Congressional scrutiny looms over the VA's purchase of surgical implants

The U.S. Congress is expected to take aim at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs this week, with a hearing planned for Jan. 15 that will take a critical look at how the agency purchases surgical implants and documents those purchases. Also at issue: how VA hospitals interact with implant sellers.

As CNBC reports online, the hearing will revolve around a Government Accountability Office report to be released on Jan. 13 that cites a number of shortfalls regarding the use of device implants.

According to a draft version of the report obtained by the cable news network, the GAO slammed the VA for not seeking market-rate prices for implants or accurately documenting those purchases, which would help the FDA document recalls or other safety problems. Additionally, the GAO report raised another point of criticism that might cause alarm bells among devicemakers--the finding that implant vendors working with VA hospitals are getting involved with patient care. According to the CNBC story, that runs counter to industry practices.

The VA is a huge market for medical device implants, having spent more than $500 million on them in 2012, according to data from the draft GAO report cited in the article. As the story noted, an "implant" includes everything from artificial joints to cardiac pacemakers to grafts for skin and bone.

A VA spokesperson told CNBC via email that the agency concurred with the GAO recommendations and has already begun to implement some changes, such as how it purchases implants that cost less than $3,000. The spokesperson also insisted that the VA has continued to have a strong record of safe medical care "that is consistently validated by independent reviews," according to the story.

CNBC reported that the GAO will track the VA's progress on all of its recommendations for up to four years.

- read the full CNBC story