Suspicious insulin injections, nearly a dozen deaths: Inside an unfolding investigation at a VA hospital in West Virginia

Wapo reports:

By Lisa Rein 

Oct. 5, 2019 at 6:03 p.m. EDT

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — Four months after Melanie Proctor’s father was buried with military honors for his combat service in Vietnam, she came home to her farm to find an unfamiliar tan SUV in the driveway.

Two federal agents stepped out into the hot sun in August 2018. Proctor, a tax preparer, wondered whether one of her clients was in trouble.

“We’re here about your father,” the FBI agent said. “We don’t believe he died of natural causes.”

Flipping open a laptop on her kitchen counter, the agents showed Proctor her dad’s records from the three days he had been hospitalized at the local VA medical center.
What the line graph showed was alarming.

In the early morning hours that April, Felix McDermott’s blood sugar had bottomed to dangerous levels. The retired Army sergeant his family knew as “Pap” died the next morning from severe hypoglycemia.

Someone had given her father, who was not a diabetic, a deadly injection of insulin, the investigators told Proctor — and he was not the only one.
Multiple veterans had died under similar circumstances on the same ward, and the agents had come to Proctor’s farm in a hamlet 42 miles east of Clarksburg to ask the unthinkable: They wanted to dig up Pap’s body.

Proctor agreed, and her father was one of seven bodies exhumed in an investigation of 11 suspicious deaths at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center, according to a person familiar with the case who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity because it is ongoing.
The 14-month inquiry is the latest criminal investigation to engulf the Department of Veterans Affairs, intensifying questions about whether the country’s largest health-care system is doing enough to protect the veterans in its care.

Welcome to my backyard.


44 thoughts on “WELCOME TO EAST BUMFUCK.”

  1. excerpt from Heartland Institute:

    In 2017, 833 West Virginians died from opioid overdoses“a rate of 49.6 per 100,000 persons.” According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, West Virginia’s 2017 overdose rate was “double the rate in 2010 and threefold higher than the national rate of 14.6 deaths per 100,000 persons.”


    To date, the opioid epidemic has imparted a mighty economic and social toll. According to the Regional Educational Laboratory Appalachia, the opioid crisis has cost West Virginia “$8.8 billion a year … for health care and substance abuse treatment, criminal justice costs, lost worker productivity, and the burden of fatal overdoses.” A 2018 American Enterprise Institute Working Paper estimated that West Virginia’s per-capita total costs, including mortality costs, were the highest in the nation at $4,378.

  2. The VA facility in question is also the site of the West Virginia Veterans Nursing Home – a beautiful facility that opened a few years ago.  When I hear people talk about what a wonderful place this is to raise a family I think, “ Sure, except for the poverty, drug use, crappy schools and our little version of urban decay.  Great place … “. Now our sister city across I-79, Bridgeport, is one of the top 25 places to live in at least one recent poll.  The only thing the two towns have in common is, wait for it … the majority of people still think SFB is the greatest thing since sliced bread. 🙄

  3. Murderers’ rationale: 100-pct of veterans that seek treatment at VA facilities will die. We are doing them a favor by speeding=up the process, and sparing them inevitable pain. Also, we are making dollars available for healthier, curable vets.

  4. Pat,  it is difficult to reconcile the contrasts between the beauty of parts of the state – specifically the mountains and the watersheds immediately adjacent to the rivers – but the causes of the problems are pretty clear.  Dying coal, steel and manufacturing industries, lack of training for other  jobs in similar areas of employment, an influx of out of state workers to fill jobs in the gas/oil industry (driven by fracking) and a general lack of opportunity resulting from awful planning centered around coal.  Oh, and doctors who were all too willing to prescribe opiates  and a pharmaceutical distribution system that profited terrifically from a street market that was hungry for the drugs.  And that doesn’t even touch on the methamphetamine epidemic here and the crime associated with the foregoing problems.  It is difficult to see much potential improvement in any of those problems in the short term.
    Flatus, I suppose that is the rationale for some of the Death Angels – of course even if their reasoning was 100% correct, it’s still murder.  
    And the obstruction in plain sight continues.

