Levy victims, Rep. Womack call for change at the VA

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Levy’s arrest has many calling for changes at the VA, including Congressman Steve Womack.

Army Captain Don McGuire was a chinook pilot in Vietnam.

“I have a hundred stories of him like flying in with guns being shot at him and stuff to pick people up and get them back out,” his son James McGuire said.

He was a hero to many.

“At some point over in Vietnam he got his bronze star,” James McGuire said.

But he was especially a hero to his son.

“He was always somebody I could talk to, hear stories from, and who’d done endlessly interesting things in his life,” James McGuire said.

He settled down in Eureka Springs, opened the bar Captain Don’s, and started bringing huge musical acts to the area. He got Willie Nelson to come perform on several occasions. Then, in 2009, he got sick.

“Myself and everyone around him knew something was wrong,” James McGuire said.

After a biopsy, he was given the all-clear by Fayetteville VA Dr. Robert Levy. That was a misdiagnosis. When the mistake was caught, it was too late. Don Mcguire died in 2016 of prostate cancer. Levy was originally charged with involuntary manslaughter in his death.

“This wasn’t a mistake. It was a calculated action by somebody who valued their own vices or whatever they had over the lives of other people,” James McGuire said.

Don McGuire’s case was dropped as part of a plea deal. But more important to James McGuire is making sure this never happens again.

“There were so many places that the VA could and should have stopped this from happening, not just to my father but to everyone else,” he said.

“Anybody with any sense can see that is a flawed system,” Rep. Steve Womack (R-Arkansas) said.

Congressman Womack, a veteran himself, has been searching for answers.

“How is it possible that such an individual could sit in VA timeout for a year and then come back and retain that supervisory position?” he asked.

In September 2019, he testified before the Committee on Veterans Affairs to call for change.

“I believe the VA is well within its purview to have a policy that that individual cannot go back into such a capacity or if so, there is concrete oversight,” Womack said.

In 2017, congress created a VA office specifically to help address accountability issues. It is called the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection (OAWP). So Womack asked VA Secretary Robert Wilkie if an accountability review was done as a result of Levy’s actions.

Through a Freedom of Information Act request, KNWA has learned Wilkie’s response in August shows a review “does not indicate that Dr. Levy has been a person of interest in any OAWP, VHA or Department-level investigation.”

“My father was a pilot. There’s not a situation where you get caught as a pilot drinking and they go, yeah sure, fly people around again. Doctors are the same way. You hold people’s lives in your hands,” James McGuire said.

He is still trying to make sense of it all while grieving the loss of an American hero.

“I hope I can live up to the legacy that he had. I hope to get to his age and have the number of friends and loved ones around him that he did,” James McGuire said.

KNWA asked the Fayetteville VA for an interview but got a written response instead. It said, “In response to this incident, the facility has instituted the following improvements: Implemented a VA-wide policy that requires facilities with two or less providers in any given specialty to have outside providers conduct peer reviews of that specialty, ensuring independent and objective oversight, Increased oversight and monthly reporting of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine services to the Medical Executive Council, Embedded a quality control analyst into the service for daily oversight of accrediting body standards.”

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