying out their mission of ensuring facilities in Florida meet the healthcare needs of our veterans. I have asked AHCA to sue the federal veterans affairs agency to shine a light on their activities and protect the lives of our heroes who have earned nothing short of access to the best care possible."
Instead, Veterans Affairs offered to schedule a meeting between the agencies to discuss programs and policies.
"It is my understanding that AHCA representatives have continued to arrive unannounced at VA Medical Centers within the State of Florida. Please be advised that VA and its Medical Centers are components of the Federal government and as such are not subject to Florida laws," wrote Veterans Affairs lawyer Will Gunn. "A number of Federal laws restrict dissemination of VA records, including those complied for quality assurance purposes."
Veterans Affairs didn't return a phone message seeking comment.