May 9, 23014 – Whenever an American citizen chooses to serve in a branch of the military, they are given certain assurances from the government that they will be cared for when in need. The vast amount of veterans living homeless on the streets shows that these men and women are often failed, however, many still like to believe that the Veterans Affairs (VA) Health Care system works in a way that’s meant to keep our former servicemen and women healthy. Sadly, as a recent case out of Arizona has made abundantly clear, this isn’t always the case.
Skirting Federal Law
By federal law, VA hospitals across the country are required to provide appointments to veterans in a timely manner. Since there is no set time that constitutes “timely,” health complications, sometimes fatal, due to medical negligence occur from state to state. Unfortunately, legal intervention from families is often needed to sort through the mess. Although these medical appointments usually need to be made within two to four weeks, it seems as if the Phoenix VA system was having difficulties abiding by these rules, so they came up with a different plan.
The VA has to report its appointment wait times back to the government, so to avoid admitting they were taking far too long to give veterans appointments, the Phoenix VA created a secret list of patients purposefully kept away from the federal government. This list had all of the patient’s information, but was just never entered into the system and an appointment was never given. When an appointment was ready, which sometimes took more than a year, that hidden record was put into the actual system.
After this case was investigated, between 1,400 and 1,600 sick veterans were discovered on this illegal waiting list. It it also estimated that at least 40 veterans died while waiting on these lists. Records show that when a death occurred, the veteran’s information would simply be removed from the hidden waiting list as if they’d never come in seeking treatment. What’s even more amazing is director at the Phoenix VA hospital wound up with a $9,000 bonus after the vets died waiting for treatment at the facility
When things like this happen, it’s easy to imagine that a few rogue employees perpetrated the scheme in an effort to reduce their workload or make it less obvious to their managers that they weren’t doing their jobs. Sadly, this isn’t the case at all. Internal emails show that top management at the hospital actually knew of the system, condoned it, and even defended its use when employees said it wasn’t right.
What Veterans Can Do
Many people feel helpless to do anything when issues involving hospitals like this take place, but fortunately, there is undoubtedly something that victims and their families can do. This behavior constitutes a form of medical malpractice, or harm caused by a failure to adhere to accepted industry practices, and should be treated as such by victims. It’s essential to speak with an attorney to ensure the case is brought forward properly.
In the case of the Phoenix VA, what happened can be explained as willful and wanton negligence, which differs from more general cases that arise after reckless negligence has already occurred. This gives victims and their families the ability to bring forth other lawsuits, such as wrongful death claims, before all is said and done. By the end of everything those involved in this scandal will likely also face prison time for negligently, recklessly and willfully causing the deaths of those who swore to protect America.
There is literally no excuse for this type of behavior from those entrusted with the health of those we entrusted our safety to. To push sick veterans to the side in an effort to make their paperwork look more positive is undoubtedly one of the most immoral and illegal acts ever committed by a governmental agency. The information surrounding this scandal will undoubtedly continue to surface, but what we already know is sickening enough. Fortunately, it’s likely that the government will hold those responsible accountable for their actions, and luckily, injured veterans and their families can do the same.
Holly Chavez writes stories for legal and military forums and blogs. She enjoys researching and writing about the men and women that serve in the U.S. military and all the news stories surrounding military service. Be sure to comment and let her know what you thought about the story.
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