VA Nurse Caught Operating On Veteran While Drunk

VA Nurse

Benjamin KrauseOne VA nurse is accused of public drunkenness, reckless endangerment and drunk driving after stumbling into a VA hospital to participate in an emergency surgery. The nurse reportedly arrived at work after drinking 4-5 beers while playing slots at a casino.


Richard Pieri, the offending registered nurse, told police he assumed he was in trouble; “I guess it has something to do with me being drunk on call.” He admitted he knew he was not supposed to drink while on call and should have recused himself from the surgery due to his intoxication.

It is unclear if Pieri is still employed by VA following the incident. Will he get fired?

Pieri, 59, worked at Wilkes-Barre VA Medical Center in Pennsylvania. On February 4, 2016, he was seen stumbling into the hospital after midnight shortly after playing slots and drinking numerous beers. Pieri was on call but failed to stop himself from getting drunk.

Witnesses noticed he struggled to prep the patient and prepare the surgical materials in the operating room. One physician assistant said Pieri was “definitely not himself,” according to an affidavit.

Surveillance footage shows Pieri emerging from his truck and running into a concrete barrier on his way to work. He reportedly stumbled numerous times before arriving inside the VA facility.

The veteran experienced stomach pains after the procedure and was readmitted to the hospital.


The most terrifying element of this case is that Pieri knew he was drunk and other clinicians were aware he was acting weird but failed to take action. Any number of problems can arise during an emergency surgery, and participating in a surgery while drunk knowing that risk is outrageous.

Given what VA has been up to regarding terminations, do you think Pieri will get fired? Or will he get the same treatment as some VA executives who apparently can get away with practically anything?

Diana Rubens and Kim Graves just returned to their cushy jobs with attorney fees covered by the American taxpayer — and it wasn’t because they were innocent but because other VA executives were equally as culpable in the conspiracy.


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  1. I agree that the story was shallow concerning the facts. I couldn’t imagine the VA would fire him. Most the VA nurses I know, don’t drink, they are on drugs. It’s the VA system, from top to bottom, too many issues. If it can’t be fixed, junk it..

  2. I will just say this about the Wilkes-Barre VA, I moved to Pennsylvania to the area served by this VA. After visiting it 3 times, I decided to move where I would be closer to another VA. The place is a joke, except if you are a veteran. When I was going there, I was told the Chief of Psychiatry wasn’t Board Certified. In fact, she failed the Board test twice. Primary Care was always a Nurse Practitioner or Physician’s Assistant – never a doctor. They would also give you any type of drug you asked for without question (this was 5 years ago). I was also told by health care professionals, that no one gets hired unless you know someone or you paid someone for the job. So, this kind of turd in the story is no surprise.

    1. YAWN — so what else is new? Same crap different VA. The really scary thing is that this is only the tip of the iceburg. The ones that got caught. For every one that actually gets caught, there are hundreds more that don’t.

  3. VA Code of Silence regarding employees
    Difficult to fire or demote VA employees.
    Patient Centered Care?
    J. David Cox would be proud of this nurse.

    1. You know I use to hear a lot of Veterans say that the VA had killed some veterans.I didn’t think it was really happening to veterans.

      After all of this.I’m starting to believe. I ? believe it to be more true.than not true.

      Our elected officials better listen and do something about it or resign and let someone have their it can get fixed.

      Its totally amazing our elected officials are not speaking out in favour of the veterans And demanding change or termination.

  4. if this happened in any hospital in the country they guy would be terminated for cause

    it should be an immediate termination without appeal rights

  5. I expect better from an investigative journalist. Is he an employee who is also a veteran? Does he have a SCD and hired under Schedule A, despite having PTSD as a combat medic? Will he be referred for his likely addiction? Should he be able to keep his job if he goes through treatment? Does he have any ADA protections? Hmmmm?

    And nice touch creating a possible but unlikely correlation between the veteran’s readmission and a circulating nurse.

    For some reason, I expected better of you, Ben.

