Medical malpractice payments to veterans made on behalf of the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (“VA”) totaled $91.7 million in 2012 (an increase of 28% from 2011, when the VA paid approximately $72 million in medical malpractice payments), which was the highest amount in 12 years. For 2012, more than 400 medical malpractice payouts were made to resolve claims involving the VA.
The largest medical malpractice payment to a veteran in 2012 was $17.5 million for the veteran’s permanent incapacity as a result of what was supposed to be a routine dental appointment in 2007 to have eight teeth extracted (the veteran’s blood pressure had dropped significantly several times during the extractions but the dentist continued with the procedure; on his drive home after the procedure, the veteran suffered a catastrophic stroke that led to severe mental deficits, changes in his personality, and his total incapacity).
Since 2001, at least $700 million has been paid to resolve medical malpractice claims against the VA (VA medical malpractice payments are made from the U.S. Treasury’s Judgment Fund, which is funded by U.S. taxpayer dollars).
The number of malpractice claims filed with the VA was 1,544 in both 2011 and 2010. However, between 2005 and 2010, there was a 33% increase in claims filed with the VA, culminating in 1,670 filed claims in 2010. However, less than 25% of the claims filed against the VA result in payment.
The U.S. House Of Representatives Committee on Veterans’ Affairs is investigating an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease at a VA Medical Center in Philadelphia that resulted in at least five deaths of veterans that was determined to be from bacteria in the hospital’s water system (a criminal investigation is also underway by the VA Office of Inspector General into the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak), the VA’s handling of two overdose deaths and two suicides at the Atlanta VA Medical Center, and poor sterilization procedures and possible patient exposure to infectious diseases such as HIV at VA locations.
The Chairman of the U.S. House Of Representatives Committee on Veterans’ Affairs has stated, “The rapid rise in malpractice judgments against VA mirrors the emerging pattern of preventable veteran deaths and other patient safety issues at VA hospitals. What’s missing from the equation is not money or manpower — it’s accountability.”
Another concern regarding the trend in VA medical malpractice payments is the age of recent veterans, who tend to receive larger medical malpractice payments due to the length of time that they will suffer with their medical malpractice injuries: the median age range for veterans who served in the military after September 11, 2001 is 25 to 34, compared to the median age range of 65 and over for those veterans who served in the military during the Vietnam War, Korean War, and World War II.
Significantly, the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs treated 32% more veterans in 2012 (5.6 million veterans) than in 2002. The VA has 152 hospitals and employs approximately 19,000 physicians.
If you, a family member, or a friend are a U.S. veteran and may have suffered serious injuries or other harms as a result of medical malpractice that occurred at a VA medical center or other VA facility, you should promptly contact a local medical malpractice lawyer in your U.S. state who has experience handling claims against the VA so that the lawyer may investigate your VA claim for you and assist you with your claim against the VA, if appropriate.
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