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Systemic errors at VA hospitals lead to scandal

California legislator, Darrell Issa, was highly critical of the Veteran's Administration following reports of delays that veterans have faced when seeking treatment at VA Hospitals. Congressman Issa stated that "it is our duty to ensure that no veteran is ever subjected to excessive wait times or substandard care." This scandal has generated so much outrage that Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki even resigned over the controversy.

Unfortunately, such delays do not appear to only be a recent phenomenon. Nor are the delays the only complaints that VA hospitals have faced. Over the past 10 years the Veterans Administration has paid $100 million to settle medical malpractice claims. The 68 federal trial court claims that have been settled this year alone have involved 42 venues including Southern California. There have been cases concerning failures to properly diagnose a patient's condition, surgical errors or matters where the wrong medication was prescribed.

There have been a number of reports surfacing concerning extremely tragic cases. One case dates back to a botched surgery that took place in 2003. If the surgery had not been bad enough, elevated white blood cell counts and indications of infection were not looked into and this eventually led to this veteran first losing his arm and then his life. Though the patient died in 2005, the matter was not settled until February of this year.

Despite this and many other cases, the problem appears to be systemic and involves more than just the responsibility of certain officials. Eight medical malpractice cases this year have each involved payments of more than $1 million. The largest payment was for $10.4 million to a veteran that suffered brain damage following a number of mistakes involving the administration of anesthesia.

The problem of medical malpractice is significant and considered the third leading cause of death in the U.S. It's even more disheartening to discover that our veterans are being victimized by medical errors as well. Medical malpractice cases are often difficult for attorneys to prove and this could perhaps be the reason that it's taken so long for many of these cases to come to light. However, the consequences of medical malpractice often can be extremely severe.

Source: Legal Times, "Med Mal Cases Reveal Long History of VA Care Problems," Jenna Greene, May 30, 2014

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