U.S. Veterans are an important part of our population that deserve gratitude and respect for all they have done to protect and serve our country. They, too, should have their rights protected and defended, especially when it comes to medical treatment. According to the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) there are approximately 22.7 million veterans in the United States as of 2010. In recent years, there has been a rise in malpractice payouts to U.S. Veterans. According to the Cox Media Group investigation, the VA paid out roughly $845 million in malpractice cases during the last 10 years.
Due to the number of veterans needing medical treatment, VA hospitals are overwhelmed, understaffed and unable to address the needs of their patients in a timely and efficient manner. There are many factors that contribute to the recent large payouts to veterans and their families. If you or a loved one has been hurt or injured due to improper care, negligence or abuse under the care of a VA medical center, know your rights to get the help you need and deserve. Contact the medical malpractice law offices of Slack & Davis for a free consultation at 888.409.8046.
Aliments, injuries and complications
Veterans suffer from many forms of ailments, injuries and complications from serving our country. If their medical and pharmaceutical needs are not properly met, veterans can seek compensation. Some of the most common types of veteran injuries and illnesses are:
- Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) – This occurs when a person suffers a traumatic impact to the head. Some severe forms due to shrapnel or bullet wounds to the head can lead to a coma. More common types of TBI are caused by the close proximity to an explosion, such as a bomb. Some symptoms for those who suffer from TBI are mood changes, difficulty concentrating, repetitive headaches, problems sleeping and loss of balance. Advances in medical care and technology allow service men and women to survive their wounds, however the recovery can be a complex road that deeply affects quality of life. Since our new veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are younger than ever, this can mean a long recovery process that consists of multiple ongoing treatments, therapy and surgeries. For additional information, visit the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center The most common symptoms of TBI are:
- Changes in personality
- Unrestful sleep
- Disorientation and confusion
- Anger or violent behavior
- Depression or suicidal thoughts
- Headaches and weakness in extremities
- Poor impulse control
- Spinal Cord Injuries (SCI) – This occurs when an injury to this area of the body disrupts the movement of information from the brain to other nerves in the body that lead to muscles, skin and internal organs. When the flow of information is interrupted this can cause paralysis or other forms of permanent damage. SCI recovery process often requires ongoing therapy, surgeries and medication to help the patient handle daily functions. According to the VA, about 42,000 veterans suffer from a serious SCI that will require ongoing treatment. Paralysis is a condition that occurs from a SCI injury. There are many causes that lead to both traumatic and non-traumatic paralysis. Traumatic events can be auto accidents, falls military work or sport event. Non-traumatic events such as cancer, arthritis, infection and disk degeneration can also cause paralysis. Veterans can become a victim to either form. In 2012 alone the Paralyzed Veterans of America provided service to about 50,000 veterans and their families who are paralyzed, according to their Annual Report.
- Hearing Damage– This is one of the most common combat-related injuries. According to the VA, tinnitus is the number one disability among veterans affecting about one in 10 adults. Tinnitus is a ringing or buzzing sound caused from overexposure to loud sounds and explosive noises. There is no cure for tinnitus, only the ability to manage the patient’s reaction to the buzzing sound in an effort to make it less prominent.