    1. @Merri, I respectfully disagree with your position here, especially since you include ad hominem attacks and red herring arguments to muddy the very clear issues as presented in my Op Ed. The guy broke the law by driving drunk and proceeded to participate in an emergency surgery while smelling of booze with slurred speech. How long did it take for his superiors to stop his reckless behavior?

      To address your argument, I relayed the news as reported by original source media outlets for the purpose of writing an Op Ed and NOT as part of my original investigatory work. This is obvious because I cite the “Source” of the news, which was written by a local reporter in Pennsylvania. I cannot be in all places at once while also running my law firm. You are more than welcome to investigate this for a few months and report back with the information you seek, but it is not relevant for this Op Ed. Why did you believe this was original reporting from me using investigative journalist techniques? Those stories take months to work on. While I have a few of those in the works including one major national story on TBI (it was picked up by local media and now is a national scandal exposing a multi-million dollar scheme within the walls of VA), my writing here was clearly an Op Ed.

      Back to your argument, it falls short because you made personal attacks (ad hominem) against my reporting abilities and red herring logical fallacies that slyly serve to misdirect readers while evading the real core issues. At the end of the day, the nurse was so drunk that he tripped on the way into the hospital, he smelled of booze and his speech was slurred. He received a DUI after he participated in the surgery… and later, the veteran who was operated on suffered complications and was readmitted… This is a bad thing.

      The important question here is, “Why did VA let him participate in the operation and for how long while he smelled of booze?” And, “If he was drunk enough to receive a DUI ticket after participating in a surgery, how drunk was he and did he harm the patient?” What we really want to know is how VA will ensure he is held accountable. But to your question about whether he is a veteran, who cares? He endangered someone’s life. He needs to be held accountable. Failure to do so for any reason sends the wrong message to the public and to all VA employees.

      So far as I have read, not one of the numerous reporters who covered this illegal behavior discussed protected information within the nurse’s confidential file such as his ADA accommodations. Why do you feel such information is relevant to an Op Ed about his DUI or reckless endangerment of a veteran’s life while suffering an emergency? This data you assert that I need in order to write an Op Ed was not discussed by any other reporter and it is near impossible to get unless it is unlawfully leaked. So why do you claim that I am lacking in journalistic abilities for writing an Op Ed?

      Again, I appreciate the feedback and invite you to gather the information you seek as a citizen journalist and report back here if you find anything. If it is still newsworthy by the time you get it, I would be happy to publish it.

      1. Nice job Barney says nip it.Just nip it. They can’t handle the truth !

        I bet someone is red in the face. Wrong is wrong and we all have to pay sooner or later.

        Time for that employee to get treatment !

    2. Not sure where you are trying to go with this Merri, but after re-reading both the linked article and Ben’s post, I think you may want to do the same.
      First, Ben is not an investigative journalist but an attorney who blogs about things already in the news about the VA.
      Second. The nurse very well may be a veteran hired under what ever means and may be stressed, but at 59 he likely had been treated for any possible stress or substance abuse, and even if he had not, has been a practicing nurse long enough to know better. I highly doubt not getting triple 7s caused him to drink on a night he was on call. Even if that were the case, he should have had enough experience, and been responsible enough to recuse himself from being involved in an emergency surgery. That he did none of these things suggest he has done this several times before, and believed he could get away with it again.
      Finally, if he truly is a veteran that has been under stress for a long time, this may be the wake-up call he needs to get help. I am certain you would not be so ready to defend his actions if it were you or a loved one under the knife.
      He and the veteran patient, as far as we know from the reporting, got damn lucky it didn’t turn out worse.

    3. Did you say the nurse.veteran and has ptsd.don’t remember that being reported. It would not excuse the nurse.

      The VA should have noticed something wrong before this happened and should have given him treatment for his self medicating.

      Do you know him.

    4. Merri Busch sounds like a VA employee – someone get a breathalizer, she may be drunk typing. – Ben, I wouldn’t even have answered such a troll- keep on telling the facts like they are. I am sick of VA employees defending such illegal activities and trolling our veteran sites. Did you notice that she knew all the VA lingo and rules and regulations, your average person wouldn’t have spouted off all that crap. And, Merri – get a better fake name. Since your pretending to be a fake veteran.

