Medical Malpractice at VA Hospitals
In past blogs on medical malpractice, we’ve talked about groups that are particularly affected by malpractice, including pregnant women and elderly people in nursing homes. One vulnerable group that we have yet to discuss, however, is military veterans.
The Role of VA Hospitals
Americans in the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard perform critical, dangerous work every day. Whether they are doing maintenance on a ship, or fighting overseas, they face a variety of hazards. These injuries often include combat injures, like gunshot wounds, paralysis, and mental trauma, particularly post-traumatic stress disorder. However, an injury can occur in any kind of military work. For example, a soldier on an army base could fall while doing maintenance work, or a member of the Air Force could suffer from hearing damage.
When military members finish their service, they deserve dignity and respect. One way that the government, via the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), looks out for veterans is by providing hospitals specifically for veterans. They deal with service-related injuries, as well as any other care that veterans may need throughout the years. VA hospitals are a way for veterans to receive care in an environment that caters to them. In most situations, professionals at VA hospitals provide the respectful and diligent care that veterans deserve.
Malpractice at VA Hospitals
However, medical malpractice still occurs at VA hospitals. In fact, it is on the rise. According to the New York Daily News, malpractice payouts rose from $98 million in 2011 to $338 million in 2015. These numbers show that malpractice not only occurs at VA hospitals, but that the harm is severe enough to warrant massive amounts of compensation.
Worse yet, a report by USA Today suggests that many instances of malpractice are ignored at VA hospitals. Based on hundreds of confidential records, the report points to 126 cases where hospital workers displayed misconduct without facing discipline. One surgeon alone made harmful mistakes in 88 cases. He was still able to quietly resign and continue his practice outside of the VA.
Types of VA Malpractice
Like at any hospital, examples of malpractice at VA hospitals include everything from failure to diagnose to serious surgical errors. Two recent cases show the scope of malpractice at VA hospitals, and how devastating it is for veterans and their families.
In a lawsuit filed last year, a Marine combat veteran and his wife sued the James V. Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa for malpractice and negligence. The Marine, who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, was diagnosed with a kidney lesion during a 2011 hospital visit. However, he never received further treatment. Upon later learning that the lesion was cancerous, he underwent surgery to have part of his kidney removed. He is now suing the hospital, claiming that the surgery and complications caused permanent harm. His wife, forced to become his primary caregiver, is also claiming that the ordeal resulted in a loss of companionship and society.
In another case out of Connecticut, an Army veteran went to his local VA hospital with severe abdominal pain. He had surgery, but returned to a hospital a few years later, again complaining of abdominal pain. An x-ray showed that during his surgery, a scalpel was left inside his body. The veteran is now suing the hospital, claiming that the mistake left him with permanent pain.
Shedding Light on the Problem
None of this means that VA hospitals are cruel, unlawful places. Medical malpractice occurs across all fields and specialties, and is the third leading cause of death in the United States. VA hospitals are not alone in their problems with malpractice, but because they are serve such an important group of American citizens, their failures and breaches of care are particularly noteworthy.
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