Articles Posted in Department of Veteran Affairs Medical Malpractice

Government Is Ready to Process Military Malpractice Claims

Since 1950, U.S. Military members have been barred from suing the U.S. government for injury or death resulting from their military duties, including all claims of malpractice, under the U.S. Supreme Court ruling Feres doctrine. But after Army Sgt. First Class Richard Stayskal led a fight to file a $5 million claim for negligence by his Army physicians, a new law is in place that allows active-duty personnel to seek compensation for harm caused by a military health provider.

A bill dubbed the SFC Richard Stayskal Medical Accountability Act led lawmakers to include these changes in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act on December 20, 2019. The Act now allows troops (or their surviving family members) to file claims for personal injury or death caused by negligence or wrongful acts by a Department of Defense employed health care provider in a military hospital or clinic.

Wounded Soldier

A Win for Military Members, But Feres Doctrine Still Deserves Full Overturn

Typically, it has been too late for injured military members and their families to find out they can’t hold the Department of Defense (DoD) accountable if they became injured or permanently disabled under the Feres Doctrine. But things are changing. In December, Congress partially overturned Feres, an outdated law which prohibits troops from filing negligence lawsuits against the military. The lawmakers voted on a defense authorization bill that allows victims to file claims in cases of medical malpractice stemming from care received in military hospitals for the first time in nearly 70 years, but unfortunately, still not in other circumstances related to military negligence.

Under this new compromise language, recovery under the Military Claims Act will be expanded to include active duty military with medical malpractice claims from military treatment facilities. More specifically, the American Association for Justice says the bill would do the following:

Rights of veterans

Green Beret’s Case Weakens Feres Doctrine, Will Allow Military Members to Receive Compensation for Malpractice Injuries

Sgt. 1st Class Richard Stayskal, served in the military for 14 years and was a member of the Green Berets. He is now fighting stage 4 terminal cancer after his military doctors at Womack Army Medical Center in Fort Bragg misdiagnosed his illness despite noticing a tumor in his lung. Stayskal attempted to sue the Department of Defense for medical malpractice but was met with the Feres doctrine. The law is based on 70-year-old Supreme Court decision that says active-duty military members are not able to make a claim against the government. Luckily, Stayskal’s ongoing fight alongside congressional lawmakers will help change that.

On Monday, December 16, 2019, a final National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was released including an amendment that will allow for members of the country’s armed forces to now file a claim against the U.S. and receive compensation if they were subjected to negligent or wrongful medical treatment at a military facility.

We have been covering the crisis involving the Veterans Affairs health care system for weeks now. On Thursday, June 12, 2014, Congress held another hearing on the problems and what can be done about them. Veterans have been subjected to long waits for medical care that have resulted in both delayed diagnoses of medical conditions and in deaths. CNN reports that tens of thousands of newly returned veterans are waiting 90 days or longer before they receive care. The VA officially acknowledges that twenty-three people have died due to these problems, but CNN has found dozens of others who died waiting for medical care in Phoenix.

The reasons proffered for the problem during the hearing are not terribly complicated. First, the number of veterans needing care has increased dramatically due to prolonged wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan. The second reason, however, is much more sinister. The VA’s bonus system for managers rewarded them for meeting goals regarding access to treatment. This seems reasonable, in that it should encourage innovation and faster treatment. But in practice it resulted in fake waiting lists and other manipulations of the waiting list system. It’s like a parent telling a child that she will give him five dollars for every “A” on his report card. In theory, it should lead to good grades. But what happened here is that the child decided he just didn’t have what it takes to get the As, so he forged his report card to get the cash anyway.
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An Arlington soldier is dealing with the repercussions of a medical error in difficult way. The 21 year old airman lost his legs after a botched gallbladder surgery at a military hospital, according to the Star-Telegram. The victim had agreed to have laparoscopic gallbladder surgery after enduring stomach problems. During the procedure, an instrument being threaded through his stomach nicked his aorta artery, cutting off the flow to his legs. He was then transferred to another medical hospital, where both of his legs were amputated. His lawyer believes that this constituted gross violations of the US medical act. To read more about this specific medical malpractice case, please click the link.