- Blindness and Vision Impairment– This is a loss of vision, mild to severe, that cannot be corrected with glasses, contact lenses or medical surgery. Some of the most common causes of blindness are:
- Macular degeneration
- Traumatic injuries
Agencies like Blinded Veterans Association can help veterans and their families meet and overcome the challenges and adjustments of blindness. The VA offers both medical centers and blind rehabilitation centers and clinics. Services are available at all the facilities through the Visual Impairment Services (VIS) coordinator for your area. Blind veterans may also be eligible for disability compensation and may receive VA aids for the blind. The different types of visually impaired aid are:
- Adjustment to blindness training
- Improvement and structural alterations at home
- Specially adapted housing
- Low-vision aids and training in their use
- Electronic and mechanical aids for the blind
- Guide dogs and the training for the veteran to use the dog (may include the dog’s medical expenses)
- Talking books, tapes, and Braille literature provided by the Library of Congress
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)- This occurs after someone has experienced or witnessed a terrible or scary event. Some of the events that can cause PTSD are combat exposure, child physical or sexual abuse, physical or sexual assault, terrorist attack, serious accident and natural disasters. Most of the fear a PTSD patient experiences stems from feeling that you have no control over what is happening. Many people experience stress after a fearful event in their life, but it’s not until the stress interrupts or affects your life that you may have PTSD. Some of the major PTSD symptoms are:
- Reliving the event(s)
- Avoiding situations that remind you of the event
- Negative changes in beliefs and feelings
- Feeling keyed up (hyperarousal)
Some of the problems PTSD veterans experience are:
- Feeling depressed and anxious
- Feeling hopelessness, shame or despair
- Physical chronic pain symptoms
- Relationship and employment problems
- Drinking and drug problems
The two main treatments that may help a PTSD-affected veteran feel better over time are psychotherapy (counseling) and medication. Traumatic events can cause lasting effects, both physical and mental. Sometimes the wounds we can’t visibly identify are often the hardest to overcome.
- Limb Loss- When a veteran loses a limb due to combat or other forms of service for the United States, this creates major challenges both mentally and physically that take a long time to overcome. Veterans with limb loss need ongoing care, prosthetic devices, treatments and mobility assistance. Prosthetic limb care means having new, repaired or replaced devices over time, as well as receiving training to care and manage the device. Often, veterans don’t have the proper education or updates about their device, which may cause complications to an already difficult situation. Ongoing treatment for the limb is necessary in order to ensure the success of the patient and their device.
The medical malpractice attorneys of Slack & Davis are here to assist you or your loved one. Our expert medical malpractice law team has successfully litigated numerous cases involving serious injuries and wrongful death from military service-related incidents. For more information on how we can help, contact Slack & Davis at 888.409.8046.
Veterans Suffer Ailments from Improper Care
Although most ailments, injuries and complications that veterans suffer from happen on the battlefield or while on active duty, sadly many can occur from poorly mismanaged treatment after they’ve served our country. The VA is supposed to protect our veterans and provide excellence in care, but the VA medical treatment facilities reserved for their use, don’t always hold up to the standards set forth by government regulations. Sometimes, the VA medical centers and treatment facilities do more harm than good.
There is an alarming trend in recent news reports showing that veterans are not receiving timely care, their medical treatment is being mismanaged, VA doctors are poorly diagnosing patients, or veterans are not receiving proper treatment. In many cases, it is a combination of these issues that causes veterans to experience unnecessary pain, suffering, serious injuries, health complications or even death. The most common types of veteran medical negligence at VA hospitals, medical facilities and treatment centers are:
- Hospital errors- This occurs when doctors and nurses are understaffed, poorly trained or overwhelmed. When doctors, nurses and other staff are not meeting the standards set forth by the VA, it can lead to errors. Hospital errors like infection, misdiagnosis, surgical errors and pain management errors can all lead to additional health problems for a VA patient including death.
- Surgical errors- Poor pre-operative planning, errors during a procedure, and post operative errors can create further complications for a patient, which if not handled correctly can lead to injury, illness and even death.
- Mismanaged pain medication- This occurs when a doctor or nurse fails to prescribe the correct medication or dosage to a patient. It can also occur when ongoing treatments are not monitored carefully to see how a patient is reacting, healing or progressing from using the prescribed pain medication.
- Misdiagnosis- Occurs when a doctor incorrectly diagnoses or assesses a patient’s condition and as a result causes unnecessary harm, further injury or even death to a patient.
- Mismanaged childbirth and delivery- Birth injuries are medical injuries that occur during pregnancy or the delivery of a baby that result in injury, permanent damage or even death to the mother and/or baby. Many birth injuries happen in a delivery room that deprives the baby of needed medical care and causes further unnecessary complications.
- Long wait times-When a patient needs immediate medical care and makes an appointment to meet with a doctor, they should be able to come for a medical visit within a reasonable amount of time. No patient should suffer or have further complications because they contacted a medical facility that refused to schedule an appointment within a reasonable timeframe set forth by federal guidelines.
