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Several veterans centers doctors have disciplinary records

A closer look at the six doctors with checkered pasts who work at Oklahoma’s veterans centers.
by Andrew Knittle Modified: March 16, 2014 at 1:00 pm •  Published: March 16, 2014
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Six doctors working for the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs have been disciplined by a medical licensure board prior to joining the ranks of the state agency.

Some have been cited for sexual misconduct. Others battled drug and alcohol addiction, in some cases for decades. Others recklessly overprescribed potentially dangerous narcotic medications.

Here’s a look at the doctors with disciplinary records who are currently working for the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs:

James Kent Robberson

Robberson, who was hired by ODVA in 2013, had been in trouble twice before he joined the staff.

In 2000, he was cited by the state Medical Board for “improper fondling” of at least three female patients during routine exams in his office. Another woman was fondled by Robberson, records show, after he had been told to have a female chaperone in the room with him if he was going to be doing an exam that required physical contact.

At the same time, Robberson also was cited for being addicted to narcotics for a 10-year period, from 1989 to 1999. Records show he was addicted to painkillers and benzodiazepines, which are highly addictive controlled substances used to treat anxiety and other disorders.

Years later, in 2010, Robberson was cited by the medical board for having an inappropriate sexual relationship with a female employee he was treating for neck and back pain. The woman, a nurse, had become addicted to pain medications, records show, and Robberson was writing her prescriptions to feed her addiction.

An investigation into the relationship revealed that Robberson also was writing prescriptions for pain medications to the woman’s husband, who was one of Robberson’s patients.

In the end, it was revealed that Robberson wrote the woman’s husband 35 prescriptions for hydrocodone in just a year’s time.

Robberson is an employee of the Norman Veterans Center.

Karis Ann Bernhardt

Bernhardt, a medical doctor, was disciplined by the state Medical Board in the years before her employment with the center for substance abuse issues and writing prescriptions for potentially dangerous drugs to her ex-husband, with whom she did not establish a legitimate doctor-patient relationship.

Bernhardt has been cited for admitting to consuming drugs while she was a patient in a rehabilitation center in Maui.

She’s also been caught lying to medical board investigators about attending weekly meetings designed to help her overcome and manage her addiction.

Bernhardt currently works at the Norman Veterans Center.

Michael Whinery

Whinery, a doctor of osteopathy, has a lengthy history of disciplinary problems in Oklahoma.

Records show that he has worked for Veterans Affairs for quite some time and that he’s had his share of trouble while serving the agency.

In 2011, Whinery appeared to hit a low point. That year, the doctor was arrested on two separate occasions for drunk driving. The arrests happened a day a part, on July 3 and July 4, 2011.

According to records maintained by the Oklahoma Board of Osteopathic Examiners, Whinery was in minor traffic accidents shortly before each arrest. He has since pleaded no contest to two counts of driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, drawing a one-year suspended sentence on both counts.

Whinery, who began working for the agency in 2000 at the Claremore center, also was cited in 2011 for absenteeism and because he was receiving large amounts of addictive narcotics from a doctor in Norman. He also was cited in 2010 for unlawfully prescribing addictive painkillers to fellow employees at the Claremore Veterans Center.

Prior to joining the staff in Claremore, Whinery was cited for “practicing medicine while impaired on CDS and alcohol,” and for teaming up with a medical doctor in order to gain access to prescription medications. In 1988, he was “charged with being drunk in a public place and carrying a firearm while under the influence of liquor,” board records show.

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by Andrew Knittle
Investigative Reporter
Andrew Knittle has covered state water issues, tribal concerns and major criminal proceedings during his career as an Oklahoma journalist. He has won reporting awards from the state's Associated Press bureau and prides himself on finding a real...
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