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Shapiro, Lewis, Appleton & Favaloro
Shapiro, Lewis, Appleton & Favaloro
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Beauracratic Problems At Veteran's Administration Hospitals Is Not New

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The news has been filled lately with problems at VA hospitals and Walter Reed Medical Center in particular. The problems range from decrepit, unsanitary facilities to long waits and beauracractic indifference to injured soldiers. Unfortunately, this was not news to me as a lawyer working on cases for military families who are hurt by someone’s negligence. Over my 18 years of doing personal injury law, I have often represented veterans and active duty persons in car wrecks. Retired and current military folks are a large percentage of the population in Tidewater, Virginia, including the cities of Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Hampton and Newport News. Numerous times I have asked my injury clients why they did not receive more treatment for their injuries through the VA. Almost always, the response is that the injured persons did not trust the VA hospital to provide decent outpatient care for their problems. Even where the injured client tried to get treatment for injuries from an automobile wreck at a VA facility, they were often frustrated by long delays in being able to get care. The medical care at military facilities is also rationed in a way that may make the treatment far less beneficial for the injured person than would be private sector care. This kind of poor medical treatment for our country’s soldiers and sailors is an outrage.

In the context of a personal injury cause like an automobile accident injury, the insurance company will often make a big deal of any gaps in treatment. The insurance company will argue that if the injury was so bad, why didn’t the person receive more medical care. In the case of an injured veteran, often the answer is that they couldn’t get proper outpatient services through the VA and so just did not get medical care at all. I have had some veterans who were injured tell me that they would not let their dog be treated by the VA, so low was their opinion of the quality of the care provided. The problem with medical care at Portsmouth Naval Hospital and the Hampton VA Hospital is not usually the staff of doctors and nurses, rather it is the system that is messed up.

Another crazy aspect of handling an injury case for a veteran has to do with payment for medical services. Services provided by the VA will normally have to be reimbursed to the federal government at the end of the case. If the injured person doesn’t want to go to the VA hospital, then they are forced to go get private care, which they typically do not have insurance to pay for. If for some reason there is not enough insurance money to cover the loss or something else goes wrong with the case, the veteran ends up risking having to pay for that private care on their own. So much for life-long, free medical care. Our country needs to do a better job of honoring our heroes starting with providing sufficient funds for decent medical care.