You’re probably surprised to be faced with a complaint challenging your work and professionalism. Such complaints might seem completely unjustified. Even so, you need to take such complaints seriously.
You need someone on your side who thoroughly understands Texas’ veterinary laws as well as you know your job. That’s why you should contact Bertolino LLP.
Serving Veterinarians in Austin and Throughout Texas
The work of veterinarians in Texas is supervised by the Texas State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners, an organization of six practicing veterinarians and three members of the public who are appointed by the governor. If you ever face a complaint against your Vet practice, it is this Board that investigates the claim and determines any consequences you may face.
You will be informed in writing if a complaint is filed against you, at which time you will have a chance to respond both with your own testimony regarding the events in question and with supporting documents and witnesses that defend your related decisions or behaviors. If you are found to be in violation of state law or Texas Board of Veterinary rules, you may face a penalty ranging from a reprimand to the revocation of your Medical Vet license, with the possibility of further civil litigation to follow. You should have legal representation by your side as you go through each step of the process to help you prepare the best defense possible.
When your professional reputation is at stake, why would you face this challenge alone? The hard-working lawyers at Bertolino LLP know how to carefully research every potential case. Often, what might seem like a trivial piece of information can be a crucial piece of evidence, and the attorneys at Bertolino LLP understand this.
How the Veterinarian License Complaint Process Works
A complaint can be filed against both licensed veterinarians and non-licensed personnel. Specifically, the Texas Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners will accept complaints pertaining to individuals practicing veterinary medicine without a proper license, as well as all properly licensed individuals. The start of the complaint process begins when a complainant submits the Complaint Form to the Board for official review.
Once a complaint is properly submitted, the board will review the complaint for valid accusations. After the board receives a complaint, they will assign an investigator, gather any factual information surrounding the allegations, and then decide to enter a final disposition stating no findings. Or, if there is validity to the claim, they will pursue the matter further.
If the investigation indicates a violation of the Veterinary Licensing Act or Professional Rules of Conduct, the case will go into review and disciplinary process. Once the complaint has been filed, the affected veterinarian will have a specific amount of days to respond to the complaint—generally, the letter notice will inform the affected party how many days they have to respond.
The Investigation Process
When a complaint is filed against a licensed veterinarian, the Board will normally send a letter to the subject of the investigation, unless doing so would endanger the investigation. This letter reminds the veterinarian of his or her right to be represented by a veterinary license defense attorney and the deadline for responding to the allegations.
One of the most crucial parts of the investigation is the initial response. It sets the tone for the rest of the process by establishing a body of evidence. Typically, the Board’s investigator may obtain a variety of materials connected to the accusations, including:
- Medical records
- Prescription logs
- Witness testimonies
In some cases, the Board investigator will visit the veterinarian’s office. After the veterinarian has responded and the investigator has gathered all relevant information, the investigator makes a recommendation based on the claims and the factual findings. The investigator’s findings are provided to senior personnel, who then make a choice on how to proceed with the matter.
What Comes After an Investigation?
The case could be dismissed or referred to an Informal Conference. If the investigation leads to a “Informal” Conference, keep in mind that, while less formal than a contested hearing, it is not completely informal. The informality merely means that the standard court and hearing procedures and evidence admission rules do not apply.
The complaints and evidence are presented to members of the Veterinary Medical Examiners Board who interrogate the veterinarian at the Informal Conference in Austin. For the members’ consideration, the veterinarian may also submit evidence and other mitigating materials. After the hearing, agency officials will convene on their own (much like a jury) and then present their ruling to the parties.
The Board’s decision is presented in the form of suggested actions or a proposed Agreed Order. If no action is required, the suggestion can be a dismissal, or a recommended Agreed Order if a violation is discovered.
What Happens When the Evidence Confirms a Violation
If the evidence indicates a legal violation, the Board may suggest a settlement offer in the form of an Agreed Order. An Agreed Order can be negotiated further between the parties. The claims against the veterinarian in question, the regulations or statutes that were violated, and the restrictions or other sanctions imposed on the individual’s license will all be listed in the Agreed Order. The severity of the restrictions may be reduced if there are any mitigating reasons in the veterinarian’s favor.
If the veterinarian agrees to the proposed Agreed Order, the order is signed by the veterinarian and given to the Board for approval. The Board has the option of ratifying the Order as is, amending it, or rejecting it outright. A final copy of the signed Order is mailed to the veterinarian and the veterinarian’s attorney if the Board accepts the Order.
The Board’s disciplinary action is documented on its website and announced in its quarterly newsletter. Disciplinary actions regarding your veterinary license are always permanent and public.
Disciplinary Actions Handed Down by the Texas Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners
The Texas Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners is the regulatory body in charge of veterinary medicine practice in the state of Texas. The agency has a reputation for pursuing investigations aggressively and enforcing strict disciplinary measures.
The Veterinary Licensing Act (Texas Occupations Code Chapter 801) outlines various reasons for possible disciplinary action, including, but not limited to:
- Chemical dependency
- Mental illness
- Criminal conviction or investigation
- Dishonest or fraudulent behavior
- Illegal activity
- Violating the rule of professional conduct
- False certification
- Failure to obtain proper licensing
- Ongoing disciplinary action in another jurisdiction
The above is a list of the most common issues seen for disciplinary action; §801.402 of the Veterinary Licensing Act outlines all possible instances when a person is subjected to disciplinary action or the denial of their license.
Possible Disciplinary Procedures
After the complaint and board investigation, they will either find a reason to take further disciplinary action, or they will not find any validity for the allegations and close the case. If the board finds reason for disciplinary action, under Subchapter I, §801.401, they may:
- Refuse to renew a license
- Refuse to further review an application
- Revoke or suspend the license
- Impose a penalty
- Limit the scope of practice
The board may require a license holder who violates this chapter to participate in a continuing education program, in addition to any disciplinary procedures above authorized by this subchapter. The board will determine which continuing education programs the license holder may attend and how many hours he or she must complete. The board shall design a continuing education program that is related to the infraction committed by the license holder.
Additionally, if the board concludes that a veterinarian is an impaired professional as defined by §467.001 of the Health and Safety Code, the board may issue a disciplinary order directing the veterinarian to participate in the peer support program under §801.157.
Contact Our Attorneys Today for Skilled Legal Representation
The hard-working lawyers at Bertolino LLP know how to carefully research every potential case. Often, what might seem like a trivial piece of information can be a crucial piece of evidence. The attorneys at Bertolino LLP understand this. That’s why we work so hard on every case.
Complex cases demand an experienced lawyer. Put your trust in us. Call (512) 476-5757 and schedule a case evaluation. Discover what a professional license defense attorney at Bertolino LLP can do for you.Call Today
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