Veterans who receive medical care through the Veteran’s Administration (VA) system have the right to believe the care they will receive from the VA doctors and hospitals will be competent and comparable to the care they would receive at private facilities. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. As a result, the VA has come under scrutiny and is facing lawsuits for negligence that has led to preventable deaths and preventable harm to veterans.
The VA is a huge system that provides services for some 22 million American veterans. In recent years, there has been an increase in VA medical malpractice claims, involving mistakes that include prescription of the wrong medication, botched surgeries, failure to diagnose illnesses, and acts that led to wrongful death. According to an article in USA Today that reviewed hundreds of confidential VA records, veterans’ hospitals signed secret settlement deals with doctors, nurses and healthcare workers that included promises to conceal serious mistakes — from inappropriate relationships and breakdowns in supervision to dangerous medical errors. The VA has been under fire in recent years for serious problems, including life-threatening delays in treating veterans and efforts to cover-up shortfalls by falsifying records.
If you or a loved one has suffered harm from negligent care in the VA system, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical and hospital bills, rehabilitation costs, lost wages and future lost horizon, pain and suffering, loss of life’s pleasures, disfigurement, and emotional distress. Awards may be substantial where the evidence permits. According to an analysis of Treasury Department records, as of mid-2014, the VA had spent more than $50 million on medical malpractice claims. Pennsylvania cases include:
- In 2007 a patient at a Philadelphia VA medical center had eight teeth extracted and was left permanently incapacitated from the surgery. The result was a $17.5 million malpractice judgment.
- In 2013, the VA Inspector General found that systemic failures involving bacteria in the hospital’s water system at the Pittsburgh VA led to a recent Legionnaires’ outbreak that resulted in the death of at least five veterans.
- According to The Center for Investigative Reporting, four veterans died due to medical malpractice at the Coatesville Veterans Affairs Medical Clinic, resulting in $1.4 million in wrongful death settlements.
Awards can be substantial, depending on circumstances, but cases must be handled competently by an attorney knowledgeable about VA malpractice procedures; otherwise, you may never receive the compensation you are entitled to.
The experienced Pennsylvania injury attorney Clifford A. Rieders of Rieders, Travis, Humphrey, Waters & Dohrmann, wrote the book on medical malpractice. Cliff is a Past President of the Pennsylvania Association for Justice, formerly Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association. Rieders has won numerous awards and recognition from the Pennsylvania Association for Justice, and he received the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority recognition award. Cliff has received the George F. Douglas Amicus Curiae Award, as well as the Milton D. Rosenberg Award from the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers. Rieders is on committees and organizations that write the law in many fields of practice. Cliff Rieders was involved in the writing of the Mcare Act, which governs medical liability actions in Pennsylvania. Cliff Rieders wrote the book on medical malpractice that lawyers use in the state. Cliff teaches the subject of medical malpractice at seminars attended by the leading lawyers in the state. Cliff Rieders is recognized as an outstanding authority in the medical malpractice field. Cliff has even testified before the legislature on medical malpractice laws. Cliff Rieders is the lawyer that other lawyers call for counsel and advice in the medical malpractice and pharmaceutical/vitamin supplement fields. Cliff Rieders is admitted in state and federal courts, including the Supreme Court of the United States.
We offer a free consultation to carefully examine the individual facts in your case and determine the best way to handle it. Contact us today by calling (570) 323-8711 or by using our online contact form to set up your free consultation.
Suing the VA for Medical Malpractice
Medical malpractice is negligence committed by a professional health-care provider – a doctor, nurse, dentist, technician, hospital, or nursing facility – whose performance of duties departs from a standard of practice of those with similar training and experience, resulting in harm to a patient.
While frequently the federal government is immune to being sued, but in certain circumstances the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) provides an exception to this doctrine. The FTCA allows veterans and their dependants to sue the VA for medical malpractice committed by physicians and other healthcare providers employed by the federal government.
There is a two-year statute of limitations that begins to run on the date that the injury occurred or the date on which the injury was actually discovered or reasonably should have been discovered. This can sometimes be extended if the injured person continues to receive treatment for the injury from a military or VA facility. The statute of limitations is a very complex matter and cannot be explained in one or two sentences.
In filing a VA claim, your attorney must submit a Standard Form 95 (SF 95), along with details that describe the events causing your problems, the injuries you received, and your damages. The government will then investigate the claim and may ask for additional information or interview the injured veteran and family.
The VA can then either:
- Accept the claim and pay it out in full
- Settle the claim for less
- Reject the claim outright.
If the claim is rejected, or if the government fails to offer settlement, your attorney may then file suit in federal court in the district in which the malpractice occurred or in which you live.
There are times when a claim may be filed under 42 U.S. Code § 1983, sometimes referred to as a civil rights claim. These are in highly unusual situations, but the facts dictate whether such a claim can be brought.
Requirements for a Lawsuit
For a medical malpractice claim against the VA to be successful, you must meet certain requirements in the initial stages of the claim. Claims under the FTCA must be specifically for:
(1) money damages, resulting from
(2) “injury or loss of property, or personal injury or death” due to the
(3) “negligent or wrongful act or omission” by
(4) “any employee of the government” who was “acting within the scope of his office or employment” and
(5) under circumstances where the United States, if a private person, would be liable “in accordance with the law of the place where the act or omission occurred.”
Under the FTCA, claims are brought in federal district courts, without a jury trial — not in state courts. Claims, however, must allege negligence as defined by state law, which makes them more complicated. The interplay between federal and state law is a matter of great complexity. There is no dollar limitation on liability, so multimillion-dollar judgments have been obtained against the government.
Damages Available Under the FTCA
If your medical malpractice claim against the VA is successful, you may be entitled to:
- Non-economic or General Damages for pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, inability to engage in usual activities, emotional distress, disfigurement, and mental anguish of survivors or disruption of family community in wrongful death cases and survival actions.
- Economic or Special Damages for lost wages and services, cost of medical care, and disability.
- Future Damages. Economic and non-economic damages that are reasonably certain to occur after claim is settled.
Filing a Claim
Filing a malpractice claim under the FTCA is complicated and must be handled competently or you may never receive the compensation you are entitled to. Before you sue, you must make an administrative claim against the VA for the full amount of damages. You should consult an experienced VA malpractice lawyer to determine what you may be entitled to, as you will never be able to ask for more damages without providing additional evidence. In addition, you must meet the legal deadlines for filing, or you may lose your claim forever.
Achieving Results When it Counts
The skilled and experienced VA Medical Malpractice attorney Clifford A. Rieders of Rieders, Travis, Humphrey, Waters & Dohrmann has spent decades honing his skills and successfully representing Pennsylvania families who have suffered an injury or loss due to someone else’s negligence. We offer personal attention and loyalty to every client, aggressively fighting for their right to compensation. Whether in settlement negotiations or pursuing a favorable trial verdict, we are thoroughly prepared and committed to achieving a just outcome. With our knowledgeable staff, we offer strength in numbers while providing top-notch personal service.
We have years of experience dealing with the harm that results from VA medical malpractice. As a result, we have been successful in securing substantial recoveries for legitimate claims.
If you or your loved one has suffered harm from the negligence or incompetence from the VA or its employees, your next step should be to consult Cliff Rieders at Rieders, Travis, Humphrey, Waters & Dohrmann by calling (570) 323-8711 or by using our online contact form. Based in Williamsport, we serve clients throughout the state of Pennsylvania, offering a free consultation on all personal injury matters. More than that, we offer you experience, knowledge, compassion, and a long history of results.