If you are a veteran who received poor medical care or were injured by a doctor, you may be entitled to compensation. In the decade after 9/11, the VA paid over $200 million to resolve 1,000 malpractice lawsuits involving wrongful death, missed diagnoses, “faulty care,” and other claims.
UPDATE: Long Wait-Times At VA Hospitals Haven’t Improved
April 14, 2015 — An investigation has found that wait times are not improving at VA hospitals, especially those located in the South. Meanwhile, a 60 year-old Navy veteran has been awarded $21 million after he received inadequate care that left him trapped in his body with “locked-in syndrome.” Click here to read more.
January 29, 2015 — The family of a man who died of melanoma has been awarded $900,000 by the VA hospital to settle allegations of malpractice due to treatment delays. VA Puget Sound has paid out $15 million since 2001 for 16 wrongful deaths and 33 major injuries that were preventable. Click here to read more.
October 14, 2014 — A federal judge has awarded $725,000 to a 75 year-old veteran who was permanently paralyzed during a botched surgery at a Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital in Arkansas. Click here to read more.
Examples of VA Hospital Malpractice Claims
- Delayed diagnosis of a disease or cancer
- Failure to diagnose a disease
- Misdiagnosis of a disease
- Infection due to non-sterile equipment, lack of bed-sheets
- Surgical mistakes (such as leaving a foreign object inside the patient)
- Failure to adequately treat a disease
- Prescribing the wrong medication
- Injury caused by unnecessary medical procedures
Phoenix VA Wait List Times Led to Veteran Deaths
April 2014 — CNN reports that at least 40 U.S. veterans died while waiting for appointments at the Phoenix VA hospital, including many who were placed on a “secret waiting list” to avoid scrutiny from officials in Washington.
According to a former doctor at the hospital, the VA shredded evidence to hide the fact that 1,400 to 1,600 sick veterans were waiting months to see a doctor — in violation of policies requiring hospitals to provide care within 14-30 days. According to CNN, thousands of veterans are on backlog lists.
“Slipped Through the Cracks”
In one case, a 71 year-old Navy veteran named Thomas Breen visited the VA in September 2013. He had blood in his urine and a history of cancer. The doctor who treated him said his case was urgent and he needed to see a urologist within the week. Despite family members’ repeated calls over the next few months, he did not receive an appointment until December. By that time, Breen had already died from stage-4 bladder cancer.
How To File a Malpractice Lawsuit Against VA Hospital
Unlike traditional medical malpractice lawsuits, you cannot directly sue the Veterans Affairs hospital that caused your injury. Instead, you must file an administrative claim and follow rules of the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA).
Your claim must be made on a Standard Form 95 that is available from government agencies. This form must be filed with the correct Veterans Affairs office, it must state the nature of your claim, and a “sum certain.”
You could file a claim on your own, but it is a good idea to talk to a lawyer first. A lawyer can help you gather the evidence you will need, present it convincingly, and work with the agency to resolve your claim. If you don’t know what you are doing, you could lose your opportunity to seek compensation and justice.
What is Sum Certain?
The “sum certain” is a complete accounting of the damages you are seeking, for example:
- Itemized bills for medical expenses
- Expected future medical expenses
- Statement from the physician who treated you
- VA medical examination report (mental or physical)
- Statement from employer about time off work
- And more
Then What Happens?
Once the Form 95 has been filed, the VA has six months to accept, settle, reject, or do nothing on your claim. If you are not happy with the outcome, you should consider filing a lawsuit.
If Your Claim is Rejected or Ignored
The FTCA does not entitle you to a jury trial. Instead, only the judge reviews evidence in your case and makes a decision. If your case is not successfully resolved administratively within six months (or more, in some cases), you are allowed to file a federal lawsuit so long as you are still within the statute of limitations.
What About Disability Compensation?
Sometimes it is easier to file a claim with the VA for disability compensation (also known as a Section 1151 claim). This type of claim is limited to injuries resulting from a VA hospital, outpatient clinic, medical examination, surgery, rehabilitation, or compensated work therapy. Sometimes, veterans are awarded a FTCA settlement and disability compensation.
Time Is Limited – Do Not Wait
You must file your lawsuit within two years from the date you knew (or should have known) about your injury and its cause. If you miss this 2-year deadline, your claim could be dismissed. Also, the sooner you file the Standard Form 95, the sooner you can file your lawsuit in federal court.