August 22, 2014 – Many veterans are hesitant to look for legal representation when a medical malpractice issue happens as a result of using a VA facility. This may be due to the fact that they believe that the VA will end up taking care of the situation, eventually. The veteran may also be unaware they actually have an alternative path in such a case.
The reality of the VA’s plight is that there have been funding issues which have prevented the agency from hiring top level medical personnel. Most facilities are extremely understaffed, making it difficult for veterans to receive the proper medical care, leading to a large increase in medical malpractice lawsuits.
Lawsuits Prove Successful Against VA
It is difficult enough to run a major medical organization without the proper funds or staffing, but this can also lead to a higher than usual number of misdiagnosed patients. Sadly, this actually increases the VA’s financial difficulties because any veteran who does hire a medical malpractice attorney is able to sue the organization.
In 2012, the VA paid out $91.7 million in order to settle approximately 400 cases. This is the largest number of malpractice lawsuits that the VA had faced in 12 years, and one of the veterans who took legal action received a settlement of $17.5 million.
Why Are These Issues Happening?
There are many factors which have placed a large burden on the entire VA system, including financial difficulties and an increased amount of veterans who need medical assistance. Any medical organization has certain basic needs that must be met in order for them to provide the optimal level of care to each patient.
It is critical for the proper amount of funding to be in place to pay for staff and up to date equipment. Failure to meet these guidelines will force existing staff members to spend a smaller amount of time with each patient, increasing the risk of a misdiagnosis. It is important to note that medical professionals at the VA are not intentionally handing out incorrect diagnoses, or purposefully short-changing their time with each patient. They have simply been caught up in a vicious cycle of dysfunction.
Wrong Diagnosis – What’s Next?
Hesitation to take legal action is something that seems to be shared by many veterans. Giving the VA an opportunity to correct a minor issue that has not had any significant impact on your life makes sense. That said, you cannot simply trust that everything will be okay if you are dealing with a dire situation. Don’t hesitate to consult with a medical malpractice attorney who specializes in such cases, to determine whether or not your particular situation is one which merits legal intervention.
Fortunately, new changes are on the way for the VA system as the result of a new law that President Obama signed on August 7, 2014. This overhaul law includes $16 billion in additional funding so that the VA can hire a larger staff of nurses and doctors, and also build additional medical facilities. One major perk of this this new bill is the fact that there will now be more funding available to allow veterans to receive healthcare assistance from private facilities during certain situations.
It remains to be seen exactly how much of an impact this money will have on the VA, but hopefully in the near future it will reduce the frequency of our veterans’ medical issues being relegated to the back burner.
Writer Holly Chavez comes from a military family. Her father and brother both receive treatment from the VA, and the entire family hopes that the administration is able to eventually sort out the issues that plague them.
Image Source © fivepointsix – Fotolia.com