Medical negligence occurs in all varieties of medical settings. It is estimated that over 400,000 Americans are killed each year as a result of preventable medical errors.
Unfortunately, it seems that veterans may face even bigger threats to their health, safety and lives due to the systemic negligence of the VA medical care system.
No End to News Stories Depicting Systemic and Pervasive Issues at VA Hospitals
The news over the past several years has been chalk full of stories of abuses at the VA. Much of the news began with the many issues surrounding VA neglect and abuse in the VA disability process. Those were troubling and continue unabated. Just as troubling, perhaps more so, is the news over the last year or so surrounding VA medical negligence in the care of veteran patients.
It seems that a new story on medical negligence at the VA comes out weekly. It begins with falsified waiting lists and wait times for appointments to improve the VA’s performance numbers. Then the stories came about the shredding of patient medical files. Finally, news of the criminal indictments issued for falsifying medical records to suggest veterans were refusing recommended treatment when they were not.
VA Systemic Negligence Puts Veteran Lives at Risk
This is more than a few misguided staff and administrators. It is a systemic problem. The VA medical system seems to be driven by performance reviews rather than patient care. One would think the two would be related but in this case they are not. In fact, patient care is falsified in one way of another every step of the way by some VA hospital management and personnel.
All the while, the VA and others continue to tout the successes of the VA as if to sweep these abuses under the rug as quickly as news cycles run. And then it gets worse with every new revelation.
So one might ask, is this just a rant or is it actually important to a discussion of a VA medical malpractice article. Each and every one of these practices puts the health and lives of veterans at severe risk. Not surprisingly, it appears that these practices have led to the wrongful death of many veteran patients.
Medical Malpractice and Wrongful Death Claims
The numbers are a moving target on the wrongful death associated with medical care through the VA. Because they will probably be outdated tomorrow, it may simply be said that thousands of veterans have died, are dying and will die in the future as a result of VA medical negligence.
Each one of the practices mentioned gives rise to possible medical malpractice and wrongful death claims against the VA Hospital. The deliberate delays in treatment, abrogation of treatment responsibilities, falsification of treatment reports and just plain refusal to treat in a medically acceptable manner where they lead to serious harm or death of the patient is by definition medical malpractice.
Veterans and their families need to understand their rights. Perhaps more importantly, if they have any suspicion of medical negligence and consequent harm at the hands of the VA, they need to carefully scrutinize every medical record for falsified and missing records. Unfortunately, this is what it has come to: veterans simply cannot trust the VA hospital to uphold its responsibilities and duties in the care of veterans.
Medical Malpractice Claims Do Not Have to Be Against the Doctor
Keep in mind that many of the abuses above have nothing to do with individual doctors. Of course, like any other medical setting, there will be doctors and other medical providers that commit grave and inexcusable errors. However, again like other medical settings, the vast majority of doctors and other medical providers are caring and competent taking their duties towards patients very seriously.
In the case of the VA hospital, the great bulk of the negligence comes from hopstial administration. It is not doctors shredding medical records, it is administrative staff. These folks are agents of the VA hospital and therefore their actions are imputed to the VA hospital. In short, the claims will rightfully be against the VA hospital.
VA Medical Malpractice Claims Present Special Challenges
Claims against the VA hospital fall under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). The FTCA presents a number of obstacles, challenges and deadlines unique to VA malpractice claims. These are simply procedural and are not too difficult to overcome. The issues cited above are not so easy.
Medical malpractice claims are generally very difficult and expensive to pursue. This is the case even where the medical provider is completely cooperative and honest. With the VA practices coming to light each and every week, it might be expected that there will be no such cooperation. For instance, how might the VA revive records and does it have the capacity and record keeping practices necessary to correct falsified treatment records? And if they do, will they ever notify the patients affected by these practices?
Assuming the stories are all true, and assuming that this is a system wide problem not necessarily limited to any particular facility, the answers are likely bleak.
The Albuquerque medical malpractice attorneys at Collins & Collins, P.C. can be reached at (505) 242-5958.