While many patients receive satisfactory medical care from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), others have been treated negligently by hospitals, doctors and physician’s assistants. As a result, the VA has paid out hundreds of millions of dollars for medical malpractice claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA).
What’s the Problem?
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) operates the nation’s largest integrated healthcare system, providing service to 22 million American veterans in over 1,700 hospitals, clinics, community living centers and other facilities around the country. Unfortunately, the VA has recently been criticized for a number of issues including preventable veteran deaths, infectious disease outbreaks, mismanagement and employee bonuses.
The VA also pays out an average of $100 million each year to settle more than 3,000 medical malpractice lawsuits. Additionally, since the tragic events of 9/11, the VA has paid about $200 million to nearly 1,000 families in wrongful death cases.
What is Medical Malpractice?
The American Bar Association defines medical malpractice as negligence committed by a healthcare provider whose performance of duties departs from standard practices, resulting in harm to a patient. Most medical malpractice lawsuits are filed against doctors who have failed to provide adequate care to a patient. Malpractice puts the responsibility on doctors to act in a way that will not result in an injury to the patient; if doctors are forced to pay for the costs of their mistakes, they will be more careful to ensure that mistakes do not happen in the first place.
VA Medical Malpractice Cases
Our lawyers handle many types of VA hospital medical malpractice cases including:
- Failure to diagnose / misdiagnosis / delay of diagnosis of cancer or other disease
- Surgical negligence (i.e. “foreign body” cases involving leaving tools or other equipment inside the body after surgery)
- Failure to adequately monitor and / or treat a disease
- Wrong medication administered / prescribed
- Unnecessary surgery / medical procedures causing injury
Manchester VA to Pay $21 Million Over ‘Locked-in-Syndrome’
A 60-year-old Navy veteran has been awarded a $21 million malpractice verdict against the VA Medical Center in Manchester, NH, after the facility prescribed the wrong medication and left the patient “medically abandoned.” The lawsuit alleged that the patient’s condition could have been prevented if doctors at the VA hospital would have diagnosed and treated him effectively.
Malpractice Payouts to U.S. Veterans Reaches 12-Year High
The VA made over 400 payments to resolve medical malpractice claims in 2012, according to the Freedom of Information Act. The total cost came to nearly $92 million, the highest sum paid over the previous 12 years. Most of the cases against the VA included missed diagnoses, delayed treatment and procedures performed on wrong body parts.
“The rapid rise in malpractice judgments against VA mirrors the emerging pattern of preventable veteran deaths and other patient safety issues at VA hospitals,” said Representative Jeff Miller, chairman of the House veterans committee. “What’s missing from the equation is not money or manpower — it’s accountability.”
How To File a VA Medical Malpractice Claim
The easiest way to file a VA Hospital Malpractice Lawsuit is to use a Standard Form 95 Claim for injury or wrongful death. However, it is extremely difficult to sue the federal government without the help of an experienced VA medical malpractice lawyer. If you or someone you love was the victim of malpractice at a VA hospital, a veterans’ lawyer can sue the U.S. government under the Federal Torts Claims Act (FTCA).
What is the Federal Torts Claims Act?
If you have a claim against the federal government, in many cases your only option is to sue under FTCA. The act allows a civilian to claim compensation from the U.S. government when damage is caused by the negligence of an employee or agency, including the Veterans Administration. VA medical malpractice falls under negligence law, which is applicable to all lawsuits by lawyers against medical professionals.
Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations (SOL) period is a matter of federal – not state – law. In order for your claim to be valid:
1. It must be filed within 2 years after the cause of action, and
2. Suit must be filed within 6 months after the date of mailing by the federal government of its notice of final denial of the claim by the agency to which it was presented.
The failure of an agency to make final disposition of a claim within 6 months after it is filed shall be deemed a final denial of the claim for purposes of the action.
Once an administrative claim has been filed, the Veterans Administration has six months to review and investigate the matter. The department may then either:
- Accept the claim and pay it in full
- Settle the claim for less
- Reject the claim outright
If the VA rejects your claim, you may file a federal lawsuit to pursue the matter further. If the administration takes no action within six months, this will be interpreted as a rejection of the claim.
Unlike the rating system for VA service-connected disabilities, monetary damages under the Federal Torts Claims Act are not based on an assessment of how a patient’s disability affects their ability to earn a living. Instead, damages are calculated based on suffering and economic loss resulting from an injury. Additionally, unlike disability compensation, which is paid monthly over a period of years, you receive one lump sum payment if you win an FTCA lawsuit.