In the general population, medical malpractice happens all too often. However, as we learned earlier this year, due to funding issues and mismanagement in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), our country’s veterans have been suffering medical malpractice related personal injuries and wrongful deaths at a horrifying rate. While some of the injured veterans and their families are finally obtaining compensation for their injuries, it appears that the department responsible is not actually footing the bill.
VA is Not Paying the Medical Malpractice Settlements
CBS Los Angeles reports that while thousands of payouts totaling nearly a billion dollars to veterans alleged to be medical malpractice victims have been uncovered, the Department of Veterans Affairs is not making those payments. The money is coming from the federal treasury, not the VA’s own budget, according to California Congressman Adam Schiff. While settlements in these cases do not necessarily mean that the VA admits to fault for a veteran’s injuries, the total amount of payments is a shocking $892 million in the last year and a half alone.
Does Where the Money Comes From Matter?
Now, obviously, the VA is funded by the federal government, which is funded by taxpayers. So ultimately we as taxpayers are the ones footing the bill regardless of which federal account the money finally comes from. But not taking the money from the VA budget means that they people directly responsible for the injuries will not be financially held responsible. On the other hand, this may be a good thing. If the money were taken from the already underfunded VA budget directly, ultimately it would be the veterans who paid the price due to even less funds being available to provide them with proper health care.
Examples of Veterans Injured by VA Malpractice
Regardless of where the money comes from, one thing is clear. The money must be paid, as veterans have been seriously injured by medical malpractice. CBS Los Angeles spoke with Stan Dawson. VA doctors punctured his esophagus accidentally during a surgical procedure on his through. As a result, he lost his voice. He filed a malpractice claim, but regardless of the outcome of that case, he will never regain his voice unless there is some unexpected advance in medical technology.
The Rapid City Journal reports on the case of U.S. Army Lieutenant Wayne Swier. Lt. Swier was injured by an improvised explosive device while on duty in Afghanistan. He lost his left leg. His left arm and side were crushed. He also suffered injuries to his testicles and his left ear. He spent two years at Walter Reed Army Medical Center participating in rehabilitation and being fitted with a high-tech prosthesis. Then, after he returned home to South Dakota, the computer in the prosthesis quit working. He spent two months without a leg waiting for it to be repaired. Then the VA refused to refit the socket on the prosthesis despite the fact that it was choking off blood flow in his residual limb and causing extraordinary pain. It took months to convince the VA to refit it.
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