    Trump administration blocks testimony of Gordon Sondland, a central figure in the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry


    The Trump administration on Tuesday blocked a planned deposition from Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union and a central figure in the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, according to a statement by his lawyer.
    Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union was scheduled to be deposed on Tuesday morning before House committees seeking information about his activities as President Trump urged Ukraine to investigate his political opponents, according to his lawyer, Robert Luskin.

    Luskin said Sondland was not appearing at the direction of the State Department.
    “As the sitting U.S. Ambassador to the EU and employee of the State Department, Ambassador Sondland is required to follow the Department’s direction,” Luskin said. “Ambassador Sondland is profoundly disappointed that he will not be able to testify today. Ambassador Sondland traveled to Washington from Brussels in order to prepare for his testimony and to be available to answer the Committee’s questions.”

    How do you spell subpoena?

  5. Has he overplayed his hand or is he ready to silence the entire senate with that wisdom he keeps speaking of 

  6. Pogo….   I just don’t understand how the people of WV (or Kentucky/ or name any other southern state with lots of poverty and drug problems) keep voting for the very people who don’t give a damn about them.
    ps…  that VA story is horrifying.

  7. we are great & powerful. who are you?




    As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I’ve done before!). They must, with Europe and others, watch over…

  8. Renee, ya got me there.  And yes, it is horrifying. As you might expect, it’s been at the top of the news around here for a while.

    patd, your 10:01 is a perfect post.

  9. sturge,  suspect trump offered  quid= WH visit invite for  quo= erdo hold off attacking kurds and “taking care” of those imprisoned isis guys (probably okayed same solution for both)


    pogo, thanks.  twitterverse reportedly full of comments like that

  10. I hate to see these horror stories, because they’re horrible, but also because my Dad’s decades of treatment by Orlando VA has been so spectacular I’ve always defended VA health care.

    I do wonder how many horror stories at private hospitals we don’t hear about because there’s not the same transparency, largely because they pour so much money into local media advertising, which the VA doesn’t.

  11. craig, JAMA said this according to science daily back in 2016:

    The researchers found that mortality rates were lower in VA hospitals than non-VA hospitals for AMI (13.5 percent vs 13.7 percent) and HF (11.4 percent vs 11.9 percent), but higher for pneumonia (12.6 percent vs 12.2 percent). Hospital readmission rates were higher in VA hospitals for all 3 conditions (AMI, 17.8 percent vs 17.2 percent; HF, 24.7 percent vs 23.5 percent,; pneumonia, 19.4 percent vs 18.7 percent). In within-MSA comparisons, VA hospitals had lower mortality rates for AMI (percentage-point difference, -0.22) and HF (-0.63), and mortality rates for pneumonia were not significantly different (-0.03); however, VA hospitals had higher readmission rates for AMI (0.62), HF (0.97), or pneumonia (0.66).


    The authors write that the differences in mortality and readmission rates persisted after accounting for geographic variation in hospital location by limiting comparisons of VA and non-VA hospitals to those within the same metropolitan statistical area. “In general, however, the magnitudes of differences were small for both measures across all 3 conditions.”


  12. sturge, NYTimes on turkey and isis prisoners  issue:

    President Trump’s sudden blessing of a Turkish military operation in northern Syria and his announcement of an American troop withdrawal from that region raised questions about the fate of thousands of Islamic State detainees that the Turks’ targets, American-backed Syrian Kurds, have been holding in makeshift wartime prisons.
    Mr. Trump insisted that Turkey must assume responsibility for the captured ISIS fighters and their families. But it is far from clear what will happen to them, and a host of issues arose from Mr. Trump’s abrupt, if still murky, change in policy.


