Medical Malpractice Claims among Veterans Continue to Rise

Military veterans should receive top-of-the-line medical care, but agency records indicate that the amount of medical malpractice claims among veterans has reached a 12-year high. In fact, in 2012, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) made more than 400 payments for a total of $91.7 million to resolve medical malpractice claims against its doctors and facilities.

Since 2003, VA medical malpractice settlements and judgments have reached an astonishing $845 million and some legislators and government watchdogs are criticizing the VA for its lack of accountability and incentives to prevent medical errors.

As this article notes, many of the stories of medical malpractice involving veterans are absolutely appalling and heart-wrenching. For instance, a 20-year Marine Corps veteran was paralyzed after a routine tooth extraction, an Air Force veteran died after a surgeon accidentally punctured his heart, and an Army veteran died after doctors repeatedly failed to diagnose signs of lung cancer.

Although the number of medical malpractice claims paid to veterans has reached a 12-year high, some experts say that the number of claims has increased because the number of VA patients increased. Nonetheless, veterans and their families are the ones who pay the ultimate price by not getting the medical care that they need and deserve. As this article states:

“For the vets and family members who file these lawsuits, the costs are devastating beyond dollars. Veterans who survived battle find themselves fighting against the federal agency intended to help them. Spouses who celebrated their loved ones’ return from war find themselves standing before flag-draped coffins.”

Although the VA insists that it has procedures in place to catch medical errors, critics say that the VA “has no incentive to hold malpractice costs down” since the payment of malpractice claims comes from the Treasury budget. Moreover, because plaintiffs cannot sue a VA doctor directly, and instead must sue the VA, doctors are not held personally accountable for their medical negligence.

“There’s a culture of complacency that’s going on,” said Rep. David Scott, D-Ga. “But you know what breaks my heart? We focus so much on sending our soldiers to war. But when they’re coming back, we don’t have the same focus on taking care of them.”

Not only does the VA lack accountability for medical errors, but according to Bloomberg, a recent report by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office found that in 2011 the VA gave $150 million in bonuses to doctors and other health care providers without adequately linking the bonus to the quality of their work. In fact, bonuses were paid to a radiologist who was unable to read a mammogram and an emergency-room doctor who refused to see patients.

Contact a Medical Malpractice Lawyer

At Cogan & Power, P.C., our medical malpractice lawyers focus on helping the victims of medical malpractice, including veterans, obtain maximum financial recovery. We will guide you every step of the way so that you understand the legal process and know what to expect. If you or a loved one has been the victim of negligence or medical error, do not hesitate to contact our office at (312) 477-2500 to learn more about a possible medical malpractice lawsuit.