All of these described situations can be considered negligence on the part of the doctor, nurse or trained medical staff that leaves the patient in a worse condition and causes further damage instead of helping the patient heal. Many of these situations could be a sign of further issues with the facility, hospital or medical treatment that should be reported and investigated. At Slack & Davis, we understand how important it is for every individual to receive fair and quality medical treatment. Our medical malpractice attorneys of Slack & Davis are skilled at analyzing and litigating VA hospital and treatment center malpractice cases. If you or a loved one has suffered injury, illness or even wrongful death due to a medical error contact our medical malpractice offices at 888.409.8046.
Veteran Hospital, Medical Center and Rehabilitation Facilities Malpractice News
Veteran Malpractice Claims on the Rise
Since 2003, settlements and court judgments for veteran malpractice claims have cost the American taxpayers about $845 million, and reached an all time high of $98 million last year alone, according to the Cox Media Group and the Atlanta Journal Constitution who conducted their own investigation and analysis.
As of 2013, there are about 900,000 medical claims pending for longer than 125 days. Out of the 900,000 pending claims about 250,000 are for veterans who have been waiting about a year for a decision on their claim. Meanwhile, as the veteran waits for an appointment or an action plan their suffering, illness or injury can worsen and lead to further complications including death.
The spike in medical malpractice payout for veterans and their families is due to many factors such as long wait times, poor treatment, misdiagnosis and mismanaged facilities among others. This has led to further medical-related issues including death. Many citizens are wondering why taxpayers are the ones paying out the claims and why isn’t the VA being held accountable? In addition to accountability, many taxpayers are wondering why bonuses and incentives are being given to VA hospitals and medical centers where negligence has led to a patient’s death? These questions and more are finally getting answers as the VA continues its in-depth audit and reports the findings.
Whistleblowers are Right about Extensive Wait Times
Recently the VA made a statement that it is “committed to whistleblower protection and creating an environment in which employees feel free to voice their concerns without fear of reprisal.” Before former VA secretary Eric Shinseki resigned in late May 2014, he removed three officials from the Phoenix VA hospital where the initial waiting list allegations were made. The Office of Special Counsel (OSC), a federal investigative and prosecutorial agency that protects federal employees from reprisals, is investigating reports of alleged complaints that managers have demoted, suspended and lowered performance ratings of employees who tried to expose the inappropriate long waiting lists. Whistleblowers should be rewarded for their efforts to inform the public about a potentially explosive situation. They should not be in danger of being reprimanded or losing their jobs. The OSC investigation will determine the validity of the VA retaliation against 37 whistleblowers. The OSC will review these claims and take action to rectify the situation as needed. This is all part of the extensive nationwide review of the inappropriate scheduling practices of the VA hospitals and medical facilities.
Our medical malpractice attorneys of Slack & Davis are skilled at analyzing and litigating VA hospital and treatment center malpractice cases. We bring specific knowledge and expertise about how to file a VA claim. For more information on how we can help, contact Slack & Davis at 888.409.8046.
Extensive and Inappropriate Scheduling Practices Opens Investigation into the VA Medical System
More than 57,000 veteran patients have been waiting at least three months for medical appointments at medical clinics, hospitals and treatment centers run by the VA. An additional 64,000 requested medical care and never even made it onto any VA wait list. About 76% of the VA’s hospitals and clinics had at least one finding of manipulating the data on wait times to hide delays in providing the medical care needed. These findings are part of the nationwide audit results.
Some of the scandal is due to the increased number of veterans in the U.S. The VA struggles to handle the aging population of veterans from previous wars that flood the system, specifically Vietnam War-related medical issues. There are new veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars that are of a younger age bracket and will need treatment over an extensive length of time. Another issue is staffing in certain regions of the U.S. In some areas, the waiting time can vary based on the facility’s staffing, management and scheduling practices. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said that solving the VA’s problems will mean providing “a look at exactly what the scope of the problem is.”
Currently in the U.S. there are about 1,700 hospitals, clinics, community living centers, counseling centers and other types of veteran medical facilities. Most recently, the VA made a statement to the veterans regarding recent high-profile issues regarding misconduct, malpractice and mismanaged care in order to address veterans’ medical concerns.
