TOMAH, Wis. — “Dr. Lanska no longer works at VA.”
Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough made that announcement Monday afternoon during a visit to the Tomah VA.
For the past year and a half, KARE 11’s “Broken Promises” investigation has repeatedly exposed how Dr. Mary Jo Lanska misdiagnosed veteran after veteran after veteran resulting in benefits – and in some cases medical care itself – being denied.
“We will make sure that any veteran who got a C&P (Compensation and Pension) exam from Dr. Lanska and was denied access to benefits has their case reviewed,” McDonough said during a news conference in Tomah Monday. “I promise to you that this is a top priority for us.”
Dr. Lanska conducted benefits exams at Tomah VA for nearly two decades, beginning in 2002. During that time, she performed exams on nearly 1,000 Veterans.
Approximately 600 were denied and are eligible for new testing according to the office of U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) which was briefed on the status of the VA’s investigation.
“This wasn’t just one mistake, one misdiagnosis, this was a pattern,” Senator Baldwin said in a prior interview.
For the past year, Senator Baldwin has been pushing the VA to do a thorough investigation into the pattern of misdiagnosis by Dr. Lanska. In March, she met directly with VA Secretary Denis McDonough to express her continued concerns over the VA’s prior cursory review that found no problems.
In April, the VA finally acknowledged there was a problem.
A review of a random selection of Dr. Lanska’s benefits exams found 31% were done incorrectly.
That disclosure led to a growing congressional chorus of calls for accountability and further investigation.
“I cannot express to you how seriously we take these issues,” Congressman Derrick Van Orden (R-WI) told KARE. “We had the Secretary of Veterans Affairs in my office … lighting him up, we’re not fooling around dude!”
Rep. Van Orden, a retired Navy Seal who gets his medical care at Tomah, stood alongside Secretary McDonough as Dr. Lanska’s firing was publicly announced.
“The number (of Veterans misdiagnosed and denied benefits) was so large with this individual healthcare provider that that really tells me that this is a systemic issue,” Van Orden said, “We need to look at this from a systemic perspective.”
Van Orden is on the House Committee on Veterans Affairs which recently called for an Inspector General investigation into a possible systemic failure to provide adequate disability exams for traumatic brain injury nationwide.
In addition to Lanska’s termination, the VA secretary announced that all Veterans denied access to benefits they deserved after seeing Lanska will have their case reviewed with an effective date back to when they originally filed for a disability.
For some Veterans that could mean decades of backdated benefits.
“Our veterans served us and we have an obligation to serve them when they come back home. Unfortunately, many of our Wisconsin heroes did not get the care at the VA that they deserved," reflected Senator Baldwin. “I am glad to see that after years of working alongside some of our veterans, hundreds of Wisconsinites who have been wronged by the VA will be getting the care and benefits that they earned.”
Any Veteran who received an examination from Dr. Lanska is encouraged to call a hotline that has been set up.
The hotline number is 608-372-3971 ext. 64775
The VA says it is also working on a process to proactively reach out to Veterans who may have been impacted and expects to have that up and running soon.
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