      This comment is signed by a REAL person without a fake name to hide behind.

      Sandra Hale, Retired Nurse, Disabled Combat Veteran- Afghanistan 2007
      [email protected]

  6. Will he get fired? Likely not. Particularly if he claims some reason such as stress for drinking…never mind he was having fun while drinking. Or he may claim a twofer, that he drank and gambled because of stress.

    If he claims that, I can see the union standing behind him, especially if he enters some kind of treatment program. In a month or two he will be back on the job.

    In the meantime, his incredibly bad judgement in showing up for surgery drunk will be ignored.

    And anyone involved that knew he was drunk and did not report it or stop him, and downplayed his actions will be quietly forgotten.

    You can’t be that drunk and not smell it from 5 feet away, then only think, “gee, he’s acting a little weird.”

    1. Right! It even stated he ran into something or fell down on his way reporting to work. So this partly explains how my private medical center I go to, and the phlebotomist I always prefer, she is also fellow USAF Veteran, but she told me a few years ago that her father, a seasoned career old salt Navy Vet went to have surgery, an amputation of a toe, related to diabetes, and guess what? She has no reason to make his up and reason she will not use the VAMC’s….the VA removed the wrong toe…it was his wrong foot,,,idiots. This is not the first time I have heard of such things related to VA and medical error and you have to wonder what drugs or what liquid lunch they must have just consumed in order to make such a fundamental error? Amazing!

      1. If I had to go anywhere for surgery on any limb, I think I would be anal retentive enough to take a very large black sharpie and place an ‘X Marks The Spot’ on the needed worked on limb.
        Now with the VA, it’s a “gamble” because there’s no guarantee that English is even a fluent third language 🙂 Maybe just an ‘X’.

      2. When I was in the Houston VA years ago, there was a family there that was VERY upset. Their father was in the hospital for a foot amputation, also likely due to diabetes, and they amputated the wrong foot.
        Every time I have had knee surgery, AF, Army, civilian twice, they made me mark an X on the leg being cut on.
        When I had it replaced by the VA 2 years ago, they just had me point to which one it was.
        I was just happy they asked.

    1. What’s really more scary is to think just how many surgical operations he assisted with in years prior to this, having drinks while on active call/alert, and how many people did he “assist” into a “Bloody Mary State”????

      Sorry for dark humor but Benjamin’s “Bad VA Art” really should be one of many calendar picture pages made up, as today’s even has this subtle but once recognized quite pronounced series of crack in the wall behind him, making him, well, cracked-up! 🙂

      Where DO you get some of these photos? Dare we ask? 🙂

      1. The picture is perfect.many employees drink right after do you think things are done.

        Management gets together at a bar or their homes and drink and then drunk come up with ways to get over on Veterans and the government.

        Especially in rural communities.were VA employees are all friends or relative’s and they tell each other what employees need to be delt with and are a threat to their jobs or bonous.

        If it’s a veteran.they determine how to get back at them. How many regulations were made by employees drinking on the job.

        Vodka or snoops is hard to detect.

  7. I believe this person will be punished.don’t know if he will be fired.

    He maybe fired.because he’s not part of administration. Non administrative personnel will not be defended by the administration.since this is in the open.

    If the union defends this employee and the department has the proof of intoxication.the union would loose.

    Management will fire him to prove a point.we do fire employees. One fired employee will not excuse them of all the other illegal acts they are committing against veterans.

    Everything starts with management.from the front line supervisor to the director and beyond.

    I just received a call from choise program and scheduled for my first outpatient appointment.

    Asked if I had to do anything concerning paperwork in order for the doctor’s to get paid.

    Reply no authority will be faxed to them. I will keep records on everything that happens and will be reported to you as the process and the what they may say about the VA.

    Now maybe I can relax and not worry about the employee who falsely accused me of disruptive behavior and I can live the rest of my life in piece.

    One thing I will not do and that’s stop fighting the VA.until they clear my name and the department of Veterans Affairs.disruptive committee is delt with and veterans going to the VA are not living in fear of this illegal committee.

    Venditive employees have no place in the VA system.those type of employees is what’s wrong with the VA and veterans deserve care without having to fear the very people intrusted to care for them.