Currently, however, the medical malpractice victim is in a battle with the U.S. court system. According to a 1950 Supreme Court decision, military personnel or their families are not allowed to collect damages from military doctors for medical negligence. This is known as Feres Doctrine. Not only will the medical malpractice victim not be able to recover for medical damages, his wife will be unable to file for loss of consortium. Currently, a Congressman is introducing legislation in order to change that policy.

The “Feres Doctrine” only applies to those active men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces who suffer injury at the negligent hands of other members of the Armed Forces. Since military personnel staff military hospitals, this keeps those victims of medical negligence from being able to file suit in federal court. This doctrine greatly hinders the rights of military medical personnel. The Chicago medical malpractice attorneys of Levin & Perconti support recent efforts to invoke legislation that will override this doctrine.

New problems have emerged at the troubled VA Medical Center in Marion, Illinois. This has prompted Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to order a “top-to-bottom” review of the facility. Senator Durbin and other Illinois lawmakers met with the VA secretary after a report this week found ongoing problems at the facility, where nine patients died in surgery in six months ending in March 2007. This is a mortality level more than four times the expected rate. Durbin blamed the nine deaths on “medical malpractice” and called the newly disclosed problems “appalling” and “inexcusable.” The Marion VA’s interim director has been replaced and more personnel changes are scheduled. The new report identified problems in four areas: quality management; physician credentialing and privileging; medication management and environment of care. The final problem area relates to infection control standards and cleanliness of the hospital. The 30-page report identified that two physicians performed procedures for which they lacked privileges. Additionally there was a failure to screen deaths within 30 days of surgical procedure. To read more about the failing hospital, please click the link.

Serious safety issues continue to plague an Illinois Veterans Affairs hospital. This comes even after major surgeries were suspended two years ago because of a spike in patient deaths. Surgeons at the medical center in Marion, Illinois performed procedures without proper authorization. Also, patient deaths were not assessed adequately and miscommunication between staff members persist. The medical center’s is not taking the corrective actions to improve patient care. The hospital has been under intense scrutiny since 2007 when a former surgeon resigned after a patient bled to death following gall bladder surgery. The VA found at least nine deaths between October 2006 and March 2007 which were the result of substandard care at the hospital. Additionally, a report found that the hospital did not sufficiently monitor 87 percent of the physician’s employed. There were strong problems with infection control, including MRSA. Illinois Senator Dick Durbin is outraged by the substandard care that is occurring at the Veteran’s Hospital. To read more about the medical malpractice, please click the link.

The government has settled three medical malpractice claims on behalf of its navy hospital totaling 2.77 million dollars. Four other medical malpractice claims are in talks to be mediated at a later date. The settlements stem from accusations of medical negligence in birth, failure to diagnose a disease, and an amputation after negligent care. According to the article, “the hospital has resolved more that two dozen negligence claims since 2001.”

Read more about the navy hospital settlements here.

The government has reportedly settled a medical malpractice suit with a widow of a veteran over an Illinois Veterans Affairs Hospital medical procedure. The widow’s husband allegedly received a blood infection after a biopsy. The man’s estate claims that the physician was medically negligent during his treatment at the Illinois hospital. That same physician has been connected to other medical malpractice claims.

Read more about the Illinois medical malpractice suit here.

A veterans’ hospital allegedly has exposed patients to infectious bodily fluids after treating them. A medical malpractice attorney claims that his clients were given false diagnoses at the hospital telling the patients they tested positive for infections that later came out negative. This gave his clients tremendous emotional distress, he claims. The medical malpractice attorney is filing multiple medical malpractice claims against the veterans’ hospital.

Read more about the veterans’ hospital medical malpractice suits here.

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