A U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs contractor will pay $1.85 million to settle allegations that it violated the False Claims Act by failing to schedule veteran’s appointments on time. The Department of Justice announced a settlement with Sterling Medical Associates Inc. last week.
The settlement resolves allegations that Sterling failed to meet VA requirements to schedule appointments within 14 calendar days of the patient’s request. The FCA complaint alleges that Sterling not only didn’t schedule appointments within the 14 days but changed requested appointments to make wait times appear shorter. A contract awarded to Sterling by the VA in 2013 included requirements.
Complaints about treatment at the Hibbing clinic grew after Sterling took over the operation. Subjects of complaints included inadequate supplies and mistreatment by contract workers, in addition to long wait times for appointments.
“We expect companies doing business with the government to comply with their contractual obligations, particularly when they relate to the health of our veterans,” said Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt of the Department of Justice’s Civil Division. “The Department is committed to ensuring that our veterans receive the timely medical care that they need and deserve.”
The high number of recent False Claims Act settlements in the healthcare industry shows the importance of whistleblowers in combating medicare fraud.