New Casey Bill Will Require VA Medical Centers Across State to Report Infectious Disease Outbreaks

Legislation Spurred By Legionnaires Outbreak In Pittsburgh

VA Has Medical Centers in Altoona, Coatesville, Erie, Lebanon, Philadelphia, Butler, Pittsburgh and Wilkes-Barre

Washington DC- Today U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) introduced his legislation, the Veterans Administration Disease Reporting and Oversight Act, requiring the Veterans Administration Health System (VAHS) to report incidences of infectious diseases to the appropriate public health officials.

“During this outbreak of Legionnaires’ Disease in Pittsburgh, appropriate entities were not adequately informed. Changes are needed to ensure there is better notification in the future and that steps are being taken to ensure our veterans have access to high quality health care,” said Senator Casey.  “I am introducing this legislation to protect veterans across the state help ensure an outbreak like this never goes unreported again.”  

The outbreak of Legionnaires’ Disease at the VA Pittsburgh Health System showed there were dangerous gaps in the reporting requirements for the VA Health System (VAHS) specifically highlighting that the VAHS is not required to report any infectious disease, and does so on a voluntary basis.  Senator Casey’s legislation seeks to close those gaps by requiring additional oversight, mandatory reporting and penalties if this does not happen. 

Specifically, Senator Casey’s legislation would:

  • Require the Undersecretary for Health to put out a directive creating a process for communication between the Pathology Team, the Infection Prevention Team, the Facilities Management Team and any other key group within each VAHS for handling a suspected case.  The Director of each Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) would be required to ensure every member of these teams is briefed on these rules.
  • Require the VISN Director to report a confirmed case of a notifiable infectious disease within 24 hours.  If a state has a more stringent guideline for a particular disease, the VISN must follow that requirement
  • The incident must be reported to the following agencies:
  • The Centers for Disease Control;
  • The State and/or County Health Department (in the state and county in which the affected hospital is located and where the individual is a resident);
  • The Veterans Administration in Washington, DC;
  • The patients primary care provider
  • The impacted patient and next of kin;
  • All employees at the affected VA Health System;
  • Require the VISN to confirm within 24 hours that each agency has acknowledged that each of the above agencies is aware of the situation.
  • Require the VISN to implement an action plan in a confirmed case of probable or definite hospital acquired case, within no more than seven days.  When applicable, the plan will detail how the VAHS will manage and control the potential spread of the disease whether community or hospital acquired.  The plan will also identify the role of partnering agencies in the process. 
  • Require the VISN to maintain a history of reporting requirement for notifiable diseases for no less than ten years. 
  • Require the VA Office of the Inspector General (VAOIG) to submit annual reports to Congress on VA compliance with these requirements
  • Require the VAOIG to investigate any failure to comply with the reporting requirements and should it be found there was a failure to comply; the employee(s) can be suspended per existing processes.  The Secretary is also authorized to take other disciplinary action as they deemed appropriate. 

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