Veterans outpatient clinic operation pays $1.85 million to settle False Claims Act allegations

by Ben Vernia | March 16th, 2020

On March 12, the Department of Justice announced that Cincinnati-based Sterling Medical Associates will pay $1.85 million to resolve allegations, originally brought by a whistleblower, that the operator of veterans outpatient clinics failed to schedule appointments for veterans in a timely manner. According to DOJ’s press release:

The Justice Department announced today that Sterling Medical Associates Inc. (Sterling) will pay $1.85 million to resolve allegations under the False Claims Act that it failed to schedule veterans’ medical appointments timely at two outpatient clinics in Minnesota, resulting in the submission of false claims to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).  Sterling is a Cincinnati-based company that provides various services in the healthcare industry, including staffing, departmental operation, and outpatient clinic operation. 

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VA maintains community-based outpatient clinics across the country, including clinics in Minnesota.  VA awarded Sterling a contract to operate its clinics in Hibbing and Ely, Minnesota, in March 2013.  The contract incorporated VA requirements that routine appointments be scheduled within 14 calendar days of the veteran’s requested appointment date.  Today’s settlement resolves allegations that, between July 2013 and April 2014, Sterling did not schedule patient appointments at the Hibbing clinic in compliance with these requirements and changed veterans’ requested appointment dates to make appointment wait times appear shorter. 

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The case apparently arose from a government investigation, and not from a whistleblower’s complaint under the Act’s qui tam provision.

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