  13. more from that NY Times piece:

    Who are the ISIS detainees?
    The Syrian Democratic Forces operate an archipelago of ad hoc wartime detention sites for captive ISIS fighters, ranging from former schoolhouses in towns like Ainissa and Kobane to a former Syrian government prison at Hasaka.
    The prisons hold about 11,000 men, of whom about 9,000 are locals — Syrians or Iraqis — and about 2,000 come from some 50 other nations whose home governments have been reluctant to repatriate them. They also operate camps for families displaced by the conflict that hold tens of thousands of people, many of them non-Syrian wives and children of Islamic State fighters.
    “If Turkey attacks these Kurdish soldiers, there is a grave risk that the ISIS fighters they guard will escape and return to the battlefield,” a bipartisan group of lawmakers who recently visited the Middle East said in a joint statement on Monday.


  14. interesting stats Pat. My ad revenue theory is all I can think of to explain why VA screw-ups get so much more coverage. Also why you don’t see much investigative reporting on grocery stores and car dealers.

  15. Kurds and why?   Those Kurds are fierce — maybe one will take offense at what SFB has done

  16. There is no doubt in my mind that active involvement by caring family members in any patient’s hospitalization has a meaningful effect on outcomes. The same thing applies once they are discharged to a nursing environment. Makes no difference whether it’s a VA or civilian institution, family involvement is essential. Craig, so glad that your Dad’s experience is going well!

  17. Trump wants to be Putin — — maybe we should start a gofundme for his move to Russia

  18. Poobah, there are different oversight standards for the VA and private hospitals.  Any difference in transparency is in my view likely due to the fact that in the VA system the oversight is governmental, and accordingly subject to FOIA requests and the like.  Private hospital (or public) oversight varies from state to state, and unless a hospital has sufficient state funding to subject inspections, lawsuits, etc., to FOIA requests or public database exposure, whatever oversight reveals systematic issues is not going to be sufficiently accessible to the press and public to rise to the same level of attention as those facilities with governmental ties. And speaking from a position of direct experience, private hospitals have every incentive to handle claims quickly and quietly, and do.
    Flatus, you are exactly right about family involvement making a difference in outcomes.  There is no doubt in my mind that patients whose families are involved in their care, and most importantly, ask questions, raise the degree of attention paid by the professionals who administer care in any setting.

  19. I don’t understand why the House continues to invite Admin employees, trump employees, trump relatives, trump pals (plus the vendors to trumpco, relatives and pals) to testify, rather than to issue subpoenas and have the marshal apprehend those who fail to show up.

  20. XR, like I said, how do you spell subpoena? Of course there is some question about how one might be enforced, but let’s take it step by step, shall we?  Issue the damn things and go from there.

  21. I suppose that the Speaker and Committee chairfolks want to look like they bent over backwards to avoid the inevitable and accommodate the Commander in Crime. This sort of nuance is lost on an American public that thinks trump’s Admin will save us from government. 

  22. Oh, Mr Pogo, Esq., quit being logical. You can’t solve the problem of an opposing back making yardage through the application of sweet reason. You have to knock the slob down.

  23. Sorry, I didn’t mean to suggest that the opposing back was making yardage through the application of sweet reason. As the back is a metaphor for damnold trump, such a suggestion would be doubly in error.

  24. Understood Pogo, but watching local TV and newspapers in any market, for-profit hospitals pour an absolute fortune into advertising. That is a chilling effect on coverage. Much easier to go after the VA.

  25. Jamie, that Warren clip was many months ago, not current, before she even officially announced her campaign, at the start of her exploratory committee. Her point all along has been to pull out intelligently, not precipitously. Which is a consensus view for many. That clip has nothing to do with what Trump just did.

  26. Well, Turkey was hardly threatened by SFB’s warnings.  According to WaPo:

    ISTANBUL — Turkey’s vice president said Tuesday that his country would “not react to threats,” as it prepared to mount a military offensive against U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters in Syria, a day after President Trump warned that he would destroy Turkey’s economy if the offensive did not meet with his approval.