    I will be the canary in the mine.

    It maybe short lived.but right now.I feel free !

  8. Y’all should check out a “Utube” video from “INFOWARS. com”!

    “Why Obama will not indict Hillary”

    It’s already widely known, Hillary went to Obama and said, quote: “Call off your
    fμ€king dogs!”
    It’s come out now, she’s been threatening to “release all documents” which will prove the corruption of the Washington career politicians!
    I believe this is the “reason” behind the DOJ not bringing charges against her. God knows they have more than enough evidence! I also believe Washington is scared to death of Mr. Trump succeeding Obama as President! I believe he will topple the government elitists and bring our country back in good favor with our friends and our enemies will fear us!

    1. P.S.
      I forgot to mention. Keep “Gitmo Open” for when President Trump has Hillary, Bill and all the other corrupt politicians arrested, tried and sentenced to long prison terms.
      It would also be a great place for the corrupt VA employees and upper management personnel!

      1. That is a good idea, it truly would make a nice little get and stay away spot for all VA SES employees.

  9. @namnibor
    I believe the vet who had the surgery “was readmitted after having stomach pains”. Not the nurse who was drunk! This leads me to believe something happened during surgery that shouldn’t have happened!
    Worse case senerio, Did the “drunk nurse” upchuck into the vets opened incision during this surgery? Probably NOT! Yet, I’m feeling a little “revengfull and hateful” toward VA this morning!
    Especially since there are MORE AND MORE negative articles coming out about VA in recent months and years! And our elected pu$$ies haven’t done one damn thing about them! Our elected officials are a disgrace to this country!

    Do I think anything will happen to him?
    Because the union will come to his aid.

    Do I think the union will allow anything to happen to him?

    Will the Director do anything?

    Will Congress, or any of the Committee’s, do anything?
    “HELL NO!”
    They’ll just sit on their behinds, (BRAINS), and bellow out something. Saying something like, “…Should happen!” But we all know NOTHING WILL!

    Nothing will happen until all of these so-called elected officials realize their cushy paycheck is about to end!

    1. The question of whether anything will happen to him depends on whether his nursing license is impacted. Even then, it may only be impacted such that he has restrictions on it requiring he be supervised.
      Never mind that he was supervised since he certainly was not doing the surgery as a nurse.
      I keep bitching about VA providers being exempt from state regulatory oversight. This nurse is a prime example for the need. Same with any other licensed provider in the room with him the night he was drunk who did nothing to stop him.
      If VA providers had to follow state oversight of their licenses, there would have been several people stopping him and reporting him because they would not want their own license impacted.
      As it is, this likely only became an issue because the police got involved.
      How many other times has he done this and gotten away with it? With the full knowledge of those working with him?

  10. Let me guess! I am betting he will get to be sent to some posh sobriety and addiction recovery spa in Vegas or Los Angeles only to come out ready to magically assist in surgeries and yes, the AFGE Union will protect him because the poor thing has to deal with us nasty Veterans and if it were not for we nasty Veterans, he would not have to drink…issue pushed, then the VA will give him a full early retirement with FULL PAY because after all, his poor tummy hurt and had to be admitted as a patient…around us nasty Veterans and…he is mentally scarred for rest of his life!!!!!!!

    Had a Veteran even arrived at a medical appointment with Listerine on fresh breath the VA Dr. would have immediately interpreted that as the Veteran had a drinking/substance abuse problem, and proceed to screw with Veteran’s disability benefits for next decade.

    Sound ridiculous? It could easily happen.

    1. Sounds about par for the course. But you forgot to mention the extended time off with pay while he goes through court.

      1. Nah, the VA will just continue to allow him to assist in surgeries as long as he gets a ride if he’s been drinking at the casino…just like the VA continues to employ that Nursing Assistant down in Louisiana = VAMC that through blunt force trauma, killed a 70+ old Veteran Patient…that’s how obstinately defiant the VA has evolved into.
        I think we would be going to even worse conditions if and when say Sloan Gibson may slide into the VA Sec. position…all the slugs need to go.
        Time to gut the beast.

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