Veterans Health Administration- VA Access Audit
The Veteran Health Administration (VHA) mission is to provide high quality health care and benefits to all veterans who need it. The Secretary of Veteran Affairs directed the Veteran Health Administration to conduct a nationwide Access Audit to review the VA’s policy about staff scheduling, identifying inappropriate scheduling practices regarding scheduling appointment dates and reviewing wait list management techniques.
On May 21, 2014, the Accelerating Access to Care Initiative was launched as a program to ensure timely access to medical care and patient treatment nationwide. All VA treatment centers who have not met the guidelines and expectations have been identified. The VA is contacting all the veterans who were denied timely access as well as simultaneously addressing the issues that factored into this devastating finding that inappropriate wait times have led to multiple cases of additional health issues, unaddressed medical needs and even wrongful death.
The VA gathered information from each facility, including the number of appointments scheduled, the number of requested appointments on each facility’s electronic wait list and the number of newly enrolled veteran patients who have not yet been scheduled for an appointment. The VA also gathered data about average wait times for both new and established patients for mental health, primary care, and specialty care at each facility.
Our medical malpractice attorneys of Slack & Davis understand the complex variables involved in VA medical claim cases and offer the expertise, resources and diligence necessary to determine how to proceed with the claim. For more information on how we can help contact Slack & Davis at 888.409.8046.
How to File a Claim
If you or a loved one is a U.S. veteran and want to file a claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), it can be a lengthy and complicated process and will require expert advice to help determine the best course of action that will allow for the largest compensation. The FTCA provides a uniform procedure for handling claims against the U.S. for monetary damages only on account of personal injury, wrongful death, loss or damage of property due to the negligence or knowingly wrongful actions of any government employees while acting within the scope of their employment. This situation deems the government employees responsible for the circumstances surrounding the issue.
An experienced medical malpractice lawyer can help you navigate through this difficult process. A VA claim would fall under the FTCA, meaning you would need to file an administrative claim with the federal courts and there is no right to a trial jury. It is important to follow filing deadlines and complete the correct forms for your specific claim. Usually, you need to file within two years from the date of the negligent act that caused the injury or death. After that, a lawsuit must be filed within six months after the claim is denied in writing by the U.S. government.
Veterans have a right to sue the U.S. government for the negligence of medical personnel. The process is governed by the FTCA and case law interpreting the FTCA. This is a complex area of the law with many technical requirements. The procedures for correctly bringing a claim against the U.S. government for medical negligence should be handled by an attorney who has the appropriate knowledge and experience with handling claims and lawsuits under the FTCA, as well as a proven track record of successfully prosecuting medical negligence cases.
The medical malpractice attorneys of Slack & Davis are here to assist you or your loved one. We provide our clients with legal expertise and representation along with caring, responsive service and guidance during and after litigation for military service-related accidents, injuries and death. For more information on how we can help, contact Slack & Davis at 888.409.8046.
Who Can Sue
- Dependents and family members of military personnel
- Military retirees
Limitation on Active Duty Personnel
While active duty military personnel usually cannot bring a claim against another military member for negligence, their family members and dependents are usually permitted to do so. Veteran and military retirees are not affected by the limitation imposed on active duty personnel.
Filing an Electronic FDC via E-Benefits
Veterans have the option of filing a claim online via E-Benefits through the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. The Fully Developed Claim (FDC) can be made electronically for the ease and comfort of the veteran making the claim for disability compensation. The VA has provided a step-by-step YouTube video to explain and streamline the process in an effort to make filing more user-friendly. Veterans can file for their E-Benefits by going to the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RSzX029_ohA&feature=youtu.be.
For 20 years, Slack & Davis has fought and won legal battles of enormous consequence armed with these simple qualities: compassionate advocacy, power through precision and a deep understanding of the human condition. The highly skilled medical malpractice attorneys of Slack & Davis are here to help guide you through whatever may lie ahead as we search for the right kind of justice for your particular situation. If you or a loved one has suffered, been injured or died as a result of medical negligence by a government employee at a military hospital, clinic, VA medical center or military institution, contact our offices at 888.409.8046.