Former VA Pathologist Gets 20 Years for Manslaughter, Mail Fraud

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Robert Morris Levy, a former pathologist for the Veterans Administration in Fayetteville, was sentenced Friday to 20 years in federal prison and ordered to pay $497,745 in restitution for involuntary manslaughter and mail fraud. 

A federal grand jury indicted Levy in August 2019, and he entered a guilty plea in June 2020.

In February 2014, Levy conducted a workup of a biopsy of a tumor in the lymph node of an Air Force veteran and rendered a diagnosis of diffuse large B cell lymphoma. That diagnosis was incorrect, and Levy falsely claimed another pathologist agreed with it, according to a news release from David Clay Fowlkes, acting U.S. attorney for the Western District of Arkansas. The veteran died five months later of small cell carcinoma for which he received no treatment.

Levy, now 54, has a long history of misconduct as well. In 2016, a drug and alcohol test confirmed that he was intoxicated while on duty. At that point, he had been chief of pathology and laboratory medical services at the Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks since 2005. 

His privileges to practice medicine were suspended after that incident and his clinical privileges were revoked. 

Levy completed a voluntary three-month in-patient treatment program in October 2016, and returned to work at the Fayetteville VA facility after agreeing to abstain from alcohol and drugs and to submit to random screenings.

However, 12 times in 2017 and 2018, he bought and consumed 2-methyl-2-butanol, an intoxicant that is not detectable in routine drug and alcohol tests. 

“There is no more important work for our office than seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of our communities in western Arkansas,” Fowlkes said in the release. “The victims of this case are people who gave selflessly to ensure the safety and security of the United States. They deserve the best medical care that we can provide for them. They deserve to have doctors in charge of their treatment who are dedicated and vigilant, just as these victims were in their service to our country. 

“Instead, this defendant’s criminal conduct in this case caused irreparable harm to the victims and their families.”

VA Inspector General Michael J. Missal added, “This sentence should send a strong message that those who abuse their positions of trust in caring for veterans will be held accountable.”

U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, whose congressional district includes Fayetteville, issued the following statement: “Today’s sentence will never change the loss and suffering endured by Mr. Levy’s victims and their families. He betrayed the trust of those who risked their lives for our nation and abandoned his own fundamental oath to do no harm. Justice also means ensuring a situation like this is never allowed to be possible again. As a veteran and Congressman, I will continue advocating for reforms that strengthen the credentialing process and VA medical system as a whole. Our soldiers protect us, and we must do the same for them when they return home.”