After a soldier transitions to civilian life and is no longer on active duty they still have a lot to deal with. Transitioning back to a life of peace is very difficult for many. Countless others have wounds and long term injuries that need constant care. So when the Veterans Administration hospitals report that medical malpractice suits are on a dramatic rise, it is unsettling to me as a personal injury lawyer. No one deserves to suffer through medical malpractice especially not our men and women who have already sacrificed so much for our country.
The cases against the VA have included wrong and missed diagnoses, delayed treatment and procedures performed on wrong body parts. Here are just a couple examples of recent suits against the VA. Christopher Ellison went to a veteran’s medical center in Philadelphia to get eight teeth extracted in 2007. What should have been a routine dentist visit left him permanently incapacitated. His family successfully fought for a 17.5 million dollar settlement for his lifetime of care.
That settlement was the largest against the agency in the last 12 years but is not the norm. Although malpractice payouts have risen 33% over the last decade, many valid VA malpractice claims never get paid. A judge advocate said, “Some are rejected because paperwork isn’t filed properly but it is my strong belief that many lawyers don’t know how to sue the VA.”
One reason may be that these claims fall under the Federal tort claims act which requires that they be filed in federal court and there is no right to a jury trial. According to the Feres doctrine the federal government cannot be held liable for injuries to members of the armed forces arising from activities incident to military service. That means that active duty military have no right to sue even if they are intentionally or negligently wronged by a VA doctor.
By finding experienced medical malpractice lawyers to represent victims the reward may be two-fold. Our men and women in uniform can receive compensation for terrible medial mistakes and careless VA doctors will be held accountable for their malpractice. As it is now the agency isn’t holding employees, especially executives, accountable for preventable deaths. There have even been cases where bonuses were given to doctors even if they practiced without a license or left residents unsupervised during surgery, according to a Government Accountability Office report last month. Our firm, Shapiro, Lewis, Appleton and Favaloro is located just a short distance from Naval Station Norfolk and several other local military bases. Many of our friends and neighbors are military veterans and it is our honor and pleasure to represent these brave men and women.
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