As VA Chief Medical Officer, Holsinger Oversaw ‘Substandard Care’ At Veterans Facilities

James W. Holsinger has repeatedly espoused medically-inaccurate homophobic positions that undermine his credibility to be the next Surgeon General. But his tenure as chief medical director of the Veterans Health Administration under President George H.W. Bush also brings into doubt whether Holsinger can be “America’s doctor.”

A General Accounting Office report released in Nov. 1991 found that under Holsinger’s watch, the veterans health system was plagued by severe “substandard care.” Some examples [AP, 11/20/91]:

— There were multiple cases of “pure inattention.” In “one case a man lost a leg because he wasn’t checked regularly, in another, a bladder-cancer victim died because he went untreated for 45 days.”

— The GAO investigator “found serious problems at every one of six VA hospitals she visited, and that a broader examination of records found 30 VA hospitals had high numbers of patient complications and other indicators of substandard care.”

— The investigator “testified that the most serious problem found at the six medical centers was the lack of supervision of residents and interns, a problem she said had ‘severe consequences for patients.’”

Holsinger’s response to the investigation: “Our system is obviously not perfect — no health care system is.”


In one particularly egregious example, “poor medical care” contributed or caused “the deaths of six men at a North Chicago veterans hospital” during 1991. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) called the large number of wrongful deaths at one facility “unprecedented.” The VA Inspector General found that the “questionable medical practices” at the facilities “included failing to diagnose problems, failing to treat problems quickly and doing unnecessary surgery.” [Chicago Tribune, 4/5/91]

Holsinger tried to downplay the deaths. He said that only one out of five of the cases showed a clear indication that “it was a surgical misadventure.” Digg It!