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American Veterans Dying from Medical Malpractice

December 19, 2013

The Veterans Administration has an obligation to those who served the country to provide medical care, and many former soldiers and current active duty military members seek care at VA hospitals and through VA providers. Unfortunately, the care that is being provided is sometimes substandard and those who are treated may face serious and potentially life-threatening harm as a result of inadequate treatment.

Recently, CNN conducted a detailed investigation into problems at VA hospitals. The investigators not only found that a disturbing number of patients were dying because of maltreatment, but also found that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is aware of the problem and is doing almost nothing to effectively prevent the death of veterans due to delays in care. Experienced medical malpractice lawyers in Chicago know that delayed diagnosis, misdiagnosis, add delayed treatment are leading causes of medical malpractice claims. Patients who are not properly diagnosed can take legal action to obtain compensation for adverse outcomes that result from the failure to properly diagnose their medical issues.

VA Investigation Reveals Serious Problems for Patients

According to the investigation of problems in veterans hospitals, some facilities are worse than others. At least six deaths and as many as 20 injuries happened at one facility where patients experienced lengthy delays in procedures such as colonoscopies and endoscopies, which are designed to detect early cancer before it spreads and becomes untreatable.

Government documents revealed that these problems first came to the attention of government officials when a patient was brought to the emergency room in need of urgent care after having multiple delays in basic diagnostic procedures that could have caught health problems before they escalated. The documents, which were not released to the public, were described as the “first realization that patients were falling through the cracks.” This incident occurred in May of 2011.

The documents also told stories of patients who had to wait as long as nine months for a colonoscopy, resulting in cancer being diagnosed at a late stage. The veteran who experienced this delay finally had surgery after receiving his diagnosis, but his cancer had progressed to stage three at that point. Another patient who waited for 11 months to get an appointment for an endoscopy discovered when his test was finally performed that he had later-stage cancer of the esophagus. An internal report from the VA said that this patient would have had his cancer diagnosed much sooner if the delay had not occurred.

Administrators at one hospital warned VA administrators of the serious problems that were undermining care, sending a letter in July of 2011 alerting the administrators that there was a backlog of 2,500 patients waiting for gastrointestinal appointments. Many of these patients were waiting as long as eight months. By December of 2011, the backlog had grown to 3,800 patients.

These backlogs and delays are unacceptable, and problems in VA hospitals and treatment facilities should never occur as they can put the lives of patients into jeopardy. Veterans and surviving family members who are affected by care delays can pursue legal action under the Federal Tort Claims Act for the harm they experienced. 

Malpractice lawyers in Chicago can help victims of medical negligence. Contact Coplan + Crane at 800-394-6002 for a free case evaluation or visit our Oak Park office.