Tactical

White House medical unit handed out pills to ineligible patients

The White House Medical Unit, a military command responsible for the care of the president and other senior administration officials, has improperly handed out pills and signed off on medical care for ineligible patients for years, according to a Pentagon inspector general report released this month.

The report, spurred by a spring 2018 IG hotline call, found “severe and systemic” problems with the unit’s internal controls on medication and a practice of using aliases to provide free care to White House staff, as well as a complete lack of oversight from the military health system.

“Dr. [X] asked if I could hook up this person with some Provigil as a parting gift for leaving the White House,” one witness told the IG, referring to an anti-sleepiness medication. “And at the time, the corpsmen and the medics … it was okay for us to dispense Provigil and Ambien without having a provider present. I’m not sure if it was okay as far as, like, what’s medically allowed. But in the unit, it was authorized for us to do that kind of stuff.”

The most recent review covered all executive medicine clinics in the Washington, D.C. area, which serve government officials including cabinet secretaries, Supreme Court justices, members of Congress and senior military officers.

The White House was the only unit found to be flouting regulations and operating without oversight, to include dispensing pills ― including narcotics like oxycodone and morphine ― directly rather than sending patients to a pharmacy.

These prescriptions were often handed out without verifying the staff member’s eligibility to access the White House medical unit, the report found.

And in some cases, staff generated aliases for White House staff so that they could receive specialty care or surgery at military facilities.

“Alias medical accounts provide alternate demographic data, such as name, date of birth, social security number, and military affiliation, in the electronic medical record,” a witness told the inspector general.

Witnesses told the IG that they believed the unit served the entire White House staff, despite regulations clearly stating that only beneficiaries of the military health system, including are covered.

The report includes two straightforward recommendations for the assistant defense secretary for health affairs, whose office agreed that the White House medical unit will get new, clear policies on requiring and determining patient eligibility and that the office will develop an oversight plan to review the unit’s practices going forward.

The hotline call that prompted the investigation report released this month came in the same time period as a dozen complaints about the unit, then run by now-retired Navy Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, a current member of the U.S. House of Representatives who at the time had just been floated as a Trump administration nominee for Department of Veterans Affairs secretary.

Jackson is not named in the most recent IG report, which cites a “senior military medical officer” as in charge.

A report published in 2021 found that Jackson fostered a toxic command climate and drank while on duty throughout his time assigned to the White House during the Trump, Obama and second Bush administrations.

Jackson told Military Times in 2021 that the IG complaints were retaliation for his support of President Trump

Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.

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