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VA payments related to medical malpractice claims increasing


Veterans, just like all Oregonians, are susceptible to medical mistakes. A recent nationwide investigation has taken a close look at malpractice at Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals and the resulting settlements. The numbers and amount of settlements are surprising to many. According to government databases, malpractice claims against the VA were up nearly 30% in 2012 when compared to 2011. Since 2003, the VA has lost or settled over 4,000 cases. The payout and associated taxpayer cost on these cases totals more than $844 million. Around 20% of malpractice claims result in a payout in the private health care sector. The VA pays out around 25% of claims, and those payments have been increasing in recent years. The number of payments in 2012 was the second highest in the past decade.

In one of these cases, an army specialist checked into a VA hospital and never left. According to his family's attorney, he was seen at the hospital for a very treatable condition but ended up dying. VA Hospital workers inserted a pick line into his arm, but mistakenly inserted the catheter into his heart. The mistake proved to be fatal for the veteran. The family sued the VA and settled the case for $145,000. Instead of a multi-million dollar settlement, it was limited by California's cap on medical malpractice damages. Similar caps are in place in 20 other states.

In another malpractice case, a veteran was seen at a VA Hospital to have several teeth extracted. His blood pressure was low when he presented for the extraction, but doctors went ahead with the procedure. Several hours later he suffered a stroke and serious brain damage. He later sued the VA and won a multi-million dollar judgment in a state without a cap on malpractice damages.

All patients, including veterans, deserve competent health care. The damage caused by hospital staff negligence can be permanent and irreparable. Medical malpractice claims are a way to hold negligent workers responsible for their acts and omissions, while providing compensation for injuries. An Oregon legal professional can assist victims with the filing of a medical malpractice claim.

Source: KTVU, "2 Investigates: VA malpractice suits shorting California Vets," Ken Pritchett, Nov. 11, 2013

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