    “When it comes to the security of Turkey, as always, our president emphasized Turkey will determine its own path,” the vice president, Fuat Oktay, said in a speech at a university in Ankara, the Turkish capital. He referred to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has vowed to create a “safe zone” in a lengthy swath of Syrian territory along Turkey’s border.

    Erdogan and other Turkish officials have suggested for days that the military operation could begin at any moment. Turkish troop convoys have headed to the border, and local media outlets have published details of what they say is the battle plan. Turkey’s Defense Ministry wrote Tuesday on Twitter that all its preparations for the operation were complete.  
    [Continues to show how stupid SFB is when he thinks he can strongarm a strongman]

    What an IDIOT.

  27. Craig,

    Thank you.  That is why I asked for clarification and context.  I still question her qualifications for the top job, but it is good to know that she hasn’t done anything recent on the issue.


  28. Things my brain tells me dept:
    Fox is looking for a way out.
    A low voltage paradigm shift in the news sector.

  29. Jamie, our discussion does raise one of my concerns about Elizabeth, which is her lack of bona fides on foreign policy. I am not seeing much of an effort on her part or her team’s part to deal with that.

  30. e-r,  the each invite to testify that is blocked lets the house chalk up evidence of obstruction.


    craig & Jamie,  good thing we didn’t require those foreign policy bona fides for Obama.  who on the list other than uncle joe really has them?   guess the dems will need to look for that experience for the veep nominee again.  

  31. Flatus – Craig –  I wonder about what condition veterans are in compared to a similar group of civilians.  We have had different lives for some period of our time on this Earth.  Do we suffer from more joint injuries?  Do we suffer from more health issues from being exposed to nasty working and living conditions, stuff like High Frequency Radiation, nuclear radiation, chemicals, cleaners, lead (bullets), mercury and mental things (PTSD)?  All of those I was exposed to, some were daily exposures.  I know there are surveys in the VA which have some answers.  The Million Veteran survey has not released analysis yet.  I have had many doctors talk about their vets and serious joint issues, including back/spine.  But overall those of us going to a VA hospital are of interest.  Are we in worse condition, yet due to our mental training, surviving better?

  32. Patd

    I’m keeping a fairly close eye on Committee performances by the Dem candidates currently in Congress.  That seems to be the best way to judge them in action.

    One of the reasons I supported Hillary in 2008 was her Senatorial and global experience as First Lady.  Obama had international credentials in office, but honestly feel making her SoS helped him really grow into the job.

    Trump is such a total incompetent that just waking up to him in office is nauseating.



  33. Sturge, I believe you’re probably right. The O’Jays would never make the charts today, but then again there’s this other group that probably wouldn’t either. First couple of songs I can remember, actually the first 45 I bought, was this group called the Beatles. My recollection is one side it was “She Loves You (yeah yeah yeah) and the other side was I Wanna Hold Your Hand. I bet neither of them would chart today. Now, in fairness, I probably bought some 45s by some guy name Elvis Presley, but I can’t specifically remember. Even though I do recall listening to Jail House Rock and a slew of others that he recorded before he went into the Army.

  34. You know all those goofy tv shows where these people sing to win the show?   
    They do serve to show that young people can still sing.  Aside from that those shows are major suck.

  35. US critics panned the Beatles. Millions of American girls swooned. I dated one. I liked the two songs Mr Pogo, Esq. placed in evidence as Exhibit 1. However, I didn’t swoon.

  36. trump gave un-convicted criminal & former Atty Gen ed meese the Presidential Medal today. It’s just another despicable act by trump, used to besmirch, soil, and shit upon every American Institution.
    So what if you have tickets ? Move along !
    The joke going around is that tickets to visit the memorial trump Library will cost $10, but the building will be permanently locked.

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