It was reported last week in a number of news outlets that the Department of Veteran Affairs now admits that delayed VA Hospital treatment may have contributed to the deaths of some veterans.
Sounds like progress? Not so fast.
There is a very wide legal gulf between “contributed to” and “conclusively” shown when it comes to fair compensation of the families who lost loved ones as a result of systemic VA Hospital medical malpractice.
Position Unchanged at VA – Prove It If You Can!
It is clear that VA Hospital delays in treatment caused harm to veteran patients no matter how the VA wishes to word it.
Despite the seeming progress, it appears that the VA’s position remains unchanged sticking to their position that it has not been conclusively shown that the delays caused the wrongful death of veterans.
This seems to be splitting hairs, as it’s quite obvious that delayed treatment of seriously ill patients can and does result in very serious harm including death. The wait times at some of the VA Hospitals have been reported to be as long as 21 months.
The continued suggestion that it can not be shown conclusively is simple legal positioning for what is sure to be a wave of wrongful death lawsuits, not to mention all the personal injury claims related to very serious harm caused by the delays.
Federal Tort Claims Against the VA Hospital
Families who have lost a loved one to VA Hospital neglect must bring a Federal Tort Claim against the VA. This is not surprising.
It is extremely unlikely that the VA Hospital or any other hospital for that matter would simply start writing checks in compensation for these injuries. Moreover, even if they did, one would be wise to think twice before accepting the check, as the VA is not known for its generosity towards veterans.
Compensation in these cases will be no different. A veteran’s surviving family will have to fight for fair compensation. This too should come as no surprise to veterans or their families as veterans often must fight every inch of the way when dealing with the VA.
Proving It Will Require Expert Medical Review and Testimony
A medical malpractice claim of any kind, including one against the VA, requires expert medical opinion showing medical negligence.
Obviously, the VA is not going to come clean without a fight. Each and every family who has lost a veteran loved one due to the systemic neglect of the VA Hospital system will need to prove that the VA Hospital neglect “conclusively” killed their loved one.
In many cases, it may be perfectly clear that the delays caused the death of the veteran. In other cases, it may be less clear. Whether or not it is clear to the family or their lawyer, proof in these cases will require expert medical review of the file and if it goes that far, expert medical testimony at trial.
Families who have lost loved ones should not be alarmed or discouraged by this. These cases will proceed just like any other medical malpractice case. All medical malpractice cases require expert medical review and opinions to proceed.
Without the appropriate medical expert and sometimes multiple experts, the case does not get out of the gate. In short, failure to obtain the necessary expert opinions will result in summary dismissal of the case.
Again, keep in mind that this applies to all medical malpractice cases, not just those against the VA Hospital.
Get the Case Reviewed
In cases of long delays and consequent harm to a veteran patient, chances are the medical records will show “conclusively” both medical negligence and resulting harm.
The VA is taking the position that it cannot be conclusively shown that the delays caused the deaths of veterans. So the ball is in the court of the families who have lost a loved one.
The VA says prove it—so prove it. In light of monumental levels of neglect that have already been established and even admitted by the VA, a review of the medical records by an expert may very well do just that.