Iowa Veteran Dies After Surgery Performed by Doctor Previously Sued for Malpractice, Hired by Iowa City VA

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IOWA CITY, Iowa  —  The Iowa City VA is accused of breaking federal law, and an Iowa family says it cost them their father and grandfather.

Most hospitals wouldn’t hire a doctor who had been sued a dozen times for malpractice and had his license revoked in another state, but as WQAD’s Chris Minor found, this was not the case in Iowa City.

Rick Hopkins was a loving dad and grandfather. Spry at age 65, he loved his job at a local dairy farm. Rick was an animal lover, and the feeling was mutual.

“There was not an animal that dad ever met that just didn’t adore him,” said Amy McIntire, Rick’s daughter.

Rick was also an Army veteran. Diagnosed with a brain tumor in July, he underwent brain surgery at the Veterans Hospital in Iowa City.

“There was just a cascade of complications, I mean we couldn’t catch our breath because it was one thing after another,” said Amy.

After four brain surgeries in four weeks due to complications at the VA, Rick died.

“We had so much trust in them.”

That trust is now shattered. Rick’s surgery was performed by Dr. John Schneider, a doctor who had racked up at least a dozen malpractice claims over the past 15 years. According to a USA Today report, the VA in Iowa City hired Dr. Schneider, knowing his license had been revoked in Wyoming.

“Now that I read this report, I feel just betrayed,” Amy said.

Federal law bars the VA from hiring doctors whose license has been barred in any state, but Schneider was hired anyway. Amy, a nurse, can’t believe it.

“What I do know is that the VA hired him illegally. He should have never had his hands on my father, and my father’s outcome could have been completely different,” she said.

The VA tells USA Today Schneider’s hiring was greenlighted “due to incorrect guidance” by the agency. Now, Amy and her family want answers.

“Who thought it was okay to make that decision? You know, who thought it was okay to put our veterans’ life at risk by hiring a physician that should have never been hired?”

Four months after her dad’s death, Amy wonders what if, and why a doctor with a bad history is good enough for the VA.

“I am just furious. I can’t express how angry I am,” she said. “I think the VA needs to be held accountable, I think they need to change their practices. Our veterans have done so much for our country, don’t subject them to substandard care.”

Dr. Schneider was hired at the Iowa City VA in April. He resigned last week, instead of being terminated.

Iowa Senators Joni Ernst and Charles Grassley have sent letters to the VA demanding answers about its hiring practices.